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FIGURE SKATING / NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS : Defector Finds New Life, and New Partner

January 19, 1993|RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Their pairing also looked as good to Ribbens as she had expected. She talked Button into inviting Roca and Sur to compete in the 1991 World Professional Figure Skating Championships at Landover, Md.

"He said, 'Who?' but I convinced him that he wouldn't be disappointed," she said. They finished third, then improved to second a week later in Button's World Challenge of Champions at Paris.

A year later, the International Skating Union changed its eligibility rules, allowing professionals to apply for reinstatement as amateurs in order to compete in the World Championships and Winter Olympics.

Sur wanted to apply.

"I feel I haven't finished a lot of things in competition," he said.

Roca went along, but she is still not sure it was a good idea.

"If things go well, I'll be happy," she said. "If not, we'll see."

So far, so good.

"I think they're wonderful," said Darlene Gilbert, a coach who worked with them recently at a North Long Beach rink. They are coached primarily by Sandra Hess at Colorado Springs.

"He's sort of like Baryshnikov, a small man who looks 10 feet tall when he performs. Gorsha gives that same sort of impression when he's on the ice. There's only a handful of women who can meet that standard, and Renee is one of them."

Ribbens said she believes they have potential to be among the world's top five dance teams.

If they finish first or second in the U.S. competition, they will have an opportunity to find out where they stand in the March 7-14 World Championships at Prague in the Czech Republic. But they might not eligible for the 1994 Winter Olympics at Lillehammer, Norway, because Sur is not a citizen. A U.S. Congressman from Colorado is trying to rush through the skater's application.

Sur has not seen his family in more than three years. Although he is free to travel to Moscow, he said that he does not believe he would be comfortable there even for a short visit.

"You never know what can happen," he said. "Anyway, I am home now in United States. I am not citizen yet, but I am home."

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