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Nothing can stop Bobek, not even a broken zipper

1995 U.S. champion finds calm after leaving troubles behind

Nicole Bobek (left) with Sarah Hughes at 'The Skate against Breast Cancer' at Citi Pond.
Nicole Bobek (left) with Sarah Hughes at 'The Skate against Breast Cancer' at Citi Pond. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/11/2012) - Nicole Bobek is so calm and centered these days, nothing can keep her off the ice. Not even a broken zipper.

At "The Skate against Breast Cancer," presented by Iced Pink, Inc. at Bryant Park's Citi Pond on Jan. 7, a wardrobe malfunction that might have put Bobek off her stride years ago was handled in a minute.

"My zipper broke," she said. "In 27 years of skating, that never happened. I just went, 'Where's a needle and thread?' and I went out there. No big deal."

After sewing herself into her capris, Bobek joined fellow skaters including Sarah Hughes, Kimmie Meissner, Emily Hughes and dance duo Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukov and entertained the crowd with the disco classic "I Will Survive," an anthem for breast cancer survivors. It could also be a personal mantra for the 34-year-old skater, who is making a successful return to the ice after a six-year absence punctuated by legal problems stemming from involvement in a drug ring.

"The response has been amazing, just the fact that people haven't forgotten me," said Bobek, the 1995 U.S. champion who began her comeback at last April's "Skate for Love" Susan G. Komen benefit in New Jersey and has since performed in Disson Skating productions as well as shows closer to home in Florida.

"I did dig myself in the hole, but it did open my eyes to the gifts God has given me. Before, I wasn't using them to the best of my ability, maybe not even understanding them at that part of my life. And all this happened, and now I can embrace those gifts and accept them. I feel that I have a gift to really give people hope . . . people can see someone like me who has gone through some things in her life come back."

Friends, especially long-time mentor JoJo Starbuck (who, with Tim Goebel, hosted "The Skate Against Breast Cancer"), have stood by Bobek, and her charismatic presence and musical skating have been a welcome addition to shows including Disson Skating's Caesar's Tribute to the Ladies of the Ice and, more recently, Improv-Ice, which airs on NBC on Jan. 15 at 4 p.m. ET.

"Improv was great," Bobek said. "It's a really funky kind of a show, because you get the music the day of, so you have to make up something on the spot. It tests the skater's ability, how far creativity can go on a moment's [notice]. It's kind of up my alley.

"I had Kelly Clarkson's 'Mr. Know It All' as the first number and the second number was from Styx, the name of the song was called "Lady." And it's really funny because I didn't know that song, I knew some Styx songs, but not all of them. But the audience automatically responded and that made me feel really good. It always helps when the audience is a part of it too."

Bobek continues to work at her rink in Ft. Lauderdale, driving the Zamboni and teaching an edge class to hockey players but for now, she wants to focus on her skating.

"I'm really focusing on attacking the skating as much as I can. I'm really married to it and want to do everything and see how far it can take me," Bobek said. "Everyone has been so great since I've come back, with arms open wide and really happy. Hopefully I can inspire other people to work their ways back. There is life after the dark."

Fit Meissner gets into the swing of triples

Meissner, the 2007 U.S. champion who won the world title in 2006, is taking a break from her physical therapy studies to train and participate in more shows, including Disson Skating's upcoming Pandora Unforgettable Moments of Love on Ice, which will air on NBC on Feb. 4 from 4-6 p.m. ET.

"I put my school on hold just so I could get back into skating a little more," Meissner, 22, said. "I needed more time at the rink. I've been traveling since the summer and it's been really fun.

"I still definitely am going to go for physical therapy, but I figured right now this is what I would rather do. I miss traveling, so it's good to be with everybody again."

The increased training is paying off, as Meissner found this fall.

"I went to the rink one day and everything clicked; I can do all my triples," she said. "They're not consistent or anything, but sometimes I go in and I can do everything, and it's awesome.

"I did a triple toe in my last Disson Show and it's the first time in like two years. I went on tour in Canada [with Holiday Festival on Ice] and I could do it there. Maybe soon I'll go for triple Lutz and put that out there."

Goebel hard at work, off the ice

Goebel, the 2001 U.S. champion and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist, doesn't skate much anymore; his job as an analytic consultant at Nielsen doesn't leave time. But he tuned in to watch the Grand Prix Final, held in Quebec City in December, and was happy to see the top men try quadruple jumps.

"The ISU has finally set up a system where it's worth taking a risk again and I'm glad, because gosh, it's so much more exciting," Goebel, the first skater to include two different quads (toe and Salchow) in a free skate, said.

"I don't want to see a triple Lutz-triple toe [combination] in a short. To me that's junior men 1996, junior worlds, we're so far past that. And we've got Brandon [Mroz] throwing quad Lutz now and we've got all the guys in the [Grand Prix] Final trying quads again. They were all capable of doing them all this time, but [with past scoring] God forbid you had a bad day and miss one, you could go from first to 10th.

"Now we're finally back on track and the timing couldn't be better," he said. "Going into Sochi, how exciting is it going to be; I would imagine people are going to be doing two quads in their long programs again. It's going to be like back in Salt Lake City [2002 Olympics] where, yes, people could spin, do footwork, perform well, but basically most of the top men did quads and that's what men's skating is all about. It's about performing, but also about jumps."