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Boitano Plans to Skate in ’94 Olympics : Winter Games: The 1988 gold medalist, who had turned pro, will apply to regain his eligibility for the competition at Lillehammer, Norway.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Taking advantage of a new rule so identified with him that it is known as “the Boitano Rule,” the 1988 Olympic men’s figure skating champion, Brian Boitano, said Monday he will apply to regain his eligibility for the 1994 Winter Games.

If the International Skating Union reinstates him, considered a formality, Boitano, 29, will have an opportunity to become the first male figure skater since Dick Button in 1952 to win a second Olympic individual gold medal.

“It’s probably more lucrative for me to stay a professional, but I’ve never really focused on money,” said Boitano, whose decision requires him to submit 5% of his earnings from tours, competitions and endorsements to the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. as long as he is eligible. “I’ve focused more on challenging myself as a skater.”

Boitano’s next challenge is scheduled to come April 6 and 7when he competes in the Hershey’s Kisses Pro-Am at the Sports Arena against a field that also includes 1984 gold medalist Scott Hamilton, 1992 silver medalist Paul Wylie and the current U.S. champion, Scott Davis.

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Boitano, of Sunnyvale, Calif., has committed to only one other competition between then and the National Championships next January in Detroit, where he must finish first or second to earn a berth on the U.S. team for the Winter Olympics Feb. 12-27 at Lillehammer, Norway.

His presence in Norway, along with that of the 1992 Olympic champion, Viktor Petrenko of Ukraine, and Canadians Kurt Browning, a four-time world champion, and Elvis Stojko, could result in one of the most competitive men’s figure skating events in the history of the Winter Games. Another potential contender, two-time U.S. champion Christopher Bowman, has indicated that he will join Boitano and Petrenko in applying for reinstatement.

“I don’t look at myself as a favorite,” Boitano said.

That assessment no doubt will be disputed within the sport. Even while spending his first three years after the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics as a touring professional, Boitano continued to be recognized as the world’s most complete male skater. In pro competitions, he lost only once in more than four years.

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“At this point, there’s only one man who has equaled what Brian did technically five years ago,” said Boitano’s coach, Linda Leaver, referring to Stojko’s eight triple jumps in the freestyle program during the recent World Championships. “It’s not like we’ve been left in the dust.”

Almost immediately after winning the gold medal, Boitano began to lobby the ISU to admit professionals into the Olympics. Although they did not go quite that far, ISU members voted last summer to allow professionals to regain their eligibility once during their careers.

Boitano waited until Monday to announce that he would apply because he wanted to test his chronically injured right knee as long as possible before the April 1 deadline imposed on American skaters by the USFSA.

“I didn’t want to let this opportunity slip through my fingers,” he said. “I don’t want to look back when I’m 40 and regret that I didn’t take advantage of a chance to compete again at the highest level.”

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