Kwan Wins Short Program at Worlds
Apr. 04, 1998
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ The Michelle Kwan who floats and flies is back.
Skating with the weight of expectations on her shoulders at the Olympics, Kwan never quite found that flair that makes her a skater like no other. It cost her the gold medal. She didn't want to let it cost her the world title.
So for a month she worked. And when she took the ice Friday for her short program at the World Figure Skating Championships, she let it rip.
``I was working on my speed and flow and my spins and to attack,'' she said. ``When I went out there, I just felt like everything was on the go. I felt really ready to go.''
She was. While her challengers were falling on their backsides, Kwan was putting on her best show since the national championships in January, when she received 15 perfect 6.0s to defeat eventual Olympic champion Tara Lipinski.
While she didn't get seven 6.0s like she did for her short program in Philadelphia, the one she got was more than enough to win Friday. Kwan gasped when she saw it, then grabbed coach Frank Carroll's knee.
With Lipinski home sick and two longshots right behind her, Kwan doesn't have to do much besides show up for tonight's free skate, and a second world title is hers.
Anna Rechnio of Poland, whose best finish in a major international event was ninth in the 1995 European champions, was second. Laetitia Hubert of France was third. The other American, Tonia Kwiatkowski, stepped out of a jump combination and finished eighth.
``I'm always glad I came, if I skate bad or if I skate good,'' Kwan said. ``Participating is what matters. I knew I was going to be here and I'm glad.''
So were the fans. They roared as soon as Kwan took the ice, and someone shouted ``Go Michelle!'' just before her music began. There were more American flags than at a Fourth of July parade.
She flew around the rink, landing every jump with her blade gripping the ice like a magnet. She made the audience feel every note of Rachmaninoff's piano concerto, giving it life with her intricate footwork.
When she landed her triple toe loop, a jump that's given her problems because of a stress fracture in her foot, a huge smile crossed her face. As she spiraled across the length of the rink, skating with her leg extended gracefully behind her, the crowd went wild.
``When I stepped on the ice, I saw the American flags and banners and I wanted to give to the audience the joy and freedom I have on the ice,'' Kwan said. ``I felt like they were carrying me through, and that was really nice.''
Kwan's technical marks, ranging from 5.5 to 5.8, were lower than she expected, and the Hungarian judge even had her second to Hubert. That was the same judge who gave Kwiatkowski a 4.3 for technical merit and had her 15th, far lower than any other judge.
While Kwan probably couldn't have been beaten anyway, no one even gave her a challenge.
First came Russia's Maria Butyrskaya, the European champion who can rival Kwan for elegance with her long legs and blonde beauty. POP! She singled the triple lutz in her jump combination and bobbled her double axel. The judges charitably put her fifth.
Next up was Russian Irina Slutskaya, a two-time European champion and bronze medalist in the 1996 world championships. BOOM! She fell on a triple lutz and finished fourth.
And last there was Germany's Tanja Szewczenko, who seems to have her own black cloud, she's had so much bad luck. CRASH! Szewczenko ran into the flower boy as she took the ice, then crashed into the sideboards on her opening triple lutz-triple toe combination. She also tried another triple toe at the other end of the rink _ a no-no in the short program _ and wound up 11th.
Those mistakes opened the door for Rechnio, 19th in the Olympics. Skating to ``Gone With the Wind,'' Rechnio's huge jumps carried her across the ice. She was so fast she made everyone else look as if they were skating in slow motion.
When she finished, she clasped her hands and pumped her fists in the air. She said she'd never skated a better short program, and she savored the moment, even signing a few autographs at the sideboards.
``It has been a long time since I have been able to do well,'' said Rechnio, who recently returned to Poland after training for three years in Marlboro, Mass.
It's been a while since Hubert did this well, too, finishing a disastrous 20th at the Olympics. She was one of only two skaters here to do a triple-triple jump combination.
In dance, the results were exactly as expected. In fact, they were predicted weeks ago, when two-time Olympic champions Pasha Grishuk and Yevgeny Platov announced they weren't coming.
Russians Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov _ who finished second to Grishuk and Platov in one national championship, three Europeans, two worlds and the Nagano Olympics _ won the title. Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France were second, one spot ahead of their Olympic finish. Also moving up a spot were Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz.
Five-time U.S. champions Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow, skating in their last amateur competition, were sixth.