Copyright 1998 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc. St. Louis Post-Dispatch July 16, 1998, Thursday, FIVE STAR LIFT EDITION SECTION: GET OUT, Pg. 2 LENGTH: 686 words HEADLINE: SURVIVING THE FALL; AND SKATING TOWARD THE FUTURE BYLINE: Ellen Futterman; Post-Dispatch Critic-At-Large BODY: Say what you will about Nicole Bobek -- the woman's got a sense of humor. When she skates at the Kiel Center tonight as part of the "Champions on Ice" tour, the music will be Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." "That sort of sums things up, don't you think?" says Bobek from a recent tour stop in Phoenix. "Actually, the audience really responds to it. They're thinking the same thing I'm thinking." What Bobek is thinking these days is that there is life after the Olympics. Before she left for Nagano earlier this year, many experts had predicted that Bobek would be part of an all-American sweep in the women's figure-skating finals. Her future seemed assured. But a fall in the short program cost her dearly, and she finished in 17th place. How does she put something like that behind her? "It was a hard run," she says. "It was something I wanted to do my whole life, and the pressure was unbelievable. I still haven't seen the tape and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to watch it. "But more than anything I made the team, and that was a huge accomplishment. That's what I tell myself. Millions of people in world would have given anything to do that." Bobek, who will turn 21 in August, began skating at the age of 3 as an outlet for her boundless energy. "I was a hyper child and was always doing something. I did gymnastics, ballet, swimming, a whole bunch of things. From what I remember, figure skating came naturally. I never got off the ice." She has trained with some of the country's top coaches and recently reconnected with Richard Callaghan, who coached her to her 1995 U.S. national title and a bronze in the world championiships. He is now getting her ready for the Goodwill Games in New York later this summer. But first comes the Champions tour, which is nearing the end of its 59-city run. In addition to Bobek, it features U.S. Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski and 1998 World Champion and U.S. Olympic silver medalist Michelle Kwan, along with 1994 Olympic champion Oksana Baiul and European champion Surya Bonaly. The parade of men's champions is led by Olympic gold medalist Ilia Kulik of Russia, silver medalist Elvis Stojko of Canada and bronze medalist Phillippe Candeloro of France. Todd Eldredge, Michael Weiss and Rudy Galindo also are on the tour. The programs are a showcase for world-class figure skating but are much more laid-back than competitions. Bobek enjoys the chance to connect with tour audiences and have a little fun. "It's a whole different atmosphere than competitions, where the pressure's on," she says. "You can use vocals and rock music, whereas at competitions it's all classical. "Even if you're having an off night (on the tour), the minute you step on the ice and hear the applause, you get up for it. It automatically puts you in a good mood." Good moods haven't come all that easy for Bobek the past couple of years. Perhaps an even tougher setback than the Olympics was the 1997 death of her previous coach -- Carlo Fassi, the man she called father. "For some reason, Carlo's death is a little harder for me this year," she says. "I was talking to Tom Collins, the guy who owns the tour, because his brother passed away a couple of years ago. I told him that I think more about (Carlo) this year than last. (Collins) said now that I'm older, you start to realize more things. You start to look at everything differently. "With Carlo, there are so many things I wish I could have said. I don't think my life would be as hard as it is dealing with the Olympics if he were here. "He not only cared how I did on the ice as a skater, he cared about me off the ice as a person." After the tour and the Goodwill Games, Bobek plans to train and compete for a year with a little time off now and then to see her boyfriend and enjoy the sun. After that, she'll reassess. She's interested in modeling, maybe even acting. College and a surgical career also are possibilities. In the meantime, is there another Olympics in her future? "We'll see how things go," she says. "A lot seems to happen every year." GRAPHIC: PHOTO (1) Color Photo - Nicole Bobek (2-5) Color Photos - Some of the other stars, from left: Tara Lipinski, Surya Bonaly, Rudy Galindo and Michelle Kwan (6) Color Photo - Nicole Bobek LANGUAGE: English LOAD-DATE: July 16, 1998
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