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Michelle Kwan Wins Skating Crown

January 10, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Michelle Kwan and Yevgeni Plushenko outshone the professionals Sunday as the U.S. champion won the women’s title and the young Russian took the men’s crown at the Honda Lev Cup.

The ice dancing title went to the Russian professional pair of Maya Usova and Evgeny Platov. Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia won the pairs competition.

In the interpretive free program before a capacity crowd of 10,000 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Kwan and Plushenko retained the leads they had after the short program.

Kwan, the 18-year-old world champion, started with a single axel that was reduced from a planned double axel. It was the only flaw for the Olympic silver medalist in a program that included spirals, spins and flying camels plus two clean triple jumps to the music from ``East of Eden.″.

Russians Maria Butyrskaya and Irina Slutskaya finished second and third, respectively. Japan’s Yuka Sato, who turned pro after winning the 1994 world championship, placed fourth.

``The first mistake was a little stupid,″ Kwan said. ``After the mistake, I told myself, `OK, Michelle, you’ve got to get into it ... just forget (it).′ ″

For her free program, Kwan received a perfect 6.0 mark from one judge.

In the free program of professional-amateur skating, greater emphasis is placed on the skaters’ interpretation of the music and artistry than on technical difficulty.

The 16-year-old Plushenko, winner at Skate Canada in November and the NHK Trophy in December, started with a clean triple axel and flying camel spins. His routine also included a circle step sequence, spirals and three more flawless jumps.

``One-hundred percent,″ Plushenko said of his performance.

Russian Alexei Yagudin placed second and Todd Eldredge of the United States was third.

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