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Gymnast Karpenko Wins Prelims

March 7, 1998

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ Viktoriya Karpenko used a strong performance on the uneven bars and floor exercise to take the preliminary round in women’s gymnastics competition in the American Cup Friday night.

Karpenko took the lead with 9.7s on the bars and floor and had an all-around score of 38.187.

The Ukrainian narrowly beat American challengers Kristin Maloney and Vanessa Atler, who posted overall scores of 37.475 and 37.462, respectively.

``I feel very happy that it went well tonight,″ Karpenko said. ``I was a little afraid tonight that I would make a mistake.″

Maloney scored a 9.325 on her final event, the balance beam, to slip ahead of Atler as the top United States finisher.

``I was a little too nervous because there were a lot of good gymnasts,″ she said. ``After floor, I came back and did what I had to do. I’ll try to be more sharp Saturday.″

Rounding out the top eight who advance to Saturday’s final were Meng Fei of China, Maria Olaru of Romania, Anna Kovaleva of Russia, defending champion Elvire Teza of France and Irina Yevdokimova of Kazakhstan.

Kovaleva won the balance beam event, but fell out of competition for the top three spots after an 8.65 on the uneven bars.

Competition continues Saturday with the all-around finals.