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Winter Olympics: Calgary : Men's Skating Is Tough to Figure With 3 Contenders

February 11, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

Since Scott Hamilton of the United States retired after winning the 1984 Olympic gold medal, there have been three world champions in men's individual figure skating. All three, the Soviet Union's Alexander Fadeev, the United States' Brian Boitano and Canada's Brian Orser, will attempt to leave Calgary with an Olympic gold medal.

Orser, 26, is favored. He was the silver medalist in the '84 Games, then finished second in three consecutive world championships before winning in 1987. Not only is he the reigning world champion, Orser, who is from Penetaguishene, Ontario, will be skating in his home country, before a largely Canadian crowd at the Olympic Saddledome.

But as Boitano, 24, is aware, there is not always a home-ice advantage in figure skating. Boitano, a four-time U.S. champion from Sunnyvale, Calif., won the 1986 world championship in Geneva, Switzerland, taking the title away from 1985 champion Fadeev, a 24-year-old Muscovite who recently won his third European championship. But Boitano finished second to Orser last year in Cincinnati.

Those three are so accomplished that there are virtually no other contenders. But should one of them perform below expectations, two Soviets, Vladimir Kotin, 25, and Victor Petrenko, 17, and two Americans, Christopher Bowman, 20, and Paul Wylie, 23, could challenge for medals.

For the first time since 1936, when Norway's Sonja Henie won her third gold medal, a woman individual could repeat as Olympic champion. East Germany's Katarina Witt, 22, is favored to defend the title she won at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, in 1984.

Witt has an impressive record, including six straight European championships and three world championships. Since 1983, she has lost only one major international competition, finishing second to Debi Thomas of San Jose in the 1986 World Championships. Witt regained her title last year in Cincinnati from Thomas, who finished second. Thomas, 20, recently won her second national championship and is considered the only threat to Witt.

Several women are expected to challenge for the bronze medal, including Americans Caryn Kadavy, 20, and Jill Trenary, 19. Other contenders include the Soviet Union's Kira Ivanova, 24, who was third in the 1984 Olympics, Japan's Midori Ito, 17, and Canada's Elizabeth Manley, 22.

Soviet skaters are solid favorites to win gold medals in pairs and ice dancing. Ekatarina Gordeeva, 16, and Sergei Grinkov, 21, have no peers in pairs. They have won the last two world championships.

Soviets Elena Valova, 25, and Oleg Vasiliev, 28, won the 1984 Olympics and were second in the last two World Championships but an injury may prevent them from competing in Calgary. If so, Jill Watson, 24, of Bloomington, Ind., and Peter Oppegard, 28, of Knoxville, Tenn., could contend for the silver medal. They were third in the 1987 World Championships.

Three-time world champions and 1984 Olympic runners-up to Great Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Soviets Natalia Bestemianova, 28, and Andrei Bukin, 30, figure to win the ice dancing title.

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