That he fell on the last jump of the last long program of his competitive season didn't matter to Todd Eldredge. Crashing to the ice on a triple axel he threw in "just for the heck of it" didn't mar his performance Wednesday--and it didn't prevent the three-time U.S. men's champion from moving up from third place and winning the Hershey's Kisses International Challenge title at the Sports Arena.
Eldredge, who rebounded from three years of illness and injuries to win this year's national championship and a silver medal at the world championships, won the long program to overtake Russian Ilia Kulik and earn the $25,000 first prize. Skating to music from the movie "Gettysburg," Eldredge completed seven triple jumps--including two demanding triple-triple combinations--and received two 5.9s (out of 6.0) for technical merit and one for presentation before 3,426.
"This was just a great way to end the season. A tough end but a great end," said Eldredge, who is from Chatham, Mass., and trains in a suburb of Detroit. "This is probably the hardest competition of the season to get up for because after you get hyped up for worlds, you don't have much time to crash and get back up for this. It was difficult, but skating not up to par (Tuesday) night ticked me off and got me up."
Eric Millot of France was third, followed by American Scott Davis--who fell twice--and 1994 Olympic gold medalist Alexei Urmanov of Russia, who fell once and wobbled throughout his 4 1/2-minute routine.
"This year went probably a little better than I had thought it would," Eldredge said. "I got myself back on track to where I was in '91. That's what this year was for, to get back on track and build up for the '98 Games."
Oksana Gritschuk and Evgeny Platov of Russia, who won the last two world ice dance championships and the 1994 Olympic gold medal, added another title to their collection Wednesday with a bouncy free dance that completed a sweep of all three phases of the event. Sophie Moniotte and Pascal Lavanchy of France were second and Americans Amy Webster and Ron Kravette were fourth.
Michelle Kwan of Torrance led the five-woman field before the long program, which counted for two-thirds of the final score. Olga Markova of Russia was second, ahead of U.S. champion and world bronze medalist Nicole Bobek, world silver medalist Surya Bonaly and two-time Hershey winner Caryn Kadavy.
World pairs champions Radka Kovarikova and Rene Novotny of the Czech Republic won the pairs event. U.S. pairs champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, who were third at worlds and third after Tuesday's short program, withdrew because Meno was ill.