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Skaters Get on Good Foot in Hot Exhibition Finale
From News Services
Sunday, February 22, 1998; Page D16




Michelle Kwan let her hair down, Ilia Kulik stabbed the ice with a samurai sword, Philippe Candeloro kissed the Olympic rings — and a spectator.

These were just a few of the highlights at yesterday's figure skating exhibition, in which the top finishers at the Olympics entertain instead of compete.

Gold medalist Tara Lipinski, wearing her yellow and blue short-program costume, used the same music from "Anastasia." She simply substituted the vocal version of "Journey to the Past."

Once again, that infectious smile punctuated her performance and the audience wouldn't let her leave, standing and clapping until she returned for a portion of her free skate program to "The Rainbow."

But Candeloro clearly was the show-stopper. He came on the ice in his Three Musketeers garb, prepared to do his "D'Ar tagnan" free skate program that lifted him to bronze. Poised to begin, the music came on: "Stay in' Alive" by the Bee Gees.

So Candeloro did his best John Travolta. Then began five minutes of pure theatrics, from the sword fight that highlights the routine to Candeloro climbing over the sideboards to hug and kiss a spectator.

Pairs champions Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev dedicated their encore to the Japanese fans, doing the traditional song "Sakura" (Cherry Blossoms).

Silver medalist Kwan let her hair down for her exhibition program to "On My Own" from "Les Miserables."

Men's champion Kulik closed the show with a martial arts number to "Mortal Kombat." And, unlike Candeloro, he brought a real samurai sword as a prop, even doing a double axel with it tucked under his arm. He capped the program by stabbing the ice.

Judging Under Scrutiny
Ottavio Cinquanta, president of the International Skating Union, is proposing changes in ice dancing in an effort to answer charges of inflexible judging and bloc voting.

"If you can't change the situation through judging and obtain the result — you can't force people to do something — then maybe it is better to do it through the rules," he said.

In ice dancing, couples compete over three nights. Compulsory dances count 20 percent of the total, original dance 30 percent, and free dance 50 percent.

Cinquanta wants the ISU's congress in June to make the free dance worth a higher percentage of the total score, to increase the chance that the final night will provide some real drama.

He admits there is a lack of suspense in the event the way it is. Two-time Olympic champions Pasha Grishuk and Evgeny Platov have won 22 straight competitions. Worse, they tend to take the lead in the first two rounds, and early rankings for the other contestants often don't change, either.

"Ice dance is harder to judge. You do not have the elements-the jumps, the spins," he said. "When there is a mistake in figure skating, a skater falls or lands on two feet. It is more evident for the audience and the judge."

C'est La Vie
Cinquanta also said he had mixed emotions when Surya Bonaly of France did a one-footed back flip in her free skate. The move has been illegal since 1977.

"As a human, 10 percent of me approved and 90 percent as ISU president disapproved," he said. "The 10 percent was all that Surya, a five-time European champion, has done for figure skating.

"But 90 percent is saying she has done a mistake. She expressed an emotional reaction that is not acceptable by a champion like Surya. I do not want to approve this and I know she was penalized by the panel."

As ISU president, Cinquanta also oversees speedskating. He said he will endorse a new records system under which world marks will be listed in four categories: conventional, outdoor, indoor and indoor with clap skates, which came into prominence last year.

Another Earthquake
A mild earthquake hit north-central Japan, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. Unlike a stronger quake 24 hours before, there were no effects felt at the Olympics.

The quake Sunday (Saturday night EST), with a preliminary magnitude of 3.9, was centered 12 miles underground in Niigata state, 248 miles northwest of Tokyo, the Meteorological Agency said. The temblor was recorded at 2:49 a.m. (12:49 p.m. EST Saturday), the agency said.

The quake came less than 24 hours after one of magnitude 5.0 hit the same area early Saturday.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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