MIXED MARTIAL SKATING.
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 email@example.com. Chances are, he was there.
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.
Chuck Norris, inhis Walker, Texas Ranger Days.