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  • Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    For compulsory figures, the number is up

     SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- As Lauren Hill pushed off to trace the final figure-8, coaches, fans, officials and even other competitors began to cry.
     Compulsory figures, the very foundation of figure skating, disappeared from the sport Wednesday when Hill completed her left forward paragraph loop. Dropped by the International Skating Union in 1991, figures survived at the U.S. championships until this year.
     "I was really sad at the end," said Hill, 16, of Hockessin, Del. "I started shaking the entire last loop. I was glad I got through it. I started crying at the end."
     As did nearly everyone else at the West Valley Acord Ice Center. The discipline at which Peggy Fleming and Scott Hamilton so excelled it helped earn them Olympic gold is gone.
     "It's the end of an era," said Lisa Frenzel Swain, a 32-year-old mother from Toluca Lake, Calif., who won the event before perhaps 400 people. Swain, also a coach, quit skating for 10 years, then returned last year and was back for the final figures competition.
     "It has been a long time off ice and I wanted to come back and be the last person to win it.
     "It's too bad. It would be nice if we could all keep going."
     But television has little interest in ice tracings and there is no money in the figures.
     "The hard thing is the 12 of us are the last generation of 'figure' skaters," Hill said. "I think the name of the sport is going to have to change, too, because there are no figures anymore."
     When the competition ended to strong applause, Hill was surrounded by the referee and judges. Someone brought out roses and placed them on the ice atop the final tracing.
     Hill received a copy of a certificate headed to the USFSA museum that signified she was the last figures skater. Then all the skaters took a group picture with the judges, other officials -- and more tears.
     Moments later, the Zamboni erased the figure-8, taking a piece of figure skating history with it.
     KWAN, THE AUTHOR: Michelle Kwan will write eight books as part of a series for Hyperion Books for Children. The first book, "The Winning Attitude! Michelle Kwan Tells What It Takes To Be A Champion," is expected to be published this fall by Buena Vista Publishing, the parent group for Hyperion and a division of the Walt Disney Company.
     "This relationship with Buena Vista is very exciting," said Kwan, the two-time national and world champion. "It will allow me to reach out, touch and hopefully be a positive influence on children around the world."
     BAD MEMORIES: Damon Allen, who missed two of the last three nationals with leg injuries, has a history of disappointment at the U.S. Championships.
     "I made it to nationals in '86 and '87 in novice, then I didn't qualify for three years in a row in junior," Allen said. "My first year it was, 'OK, it was my first year in juniors, I didn't make it, that happens.'
     "My second year, it was, 'This is pretty pathetic.' The third year was, 'OK, no way, I am quitting this.'
     "I pretty much did decide I would quit. But my dad said no, you have put so much into this, give it one more year."
     Allen did -- and he won the 1991 national junior title.

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