Four years ago, U.S. figure skater Brian Boitano gave a stunning performance—the best of his career—and won the gold medal at the Calgary Olympics. Today, Boitano is out of the Olympic picture. A rule passed in May 1990 by the International Skating Union allowed "pro" figure skaters, such as ice-show stars, to compete in ISU competitions—and, therefore, in the Olympics. But there was a catch. These professionals must never have participated in non-ISU pro competitions, such as the NutraSweet World Professional Figure Skating Championships, an event Boitano won in 1988, '89, '90 and again in '91. Boitano is somewhat bitter about this banishment, but his pique is assuaged by the successful ice-show projects he has developed with fellow star Katarina Witt, the German skater who won the women's gold medals in Sarajevo and Calgary. Their enterprises include this winter's "Skating '92" tour. Boitano, at 28, looks at his own illustrious past, the darker side of his sport and the potentials of his Olympic successors.
Sports Illustrated: Why, exactly, aren't you skating at Albertville?
Brian Boitano: I petitioned the ISU and said I felt that for the good of all skating, including myself, it should allow [me] to be in the Olympics. The ISU turned me down because of the NutraSweet. Just about everything else I've done since winning the gold medal—the TV specials and movies and tours—the new "amateurs" can do. Amateur skaters are now teaching for money. They're making guest appearances in professional tours. They're getting money for amateur competitions, just like the track and field people do.
SI: Did the U.S. Figure Skating Association go to bat for you?
BB: From what I hear, no. That disturbed me. I wanted to compete, and it maybe would have given the U.S. a chance of winning another medal.
SI: How do you assess the way you're skating now compared with the way you were skating in '88?
BB: I'm way better now. And the reason is I did the professional competitions. I stayed in shape. I thought that if this sport opens up, if I am able to skate in the Olympics, I've got to keep competing.
SI: You can still do the jumps?
BB: Oh, yeah. I do more. More triple combinations. Whenever I go out for an exhibition or a show, I insist that I do everything that I did as an amateur—the triple Axels and triple flips—everything.
SI: Let's talk about those amateur days. How bad is the politics in judging? For instance, in Calgary, weren't there judges who were " Orser's judges"?