ESPN.com - SKATING - Kwan rules Worlds for a fourth time

 
Saturday, March 24
Kwan rules Worlds for a fourth time



VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Michelle Kwan has her fourth world championship – and a big edge heading to the Olympics.

The last four women to win the final World Figure Skating Championships before an Olympics went on to capture gold.

Michelle Kwan
Michelle Kwan was flawless in her title defense and the victory makes her the early favorite heading into the 2002 Olympics.
Kwan also tied the U.S. record for world medals with her sixth – she also has two silvers.

American Sarah Hughes earned the bronze Saturday night. "Four times, that's awesome," said Kwan, who broke down in tears backstage when she learned she had won. "No words can describe what I felt."

Kwan didn't miss a thing. The triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination that often has plagued her was a snap. So were the other five triple jumps, the precise spins and the exquisite spirals that have marked her as a champion.

She laid down the challenge for Russia's Irina Slutskaya, who was next onto the ice. Slutskaya, winner of the short program, met it with a triple salchow-triple loop-double toe combination and had six clean triples.

But she had two other sloppy landings and her presentation, usually a strong point, lacked flash. When Slutskaya, the runner-up in 1998 and 2000 to Kwan, saw she was second again, she shrugged and left the "kiss and cry" area without acknowledging the crowd.

The fans already were on their feet cheering Kwan's victory, which placed her in a very special category. She has won more world titles than Peggy Fleming and as many as Katarina Witt.

Witt (1987), Kristi Yamaguchi (1991), Oksana Baiul (1993) and Tara Lipinski ('97) all held the world crown when they went to the Olympics the next year. All repeated the golden feat at the games.

"I thought about that," Kwan said. "You can't go by what happens in the history books. Next year is something different."

Hughes, 15, showing the maturity and elan of someone with 10 years more experience, nailed seven triples in her smooth yet aggressive performance to "Don Quixote." For someone at just her third worlds, it was a superb showing, marking Hughes as an Olympic contender.

"This whole day, I was so excited since I woke up," Hughes said. "I usually take a nap and went to lie down, but I kept going through the program in my head. I had sort of like a fire in my belly."

Things didn't go nearly so well for the third American, Angela Nikodinov, who stood third after the short program. Nikodinov was floating along brilliantly until falling on a triple salchow three minutes into her program.

She stumbled to the end with two more mistakes and wound up fifth.

Still, it was a good week for the 20-year-old Nikodinov, who previously was 12th and ninth at worlds.

"I am disappointed because I am skating really well," she said. "But I think I put out so many great practices, my qualifying round was better than this and my short program was the best I've done. It's been the best competition, I think, of my whole skating career."

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AUDIO/VIDEO
video
 Michelle Kwan lands a triple toe/triple toe combination on her way to a gold medal.
avi: 1275 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Irina Slutskaya stumbles with a combination and opens the door for Michelle Kwan.
avi: 1002 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

audio
 ABC's Melissa Stark sits down with Michelle Kwan and her coach Frank Carroll after Kwan captured the World Championship.
wav: 911 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6