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Champions ignite Olympic flame

Kimberly Nicoletti

DENVER – For enthusiasts who missed the Olympics, the world’s finest skaters will dazzle a Denver audience with their unique personalities and styles.

The John Hancock Champions on Ice 2002 Olympic Tour explodes with energy at 7:30 p.m. July 5 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. The tour spotlights newly crowned Olympic champions Sarah Hughes and Alexei Yagudin, along with medalists Michelle Kwan, Evgeny Plushenko, Timothy Goebel and Irina Slutskaya.

“Our job is to bring the magic and excellence of the Olympics to the people of America,” tour founder Tom Collins said. “It’s the next best thing to a front row seat in Salt Lake.”

Olympic bronze medalist Goebel, the newest male skating sensation, holds the most records for landing quadruple jumps and combination jumps in competition. He trained in Denver with Scott Hamilton’s former coach, Don Laws, during summers from age 12-15 and began practicing quads at age 14. He credits the repetition of landing quads from an early age for his success. Though he won’t attempt any quads in the exhibition due to stage lighting, his strong triples and combinations are sure to wow the audience, as his Olympic performance did.

“I just wanted to go and enjoy my first Olympic experience, skate well and learn what it was about,” Goebel said. “It was so much better than I expected. I didn’t realize how large it was. Just the magnitude of everything – it was just such an amazing experience, even beyond skating and winning a medal.” In his second year with the tour, he’s enjoying more recognition from the crowd and has fun conveying his love of skating to the audience.

“The whole show, from beginning to end, is really exciting,” Goebel said. “People are skating exceptionally well, and the performances are very difficult. It’s probably the best performance we’ve ever had.”

Champions from previous Olympic and world competitions will join the latest medalists. They include Victor Petrenko, once dubbed “the Baryshnikov of Ice,” and since has showed his versatility and intense humor; Nicole Bobek, with her charismatic personality; Rudy Galindo, with his outlandish disco steps to music by the Village People; Elvis Stojko, known for his hard-charging, agile and powerful performances; Philippe Candeloro, who’s been known to lose a few clothes on the ice and who has a following any rock star would envy; and ice dancers Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, who continue in the French dance tradition of expanding creative horizons through original moves and lifts.

Sasha Cohen, known for her boldness when she handed President Bush her cell phone at the opening ceremonies in Salt Lake City, will show off her mature skating to a piece by Ella Fitzgerald; Surya Bonaly, the only woman courageous enough to perform backflips and the only skater to land them on one foot, packs her performances with dynamite with her difficult gymnastic moves; and pairs skaters Kyoto Ina and John Zimmerman, national champions for the past three years, engage the audience with Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”

Tickets ranging from $34 to $69 may be purchased at the Pepsi Center Box Office or by calling Ticketmaster at (303) 830-8497.

Champions on Ice 2002 Olympic Tour

– When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 5

– Where: Pepsi Center, Denver


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