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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

He Figures Out Skating Without a Vested Interest

January 09, 2002|T.J. Simers

I decided to sashay on down to Staples Center on Tuesday because I wasn't sure we've had enough stories lately in the newspaper about figure skating.

I had to go to the Biltmore to pick up a press pass, officials there offering me a snazzy figure skating vest, an obvious bribe that would have convinced me to write only good things about this silly sport, but Sports Editor Bill Dwyre has this policy that no one is allowed to accept snazzy figure skating vests. Note to the Dodgers: I presume color TVs, Ford Expeditions and Rolex watches are all right.

"Tell your boss he's a big meanie," said Nancy Izuel, talking as if she was breaking new ground here while passing out vests. Then she noticed my name tag and just snapped: "You're the guy who is always writing bad things about USC in the paper," she said, while slugging me in the arm.

I took down Ben Nagano's name as a witness for when I get around to pressing charges against Izuel, and went to Staples to find eight police officers on alert at the main entrance. I was hoping they were there to stop me from going inside, but apparently they were on guard for Tonya Harding.

I was searched at the door, officials telling me I could not bring an unsanctioned teddy bear inside Staples and heave it at any of the guys wearing sequins. They said if I paid 10 bucks for one inside Staples, I could heave it at any of the guys wearing sequins--apparently the guards at the door drawing the conclusion the only reason I was here was to see the guys wearing sequins.

I have to admit I was curious--intrigued after reading the morning paper and learning Todd Eldredge "is a pair of loafers in a rack of stiletto-heeled black leather boots." I wanted to see these guys who could skate in stiletto-heeled black leather boots because you'd have to be some kind of athlete to do that.

I ran into Jill Greenleaf, events manager for the Figure Skating Assn., and I was still a little ticked I couldn't bring in my own teddy bear and asked her what the skaters do with all the stuffed animals thrown at them.

She said the skaters pick out the ones they like and donate the remainder to a local hospital. I said that's nice that the skaters pass on all the crummy stuffed animals they don't want to the local hospitals, and I got one of those looks from Greenleaf that I get on occasion from Kevin Brown.

I asked if there were any sequin vending machines in the building, and I don't recall the conversation going much further than that with Jill.

I was directed to Bob Dunlop, skating's P.R. guy, who said he couldn't think of any skater capable of answering the types of questions I was going to ask. This was before I asked Bob if there was an ironclad rule that pairs skating must include a man and a woman, so it beats me how he knew what type of questions I might ask.

I asked him why they call it the "death spiral" when the guy holds the woman's hand and twirls her as she lowers her head to the ice--when no one ever dies from the move, and I don't recall the conversation going much further than that with Bob.

Down in the media room, where ordinarily you find normal reporters who cover real sports like basketball, I found the skating scribes and listened to them interview the top U.S. pairs team--Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman.

"Could you tell us how you two have evolved as partners?" a skating scribe from the Washington Post wanted to know, and Kyoko beaming, said, "John and I had a personal evolvement [eight monthsago]."

I got to thinking, what with the stiletto-heeled black leather boots and personal evolvements going on here this might be more of an interesting sport than I first thought until Kyoko said: "I'm not with John when we leave the rink ... but once a week we get together for lunch."

I wanted to get back to that part about their "personal evolvement" eight months ago and get some juicy details, but the figure skating scribes spent the next 15 minutes quizzing the pair about their lunches. Who pays? When did they start? What do you talk about? No wonder no one reads the stories these people write.

On the main concourse I ran into Kathy Drevs, another skating official, and asked if she thought it was necessary for these guys to wear see-through tights and sequins, and she pointed to a picture of Peter Tchernyshev--some skater dressed in shocking pink and said, "See-through tights on Peter aren't a problem with me."

I don't recall the conversation going much further than that with Kathy.

Ashley Deavers, a novice dance skater, waltzed by with his mom and dad, his dad quick to point out he once dressed in a Ducks' costume to skate, his mother chiming in the whole family had dressed as ducks for a performance, and their son--like me--looking to make a quick exit from Staples.

Daddy Duck said, "you think there's a feminine thing about the sport, don't you?"--his son adding, "There's not, but some make it look feminine like Rudy," and I was set to challenge him on that because I've spent time at Notre Dame and I know Rudy, when novice skater Cole Davis offered to explain what this sport is all about.

He said he spins on a blade one-eighth inch wide, holding his 82-pound partner with one hand over his head--all of it demanding great strength and athletic ability. I was impressed and gaining new respect for these competitors when he told me next week the Mighty Ducks have asked him to perform dressed like a doughnut.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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