Committee choses Kwan over Hughes for Olympic team
The news took some luster away from the best performance of Sasha Cohen's career.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Michelle Kwan saw it on the news. Emily Hughes heard it from her publicist when she came out of drug testing.
The decision to put Kwan on the Olympic team instead of Hughes was shrouded in so much secrecy, not even the skaters involved knew what was going on.
Meeting in a windowless room about 100 yards from the ice, U.S. Figure Skating's international committee voted 20-3 late Saturday night to give Kwan a medical bye onto the figure skating team for the Turin Olympics -- with conditions. She must prove to a five-person monitoring committee by Jan. 27 that she's able to compete, or be replaced by Hughes.
"The object, of course, is to try and get the three athletes there who have the best chance of winning medals, and I'm sure the international committee took that into consideration," U.S. Figure Skating president Ron Hershberger said Sunday.
But the intrigue that swirled around that basement meeting overshadowed the best performance of Sasha Cohen's career and made her first U.S. title an afterthought. Kimmie Meissner was all but forgotten; good enough to make the Olympics, but not No. 1 and not the one who got bumped.
The committee isn't saying much about its deliberations, but chairman Bob Horen said the discussion was "healthy." Another committee member described the 45-minute meeting as smooth, with a lot of support expressed for Kwan.
To make its decision, the committee looked at results from nationals and five major international competitions in the past year. Kwan was fourth at the world championships last year. Hughes' best finish internationally was a bronze medal at the junior world championships last year.
"Emily is a wonderful athlete, she competed well. Michelle competed well at worlds last year," Horen said Saturday night. "There aren't numbers I can compare there, there are relationships."
Hughes didn't help her cause in the free skate Saturday. She took a hard fall on a triple loop and cut a triple salchow down to a double, then stepped out of the landing.
"It's disappointing for me, but I didn't skate my best," Hughes said. "Everyone's worked so hard and she's done so well for so many years. I feel they made a good decision, and we'll just see what happens."
The committee also had Kwan's petition, in which she offered to have officials come to California around Jan. 20 to watch her practice, and return the following week to see her do run-throughs of her short and long programs.
"We were glad to see that," Horen said.
The monitoring group will include Horen, an athlete and three international judges. Beyond that, the details are fuzzy. The monitors won't score Kwan as if it's a real competition, and Horen hasn't said if she'll have to meet specific criteria, like landing a certain number of triple jumps.
Even Kwan herself seemed unsure of what to expect.
"We haven't decided exactly what I will be doing," she said. "As much as I can show for them."
Kwan began jumping Friday for the first time since Dec. 17, doing a triple toe loop and some doubles. She didn't do any double axels.
"I can pop it in at any time," she said. "I know that I can be fit form for the Olympics. I am very confident in how my body will react."
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