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Hamilton Shows His Old Form : Figure skating: He trails only Boitano in pro-am competition. Kerrigan leads women.

April 07, 1993|RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Perhaps Brian Boitano is not the only former Olympic men's figure skating champion who should have considered regaining his eligibility so he would have a chance to compete for a second Olympic gold medal next winter in Norway.

Boitano, a winner in 1988 at Calgary, has been saying that for the last two years in regard to Scott Hamilton, the man who also reached the highest level of the Olympic stand, winning in 1984 at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.

A crowd of about 3,000 at the Sports Arena witnessed what Boitano has been talking about Tuesday night during the technical program of the $330,000 Hershey's Kisses Pro-Am. Hamilton, 34, has more than four years on Boitano, but, based on the applause, he pleased the crowd more and the judges almost as much.

After three of the nine awarded Hamilton first-place marks, he will enter tonight's freestyle program, which accounts for two-thirds of the final score, trailing only the favorite, Boitano, and ahead of third-place Mark Mitchell and the rest of the six-man field, which includes 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie, who is in fifth place.

Because of Boitano's presence in the competition, his first since he announced that he has applied to the International Skating Union for reinstatement, the men's event has attracted most of the attention.

But there also is a competition for five of the United States' best women. A sixth, 1984 Olympic silver medalist Rosalyn Sumners, withdrew because of an injury. They, like the men, are vying for prize money that starts with $40,000 for the winners.

After Tuesday night's technical program, Nancy Kerrigan, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist, was in first place, followed by 1990 world champion Jill Trenary. Caryn Kadavy was in third place.

Most of the skaters seemed flat, probably because, in the case of the amateurs, they have recently completed a long international competitive season or, in the case of the professionals, a tour.

Hamilton, however, stood out because of his energetic performance to music from "The City of Angels." He said it was an act.

"I was just grateful to get through it," he said. "This was a lesson in survival. When I ran out of adrenaline, I said, 'OK, now, I'm 34. Just get through the thing.' "

Claiming to have little interest in the scoring, he said, "I came to entertain."

If his presentation marks are an indication, he did that. Five of the nine judges awarded him 5.9s on a 6.0 scale. But they placed Boitano first because his program was more technically difficult. Only one other skater besides Boitano cleanly landed a triple axel, the most challenging of the triple jumps.

"I've been on the ice for 25 years, competing for 16 and the last nine as a pro," Hamilton said. "To still be competitive with the best American skaters, it feels really great."

But not great enough to make him want to regain his eligibility so he can compete again in the Olympics. The deadline for reinstatement was April 1.

"I don't want to compete in the Olympics again," he said. "I did that."

Boitano was disappointed that Hamilton did not return.

"I think Scott Hamilton is great," he said. "I think he's been an inspiration to everyone, including myself. What he's still doing four years beyond me, it's wonderful.

"It's really where the sport needs to go. He's a great role model."

So, of course, is Boitano, who continued to improve his skating even after winning the Olympics while, at the same time, waging a campaign to have the rules changed so that professionals could return to compete at the highest level.

On his first night back, he received 5.7s for technical merit and 5.8s for presentation from all nine judges. His only glaring error came with an awkward landing of his triple axel, caused by the height he attained. Talk about adrenaline.

"I don't even care," he said. "I landed it. I'll worry about it next time."

He was relieved just to finish on his feet.

"I'm so glad I got through this," he said. "I'm just glad it's over."

Is he glad he came back?

"That's what I asked myself," he said. "Oh, yeah, I'm glad. I feel good. The benefit is now, afterward, thinking I did a good job, and it was clean."

Hamilton seconded that.

"My only concern was to stay vertical," he said. "I didn't go out there to have elbow sliding practice."

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