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  • Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    Kwan rolling toward third world title

    BY SALVATORE ZANCA -- Associated Press
     HELSINKI, Finland (AP) -- Michelle Kwan began a journey to her third title today with a superb performance in her qualifying round for the World Figure Skating Championships.
     Completing six triple jumps with ease and grace despite a cold for which she has been taking medication, Kwan easily won the qualifying group with marks from 5.6 to 5.9. She only did a triple-double combination and cut down another triple to a double lutz, but was otherwise solid in technique and exquisite in grace.
     "I felt a little tired in my program but thought 'one thing at a time'," Kwan said.
     She received one 5.5 for technical merit from the Slovakian judge.
     Maria Butyrskaya of Russia won a controversial split decision in the other group despite three mistakes.
     Kwan did not make any errors but only did a triple-double combination and cut down another triple to a double lutz. Otherwise, she was solid in technique and exquisite in grace.
     "My jumps seemed solid but I could have done better," Kwan said.
     Highlighting her performance were two spiral sequences that emphasized the choreographic difference between her and the other competitiors. Her marks were far ahead of the next best of the group, Vanessa Gusmeroli of France.
     Tonight, the pairs title will be decided with Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who won the short program on Monday, seeking their second straight world title.
     How Kwan would perform after having to take antibiotics was in doubt until she took off on her first jump, a triple lutz-double toe loop combination that was secure. Then she went into a long back spiral with her leg almost vertical to the ice and her skate well above her head.
     "I'm feeling a little weak. I'm taking my medication and hopefully my body will get used to it and I will be fine later on," Kwan said.
     She now has a day of rest before coming back for Friday's short program and repeating the long routine to "Ariane"' on Saturday to defend her world title.
     Her coach, Frank Carroll, said they hadn't decided whether she would practice on her day off. Kwan said she is overcoming the cold, but feels only about "80 percent in energy."
     The qualification round counts for 20 percent of the final score. A misstep or a missed jump could have been costly for Kwan. But she now will be equal in points with Butyrskaya, who captured the second qualification group over Tatiana Malinina of Uzbekistan.
     Butyrskaya started strong with two good triple jumps. Then she faltered on the next three, including an awkward split coming down from a triple salchow. She ended with another triple, three in all.
     Malinina had four triples and did not make a major mistake, although cutting down two jumps. Julia Soldatova, a rising Russian who placed third in the qualifier, had six triple jumps.
     The first place votes from the judges were split among those three but Butyrskaya had the majority of firsts and got the overall top position.
     Under the new ISU scoring system, Kwan and Butyrskaya now enter the short program each with .4 factored placings.
     The key consideration was that Kwan would not be trailing anyone entering the short program, which could cost a skater a chance to win -- as happened in the men's event Tuesday.
     Elvis Stojko, the three-time world champion, finished third in the qualifying, followed by a third in Tuesday's short program. Previously, a third place in the short would still keep him in solid contention for his fourth world title.
     Now he needs help -- a lot of it -- if he is to vault past the Russians ahead of him in Thursday's free skate. Both Russians won their group qualifications on Monday.
     The championship is there for either Yevgeny Plushenko or Alexei Yagudin to lose. If either wins the long program -- or comes in second in the long to Stojko -- the title is his.
     A few mistakes by both would be needed for Stojko to win.
     Hoping for a mistake from the 16-year-old Plushenko would be risky. He was impressive with his jumps in the short, skating to "Hava Nagila."
     Yagudin landed a bit off on his opening triple axel-triple toe loop combination, but stayed in form for the rest of the circus-themed routine, full of vivid and amusing gestures.
     American champion Michael Weiss was fourth after a program that was less technically ambitious than the others.
     Russians also took the lead in the ice dance event with Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov putting in a smooth performance to the Paso Double and Tango Romantica.

    World Figure Skating Results

     HELSINKI, Finland (AP) -- Results Wednesday of the World Figure Skating Championships at Hartwall Arena:
     (Top 15 advance to short program)
     Group A
     1. Michelle Kwan, United States, .4 factored placings.
     2. Vanessa Gusmeroli, France, .8.
     3. Viktoria Volchkova, Russia, 1.2.
     4. Sarah Hughes, United States, 1.6.
     5. Anna Rechnio, Poland, 2.0.
     6. Diana Poth, Hungary, 2.4.
     7. Eva-Maria Fitze, Germany, 2.8.
     8. Yulia Lavrenchuk, Ukraine, 3.2.
     9. Lucinda Ruh, Switzerland, 3.6.
     10. Marta Andrade, Spain, 4.0.
     11. Valeria Trifancova, Latvia, 4.4.
     12. Idora Hegel, Croatia, 4.8.
     13. Olga Vassiljeva, Estonia, 5.2.
     14. Julia Sebestyen, Hungary, 5.6.
     15. Lu Meijia, China, 6.0.
     16. Jung Min-Ju, South Korea, 6.4.
     17. Anna Dimova, Bulgaria, 6.8.
     18. Kaja Hanevold, Norway, 7.2.
     19. Rocio Salas Visuet, Mexico, 7.6.
     20. Anna Chatziathanassiou, Greece, 8.0.
     Group B
     1. Maria Butyrskaya, Russia, .4 factored placings.
     2. Tatiana Malinina, Uzbekistan, .8.
     3. Julia Soldatova, Russia, 1.2.
     4. Elena Liashenko, Ukraine, 1.6.
     5. Silvia Fontana, Italy, 2.0.
     6. Fumie Suguri, Japan, 2.4.
     7. Yulia Vorobieva, Azerbaijan, 2.8.
     8. Jennifer Robinson, Canada, 3.2.
     9. Angela Nikodinov, United States, 3.6.
     10. Julia Lautowa, Austria, 4.0.
     11. Sabina Wojtala, Poland, 4.4.
     12. Alisa Drei, Finland, 4.8.
     13. Caroline Gulke, Germany, 5.2.
     14. Veronika Dytrtova, Czech Republic, 5.6.
     15. Zuzana Paurova, Slovakia, 6.0.
     16. Ingrida Snieskiene, Lithuania, 6.4.
     17. Klara Bramfeldt, Sweden, 6.8.
     18. Marion Krijgsman, Netherlands, 7.2.
     19. Shirene Human, South Africa, 7.6.
     20. Dow-jane Chi, Taiwan. 8.0.
     21. Helena Pajovic, Yugoslavia, 8.4.

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