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Fans Vote Winners At Figure Skating Event

May 9, 1996

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (AP) _ Nancy Kerrigan fell, Scott Hamilton wore electric pants and Viktor Petrenko hugged the little girls who brought him flowers at a history-making event.

Organizers said The Great Skate Debate, scheduled to be aired on the CBS network Thursday evening, marked the first time an audience determined the winners in a figure skating exhibition.

Fans used the electronic key pads wired to arena seats to punch in their scores after watching the 14 world-class skaters go through their routines Tuesday evening.

They voted Hamilton and Yuka Sato of Japan as their favorites, but some considered those in the crowd of nearly 4,300 as the real winners.

``I watch every skating show on TV,″ said Ginny Schubert of De Pere, Wis. ``So it’s just so much fun for me to know all those skaters are really down there live on the ice.″

Katarina Witt, Kerrigan and Sato were among many of the skaters who signed autographs for fans on their way off the ice.

Hamilton hammed it up during a showy Vegas number that included back flips, costume changes and a pair of pants that lit up.

Sato sailed through a routine done to Janet Jackson’s song ``Runaway.″

People waved signs proclaiming: ``We’re Hot For Scott.″ Young girls yelled out, ``We love you Jo″ to the long-haired Jozef Sabovcik.

But like any good debate, there was a difference of opinions. Occasionally, the crowd even booed its own judging.

``I would have had Kurt Browning win,″ said Pat Cochran of De Pere. ``I thought his skating was stronger. I think Scott Hamilton maybe got it on his costumes, but they were all good.″

Sports commentators did live remotes from the stands, and cameras often panned the crowd for reaction.

As winners of the exhibition, Hamilton and Sato each received $5,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.

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