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  • Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    Skaters jump for new format

    Six skaters, including Stojko, land quads

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
      HELSINKI, Finland -- It's a big day in skating when an Australian lands a quad.
     Six skaters, including Anthony Liu from Down Under, nailed clean quadruple jumps yesterday during the men's qualifying competition at the world figure skating championships.
     Five were quad toes, the sixth a rare quad salchow performed by American Timothy Goebel, who still just barely managed to crack the top five in his group.
     Fifteen skaters from each of two 21-skater groups advanced.
     Canada's Elvis Stojko, a three-time world champion, was far from perfect, but he skated well. The Richmond Hill skater landed a clean quad, only his second of the season, and four triples at the state-of-the-art Hartwall Arena.
     That usually is enough to put anyone in the top three or four.
     As it is, Stojko, who turned 27 yesterday, was third in his qualifying group, behind Russian Evgeny Plushenko, 16, and American Michael Weiss, 22. Technically, four skaters are seeded ahead of the Canadian heading into today's short, but with the qualifying round worth only 20% of the overall score, he is certainly in the medal hunt.
     "This was kind of a testing ground for me, getting the body to trust itself, because this is the first competition I've had since before last year's nationals when I was 100%," said the healthy Stojko, who finally has recovered from a year-long groin injury.
     Stojko, who fell attempting a second quad, said the new format of skating a qualifying round, followed by the short and then the official long program, has thrown everyone for a loop.
     Defending world champion Alexei Yagudin of Russia, who skated a wonderful program without a quad to win the second qualifying round, certainly wasn't pleased.
     "It is the stupidest thing in my life," said Yagudin, who landed eight triples, including a triple-triple combo, despite a sore left calf muscle.
     Yagudin, 19, suggested that the better system would be pre-qualifying the top 10 from the year before.
     Stojko admitted he held up slightly yesterday.
     "I think when the building fills up and when the time comes (for the long), that's when you get the pump," said Stojko, who skates his long to the Merlin soundtrack and his short to the Taiko drums.
     Russia's 1994 Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov and Takeshi Honda of Japan, Stojko's training partner at the Mariposa club in Barrie, also qualified for the final group of six heading into today's short.
     Talk of a Russian sweep emerged again with all three skating well. Yagudin predicted two Russians and Weiss eventually would land on the podium.
     Richmond Hill's second entry into this competition, 18-year-old Emanuel Sandhu, finished 11th in his qualifier, with a decent performance that included four triples, although no combination or quad. Sandhu's coach Joanne McLeod decided to yank the quad from his repertoire in the qualifier, when it was determined that Sandhu would skate first in his group and would not have sufficient time to warm up.



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