Trenary Stuns Thomas in U.S. Figure Skating; Chin Finishes Fourth

Share via
Times Staff Writer

So much was made last week of Debi Thomas and Tiffany Chin, who already have won national championships, that Jill Trenary began to wonder if anyone would ever notice a future champion.

Her day has come.

Trenary, a confident high school senior, skated a nearly flawless long program Saturday at the Tacoma Dome in the U.S. figure skating championships to upset Thomas, the defending champion.

As the second-place finisher, Thomas, a Stanford premed student, still will be able to defend her world championship next month in Cincinnati.


Besides Trenary and Thomas, the other woman on the world championship team is third-place finisher Caryn Kadavy, who, like Trenary, trains under Carlo Fassi in Colorado Springs, Colo. Kadavy was second last year to Thomas.

Fassi coached previous U.S. champions Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill.

Failing to make the team was 1984 Olympian and 1985 U.S. champion Chin, who is from Toluca Lake. She fell from third to fourth in the overall standings after a disappointing long program.

Her mother, Marjorie, said Chin, 19, probably will decide within the next two or three weeks whether to retire or continue her effort to make the U.S. team for the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.

“I don’t think we’ll have a press conference to announce it,” Mrs. Chin said. “To this sport, she’s just another fourth-place finisher now.”

In becoming the champion after finishing fifth last year, Trenary said she was “kind of in shock.” Don’t believe it.

After finishing second to Thomas in both the compulsory school figures and the short program, she made it apparent she felt she could overtake Thomas in the long program, which counts 50% toward the final standings.


“Every morning, my father went out to get the paper and it would say, ‘Jill Trenary muddles up the singles ladies division’ or ‘Jill Trenary is a dark-horse,’ ” Trenary said.

“It was like everyone was asking, ‘Who is this person and where did she come from?’ ”

Trenary, 18, came three years ago from the wealthy Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka to train at the prestigious Broadmoor Skating Club.

While her divorced parents remained in Minnesota, Trenary moved in with a Colorado Springs family and began attending classes at Cheyenne Mountain High School.

Kadavy, 19, has a similar story, coming from Erie, Pa., to train with Fassi. One difference is that her mother came with her.

Trenary also has had to overcome more adversity. In 1985, less than a year after she moved to Colorado Springs, Trenary’s calf muscle was cut almost to the bone in two places when slashed by another skater’s blades in a training accident.

Fassi said that if the cut had been a few inches lower, to her Achilles’ tendon, she would never have skated competitively again.


As it was, she was off the ice for only five months.

When asked about the injury last week, Trenary said, “I’m sick of talking about it.” Fassi nodded his approval.

“We don’t want it to be like Debi’s college,” he said.

Translation: Fassi doesn’t want the media to dwell on Trenary’s injury as they have on Thomas’ Stanford studies.

Judging from her long program, Thomas, who is from San Jose, also has been dwelling on her studies.

She admitted that last week, when she revealed she has been so busy with class work that she began training only five weeks ago. She missed one week because of a calf injury and then hurt her ankles when she returned to the ice too soon.

“If I was coaching her, I would have gone crazy,” Fassi said. “Debi trained very poorly. It’s amazing she did as well as she did.”

Thomas was brilliant in the compulsories Wednesday and the short program Friday.

But when she laced on her skates before the long program Saturday, she told her coach, Alex McGowan, that her ankles were swollen.


While they had planned five triple jumps, they decided to try only three. She almost fell on the first one and said she was confused for the remainder of the program.

“We thought we were playing it safe,” she said. “Maybe we should have just gone for it. That’s the kind of person I am. When I play things safe, I usually mess up. Some of my guts were missing.

“It was just a BTB.”

Translation: “Big-time blooper,” she said.

Skating next in the order before a near-capacity crowd of 17,000 and a national television audience, Trenary hit five of six triple jumps cleanly.

“She’s one of those people who’s really tough,” Thomas said. “She doesn’t wimp out.”

Fassi said they have been working on the program every morning and every evening for three months.

In between, Trenary, like Thomas, goes to school.

She said she plans to attend college in Colorado through the 1988 Winter Games before returning to Minnesota to finish her education.

“If you focus only on skating, it does more harm than good,” Trenary said. “I support Debi all the way.”


Soon to determine her future in the sport is Chin, who has gone from first to third to fourth in the nationals in the last three years.

“She’s going to think about whether she has the guts to go on,” her mother said.

“If she feels she wants to come back and tackle this thing, she will. But she’s a very peaceful child. I don’t think she should have to grit her teeth and develop a killer instinct.”