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WINTER OLYMPICS : One Gold May Not Be Enough for Top Male Skater : Boitano Considers His Future

February 22, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

CALGARY, Canada — On the day after he won the gold medal, Brian Boitano, having missed a night of sleep but appearing none the worse for it, already was talking about his future. Next on his schedule are the World Championships a month from now in Budapest, but he said he was thinking beyond that, perhaps as long as four years beyond.

Not since Dick Button of the United States won his second gold medal in 1952 has a male figure skater attempted to defend his Olympic championship. It has been assumed in recent years that once a figure skater won the Olympics he had no worlds left to conquer and would go for the gold that ice shows have to offer.

Boitano, 24, said Sunday he is more interested in the gold that will be awarded to the winner of the men's figure skating competition at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France.

"A lot of people--judges, other skaters, coaches--have been pushing me to set records, win more national and world championships," Boitano said. "I think I could come back for one more Olympics in '92. It means a lot to me to see how good I can become. I feel I'm only just beginning to expand my creativity and reach my athletic potential."

Boitano, who is from Sunnyvale, Calif., said he will probably be able to make a decision in May about whether to extend his competitive career at least one more year.

By then, he will know whether he still faces the challenge of the quadruple jump. The quad, a four-revolution jump, is to figure skaters what the four-minute mile once was to runners. No one has ever landed it in competition. The latest to try was Canada's Kurt Browning, who fell in the long program Saturday night.

Boitano has failed in four attempts, most recently at last summer's U.S. Olympic Festival. He did not have it in his program for the Olympics because of a new rule that requires judges to deduct points from a skater's score if he falls, regardless of the degree of difficulty of the jump. He said he did not want to take the risk, believing he could win without it. "There's a fine line between being great and being stupid," he said. But he said Sunday he is leaning toward adding it for the World Championships.

"Probably the quad is more important for me now than winning the world championship," said Boitano, the 1986 world champion and the runner-up to Canada's Brian Orser last year. "If I change my mind later and decide that winning is more important, I probably won't do the quad."

If Boitano does a clean quadruple jump in Budapest, his coach, Linda Leaver, said he may decide he has done everything he can in the sport and retire.

But she said there are two other factors to consider, both of which may be determined at the International Skating Union (ISU) Congress in May.

One involves compulsory figures, which the ISU may eliminate from international competitions or at least de-emphasize. Figures are to skaters what scales are to pianists. They are essential for beginners, but tedious for experts.

Boitano said he spends 3 1/2 hours a day practicing figures, which account for 30% of the final score. There is only one skater in the world who is better at them than him. But Leaver said Boitano would feel better about remaining in competitive skating if he did not have to devote so much of his time to figures.

Boitano said he is also concerned about another kind of figures, those that he could to add to his bank account. He has never lacked for financial support from his family. His father is a banker. Boitano said he has received more money than ever before within the last year from the United States Olympic Committee and the U.S. Figure Skating Assn.

He is also allowed to accept money for endorsements and appearances as long as he deposits it in a trust fund, which will be available to him upon his retirement from the sport. Within minutes after accepting his gold medal Saturday night, he did a commercial for Disneyland.

Boitano said he does not want anyone to misunderstand and think that he is motivated by money. He does not even have an agent. But he said he would like to be more comfortable financially, which might be possible if the ISU decides to allow skaters to accept prize money in international competitions other than World Championships and the Olympics.

"I don't want to be a millionaire," Boitano said. "I just want to be able to make a living on my own at 24."

He could probably become an instant millionaire if he joins an ice show, but he said he would rather not because he does not think it would be a challenge for him. Skating with Snoopy is not the same as skating against Orser. Boitano said the challenge would be to remain in competitive skating and continue to improve.

Boitano has long been considered among the world's best technical skaters, but it was not until he finished second to Orser in last year's World Championships that he realized he would have to improve his presentation if he expected to win the Olympic gold medal.

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