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American men go home without a medal

DORTMUND, Germany -- On a night when everyone seemed to pull
off a quadruple jump, Johnny Weir and Michael Weiss could not -- and
the American men went home without a medal for the first time in 10
years.

Weir, the American champion, and Weiss, who has won the American
title three times, finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the
men's final at the World Figure Skating Championships on Thursday.

Russia's Evgeni Plushenko won his third world title, defeating
French rival Brian Joubert. Stefan Lindemann of Germany was third
and Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland fourth. All four landed quads.

Between Plushenko, Joubert and Lambiel there were six quads,
about six more than Americans outside of Tim Goebel have done over
the past decade.

The last time the American men did so poorly at worlds came in
1994, when Scott Davis was just seventh.

"It wasn't easy to skate in this group," Weiss said. "My big
mistake was that I did my first axel as double, I was a bit afraid
before every jump until I managed my last jump."

The American women have a better chance to win medals when they
have the short program Friday. Sasha Cohen leads one group and
Michelle Kwan, the five-time world champion, is intent to improve
her chances after a shaky start.

Though Weir did not have a quad in his program, he did eight
elegant triples -- just as he did at the U.S. nationals. His marks
showed it with a range of 5.3 to 5.7 for technical and up to 5.8
for artistry.

"I expected 5.5 to 5.6 range but to get a 5.8 at my first
worlds was really telling me that I should keep pushing to get 5.9s
and maybe 6.0s next year," Weir said.

Weir came back from a lackluster seventh in qualifying.

"My goals are working on quads and the quad flip," Weir said.
"I want to medal next year."

Plushenko had two quadruple jumps -- including one in a
three-jump combination. He also had a unique triple axel-triple
flip sequence, the first completed in a major competition.

He received marks that included four 6.0s for artistry in his
homage to ballet master Vaslav Nijinsky. He got technical merit
scores that included 10 5.9s from the 14 judges.

"Finally, I pulled myself together and did two quads. I did my
axel-flip," he said. "The third world title is great, and I thank
destiny."

As dynamic and elegant as it was, the program was not error
free: On a final attempt at a triple jump, Plushenko simply went
backward to the ice.

"I didn't think I lost it because I did two quads. I did
combinations no one else could do," he said. "I just was sitting
in the kiss 'n' cry and thinking about what kind of marks I would
get -- 6.0 or 5.9," Plushenko said.

He got a bunch of them and all firsts for the free skate and a
clear victory after leading after Tuesday's short program.

Plushenko previously won in 2001 and 2003. It was the seventh
straight world title for Russian men.

The 21-year-old Plushenko had been only slightly favored to win
ahead of Joubert, a rising star who peels off quad jumps easily but
lacks his Russian rival's depth and artistry.

"I am very happy because it's my first medal in the worlds,"
Joubert said.

Joubert beat Plushenko in this year's European championship and
finished second, just behind the Russian, in the short program
earlier this week.

Joubert has even hired Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin -- who
defeated Plushenko at the Winter Olympics, capping years of rivalry
between the two Russians -- to help him train.

Plushenko's victory was the second night of gold for Russia. On
Wednesday, Russians Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin won the
pairs title.

Russians lead in the ice dance with Tatiana Navka and Roman
Kostomarov ahead entering Friday's free dance final.