It will be all sequims and rhinestones Monday night at Capital Centre in the first World Professional Figure Skating championship.
Two teams, one representing the world and Olympic champions from before 1976, and the other representing their successors, will compete for more then $180,000 in prize money. The members of the winning team will receive $20,000 each; the losers will receive $10,000.
The oldsters will be represented by 1976 Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill, 1968 Olympic champion Peggy Fleming, 1976 Olympic bronze-medalist Toller Cranston, three-time U.S. national champion Gordie McKellen, three-time U.S. national pair skating champions Jo Jo Starbuck and Ken Shelly, and three-time U.S. dance pair champions Colleen O'Connor and Jim Millns.
This year's team will include 1980 Olympic bronze medalist Linda Fratianne and Emi Watanabe, of Japan, who finished just after her in Lake Placid; 1980 Olympic champion Robin Cousins and bronze medalist Charlie Tickner; 1980 world champions in pair skating, Randy Gardner and Tai Rabilonia, and the silver medalists in the 1980 dance competition, Kristina Regoeczy and Andras Sllay of Hungary.
"This is fun," said Cousins. "Compeition should always have been like this."
"There has never been a time like this before when all the skaters got together," said Gardner. "It's really good because a lot of skaters can't go into other fields unless they have big names. There should be more competitions."
Once they leave amateur competition, skaters are forced to choose between exile in an ice show or giving up the sport. Some skaters, like Gardner, say they prefer performing to the pressures of amateur competition. Others, like Watanabe, prefer competition because, she said, "skaters put out more in competitions than they do for the normal show."
Many staunchly defend the ice shows as good family entertainment. Yogi Bear on ice may be nice for the kids but competition it isn't.
Dick Button, two-time Olympic and four-time world figure skating champion is the brains behind the new competition. "It is filling a gap that has always been empty. This is not instead of ice shows but along with them. What I would like to see is a national championship each year leading up to a world championship," he said.
"Skaters have one foot in the threatrical world and one in the sports world," he said. "Once they've left to go into ice shows and television, they lose competitive opportunities. The end result is that it takes four or five years for skaters to reach their peak after they go pro. Many of them are better skaters today then they were as amateurs. To be brilliant at 18 is a lot to ask. In the Soviet Union, they are allowed to stay on and on. They retire when normal retirement would occur. They're given cars, everything. Who can afford it here? . . . These skaters made their names as competitors but they have no forum for it (competition) here."
The forum Button has created has three parts: a short program like the one used in amateur competitions, requiring certain compulsory moves (37 1/2 percent of final score); a free-style program lasting between 3-4 1/2 minutes (also 37 1/2 percent of score); and a group number using eight skaters, the only part of the program that will be judged as amateur competitions are for both technical merit and stylistic presentation (25 percent of the score).
The seven judges, including former U.S. champion Janet Lynn (who is not skating because she just gave birth to twins), will score the performances on a 10-point maximum; high and low scores will be thrown out and the rest averaged; then the score for each team member (a pair is one member) will be averaged with another before being added to the team total.
More than 15,000 tickets had been sold for the event by Thursday. The competition will be televised in installments beginning Jan. 18 on NBC.