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Yamaguchi’s Verve Rewarded With Gold : Skating: She moves from third place to victory with her freestyle performance, beating Trenary for the first time.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When she arrived for the Goodwill Games women’s figure skating competition, Jill Trenary said she was so uninspired that she had to pretend Kristi Yamaguchi was the world champion.

Yamaguchi is not the world champion--yet. She did, however, become the Goodwill Games champion Saturday night before a Tacoma Dome crowd of 16,364 with a superb freestyle performance.

A recent high school graduate from Fremont, Calif., Yamaguchi, 19, was in third place behind Trenary and another U.S. teammate, Nancy Kerrigan, after Thursday night’s original program.

But Yamaguchi moved ahead of both with her best freestyle skating since early last year, cleanly landing five triple jumps to beat Trenary, 22, for the first time. Yamaguchi was runner-up to Trenary in the last two national championships.

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A three-time U.S. champion and the reigning world champion, Trenary skated conservatively, trying to protect her lead after the original program, and failed to complete two of the five triple jumps she had planned.

Easily the most ambitious program was attempted by France’s Surya Bonaly, a potential star at 16, who tried seven triple jumps--landing five--and a quadruple jump.

Only two men have ever performed a quadruple jump, none before 1988, and Bonaly is the only woman to attempt one. This was her best effort in three tries. She completed 3 1/2 revolutions before two-footing the landing.

“Usually, I fall on the quad,” said Bonaly, who was born in Nice to a couple from the Reunion Islands and adopted by French parents. “Today, I stood up, so it’s a little better.

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“It’s coming, but it’s not there yet. Next time, I feel I can do it.”

Bonaly’s performance was hardly tidy, but the judges were impressed enough with the difficulty of her program to move her into third place.

She saved her best for last. When she returned to the ice for the awards ceremony, Bonaly, a former gymnast, treated the crowd, including Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, with a backflip.

Kerrigan, 20, who is from Stoneman, Mass., skated after both Yamaguchi and Trenary and had a chance to win. But she fell three times and dropped from second to fifth.

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Kerrigan, the U.S. Olympic Festival champion, was invited to the Goodwill Games after Holly Cook, third in the 1990 World Championships, withdrew because she was not prepared. The runner-up at the World Championships, Japan’s Midori Ito, did not compete because she is resting her chronically sore ankles.

It was the first time in Yamaguchi’s past five competitions that she has skated a clean freestyle program. Four of the seven judges gave her 5.8s on a scale of 6.0 for technical merit, and five gave her 5.8s for artistic impression.

Four judges scored her ahead of Trenary, although the world champion received the night’s highest scores, two 5.9s, for artistic impression.

Naturally, Yamaguchi was asked whether she feels stronger after deciding last spring to eliminate pairs from her schedule and concentrate entirely on singles.

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She has competed in both for several years, but she said last week that she and former partner Rudi Galindo of San Jose had progressed as far as they could when they finished fifth at the World Championships in March.

She and Galindo are two-time national champions and former world junior champions in pairs. They also are both former world junior champions in singles.

“I felt I got a lot more rest this week and throughout the competition,” Yamaguchi said. “It’s a lot less hectic schedule.”

Asked about her reaction to finally beating Trenary, she said: “I think I’m more happy about the way I skated. I wanted to do a fairly clean program, so I’m really pleased.”

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Trenary said she was not disappointed. She has never performed particularly well in off-season competitions and said last week that it was difficult for her to take the Goodwill Games seriously.

Indeed, this might have been Trenary’s last amateur competition. She said last week that she would decide after the Goodwill Games whether to continue training for the 1992 Winter Olympics or turn professional and join an ice show.

Yamaguchi said she would not offer advice to Trenary.

“I don’t feel that decision is in my hands,” she said.

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“I’m sure she doesn’t want me to stay in,” Trenary said.

In the dance competition Saturday night, the U.S. pair of Joseph Druar and Susan Wynne joined two Soviet couples on the awards stand with a third-place finish. World champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko were first, followed by Maia Usova and Alexander Zhulin.


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