Sunday, January 19, 2003

Olympic gold medalist Hughes wins silver



By Nancy Armour
The Associated Press

DALLAS - Sarah Hughes will happily add American silver to her Olympic gold. Hughes finished second to Michelle Kwan in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night. But considering it was her first major competition since winning the Olympic gold medal and she'd had only a month to really train for it, second looks pretty good.

"It definitely feels great to be back in the competitive atmosphere, back in the competitive spirit," she said. "I'm happy this week is done, but I'm also happy with what I put out there."

Hughes pulled off one of the biggest stunners in Olympic history last February when she vaulted from fourth to first with a spectacular free skate. It was a brilliant performance, a perfect combination of elegance and technical skill.

And she's spent the last year enjoying the rewards that come with such an achievement. The 17-year-old champion has traveled the world, met Leonardo DiCaprio, handed out a Grammy and got accepted to Harvard.

But the whirlwind came with a price. She didn't have her usual conditioning when she began training for the season, and she injured her right leg.

She missed the entire Grand Prix series while recuperating, and came to nationals far behind the rest of the competition.

"Nationals are always difficult, and this time there was added pressure on me," she said. "I came in with a little more notoriety."

Came in a little late, too. Most skaters usually arrive at the arena at least an hour before their warmup begins, giving them time to stretch out, make last-minute adjustments to their hair and makeup and get in the right frame of mind.

But 10 minutes before her warmup Saturday night, there were Hughes and coach Robin Wagner, rushing out of the elevator.

"I will take the responsibility," Wagner said. "I just bobbled on the schedule and we just left a little too late."

"A little?" Hughes chimed in, laughing.

Hughes wasn't even in costume, and they were frantically pulling her dress out of her bag, along with her tights. But they played it cool once they reached the dressing room, acting as if everything was fine.

"All the girls were looking at me," Hughes said, laughing again.

But she pulled off one of the quickest changes ever, making it out to the ice in plenty of time for her warmup. Then she sat back and waited for the other five women in her group to skate.

Skating to the ballet "La Bayadere," Hughes didn't have the flair everyone remembers from the Olympics. She was uncharacteristically conservative, doing only one jump combination. And it was a triple-double, not the more difficult triple-triple she normally does.

But she had a clean performance that flowed nicely, which is more than Sasha Cohen could say.

Cohen was the strongest skater on the Grand Prix circuit, and she came into nationals on a hot streak. But she fell apart in the free skate, doing only five clean triple jumps and falling once.

Second after the short program, Cohen dropped behind Hughes and finished third.

"Of course I'm not 100 percent pleased, because I can do a lot better," Hughes said. "It's hard for me to look at the fact that I can't always be perfect.

"Especially coming off of Salt Lake."




UC BEARCATS
UC 77, Tulane 54
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XAVIER
Xavier 86, UMass 73

OTHER COLLEGE BASKETBALL
No. 16 Kentucky 88, No. 10 Notre Dame 73
Short benching at Vandy motivates Hayes to play
No. 18 Indiana 84, No. 8 Illinois 66
No. 15 Louisville 87, TCU 74
Miami 77, Ohio 65
No. 17 Maryland 87, No. 1 Duke 72
Top 25 roundup
How the Top 25 fared
Flanagan's 31 pace Norse women's win
Women: UConn sets win streak record

BENGALS
Coach endured lengthy search but got the job
Daugherty: Team must rethink scouting
QB coach Anderson next to go

NFL PLAYOFFS
Curnutte's NFL playoff picks
Raiders feeling pressure to win now
Titans have something to prove
Matchups for AFC championship game
Eagles eager to savor football's best feeling
Bucs savor opportunity of NFC showdown
Matchups for the NFC championship game

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Fans celebrate Buckeyes' championship
OSU seniors have trouble saying goodbye
Senior Bowl: North 17, South 0

REDS / BASEBALL
Fay: Reds insider
Reds Q&A
Ozzie says Rose should admit wrongdoing
Gwynn wants more than ol' college try

PREP SPORTS
Groeschen: St. X ready to rebuild its stadium
Schmidt: Kentucky insider
Boys: FTs lift Indians over Purcell
Girls: Riley's 1,000th point sends Trojans to win
Ky: Dixie storms past Dunbar
LeBron hums along amid OHSAA's inquiry
Swimming: Tomes upsets Myers, wins 200 freestyle
Prep results

AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Venus cruises into quarters
Coach threatened to punch McEnroe

GOLF
Baddeley on verge of first PGA Tour win

HOCKEY
9,611 watch Ducks tie 2-2

FIGURE SKATING
Weiss wins third U.S. title on ugly afternoon
Olympic gold medalist Hughes wins silver

HORSE RACING
Time to rekindle those Kentucky Derby dreams

AUTO RACING
NASCAR lacks last-lap drama
Earnhardt Jr. hesitant about lifetime contract

BOXING
Camacho stops Villareal in return to ring
Tszyu retains super lightweight titles

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Enquirer Page Two Power rankings
50th straight home win in sight for Surge
Just call him Ryan Boitano