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Cohen shakes up nationals

Wire services
Published January 3, 2004

Sasha Cohen knows how to cause a stir.

The weeks before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships are usually quiet, a time when skaters hunker down to polish programs to perfection. Not this year.

With her dazzling start all but erased after two disappointing losses, Cohen decided she needed a change. Two weeks before nationals, she left Tatiana Tarasova and began training with Robin Wagner, Sarah Hughes' former coach.

"This," Wagner acknowledged, "is an unusual situation."

The novice competition begins Sunday in Atlanta, and senior competition starts Tuesday with compulsory dance. The championship division wraps up Jan.10 with the men's and women's free skate.

Cohen's switch gives some spark to an event in need of pizazz. Timothy Goebel and Michael Weiss will battle for the men's title ... again. And Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto will try to take the dance crown from Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev ... again.

A sudden change isn't too surprising from Cohen, 19, who has her own way of doing things. She started the season with several wins but lost two recent events to Michelle Kwan and wanted to shake things up.

"It was close to nationals, but I knew what I could gain in the long run was worth so much more," Cohen said. "I already feel, just with one week, that we've made a lot of improvements. ...

"I'm just happy to find a sense of confidence on the ice and really enjoy the performances."

HOCKEY: Americans face Finland

Finland beat defending champion Russia 4-3 to set up a semifinal with the United States today at the junior world championships in Helsinki, Finland. In the other quarterfinal, the Czech Republic beat Slovakia 4-2 and faces Canada in a semifinal today.

HORSES: Record-setting owner dies

John Franks, a four-time winner of the Eclipse Award as North America's most outstanding thoroughbred owner, died at 78. Mr. Franks died Wednesday night at a Shreveport, La., hospital. Details of his illness were not released. Mr. Franks won the Eclipse Award in 1983, '84, '93 and '94, the only person to win the award for outstanding owner four times. The founder of Franks Petroleum, Mr. Franks owned breeding farms in Louisiana and near Ocala.

SOCCER: Suspension in question

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand's eight-month ban for missing a drug test may be delayed, English soccer's ruling body said. Although the suspension is to start Jan.12, Ferdinand is awaiting clarification about the reasons for his punishment. He will have 14 days to appeal after receiving details next week.

WINTER SPORTS: American 3rd in skiing

Magnus Moan of Norway won a World Cup Nordic combined event, his first win, at Reit im Winkl, Germany, with Todd Lodwick of the United States third. Moan was 1.8 seconds ahead of three-time Olympic champ Samppa Lajunen of Finland. The Norwegian completed the 7.5-kilometer cross-country sprint in 20 minutes, 32.1 seconds. Lodwick was 24.2 seconds behind.

LUGE: Tony Benshoof and Brenna Margol won U.S. national titles at Lake Placid, N.Y. Benshoof finished in 1:49.410 to win the singles championship for the fourth time in five seasons. Margol had a two-heat time of 1:31.963 to defend her women's crown.

ET CETERA:

AUTOS: IRL's Arie Luyendyk Jr., the son of two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, will drive the No.9 Ford Multimatic Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 31-Feb. 1. Luyendyk will team with Mike Borkowski, Paul Mears Jr. and a fourth driver to be announced.

TENNIS: Jelena Dokic has withdrawn from next week's ASB Classic women's event in Auckland, New Zealand, one of the opening warmups for the Australian Open, citing personal issues.

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