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Attendance Is Down in the Early Going

January 10, 2002|Helene Elliott, Mike Terry

Perhaps it's the post-holiday blues, the economy or late-night scheduling, but the first few sessions of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships have not drawn huge crowds.

Tuesday's attendance was announced as 6,100. Tickets remain for all sessions, including Sunday's exhibition. However, fewer than 2,000 tickets remain for the women's final Saturday.

"Hopefully, the crowds will continue to grow," U.S. Figure Skating Assn. spokesman Bob Dunlop said. "The last two years we set attendance records. We would love to do the same here."

The event drew 124,372 last year at Boston.

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Defying that unwritten sports rule of taking it one inning, period, quarter, game or Olympics at a time, anyone interested in a glimpse of the future of figure skating might get a hint by watching 13-year-old Beatrisia Liang of Granada Hills tonight.

Liang, coached by 1985 U.S. champion Tiffany Chin, was sixth at last year's national championships. Since then, she has added a triple-triple to her arsenal and a good deal of maturity.

"It's just getting better and better," Chin said of Liang's triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, which she performed in practice Wednesday at HealthSouth Training Center. "She's a good kid and easy to work with.

"It's made a huge difference. I was surprised to see how it affects her stamina and affects her confidence, knowing she can do it."

Liang, nicknamed "Bebe," will do the jump in her long program Saturday. "Regardless of what she does, I'm pleased she made her goal of landing it," Chin said.

Liang, remarkably poised, said she's not nervous about skating in her hometown. "I'm probably more excited than anything," she said.

Helene Elliott

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Experience can mean as much as talent in competitive figure skating. Knowing how to perform under pressure, and what judges respond to, is as critical as executing the spins and jumps.

Learning how to deal with bright lights and strong performances by opponents is a big reason Loren Galler-Rabinowitz and David Mitchell are the U.S. junior dance champions.

Galler-Rabinowitz, 15, from Boston, and Mitchell, 19, from Ann Arbor, Mich., who won the title Wednesday at the Sports Arena, are in their fourth season as a team. They won the novice dance championship in 2000; last year, their first in juniors, they finished fifth.

"That [competition] helped us a lot for this year," Mitchell said. "Not so much for getting used to the environment, but giving us something to compare ourselves with. We learned it was a very big step from novice to junior, in terms of maturity in skating what the judges were looking for."

Added Galler-Rabinowitz: "In novice there is much less hype. When you're a junior, it's a bigger arena and a bigger audience. It's open judging. It's a completely different world. To step into that world last year was more of an experiment."

They also had to feel the competitive fire of Melissa Ralph and Ryan O'Meara, whose athletic, sprightly skating captured the crowd's heart and the judges' top votes in the free skating final.

But Galler-Rabinowitz and Mitchell, who led after both the compulsory and original dance rounds, never panicked or hurried their routine, which flowed as easily as Galler-Rabinowitz's white outfit.

"Ralph and O'Meara, third after the first two rounds, settled for second.

"We were really satisfied with our performance," said O'Meara, 18, of Houston.

"It was good enough to win," added Ralph, 16, of Stamford, Conn. "But we're not disappointed."

In other skating, Louann Donovan was the leader in the ladies' juniors after Wednesday's short program, and Amy Howerton and Steven Potteger led the junior pairs competition.

Mike Terry

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