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Olympic Gold Medal Spotlights Were Aimed At Figure Skaters, Michelle Kwan and Elvis Stojko How These Athletes Prepared For the Olympics

Jan. 20, 1997, Boulder, CO...Michelle Kwan's confidence has soared with her two recent wins at the Skate America and Skate Canada championships, despite her recent toe injury. Kwan and Elvis Stojko are finding they have a competitive advantage by working with a team of specialists that includes Helen James, Physical Therapist, Certified Advanced Rolfer and Professor Emerita of Physical Therapy at California State University Fresno.

Stojko introduced James to Kwan in July during the Campbell Soup Tour of World Figure Skating Champions. Stojko, who has benefited from James' physical therapy and Rolfing® expertise (a specialty technique of soft tissue mobilization) since 1995 says, "Rolfing helped me to find my center of balance for competition; it puts my body in place."

Olympic MD, Dr. Karlis Ullis, at the Sports Medicine and Anti-Aging Medical Group in Santa Monica, Ca., "Athletes always need help with chronic injuries, muscular strains and overuse. The Olympic athletes wouldn't have as many injuries if they had appropriate soft tissue therapy," says Dr. Ullis. "Rolfing is valuable for athletes in high level competition to address the build up of scar tissue and disarrangement of myofascial tissue that occurs from training, competition and injury." Dr. Ullis has provided medical expertise to athletes at five Olympic games, including Lillehammer, Albertville, and Barcelona, in the fields of figure skating, cross country skiing, bobsleigh, biathlon, track and field and other sports.

"Generic sports massage therapies help with circulation and relaxation but Rolfing realigns the structure for greater efficiency and precision of movement," says Dr. Ullis, who has been referring clients to Rolfing practitioners for the over 15 years.

"Some athletes are extremely tight in their lower extremities and low back," says Dr. Ullis. "Rolfing helps to decrease knee pain, lower extremity stress, and low back pain."
James says, "It's key for figure skaters like Michelle and Elvis, to find an exact balanced position in space -- to rise upward, in their jumps, along an invisible vertical line, complete several rotations, and descend effortlessly along that same line to the point of contact on the ice. In their artistry they have the benefit of greater flow, grace and extension. Balance and integration are the primary goals of the Rolfing process -- as they apply to body parts or integers and as they apply to the full body structure within the gravitational energy field. Establishing appropriate and equal tissue tone front to back, right to left, upper and lower halves and most of all between "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" contractile tissue. With this, confidence and security follow."

"Athletes find they have fewer injuries and recover more quickly through Rolfing work," says James. "They feel lighter and have more energy because they're not working as hard. They perform and complete their jumps with more ease. Michelle and Elvis work with a new balancing device called a tuning board, to improve their technical skills and sense of balance."
Olympic Silver Medalist ('84,'88), World Champion ‘87 and five-time World Free-Skate Champion figure skater, Brian Orser has been teamed up with Helen James since 1985.

"Had I not been Rolfed I would be in big trouble," says Orser. "When I strain or pull a muscle I bounce back very fast. Rolfing also changed me in terms of confidence. I see myself skating longer because I haven't had the injuries, which I know is a result of Rolfing." Rolfing: Stories of Personal Empowerment, by Briah Anson (Heartland Personal Growth Press, 1991).

Elvis Stojko, two-time World Champion and Olympic silver medalist who is well on his way to becoming the king of ice, is the master of the quadruple jump, the most difficult jump in figure skating.

"The artistic beauty of Elvis' martial arts style is unusual," says James. "Judges don't always appreciate his style. They are used to a more poetic, balletic skating form. When they see something different they may not recognize the art form. There was a show of confidence recently, when Elvis' Skate Canada winning program exceeded all expectations and earned him several 5.9's from the judges for artistry."
Since James and Kwan have teamed up, Michelle Kwan's confidence has improved. James says, "Kwan is more consistent in her performance. Michelle is in top form physically and mentally. She performs at peak under pressure."

"...a more poised Kwan opened the 1997-98 season last weekend with a new program and a decisive victory over Lipinski at Skate America--on Lipinski's home ice in Detroit." --L.A. Times, 11/97 "There's no way to know who will come out on top." says James. "Michelle and Lipinski both have great technical ability. Michelle is a mature athlete, she's been out there longer and has more training in the top level circuit. Over and over she's proved herself. Just look at her recent win at the Skate America championship where she performed on a stress fracture. We saw her combine speed, length of space and technical variations with brilliant precision."

James is assisting Kwan in maintaining a well-rounded athletic training regime which includes strengthening, balance, aerobics, diet, sleep, confidence building and time to herself. "Michelle has the true spirit and dedication of a competitive athlete with all the gifts required in a figure skater," says James, "the strength, technical skill, mental, emotional and body control, and the endurance for endless practice combined with creative, elegant presentation."

Olympic team selection is based on the results of the annual national and international competitions. The competitions help to perfect the skater's programs and place them in a standing. Kwan scored decisive victories at the Skate America and Skate Canada competitions.