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  • Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    Jennifer Robinson easily passes qualifying test

    By NEIL STEVENS -- Canadian Press
     HELSINKI (CP) -- Jennifer Robinson has returned to the world figure skating championships three years older and three times better.
     Robinson, competing in a world meet for the first time since 1996, breezed through a women's singles qualifying session Wednesday.
     "To come back after being gone for three years and to go out there and do a pretty good program was a relief," said Canada's champion, 22, from Windsor, Ont.
     Robinson was placed eighth in her group of 21. The top 15 in each of two groups advanced to the Friday short program. The free-skating final is Saturday.
     The judges put Maria Butyrskaya of Russia, who fell twice, in first place in Robinson's group. Tatiana Malinina of Uzbekistan was second and Julia Soldatova of Russia third.
     In the other group, defending champion Michelle Kwan of the United States was first, Vanessa Gusmeroli of France second, and Viktoria Volchkova of Russia third.
     "I feel like I belong here," Robinson said. "I've got a lot of new things I'm working on.
     "Speed was one of them and I hope that came through in this program. It's just really great to be back."
     Robinson finished 19th overall at the 1995 worlds in Birmingham, England. After slipping to 21st in Edmonton in '96, she slipped to third nationally two years in a row, which took her off the worlds team. After regaining her national title in January in Ottawa, the lone Canadian worlds berth was hers again.
     "In Edmonton, man, I was like, 'Dah, dah, OK I'm here.' Back then and now, I'm two different people," she said. "I have the same sense of humour but I've grown up quite a bit."
     Robinson fell on her triple Lutz attempt. There were other minor mistakes. But it was a vast improvement over Edmonton.
     "It definitely wasn't perfect," she said. "I'm disappointed I fell.
     "It needs to be a little sharper but I think I handled myself pretty well."
     Marks for technical content were from 4.4 to 5.3, for artistry from 4.5 to 5.5. It was a wide range, but she didn't seem to care.
     "I'm sure the last time I was at the worlds I would have been upset with those marks but now I can accept the fact I made mistakes, those are the marks they gave me, and it's time to move on to the next part of the competition," she said. "I'm looking forward to doing the short."
     Coach Doug Leigh is looking forward to watching.
     "Jennifer was bold and aggressive," Leigh said of her four-minute qualifying free-skating routine. "It was the step we've been waiting for.
     "She did herself proud. Her pride and self-esteem are up and when you have those things in your back pocket you're on your way."
     It was the best world championship free-skating performance in women's singles by a Canadian in at least four years.
     "We've been trying to get the confidence and ability in women's skating at home and that's Step 1," Leigh said of Robinson's qualifying effort.
     Meanwhile, Kwan delivered a flat performance that suggested she's vulnerable. The 18-year-old American did a triple-double combo instead of a triple-triple, and she doubled a planned triple Lutz. A 5.6 from the Finnish judge was her lowest artistry mark in years.
     "I could have done better but I'm feeling a little weak," said Kwan, who has a cold. "I'm taking my medication and, hopefully, my body will be used to it and will be fine later on."

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