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  • Thursday, March 25, 1999

    Stojko not disappointed after finishing fourth

    By NEIL STEVENS -- Canadian Press
     HELSINKI -- Alexei Yagudin was not going to be beaten on this night, especially by an Elvis Stojko who had been totally fit for less than three weeks.
     Yagudin parlayed a perfect 4 1/2 minutes of free skating into a second consecutive world championship Thursday. Fellow-Russian Evgeny Plushenko finished second and Michael Weiss of the United States third.
     Stojko gave it his all. He was the only skater to attempt two four-revolution jumps, but the 1994, 1995 and 1997 world champ wound up fourth.
     "Pretty darn close," said Canada's champion. "I'm definitely not disappointed.
     "I fought like hell this year to get back (from a groin injury) and prove to myself that I am just as good and better than I was before. The last two weeks has been the only time I've been 100 per cent for about a year and a half. So, in essence this season has been a triumph for me."
     Emanuel Sandhu, Canada's second entry, finished 18th.
     Today, the women's singles short program precedes the conclusion of the ice dancing competition. Canadian champions Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz are in third place.
     Stojko is 27, Yagudin 18, Plushenko 16. Some might say Stojko's time has passed. Let them talk, he said.
     "But, to me, I'm back. Now I want to get on tour and enjoy myself and enjoy time off without having to worry about an injury."
     He landed one of his two quads cleanly, and added five triple jumps.
     Yagudin landed a tremendous quad and eight triples. The Polish judge gave him a 6.0 for technical prowess.
     "This season was so much harder than last season," Yagudin said. "It's so much harder to win a world title or a European title again than to win it the first time."
     He credited new coach Tatiana Tarasova with deepening his performances aesthetically.
     "He is a hero," said Tarasova.
     "He put things down when it counted, which is what it's all about," said Stojko, who was third until the last skater finished.
     Plushenko touched a hand to the ice to steady himself on landing a quad. It didn't count.
     "I didn't do a clean quad and this was my big mistake," he said. "If I had done a clean quad, I think I could have won."
     Highly doubtful.
     Weiss, 22, snatched the bronze medal with a superb routine. Seven of the nine judges put him ahead of Stojko.
     "I'm on Cloud Nine," he said afterwards.
     Stojko doesn't know where he'll be next season.
     "It's pretty positive," he replied when asked about returning for another world meet. "But there's some other things, too, that maybe I'd like to do other than compete in this -- maybe turn pro and see what else is there. I'll have to wait and see."
     He competes in the first pro-am of his career two weeks from now in New York.
     If he drops out of this scene, it will be because after a decade of pushing himself hard to be at the top it might be time to relax just a touch.
     "I always knew I was in the game, and age has nothing to do with it," he said. "If you've won it so many times and been there so many times it's not about the age, it's about what's left in the drive, what spurs you on.
     "That's the difficult part."
     Coach Doug Leigh says Stojko will let him know of his plans during the summer. But there was a great night of skating to ponder first. Seven quads were landed in all.
     "It's tough at the top right now," said Leigh. "And that's the way it's supposed to be."
     As for his skater, "It was a hell of a year and a hell of a shot. A first-class man gave a first-class shot. His will and perseverance is second to none. It just goes to show you the heart this person has got."
     Sandhu fell on a triple Axel but landed seven triples and skated well.
     "I'm pretty satisfied," Sandhu said. "That was the last time I'll skate that program so I really tried to put my soul into it."
     Coach Joanne McLeod said her skater had viewed this meet as "a bit of a scary procedure" after missing the cut for the free-skating long program in his debut a year ago.
     "I think that bug is out now," McLeod said. "I think you're going to find a really ready Emanuel Sandhu next year."
     She's taking a new job at a training centre in Vancouver and Sandhu, 18, will move to the West Coast from Richmond Hill, Ont., with her.
     This experience and an addition of speed to his skating will be of great benefit to his development.
     "It's definitely another step in my career," he said, not lacking in confidence. "I'd like to be world and Olympic champion."
     If Stojko retires, Sandhu will assume No. 1 status in Canada. He'd have large skate boots to fill.

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