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German Leads at Nations Cup

October 31, 1997

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) _ Elvis Stojko won the short program at the Nations Cup skating competition Friday, punching across the ice with speed and precision as unrelenting as the drums that paced him.

Others tried to match his percussion-driven moves, and some even out-jumped him.

But none matched the intensity of Stojko’s new short program, set to the rhythm of Kodo drums, which he previewed at the Nations Cup, but designed for the 1998 Olympics at Nagano.

The Canadian champion long acknowledged as a technical master grabbed two 5.9s for artistry.

``It’s a nonstop program from beginning to end, and you have to be very precise and accurate. It’s a challenge for me,″ said Stojko, the first skater to do a quadruple-double, then a quadruple-triple in competition.

``There’s more of me out there, more of what I can do with technically difficult steps in between,″ he said.

Igor Pashkevitch of Azerbaijan and Dmitry Dmitrenko of Urkraine hit triple-triple combinations, finishing second and third respectively. Stojko conserved energy with a triple-double _ and even touched down on the triple lutz.

American Michael Weiss punched through a powerful rhythmic routine, but only doubled on the second combination jump to finish fourth.

In the women’s competition, Germany’s Tanja Szewczenko, back on the ice after a long illness, conquered nerves and a set of jumps to win the short program.

Injury and a debilitating viral illness had forced Szewczenko to take a 19-month hiatus, and her face was tight with worry as she watched the first heat of skaters from the sideboards. Even as others skated, all cameras were trained on the 1995 German national champion, who hadn’t competed since the 1996 worlds.

It wasn’t until she was on the ice that Szewczenko relaxed into a smile _ and then only after hitting first a combination triple lutz-double toe, and later the triple toe.

``As I came out of the jumps, I didn’t feel anything,″ said Szewczenko ``But as I turned again, I realized I had done it,″

Szewczenko’s poise failed her on the double axel, where she stumbled, but the error was hardly felt in a competition where all of the skaters faltered.

Zuzanna Szwed of Poland swung out of a combination, finished second with a clean short program ahead of Ukraine’s Elena Liashenko.

European Champion Irina Slutskaya two-footed a pair of landings and finished a disappointing fifth, behind Hungarian Krisztina Czako.

Sidelined with shin splints since winning the 1997 World Junior Championships, American Sydne Vogel fell on a triple lutz and finished seventh in the short program.

``I was just off, I tried to force it and do my best,″ said Vogel, of Anchorage, Alaska.

World pairs champions Mandy Woetzel and Ingo Steuer of Germany led the competition with their tried-and-true bluesy short program. They led Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidz of Russia in second and Peggy Schwarz and Mirko Mueller of Germany in third.

In ice dancing, world silver medalists Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov of Russia dominated both the compulsory and short programs.

The Nations Cup is the second of six competitions in the Championships Series, which culminates in the final in Munich Dec. 19-21, the last major international competition before the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.