Press Release

USOC inducts Boitano, Heiss and Fassi

Class of 2008 has most figure skaters of any year yet

Brian Boitano was one of this year's inductees into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Brian Boitano was one of this year's inductees into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. (Getty Images)

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By Katie Weigel, special to icenetwork.com
(06/20/2008) - On Thursday night, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) inducted three legends from the sport of figure skating into the Hall of Fame, giving the Class of 2008 more figure skaters in one year than ever before. In a dazzling ceremony, Brian Boitano, Carol Heiss Jenkins and the late Carlo Fassi were presented with awards at the Harris Theater in Chicago. They join fellow Hall of Famers Tenley Albright, Dick Button, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill and Kristi Yamaguchi.

Carol Heiss Jenkins

Two-time Olympic champion Dick Button, a 1983 USOC Hall of Fame inductee, was on hand to present the award to Heiss Jenkins, whom he has known since she was 10 years old. Button recalled commentating at the first televised Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, Calif. -- where Heiss Jenkins won the gold medal -- saying that she "was always perfectly put together." While presenting the award to her, Button praised the two-time Olympian saying "she always made the right decisions in life."

As a skater, Heiss Jenkins won five world championships and two Olympic medals, capturing the silver behind fellow American Albright in 1956 and winning the gold in 1960. Heiss Jenkins was also the first woman to land a double Axel in competition. As a coach, she has worked with numerous U.S. skaters over her 30-year career, including Timothy Goebel and Tonia Kwiatkowski. Heiss Jenkins continues to coach in Lakewood, Ohio.

"When I was 16 and my mother was dying of cancer, my mom told me to really enjoy life's special moments," Heiss Jenkins said. She promised her mother that she would get the gold in 1960, a promise she was able to fulfill. During her acceptance speech, she thanked the USOC for "being honored in a way I never imagined."

Brian Boitano

Twenty years ago, in one of the most electrifying showdowns to ever grace the Olympic stage, Boitano came out victorious over Canadian rival Brian Orser in the "Battle of the Brians" to capture the men's gold medal. Boitano's perfect performances in Calgary in 1988 jump-started a professional career that includes six World Professional Championship victories and an Emmy for "Carmen on Ice." This fall, Boitano will skate in three Disson skating shows and continues to work with his charity, Youth Skate.

Kristi Yamaguchi was given the honor of welcoming Boitano into the Hall of Fame family.

"It means so much to me to have such a good friend present this award to me tonight," Boitano said as he accepted.

During his acceptance speech, Boitano said that he now "realizes how much four and a half minutes has changed my life." He thanked his coach Linda Leaver, who was in the audience, saying that he "would not have been a success without her," and his mom and dad, whom he called "the poster parents for unconditional love and support." Tom Collins, the longtime producer of Champions on Ice, was also present at the ceremony. Boitano thanked Collins, saying, "You have always been a great supporter. Thanks for the opportunities you have given me and for being here tonight."

To close, Boitano announced that he was going to "go backstage and convince Kristi to teach me the Cha-Cha!"

Carlo Fassi

During his long career that spanned the globe, Carlo Fassi coached some of the brightest stars in figure skating, including world and Olympic champions Hamill, Fleming, John Curry, Robin Cousins and Scott Hamilton. His other students included Paul Wylie, Jill Trenary and Nicole Bobek. It was with Bobek at the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, that Fassi suffered his fatal heart attack.

Fleming, who won the Olympics in 1968 under Carlo Fassi's tutelage, presented the award to Christa Fassi, Carlo's wife and coaching partner, who accepted on her husband's behalf.

Christa Fassi spoke about the two qualities that her husband possessed that made him a great coach. "Carlo had patience and an intrinsic love for his students." In accepting the award, Christa said Carlo would have been honored and thrilled with the induction. "Thank you to the students, their intensity and their willingness to give themselves for their country, coaches and loved ones."

The Hall of Fame Class of 2008 also includes swimmer Amy Van Dyken, who said as a little girl she thought Boitano was her "Prince Charming"; former NBA player David Robinson, who was a member of three Olympic men's basketball teams, including the 1992 Dream Team; boxer Oscar De La Hoya; wrestler Bruce Baumgartner; and the 1996 U.S. Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team, among others. The U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will air on Sunday, Aug. 3, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.