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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 11:19 GMT

Young talent takes flight

Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Robin Cousins gives his reaction to the ladies figure skating final in Salt Lake City.

Well, it was an unbelievable night of ladies figure skating.

The results were unpredictable which was wonderful in some respects and disappointing in others.

We were all expecting the favourite, Michelle Kwan of the United States, to have a good skate and win the title, but it looked like the pressure got to her a little bit.

It was not Kwan, but her team-mate, Sarah Hughes, who skated out of her tree and became the Olympic Champion.

Connection with audience

In comparing Hughes' short and long programmes, it was like watching another person.

She was tentative in the short, but very relaxed in the long.

Sitting in fourth place, the 16-year-old Hughes had such a connection with the audience that she had absolutely nothing to lose.

I felt like I was watching her perform an exhibition number.

We were all thinking that she was fighting for the bronze medal. As it turned out, Kwan had one of the worst skates that I have seen in a long, long time.

She looked tense and slower than usual. I could tell that it just was not going to happen.

The person I really feel sorry for is Irina Slutskaya of Russia who won the silver medal.

Hughes deservedly won the long programme, but Slutskaya should have won the short.

If she had won the short and was second in the long, then she would have been the Olympic Champion.

Not meant to be

Overall, looking at all of the figure skating events, there was quite a discrepancy between the top 10 skaters and the rest of the field that I have not seen in the past.

What that says about the sport I am not sure, but the one thing that I have noticed is that the depth of skating from an international point of view is not as strong as it used to be.

Looking ahead, I think the next four years is going to be very interesting as there is a lot of young, fresh talent on the horizon.

We will get a good indication of who will be around in 2006 in the next year as many will be contemplating retirement in the next few days or the coming weeks.

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