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Her Role Has Changed : Chin Is a Leader Among U.S. Women

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

Figure skater Tiffany Chin, returning to her former hometown for a banquet on Sunday, said she learned about the pressures of great expectations during the past year.

Chin, 17, who moved with her family from Mira Mesa to Toluca Lake in 1981, became the darling of world figure skating circles when she finished fourth at the 1984 Winter Olympics.

She went on to establish herself as the acknowledged leader among U.S. women when she won the national championship last February and finished third at the World Championships in March.

Somewhere along the line, Chin said, her role changed from whiz kid to queen of the hill.

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“I got a little confused,” Chin said, referring to her life after the Olympics. “When I was coming up, anything I did was fine. Now, whatever I do is expected.”

Chin said the break she took following the World Championships allowed her time to sort things out.

“Last season definitely wasn’t as much fun (as it was before the Olympics),” she said. “I didn’t perform as expected. I think it can be as much fun, now that I know what is expected of me.”

Chin returned to San Diego for the annual recognition banquet held by her club, the San Diego Figure Skating Club. During the event, held at the Torrey Pines Inn, Chin was presented with a lifetime membership in the club.

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Among other club members honored were Erik Larson, the men’s junior world champion, and Jill Heiser, who teamed with Mike Verlich to win the bronze medal in junior dance at the 1985 national meet.

However, Chin was the main attraction. She said she remained a San Diego club member after moving to Toluca Lake because the organization is a part of her roots. Chin started her skating career in 1975, while living in Scripps Ranch.

“This is where it all started, where I grew up,” Chin said. “I always feel a part of the club, even though I’ve moved to Los Angeles. I wanted to win the national title for them. This city was really supportive of me, and I wanted to give something back.”

Chin’s goals are to defend her national crown and win the world championship. The 1986 U.S. nationals will in February in Long Island. The world meet is the following month in Switzerland.

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Chin recently returned to the ice on a regular basis after a six-week break. She is working out, both on and off the ice, six days a week. She is also attending Providence High School in Burbank, catching up on classes she missed last winter.

The new season starts in October, when Chin is scheduled to compete in the Skate America and Skate Canada meets. She will be preparing to take on an international field that includes East Germany’s Katarina Witt, the Olympic and World Champion.

“Being the world and Olympic champ, that makes her well-established,” Chin said of Witt, “but I think there are some new faces coming up. It won’t be just me that will be going after her. It will be a lot of people.

“I don’t see it as going against the Olympic champion. I’ll be going out there against a lot of people, trying to get as well prepared as possible. I think that was part of my problem last year (after the Olympics). I was doing a lot of things that took time away from training--a little bit here, a little bit there, and it all added up.”

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Chin has also been boning up for a preseason, off-the-ice challenge coming up Tuesday--her driver’s test. She said her mother, who has been driving her to practice sessions for many years, is rooting for her with special fervor.

“It’s going to be a relief for my mother,” Chin said.


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