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Eldredge recalls 'outrageous' Canadian crowds

Six-time U.S. champ relives memories of world championships in Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax

Todd Eldredge competes in the short program at the 1996 World Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, where he won his first and only world title.
Todd Eldredge competes in the short program at the 1996 World Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, where he won his first and only world title. (Getty Images)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(02/21/2013) - As we near the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario, icenetwork.com will check in with skaters who have fond memories of having competed at past world championships in Canada. This week, we talk to Todd Eldredge.

When it comes to having experienced world figure skating championships held in Canada, few skaters can match six-time U.S. champion and six-time world medalist Todd Eldredge. The three-time Olympian competed at three worlds in Canada, all of which he remembers fondly. While each world championships brings up different memories, there is one consistent theme: The fans were loud and intense.

"They're ridiculously outrageous, and they love skating," Eldredge, 41 said. "Obviously, they have huge respect for their own Canadian athletes, but they have huge respect for all athletes that are there. I always felt right at home when I was competing there.

"It lifts your game," he continued. "You get so much energy from the atmosphere in general. You just feel so much better when you're out there skating. You probably perform better than you would somewhere else because of that excitement level. It gets you fired up for going out there and doing your best."

Eldredge's first worlds experience was in 1990 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, just a few weeks after he won his first U.S. title. Finishing fifth overall, he remembers the competition as being "awesome" and "incredible."

His second world championships in Canada were no doubt his best, winning the gold medal in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1996. Coming off a second-place finish to Rudy Galindo at the U.S. championships, Eldredge, who was enjoying a career revival after a couple of tough years, was determined to prove his skills hadn't eroded.

"I had a whole renewed idea about training in getting ready for worlds," Eldredge said.

It had been a hectic season, with Grand Prix events, pro/am competitions and shows. Eldredge had even gone on tour with Nutcracker on Ice in December.

"There were so many different things available that everybody wanted to do as much as they could," he recalled. "I decided I was not going to do anything between nationals and worlds -- I'll get focused on the job at hand. I felt great."

The atmosphere in Edmonton was electric, and the men's field was packed with contenders: two-time and reigning world champion Elvis Stojko of Canada, Olympic gold medalist Alexei Urmanov, Olympic bronze medalist Philippe Candeloro, young upstart Ilia Kulik and U.S. champion Galindo, eager to prove his win in San Jose was no fluke.

"The city was ramped up and excited about having the world championships," Eldredge said. "There were a lot of different guys that had potential for being at the top.

"It was fun," he added. "Regardless of winning, it was just a fun event to be at. The crowd was fired up."

Eldredge's final worlds in Canada came in 2001 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Back in competition after a two-year break, the then 29-year-old proved his best days were definitely not behind him. After claiming the bronze medal, both gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko and silver medalist Alexei Yagudin expressed their respect for Eldredge's unwavering competitive spirit.

"Again, the Canadian fans were great," Eldredge said.

When he finally drew a close to his competitive career following the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Eldredge had the pleasure of connecting with Canadian audiences when he toured the country with Stars on Ice.

"We'd go back every year and do rehearsals in Halifax," he said. "We'd be reminiscing. Traveling with Stars across Canada, going to Edmonton every year, doing the show there was awesome. It brought back memories. Then to Vancouver. It was fun to kind of relive some of the moments of my competitive days."

These days, Eldredge's life revolves around "a lot of diapers," as he and wife Sabrina welcomed son Ayrton last year. He coaches and still performs several times a year.

At only 8 months, Ayrton is already incredibly mobile, but Eldredge thinks he'll probably follow another of his father's passions.

"We live in Florida, so golf would be better," Eldredge said. "It's his decision, whatever he wants to do. I'll introduce him to anything and everything he wants. Whatever fits for him, that's his thing."