The six who will perform in the final group in tomorrow's men's free-skate final at the Winter Olympics:
Ilia Kulik, Russia, 20 years old: World Junior Champion in 1995, runner-up at 1996 world championships and winner of the
1997-98 Champions Series final. Kulik, who lives and trains in Marlboro, Mass., is a gifted jumper who can land the quad. But he is also a compelling artist, whose balletic style is preferred by most of the judges. If he performs all his jumps, he will likely win.
Todd Eldredge, United States, 26: Five-time U.S. champion, 1996 world champion and two-time world runner-up. An agile leaper and terrific spinner, Eldredge's arsenal of jumps does not normally include the sport's major weapon, the quad. His aim is to put together a total performance package that could be good enough for the gold if Elvis Stojko and Kulik falter.
Alexei Yagudin, Russia, 17: 1996 World Junior Champion and 1998 European Champion. Yagudin trains with former Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov in St. Petersburg. Although he lacks artistic polish, he is easily the most impressive jumper of the men in the final. To medal, he may have to land the quad. But his performance here has marked him the favorite for the next Olympic gold in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
Steven Cousins, Great Britain, 25: This longtime British champion has never earned a major international medal and he is unlikely to break the jinx at the Olympics.
Philippe Candeloro, France, 25: 1994 Olympic bronze medalist. The sport's greatest showman is making a comeback after missing two seasons with an injured ankle. He will likely win the crowd, but not the judges.
Elvis Stojko, Canada, 25: 1994 Olympic silver medalist, 1994, 1995 and 1997 world champion. He may lack the artistry of the other men, but nobody in the world can match Stojko's array of jumps, which includes a quad in combination with a triple toe loop. His problem lies with the judges, who have continually marked down his artistry.
Pub Date: 2/13/98