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  • Thursday, March 30, 2000

    Yagudin wins men's title

     NICE, France (AP) -- Russia's Alexei Yagudin won his third world figure skating title Thursday, overcoming a fall on his final triple lutz to edge Canada's Elvis Stojko.
     
     Though the program to Pucini's "Tosca" was wonderfully expressive -- earning seven 5.9s -- the technical flaws were costly. Yagudin, 20, grimaced, and crossed himself, then saluted the crowd before leaving the ice.
     
     Stojko fell on his opening quad and 18-year-old Russian Yevgeny Plushchenko spiraled completely out of contention. American Michael Weiss finished third.
     
     Plushchenko doubled on his first jump -- an intended quad -- and barely held the landing on a triple axel. He then started making things up as he went along. Instead of a planned triple axel, he attempted another quad and went down on both elbows.
     
     Weiss hit only six triples, touching down on a triple axel -- a respectable routine in the pre-quad era, but not exactly what he had planned. He hardly seemed in medal contention when he walked off the ice, judged second to Stojko at that point with Yagudin and Plushchenko still to go.
     
     "After watching them skate, I was more upset with myself," the 23-year-old Weiss said of Yagudin and Plushchenko. "If I'd gone in and done a better program, at least I might have pushed Yagudin."
     
     Yagudin had left his title fate in Plushchenko's hands.
     
     "He missed two quads, then I left. I understood I'd won," Yagudin said. "I was trying the whole season to be really the best. And then in 41/2 minutes your season is over."
     
     Stojko rebounded from a final on the opening quad to hit eight strong triples.
     
     "I think the reason people watch figure skating is you never know what's going to happen," said Stojko, a three-time world champion. "It's about never giving up. Not just quadruple jumps."
     
     Yagudin and 19-year-old American Timothy Goebel were the only skaters to hit two quadruples. Goebel did a quadruple salchow-triple toe loop combination and another quad toe loop. Bothered by a muscle injury in his left calf, he considered leaving out the quad toe loop, and hadn't practiced it since Sunday.
     
     Goebel finished 11th, one position better than last year.
     
     "This year wasn't about getting a medal. It was about me developing and improving," he said.
     
     In rare upset in the normally predictable dance event, Italians Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio took a lead with their ballroom-inspired original dance routine, beating the leading dance pair and home favorites Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, who slipped during the mandatory side-by-side step portion.
     
     "I can't say we skated really, really well," Peizerat said. "But we have a very strong and powerful program for tomorrow."
     
     Russians Irina Lobacheva and Ilya Averbukh are third going into Friday's final free program, which counts for 50 percent of the final score.
     
     Both of the American dance pairs are in the top 15. U.S. champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev are eighth.
     
     "We were hoping for a lot better, but it makes up for it when you know you've skated well," Lang said.
     
     Competing at their first world championships, Jamie Silverstein and Justin Pekarek improved from 14th following the compulsories to 13th going into the final with a flashy cha cha and sensuous rumba.
     
     At 16, Silverstein is the youngest competitor at the worlds. "We're really delighted," Pekarek said.



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