Urmanov takes lead in classic style Eldredge, a close second, is poised to make his bid in tonight's long program

March 20, 1997|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- In the end, it was the guy wearing the white lace gloves who closed one of the great shows in men's figure skating yesterday.

Alexei Urmanov of Russia, the 1994 Olympic gold medalist, donned his trademark gloves, hit his triple jumps and emerged in first place in the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships.

Reigning world champion Todd Eldredge of the United States was second, Russia's Ilia Kulik was third and Canada's Elvis Stojko, a two-time world champ, was fourth. America's Michael Weiss was ninth.

Tonight, it will likely be quads at 20 paces, as the men come back for the long program final, worth two-thirds of the overall score.

Skating has entered a new competitive age, featuring a collection of athlete-artists who can perform the jumps and still skate to the beat of the music. When a skater with the skills of Stojko performs magnificently -- and finishes fourth -- it shows just how good the men have become.

"It was a tough start to the competition," Urmanov said. "There were so many good performances."

The judges clearly agreed, splitting their scorecards three ways. Urmanov received four first-place scores, Eldredge had three and Kulik two. Because no skater won five first-place scores, the outcome was decided on the number of second-place finishes. There, Urmanov beat Eldredge, 3-1.

Urmanov was classical while Eldredge was glitzy. Each performed superb triple Axel-triple toe loop combination jumps -- and also captivated the crowd.

"I couldn't ask for anything more," Eldredge said.

"When he came off the ice, I said, 'Technically, that's the best I've seen you do. And the artistry was great, too,' " said Richard Callaghan, Eldredge's coach.

Slowed the past few weeks by a sprained ankle, Eldredge showed he is capable of winning the worlds again. "I want to put down the performances that can win," he said.

But will he try a quadruple toe loop jump in tonight's final? "As of right now, I don't know," Eldredge said.

In contrast to the men's short program, last night's pairs final was like a demolition derby trial, with most of the top teams taking spills.

Mandy Woetzel and Ingo Steurer of Germany emerged from the wreckage to claim the gold. Russia's Marina Eltsova and Andrei Bushkov were second. Leaping from sixth to third overall with a nearly flawless performance were Russia's Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev.

Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who entered the long program in third, had a disastrous performance and dropped to ninth.

America's Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, two-time bronze medalists, managed to stay on their feet, but did little else, turning triple jumps into doubles and doubles into singles. They finished a disappointing fifth.

Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen, the reigning American champs, slipped into fourth place and established their credentials as a top team entering next season.

"It's good for the U.S. that we have two teams so close together," Dungjen said. "Next year, Jenni and Todd will be gunning for us."

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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