ONCE the world figure skating championships end in Birmingham, England, a number of the top performers will begin preparing for what must be the longest exhibition tour in all of sports, discounting the travels of the Harlem Globetrotters.
The 1995 Tour of World Figure Skating Champions, which includes reigning and former champions as well as some nonchampions, begins April 1 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and ends 76 performances later on July 9 in San Jose, Calif.
The tour will hit 37 states and the District of Columbia - from the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans to the FargoDome in Fargo, N.D. - and seldom will take more than a day off between stops.
Among the headliners will be Oksana Baiul, Brian Boitano, Elvis Stojko, and Michelle Kwan, who will take time off near the end of the run to enter serious training. For those who want to catch the tour on TV, ABC will air a taped performance on Sun., May 7, from 4 to 6 p.m. ET.
Miami U. women have edge on ice
IN the scramble to be more evenhanded with male and female athletes (and so comply with federal law), many colleges have made women's soccer, which involves a sizeable number of athletes, a varsity sport. Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, has found a novel way to play this numbers game. It has granted varsity status to a 24-member precision figure skating team, which performs intricate maneuvers to music.
The annual cost to the university is estimated at $1,500 per skater. This includes travel expenses, outfits, ice time, and skate sharpening (coaching was already offered at the university's skating club) - a good investment, given the group's track record.
Last year, the team was third in the national championships and won the right to represent the United States at the world championships in Toronto, where Miami was 13th. At this point, it is the unopposed collegiate champion, since no school has followed its lead.