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Russians Have a Golden Edge on Home Ice : Goodwill Games: American Todd Eldredge claims silver medal in men’s competition.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

This city might have difficulty producing ice but not ice skaters. Through the Goodwill Games’ first two figure skating events, pairs and men’s singles, skaters who train at the Yubileiny Sports Palace have rewarded their fans with four of the six medals, including both golds.

Led by Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev, the Winter Olympic gold medalists from 1992 and silver medalists from ’94, they swept the first three places in pairs. Later Friday night, 1994 Olympic gold medalist Alexei Urmanov became the men’s champion, ahead of second-place Todd Eldredge of the United States.

Under other circumstances, one might suspect a home-ice advantage for the Russians. But it would hardly be fair to call the Yubileiny ice an advantage for anyone.

After the skaters had waited out a 24-hour delay while rink temperatures cooled enough to freeze water, they had few complaints about the ice when the competition finally began Thursday night. But by Friday night, the Goodwill Games’ ice-meisters apparently had overcompensated. The surface, the skaters said, was too hard.

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Not that any of them wanted to continue making an issue of it. One who started to object, then changed his mind was Urmanov, who said: “I should not have any complaints about the quality of the ice because I won the gold.”

Suffering more than the skaters were members of the St. Petersburg Organizing Committee. Expecting figure skating to be one of the few sellouts, they have found that the schedule change confused potential ticket buyers.

The Friday afternoon session, which was postponed from Thursday night, drew a crowd of about 100 in the 7,000-seat Yubileiny. That perhaps was a disappointment for France’s Surya Bonaly, who skated well enough to lead after the women’s technical program, but not for three U.S. women. The fewer witnesses there were to their performance, the better--as Nicole Bobek was fifth, Michelle Kwan sixth and Elaine Zayak seventh in a field of eight.

The crowd was bigger Friday night, but Yubileiny remained more than a thousand spectators shy of capacity. Judging from their enthusiasm, however, they got their rubles’ worth, especially in the pairs competition as the Russians flaunted their supremacy.

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Finishing behind Mishkutenok and Dmitriev after the freestyle programs were second-place Marina Yeltsova and Alexei Bushkov, who finished third in this year’s World Championships, and third-place Yevgenia Shishkova and Vadim Naumov, the reigning world champions.

The young U.S. team of Stephanie Stiegler and Lance Travis, who train at Lake Arrowhead, finished a respectable fifth, one place ahead of their veteran teammates, Calla Urbanski and Rocky Marval, who have resumed their partnership this year after their second breakup in 1993.

Urbanski and Marval were not pleased with the judging, particularly that of the United States’ Joan Gruber, who placed the two American pairs behind not only three of the four Russian teams but also one from Latvia. Gruber was not particularly pleased with Urbanski and Marval, pointing out that her scores were consistent with those of the other six judges.

Easily the happiest American was Eldredge. He did not skate well enough in his freestyle program to upset Urmanov, but he did edge the 1994 Olympic bronze medalist, France’s Philippe Candeloro.

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In 1990, Eldredge was the youngest U.S. champion in 24 years at 18; he repeated at 19, started sliding at 20 and appears now to be making his comeback at 22.

Goodwill Games Notes

In women’s volleyball, Russia swept the United States, 3-0 (15-8, 15-10, 15-4), to win the gold medal. Japan beat China, 3-1, for the bronze. . . . In diving, Dmitri Sautin of Russia won the men’s 3-meter springboard. Scott Donie was the top U.S. finisher in fifth. . . . In men’s gymnastics, Yevgeni Shabayev of Russia and China’s Chjon Dun shared gold in the parallel bars, Grigori Misyutin of Ukraine won the vault and Russia’s Aleksei Voropayev the horizontal bar. The best U.S. finishers were Scott Keswick, fourth in the vault, and Drew Durbin, fourth in the horizontal bar. . . . The yachting competition, postponed for two days because of a lack of wind on the Gulf of Filand, was finally completed. The lone U.S. medalist was Eric Oetgen with a silver in the Finn class.


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