U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS : Cockerell Misses 1st by a Toe or Two or Three

Kansas City Star

Back home in Burbank, Mark Cockerell has a 1974 Capri with 128,000 miles on it. Every weekend, he says, he cleans the engine, shampoos the carpets and "tightens anything loose underneath I can find on it."

Polished to a brilliant yellow, the car doesn't have a dent or spot of rust on it.

"You can't even hear the engine," he said. "To most people, it may not seem like much, but I love that car and to me it's beautiful."

Cockerell looked a lot like that machine after he skated to the silver medal on Friday night in the 1985 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kemper Arena.

Cockerell has a few miles on him--his nine national championships are more than any other person in the competition--but he looked great.

He did not look like much to the skating world at one time. In 1979, he hit bottom, finishing fourth in the Pacific Coast sectionals and missing the nationals.

After winning the junior worlds at age 12 in 1976 and, at age 13, becoming the youngest skater to compete in senior men's competition, Cockerell had climbed no higher than seventh in the nationals.

His rising star had fallen and fizzled.

He hooked up with a coach named Betty Berens in 1980, however, and came back to third place finishes in 1983 and 1984. Now he has risen to second place and, a ripe old veteran at 22, has made the U.S. World Championship team with the best performance of his career. He was a rock-solid second in the compulsory figures, second in short program and second in Friday night's long program, worth 50% of the final score.

"It's the biggest thing I have achieved in skating," he said. "I think I proved a lot of things to a lot of people. It means you'll see me around four more years."

It could have been better. Brian Boitano of Sunnyvale, Calif., the pre-competition favorite, slipped on a triple jump, leaving the door slightly ajar for Cockerell. It was only slightly open because Boitano also threw in a new maneuver--a double toe-triple toe-triple toe combination--that won over the judges and the crowd.

Christopher Bowman of Van Nuys almost pulled out a miracle medal finish, skating a marvelous long program to move up from eighth to fourth after the figure skating and short program--just shy of the bronze medal won by Scott Williams.

Sharon Barker of Woodland Hills stood eighth in the junior women's competition, taking eighth also in the short program.

Barker, above all, wanted to skate a clean program, she said, and therefore went for relatively safe double axel and double toe loop jumps and threw out any plans for triples.

"I had been throwing triple sals (salchows) and triple flips in practice, but not consistently, so I didn't want to do them," said Barker.

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