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 Sunday, December 17
Butyrskaya's artistry proves unbeatable
 
 Associated Press

PARIS -- Former world champion Maria Butyrskaya of Russia won the women's event at the Lalique Trophy on Saturday although she was outjumped by American teen-ager Jennifer Kirk, who finished third.

Alexei Yagudin captured the men's title and Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the pairs title with a routine to the music of Charlie Chaplin with comical poses and pauses mixed with the traditional skating.

Jennifer Kirk
Jennifer Kirk of the U.S. usually was jumping all over the place, but that wasn't enough to win.

World champions Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizeret of France rallied to win the ice dance, helped by a 6.0 from the French judge.

Butyrskaya, who beat Michelle Kwan at the 1999 world championships, won with high presentation scores to piano music from a Russian movie, adding to her victory at the Nation's Cup in Germany earlier this month.

She had unanimous firsts from the judges, although she fell hard on a triple flip and doubled a second triple lutz. She did four triples compared to Kirk's seven, but the 27-year-old Russian's artistry was far superior than the 16-year-old Kirk's.

Butyrskaya pointed out the difference between her skating and Kirk's, who is shorter than 5 feet.

"This is ladies' skating. I think the jumps I did I did well," Butyrskaya said. "But there are just different levels of skating."

Kirk, from Newton, Mass., was marked down because her jumps were low, and her presentation was far behind Butyrskaya's. The Russian had six 5.8s and three 5.9s for artistry. Kirk's routine to Tschaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" earned scores between 5.4 and 5.7.

It was Kirk's first senior Grand Prix competition after winning the junior world title in March, and only her second year on the international circuit.

"I was happy with the jumps in my long program," Kirk said. "I think I could have skated a little faster, but I am happy with the results and I'm happy I got a medal."

Kirk was a gymnast until 9 before switching to skating.

"I learned about rotation, and I think that is how I got my tight rotation in the air," Kirk said.

Russia's Victoria Volchkova, who has been to two senior world championships, finished second ahead of Kirk by a 7-2 margin from the judges.

Julia Soldatova, who was third in the world for Russia in 1999 and now is representing Belarus, fell three times, but landed a triple-triple combination and finished sixth.

Yagudin, the three-time world champion, started with a quad-triple combination, then added seven triples to win easily.

"I had a simple practice this morning because I wanted to save the energy for tonight," Yagudin said. "I was tired this evening. You can feel OK, but the legs were a little sore.

"It was difficult to warm up, but on the ice I was OK."

He showed it with another outstanding performance. He received scores of perfect 6.0s from three judges and 5.9s from the other six for his presentation. His technical marks were a little lower with some landings a little rough.

Skating to music from the soundtrack of "Gladiator," he had his second clean performance in a row after winning at Skate Canada earlier this month.

Second was Frenchman Stanick Jeannette and third was another Russian, Roman Serov.

The competition was weakened when world medalists Elvis Stojko of Canada and Michael Weiss of the United States withdrew before the event with foot injuries.

In the pairs, the Russians used the Chaplin music to move up from second and hand Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier their first defeat of the season. The Canadians beat them at Skate Canada.

Although both couples made minor mistakes, the Russians were a little better with their style as they used pantomime in between the jumps and throws.

They earned four 5.9s in presentation, which made the difference in a 4-3 split on the judges cards.

Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze won world titles in 1998 and 1999 but withdrew from the world championships this year after she took a banned substance in a cold remedy. They also had to give up their European title.

Sale and Pelletier skated to Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde." Their routine, although delicate, was marred by two missed landings by Sale. She also made mistakes at the world championships in March that cost them a medal.

Third were American champions Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman. She had to put a hand down on a few landings, but their routine to music by Paganini was solid.

Ice dancers Anissina, born in Moscow, and Peizerat reversed positions with Russians Irina Lobacheva and Ilya Averbukh in the free dance.

Anissina and Peizerat skated a dramatic routine to a rock opera that gained them one 6.0 from the French judge for presentation although they had firsts from the rest of the judges.

Lobacheva and Averbukh, Anissina's former junior partner back in the former Soviet Union, were second to a version of a Bach Fugue made famous in the movie "Fantasia.".

Germans Kati Winkler and Rene Lohse of Germany took third, skating to Gospel music.

 


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AUDIO/VIDEO
video
 Maria Butyrskaya falls, but holds on to pull out a victory.
avi: 1347 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Alexi Yagudin executes a flawless triple-axel, triple-toe combination.
avi: 850 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat dazzle the home crowd.
avi: 1431 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

audio
 Jenny Kirk talks about winning her first medal in Senior International competition.
wav: 374 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6