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Skating Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 06:24 GMT
Favourite Kwan takes early lead
American Michelle Kwan leads the ladies' figure skating competition after an impressive display in the short programme.
Kwan won 5.9s for her presentation
By BBC Sport Online's James Cowling

Michelle Kwan of the United States took the early lead in the ladies competition by winning the short programme, but only by the skin of her teeth.

Although Kwan received 5.9s all across the board for presentation, the judges had a mixed view when it came to her marks for required elements.

Those marks ranged from 5.5 all the way up to 5.9.

The reigning world champion opened with a triple lutz, double toe loop combination, but not only did she take off on the wrong edge on the lutz, she also under rotated the jump.

American Sasha Cohen was the surprise package
American Sasha Cohen was the surprise package
Some judges failed to make the required deductions for those two errors.

The 21-year-old did go to land a triple flip, the required double axel, and performed a beautiful spiral sequence, but she was slow throughout the programme compared to some of the others and both her combination and her flip lacked height.

Kwan lost the gold medal four years ago to compatriot Tara Lipinski by doing just that.

As for Irina Slutskaya of Russia, she performed a perfectly executed routine to finish second.

The 23-year-old opening combination was a huge triple lutz, double loop combination before landing a double axel and a very high triple flip jump.

Cohen confidence

The Russian had a great deal of speed throughout, and technically, it was superb.

Although Slutskaya had better required element marks than Kwan, the ones for presentation were lower.

She was a little disappointed that three judges placed her behind American Sasha Cohen: "My program is harder - harder jumps, harder spins, harder steps. Oh, well, it's sport. Judges judge."

Cohen skated one of the performances of her life to end up third.

The 17-year-old delighted the audience with her incredible flexibility she displayed in many of her spins and spirals.

Like Kwan, Cohen also took off on the wrong edge on her opening combination, a triple lutz, double loop, but it did not seem to bother the judges.

Cohen exuded the confidence of a true veteran despite this being her first major international competition.

The winner will be decided on Thursday with the free programme which is worth two-thirds of the final mark.

See also:

20 Feb 02 | Skating
A greater prize in skating
Links to more Skating stories are at the foot of the page.


Links to more Skating stories



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