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This Elvis Not Into Frills, Fluff

February 11, 1998

NAGANO, Japan (AP) _ Forget the fluff.

If Elvis Stojko is to finally win his figure skating Olympic gold medal, it will be done his way, with no frills and a macho edge that judges have learned to expect and appreciate from the stocky Canadian.

Stojko’s strategy is to be himself when he skates. Owner of a black belt in karate, he sometimes looks like a kickboxer on ice in a sport more accustomed to the classical approach. It’s sort of like a rock ‘n’ roll singer working the Metropolitan Opera. Perfect for a guy named Elvis.

Stojko knows his reputation.

``I don’t want people to say, `That’s a martial arts program. That’s his style,‴ he said. ``You can see the martial arts influence, but we see also the influence of what comes out just from my skating naturally.

``The program incorporates every part of me as a human being and what I’m doing on the ice and I want to showcase it all.″

Stojko starts his medal chase with the short program, centerpiece of CBS-TV’s Olympic coverage Thursday night. The network also will show the men’s 1,500-meter speedskating, the men’s downhill combined and the snowboarding men’s halfpipe. The late night show will have live hockey between the United States and Sweden.

Stojko’s performance Thursday will be limited by the restrictions of the short program. There are eight required elements that must be completed within 2 1/2 minutes and they count for one-third of the final score. The rest comes in the more interpretive long program on Saturday, when Stojko’s personal touch will be evident.

A three-time world champion, the 25-year-old Stojko finished seventh at Albertville and second at Lillehammer. He knows he comes into these games as the favorite and he welcomes that role.

``You’ll feel pressure,″ Stojko said. ``It’s just a matter of how you look at it and how you deal with it.

``If you’re mentally set and you know where you want to be, when you get there, then you’re OK. Even when you get on the ice, it’s a matter of what you want to think about, where you want to place yourself. I know where I want to place myself. I know where I want to be. And I know how to get there.″

Waiting for Stojko are some impressive rivals, including American champion Todd Eldredge and Russians Ilya Kulik and Alexei Yagudin. Another Russian, Alexei Urmanov, who beat Stojko at Lillehammer in 1994, is missing. Urmanov was leading the 1997 world championships after the short program but then withdrew because of a groin injury, leaving the gold to Stojko.

Eldredge won the U.S. national championship last month after finishing third behind Kulik and Stojko at the Champion Series Final, the last major international competition before the Olympics.

At last month’s Canadian championships, Stojko landed two perfect 6s for presentation, the first time he’s achieved that. It seemed a perfect warmup for center stage at Nagano.

``I want a magical performance,″ he said. ``I want to feel free when I’m out there and I want to do it for myself. Now, how am I going to get there? Well, this is what I have to do on the ice, these are the things I have to prepare for mentally.

``When you get to the competition, you can feel how things are going. You make sure that you’re prepared and let fate take its course. You work hard enough, if you deserve to win, you’ll win.″

If he does, it almost certainly be because of his quads. Stojko was the first skater to complete a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop in competition, and he promises to include it in his long program. That jump could be the medal-maker or medal-breaker for Stojko.

``What’s a little more pressure?″ he said. ``What do you think creates the best performances? What creates the ultimate is on the edge of your seat. You either stay on the table and do your best, or you fall off. The edge, that’s where all of the best performances come from.

``I know where my mind is and I create my destiny. I create what happens out there. Maybe not the result, but how I do, that’s my creation.″

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