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Figure Skating Field Wide Open : Retirements Leave Room for New Stars

From Associated Press

Katarina Witt has retired, and so have the two Brians--Boitano and Orser. But Kurt Browning has his quadruple jump, Aleksandr Fadeev has the experience and Chris Bowman has the showmanship. For the first time in years, the World Figure Skating Championships are wide open.

Competitions begins Tuesday with the men’s singles compulsories, followed at night by the pairs original program, in which the United States’ 17-year-old Kristi Yamaguchi of Fremont, Calif., begins her double-pronged quest for honors.

“Anything could happen,” said Bowman, of Van Nuys, the U.S. national champion renowned for his flashiness and individuality. “We are setting new ground for the next four years.”

Browning, who became the first skater to successfully land the quadruple jump at last year’s world championships, agreed.

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Another leading contender is the Soviet Union’s Viktor Petrenko, last year’s Olympic and world bronze medalist, who is coming off a groin injury for his first international event of the year.

While the retirement of the two Brians has opened up the men’s event, the same scenario has emerged in the women’s competition. The end of the Witt era--the East German arrived in Paris Tuesday as a spectator--has opened the door to a group of Western women skaters in what is expected to be the most competitive event at the Palais Omnisports in Paris.

With Witt, Canada’s Liz Manley and American Debi Thomas all professionals, the battle for gold probably will be between U.S. national champion Jill Trenary, European champion Claudia Leistner and Japan’s Midori Ito, whose dazzling jumping endeared her to fans throughout the world last year at Calgary.

“It’s wide open. Anyone could win it,” said Trenary, who flew into Paris by Concorde from New York. Trenary, from Colorado Springs, Colo., was sidelined by a groin injury just after the U.S. championships, but says she feels fine now.

Trenary has until Thursday, the start of the women’s event, to hone her program and make up for lost time on the ice.

But for teammate Yamaguchi, the action starts immediately.

Yamaguchi regarded by many experts as America’s fastest rising star, is doubling up in singles and pairs.

Yamaguchi, world junior women and pairs champion in 1988, out-skated Trenary in the free skating finale at the U.S. championships, finishing second overall.

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Then she combined with Rudi Galindo to upset Kim and Wayne Seebold for the pairs title.


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