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    Thursday, February 5, 1998

    Sargeant and Wirtz generate sparks

    By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
      NAGANO, Japan - She's come a long way, baby. The baby sister. With the baby.
     Kristy Sargeant sometimes seems like a one-woman soap opera.
     She is here skating in the Olympic Winter Games, engaged to be married to her pairs partner. She's also with her six-year old daughter, (fathered by another figure skater), who's able to watch and have memories of mom the Olympian, which wasn't the case the last time Sargeant and partner Kris Wirtz made it to the Olympics.
     It's been an interesting eight-year career to get here for the skater who, depending on the year and the media guide, lists Alix, Lacombe, Blackfalds, Red Deer and Edmonton as home, but now skates out of Montreal where her soon-to-be-husband's brother is currently employed as a coach.
     There are many amazing stories in the naked Olympic Village. But Kristy Sargeant's ranks up there with the most interesting of them.
     Born in Red Deer hospital, although her parents were living in Lacombe at the time, they moved to Alix, 20 kilometres east of Lacombe, when she was two. She lived in Blackfalds, between Lacombe and Red Deer, for a time and then moved to Edmonton and began skating at the Royal Glenora Club at the age of 11.
     She remembers skating for the first time when she was just a tyke in Alix.
     "I skated with my mom. But she couldn't skate very well. It made me mad. I took off on her the very first day.''
     A couple years later she was skating every day at the Red Deer Arena.
     "Cold. Very cold. Very early,'' she remembers. "My aunt would take me there every day from my grandmother's house.
     "Until I moved to Edmonton, I skated everywhere around there. Sylvan Lake - I used to go there. Wherever ice was available. I remember a lot of snow storms and scary driving.''
     In 1990 when she burst on the national figure skating scene it was, little sister, won't you do what your big sister done?
     With apologies to Elvis Presley and even Elvis Stojko, Little Sister was a huge hit at Canadians that year.
     The then-17-year-old little sister of sixth-in-the-world big sister Lisa Sargeant of Edmonton's Royal Glenora Club, wowed 'em in her first trip to nationals as a junior.
     Quote-unquote, Kurt Browning from way back then: "She's come on so fast, it's unbelievable. She's got guts. She's got speed. Guts and speed are a couple of things most girls don't have. She makes you watch her. There aren't many junior ladies who make you watch them. And she's got spunk!''
     She was a girl to get to know.
     Jason Turner, a Royal Glenora pairs skater, did. In the Biblical sense.
     Kristy was a mom at 19.
     Sargeant, now a pairs skater partnered with Wirtz, had her daughter Tristan in the stands with her mother at just about every competition after that. Tristan lived in Lacombe with grandma throughout much of it, but she was always there when mom skated it seemed. And it created some interesting scenes.
     "Go Kris! Go Mommy!'' she shouted from the stands at Canadians in Ottawa two years ago.
     Since then, the pair which is about to become a family, have won the hearts of a million Canadians.
     "It just kind of happened,'' said Sargeant, of falling in love with her pairs partner.
     "We were together all the time. Somehow we just joined. Somehow we just became soul mates. Right now I love the way our loving is going. And we love the way our skating is going.
     '`We could do this the rest of our lives. But that's not why we're getting married.''
     Wirtz said he might have known it in his heart even before the two started to skate together that one day they might end up skating together as Wirtz & Wirtz.
     A CRUSH
     "I had a crush on Kristy way back,'' he confessed.
     "I guess it started with the way she looked. But then I got to know her a bit and found out she was soft-spoken. And I like that in a woman. I'm a boisterous bugger. I like to talk. She's so calm and relaxed.
     '`But under all that she's really the aggressive one. Like at practice. She gets that look in her eye like, `Get out of our way.' She's the one who pulled this team through. She's the one who had the focus.' ''
     Part of what happened to get here, Wirtz believes, is being so secure with each other that, Olympic year or no Olympic year, they knew they were going to skate into the future together as a couple and a pair.
     "Kristy and I have this new-found love for the sport,'' he said.
     "We knew we were going to pursue another four years no matter what happened.''
     Tristan would be 10 then. The 2004 Winter Games are in Salt Lake City.
     And if the pair, which goes into these Olympics ranked sixth in the world, continues to move up, maybe then and there they'd be able to make a medal.
     And wouldn't that be a story?