Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Thursday, January 12, 2006


2006 U.S. Senior Pair Results After Short Program:

1 Kathryn Orscher / Garrett Lucash
2 Marcy Hinzmann / Aaron Parchem
3 Naomi Nari Nam / Themistocles Leftheris
4 Rena Inoue / John Baldwin

This is a surprise. 2004 U.S. Champions/2005 Silver Medalists Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. are in 4th place after the Short Program. (This after Rena gave up her Japanese citizenship to be eligible for the Olympics).

Now. The vaguely chubby woman has far from sung yet. Rena and John could still pull up in the Long Program, win or come in 2nd, and earn a trip to the Olympics. But their relatively low placing is still a surprise. Especially considering John's massive experience of skating at Nationals.

2006 is the 1987 U.S. Novice Champion's 21st consecutive trip to Nationals! He is 32 years old, the son of a former Junior champion, as well as a Jr. World Bronze Medalist as a singles skater. 2006 is presumably his last chance to make an Olympic team.

Exactly 10 years ago, Tonia Kwiatkowski was in the same boat. Twenty-five years old at the time of the 1996 Nationals, people thought she was simply too old to still be competing. That year, she appeared at the Nationals press-conference hobbling on a walker. Dismissed as the perennial also-ran, Tonia won the Silver that year, and earned a spot on the World Team.

She claimed, "I think of myself as the Cal Ripkin of skating. I keep coming back and giving you more."

Though Tonia skated well during the 1996-1997 pre-season, she faltered at the Nationals, finishing 6th. Afterwards, her coach, Carol Heiss Jenkins, was soliciting opinions from practically everyone she bumped in to as to whether Tonia should hang on for another (Olympic) season. The consensus was that Tonia should go ahead and try -- or else risk forever wondering what might have been.

She finished 4th in 1998 and was only an Olympic alternate, But Tara Lipinski's withdrawal meant that Tonia was able to go to the World's, where she ended her career on a high -- a personal best 6th place.

Four years earlier, it was 1982 World Champion Elaine Zayak playing the role of skating's old lady. The one-time triple-jump, teen wonder had retired from competitive skating in 1984, but, watching Nationals on TV nine years later (and the fact that, in 1994, professionals were allowed a one-time only reinstatement; Brian Boitano, Victor Petrenko, Katarina Witt, Mishkutenok & Dmitriev, Gordeeva & Grinkov and Torvill & Dean also took advantage) led her to assess the Ladies' field and think, "I can do that."

She began to train again, using the blades she'd broken in at the 1984 Olympics. She lost twenty pounds. She re-learned her triples. She entered her first reinstated competition. She finished 13th behind girls who'd still been in their cribs when Elaine won the Worlds.

Finishing 2nd at the Eastern Sectional qualified Elaine for Nationals. Once there, no one gave her a thought. After all, the field was jammed with jumping-bean teen-agers, and Elaine, at 28, was even older than Tonia Kwiatkowski!

Yet, when the teen-agers began falling, Elaine stayed up. She finished 4th overall, winning the pewter medal, and standing on the podium with Tonya Harding, Michelle Kwan, and Nicole Bobek. (Harding would later be stripped of her title). Elaine missed making the Olympic team by just two places. But, that was never the point.

"Nationals was my goal," she said. "All I wanted to prove was that I could skate as well as I had ever skated. And I did."

So, go old people!


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