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Russians pick Olympic team; Urmanov, Slutskaya in doubt

December 15, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Russian figure skating team for the Winter Olympics may not have defending men’s champion Alexei Urmanov or two-time European women’s champion Irina Slutskaya.

The Russian Skating Federation has formed its team for the games in February in Nagano, Japan. The selections were mostly based on the finish at the Russian national championships, but the federation left some openings.

Ilya Kulik and Alexei Yagudin will be the men’s selections, Igor Kabanov, a senior coach of the national team, said Monday.

The Russians have only two spots available in the Olympics because of their placings at the world championships last March in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Urmanov has been plagued by a groin injury he suffered at the world championships in March. He led after the short program, but had to withdraw just before the free skate.

His failure to complete the competition cost Russia the third spot.

He still has not fully recovered, injuring himself again and not being able to practice at a high level for weeks at a time. He missed the Russian competition at the end of last week.

But according to Kabanov, his participation has not been ruled out. Urmanov is training, and everything will depend on his form.

``The federation can always discuss the question of his membership in the team, since he has the advantage of being the Olympic champion,″ Kabanov said.

Even without Urmanov, Kulik and now Yagudin can challenge for the gold medal. Kulik just missed the world title in 1996, while Yagudin has gained strength and consistency, completing his third quadruple jump in competition at the Russian meet.

In the women’s event, Russian champion Maria Butryskaya and world junior champion Julia Soldatova were named to the team.

The third spot will go either to Slutskaya or Yelena Sokolova.

Slutskaya finished fourth, while Sokolova was third at the Russian nationals. The Russian federation said that whoever places higher in this weekend’s Champions Series final in Munich, Germany, will gain the third spot.

Oksana Gritschuk and Yevgeny Platov, the Olympic champions, will be on the ice dance team, although they did not compete at the Russian nationals. They asked the Russian Federation for permission to bypass the meet so they could concentrate on practicing.

Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov, this year’s Russian champions, were named along with Irina Lobacheva and Ilya Averbuch.

The three Olympic pairs will be Marina Yeltsova and Andrei Bushkov, Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, and Oksana Kazakova with Artur Dmitriev.

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