Navarro does it her way

From the stands, the sport seems so elegant, refined, disciplined, with none of the grunting, glaring or barking that usually accompanies most athletic competitions.

From a distance, figure skating is having an afternoon tea. One is proper, polite, genteel even, that just a simple burp would be viewed as obscene and merit expulsion.

Figure skating, however, is a shark tank. Oftentimes it is not polite, cordial, the smiles disingenuous. That so many skaters can remain upright after all the backstabbing is remarkable. And Kim Navarro pledged to herself she would never, ever, swim with the sharks.

"It seems you can get away with everything if you are pursuing an Olympic medal," said the 1999 El Molino grad who, along with partner Brent Bommentre, are America's first alternates in Championship Dance at the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics.

"You can treat people poorly, you can say whatever you want, and people will say that's OK because you are pursuing that Olympic medal," Navarro added.

Anything goes, except for the knee-capping of Nancy Kerrigan. That baseball saying -- if you ain't cheatin', you ain't trying -- is reshaped into a mind game in figure skating. If you ain't snipin', if you ain't belittlin', if you ain't smirkin', you ain't tryin'.

"Whenever anyone would ask me my goals," Navarro said, "it would say, in order, to be healthy, to be happy, and to skate as well as I possibly could."

Notice the absence of "making the Olympic team." Not that she doesn't want it, but the obsession it takes to achieve that, well, Navarro didn't want it to rule her universe.

"I have spent a lot of time defending my dedication to the sport," Navarro said. "I have had to explain to a lot of people why I want balance in my life. That what is valued is not my values. If it had been my life's goal, I would have lived my life differently to this point."

Navarro, 28, wants to wake up when she's 50 and not look back at behavior you wouldn't tolerate in a 4-year old. She doesn't want to look back and feel embarrassed that she used competitors like a frog uses a lily pad, to step on whenever necessary to gain ground. Competing without honor and integrity is competing without a soul.

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