He was a tough act to follow. Tim Wood, who is more of a perfectionist than a dazzling performer, had come into the finals well up on school points and moved calmly through his free-skating routine to take first place overall. Visconti, who specializes in grandstand finishes, staged the next-best show of the meet with his free-skating routine, including one triple something that started out as a Salchow and ended up in a three-turns-and-a-flashing-smile, as though he had planned it that way all along. Visconti is the Fran Tarkenton of skating. He brings an element of unpasteurized excitement to the sport. For one thing, he has courage to claim that he weighs 120 pounds, which is patently impossible; he is so small that if he were a sports car his roll center would be three feet underground. Yet he shrugs off his flamboyant style. "What the hell else can I do?" he says. "I always have to come from behind, so I always give them everything I've got when I'm out there. But that's what this sport is all about. It may sound funny, but this sport is tougher than anything else I can think of. Anyone who says we're not athletes ought to try it one time. It takes strength and coordination, but you know what I'm really trying to do? I'm trying to bring some grace to it. I'm trying to be—well—a boy Peggy Fleming. It's tough."
And nobody laughed when he said it.
Champ Fleming, who has similar ideas about skating, has never been stronger or more graceful than she was in Philadelphia. She skated—floated actually—to an easy victory on Saturday night, a 109-pound wisp in an orange costume, and she made it look easy.
"Well, that's the idea," she said. "We have to make it look easy. Yet you have to make like a track star just to get through a number. Listen, all runners have to do is run around the track. We have to work much harder—and do it all in time to music. I don't know, maybe I should start grunting and grinding a little to make this thing look tougher and get more sympathy."
There is no need. Peggy got five 5.9 votes on the technical merit of her program and three 5.9s and two perfect 6s on composition and style, further contributing to skating scoring history. How sympathetic can judges be?
After the girls had finished, Petkevich came back on the ice for an exhibition round. On one flying Russian split jump he took off to what had to be a new height-and-distance record for figure skaters, finally came back down to the ice and brought the crowd roaring to its feet all over again. "The crowd really turns me on," he chortled afterwards. "Before today's events I was all set not to get to see Grenoble. But now I'm ready. I'm really ready to go."
And he won't need a plane. He could jump that far.