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Kwan's wild week at worlds ends with bronze, 6.0s and streaker

Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2004

DORTMUND, Germany Michelle Kwan has seen a lot in her 11 world championships but nothing like this: a fall during qualifying, a timing penalty in the short program, a streaker in the free program.

''It's been a tumultuous week,'' she said.

And it was a week in which her championship reign ended amid a mix of low, high and perfect scores. Japan's Shizuka Arakawa was the startling winner with a triple jump-packed routine while Sasha Cohen dropped to second place second and Kwan finished third.

Kwan failed to capture her sixth world title but did gain her ninth consecutive medal in a world championship.

''It's crazy,'' she said. ''After 11 world championships, and still there are lots of things.''

Like a streaker just before she was getting ready to skate.

''At first, I thought they were penalizing me for the two seconds over the short program,'' she said, joking.

''But, really, I was skating around and I thought he was a big flower girl,'' Kwan said. ''Then I though he might have a gun. Who knows what he was thinking? He was crazy, but thank God he wasn't that crazy.''

After taking off his shirt and donning a tutu, the streaker was forced off the ice by five security guards. Organizers identified him as a 30-year-old Canadian. He was briefly detained and released.

Kwan had to leave the ice, then refocus. She came back to skate a fast, fluid and elegant program to ''Tosca.'' Judges rewarded her with six 6.0 marks for artistry, giving her a career total of 50 perfect marks in Olympic-eligible competition. With a new judging system most likely to be implemented, they could be the last.

''I've been very honored to get so many in my career,'' Kwan said.

Kwan's medal streak at the worlds is a U.S. record, with only Sonja Henie ahead of her with 11 medals. Kwan would not say if she will be back next year.

''Who knows? I am enjoying myself,'' she said. ''I love competing. I have to make a decision. It's not right now.''

She entered Saturday's free skate with little chance to win the gold. She had fallen in the qualifying round Wednesday and was fourth after the short program in which she was penalized by skating two seconds too long. On Saturday, a U.S. protest was denied over Kwan's short program. The International Skating Union said three independent sources confirmed the time of 2 minutes, 42 seconds.

Arakawa executed seven triple jumps, including a difficult triple lutz-triple toe loop-double loop combination. She won a perfect 6.0 mark, rarely given for technical merit. The artistry marks for her stirring ''Turandot'' program also were high, between 5.8 and 5.9.

''I'm so happy that I could put every emotion and all the power into my free skating,'' she said.

Arakawa recently teamed with coach Tatiana Tarasova, who split with Cohen in December. She had been with Richard Callaghan, 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski's coach. Now Cohen works with Robin Wagner, coach of the 2002 Olympic champion, Sarah Hughes.

''It is a little funny with all the coaching switches going around,'' Cohen said. ''Everyone has to find what works for them.''

Cohen wasn't quite as sparkling as she was during the qualifications and short program, which gave her the lead entering the free program.

''Overall, I would say I was happy with my performances here. It could have been better,'' the American said. ''But I did a lot of good things.''

Like getting her first medal in a world competition after consecutive fourths. She had shaky landings on her opening jumps, although doing six triples in all, and landed forward on two feet while trying a triple salchow.

''I had a really wacky takeoff, and I wasn't able to rotate,'' said Cohen, who recovered to gain marks from 5.6 to 5.9.

Russian women had their worst showing in 10 years. Irina Slutskaya, the world champion in 2002 and Olympic silver medalist, finished ninth and Elena Sokolova was 10th. That means the country will have only two spots for its women at next year's worlds.

The performance by the Russian women was a setback for a nation that will host the worlds next year in Moscow. The last world championships in Russia was in St. Petersburg in 1903.

Russia had other reasons to celebrate, however. Russians won gold in three of the four events Evgeni Plushenko, men's title; Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, pairs; and Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, ice dancing.



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