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Plushenko takes crown

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) The favorite's role agreed with Evgeni Plushenko, even if he didn't have his very best stuff.

The Russian won his second World Figure Skating Championships title Thursday night, sweeping the judges to edge American Tim Goebel. Japan's Takeshi Honda was third, repeating his standing of a year ago, as did Goebel.

Plushenko, 20, has chased countryman Alexei Yagudin since the 1998 Olympics, almost always losing out in the major events. Only in 2001, when Yagudin was skating injured, did Plushenko beat him at worlds.

But Olympic champion Yagudin, who was in the stands at the MCI Center, is not competing this season because of a hip problem. Plushenko seized the opportunity, hitting two quadruple jumps and six triples he did a quad-triple-double combination as an opener.

And he did it with a sore left knee, although he didn't take a pain-killing injection, as he predicted he might.

It's nicer to win the second time,'' he said. There was a lot of pressure. Tim skated very well, he made two quads.

It was hard. I am very tired right now.''

But he also under-rotated a triple flip and had some shaky landings. His surpassing artistry, however, made a huge difference, and he received nothing but 5.9s for presentation.

Goebel stuck with his old reliable An American in Paris'' routine that won him bronze at the Olympics and silver at worlds last year. The program fits him so snugly now that if he never abandoned it, that would be understandable.

More animated than usual he even wore a smile a minute into the program and appeared to have tears in his eyes as he finished Goebel was spot-on with his jumps. That, of course, is not unusual.

He hit two quads, one in combination, two triple axels and seven triples in all. Goebel lingered longer than usual before leaving the ice, waving a pair of beanie babies to the crowd as he departed.

It's been such a hard year for me,'' he said. Last year, I had so much success, and this year started off injured and then I had a disastrous nationals.

I'm just so happy to bounce back from that.''

Goebel skated around the ice waving an American flag and wearing a huge grin after the medals ceremony.

His marks ranged from 5.7 to 5.8, and Goebel was thrilled with another silver to conclude a distressing year marked by injury and a flop in the free skate at nationals that dropped him behind Michael Weiss.

Weiss, skating before his hometown crowd in an event he has pointed to for years, had a difficult time from the outset. His planned quadruple toe loop turned into a triple, he stepped out of another quad, and cut a triple axel to a double.

When he headed off the ice, the native of nearby McLean, Va., had a stoic look. He also had fifth place.

This one didn't end the way I wanted it to, but I got a lot accomplished,'' said Weiss, who at 26 is considering competing again next season. I'll keep swinging and I'll get it right.''

Honda, skating first in the final group, had a sensational flash of footwork to finish off his routine to Riverdance.'' But he also stepped out of a quad toe loop that would have led off a combination jump, and several spins were short.

The Japanese star stood shaking his head when his music was over, and his marks of 5.4 through 5.8 reflected those errors.

Still, he was third again.

Ryan Jahnke, at 25 making his world championships debut, had a rough free skate and slipped to 13th. Still, he found a positive side to the week.

This entire week has been a really good week for me. I am glad I got the grasp of it,'' he said. It was real positive pretty much up until this performance.''

Earlier, Russia's Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh, the defending champions, edged Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz, in the original dance. Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto were seventh, one spot in front of five-time national champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev.



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