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BAIUL STAYING PRO COULD DEAL A HUGE BLOW TO AMATEUR SKATING?
Published February 23, 1995
'94 Olympic Gold figure skater Oksana Baiul must apply to the Int'l Skating Union for reinstatement of her "amateur" status by April 1. Failure to do so would make her ineligible for future ISU World Championships and the Olympics. According to Philip Hersh in this morning's CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Baiul could "tip the balance of power in the sport even more toward the professional promoters" if she decides not to declare her amateur status. Baiul is the only one many thought would reinstate and give the ISU the "marquee female skater it badly lacks in current 'amateur' events." White Sox Vice Chair Eddie Einhorn, who negotiates TV contracts for the ISU: "The key to the whole thing is Oksana. If we don't come up with something to keep our eligible skaters and get Oksana to come back, we will have trouble soon getting enough attractive skaters for the World Championships and Olympics to satisfy TV and the ISU sponsors." ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta: "Who is Oksana Baiul? She is not God. We will not be blackmailed by Oksana Baiul. If we lose her, we will create other Oksana Baiuls" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/23). THE POSITIVES: In the current issue of NEWSWEEK, Martha Duffy examines the popularity of the sport. In addition to new talent, like the "saucy" 17-year old Nicole Bobek -- who possesses a "tantalizing combination of child and woman" -- the additional coverage of network TV has added to the sport's popularity. But, with the money and TV, comes producers who set up their own tournaments that ignore most traditional rules, drug tests, and credentials of entrants. Duffy: "Like tennis, figure skating seems to be leaving behind such niceties as the distinction between amateurs and pros. It will be several years before the sport's new profile is defined" (NEWSWEEK, 2/27 issue). Chicago tourism officials hope to "cash in by hosting a championship contest for the next Olympic incarnation of the sport: team figure skating." The city is hosting the '95 Mid- Western Precision Championship this week as a dress rehearsal for team skating nationals, which could be held in Chicago next year (CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS, 2/26 issue). OFF-ICE CAPERS: SI's "Scorecard" tracks recent off-ice incidents. The pairs team of Elizabeth and Jerod Swallow recently admitted they successfully interfered with a Societ rival's efforts last winter to gain U.S. citizenship. Bobek, who recently won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Providence, is in the news for allegedly walking out of another skater's house last November with money that did not belong to her. At the "very least these two incidents make it clear that [Tonya] Harding is far from the only bete noire in a sport that looks more and more like boxing with makeup and sequins" (SI, 2/27 issue).