Competitive events ended today with the junior free dance and the senior men's and ladies free skating. No surprises in the junior dance which was won by Jamie Silverstein & Justin Pekarek. If they knew the senior dances they most likely would have won a medal in the senior event.
Michael Weiss won the men's event as expected. The more interesting result in that event was dark-horse Trifun Zivanovic convincingly beating out Timothy Goebel for the silver medal, to win Zivanovic's first trip to Worlds. Weiss' attempt at quad toe loop was not successful; nor was Goebel's attempt at the quad Salchow.
In the ladies event Naomi Nari Nam moved up from fourth in the short program to win the silver medal. Angela Nikodinov returned from the dead to win the bronze medal. Sarah Hughes dropped to fifth after placing second in the short program. Because Nam is not age eligible for Worlds, Hughes will join Michelle Kwan and Angela Nikodinov representing the U.S. at Worlds. Hughes isn't age eligible either but as a medalist at the 1999 World Junior Championships she is nonetheless allowed to compete at Worlds under ISU rules.
Nam's coach John Nicks was a bit upset that Nam will miss out at Worlds this year calling it age discrimination. Nam will also be age ineligible next year but has a possible loop-hole available to her. The 2000 World Junior Championships will be held two weeks before the World Championships. If Nam qualifies for the U.S. World Team at U.S. Nationals in 2000, she could be named to the World Team contingent on winning a medal at the World Junior Championships. Be winning a medal there she would qualify to compete at Worlds under the same loop-hole allowing Hughes to compete this year.
In selecting the Four Continents and World teams the USFSA has decided to send slightly different teams to the two events. Michelle Kwan and Michael Weiss will not be competing at Four Continents. In addition three dance couples will represent the U.S. at Four Continents compared to the two permitted at Worlds.
The senior pairs and senior dance events concluded today with no changes in the top four placements in either category. The top two dance couples and the top three pair teams were selected to the World Team. Which of these skaters will also compete at the Four Continents Championships which start in 9 days remains to be seen. Each country is allowed three entries in each event at the inaugural competition in Halifax. The USFSA's International Committee will decide at the end of U.S. Nationals which skaters will compete in Halifax. It is expected the U.S. will send the full compliment of entries permitted, though not necessarily the identical group of skaters who will compete at Worlds.
The prestige events kicked off today with the skating of the senior men's and ladies short programs. The favorites in both events, Michael Weiss and Michelle Kwan, won with unanimous firsts from the judges. Kwan received the first 6.0 of the Championships, awarded by judge Sam Singer in the second mark.
Much of the excitement was eliminated from the ladies event when Nicole Bobek withdrew last week for health reasons. These reasons have been reported as fatigue, an ovarian cyst, and endometriosis. Which, if any, of these is the truth remains unknown. Nevertheless, losing this season is a major setback for Bobek and may spell the end of her eligible career.
Figures were laid to rest at U.S. Nationals with the last Championship Figures event held here today. Twelve ladies skated their three figures at the Acord Center this morning. Starting at 7:00 AM on a grey snowy day the first figure was the LFO-RFO counter. It was followed by the RBO-LBI paragraph double three. The last figure was the LFO-RFI paragraph loop. A little after 10:00 Lauren Hill skated the last figure before a crowd of about 200 who were present to witness the end of the oldest branch of competitive skating. Following the competition a brief ceremony was held and four red roses were placed on the final tracings. At 10:20 AM the Zambonis came out to wipe the ice clean and 86 years of National Championship figures came to an end.
The junior and senior level events began today with the junior men and junior pairs short program in the E Center, and the senior compulsory dance at the Delta Center. The pickings are pretty slim in the senior dance event with only eight couples competing here. All of the top teams from last year have either "turned pro" or split so we are working with a mostly clean. The favorites are Eve Chalom & Mathew Gates, Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev, and Debbie Koegel & Oleg Fediukov.
The novice events were completed at the E Center, an arena about 10 miles outside of Salt Lake City where the local IHL hokey team plays. The arena seats about 8,000 and little more than a year old. In some ways it is even better for skating than the Delta Center but does not have the seating capacity for a National Championships. Tomorrow the junior events will begin in the E Center, but will end in the Delta Center later in the week. The senior events start up tomorrow in the Delta Center. With Nicole Bobek having withdrawn for health reasons the only event that was likely to produce any major excitement will be a lot more sedate. None of the other ladies here - and there are 20 of them - are in a position to pressure Kwan.
1999 Nationals began today with the start of the "preliminary" events; i.e., the novice events, and the compulsory figures. This is the last year figures will be a part of the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. Last year separate men's and ladies figure events disappeared and were replaced with "co-ed" events. After this year they will be gone forever, nine years after they were removed from international competition. The novice and junior figure events were held today. The senior figure event will be held Wednesday.
Today was also the start of the novice events. The compulsory dances and all three short programs were skated today. Overall, the ladies were the best but there were also several men and pairs who did themselves credit. The start of the ladies event was interrupted by a brief power failure. The first lady had just finished skating when the lights went out. It took about 15 minutes to restore power and get the lights back on. The remaining five skaters in the initial warm-up group of six were then given a second warm-up, and the events of the day continued without further problems.
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