Figure skater Nicole Bobek, 1995 U.S. Skating Champion, puts her past behind her and returns to the ice for her first major show in nearly eight years.
In the mid-90s, perhaps the most watched U.S. skater after Nancy Kerrigan and Kristi Yamaguchi was the then teen-sensation Nicole Bobek. She was known for an exuberant style, a sexy flair to her routines (and costumes) and for a rousing high leg spiral that would soon be copied by just about every other skater.
In 1995 she won the U.S. skating championship, the pinnacle of her career.
But Bobek wasn’t able to stay on top. Problems began to mount for her. She changed coaches numerous times and injuries slowed her. She did not medal at the 1998 Olympics and started to fade from sight.
In 2009, however, she reemerged in the spotlight in a new and disturbing way. Bobek was implicated in a methamphetamine distribution ring, plead guilty and was sentenced to five years probation and 250 hours of community service.
It seemed impossible that her dark-haired mug shout could be the same person as the lovely blonde teen that had excited skating fans years earlier.
But Bobek faced the press head on, admitted her drug use on national TV and began a long climb back into the world of skating.
Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Caesars Tribute II: A Salute to the Ladies of the Ice, (7:30pm, Boardwalk Hall) marks one of Bobek’s first performances on the ice in nearly eight years (she made an appearance at a charity show in April).
“I’m so excited I can’t even explain,” Bobek tells Atlantic City Weekly in a recent phone interview. “People are asking me if I’m nervous and I say, ‘I’m not nervous. I’m excited.’ It’s really a great feeling. The response I’ve had from family and friends is wonderful, they are so excited. It’s a huge, huge step, so I’m very proud.
“I’m blessed that I’ve been given a second chance in life,” she says. “Life is so much better now. I think I was in a dark place and now I believe that I have God on my side. I’m very positive about things and very focused. I truly believe that I’ve bloomed into a different kind of person.”
Of course, eight years is a long time away from skating.
“Honestly, it’s taken a really long time to get back into form,” she says. “People say, ‘Oh, it’s like riding a bike.’ Well, not really. It took me a good three months before I could even start jumping.”
Bobek calls it an honor to be among the star studded line-up for the show which includes Tara Lapiniski, Sasha Cohen, Nancy Kerrigan, Sarah Hughes and current would champion Mike Ando, to name just a few skaters. The event also includes a tribute to Peggy Fleming, though she won't be skating.
“Not only is it an honor, I think the whole concept of the show is just a fabulous idea," Bobek says. "Between Peggy Fleming being there and Nancy [Kerrigan] skating and Sarah Hughes I don’t think you can get any better than that.”
And for those who recall Bobek’s trademark spiral, that will be there as well.
“One thing skaters always hold onto, and I think what the audience loves to see us do, is our trademark things,” she says. “We say we’re doing our tricks out there and doing the tricks the best we can. The joy of where I am at now is that it’s not about the demands of competition that you have to do five triples in the program, or 20,000 spins. I skate now because I love to and for the audience. It’s a totally free, different kind of skating. I’m out there enjoying the music and feeling the crowd. I’ve never been more excited.”
Bobek at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure benefit show "Skate for Love" at Mennen Arena, Morristown, New Jersey. April 16th 2011:
Bobek skating in 1995:
NOTE: This show has been cancelled and will be rescheduled.
There’s a certain hold that figure skaters have on the American conscious — especially female skaters. Come the Winter Olympics, the country seems to rally around the top female U.S. figure skater and accept them into their hearts. Even the most macho, truck-driving guys watch and feel the pain of every slip or a fall and the excitement of every successful triple salchow.
It’s one thing to see so many former, recent and current ice skating champions listed in a press release for the Caesars Tribute to the Golden Age of American Skating. It is quite another to see all these champions sitting together in one room.
Headlining the show is the reigning Olympic 2010 gold medalist Evan Lysacek, joined by 2006 Olympic silver medalist and three-time World Champion, Sasha Cohen, as well as Nancy Kerrigan, Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton, Peggy Fleming, Sarah Hughes, Michael Weiss and doubles champions Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner.