If anyone has la joie de vivre it is Candeloro, known for innovative routines in which he has played Conan the Barbarian, the Godfather, a cartoon character and Napoleon...that flamboyance has made him somewhat of a pop star in France, and as unpredictable as they come on the skating circuit...at the Lillehammer Olympics, many pundits responded to Candeloro's medal wishes with an emphatic, "Fug-get aboud-it"...after all, he entered Lillehammer only fifth at the '94 Europeans...but Candeloro -- whose father is Italian -- skated near flawlessly to the Godfather music in winning the bronze medal...since Lillehammer, Candeloro has endured fame and injury...at the 1994 World Championships -- a month after Lillehammer -- in Tokyo, Candeloro placed second to Elvis Stojko and security had to erect barricades to keep screaming female fans away from him..."Women like me and I like women," says Candeloro, who often blows kisses to the crowd during programs and has been know to take off his shirt in exhibitions...indeed, Candeloro has often been called skating's Alberto Tomba for his wandering eye...but foot problems have caused him concern the past two seasons...he first injured his right foot at the 1996 Worlds in Edmonton where he only placed ninth...after Edmonton, Candeloro tried to avoid an operation by taking calcium injections to fuse the bone fragments into the tarsus...last year after finishing second at the Europeans, Candeloro reinjured his foot preparing for Worlds, and had a small operation to remove the fragment...Candeloro then decided not to compete in Lausanne..."I didn't want to go and take 10th place there," he recalls. "It is not good going into the Olympic year"...Candeloro has feverishly worked himself back into shape -- his stamina has long been his downfall...Candeloro's medal in Lillehammer erased his disappointment in not competing in his home country at the 1992 Albertville Olympics...he had a motorcycle accident in the autumn of 1991 and bruised his femur...he was fined $1,000 by the French Skating Federation who looked down upon motocross...time off cost him, as he did not place in the top two at the French Championships...in 1993, he burst into the limelight as Conan -- in a Neolithic-type costume, complete with fake fur...that was a little too much for judges, who warmed to his Godfather and Napoleon portrayals...this season he again plays a biographical character..."I skate my best and try to give people pleasure," says Candeloro. "I like to make my program interesting or many people would otherwise be bored with skating after half-an-hour"...Philippe was eight years old when he went with his school class to a local ice rink...the rink's coach, André Brunet (broo-NAY) spotted him skating and proprosed to his parents to bring him to skating practice...Brunet remains Candeloro's coach today...Philippe loved soccer as a kid, but kept from most of his school friends the secret that he was an accomplished skater -- thinking they would tease him for being in a "girls' sport"...Candeloro lives and trains in the town of Colombes, on the outskirts of Paris...the "Stade Colombes" in Candeloro's hometown was the stadium used for the 1924 Paris Olympics (Chariots of Fire)...Philippe's father, Luigi, was 16 when he met his wife, who was visiting Italy from her native France...Luigi followed Marie-Therese back to France, married and had four children...his father is a bricklayer, and Candeloro has built a radio and motorcycle with his own hands...his blue-collar background belies his image as Europe's most popular skater...Candeloro has entertained thoughts on how to make himself even more available to fans..."I'm going to make an internet site pretty soon," he says. "For the site people can buy some clothes, some t-shirts, some CDs, something from me from the site. It's not very easy for the people that want to get some souvenir from me"...one of the CD's is one he has produced, featuring original music from his famed Napoleon free skate... Copyright © 1998 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
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