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Skating Notebook: Rested pair skate to victory

Ina and Zimmerman come back from layoff to win short program

Thursday, February 10, 2000

By Lori Shontz, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

CLEVELAND -- John Zimmerman felt a bit jittery. So did his partner, Kyoko Ina, and no wonder. It had been two long months since they had competed, eight long weeks since they had performed their short program for anyone other than their coaches.

"You get on a roll," Ina said. "When you're competing every week you get used to all that anxiety."

Added Zimmerman, "You learn to channel that anxiety. Hopefully, we remembered that real fast tonight."

They did, and that's why they won the pairs short program last night at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Gund Arena. Ina and Zimmerman, wearing black costumes and skating to spooky, dramatic music from the soundtrack of "The Truman Show," received scores ranging between 5.2 and 5.6 for required elements and mostly 5.7s for presentation.

They made one error on their throw triple salchow, an element they had hit regularly in practice. This time, Ina over-rotated and touched the ice briefly with her hand.

"It was a directional error," Zimmerman said.

Added Ina, "I think we got a little too overexcited with the triple toes and forgot there was a lot left to do."

Ina and Zimmerman didn't qualify for the Grand Prix final, so they took two months off from competition leading up to the nationals. Although they didn't design the plan, it paid off. They paid close attention to cleaning up each individual element, and they were the only pair that didn't fall.

The competition was thin at the top this year with two of the top three pairs from last year's national championships out with injuries.

Second place went to Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn, who also dressed in black and made one error. Their mistake, however, was Scott's fall on the opening side-by-side triple toe loops.

"I wish I had landed the triple toe, but I will Friday [in the long program]," Scott said. "Our program felt really good."

The brother-sister team of Tiffany and Johnnie Stiegler finished third based solely on their presentation marks; Tiffany fell on the side-by-side triple toes and the throw triple loop.

Weiss healthy

Defending men's champion Michael Weiss said the ankle injury that kept him out of most of the fall competitions is healed. He understands, however, that some might not know what to make of him.

"I think unproven would be a good word for me this year," he said. "I had a rough start to the season because of the injury, and it's hard to analyze somebody when you have an injury. I can honestly say that I haven't felt better than this. I am confident in my ankle, and I am confident in my skating."

After the Trophee Lalique competition in mid-November, Weiss didn't step onto the ice for two weeks. When he returned, he could do edge jumps; his ankle hurt only on quadruple and triple toe loops. "That's how I could do the pro-ams and the shows," he said. "I could do those events and do only the flip or salchow."

Kwan eyes Olympics

Two-time defending champion Michelle Kwan, at 19, is now one of the old ladies of her sport. But she is clear on one point -- don't count her out for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, even though she'll be 21 years old.

"I'm pretty much fully committed," she said. "I hate to say fully committed and have something happen. But right now, I'm 100 percent."

That said, Kwan is well aware that she is of a different generation than much of her competition, particularly in the United States. Now she knows that a group of 14- and 15-year-olds are looking up to her the way she once did to Nancy Kerrigan, whom she admired from afar in the early 1990s.

Not that Kerrigan knew it. "I was never brave enough to say anything," Kwan said.

Kwan knows several of the up-and-coming skaters, including Naomi Nari Nam and Sasha Cohen, who often train at Lake Arrowhead, where she trains.

"I find them asking questions --Are you nervous? -- that are something I would have asked," Kwan said. "They ask me about worlds. They know I've been there, and they try to capture everything, put the images in their own minds. It's cute."



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