Sunday, February 15, 1998
Guts and glory
The three-time world champion described to The Toronto Sun early this morning how he had endured a week from hell.
A groin injury at the Canadian figure skating championships last month prevented him from winning Olympic gold, but Stojko did push through for the silver, in an incredible example of guts and drive.
Stojko, 25, said he came down with the flu last Saturday (the day of the opening ceremony) and became so sick he almost withdrew Monday from the Games.
"After that, I took it one day at a time. The short program (on Thursday) was tough and I was in a lot of pain," said Stojko, who finished second behind Russian Ilia Kulik. "Talk about pressure. The next day was tough since my leg was swollen and I could hardly walk. I had acupuncture every day."
Stojko said yesterday's long program "was the toughest thing I have ever gone through."
"The pain was there through the whole warmup, but I just blocked it out. I kept focused and just went for it. In the combination Axel toe, something let go in my groin and the pain got really bad and I just prayed that my mind would carry me through to the end.
"Now when I look back on last night I keep thinking I must be a mental case for doing it, but it's not about winning or losing, but challenging oneself. And I won.
"Pain lasts for a period of time but pride lasts a life time."
Stojko asked The Sun to "thank the Canadian public for me. They have supported me all the way."
Coach Doug Leigh said Stojko "should have got a medal for courage."
Stojko, 25, suffered a torn abductor muscle and twisted nerve in his groin at practice during the Canadian championships.
While Stojko yesterday failed to win the gold, he did land eight triple jumps, including a triple combination and held on to second place. That in itself, said his longtime coach, was almost super-human.
"Exceptional is not a high enough word. It's way up there, beyond," said Leigh, who has now coached two men to four Olympic silver medals -- Stojko and Brian Orser, with two apiece.
Russian star Ilia Kulik fully deserved the gold. Skating to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, the Moscow native landed a quadruple toe loop and eight triples and received huge presentation scores from the nine judges.
Fan favorite Philippe Candeloro, who had missed almost two seasons with a serious ankle injury, wowed the audience with his musketeer program, and moved from fifth after the short program, to third.
The men's free skate did not amount to the quad festival many thought it would, as only Kulik and China's Guo Zhengxin successfully completed the move.
Following his skate, Stojko had to be helped out of the kiss-and-cry area.
He was helped to doping control, received his medal, and then taken to a medical clinic.