NEW YORK — KRISTI YAMAGUCHI won't be coming back to rescue American figure skating.
Yamaguchi, the star of the 1992 Winter Games at Albertville, France, will not be defending her title at Lillehammer, Norway, next February. Yamaguchi said Tuesday she would not apply for reinstatement of her eligibility.
"I am still skating well ... and maybe I should take this opportunity," she said about competing in the Olympics again next year. "But I let my heart decide, and this is what I want to do."
The International Skating Union changed its rules last summer, allowing for a one-time reinstatement of eligibility for skaters who turned pro. Already, 1984 and 1988 Olympic gold medalist Katarina Witt has applied. Brian Boitano, the men's champion at the Calgary Games in 1988, is expected to apply next week, while last year's men's gold medalist, Viktor Petrenko, also has said he intends to compete at Lillehammer.
Yamaguchi has been touring in a show with Scott Hamilton, Brian Orser, Rosalyn Sumners, and other former Olympic stars. While two of them, 1988 Olympic pairs champions Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, have decided to come back, Yamaguchi will pass - this time.
She still could come back for the 1998 Olympics, but is undecided. "I just want to get through this year," Yamaguchi said.
Yamaguchi's decision weakens American prospects for Lillehammer. Coming off its worst performance at the world championships in several decades, the United States will have only two men's and women's singles spots. No US skater won a medal in any event at this month's worlds.
Did the emergence of several teenage phenoms at the world championships, including winner Oksana Baiul of Ukraine, have a bearing on Yamaguchi's decision? "I wouldn't say the worlds was the deciding factor," she said. "But it helped to reinforce my decision."