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A Golden Opportunity To See Skating Stars

Top Olympic medalists will tape TV special

A FIGURE-SKATING event devoted exclusively to Olympic gold medalists will take place in Boston Oct. 31.

That's only the studio date, though: This one-performance-only extravaganza will be a two-hour Winter Games special on ABC-TV sometime before the Olympics begin in Lillehammer, Norway, Feb. 12. (The airdate hasn't been determined.)

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Through live performances and videotape, ``Skates of Gold'' will honor all 68 Olympic skating champions since 1908 - men's, ladies', and pairs. Ice dancers (an Olympic event since 1972) will also be celebrated.

Thirty-seven of the 49 living gold-medalist skaters are scheduled to appear at the Boston Garden; 18 will perform two numbers each; 19 inactive skaters will make cameo appearances.

This is the first time that gold medalists will perform group numbers, said Jim Spence, president of Sports Television International, at a press conference.

``It's a special time for skaters to be with their heroes,'' added two-time Olympian JoJo Starbuck, who will choreograph the four all-cast numbers, as well as integrate the music, film footage, and live performances.

Among those scheduled to wow the crowd are Kristi Yamaguchi (1992 gold medalist), Viktor Petrenko (1992), Brian Boitano (1988), Katarina Witt (1984, '88), Scott Hamilton (1984), Peggy Fleming (1968), and ice-dancing champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko (1992).

One logistical snag is that some performers couldn't be in Boston to rehearse the ensemble pieces. Those on the road, Starbuck said, were to get videotaped instructions.

Reflecting on her role in orchestrating this special breed of skaters, Starbuck said, ``I'll have to work as an air-traffic controller at times, making sure there are no collisions with double and triple axels.''

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Hamilton and Yamaguchi were also on hand at a press conference. Hamilton will fly in from Oslo the day of the show.

YAMAGUCHI, in a crisp flamingo-pink dress with matching shoes and nails, spoke with wide-eyed wonder about the opportunity to join so many headliners. ``To think that I'll be meeting these skating heroes I've always read about is incredible,'' said the 22-year-old champion. ``It will be a very emotional experience for everyone to step on the ice with others who have shared the same dream.''

Starbuck agreed: ``Every world champion starts as a child with a dream. And that's the common thread that ties these great champions together.''

Sunday's event will arguably be the most costly exhibition ever held at the Boston Garden, said Garden spokesman Steve Nazro. It's also a complex one, and ``We're basically operating without a script. But we believed that Jim Spence - experienced in live sports - could pull it off.'' Tickets are $25, $50, and $75.

* For ticket information, call TicketPro: (617) 931-3100.

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