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The Carruthers: family bond strengthens pairs skaters

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But Kitty, lugging a bulky skate bag nearly half as tall as she, doesn't notice the flowers. All she sees is the man waiting patiently for her. She rushes over and throws her arms around him with a heartfelt and exuberant. "Hi, Dad!" Only after she has been holding the blossoms for 15 minutes does she stop in amazement and say, "Dad, where on earth did you get roses this time of year?"

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Supposedly, the two-day trip home is to visit a bootmaker for skating boots. But in the car she admits the real reason is to see her parents. Asked if it's hard being away from home, she says in a very small voice, "I hate it. I hate it a lot. I wouldn't mind as much being away from home, but I never really get to see my parents, and they can't afford to come to all the competitions."

But she says she loves skating and wants to keep on "as long as my body will let me. I'll keep doing it until I don't want to anymore, and then I'll stop. My parents have always been good about that, they've never pushed us. In fact, they've always said, we will never be disappointed if you want to quit right now. We're so proud of what you've done."

Though parental support has always been there, Mr. Carruthers admits that some practices were agony for his wife and him.

"It used to be excruciating to see them working on a particular jump and fall perhaps 40 times in a half hour on that same jump," he says. But when they were little kids and had an injury or something we never made any fuss about it. We took care of it, but we never said, 'Oh, you poor dear.' So they never cried. That was a help."

Their schedule is demanding: up at 12:30 p.m., then skating till 3:30 p.m., from 5:30 to 7, then from 11 till almost 3 a.m. -- the times the ice is free. Sometimes they try to get in some dance classes, and Peter plays racquetball. Occasionally they take in a movie or go out to dinner. With a giggle Kitty adds , "But there really isn't that much. We train in Wilmington, Del., and there's not that much to do there anyway."

Are there times when she doubts if she wants to continue? A long laugh.

"Oh boy, I could tell you. . . . In fact, the Saturday night before we left for Nationals I wanted to quit. It was the most awful thing. I had one move, a death spiral in the short program, and I had so much trouble with it. My coach worked with me for an hour until I could barely even move, and I was crying for hours and hours and hours. The whole time Peter was saying, 'It's all right. You can do it,' and he never got mad at me. I said, 'I want to quit. I hate this. I'm not going to go through this anymore!'"

Ron Ludington, their coach for six years, says one of their strong points is their great enthusiasm and willingness to work hard.

"They strive for perfection and are never satisfied with anything less. Sometimes if they skate with the slightest error they'll get down on themselves. But they're very good at consoling each other. They're not both down at the same time. When one's down the other's up. They seem to rise to the occasion."

Often the support they give each other is unspoken. "After training with somebody for so long and spending so much time with him, it's kind of really just a feeling," she says. "Before we go on the ice Peter will grab my hand and hold it, and it's just a closeness. He always says, 'Now we're in this together -- le's have fun.'"

Asked about their future, Mr. Ludington says: "They haven't really scratched the surface yet in their ability, and they will still be developing within the next couple of years. IT isn't as if they've reached their peak.They're just climbing the ladder."

They are definitely looking forward to the 1984 Olympics. But Kitty adds, "I'm also going to try to look forward to the next three years, too."

"It's going to be a struggle," admits Mr. Carruthers, "but we're going to try to do it if they want to. For now, I think we'll take it one year at a time."

And the immediate future? Although the routine for the Worlds won't change from that of the Nationals, Kitty says, "You can always be faster and stronger, and can always have better presentation on the ice. You don't necessarily have harder moves from one competition to the other, but you can always have more spark and excitement."