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  • Sunday, March 28, 1999

    Kwan, Weiss make world skating hard to figure

    By SALVATORE ZANCA -- Associated Press
     HELSINKI, Finland -- This was not how it was supposed to go for the United States at figure skating's world championships.
     Michelle Kwan and Michael Weiss both won medals, but the results were a bit confounding: Kwan was supposed to do better than silver; Weiss was not supposed to win a medal at all.
     Before the competition, the path seemed clear for Kwan to capture her third world title. Then she caught a cold and faltered in the short and long programs.
     Maria Butyrkskaya became the first Russian woman to win a world title, and she did so at the expense of Kwan.
     Kwan was lucky to leave with a silver because she could have been marked lower in the short program. She fell on the relatively simple double axel while others delivered clean programs with more difficult jumps.
     In the long program, she barely got second in the free skating. Bronze medalist Julia Soldatova is just 17, part of Russia's deep reservoir of young talent.
     Weiss was a long shot for a medal, needing to beat at least one of the trio of top Russians or three-time world champion Elvis Stojko of Canada.
     Weiss's first clean quad in the qualifying put him in a position to be a contender. Then, although slightly two-footing the jump in the final program, he had seven good triples to gain the bronze.
     Timothy Goebel came in 12th but he added his name to the skating history books with a quadruple salchow -- a solo one in qualifying and in combination with a triple toe loop in the finals.
     Trifun Zivanovic came in 16th, performing well during qualifying but faltering a bit in the finals.
     Goebel and Zivanovic made their debuts at senior worlds, as did Angela Nikodinov, 17th in the women.
     Finishing between Kwan and Nikodinov for the United States was 13-year-old Sarah Hughes. Her place on the American team came at the expense of another 13-year-old skater, Naomi Nari Nam
     Although both were under the 15-year-old age minimum, Hughes was picked because of an exception that allows junior worlds medalists to participate in the senior worlds. Hughes was second in the world junior championships in December.
     Hughes did not disappoint. She nailed six triples, including two triple lutzes, to finish sixth in the free skating and seventh overall.
     The pairs group finishers were Kyoko Ina and new partner John Zimmerman, ninth, and national champion Danielle and Steve Hartsell, 10th. Laura Handy and J. Paul Binnebose had to withdraw when Binnebose had the flu.
     In dance, Naomi Lang and Russian-born Peter Tchernyshev were 10th in their first worlds. Eve Chalom and British-born Mathew Gates were 17th.
     Based on the this year's results the United States will have three women, two men, pairs and ice dance couples at the world championships in Brisbane, Australia, in 2000.
     Kwan is still a question mark as she debates how much she will skate if she decides to go to college. Also, her competition schedule could be affected by an International Skating Union decision requesting all skaters who finish in the top six in the world championships to commit to the Grand Prix series.
     Kwan bypassed Grand Prix events this year to concentrate on more lucrative events.

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