1992 Winter Olympics: Spinning Gold

Japan's queen of the ice will face off in a sublime showdown with a trio of American women skaters, possibly the best the U.S. has ever fielded

Lucky the sport that the camera smiles on. Television's appetite for photogenic action is insatiable, and pursuits that were once mere cottage industries of athletics have been streamlined and glamorized for the diversion of millions of viewers.

Take figure skating. It used to be an arcane discipline that grew out of skating on frozen ponds and swamps, where the ice was black and people could trace their names -- or grapevines or Maltese crosses -- on a winter evening. Those innocent exercises gradually evolved into amateur competitions in which painfully exacting school figures counted for much of a skater's score, the...

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