In a dazzling display of grace, strength and balance, a team of veteran skaters outclassed its younger counterparts last night to win the World Professional Figure Skating Championships before a near capacity crowd at Capital Centre.
For the record, the score was 79.38 for the All Stars, a team made up chiefly of pre-1980 Olympian skaters, and 78.54 for the Pro Stars, a team chiefly comprised of participants in the Lake Placid Olympics who have now turned professional.
Although billed as a competitive event, the championships had the ambience of an exhibition, with the performers and the fans alike more interested in the sheer fun of the event. It was the second time the competition has been held; both times it has been at Capital Centre.
"We just really enjoy skating with each other," said Ken Shelley, twice winner of a world pairs bronze medal with Jo Jo Starbuck.
Shelley and Starbuck earned one of four perfect scores of 10 received by members of the All Star team last night. Their 10 came on a free style event in which they glided, jumped, spun and turned across the arena to the delight of their audience, which acknowledged them with a standing ovation.
"There are so many people here that you are in such respect and awe of. You just get so eager to do well," said Starbuck, currently an Ice Capades Star. "I feel like I am on the ice with all my favorite skaters."
The Starbuck-Shelley performance was followed by another flawless 10 routine by two-time Olympic pairs champions and six-time Russian champions Oleg and Ludmilla Protopopov. They were among the crowd's favorite skaters last night, receiving standing ovations each time they performed.
Had the scoring been on an individual rather than a team basis, the Protopopovs would undoubtedly have received two 10s, but their first score was averaged with that of teammate John Curry, 1976 Olympic figure skating champion. Curry stumbled slightly and lost his balance his first time out on the ice, but even with the stumble the Curry-Protopopov average that time was 9.9.
But Curry made up for his mistake the next time he appeared on the ice when he and 1976 Olympic gold medalist Dorothy Hamill turned in back-to-back perfect performances. "It's a delight to see such excellence on the ice," said Curry. "In this sport, it's not just what you do, it's how you do it as well."
Last night's championship event was filled with stars. Represented were nine Olympic medals, including five golds; 25 world championship medals, including 11 golds; and 50 national titles among the 16 skating stars.
Missing from the lineup last night were Tai Babilonia, who won the world pairs championship in 1979 with Randy Gardner, and Swiss skating star Denise Biellman. Babilonia hurt her knee in a fall at her home and Biellmann was ill, officials said.
Skating without his partner, Gardner was still a favorite of the crowd. "We love you, Randy," shouted several teen-agers as he took the ice for the first time. But when the average score for his performance and that of Charles Tickner, a 1978 world champion, was announced at 9.74, the response was a chorus of boos.