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It All Seems Uncertain When It Comes to Kwan

January 16, 2006|HELENE ELLIOTT

Michelle Kwan won't perform her short and long program without a break.

She won't be scored according to figure skating's new Code of Points.

And Emily Hughes, who finished third at last week's U.S. championships, apparently won't fight U.S. Figure Skating's decision to bump her off the Turin Olympic team in favor of Kwan. At least, as of Sunday night Hughes had not notified the U.S. Olympic Committee that she might file a grievance, a USOC spokesman said.

Beyond that, however, little is clear about Kwan's conditional nomination to the Olympic team.

In petitioning for a medical bye to the Games after she pulled a groin muscle Dec. 17 and couldn't compete at the U.S. championships, Kwan offered to allow U.S. Figure Skating representatives watch her practice on or about Jan. 20 and observe her programs on Jan. 27 or 28 at East West Ice Palace in Artesia.

The purpose, she said, "would be to assure the USFS observers that my programs contain the technical elements necessary for an Olympic level performance," and demonstrate she could be physically ready to compete at the highest level in Turin.

However, after learning Saturday that her petition had been granted by a 20-3 vote of U.S. Figure Skating's International Committee, she said, "We haven't decided exactly what I will be doing. As much as I can show for them. Show them also that the elements ... check my levels, footwork, and the spins knowing that for certain that they are a high component or high levels. The details, I really don't know."

That seemed to contradict her petition. Nor did it match the stipulation by Bob Horen, chairman of the International Committee, that five monitors will watch "run-throughs of her entire short program and long program."

Her agent, Shep Goldberg, said Sunday that Kwan "is going to do what she can do." He added, "The number one thing is to prove she's healthy. Number two, it's to prove she can do the program well on the 21st," the day of the women's short program.

He said Kwan and U.S. Figure Skating are not interpreting the conditions differently. However, he said he hadn't spoken to U.S. Figure Skating officials to determine when they will monitor her and whether she will skate her programs in one day or over two days. The sessions will be closed to the public.

Kwan, who resumed practicing last Friday, did her jumps Sunday and felt no discomfort, Goldberg said.

Kwan's petition included a two-page letter in which Dr. Ronald Kvitne of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic stated that her injury would not "prevent her from participating in the upcoming Olympic program." She said that if the committee determines the programs don't "contain the technical elements necessary for an Olympic level performance" or that the injury won't allow her to be physically ready to compete "at the highest level" in Turin, she will withdraw from the team.

Sasha Cohen of Corona Del Mar received an automatic Turin nomination after winning her first U.S. title, and runner-up Kimmie Meissner of Bel Air, Md., got the second spot. The USOC must submit its Olympic roster to Turin organizers by Jan. 30. Although an injured athlete can be replaced before an event if the International Olympic Committee finds exceptional circumstances, such actions are rare.

Hughes, sister of 2002 gold medalist Sarah Hughes, accepted with good humor her role as first alternate. Instead of seeing the 20-3 tally as a vote against her, she said the result "makes me feel good, those three people."

She added that she slept only three hours Saturday night. "It's just been an awesome week," she said. "Hopefully I can draw on this experience for the next one."

Sliding to Turin

Zach Lund of Salt Lake City, suspended by the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation after testing positive for finasteride -- an ingredient in hair-restorative remedies -- was nominated to the U.S. Olympic skeleton team Sunday.

Finasteride was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency because it can be used to mask the presence of other drugs. Lund, ranked second in the world, tested positive at a World Cup competition in Europe last month. His attorney, Howard Jacobs of Los Angeles, said last week that the results had not been confirmed through the testing a second or "B" sample. A USOC spokesman said Lund's case is being reviewed and adjudicated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Also nominated to the Turin skeleton team were Eric Bernotas of Avondale, Pa., and Kevin Ellis of Dallas, who rank fifth and seventh in the world, respectively.

Katie Uhlaender of Breckenridge, Colo., ranked fifth in the world, was nominated to the women's team, which got only one Olympic sled because it didn't rank in the top three in World Cup points. That's a comedown from Salt Lake City, where Tristan Gale and Lea Ann Parsley of the U.S. finished one-two.

Noelle Pikus-Pace of Orem, Utah, who made a remarkable comeback after breaking her leg early this season, and Courtney Yamada of Boise, Idaho, were nominated as alternates.

Vonetta Flowers, who became the first African American athlete to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympics when she slid to a bobsled victory with Jill Bakken at Salt Lake City, was nominated to the U.S. team for the Turin Games. This time, the Birmingham, Ala., native will ride with driver Jean Prahm of Waterford, Mich., known as Jean Racine when she finished fifth at Salt Lake City with Gea Johnson.

Also nominated were driver Shauna Rohbock of Orem, Utah, Valerie Fleming of Foster City, Calif., and Bethany Hart of North Grafton, Mass. Bakken and Amanda Moreley of Auburn, Wash., were designated alternates.

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