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Kubicka, Mroz's legacies linked by Lutzes

1976 Olympian was on technical panel when Colorado Springs skater landed quad Lutz

Terry Kubicka skates at the 1976 world championships in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Terry Kubicka skates at the 1976 world championships in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Figure Skating)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(10/11/2011) - When Brandon Mroz competed in the Colorado Springs Invitational last month, he was attempting to become the first skater to land a quadruple Lutz in competition.

Little did he know that the technical specialist for the event was the first American man to land a triple Lutz in competition: Terry Kubicka.

And what good luck that was for both of them.

"It was a fun night," Kubicka said. "It was great for Brandon, and it was special for me, too. I saw him do it in practice, so I knew to watch for it in the program. After reviewing it on videotape, I started clapping. I know that is not professional, but I did it.

"It's amazing how far skating has come. It was quite a feat, and it was quite special for me to be on the panel."

Kubicka said he was later asked to complete a written report about Mroz's quad for the International Skating Union (ISU). The ISU is reviewing video and written reports, but no verdict has been released. According to an email to icenetwork.com from the ISU, "In order for the ISU to consider a new element executed during an event which is not an international competition or ISU event of championship, the referee must submit a report to the ISU office with the video showing the element. The final decision is made by the ISU Council with the support of the Technical Committee."

In Kubicka's mind, however, there is no doubt history was made.

"He certainly deserves credit," Kubicka said.

Skating achievements have been listed in various places, but specific requirements for skating history are somewhat sketchy. U.S. Figure Skating lists "firsts" in its media guide, and references to firsts in the sport are available online, but as for an official "record book," no such thing exists.

When asked about how the record keeping was made back in his day, Kubicka laughed, saying that when he did the triple Lutz for the first time in competition, it came in the short program at the 1974 U.S. championships, but there was no official documentation of it.

"I remember Dick Button told me to do it again in the long," Kubicka said, "Because they didn't have it on film (from the short program)."

Fortunately for Kubicka, he replicated the feat.

For Kubicka, the accomplishment was big on a personal level, "but it wasn't that big of a deal in skating back then because (Canadian) Don Jackson had already done one before," at the world championships in 1962.

Kubicka never expected to find himself in the middle of skating history again.

Two years after landing those triple Lutzes at the national championships in Providence, R.I., Kubicka competed at the Olympic Winter Games in 1976. He spent three years touring with Ice Capades, but after 1979, he never skated again.

He became a veterinarian outside San Francisco and was not involved in skating at all. But in 2005, he received a call from David Kirby, an ISU technical specialist, who wanted Kubicka to get involved with the new judging system.

Kubicka, who was the first and only skater to perform a legal back flip at the Olympic Games (a maneuver which was subsequently banned after his doing so), thought it was somewhat humorous that he would return to skating from the judging panel. But he did, and he said he has enjoyed the experience.

Especially when he was on the panel last month at the Colorado Springs Invitational.

Interestingly enough, Kubicka won his only national crown in 1976 in Colorado Springs, where Mroz trains and performed the quad Lutz.

And now the two men, connected by jumps and fortunate timing, will wait and see if they will become bonded again by the record keepers.