Well, whatever it is the kid may or may not have to learn, let's hope it doesn't change her. Paramus would be shattered, for one thing. The hometown girl came back to a triumphant welcome—sheesh, everybody was there, the mayor and all. The Zayaks were met at the Paramus city line by cops and sirens and escorted royally to the Paramus Park Mall for a gala reception. And the good old Paramus Bowl—you know, the place where Chris Schenkel broadcasts ABC's Pro Bowlers Tour show—put this sign on its marquee: WELCOME HOME, WORLD CHAMP ELAINE ZAYAK. And believe us, the folks there know how to pronounce it.
And now starts the final countdown. After all, a girl can't do this sort of thing forever; the life expectancy of a figure-skating champion is about that of an NFL running back, three or four good years. And in the style of most women skating champs dating all the way back to Sonja Henie, Zayak hopes to turn pro for big money after the '84 Winter Games. She sees the life of a pro as fantastically glamorous and exciting. She sees herself in swell clothes, tooling around in a bone-white Mercedes 450 SL convertible with real leather seats and her own personal license plates. And she sees herself in an ice show, skating to easy numbers in which she whips off maybe three triple jumps at the outside. The rest of it is all easy, uh, Peggy Fleming stuff. Although she sometimes talks about a place in Hollywood, Zayak expects to buy herself a house in Paramus—who'd really want to live anyplace else?
Nice. But first come a bunch of lesser competitions and then the three big ones: the national championships Feb. 1-5 in Pittsburgh, the 1983 world meet March 8-13 in Helsinki—and finally the Olympics.
They'll be the toughest meets ever. As luck would have it, after a sort of slack period, the level of world competition has improved vastly and Zayak is now being chased by a number of chargers. She is also coming off an injury—a lateral ligament strain in her left ankle. Her left foot is the takeoff foot for all her jumps. She's building up slowly for the long, hard campaign ahead.
"We're going to try to counter them with different and new stuff," says Burrows. "We're putting together a new program that'll carry Elaine through the Olympics. There'll be more difficult combinations. Maybe even one more triple jump."
Zayak rolls her eyes and looks resigned. "More triples?"
Burrows shrugs, ever tough. "If a woman can have a baby, she can do triple jumps," he says. "And if we work hard and do all of this correctly, I think we might do well."
Elaine flashes her grin. " 'At's me," she says.