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FIGURE SKATING NOTES

Fleming Says U.S. Women Will Shine

January 14, 2002

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships produced an Olympic team that will send at least one woman to the medal podium--and possibly more--1968 Olympic gold medalist Peggy Fleming said Sunday.

"We all think this is the best team we've ever sent," said Fleming, a commentator for ABC. "We probably should be sending five or six women to the Olympics, and they could come in the top eight or seven or six. Technically and artistically, they were absolutely wonderful, and that's great for our sport.

"Maybe we might sweep it. Who knows? It's not impossible."

Michelle Kwan on Saturday won her sixth U.S. title. Sasha Cohen of Laguna Niguel was second, with Sarah Hughes of Great Neck, N.Y., third.

Fleming was more cautious in assessing the U.S. men's chances. Without a consistent quadruple jump, six-time U.S. men's champion Todd Eldredge will have a tough time against the athleticism and artistry of Alexei Yagudin and Evgeny Plushenko of Russia; Tim Goebel, the men's runner-up, can land quads but Fleming believes he's not a complete skater.

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It's probably not much consolation after she missed the Olympic team, but Angela Nikodinov of San Pedro was assigned to compete in the Four Continents Championships starting Jan. 21 at Seoul.

Nikodinov finished fourth at the U.S. championships, one place out of an Olympic berth. She was named an alternate to the team.

The teams for the Olympics and the world championships are the same, but some Olympians skip the world competition. This year's event will be held March 18-24 at Nagano, Japan.

Beatrisa Liang of Granada Hills, ninth at the U.S. championships, will make her debut at the world junior championships March 4-10 at Hamar, Norway. Tenth-place finisher Ye Bin Mok of Los Angeles was named an alternate. Tiffany and Johnnie Stiegler of Manhattan Beach, and Sima and Amir Gabana of Torrance, also will compete at the world junior meet.

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Cohen is scheduled to carry the Olympic torch tonight in San Diego. Goebel will take his turn Tuesday at 7:45 a.m. in Laguna Niguel.

Helene Elliott

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