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German Saves His Best Figures for Last : Skating: Zander, who grew up in Huntington Beach, has the best performance in compulsories.

March 06, 1990|RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DARTMOUTH, Canada — A Southern Californian is leading after Monday's compulsory figures at the World Championships. Not surprisingly, it isn't Christopher Bowman of Van Nuys. On his list of likes, figures would finish only slightly higher than malathion.

After wearing his patch skates for the last time, now that compulsories have been eliminated from international competition after this meet, Bowman said, "I'm leaving my skate guards on my blades until they crumble into the archives."

Those archives also will include Richard Zander, the last man to win the figures phase of the men's competition at the World Championships.

Right behind Zander are the two favorites, defending champion Kurt Browning of Canada and the Soviet Union's Viktor Petrenko, bronze medalist in the 1988 Winter Olympics.

The three U.S. entries--Bowman, Todd Eldredge of South Chatham, Mass., and Paul Wylie of Denver--are, in order, sixth, seventh and eighth. They need high marks in Wednesday's original program at the Halifax Metro Centre to contend for the championship.

The Americans would have been proud to claim Zander, 26 Saturday. Living for most of his first 17 years in Huntington Beach, he competed in the U.S. national championships for the last time in 1981, finishing 11th.

After graduating from Huntington Beach High, he moved to West Germany. In nine years there, he has twice won the national championship and finished second four times. Along the way, he forfeited the U.S. half of his dual citizenship when he joined the West German army. Speaking only a few words of German when he moved, he is now fluent.

"I don't speak that much English anymore," he said.

He makes an exception when speaking to the West German women's champion, Patricia Neske, from Hawthorne. Zander and Neske, 23, met as juniors while training at the same rink in Culver City. Now they share the ice in Obertsdorf, West Germany, near the Austrian border.

The parents of both Zander and Neske are German. Neske's parents still live in the United States. Zander moved to Cologne, West Germany, with his mother after she was divorced from his father, a used-car salesman in Phoenix.

Unlike Neske, who plans to return to the United States after she retires from skating, Zander has decided to make his home in West Germany. He is the co-owner of an Italian restaurant near Cologne and wants to open a men's clothing store in Munich.

"It wasn't my idea to move to Germany because of the skating," said Zander, who competed in the United States against future Olympic champions Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano. "At the time, there were some strong German boys, too.

"I could have had the same opportunity in America, but it would have been a lot harder."

Compulsory figures are Zander's strength. He won that discipline for the second consecutive year in last month's European championships, but he fell to fifth overall after the original and freestyle programs, which, combined, count toward 80% of the final score. His freestyle skating is labored, and, although he can do all the triple jumps, he is inconsistent.

"I can skate the freestyle well, but it would be better for me if the figures were still going to be there after this year," he said. "It's going to be a whole new world. I'm a little bit skeptical about how it's going to affect the sport. It's called figure skating, so they should keep the figures."

Asked what he most misses about Southern California, he said: "The people. They're much more open, more relaxed. It's a whole different life style. But now Germany is home for me."

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