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May 07, 1998|LARRY STEWART

What: "The 1998 Skate TV Championships"

When: Tonight, 9-11 p.m., Ch. 7

To call this a championship event is a misnomer. It is a taped two-hour figure skating exhibition, designed to provide ABC with a decent Thursday night rating during May sweeps.

Eight professional skaters--four men and four women--got together in Charleston, S.C., on April 23 to tape the show.

Olympic champion Tara Lipinski is the drawing card, since this exhibition marks her pro debut. Also skating are former gold medalists Katarina Witt of Germany, Oksana Baiul of Ukraine, and three-time world silver medalist Surya Bonaly of France. The men's field is made up of 1992 Olympic gold medalist Victor Petrenko, four-time world champion Kurt Browning, 1996 European champion Viacheslav Zagorodniuk and two-time U.S. bronze medalist Scott Williams.

Each skater goes through two routines, accompanied by rock 'n' roll. The four men skate, then the four women, then the rotation is repeated.

The performers are judged, but the makeup of the panel tells you this is not a real competition. The judges are U.S. women's hockey team captain Cammi Granato, moguls gold medalist Jonny Moseley, speedskater KC Boutiette, basketball's Sheryl Swoopes and two-time Olympic diving gold medalist Greg Louganis.

That's not exactly an expert panel.

Eric Nies, host of MTV's "The Grind," and Olympic swimming champion Summer Sanders are the co-hosts, former skater Rosalynn Sumners the analyst.

Tonight's show may be worth watching--no advance tape was provided--but keep in mind this is not an athletic competition with any prize money involved. It is a figure skating exhibition and nothing more.

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