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Cohen trying to overcome obstacles

| Saturday, March 1, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Sasha Cohen had to overcome more than world champion Irina Slutskaya to win the Grand Prix Final.

Cohen had to find an answer for the inconsistency that seems to plague her whenever she's on the verge of greatness.

Finishing her demanding free skate with a triple-double combination Saturday, she vaulted past first-day leader Slutskaya to win a major international competition for the first time.

Yesterday's free skate was the second of the competition, and worth 50 percent of the final score.

"It was like an attack against myself," Cohen said. "This was about me, and not about me and everyone else."

Cohen is one of the world's most beautiful skaters, a perfect blend of power and grace. But she's struggled with inconsistency, always seeming to fall apart when she needed to be strong.

She went to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships as a favorite but finished third after a shaky free skate. At the Salt Lake City Olympics, she was third after the short program but wound up fourth.

"I told her that I was very glad that she could control herself, that she was able to overcome herself," said Tatiana Tarasova, Cohen's coach.

Still, Cohen isn't completely satisfied.

"I can still do a little better," she said.

Cohen and Slutskaya both missed or cut down planned jump combinations. But Cohen ended her program with a triple salchow-double toe combination, drawing cheers from the packed Ice Arena, which was adorned with several Russian-language posters lauding Cohen, whose mother is Ukrainian.

She then sat in "kiss and cry" with Tarasova, anxiously watching Slutskaya's program.

Slutskaya managed just five triple jumps in a flawed program, forcing her to settle for second. She said the grueling, two-day schedule and a personal problem, which she did not explain, contributed to her poor showing.

She refused to call her second-place finish a loss.

"It wasn't a defeat. It was only today that I gave my place to Sasha," she said.

Viktoria Volchkova of Russian and Shizuka Arakawa of Japan finished third and fourth, respectively.

Evgeny Plushenko landed a quad toe-triple toe-triple loop combination -- the second he's completed in competition -- to easily win the men's event. He received almost straight 5.9 technical marks, but downplayed his performance.

"I skated better at practice sessions," he said, joking.

Russia's Ilia Klimkin finished second and France's Brian Joubert was third.

Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin of Russia won the pairs competition with a jazzy program that was marred only when Marinin stepped out of a triple toe loop. They received straight 5.9s for presentation.

Chinese pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo finished second after two uncharacteristic errors for the technically accomplished pair. Russians Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov were third.

Russians Julia Obertas and Alexei Sokolov finished fourth, followed by Poland's Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek and Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto of Canada.

World champions Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia won the ice dancing with a rock 'n' roll-themed program including high-spirited leaps, a helicopter spin and fluorescent lime outfits.

Russians Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov were second, and Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviyski of Bulgaria finished third. Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov of Ukraine finished fourth, and were followed by Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski of Israel and Canada's Marie France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.

  • In Ostrava, Czech Republic, Yukina Ota won her first world junior title after a near flawless performance in the free program.

    The teenager from Japan landed five triples at the Junior World Figure Skating Championships, including two in combination with double jumps. Ota finished ninth at last year's competition in Hamar, Norway.

    Japan's Miki Ando moved up one spot from the short program to win the silver medal. She attempted a quadruple salchow jump, but made a slight mistake on the landing.

    She is the only woman to successfully land a quad in competition, making history when she hit the difficult jump at the Junior Grand Prix Final in The Hague, Netherlands, last December.

    Carolina Kostner of Italy was fifth in the free program with a disappointing performance, but was far enough ahead after the qualifying round and the short program to finish third.

    Mai Asada placed third in the free program to finish fourth overall. Ye Bin Mok of the United States finished fifth overall.

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL

  • Purdue coach Joe Tiller has looked to Marshall to hire another assistant.

    Bill Legg will coach the Boilermakers' offensive line. Legg was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Marshall last season.

    Former Marshall assistant Phil Elmassian was hired to coach Purdue's defensive backs on Tuesday. Both Legg and Elmassian came to Marshall after coaching stints at West Virginia.

    "We are pleased to have Bill join our staff because he has a wealth of experience in coaching the one-back offense," Tiller said. "He has an outstanding reputation as an offensive line coach."

    Legg, a center at West Virginia from 1981-84, coached at his alma mater from 1995-2000. He joined Marshall coach Bob Pruett's staff in 2001, when Rich Rodriguez replaced Don Nehlen as the Mountaineers' coach.

    He also has coached at Virginia Military Institute, Eastern Illinois and West Virginia Tech.

    GYMNASTICS

  • In Fairfax, Va., Carly Patterson added her name to an impressive list of U.S. gymnastics champions at the American Cup, while Blaine Wilson showed that his surgically repaired shoulder is fine.

    Patterson, the 15-year-old reigning U.S. Junior champion, dazzled the crowd with steady, sometimes spectacular routines and led the way as the American foursome swept the top four spots in the international event.

    The United States was competing without two-time defending national champion and defending American Cup winner Tasha Schwikert, who withdrew Tuesday while recovering from ankle surgery last fall.

    Patterson was more than ready to fill the void. She executed a standing Arabian on the balance beam, jumping and turning, then doing a forward flip, seemingly all in one motion. She capped the meet with the floor exercise, which drew loud applause from the crowd.

    When she performed steadily in the event, she clinched the title with a total score of 38.662 points, compared with 38.199 for runner-up Courtney Kupets. Patterson joined a list of former winners that includes Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller, all of whom went on to win Olympic gold.

    Kupets was followed in the four-event women's competition by Ashley Postell and Annia Hatch, who made her debut for the United States. Kupets and Postell both won individual gold last year at the world championships.

    Wilson, a five-time national champion, won this event for the fifth time, showing no ill affects from left shoulder surgery six months ago.

    He punctuated his performance with a double-twisting, double layout dismount off the high bar, sticking his landing with both fists raised.

    Teammate Brett McClure finished second, followed by Hiroyuki Tomita of Japan and American Sean Townsend.

    The event was the first major international competition building up to the world championships in Anaheim, Calif., in August and next year's Athens Olympics. The competition provided a chance for the U.S. athletes to prove that their high expectations for the next 1.5 years are justified.

    The American women were expected to get their stiffest challenge from Elena Zamolodchikova, but the double gold medalist from the Sydney Olympics and 2001 American Cup champion was seventh after the vault. She then crash-landed on her knees while making her uneven parallel bars dismount.

    Zamolodchikova injured her left foot on the landing and did not compete in the last two events -- the balance beam and floor exercise.

    TENNIS

  • In Acapulco, Mexico, Amanda Coetzer of South Africa beat France's Emilie Loit, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to the finals of the Mexican Open.

    Coetzer, the No. 2 seed in the tournament and No. 23 in the world, used a deceptively speedy serve to put away Loit in just 1 hour, 12 minutes. Her serves climbed to maximum speeds near 88 mph and overcame a steady breeze that carried both players' long shots out of bounds.

    "I've worked hard with my game to adapt and stay with the younger players," said Coetzer, who won the Mexican Open in 2001. "I still feel like I'm at my peak physically. I feel young and ready to compete with anyone."

    Loit, 23, used a crushing but accurate forehand to hug the court's corners early and break her opponent's serve for a 2-1 lead in the first set. But the 31-year-old Coetzer responded with shutout victories in three straight games against Loit, the seventh seed and world No. 55.

    Loit again took an early advantage in the second set, but Coetzer broke her serve twice as she put the match away.

    Perennial underdog Mariana Diaz-Oliva of Argentina, No. 104 in the world, will take on Japan's Shinobu Asagoe late Saturday for the right to take on Coetzer in the finals. Neither player was seeded at the start of the tournament.

    In men's doubles, Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and Canadian Daniel Nestor beat the Spanish duo of David Ferrer and Fernando Vicente 6-3, 6-3 to win the championship.

  • In Scottsdale, Ariz., Second-seeded Kim Clijsters beat Meghan Shaughnessy, 6-3, 7-5, at the State Farm Women's Tennis Classic to reach her third final of the year.

    Clijsters will play either Alexandra Stevenson or Ai Sugiyama in today's final.

    Because rain forced delays throughout the tournament, Clijsters had to play two singles and a doubles match Friday. She said she was concerned about her energy level Saturday.

    "I started to feel it a little bit toward the end," Clijsters said. "That's why I tried to finish it off in two sets. I'm still young, so I hope I can manage a three-set match."

    Clijsters won at Sydney this year and lost to Venus Williams in the final at Antwerp. She has a 15-2 match record this year, with the only other defeat to Serena Williams in the Australian Open semifinals.

  • In Copenhagen, Denmark, Unseeded Olivier Rochus outlasted fourth-seeded Radek Stepanek, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4, in the Copenhagen Open semifinals.

    Rochus, also a finalist in 2002, will play third-seeded Karol Kucera for the title.

    Kucera defeated second-seeded Wayne Arthurs, 6-2, 6-4.

  • In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, top-seeded Roger Federer put away Ivan Ljubicic, 6-3, 6-2, in less than an hour to reach the final of the Dubai Open.

    Federer's opponent today will be third-seeded Jiri Novak, who beat Tommy Robredo, 6-4, 6-1, in the other semifinal.

    Federer hasn't dropped a set at the tournament.

    TRACK AND FIELD

  • In Boston, Gail Devers broke her own American record in the 60-meter hurdles, winning a heat in 7.74 seconds to reach the final at the U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships.

    Devers ran 7.78 last month at the Millrose Games to break Jackie Joyner-Kersee's 14-year-old record of 7.81. The hurdle final was scheduled for later Saturday.

    In yesterday's early finals, defending champion Tim Rusan won the triple jump with the longest in the world this year, and Joanne Dow won the 3,000 race walk.

    Rusan's leap of 57 feet, 3 inches was a personal best. Walter Davis was second at 56-6.5, and Kenta Bell was third at 55-11.75.

    "When you jump bad, you feel it, and when you jump good, you feel it, too," Rusan said. "I knew I had jumped far, but I just didn't know how far."

    Dow won in 13 minutes, 7.68 seconds. Michelle Rohl was second in 13:21.19, followed by Sam Cohen in 13:50.85.

    WINTER SPORTS

  • In Lake Placid, N.Y., Tracy Barnes beat her twin sister to win the 10-kilometer pursuit title at the U.S. national biathlon championships.

    Dan Campbell, hospitalized last month with severe frostbite on his hands, finished first in the men's 12.5-kilometer pursuit.

    Barnes, of Durango, Colo., missed four of 20 shooting targets and completed the women's race in 35 minutes, 39.8 seconds. Her sister Lanny missed six targets and finished in 36:31.8 for her second silver medal of the championships.

    "I love competing against Lanny. It's a friendly rivalry between us," Tracy Barnes said.

    Sarah Granroth, of Marquette, Mich., was third in 36:41.6.

    Campbell, of Hastings, Minn., missed just two of 20 targets in shooting and finished in 33:32.7. Lowell Bailey, who won Thursday's sprint, missed four targets and was second in 33:53.6. Jesse Downs was third in 34:42.8.

    The placings here determine who qualifies for the U.S. team at the world championships in Russia next month.

  • In Innsbruck, Austria, Michaela Dorfmeister won a World Cup downhill race but was more concerned about Caroline Lalive.

    Lalive broke two ribs, injured her back and tore ligaments in her right knee in a crash after crossing the finish line in 24th place. The American caught a ski in the snow, causing her to twist and fall headfirst.

    She slid into a barrier in the finish area, where she was hit in the head with one ski, and in the back with the other.

    Dorfmeister, who won the race in 1 minute, 31.51 seconds on the Patscherkofel course, was in the finish area when Lalive crashed.

    "My instinct told me to run to her. Caroline was in a very bad state," Dorfmeister said. "I opened her boots and took her goggles off. She could not say much, but she seemed confident."

    Lalive was taken to the Innsbruck University clinic for surgery on her knee. An assistant to surgeon Peter Seykora provided no further information on Lalive's condition.

    Lalive's injuries did not appear to be career-threatening, according to Austrian ski team medical chief Brigitte Auer.

    The 23-year-old Lalive is known as one of the most frequent crashers in the sport. She failed to finish 10 straight races last year, including at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

    Dorfmeister led Austria to a 1-2 finish and moved into first place in the discipline's standings. She edged young teammate Katja Wirth by 0.45 seconds. Hilde Gerg of Germany finished third, 0.54 seconds behind.

    Dorfmeister, the defending Super G world champion, capitalized on rising temperatures. Her rivals, such as American Kirsten Clark, France's Carole Montillet and Austria's Renate Goetschl, prefer icier slopes.

    "It was four degrees warmer today than on Friday, which was an advantage for me. I was three seconds faster than in training," Dorfmeister said after her 16th career win. "Thanks to my waxing team my ski was so incredibly fast, I was happy not to have made any major mistake."

    Wirth, who had won just one point in the downhill after finishing 30th in Lake Louise, Canada, was a surprise second.

    "I am all excited. I was quite successful in the European Cup series, winning the downhill," she said. "It gave me a lot of self-confidence and I had nothing to lose, so I thought, I will just let the skis race on and see how it goes."

    Gerg finished third despite racing with a torn cruciate ligament.

    "I am super happy to race that well again after my injuries. My knee still hurts, but it's getting better," the 1998 Olympic slalom champion said.

    Dorfmeister leads the downhill standings with 332 points after seven races. Montillet finished seventh and slipped from first to second in the standings with 281 points. Goetschl finished fourth in the downhill and was third in the standings with 268 points.

    In the overall World Cup standings, Dorfmeister moved into second place behind Croatia's Janica Kostelic.

    Kostelic, who placed 12th in the downhill, leads with 1,380 points, well ahead of Dorfmeister's 847.

  • In Yongpyong, South Korea, Michael Von Gruenigen beat Frederic Covili and Bode Miller to win the giant slalom on the Yongpyong resort's Rainbow course and increase his lead in the standings.

    The 31-year-old Von Gruenigen clinched the victory with a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 26.68 seconds. Covili was 0.17 behind, while Miller was 0.32 back.

    Von Gruenigen's third giant slalom win of the season increased his lead over Miller in the overall giant slalom standings from 57 to 97 points. Von Gruenigen also won two of this season's giant slalom races with victories in Val d'Isere, France, and Park City, Utah.

    The Swiss star won the giant slalom world title in 1997 and 2001.

    Saturday's races were delayed for one hour as officials cleared four inches of snow that fell overnight.

    Covili's best finish of the season before Saturday had been second place in Soelden, Austria, last October. On Saturday, the Frenchman recorded the fastest time of 1:13.41 in the first run.

    But it wasn't enough to win. A victorious Von Gruenigen kissed his skies as Covili crossed the finish line in the second run for a combined time of 2:26.85.

    Von Gruenigen moves into 11th place in the overall World Cup standings after his victory.

    Stephen Eberharter of Switzerland leads the overall standings, followed by Miller and Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt. Eberharter, who aimed to gain points in the technical events, came in 23rd on Saturday.

    Ivica Kostelic of Croatia did not finish the first run. He leads the slalom title race by 100 points over Finland's Kalle Palander and could almost clinch a World Cup victory with a win Sunday.

    Austria's Hermann Maier did not compete at Yongpyong. He has had a nail surgically removed from the leg he almost lost in a motorcycle crash in 2001.

    This Asian resort is staging two technical events for the Word Cup -- the slalom and giant slalom.

  • In Voss, Norway, Americans Travis Cabral and Shannon Bahrke clinched moguls titles at the final World Cup meet of the season.

    Cabral finished sixth behind Olympic champion Janne Lahtela of Finland, but erased an eight-point deficit and moved past overall leader Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau, whose 11th place finish dropped him into second in the overall standings.

    Cabral finished with 628 points, while Rousseau had 616. Olympic silver medalist Travis Mayer was third and fellow American Toby Dawson was fourth.

    Luke Westerlund and Mayer finished second and third, respectively, behind Rousseau.

    Defending World Cup moguls champion Jeremy Bloom, who missed the first three weeks of the ski season to play football at Colorado, did not compete in Norway. Two weeks ago, Bloom sat out a meet because of a sore knee, but he came back to win the moguls at a World Cup meet in Japan last week.

    Bahrke, the silver medalist at the Salt Lake City Olympics, won the women's moguls final. Japan's Aiko Uemura was second and Olympic champion Kari Traa of Norway was third.

    "I can't believe it," Bahrke said. "This is a big, big win for me. It's great to win in Norway ... Kari has won so many times in the States."

    The 22-year-old Bahrke finished eight points ahead of Traa in the overall standings.

    Dual moguls are today.

  • In Inzell, Germany, Canada's Jeremy Wotherspoon and Germany's Monique Garbrecht-Enfeldt won sprint races at a speedskating World Cup event.

    Garbrecht-Enfeldt won her fourth straight 1,000-meter race in 1 minute, 18.22 seconds, finishing 0.19 ahead of countrywoman Anni Friesinger. Canada's Catriona LeMay-Doan was third in 1:18.81.

    Garbrecht-Enfeldt also beat LeMay-Doan in the 500, finishing in 38.55 seconds, 0.28 ahead of the Olympic champion.

    "I wanted the test because it's likely I will face her again at the world championships in two weeks," Garbrecht-Enfeldt said.

    Wotherspoon won his seventh 500 race, clocking a 35.42 and beating American Joey Cheek's 35.63.

    In the 1,000, Wotherspoon finished a distant third to Olympic champion Gerard van Velde, who won in a track record 1:10.60. Jan Bos was second, two-hundredths of a second back, and Wotherspoon finished in 1:10.84.

  • In Val di Fiemme, Italy, Martin Koukal of the Czech Republic won the 50-kilometer race at the Nordic world championships.

    Koukal completed the freestyle event in 1 hour, 54 minutes and 25.3 seconds, 15 seconds ahead of Sweden's Anders Soedergren. Joergen Brink was 43.7 seconds back in third, and current World Cup leader Mathias Fredriksson was fourth, 59.9 seconds off the pace. American Carl Swenson, who started 10 minutes in front of the leading group, finished fifth, 1:23.9 back.

    The victory was Koukal's first world championship or Olympic medal. It was also the first medal in the championships for the Czech team.

    Koukal started 30 seconds in front of Italy's Fulvio Valbusa, who had the fastest times at the 25K and 37.5K marks.

    "I didn't feel so well the first 25 kilometers," said Koukal, who finished sixth in the skiathlon on Sunday. "My legs were a little heavy.

    "After 25K I started to feel better and started to exchange with Valbusa. It's the highest point of my career."

    Valbusa faded on the final lap and finished 18th, more than three minutes behind.

    Norway led in the medals standings with five golds and 16 overall. Germany was second with three golds and eight overall. Sweden finished with two golds and six overall.

    OFF THE FIELD

  • In Ahmadabad, India, Violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims after India beat Pakistan in a Cricket World Cup match. At least one person died, three were injured, and shops and vehicles were burned.

    The violence erupted in India's western state of Gujarat, where in 2002 the country's worst religious clashes in a decade left more than 1,000 people dead. Tension has simmered since, and divisions between Hindus and Muslims remain sharp.

    Rioting was reported Saturday in at least six neighborhoods in Ahmadabad, the state's largest city and industrial hub. An unidentified man was rushed to a hospital after being stabbed, police said.

    Police fired gunshots after they were attacked by a group of Muslims, apparently angered by Hindus who lit firecrackers and handed out candy to celebrate India's victory, said A.K. Pandya, the deputy commissioner of police.

    One protester was killed in the police firing, Pandya said.

    Two police officers were by injured by stones.

    In Vadodara city, police lobbed tear gas shells in three areas to disperse rioting mobs after three cars and a restaurant owned by a Muslim man were burned, police said.

    India is a secular nation where more than 80 percent of the population are Hindus. Muslims are the largest religious minority.

    Pakistan is India's Islamic neighbor. The nations have fought three wars.

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