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For Trenary, It Figures to Be a Skater's Waltz

February 08, 1989|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

BALTIMORE — If you want to see sex in sports this week, you'll have to buy a swimsuit issue. You won't see it, or at least not as much of it in recent years, at the U.S. figure skating championships.

By an edict of the International Skating Union (ISU), there will be no more Debi Thomas unitards, Katarina Witt plunging necklines or Jill Trenary costume bottoms that don't quite cover the bottom. The sport will have a G-rating, not G-strings.

That shouldn't be a problem for Trenary, who could win the women's individual championship this week at the Baltimore Arena in a sack dress. This isn't a competition for Trenary, it's her coronation as the new queen of U.S. figure skating.

Now that Thomas has retired and Caryn Kadavy is out with an ankle injury, Trenary, 20, of Minnetonka, Minn., is the only female individual skater returning from the U.S. Olympic team.

She was fourth at the Calgary Games and fifth a month later in the World Championships at Budapest, Hungary. Besides, she won this title once before, upsetting Thomas in 1987. She was second to Thomas last year. The only one who can beat Trenary this year is Trenary.

"I expect her to win," said Trenary's coach, Carlo Fassi of the Broadmoor Skating Club in Colorado Springs. "It's tough when you expect her to win. She's skating well, but I worry that she'll get nervous. She never did when she was chasing people. But it's more difficult when you're on top."

Trenary doesn't seem concerned. She said that she has been preparing for this morning, when the competition begins with the compulsory figures, ever since she discovered spins and jumps while playing pond hockey on double- runner skates as a 5-year-old.

"I'm not the underdog anymore," she said. "I don't want to deny that. It's the truth. But I'm prepared for all the eyes being on me. It's where I've always wanted to be.

"I always looked up to the one who people were shooting at. If it wasn't Debi, it was Rosalynn (Sumners) or Dorothy (Hamill). Now I have to deal with it."

The other events are less predictable.

Gold medalist Brian Boitano retired, but his Olympic teammates, Christopher Bowman of Van Nuys and Paul Wylie of Denver, are expected to duel for the men's individual championship.

Both of last year's top pairs teams retired, but Olympians Natalie and Wayne Seybold of Marion, Ind., and the fourth-place finishers from last year's national championships, Katy Keeley and Joseph Mero of Costa Mesa, return.

In dance, one-half of the U.S. championship team, Suzanne Semanick of Bridgeville, Pa., is back with a new partner, Ron Kravette of Costa Mesa. Also returning are Olympians Susan Wynne of Camillus, N.Y., and Joseph Druar of Amherst, N.Y., who led after the compulsories Tuesday night.

Bowman and Wylie have disagreed this week about which one is the successor to four-time national champion Boitano's throne. Even though Bowman, 21, finished higher than Wylie, 24, in the Olympics and the World Championships last year, Wylie was the runner-up to Boitano at the national championships. Bowman finished third.

"So technically, he's the heir apparent," Bowman said.

"Whatever," Wylie said Tuesday, finally relenting. "I think co-favorites is a better term for it."

Wylie has skated better in practice, but that's not necessarily significant because Bowman almost always saves his best for performances. Bowman suffered a deep cut in his left shin in December, when he crossed paths with another skater at an exhibition in Burbank. He said that he wore a cast for a month, but believes he is 98% recovered.

"I got the injury while we were skating a comedy routine to 'California Girls,' " he said. "They took me to the hospital in drag. I was wearing a dress and panty hose, and these nurses were saying, 'Aren't you Chris Bowman, the Olympian?' "

Bowman and Wylie couldn't be more different. Wylie, whose parents live in Yorba Linda, is an honor student at Harvard, taking courses last semester in Shogun history, U.S.-Soviet foreign relations, dramatic arts and literature of social reflection. Bowman is a hyperactive, fun-loving former child actor who may be the most gossiped about skater in the sport's history. He admits only to having chased a few skirts in his formative years.

"I'm the one who every mother wants to introduce to their daughter," Wylie told the Baltimore Sun. "Chris is the one who mothers are afraid of, but who all the daughters want to go out with."

Which one will win? Nearly every move they make is being watched for clues.

"Chris told me the other day that he feels like he's in a microwave," Wylie said. "Everyone is searing you with that look."

But there is almost no question that they will finish first and second.

"I don't think, realistically, that anyone else is there yet," Wylie said. "There's no one else even doing a triple axel. There are people who are capable, but no one else has really put it together."

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