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There’s Silver Lining for Kwan : Goodwill Games: Skater outperforms Bonaly and others in freestyle to take second.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Michelle Kwan celebrated a birthday one month ago today, but she is still so very young--young enough that when her coach, Frank Carroll, told her the cliche Saturday morning about the tough getting going when the going gets tough, it did not sound like a cliche to her.

It sounded like inspiration, which she needed after floundering in her technical program on the opening day of the Goodwill Games women’s figure skating competition Friday and finding herself in sixth place among eight skaters.

But, displaying poise beyond her 14 years, she returned to the Yubileiny Sports Palace on Saturday to give one of the best performances of her young career. She defeated World Championships silver-medalist and four-time European champion Surya Bonaly and everyone else in the freestyle program to vault to second place overall behind the 21-year-old Frenchwoman.

“This is a new little notch in her belt, beating Surya in the free,” said Carroll, who coaches Kwan, of Torrance, at Lake Arrowhead’s International Ice Castles.

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Then, unable to maintain his usual restraint, Carroll added, “Yes!”

Bonaly, who has been working temporarily with Carroll this summer at Lake Arrowhead, gave him nothing to exclaim about, at least not positively. When she committed to appear in this competition, she hinted that she would use it as an opportunity to become the first woman to land a quadruple jump. But even after finishing first in the technical program, she said that she would be lucky to remain upright on her double and triple jumps Saturday.

She stood up, but, otherwise, there was not much in her program to scintillate the crowd of about 3,500 in the 7,000-seat arena. Dissatisfied with her skating boots, she wore one from a new pair and one from an old pair and had difficulty keeping balance. The only reason she was able to finish second in the freestyle program, which counts toward two-thirds of the final score, and hold on to first place overall is because the others who had a chance to unseat her skated as poorly or worse.

The seven judges had a hard time sorting out the mess, not unusual for a mid-summer competition. About the only thing they could agree upon is that the other two Americans, Nicole Bobek of Chicago and Elaine Zayak of Paramus, N.J., belonged in the seventh and eight places.

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No woman scored higher than a 5.7, on a 6.0 scale, for technical merit or artistic impression. Besides Kwan and Bonaly, two Russians, Maria Butyrskaya, who finished third overall, and Olga Markova, who was fourth, also received first-place votes for their freestyle programs. Kwan won that phase of the competition because she also had three second-place votes and a third. Then there was an inexplicable sixth from an Estonian judge.

“I don’t think he knows one jump from another,” Carroll said.

One of only three women who did not fall, Kwan had the most technically demanding program as she attempted, and landed, seven triple jumps. But Carroll was even more impressed with the mature presentation of her new freestyle program, skated to music by Saint-Saens. It is her first classically oriented long program after going with lighter, bouncier fare in the past.

She also is improving at selling her performance, something that she said she has learned from watching Olympic champion Oksana Baiul of Ukraine. Kwan smiled whenever she remembered that she was supposed to Saturday and blew a kiss to the crowd when she finished.

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She still has difficulty putting her performances into perspective for reporters, but the high-five she gave her father, Danny, in the hallway afterward said it all.

Carroll was at least equally enthused, but said he does not want to get carried away. It would be easy to do. Before Kwan’s 14th birthday, she had finished first in the junior world championships, first in the U.S. Olympic Festival and second in the national championships. Now, she has a freestyle victory over Bonaly and a silver medal from the Goodwill Games.

Goodwill Notes

Lisa Leslie scored 24 points as the U.S. women’s basketball team rolled to a 105-73 victory over China to advance to the women’s basketball final. Dawn Staley added 21, Ruthie Bolton-Holifield had 15 and Sheryl Swoopes scored 11. The U.S. women, seeking their first gold medal in major international competition since 1990, face France in Sunday’s final. The French, led by Isabelle Fijalkowski with 20 points, defeated Russia, 80-73, in the other semifinal. . . . Chinese divers won gold and bronze in the women’s 10-meter platform diving. Xiong Min won with more than 429 points. Mary Ellen Clark of the United States was second with Deng Yong third. . . . American Ruth Davidon won the gold medal in the women’s 500-meter single sculls. The men’s 500 singles sculls also went to an American, Jason Gailes.

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