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WHO TO WATCH Men's figure skating



Published: Tue, February 12, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Alexei Yagudin, Russia, 21 -- Three-time world champion just won third European crown. ... Has exquisite artistry to go with quadruple jumps, and footwork to Winter short program is captivating. ... Yagudin and countryman Yevgeny Plushchenko finished 1-2 in almost every major competition last four years. ... Fifth at Nagano Olympics despite performing free skate with 101-degree fever. ... Won every competition this season except Goodwill Games, where he finished third. ... Lost nearly 20 pounds over summer, but it hurt his skating. Regained the weight, and with it came motivation and confidence.

Yevgeny Plushchenko, Russia, 19 -- Reigning world champ has lost just once in last two seasons, to Yagudin at Grand Prix finals, the last head-to-head competition between the two. ... Scrapped free skate after GP finals, and is returning to classical scores. ... Criticized for being too flamboyant, with flashy gloves and pelvic thrusts a signature of his routines. There's a reason Michael Jackson hasn't been big since 1980s. ... Won Russian title, then skipped European championships with a reported groin injury. ... Consistently trying two quads in program. ... First Olympics.

Todd Eldredge, United States, 30 -- Won sixth national title at age 30, oldest American champion in 70 years. ... Came back after two-year "hiatus" to win bronze at 2001 worlds -- 10 years after he won his first medal. ... "Old" for sport, but back for one last shot at Olympic medal. ... One of sports' good guys, a sentimental favorite for medal after horrendous luck in personal Olympic history. ... Lacks consistent quad, but few skaters can match his artistry. ... Best spinner in the world.

Timothy Goebel, United States, 21 -- Finished behind Yagudin and Plushchenko at Grand Prix finals, second to Eldredge at nationals. Could fare better in Salt Lake with international judges, who place higher value on jumps. ... "Quad King," the first U.S. man to land a quad in competition, now routinely does three in his free skates. ... No American can match his technical ability. ... Artistry still needs work, but he's much improved working with Frank Carroll and choreographer Lori Nichol since before the 2001 season. ... Has tendency to go stone-faced when pressure is on. ... First Olympics.

Elvis Stojko, Canada, 29 -- Injuries have made three-time world champion an afterthought last four years. Finished dismal 10th at 2001 world championships in Vancouver after missing all of last season with various injuries. ... Won Canadian title again this year and was second at Skate Canada to Yagudin. ... Two-time Olympic silver medalist. Second at Nagano despite skating long program with severe groin pull. ... Responsible for today's quad mania, becoming first skater to do quad-double and quad-triple jump combinations.

Michael Weiss, United States, 25 -- Two-time U.S. champion and world bronze medalist barely made his second Olympic team. ... Struggled with consistency throughout season, and nationals no different, with two falls in short program. ... Beat Yagudin to win silver medal at Goodwill Games, but missed Grand Prix finals after finishing fourth at Skate America and eighth at Nations Cup. ... Seventh at Nagano Olympics. ... Married with two children. ... Father was an Olympic gymnast in 1964.

Alexander Abt, Russia, 25 -- Silver medalist at Europeans. Beat Yagudin on jumps, but a distant second in artistry. ... Finally getting clean quad after just missing it over past two years. ... Trains in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. ... First Olympics.

-- Associated Press




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