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OLYMPICS / HELENE ELLIOTT

Goebel Reduces Air Time for New Scoring

October 03, 2003|HELENE ELLIOTT

Tim Goebel, figure skating's Quad King, won't perform his trademark quadruple jumps at the Campbell's International Figure Skating Classic tonight in New York -- but he's not abdicating his throne.

Goebel, the Salt Lake City bronze medalist and twice a world silver medalist, is just approaching the season cautiously. Unsure how he'll fare under the new cumulative scoring system that will be in effect at Grand Prix events, he's seeking early feedback to help him adjust his programs for maximum value. He's also pacing himself for the U.S. championships in January and World Championships in Dortmund, Germany, in March.

"I'm in better shape this year than I ever have been at this point," said Goebel, who trains in El Segundo with his coach, Frank Carroll. "I'm not doing quads now, and I'm going to add elements as the year goes along. It's much better to stand up and do easier things rather than try harder things and fall. I'd rather go and skate my program as a whole the way I want it to look and add things along the way and polish it."

His priority tonight is to learn how the basic parts of his program would score under the new system. Although the old 6.0 standard will determine tonight's outcome, three U.S. judges will separately score U.S. skaters according to the new system, which gives points for choreography, technical skills and individual elements.

"I want them to see the program and evaluate the program as a whole," Goebel said of his new routine, choreographed by Lori Nichol to a medley from Queen. "I want to take the harder elements out so the judges can break down the program by spins and footwork and so on.

"I don't need to prove I can jump. I want this to be a very clear picture of my footwork and spins. I want to build from the start. I was injured last year, but I usually do Skate America and do everything well early and then get tired later."

Goebel, Olympic runner-up Evgeny Plushenko and three-time U.S. champion Michael Weiss head the men's field at Madison Square Garden. Michelle Kwan of Manhattan Beach, a seven-time U.S. champion and five-time world champion, tops the women's field. Her challengers include Sasha Cohen of Laguna Niguel and 2003 world silver medalist Elena Sokolova. The event will air on ABC on Oct. 19.

Goebel said he appreciates the way the new system rewards spins and footwork but is confused by the weight given to jumps.

"It's going to be a free-for-all this year," he said. "People who try harder stuff are going to get nailed if they miss, and easier stuff will be rewarded. I think the general concept is very good, but they're going to have to reevaluate the spread of point values for different jumps. A decent quad-double combination is worth less than a really good triple-triple. People are rewarded for being careful, and that's very dangerous. You don't want to see people do less."

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Persistence Pays Off

Angela Nikodinov of San Pedro, dogged by misfortune for nearly two years, will return to competition next week at the Finlandia Trophy in Helsinki. She has left El Segundo and coach Carroll, training for two weeks in Alaska with former skater Igor Pashkevich and more recently in Lake Arrowhead.

"Four months ago, I never would have thought I'd get back so fast," said Nikodinov, twice a U.S. bronze medalist. "I feel like I'm getting a fresh start."

Her trials began with the death of her coach, Elena Tcherkasskaia, two months before the Salt Lake City Olympic team was to be selected. Still shaken, Nikodinov finished fourth at the 2002 U.S. championships and missed an Olympic berth.

A few weeks later, she hurt her shoulder and had to decline an invitation to the world championships; illness and more shoulder woes kept her out of the Grand Prix series last season. She withdrew from this year's U.S. competition after the short program after re-injuring her shoulder.

Unhappy with her ice time at El Segundo -- Carroll said they parted "on very good terms" -- she took the advice of Alexei Yagudin, the Olympic gold medalist and a friend, and hooked up with Pashkevich. He lives in Alaska but they speak daily and he will accompany her to Finland.

"I've been doing all my triples and doing all my programs through," she said. "That's my mission, to get through them. I was always known to do my first three jumps and if I make a mistake, I'd fall apart. Now, because I have no expectations, it's easier. I'm just trying to build my confidence and get in shape.

"It's like it happened for a reason. Even if I make a mistake, I keep going. I don't panic. By nationals, I'm going to be in my best shape. That's going to be my most important competition."

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Here and There

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