Witt shines at ice skating championships; women's hoop tourney

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

What some ice show wouldn't give to sign Katarina Witt (pronounced Vitt) to a long-term contract. As she proved again last weekend in winning her second straight world championship, there is not a better female figure skater at the amateur level, nor perhaps any quite so poised or attractive. (Some feel she bears a facial resemblance to Brooke Shields). But as she affirmed in an interview with CBS, aired during the Tokyo competition, athletic life in her country is rather cloistered. And opportunities to perform in ice shows, it could have been added, are virtually non-existent.

We may yet see Witt again, since she says she would like to try for a third straight world title next year, a feat last accomplished by Peggy Fleming. But since she's 19 now, it's possible she will move on to other pursuits rather than defend her Olympic crown in 1988. And history indicates that once their competitive goals evaporate, East German skaters disappear from public view. Who, for instance, remembers seeing Anett Poetzsch or Jan Hoffmann after their gold- and silver-medal performances in the women's and men's events at Lake Placid in 1980?

In Tokyo, Witt skated in the same striking raspberry outfit she wore in Sarajevo last winter, and with equally good results. In third place when the final, freestyle phase of the event began, she turned in her best-ever performance to vault ahead of Kira Ivanova of the USSR and Tiffany Chin of the US. Witt emerged as the only non-Soviet champion, Aleksandr Fadeev winning the men's singles, Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev the pairs, and Natalya Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin the dancing. Soviet couples also won silvers in the latter events.

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North Americans accounted for the remaining medals. Canadian Brian Orser and American Brian Botaino were the silver and bronze medalists in the men's singles. Michael Seibert and Judy Blumberg of the US took the dancing bronze, and Katherina Matousek and Lloyd Eisler of Canada the pairs bronze.

The neutral site concept will go right out the window at this year's NCAA women's basketball tournament if the University of Texas makes it to the final four. That's because the shootout is slated for the 16,000-seat Erwin Special Events Center on the UT campus, which, of course, is an OK corral as far as the top-ranked Longhorns are concerned. There are no assurances Texas will make the semifinals, though. The team looked to be a cinch for the final four last year, yet lost in the Midwest regional final to Louisiana Tech. This year's squad, which employs a game-long pressing defense, a 6 ft. 2 in. guard, and a 5 ft. 11 in. center, carries a 27-2 record into tonight's Mideast opener against Western Michigan. Top seeded in the other regionals are Long Beach State (26-2) in the West; Louisiana Tech (27-3) in the Midwest; and Old Dominion (26-3) in the East.

Southern California, incidentally, will be attempting to win its third consecutive women's crown. Senior Cheryl Miller, USC's exciting catalyst and the star of last summer's US women's Olympic team, may be hard pressed to close out her career on a winning note. Miller and the Trojans, 19-8, have dearly missed the McGee twins, Paula and Pam, pillars in the championship lineups.

Some athletes are legends in their own mind. Pro basketball's Larry Bird, witnesses are convinced, actually is a legend. The latest piece of evidence came Tuesday night, when the Boston Celtic forward scorched the nets for 60 points to break a club scoring record of 56 points set by Kevin McHale several games earlier. ``It's Kevin's own fault,'' Bird pointed out. ``He should have gone for 60 that day, and I told him that.'' Bird, a team man from head to sole, is not the type to gun for records. He had the hot hand against the Atlanta Hawks, though, and delighted a sell-out New Orleans crowd that had come to see one of the Hawks' home-away-from-home games played way down yonder.

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