Figure Skating
Skater Bios
 Monday, October 23
Yagudin captures third world title
 Associated Press

NICE, France -- While his chief competitors faltered, Russian Alexei Yagudin kept his nerve, hitting two quadruples in an expressive free program to win his third consecutive world figure skating title Thursday.

Elvis Stojko of Canada finished second despite falling on his opening quadruple. And American Michael Weiss won his second bronze with just six triple jumps -- perfectly respectable in the pre-quad era not so very long ago, but not exactly what he had planned.

Alexei Yagudin
Alexei Yagudin captured his third world championship in Nice, France.

Title contender Yevgeny Plushchenko improvised after missing an opening quad and spiraled completely out of contention, finishing fourth.

Yagudin started well, landing a quadruple toe, triple toe -- barely -- and nailing another quadruple toe on the other end of the ice. His triple axel landing was low, but held. He hit four more triples, including another axel, but fell on the final triple lutz. He left the ice defeated.

Though the program to Pucini's "Tosca" was at times balletic -- earning seven 5.9s -- the technical flaws were costly. Yagudin, 20, grimaced, and crossed himself, then saluted the crowd before leaving the ice.

The title was waiting for Plushchenko, the last to skate.

After doubling the planned quad, he barely held the landing on a triple axel and then started making things up as he went along. Where he had planned a triple axel, the 18-year-old Russian attempted another quad and went down on both elbows.

Yagudin was watching on television.

"He missed two quads, then I left. I understood I'd won," Yagudin said. "I was trying the whole season to be really the best. And then in 4½ minutes your season is over."

Stojko's experience showed when the three-time world champion hit three strong triples after slamming to the ice on the opening quad.

"It's about never giving up. Not just quadruple jumps," said Stojko, who at 28 is one of the oldest competitors. "If I keep that never-give-up attitude, it's weird, I end up at the top."

After touching down on a triple axel and stepping out of a quad, Weiss hardly seemed in medal contention when he walked off the ice, at that point second to Stojko with Yagudin and Plushchenko still to go.

"After watching them skate, I was more upset with myself," said Weiss, of Fairfax, Va. "If I'd gone in and done a better program, at least I might have pushed Yagudin."

The only skater other than Yagudin to hit two quadruples was Timothy Goebel, the 19-year-old American who did a quadruple salchow-triple toe loop combination and another quad toe loop. Bothered by a muscle injury in his left calf, he considered leaving out the quad toe loop, and hadn't practiced it since Sunday.

Goebel finished 11th, one position better than last year.

"This year wasn't about getting a medal. It was about me developing and improving," he said.

In a rare upset in the usually predictable dance event, Italians Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio took a lead with their ballroom-inspired original dance routine, beating the leading dance pair and home favorites Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, who slipped during the mandatory side-by-side step portion.

"This time I can't say we skated really, really well," Peizerat said. "But we have a very strong and powerful program for tomorrow."

Russians Irina Lobacheva and Ilya Averbukh are third going into Friday's final free program, which counts for 50 percent of the final score.

Both of the American dance pairs are in the top 15 going into the final free. U.S. champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev of Detroit, who have been working with Olympic ice dance star Christopher Dean, are in eighth. They finished 10th last year in their world debut.

"We were hoping for a lot better, but it makes up for it when you know you've skated well," Lang said.

Competing in their first world championships, Jamie Silverstein and Justin Pekarek improved from 14th following the compulsories to 13th going into the final with a flashy cha cha and sensuous rumba.

"We're really delighted," Pekarek said.

Michelle Kwan regains world figure skating crown

French take the dance world title

Latin rhythms dominate dance competition

Worlds of problems

 Alexei Yagudin performs at Worlds (Courtesy: ABC Sports)
RealVideo: 56.6

 Michael Weiss' short program at Worlds (Courtesy: ABC Sports)
RealVideo: 56.6