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The thinner was the winner
E.M. Swift
February 14, 1983
A slim Rosalynn Sumners edged out a zaftig Elaine Zayak in the nationals
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February 14, 1983

The Thinner Was The Winner

A slim Rosalynn Sumners edged out a zaftig Elaine Zayak in the nationals

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"It's kind of a weird situation," said Zayak the morning of the short program, the two-minute freestyle event that counts for 20% of a skater's total score. "I'm sure if the press didn't play Roz and me off against each other so much, we might be friendlier."

That night both women skated clean programs, but Sumners scored all 5.8s and 5.9s on presentation points while Zayak received some 5.4s and 5.5s. "God, they love her," one skater said as Sumners' scores were flashed. "She shows a lot of style out there, a lot of pizzazz, which Elaine lacks."

Gelderman admitted that Zayak's performance "lacked some of the fire that she needs," but promised that it would be there tomorrow in the long program, which counted for 50% of the scoring.

Sumners, meanwhile, was radiant. As she was being ushered toward the post-performance press conference, Borman passed a December 1982 copy of Skating magazine that had a picture of Sumners in heavier days on its cover. "Look at this, Blob Baby!" Borman called to her, using a shocking nickname, given her present appearance.

At the conference Sumners treated the press to a much-needed lecture on nutrition, saying, "With fad diets you lose the fat between the muscle and the bone, which is called adipose. That's the fat you want. Don't laugh, I want to tell you this. What I lost is that other kind, the fat you don't want." Surreptitiously reporters began pinching themselves and making mental notes: no dairy products, no bread, no sugar.

Alas, the next night during Sumners' long program she fell trying a triple Salchow, and that slip probably cost her a perfect score. As it was, she received 5.9s across the board for composition and style. Sumners skated with elegance and verve, her skates seeming to dance above rather than on the ice.

Zayak finished second, skating a clean program that seemed workmanlike in comparison to Sumners'. In third was 15-year-old Tiffany Chin of Toluca Lake, Calif., who will join Sumners and Zayak in Helsinki.

In the locker room immediately afterward, some of Zayak's old fight resurfaced. "I know what I have to do to win and I'll be damned if I'm going to let this happen again," she said. What might that be? "I'm going to lose 10 pounds," she promised. "Before I went out there tonight I prayed that if I skated a clean program, I'd lose 10 pounds. So if I don't, I'll be in a bind with God. I felt heavy on the ice. I did the jumps all right, but they looked slow. They didn't have the spark they had a year or two ago."

Gelderman agreed. "This is not a new issue with us," she said. "We've been telling Elaine, 'You can't jump at that weight.' But she proved us wrong. She can. She can jump at any weight. But now she realizes it affects her speed, her overall appearance and her lightness on her feet. It's supposed to look like there's no gravity out there."

It did—for Sumners. Which helps explain the diet that Zayak has chosen: no dairy products, no bread, no sugar, little red meat. Thin to win.

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