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Elusive gold: Kwan finishes second at worlds

Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2002

NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- One month after failing to win the Olympic gold medal, Michelle Kwan is no longer even the world champion. Kwan lost the world title she held for the last two years, finishing second to Russia's Irina Slutskaya on Saturday at the World Figure Skating Championships.

''After the Olympics a lot of people decided not to come,'' Kwan said. ''For me it is like, if you don't show up, you don't gain anything, but also don't lose anything. I gained a lot by coming here.''

Not as much as Slutskaya, who beat Kwan for the fifth time this season to win her first world championship. Slutskaya had finished second to Kwan three times, including the last two years.

''A couple times I was so close and now I am just so happy as I feel the medal,'' Slutskaya said. ''It's sport and competing. Sometimes someone else wins. We are just competing. Maybe I am just lucky tonight.''

Kwan led at the Olympics after the short program but settled for the bronze medal when Slutskaya beat her out for second in the long program, giving the gold to American Sarah Hughes.

Hughes skipped the world championships, citing lack of training following the Olympic triumph.

Fumie Suguri of Japan finished third and Sasha Cohen of the United States was fourth. American Jennifer Kirk withdrew with a hip injury before the free skating.

''It has been a long season,'' said Cohen, who also finished fourth in Salt Lake City. ''I would have liked to have a medal but it doesn't turn out how you want.''

This was Kwan's seventh consecutive medal at the worlds. She has won four times and was the silver medalist in 1997 and 1999. It is the most medals for an American at the worlds.

''Of course, the Olympics didn't go 100 percent how I planned it,'' Kwan said. ''But you move to the future and for me I feel the future is very bright.''

Kwan is going into this season without a coach. She fired Frank Carroll in October and ended up without a world or Olympic figure skating title.

''I live with no regrets,'' Kwan said. ''My parents have taught me that over the years. Whatever you do, make a decision and stick to it.''

Slutskaya won the free skate ahead of Kwan although both did six triple jumps and didn't make a mistake. Slutskaya had six of nine firsts in the free skate to her routine from ''Tosca.'' She had all 5.8s and 5.9s except for a lone 5.7.

Kwan's routine to ''Scheherazade'' also had six triples, including two triple-double combinations like Slutskaya. But her landings were less secure than Slutskaya and the technical marks reflected it. Five of the technical marks were 5.7s, the rest 5.8s. Slutskaya had one 5.9 with seven 5.8s and the 5.7.

Slutskaya and Kwan considered trying triple-triple combinations but decided not to during the performance.

''There has been a lot of emphasis on triple-triple combinations,'' Kwan said. ''In a performance, it is really difficult if you are a little off in the first jump.''

Japan's Yoshie Onda was fifth and Ukraine's Elena Liashenko was sixth.

The championships ended with Russians taking three of the four titles. Alexei Yagudin won the men's title and Irina Lobacheva and Ilya Averbukh took the ice dance title.

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo became the first Chinese to capture the pairs title.

Next year's championships are in Washington. Kwan and Slutskaya intend to stay eligible but did not commit to next year's competitive season.

''I know for sure I want to go back to school,'' said Kwan, who started at UCLA in 1999 but dropped classes the past year to concentrate on the Olympics. ''I know I don't want to turn pro. I know I love competing.''



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