Slutskaya, Yagudin rise up at Grand Prix

Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2001

KITCHENER, Ontario -- Russia's Irina Slutskaya edged American star Michelle Kwan in the Grand Prix finals for the third consecutive season Saturday night.

Following the first two Grand Prix losses, Kwan rebounded to beat Slutskaya in the world championships. The American will have another chance to top the Russian in the Salt Lake Olympics.

In the men's competition, Alexei Yagudin handed current world champion and Russian rival Yevgeny Plushchenko his first loss in nearly two years.

Canadian couples won the other two events. Jamie Sale and David Pelletier took the pairs and Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz won the ice dance event.

Slutskaya barely won the free skating over Kwan. Slutskaya's routine was a bit off technically but she still received four first-place votes from the seven-judge panel.

Kwan had six triples in her routine to ''Scheherazade'' compared to Slutskaya's four in her skate to ''Tosca.''

However, Kwan fell on her last attempt at a triple jump and her technical marks showed the error, mostly 5.6 and 5.7s with one 5.8. Slutskaya had three 5.8s among the technical marks. The presentation scores for both were mostly 5.8s and 5.9.

American Sarah Hughes had seven triples in a routine with various classical selections. She came in a close third and even outscored Kwan technically. She stayed in third to duplicate the bronze medal she won behind Kwan and Slutskaya in the world championships in Vancouver, British Columbia, in March.

Kwan has been without a coach since dismissing Frank Carroll in October.

In the men's event, Yagudin's emotional program beat Plushchenko's technical ability.

Yagudin won the final free skate, worth 50 percent of the total mark. They were tied after the second free skate, but a 4-3 judges' decision in the second free program was the tiebreaker in Yagudin's favor.

Yagudin's routine to the ''Man in the Iron Mask'' soundtrack lacked the number of difficult jumps performed by Plushchenko, who had two quadruple jumps and seven triples. Yagudin ended with two quads and five triples.

''Of course I made mistakes. I didn't try the combination on the second quad,'' said Yagudin, who has won three world titles.

The drama and feeling in his routine, especially in the final 30 seconds, earned Yagudin the artistic edge and, eventually, the victory.

''Each event has different judges. One judge may like the program and another one may not,'' Yagudin said. ''I just have to work more on my skating.

''Plushchenko has been first for so long, and I have been waiting for this.''

Pluschenko's last loss came in the 2000 world championships, won by Yagudin. Since then he has beaten Yagudin at the Russian championships, Europeans, 2001 worlds and Grand Prix finals.

Plushchenko used his Olympic routine for the first time to music from ''Cirque du Soleil'' and ''Moulin Rouge.'' Although Plushchenko completed all the jumps, he failed to display the same passion as Yagudin.

Plushchenko, nursing a sore ankle injured in a fall during practice on Thursday, said he took injections on Friday and Saturday before competing.

Americans Tim Goebel was third and countryman Todd Eldredge finished fourth.

Goebel, the current American champion, skated to the music of ''An American in Paris'' and completed two quadruple jumps.

Eldredge, the winner of five American titles, fell on his quad attempt, and had only four other triples, compared to the eight he had Friday night

''I tangled up my feet on the landing,'' Eldredge said of his first quad try. ''I got stuck.''

Sale and Pelletier earned 6.0 marks from the Canadian and U.S. judges for presentation in their routine to music from ''Love Story.'' They did not make a mistake while the Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze had one when she fell awkwardly on a throw triple salchow.

Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz upsetting the current and former world champions to win the ice dance title.

Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France, the 2000 world champions were second, and reigning world champions Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio placed fourth.

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