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Kwan runs title streak to seven

Michelle Kwan wins her eighth national title overall; Johnny Weir wins his first men's title.

By Wire services
Published January 11, 2004

ATLANTA - The rivals come and go, and so do the years. The only constant is Michelle Kwan and her brilliance on the ice.

The "old lady" of figure skating taught her latest challengers a thing or two Saturday night, winning her seventh consecutive national title and eighth overall with a style, grace and determination that no one can match.

And she did it with a pile of perfect 6.0s, seven for artistry, as she swept the nine-judge panel. She has 35 perfect marks in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but they still leave her speechless. When the marks flashed on the scoreboard, her mouth dropped open and she buried her face in coach Rafael Arutunian's shoulder as the audience roared.

Only Maribel Vinson (nine) has more U.S. championships. Kwan's seven-year winning streak ties Dick Button for the longest. And she has medaled 11 consecutive years, breaking the record she shared with Theresa Weld Blanchard.

"I don't know what to say. I just don't know," Kwan said. "I've not swallowed the whole evening in quite yet."

Though short program winner Sasha Cohen left Kwan an opening after botching two jumps, Kwan didn't need it.

Cohen was second and Jennifer Kirk was third.

For Cohen, it was another lost opportunity.

"It was kind of good, but not what I wanted," said Cohen, who fell on a triple toe loop. "Every program I practiced went better than that."

Also, Kimberly Meissner won the junior girls competition.

Weir is men's champ

Bouncing back from a bad fall last year, Johnny Weir skated to his first men's national title with a flawless performance, beating three-time winner Michael Weiss.

"I went into my own little world," Weir said. "I tapped into myself instead of trying extra hard to win."

As he wrapped up his 41/2-minute program the crowd stood and drowned out the closing to the music from Dr. Zhivago.

When the first set of marks flashed on the scoreboard - all 5.8s and 5.9s for technical merit - Weir mouthed, "I don't believe it." When the next set of scores came up, he broke down in tears at the sight of the first perfect 6.0 in this competition and nothing lower than 5.7 for artistry.

It was quite a comeback for the 19-year-old who led after the short program but had to overcome demons from his downfall in the 2003 championships.

That time he was second after the short program but never made it through the free skate. He clipped the boards, tumbled and hurt his back, then splattered on a triple axel. He withdrew with a hurt kneecap.

This time he shrugged off those memories and even used the same program, with music from Dr. Zhivago, from the year before.

Weir nailed a triple axel-triple toe loop jump combination early in the program.

Weiss finished second and Matthew Savoie was third.

[Last modified January 11, 2004, 01:33:09]

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