U.S. Skating Panel Mulls Kwan News

Times Staff Writer

Michelle Kwan was examined by a doctor on Thursday, and a report on her condition was sent to U.S. Figure Skating's International Committee to consult tonight while it decides whether to approve her request for a medical bye onto the Turin Olympic team, U.S. Figure Skating officials said Friday.

They did not identify the doctor. Kwan, a nine-time U.S. champion, five-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist, withdrew from the U.S. championships after she pulled a groin muscle.

Her agent, Shep Goldberg, said she practiced Friday at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia for the first time since mid-December as her "doctor had given her permission to do."

The top female skater after tonight's long program will get an Olympic nomination; the last two berths will be awarded by the committee. Perhaps 10 of the 35 voting members are expected to recuse themselves, claiming conflicts of interest.

"They're not leaving the room until they have a majority," said David Raith, U.S. Figure Skating's executive director. "We will cut off the food and water."

Kwan's lone experience with the new cumulative scoring system was a fourth-place finish at the 2005 world championships, but among American skaters her scores in the short program, long program and overall are second only to scores earned by Sasha Cohen since the system's 2003 debut.

Kwan had 61.22 points in the short program, 113.98 in the long program and 175.20 overall. Cohen's personal bests are 71.12 in the short program and a total of 197.60 at Skate Canada in 2003, and a 130.89 in the long program at Skate America in 2003.

"Michelle has been a marvelous champion. She's a terrific athlete," said Ron Hershberger, president of U.S. Figure Skating. "It's clear that skating fans everywhere adore her, and they should. She's been a terrific image for the sport of figure skating."

However, the image projected by Johnny Weir stirred controversy. After taking the lead in the men's event here Thursday, he compared fans' reactions to his dignified routine and Ryan Bradley's peppy program by saying, "This one, they kind of sat back and had their cognac and cigarettes and they were relaxing and watching, and his was more like a vodka shot, let's-snort-coke kind of thing."

Weir also has likened his costumes to "an icicle on coke," and "a Care Bear on acid."

Said Raith: "We have talked to Johnny and at the right time we will talk to Johnny again. There are analogies that could certainly be more appropriate than others."

Raith and Hershberger also said that the 2007 competition would be held after the NFL conference championships and before the Super Bowl, in an effort to improve TV ratings. Raith said he was optimistic about talks with ABC/ESPN on extending a TV contract that expires after next season.

Raith, who projected that American skaters would win four medals in Turin, added that the U.S. would bid for the 2009 world championships and that Los Angeles had expressed interest in being the site.

Julie Sediq, a spokeswoman for the Arrowhead Pond, said the arena was interested in playing host to the event but said talks hadn't gone beyond the preliminary stage.

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