Picks and Pans Review: Inside Edge: a Revealing Journey into the Secret World of Figure Skating

updated 02/26/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/26/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Christiine Brennan

Popular opinion says it all started with Tonya. The cutthroat, I'm-gonna-kick-your-butt attitude. The trailer-park lifestyle. The bad dresses, bad music, bad work habits," writes Washington Post sportswriter Christine Brennan, who contends that popular opinion is wrong in her riveting new exposé of a world she has covered for 11 years. "Long before Tonya Harding and her associates crash-landed into the sport, women gunned for other women in practice sessions. They trashed their rivals—gossiping about nose jobs and stage mothers and bank accounts.... The sequins are a clever disguise. Whoever thought these were genteel, teetotaling ladies were sadly mistaken."

This book arrives at an important time for figure skating. Money has transformed the sport; million-dollar careers now ride on the edge of a 1/8-inch blade. Brennan charts the ascents of professional superstars Katarina Witt, Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton and Nancy Kerrigan—and describes how coaches, agents, promoters and ambitious parents now vie for control of the future stars: Michelle Kwan, Nicole Bobek, Jenni Tew and Tara Lipinski, who at 13 already has an agent and an entourage. Brennan also raises the curtain on judging—a subjective, often political art. (In past years, Eastern European judges were notorious for favoring their own skaters; U.S. judges, on the other hand, were known for giving American skaters low scores rather than be accused of ever displaying "national bias.")

Brennan also examines the previously taboo subjects of homosexuality and AIDS. (Rudy Galindo, the new, openly gay national champion, talked forth-rightly about the subject with Brennan.) For anyone interested in understanding a soap-operatic sport—and the World Championships next month—this thoroughly researched book is a perfect primer. (Scribner, $23)

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