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Brian Orser heads list of World Figure Skating Hall of Fame inductees

March 13, 2009 |  8:44 pm

The World Figure Skating Hall of Fame announced its class of 2009, whose members will be inducted during the upcoming World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles.

The group includes people who made an impact on the sport on and off the ice. The hall itself is located in Colorado Springs, but the ceremony will take place March 28 at Staples Center.

It will be followed by a reception at the Wilshire Grand, with tickets set at $50. For more information,  click here or check at the U.S. Figure Skating booth on the main level at Staples Center during the championships.

Probably the most familiar honoree is Brian Orser, the two-time Olympic silver medalist from Canada who also won the 1987 world title as well as four silver and one bronze medal at the world championships. The timing is quite convenient for him: he'd be here, anyway, because he coaches South Korean skater Kim Yu-Na, one of the favorites to win the women's title.

Another name familiar to those of a certain generation is Aja Zanova, now Vrzanova, who became the first world champion to defect from a Soviet bloc country when she left Czechoslovakia in 1950. A three-time European champion and two-time world champion, she's credited with being the first woman to land a double lutz jump in competition, at the 1949 World Championships.

She spent many years skating in Ice Follies and Ice Capades before becoming an Ice Capades talent scout from 1968-90.

Also to be honored in the category of outstanding competitors are Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini of Canada, two-time Olympic pairs competitors and the 1984 world champions.

In the category of outstanding contributors making a significant impact on the sport in a non-skating role, the Hall of Fame will honor Joyce Hisey, a 1952 ice dance silver medalist who later became a judge. She's also from Canada. (Hey, Canada gave us Wayne Gretzky. The least we can do is honor a few Canadians during the world championships).

In the category of outstanding contributors with a creative/professional impact on figure skating, the honoree is Willy Bietak, a former Austrian pairs champion who became head of a production company in Santa Monica that specializes in family entertainment. His company, Willy Bietak Productions, also provides portable ice skating rinks for the public and ice surfaces for special events, including the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2002 Olympics.

Honored for contributing to the above categories before 1939 is the late Nikolai Panin-Kolomenkin (1871-1956). He was a six-time Russian champion, 1903 world silver medalist and two-time European medalist (1904, 1908). Using a pseudonym because skating was then frowned upon, he won a gold medal at the 1908 Olympics for special figures. He later was banned from continued competition by national authorities. Among his students was two-time Olympic pairs champion Oleg Protopopov.

--Helene Elliott

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