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Boitano, Brian   (b. 1963)  
 
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American figure skater Brian Boitano achieved great success in his career, the highlight of which was the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta. The men's competition that year has come to be known as "The Battle of the Brians" since Boitano was pitted against the other superstar of the time, Brian Orser of Canada. Both men turned in impressive performances, but Boitano was able to prevail by a slim margin to win the gold medal.

Boitano is a native of the San Francisco area, where he still resides. Born on October 22, 1963 in Mountain View, he grew up in the adjacent city of Sunnyvale, just south of the San Francisco Bay.

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"I lived in this perfect suburban town. . . . It was so typical," Boitano told Pat Jordan of the Los Angeles Times. "I had a great childhood. I was very independent and had a great imagination." His memories include roller-skating on the sidewalk of his block.

Skating was not a tradition in the Boitano household, but there was a connection with sports since Boitano's father had played semi-pro baseball for the San Jose Bulls before opting to pursue a career in banking.

Lew Boitano never lost his love for the game, and he encouraged his son to participate in it. He served as the coach of the Little League team on which the boy played.

"[My father] wanted me to be a baseball player, too," Brian Boitano told Jordan. "He never showed it, but I always felt he was disappointed when I became a skater." Nevertheless, he stated that his parents were very supportive once he had made the decision.

Boitano discovered ice skating at the age of eight when his parents took him to an Ice Follies show in San Francisco. Boitano begged them for ice-skating lessons, and they signed him up for a class at the Sunnyvale Ice Palace. His teacher, Linda Leaver, saw such promise in the boy that, she recalled to E. M. Swift of Sports Illustrated, "I went home and told my husband that one day he'd be a world champion."

Leaver would be at Boitano's side when her prediction came true. She remained his coach throughout his entire career and continues to work as his personal manager.

Boitano quickly became a proficient skater who was especially strong in his jumps. His abilities earned him a bronze medal at the World Junior Men's Singles Championships in 1978.

"At fourteen, all Brian wanted to do was go fast and jump. I told people he had creativity and it would come out in time," Leaver recounted to Jordan. For his part, Boitano had a somewhat different take on the situation. He thought of himself as a "technical robot" who needed to do each move powerfully and to perfection.

"If I was a robot on the ice, it was because I let them [apparently referring to judges] make me into one," he stated to Jordan. "I was naturally passionate, but I could see passionate people weren't making it in skating. . . . I had to be a robot because what I was trying to do needed to be so technical."

Boitano's excellence at jumping soon began attracting attention. In 1982, in his first appearance at the United States National Championships, he became the first skater to land a triple Axel--the most difficult of the triple jumps--in that competition. The following year, at the World Championships, he landed all six of the triple jumps, which had never before been done in that event.

In the next Olympic year, 1984, Boitano finished second in the National Championships, thus qualifying for the United States team that competed in Sarajevo.

In Sarajevo, Boitano finished out of the medals, in fifth place, but he was on the verge of the most illustrious phase of his career.

The next year Boitano won the first of four consecutive United States National Championships. He also took gold at the 1986 World Championships but came in second to Brian Orser of Canada in 1987.

Boitano and Orser were clearly the two most accomplished male skaters of the day, and the scene was set for "The Battle of the Brians" at the Calgary Winter Olympic Games in 1988.

Still dogged with a reputation as a superb technician but lacking in artistry, Boitano had added Sandra Bezic to his team as a choreographer. Bezic, a former elite skater with five Canadian national pairs championships to her credit, commented to Swift, "Artistically, a lot of people thought that Brian Orser was superior to [Boitano] and that my Brian just might not have it. I was worried about that myself. But he does have it. He just needed some direction."

Whereas Boitano had previously chosen rock-and-roll or fiddle tunes for his routines, Bezic selected a ballet piece, "Les Patineurs" ("The Skaters"), by Giacomo Meyerbeer for his short program. In this routine, Boitano portrayed a boy showing off to his neighbors while skating on a frozen pond.

Bezic used a military theme for the long program, set to music from the score of the film Napoleon by Carmine Coppola.

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Brian Boitano in San Francisco in 2010.
  
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