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Pelletier, Sale Get Gold Tonight

WINTER OLYMPICS

Weary of attention, Canadian pair prepares for repeat medal ceremony, which Russians want to attend.

February 17, 2002|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SALT LAKE CITY — David Pelletier wants to get back to a normal life, one without TV cameras continually thrust in his face and reporters analyzing his every word.

That's not likely to happen for a while. Certainly not tonight.

Pelletier and partner Jamie Sale will get their duplicate pairs figure skating gold medals tonight at the Salt Lake Ice Center, after the original dance phase of the ice dancing competition. The International Olympic Committee voted to award them the medals after a French judge was found to have acted improperly during the pairs competition, which was won by Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia.

Sale and Pelletier are only beginning to consider the many endorsements offered. There's talk of a made-for-TV movie, booking their own skating tour, a skate-off against the Russian pair, and other commercial opportunities.

First, though, they'll get their medals. It wasn't immediately clear if the Russians and the third-place finishers from China, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, would attend, but Sikharulidze said he wanted to attend. "If there is a ceremony and the Canadian flag is raised, the Russian flag should be raised and the Russian anthem should be played," Sikharuldize said.

Tonight will be the Canadians' first time on the ice in several days. They've been too busy to train much since the events that began last Monday, when they won the silver medal after judges ranked Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze ahead of them in the long program by a 5-4 score.

The International Skating Union reversed that decision Friday, but Sale and Pelletier have not spoken with the Russians, who have expressed feelings of dismay over the circus the post-competition fuss has become.

"This isn't going to be a love fest, and this isn't going to become Nancy and Tonya," said the Canadian duo's agent, Craig Fenech, referring to the sensational 1994 incident in which associates of Tonya Harding's husband plotted to injure rival Nancy Kerrigan.

Sale and Pelletier resent being pitted against the Russians, maintaining they want nothing more out of the incident than ensuring reforms are instituted to prevent a similar situation.

"I'm trying to deal with it the best I can," Pelletier said Saturday at a news conference the Canadian Olympic Assn. said would be the pair's last public interview. "I feel like I'm a target here, every time I step on stage. I'm doing this," he said, weaving from side to side, "[dodging] bullets.

"I did feel a little bit guilty for what happened, but I didn't ask for this. I am not a criminal, even though I feel that way when I step out of this room.

"All I want is my life to be normal. But I'm not stupid and naive enough to think that will happen soon."

Fenech said the couple has not signed an ice show contract. He knows, though, they would be a marquee attraction.

"We have not signed with any tours, and we have turned down all endorsement opportunities until this moment," said Fenech, who has represented baseball players as well as radio and TV personalities.

However, Fenech knows the shelf life of this now-hot duo won't last forever. "It is important to do things sooner," he said, "but we'd rather do them right than do them early. We're looking to secure their future."

Sale described the last few days as overwhelming and said she and Pelletier have not decided whether they will defend their world title next month in Japan. "We have to have a schedule every day," she said. "We're trying to get our lives back to normal. Training is a priority. We want to start skating."

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