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Ina and Zimmerman are all smiles about return to Salt Lake with Stars on Ice

The pair took fifth place at ’02 Winter Games

SHARE Ina and Zimmerman are all smiles about return to Salt Lake with Stars on Ice

For its 17th annual U.S. tour, the Smucker's Stars on Ice production — Jan. 8 in the E Center — will showcase several skaters who were in Salt Lake City barely a year ago, competing in the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The stellar lineup includes gold medalists Jamie Sal and David Pelletier of Canada and Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia, who were at the center of one of the Games' biggest controversies. Also returning to Utah are men's champion Alexei Yagudin, world bronze medalists Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman, and such longtime favorites as Katarina Witt and Todd Eldredge.

Also in the lineup will be four-time world champion Kurt Browning and three-time U.S. national pairs champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, dance champions Renee Roca and Gorsha Sur, with Ina and Zimmerman making their Stars on Ice debut.

Despite not claiming any medals during the Olympics, Kyoko Ina has fond memories of skating here and is looking forward to returning to Utah next week.

"We had such a great time in Salt Lake City," she said in a brief telephone interview from her home in Greenwich, Conn., during the production's New Year's break. "We skated the best we could that evening (referring to the Feb. 11 pairs free program in the Delta Center), but we ended up placing fifth."

Following the Olympics, Ina and Zimmerman realized their greatest achievement by winning the bronze medal during the 2002 World Figure Skating Championships in Nagano, Japan.

They're not competing, but Ina notes that there's a different kind of stress involved with this new tour. "You're trying to perform 100 percent every night for the audience — and then there's the travel."

The 61-city tour began with a performance on Nov. 30 in the Olympic Center at Lake Placid, N.Y., then — following a monthlong break — three performances Dec. 27-29 in West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The January leg of the tour began Thursday in Spokane and will travel throughout the Northwest and several states in the West before heading for the Midwest.

Although the Olympic figure-skating competition took place in the Delta Center (renamed the "Salt Lake Ice Center" during the Winter Games), Ina is also familiar with the more intimate E Center, where the skaters rehearsed. She had shoulder surgery in September, then joined the Stars on Ice tour with her skating partner.

Both Ina and Zimmerman began skating at the age of 4. Ina was born in Tokyo but moved with her family to New York City when she was just 6 months old. She comes from an athletic family — her grandfather was a 1924 Olympic track competitor, her grandmother played tennis at Wimbledon and her mother is an Asian Games swimming champion.

While Ina grew up in the city, Zimmerman is from rural Birmingham, Ala. In their spare time, the two skaters work with children in the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Zimmerman, 28, recently became engaged to Silvia Fontana, the reigning Italian national skating champion. He proposed on Nov. 9 in Central Park; they're planning a wedding next September in Rome.

A portion of all the ticket sales from this year's Stars on Ice tour is earmarked for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

What: Smucker's Stars on Ice

Where: E Center

When: 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 8

How much: $33-$58

Phone: 467-8499 or 1-800-888-8499; group sales, 988-8900

Web site: www.tickets.com

E-MAIL: ivan@desnews.com