MIXED MAR­TIAL SKAT­ING.

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON smil­ton@thes­pec.com 905-526-3268 | @mil­to­natthes­pec

With all skat­ing fans, all sports fans, re­lieved that Elvis Sto­jko is back on tour with Stars on Ice af­ter hit­ting his head at First-On­tario Cen­tre Satur­day night, it’s prob­a­bly a good time to bring a Sto­jko story into Be­ing There.

Elvis and I were ac­tu­ally talk­ing about it at the arena last Satur­day, three or four hours be­fore he struck his head dur­ing TV re­takes.

It was the 1994 Win­ter Games in Lille­ham­mer, the last of the “real” Win­ter Games, which most Cana­di­ans re­mem­ber for only a cou­ple of things: The Peter Fors­berg “postage stamp” goal against Canada; and Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Ker­ri­gan.

Sto­jko won the Olympic sil­ver medal, los­ing the gold to Rus­sian Alexei Ur­manov, but won his first of three world ti­tles a month later.

Sto­jko isn’t built like the stately Ur­manov, nor like most other skaters, lack­ing those tall, lean lines that so im­press most fans and judges.

He’s built phys­i­cally like a spec­tac­u­larly all-round ath­lete, which he is, and he’s built men­tally like an elite fighter, which he also is.

He was the fiercest com­peti­tor Cana­dian skat­ing has ever pro­duced, and by Lille­ham­mer (the skat­ing was in nearby Ham­mer) was al­ready a black belt in karate. He sub­scribed, and still lives, to mar­tial arts holism.

So in 1994 he was skat­ing to the theme mu­sic of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, the 1993 biopic of the iconic mar­tial artist who had died in 1973.

Sto­jko’s pre­cise rou­tine was a deeply per­sonal por­trayal of mar­tial arts moves and their un­der­ly­ing phi­los­o­phy.

A cou­ple of days af­ter the men’s event, and the day be­fore the women’s short pro­gram which would pit Ker­ri­gan against the in­fa­mous woman who par­tic­i­pated in her as­sault, I was walk­ing the con­course of the skat­ing arena in Ham­mer, when I spot­ted a guy who looked re­ally fa­mil­iar.

But he looked smaller than the guy I ini­tially thought he was. Hey, I thought, he’s just a dop­pel­ganger.

Turned out I was right the first time.

It was Chuck Nor­ris, the world-renowned mar­tial artist who’d had a num­ber of hit movies and had just be­gun his TV se­ries, “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

We got to talk­ing about the Games, and I brought up Sto­jko, his mar­tial arts and his free skat­ing pro­gram. Nor­ris said, “I’d re­ally like to meet him” and I said, “No, I’m sure he’d re­ally like to meet YOU.”

I sus­pect Nor­ris had known about the Bruce Lee pro­gram, and was al­ready work­ing through of­fi­cial chan­nels to­ward meet­ing Elvis, so I’ll let Sto­jko take it from there.

This is from our con­ver­sa­tion on Satur­day:

“I was watch­ing the women’s short pro­gram, and the chef de mis­sion came up to me and said, ‘Some­one wants to meet you, but I’m not telling you who.’

“So, we went to the other side of the arena, walked down the stairs as I’m won­der­ing ‘Who could this be?’ and a guy stands up, looks at me ... and it’s Chuck Nor­ris.

“I was com­pletely shocked. I said, ‘Wow! It’s an hon­our to meet you.’ And he said, ‘No, the hon­our is mine. I want to thank you for hon­our­ing my friend with your skat­ing.’ He meant Bruce Lee, of course.

“There was no place to sit so I just sat on the step in the aisle be­side his seat and he asked me all about skat­ing, warm-ups, what com­pe­ti­tion was like.

“We talked about skat­ing and mar­tial arts for about 45 min­utes.

“Through that, I ended up meet­ing Linda Lee, Bruce’s widow. She sent me a bunch of para­pher­na­lia from Bruce’s stuff. One of my spon­sors now, they just signed a deal with Shan­non Lee, Bruce’s daugh­ter, for ‘Bruce Tea.’

“So it’s all come full cir­cle from that day. OK, get­ting sil­ver was fine. But to have that ex­pe­ri­ence with Chuck was the ul­ti­mate thank you I could have had for that pro­gram.

“In skat­ing there were only a hand­ful of peo­ple who could have un­der­stood what I was do­ing … the judges were con­fused. But ev­ery mar­i­tal artist I have ever talked to since then has said, ‘Thank you.’ In­clud­ing Chuck Nor­ris. “Pretty cool.” Agreed. Vet­eran Spec­ta­tor colum­nist Steve Mil­ton has pretty much seen it all in his 40 years cov­er­ing sports around the world and, in Be­ing There, he will re­live spe­cial mo­ments of those stories, from the in­side out, ev­ery Friday. If there’s a mem­o­rable sport­ing event you want Steve to write about let him know at smil­ton@thes­pec.com. Chances are, he was there.

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Elvis Sto­jko is pic­tured in 1994, the­same year one of his idols, movie and mar­tial arts starChuck Nor­ris, sought him ought to thank him for his Bruce Lee por­trayal.

TONY ESPARZA, CBS

Chuck Nor­ris, in­his Walker, Texas Ranger Days.

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