Sports Briefs

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2002

Kenai, Nikiski to square off for endowment

The Kenai Central boys and girls basketball teams will travel to Nikiski for basketball games on Jan. 22. The games will benefit the Alaska Endowment for Youth Activities, Inc., a nonprofit corporation which has been established by the Alaska School Activities Association.

ASAA is allowing basketball teams to play one game beyond the 22-game season limit as long as the proceeds go to increase the endowment. The endowment then goes to provide financial stability for ASAA and to help with travel costs and fees associated with state tournaments.

Because the game between Kenai and Nikiski is an endowment game, student passes will not be accepted. It will be $4 for adults and $2 for students to view the game. The girls will play at 5 p.m., while the boys tip off at 6:30 p.m.

Woods struggles in New Zealand

PARAPARAUMU BEACH, New Zealand -- Tiger Woods had trouble dealing with the wind he wanted in the New Zealand Open.

Woods, who said he'd welcome a healthy breeze so that the Paraparaumu Beach course would play like a traditional links layout, had three straight bogeys Friday in a round of 2-over-par 73 that left him closer to the cut than the leaders.

The American star had a 1-over 143 total to fall eight strokes behind second-round leaders James McLean and Stephen Leaney, both from Australia. McLean, the 1998 NCAA champion for the University of Minnesota, shot a 70, and Leaney had a 67.

Sony Open

HONOLULU -- Kenny Perry birdied two of his last three holes Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a share of the lead with Chris Riley in the Sony Open, the first full-field PGA Tour event this year.

South Africa Open

DURBAN, South Africa -- Sweden's Carl Pettersson shot an 8-under-par 64 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the South African Open.

Kwan leads after short program

LOS ANGELES -- As Michelle Kwan searches to recapture her brilliance and joy, the answer is right there in Sasha Cohen.

Kwan was beautiful Thursday, which was enough to win the short program in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. But Cohen was the one who electrified the arena, displaying the magic that once belonged to Kwan.

''I trained really hard for this, so I'm really pleased with my performance,'' Cohen said. ''I don't think I really could have done much better.''

Kwan won seven judges, while Cohen and Angela Nikodinov each got one. Sarah Hughes was a close third, and Nikodinov was fourth in the incredibly strong event.

Eldredge wins sixth U.S. title

LOS ANGELES -- Todd skipped the quad, yet soared to his sixth U.S. title. Making it even sweeter, Todd Eldredge is headed for his third Olympics, hoping to grab the medal that has eluded him.

Despite not attempting the quadruple jump that has been the bane of his otherwise brilliant career, Eldredge used surpassing artistry to beat defending champion Tim Goebel on Thursday night in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

They were tied after the short program, but Eldredge won the free skate with his spins, footwork and just enough guts to pull off eight triple jumps.

''In your mind, you can imagine anything,'' said Eldredge, who didn't even compete on this level for two years after the Nagano Olympics. ''That's part of the reason I came back. You dream certain things and you hope to achieve those dreams. One of those was achieved tonight. Hopefully I've got one left for next month.''

Joining Eldredge and Goebel in next month's Salt Lake City Games will be Michael Weiss, who overcame nearly two years of frustration -- physically and on the ice -- to finish third.

Eldredge is behind only Dick Button and Roger Turner, who each won seven national championships. Just as significantly, he gets to pursue the Olympic medal that escaped his grasp twice before.

Chosen for the team in 1992 despite missing nationals with a back injury, Eldredge was not in shape at Albertville and wound up 10th. A bad case of the flu cost him a spot in 1994, but he came back to win his fifth U.S. crown in 1998. At Nagano, after a solid short program, he stumbled badly in the free skate and finished fourth.

His quest for an Olympic medal incomplete, Eldredge returned to the scene last year, finishing second at nationals and third at worlds. Now, he looks ahead to one final fulfilling performance at Salt Lake City.

Goebel heads to his first Olympics as the only American who can jump with Russian stars Alexei Yagudin and Yevgeny Plushchenko. He will need every one of his quads -- and then some -- to push them. And Eldredge.

Goebel easily nailed most of his jumps in a smooth routine to ''An American In Paris'' that would have made Gene Kelly comfortable. The only blemishes: a fall on a quadruple toe loop after he'd hit a quad salchow-triple toe combination, and a hand to the ice on the first of two triple axels.

Far less stiff after working with coach Frank Carroll and choreographer Lori Nichol, Goebel still didn't collect overwhelming artistic marks, leaving plenty of room for Eldredge, who then swept the nine judges.

Asked if he thought he deserved to go to Salt Lake as national champion, Goebel said, ''I don't know. He's been around a lot longer and been the world champion (in 1996).''

Weiss, the 1999 and 2000 U.S. champ who has struggled ever since and is having a poor season, sneaked into third and onto his second Olympic team. He did so in vastly different fashion than in '98, when he closely challenged Eldredge for the national crown and was seventh in Nagano.

Weiss fell on his opening jump, a planned quadruple toe-triple toe combination. But knowing he needed a quick spark, Weiss almost immediately improvised, trying another quad-triple jump -- he barely two-footed the quad landing -- and later throwing in a triple axel-double toe combo.

''I had a semiplan,'' he admitted. ''I think that is the first time I put a second quad in.''

Though his routine was marked by sloppy landings and the lack of a triple flip, Weiss was awarded enough high marks to send him to Salt Lake.

''I want to be on this team really badly, and I guess it showed,'' he said. ''I am happy. This was a very stressful couple days for me. I didn't expect to fight like this.''

Matt Savoie, third heading into Thursday night, had some nice innovations in his program, including a triple lutz coming out of a hydroplane. He was much more fluid than Weiss, but perhaps hurt by the lack of a quad, he slipped behind Weiss as the fans booed the scoring.

''By my standards I would hope for more,'' Savoie said. ''I always hope we're going to send the best team to the Olympics and if that is the way I was going to skate in the Olympics, then that's not good enough.''

Weir, 17, the world junior champion and America's rising star, figures to have his day at another Olympics. He skated last and was uninspiring, landing five triples, but falling once and not completing a triple loop to drop off the international team.

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