'Wonderland' wins Cup of Russia

MOSCOW -- Irina Slutskaya took another strong step in her comeback from a knee injury Saturday, making an array of jumps in a
nearly perfect performance to win figure skating's Cup of Russia.

The Olympic silver medalist and 2002 world champion delighted her home crowd with a triple-triple-double combination and was an easy winner over current world champion Shizuka Arakawa of Japan.

"I am very happy with my skating today, first of all because I
finally managed to get together all the difficult elements I
practiced for such a long time," Slutskaya said.

Julia Sebestyen of Hungary, the European champion, was third. The top American was Jennifer Kirk in 10th place.

Slutskaya opened the program "Wonderland" with a triple lutz and followed with a combination of triple salchow-triple
loop-double toe jumps. At the 2001 world championships she was the first woman to do a triple-triple-double jump in competition.

Then Slutskaya added three other triples and no misses although she scaled a planned triple-double to a double lutz-double toe loop.

Still, the audience responded with a standing ovation.
Slutskaya, who skated the same free program as last year, received
a total score of 121.90 for free skating and a total of 183.02.
That was better than she did in winning in the Cup of China, her
first competition this season after a knee injury in September.

Slutskaya has been hampered the past two seasons by illness and concerns about her mother's kidney disease. She missed almost all of last season, although she entered in the world championships,
finishing ninth.

"I was a little bit nervous before getting to the ice," she
said. "But then I told myself that last year I had been watching
this competition on TV and had been so disappointed that I couldn't
skate. I missed skating so much last year, and that feeling helped
me to skate here."

With two victories, Slutskaya leads the standings entering the
Grand Prix final in Beijing next month. Arakawa also qualified as
have two other Japanese, Miki Ando and Yoshie Onda, and Canadians Cynthia Phanuef and Joannie Rochette.

Americans Sasha Cohen and Michelle Kwan, second and third behind Arakawa at the 2004 world championships, did not skate in the GP series.

Arakawa was second overall with 155.56 points, finishing third in the free skate. She under-rotated some jumps and stepped out
after landing her opening triple lutz to "Romeo and Juliet."

"All my problems were because I skated in a rush," she said.
"But, in general, I am satisfied with this competition."

Sebestyen enjoyed her best finish of the season: third overall,
second in the free. She did four clean triples.

"I am glad that I managed to improve today," she said, adding
it was important for her to test the Moscow rink, the site of the
world championships in March.