ICE SKATING: Cousins counted out

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The Independent Online


reports from Birmingham

Stephen Cousins, given the expected hero's welcome on to the ice, skated up to his supporters' expectations at the National Exhibition Centre yesterday but he did not persuade the World Championship judges to place him any higher than sixth in the men's short programme.

True, his routine was not quite as technically testing as those of most of his rivals but, as with Britain's other representative Clive Shorten, he had the merit of jumping clean, which he did not manage at the European Championships last month. His minor error in a step sequence paled alongside the mishaps that befell others.

Cousins garnered marks of 5.2 to 5.5 for his execution of the required elements and marks of up to 5.7 for presentation. He deserved better. "I was so happy with the way that I did my programme, I'm just lost for words." He said of the judging: "I don't know what else I can do. I've come so close to winning the Europeans in recent years, I don't see why I can't do it next year. But after these marks, who knows? I'm going to get my mum to judge next year."

The short programme counts for only a third of the final score and given his rivals' prowess in the free programme, Cousins will do well to make any progress today.

The judges were taken by Todd Eldredge's performance, ranking the American champion first ahead of the Canadian, Elvis Stojko, who did all that he could in opening the defence of his title. His excellent execution of the opening combination of triple axel and triple toe-loop, he said, produced in him the surge of adrenalin that kept him flying through a programme that included a triple lutz and a double axel.

Eldredge struggled to hold a triple lutz, but though his jumping was otherwise clean, his programme lacked panache. His compatriot, Scott Davis, who he beat to the US title, jumped and spun superbly to pose the first threat to Stojko with only six more to skate, including Eldredge and Cousins.

Cousins at least was graced by the draw, which gave him the chance to skate last in the free. He will follow Stojko, who will know when he takes to the ice whether he needs to include his quadruple toe-loop to win, so his title is far from lost.

In the pairs, Radka Kovarikova and Rene Novotny maintained their new- found superiority over the defending champions, Evgenia Shishkova and Vadim Naumov of Russia, to win the world title for the first time for the Czech Republic. Mandy Woetzel and Ingo Steuer, the European champions from Germany, paid for Woetzel's jumping errors allowing the Americans, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, to take bronze.