Friday, February 15, 2002
Elvis doesn't focus on scandal in 'swan song'
By Anne Marie Cruz
ESPN The Magazine
SALT LAKE CITY -- Elvis Stojko had much more on his mind than some three-day-old scandal.
The Canadian ambassador of figure skating had just finished eighth with a cringe-inducing number of 5.3's and 5.4's on the gigantic scoreboard after his final Olympic free-skate program.
Except his wasn't a case of Kiss-and-Cry-way robbery. The judges were clearly right. Stojko's agility wasn't where it once was, even though the old man still gamely landed two quad combos (quad toe/double toe, and quad toe/double toe/double loop). His landings were sloppy, his arm movements stiff and his posture diffident.
But Elvis still wielded an ability to command a crowd. Standing up on a small wooden platform to address the media in the mixed zone, Stojko argued that moments of triumph were much more potent than any detritus drudged up by a scoring scandal.
"I thought that Jamie and David outskated the Russians," Stojko said. "But it's too bad that the focus is on the results, instead of the fact that they did their personal best. Instead of enjoying those two performances, we're all saddened by this whole thing, and there's a cloud hanging over the sport."
Stojko shook his head in disgust.
"I'd rather remember the moment when I had tears in my eyes watching both pairs skate like that back-to-back," Elvis said. "Especially to do that at the Olympics. I felt happy for them."
Stojko thinks his sport will survive the scandal.
"The sport is always bigger than who's in it," Stojko said. "Everyone forgets that. As an athlete, if you think that you're 'It,' you've got another thing coming."
He sounded like a man burned by experience. But the older, weathered Stojko was enjoying these Games, results be damned. As Aussie Anthony Liu answered questions in between wet hacking coughs, Elvis stopped to shake his hand. The two patted each other's backs. Then Liu gently rested his head on Stojko's shoulder, right next to the Afro-y mullet Stojko is favoring these days, and quietly said something. Stojko grinned at the mystery comment.
"I'll read about it tomorrow, I'm sure," said the Canadian.
Then Elvis slipped away, ducking under the curtains, back up to the rink. As the second-to-last skater, Alexander Abt, took the ice, Stojko congratulated Timothy Goebel and gave the United States' bronze medalist a fatherly hug. Stojko then waited a few extra minutes to peek in at the long program of Alexei Yagudin, who counts Elvis as one of his biggest influences.
This was Elvis' swan song.
Anne Marie Cruz writes for ESPN The Magazine.