Ina, Dongjen win pairs as Meno, Sand withdraw Injury forces pullout, but veterans gain berth


January 10, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — PHILADELPHIA -- Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen won their second consecutive national title in pairs skating last night after their main rivals, the three-time champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, were forced to withdraw because Meno sprained her ankle during practice.

As champions, Ina and Dungjen, who train in Monsey, N.Y., automatically qualified for a berth on the U.S. team in next month's Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. They received all scores of 5.8 and 5.9 out of a possible 6.0 for both technical skill and artistry.

Minutes after the competition ended, U.S. Figure Skating officials also placed Meno and Sand on the U.S. team because of their national and international achievements. Meno and Sand won a bronze medal at the 1995 and 1996 world championships, and finished fifth in the 1997 worlds.

The federation's rules state that only the winner is guaranteed an Olympic berth, while the second pair is determined by past performances.

Despite a second-place finish last night, Brian Wells and Shelby Lyons were left off the Olympic team because they lack Meno and Sand's credentials. Earlier in the evening, Wells said he did not believe such a decision would be unfair.

Questions remain

Todd Eldredge's name will go into the record books of the U.S. Figure Skating championships, right next to fellow five-time champion Dick Button. Michael Weiss will have his own place in history as the first skater ever to attempt a quadruple Lutz at a major competition.

But even if his quad shouldn't have counted because he landed on two feet, should Weiss have won, anyway?

That was the question coming out the men's long program late Thursday night, when Eldredge narrowly beat Weiss despite falling on a quad toe loop, a jump considered much easier than the quad Lutz. Certainly the spectators at the CoreStates Center felt that way, judging by their reaction to the judging.

"I didn't see Todd skate, but from the way the audience reacted, they obviously thought I should have won," said Weiss, whose second-place finish secured a place with Eldredge on this year's Olympic team. "[The score] triggered boos from the audience. That's a great feeling."

Unlike in last year's nationals in Nashville, when Weiss was believed to have landed a quad toe loop cleanly before video replays showed his back foot brushing the ice, even Weiss knew he had two-footed his landing. Chief referee Bill Fitzpatrick said he could see from his seat that the jump was flawed.

"It was an excellent attempt, but it was landed on two feet," he said.

But that doesn't answer the question as to whether Weiss deserved higher marks than Eldredge, who had skated earlier and had landed six triple jumps, including a tough triple Axel, after failing at the quad toe loop. Weiss didn't fall, but he botched one of his combination jumps, his knee scraping the ice on landing.

There was a feeling among those familiar with the judging process that Eldredge was given higher marks because he will be considered a more legitimate medal contender than Weiss in Nagano, and that Weiss could mentally handle finishing second to Eldredge better than the other way around.

"Hopefully, we'll go to Japan and both skate this well or better and give the rest of the world a run for its money," said Weiss, 21, who grew up in Ashton, Md., and now lives in Fairfax, Va.

Switch in routine

Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow, who will be going after their second straight U.S. championship in ice dancing this afternoon, reworked their entire free-dance routine after a disappointing performance in last month's Champions Series in Germany.

The change was suggested by choreographer-coach Igor Shpilband.

"Liz and I have never doubted Igor, so we went along with his idea," Swallow said.

Pub Date: 1/10/98

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