Vets edgy over new scoring system

Associated Press
Published March 14, 2005

MOSCOW - Michelle Kwan and Evgeni Plushenko are used to winning world titles. She has captured five and he has three gold medals.

But both will feel a bit like beginners this week at the World Figure Skating Championships, which for the first time will be using the sport's new scoring system.

The International Skating Union adopted the new system in June in response to judging problems at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. But Kwan has avoided the Grand Prix series the past two years, missing the trial events for the new system that measures jumps, spins and stepwork, as well as artistic elements such as choreography.

"There's a lot of things I have to be very aware of, with the spins, with the change of edge, with the turns in the footwork," Kwan said.

Kwan, who has competed only at the U.S. championships and two invitationals this year, appeared strong in practice on Sunday, landing her jumps with vigor and confidence. Plushenko skated cautiously on the eve of the men's qualifying rounds and missed three jumps in a row at the opening of practice. Plushenko, the defending champion, has a groin injury and reportedly was still not sure he'd be able to compete.

Russians are favored in all four events, but Plushenko's absence would wreck any chance of a sweep. Russia's Andrei Gryazev and Sergei Dobrin are promising but inexperienced.

Kwan's strength in practice indicated another tough challenge for Russia. Irina Slutskaya has had a strong season, but she may not be fully recovered from the heart lining inflammation that wrecked her previous season. Defending world champ Shizuka Arakawa of Japan has experience with the new scoring system in the Grand Prix series. America's Sasha Cohen is a contender.