On Figure Skates, Americans Rule

Article excerpt

Finally, it is America's time to show the world how good good can be. At last - at last - it will be the women's figure-skating long program taking over today in Nagano. It is the most anticipated winter Olympics event by millions of people from coast to coast, border to border, and around the world as well as by all the military forces in foreign lands and those aboard ships at sea.

This is big. Real big.

You Russians and Norwegians can have your screwy biathlon and you Japanese can have your silly ski jumping and you Canadians can have your goofy curling, but those are but specks on Olympic radar compared with our majestic figure skating. Hope all you other 82 nations don't hurt your necks looking up at two, that's 1-2, Americans on the medal stand. Ha! We're really terrific at this so deal with it. (Besides, we need a lift after the US men's hockey debacle.) We are the nation of Kristi Yamaguchi, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, Carol Heiss, Tenley Albright, and don't you forget it. And don't bring up Germany's Katarina Witt to us. So she won in 1984 and 1988. Maybe the US decided not to try those Olympics, OK? For ratings-beleaguered and artistically challenged CBS, the show can't take center ice a moment too soon. Americans love figure skating and will prove it by handing CBS its happiest numbers of the Olympic fortnight this evening. The competitive elements are extraordinary. It's not quite as dramatic as Tanya and Nancy four years ago in the Thug vs. The Princess. (Oksana Baiul of Ukraine won that year. We're trying to get over it.) But 1998 is pretty darned good. There's elegant Michelle Kwan from Torrance, Calif., where her parents own a Chinese restaurant. Even though she likes bowling, she is depressingly bright and aspires to a Harvard law degree. The US, as is well known, has a lawyer shortage so this is a very good idea. Then there's spectacular Tara Lipinski, from Sugarland, Texas, who roller-skated until she became mature enough to know that figure skating held a much brighter future. She made that decision when she was 6. In practices here, the media proclaimed her sharp, even though truth be told, most of the media don't know sharp from Silly Putty when it comes to figure skating. …