MINNEAPOLIS, FEB. 16 -- In the flighty world of figure skating, a place where sequins, glitter and pancake makeup matter almost as much as triple jumps and sit spins, you don't expect to find a 30-year-old, twice-married waitress named Calla Urbanski and a New Jersey trucker named Rocky Marval.
No, at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships you look for teenagers such as Natasha Kuchiki, 14, or blow-dried veterans such as Todd Sand, 27. Those two were the favorites in Friday night's pairs competition, and they won the national title in spite of a stumbling, shaky long program.
But when Kuchiki and Sand were brought into the interview room to discuss their victory, many reporters were missing. They were in the hallway, talking to the most compelling couple in the competition, Urbanski and Marval, whose perseverance in their sport finally was rewarded with the silver medals hanging around their necks.
"People tell me I can't do it," said Urbanski, who has been skating for 26 years and never before had won a national championship medal.
" 'You're too old,' they say."
She is the oldest person competing here. A native of Skokie, Ill., in Chicago's north suburbs, she skated singles for 19 years, never qualifying for the nationals. In 1983, she tried pairs. Last summer, things weren't working with another partner, so she and Marval, whom she had met several years before, talked on the phone and decided to join forces. He was her fifth pairs partner; she, his third.
"There is a desperation when you are my age," Urbanski said. "My God, who's going to want to skate with a 29-year-old? I was 29 then."
They train in Wilmington, Del., where Urbanski, just 4 feet 11, also works full-time as a waitress. She used to tend bar, but it was too much, getting home at 3 or 4 a.m. and trying to be at the ice rink by 9 a.m.
"The people at the bar are behind her," said her husband, Jay Freeman. "It's like 'Cheers.' "
Marval, 25, has asked his family to take over his nine-truck fleet in New Egypt, N.J., while he trains full-time. Marval also races motorcycles.
They will be one of three U.S. pairs to travel to the world championships next month in Munich, and, because the United States is not particularly strong in this event, it's entirely possible they could make the 1992 Olympic team.
That would be a fabulous triumph for Urbanski, who has given up everything, even her first marriage, for her skating.
"We just ran out of money this week," Freeman said.
And it wouldn't be bad news for Marval either.
"Right now," he said, "I feel I can have a better career in skating than in trucking."