ICE SKATING Eldredge performs in 20th anniversary of 'Stars' tour
He moved from poverty to the Olympics to marriage. Eldredge explained how 'Stars on Ice' has been the most difficult task yet.
It seems strange, but it's true. Todd Eldredge has to work longer and harder now as he tours with the "Stars On Ice" tour than he did as an Olympic skater.
Maybe three times more.
"When I was competing, we pretty much did two routines and that was it. Now the demand on us for exhibitions is such that ... well, you don't want to look the same. We have to go out and get new stuff all the time," Eldredge, 34, said in a recent telephone interview.
"I put new routines together every summer and I probably have to develop five or six new ones," he said. "It's not just the tour. I have two separate routines for that, then probably four or five for the other shows and exhibitions. You have to stay in shape, that's for sure."
This will be Eldredge's fourth tour with the Stars on Ice, but his first as a married man. In September, he married Megan McCrea, a former Detroit Pistons cheerleader, who was an animal trainer at Sea World in San Antonio when he met her.
"A family friend introduced us. She came to the show and we started a long-distance phone relationship," Eldredge said. "It's difficult [on a new marriage], obviously, as much as I'm on the road. I try to get her to come out and visit, but she can't really travel with us because we have a limited amount of space on our buses."
McCrea is pursuing a career in modeling and acting, he said. The two had February together in Detroit when the tour took time off during the Winter Olympics. Eldredge is a World Champion, six-time U.S. National Champion and a three-time Olympian. He came in sixth in 2002, his highest finish was fourth in 1998.
Eldredge, from Chatham, Mass., started skating at age 5, when he got his first pair of skates for Christmas. His parents bought him hockey skates, but less than a month after receiving them he asked to return them for figure skates so he could jump and spin. He is now regarded as one of the finest spinners on the ice, and an elegant and athletic jumper, although, he said, "The older you get, the harder it is to get in shape for that."
The young skater made quick progress. At 7, he attended summer camp for additional coaching. At 10, he began advanced training, even though it meant moving to Philadelphia and living with another family. He said it was a difficult decision for his parents to make. A couple of years later, they faced an even more difficult one: finding the money to continue his training. It's a well-known story now, about how his hometown supported his training through the Todd Eldredge Youth Hockey Fund -- a rare case of a figure skater getting help from a hockey team. Eldredge has returned the favor through the Chatham Recreation Fund to help future athletes.
By 18, Eldredge had become the youngest man ever to win the National Novice (1985), Junior (1987) and Senior titles, as well as the World Junior Championship (1988).
A back injury in 1992 sidelined him for three years, but he returned in 1995 to win the Skate America championship and the U.S. Nationals.
"Skating differs from other sports because it combines art and athleticism," Eldredge said. "When you're competing, the emphasis is definitely more on athleticism, trying to incorporate the triple jumps and the spins. In shows, a lot goes into the music and what you decide to do with that. It used to be about a 50-50 balance [between art and physical prowess], but at this point, I think it's maybe 60-40 on the entertainment side."
This year's tour, the 20th anniversary of Stars on Ice, is called "A Show About the Show."
"Its aim is to show the audience what goes into creating a show, a kind of backstage tour of the tour," Eldredge said.
He has two production numbers, one skated to "Alexander's Ragtime Band" performed by Michael Feinstein, and the other to Maurice Ravel's "Bolero," one of the best-known pieces of music for skating.
"Christopher [Dean] is the choreographer of the show, and he and his skating partner (Jayne Torvill) won their Olympic gold medal in '84 skating to that music. He obviously has a lot of affection for the piece, and even though it's very familiar and been skated to a lot, every performance is different because every skater approaches it differently," Eldredge said.