Ice Skating: Uneasy undertone of anger and fear: European Championships

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The Independent Online
THE RICH and the ragged in skating have assembled here for the European Championships, starting tomorrow. Some, like Torvill and Dean and Katarina Witt, have had their music specially tailored and will wear designer costumers. Others have come by train and ferry, have darns in their tights and you can hear the joins in their tapes.

These are the first championships to bring former professionals and amateurs together and little love is lost between them. There can be no disguising the anger, fear and depression among the younger skaters, who had expected to climb the medal podium here and at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer next month.

In the United States, this resentment has been expressed forcefully against Brian Boitano, the Olympic champion of 1988 and long an advocate of open sport. Boitano, a millionaire, made it to Lillehammer last weekend by being awarded second place in his country's selection event.

In Europe, the frustration and disappointment is muted, especially among skaters who have no agents, fear annoying their associations, or whose coaches happen to be employed by the reinstated professionals. But the hostility is still as deep as in America despite the efforts to gloss over it.

Instead of Viktor Petrenko, it is being argued, Ukraine should be fielding tomorrow in the men's qualifying Evgeny Plyuta, last season's world junior champion; instead of Witt, Germany should have brought to the Danish capital Simone Lang; instead of Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, the Calgary pairs victors in 1988, Russia had a duty to bring the European title holders, Marina Eltsova and Andrei Bushkov; instead of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, we should have been admiring Marika Humphreys and Justin Lanning, who, like Eltsova and Bushkov, skated so well at Helsinki last January.

Of the other British skaters, Steven Cousins had a sore throat prior to departure which will not help him to improve on last year's ninth place, though he should get through tomorrow's qualifying. Stephanie Main will have a much tougher task on Monday to reach the final 30 women, while the pairs, Dana Mednick and Jason Briggswill hope to earn their tickets to the World Championships in Makuhari, Japan, in March.

The three main opponents for Torvill and Dean are two pairs from Russia, the world champions Maia Usova and Alexander Zhulin, and Oksana Grishchuk and Evgeny Platov, plus the Finns Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko.

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