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Nicole Bobek's back in Detroit for a visit

April 22, 2000

BY JO-ANN BARNAS FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

Asked what she misses most about Michigan since moving to Florida last year, figure skater Nicole Bobek delivered an answer that was quicker than a double axel. "The Red Wings," she said. Bobek, 1995 U.S. ladies champion and a longtime hockey fan, relocated to Bradenton, Fla., last summer after leaving Richard Callaghan and the Detroit Skating Club. Though she has been injured for much of the past two competitive seasons -- and she's currently skating despite a sprained ankle -- Bobek will be at Joe Louis Arena for the 8 p.m. show today, performing with the popular Champions on Ice tour. Bobek, known for her charisma and crowd appeal, still owns a home in Rochester, which she has rented out for the past few years. The 1995 U.S. ladies champion, Bobek is only 22, although she has been skating competitively for more than a decade. "Sometimes I feel so old when I see all these younger skaters," Bobek said. "But then when I see some like Maria Butyrskaya winning a world title (in 1999 at age 26), that's such a big inspiration." Bobek was dismayed that the U.S. Figure Skating Association didn't grant her a medical bye into the U.S. championships last February in Cleveland. The USFSA supported its decision by saying that Bobek didn't earn the international points required in competitive events and urged her to compete in sectionals. Bobek countered that had been a member of the 1998 U.S. Olympic team. "It seemed like a slap in the face kind of," Bobek said. "It was upsetting and a little depressing." That episode, though, will not play a role in whether Bobek decides to remain eligible for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. She said she'll make a decision probably in October, after conferring with her primary coach, Kerry Leitch, and others. "Every year something changes or something new happens," Bobek said. "I'm not going to rush into it and decide right now. There's no point." As for living in Florida, Bobek said: "I love the heat. After being stuck in a cold rink all day, I love walking out into an oven."