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Graduate Organizes Skating's Premier Event

Graduate Organizes Skating's Premier EventThe 2003 World Figure Skating Championships went off without a hitch, thanks to Tufts graduate Sam Gutter – one of the event’s lead organizers. Washington, D.C.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.31.03] For the world's top competitive skaters, it is the most important event of the year. Drawing hundreds of thousands of fans, and 194 athletes from 41 countries, last week's 2003 World Figure Skating Championships lived up to its billing, thanks in large part to a Tufts graduate who served as one of the event's lead organizers.

"It's just a natural fit to have the premier international competition of the skating year in the premier international city of the world," 1974 Tufts graduate Sam Gutter - a Washington attorney and co-chair of the organizing committee - told The Washington Post.

Last week's event marked the first time in more than 20 years that the World Championships were held on the East Coast.

"We have been planning this for so long," Gutter told the Post a few days before the skaters arrived. "This is all great to see. I'm so happy it's finally happening."

Not a skater himself, the Tufts graduate got involved in the sport through his daughter Rachel, a life-long figure skater. She is currently a senior at Tufts and coaches skaters during the summer.

This year marked the first time the U.S. capital was selected as the host city for the championships. While security concerns in D.C. forced the cancellation of the city's marathon - scheduled to take place shortly before the skaters arrived - none of the World Championship events were cancelled.

"I'm the first one to turn on CNN when I get home, but when I'm at the rink I'm just like anyone else going to work," Tim Goebel, an Olympic bronze medalist skater, told the Associated Press. "By the time we all get to the worlds, we're good at focusing on the task at hand."

But the war in Iraq did heap some last minute stress on Gutter and his colleagues. Some athletes and judges from China and parts of Europe waited until the last minute before deciding to attend. Ultimately, none of the athletes dropped out.

"This is the most important event of the year," Xue Shen - one of the 2002 pairs champions from China - told the Post. "Every skater and coach wants to be here."

The roster included some of the sport's most recognized names, including Michelle Kwan and Sarah Hughes. More than 200,000 fans were on hand for the week-long event.

According to Gutter - who served as president of the Washington Skating Club between 1995 and 1998 - the world's were expected to result in a $30 million economic boost for Washington D.C.

The event also provided a positive distraction amidst tense times.

"A true international sports competition at a time like this is a wonderful thing," Gutter told the Post.

Photos courtesy the U.S. Figure Skating Association

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