“Stars on Ice”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
February 2, 1998

It used to be that competitive skaters turned to ice shows after they won their medals and wanted to lay off the training.

Not any more. With shows like “Stars on Ice,” which glided into town Saturday night at the Rosemont Horizon, many professional figure skaters are in the same physical condition today as when they trained   for the Olympics and the World Championships.

The two-hour show included something for everyone. American ice princess Kristi Yamaguchi vamped to Elvis’ “Trouble,” executing flawless jumps, while fellow Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton skated all the roles in a whimsical salute to the “Wizard of Oz.”

And two-time Olympic pairs champion Ekaterina Gordeeva – who lost her skating partner and husband, Sergei Grinkov, when he died of a heart attack in 1995 – has turned into a fine singles skater. While her jumps don’t rival Yamaguchi’s, her fragile beauty and expressive face is well suited for the limelight. Few skaters can match the precision and speed of her spins.

The quest to attract contemporary audiences has put rock ‘n’ roll into the shows.  This one started with Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” and ended with “Stairway to Heaven.” In between, skaters performed to other contemporary music, as well as swing, jazz and classical.

It was Hamilton, co-founder of “Stars on Ice” who tackled “Heartbreaker,” wowing the audience with showmanship that evoked the first of several standing ovations. Never mind that later, a couple of missed jumps would turn him into a human Zamboni.

Canadian champion Kurt Browning threw the evening’s most difficult jumps and executed a perfect triple axel. Aggressive and charming, Browning also had quite the flair for drama. He and Hamilton played well off each other, each equally at home playing the clown or the debonair heartthrob.

The skaters also staged a mock tournament where they tweaked the stern, black-robed judges (including Katarina Witt and Brian Orser) in a sarcastic jab as people who “love the sport and just want to give something back.”

With the Winter Olympics just days away, the world will be watching Americans Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinsky battle for the gold. “Stars on Ice” was a chance to see quality skating in a setting that was relaxing for both the skaters and the fans.

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