In its 11th year, the World Professional Figure Skating Championships may be moving toward maturity. At Capital Centre Saturday night, former champions slipped and skidded while injury and illness impeded the routines of others. But the depth of competition and athletic talent was such that none of that detracted from the event.
"For me to even be here, and the recovery I've made in a week, is amazing," said three-time champion Brian Boitano, the 1988 Olympic men's gold medalist. "I wasn't in as good shape aerobically as I'd liked to have been. But adrenaline is a wonderful thing, isn't it?"
Touring earlier this year with Germany's Katarina Witt, he injured tendons in his right hip and soon developed tendinitis. He took 10 days off before this event to ensure he could compete. He restructured a routine to make it simpler but still pushed himself through triple jumps and soaring leaps. Boitano won, scoring 11 10's, totaling 99.9 and beating Robin Cousins, Brian Orser and Gary Beacom.
Swiss Olympic and world champion Denise Biellmann also approached the event with earnestness. Placing second the last two years to Debi Thomas, Biellmann returned this year a sculpted, determined skater. "I take this very seriously," she said during warm-ups.
Last year Biellmann skated a routine many thought should have won the title. She left no doubts this year. Her technical routine was physically demanding, employing triple jumps, back-to-back doubles, her trademark Biellmann spin and a triple Lutz. Her artistic routine gave her the victory with a score of 98.0.
"I'm very happy," she said. "When you do different things, the judges don't know how to take it, but it's a challenge and that's what makes skating interesting, to try new things."
Elizabeth Manley, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist from Canada, fell twice in her routine; she was weakened by the flu. She finished fourth behind Thomas and Rosalynn Sumners.
Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini, looking for a sequel to last year's popular routine to "When a Man Loves a Woman," topped a tough pairs lineup, including four-time world champions and 1988 Olympic champion Soviets Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov. Gordeeva fell twice, not used to the smaller American rink, and Underhill and Martini found the answer in a romantic duet. They scored seven 10's for that routine, totaling 99.5 for their fifth title.
Some of the athletes saw the competition as one with themselves. Dance legends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean use events such as this to coax themselves to new artistic expressions. They won the competition easily, scoring 48.9 points.
"It's a performance, not competition. We perform mentally, that's the difference for us," said Dean.