Skaters Shine In Ice Wars

UNIONDALE, New York -- Combining elements of American professional wrestling -- the boys and girls from home win the close matches -- and Broadway theater, international team competition came to figure skating Wednesday night.

The exhibition pitted the best skaters of the United States against top stars from the rest of the world -- all of them far more relaxed than they could possibly be for an Olympics or world championships. The U.S. team, led by the wonderful work of Kristi Yamaguchi, won the technical program of Ice Wars.

"I would have taken that program at the Olympics," Yamaguchi said after jumping and spinning to what sounded like music from the 1920s to a disco beat.

Teammate Nancy Kerrigan, in her first competition since the circus with Tonya Harding at the Winter Olympics, was disappointed in her performance, missing on her combination jump, cutting a triple lutz-double toe loop to a double-double. It did not hurt her team, though, because Yamaguchi was so strong. The Americans held a tight lead at the end of the night, 114.85 to 113.55. The finals are Saturday night in Providence, Rhode Island.

Olympic gold medalist Oksana Baiul of Ukraine also showed her flair, to the delight of the crowd of 10,559 at Nassau Coliseum, despite problems with some jumps because of a bad knee.

From the outset, the men were stronger in the technical program in this first international team event in what is being dubbed the "New Era" of figure skating. Viktor Petrenko and Kurt Browning established a lead for the world team by barely outperforming Brian Boitano and Wylie.

Gold medalist from the 1992 Olympics, Petrenko -- who wore the number 21 on his back as if a contestant in a dance contest -- got things started with a spicy routine to Latin music. Boitano, the 1988 Olympic winner, put on a more classic performance that featured a massive triple axel -- and a shaky landing on his double axel.