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  • Saturday, March 27, 1999

    Favoured Kwan stuck in fourth place

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
      HELSINKI, Finland -- It all went wrong for Michelle Kwan.
     The two-time world champion was supposed to win her third women's singles title in a walk. Instead, she sits fourth after the short program and needs a small miracle to capture the gold medal today.
     The Torrance, Calif., native fell attempting a double Axel yesterday, a required element, and placed fourth in the short, where she sits overall.
     If not for rather generous presentation marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.9, the elegant skating star would be right out of the medal picture.
     To win, Kwan, 18, has to capture today's freeskate and the leader, European champion Maria Butyrskaya of Russia, has to place third or lower. Another Russian girl, Julia Soldatova, 17, is second and Vanessa Gusmeroli, 20, of France is third.
     But none of the other skaters are taking anything for granted. Kwan, who brings an amazing mix of skill and grace to the sport, has earned many a perfect score of 6.0 during her career.
     "Michelle is still the best skater in the world. Maybe she lacked competitive experience this season," Gusmeroli said. "The competition isn't over yet."
     "I've done the triple Axel a million times," said a tearful Kwan, who skipped all the Grand Prix events this year. "I can close my eyes and do it. This time, I was wide awake and I just didn't do it."
     Kwan's coach Frank Carroll tired to keep the hysteria of Kwan's fourth-place showing in perspective. "She's a human being," he said, "not a machine."
     "(I'm) not Michael Jordan," Kwan said. "I don't control my own destiny. The other skaters have to miss. It's bad, bad karma."
     Jennifer Robinson of Windsor skated well to finish 13th heading into today's long program.
     BAD PAIR: The International Skating Union will not rule on the status of two judges who were caught by CTV cameras communicating to each other during Wednesday's pairs freeskate until May.
     "It's a shame, it's more than a shame," said Sally-Anne Stapleford, ISU technical committee chair. She also expressed regret that the controversy reflects badly on what has been quality judging at this competition.


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