ICE SKATING: Cousins stumbles as Elvis is crowned king

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reports from Birmingham

Steven Cousins may be Prince Charming in these parts, but Elvis remains the king everywhere. Canada's Elvis Stojko skated his way close to perfection at the National Exhibition Centre here last night to take the men's world title for the second successive year.

Following his training partner on to the ice, Cousins was welcomed with yells of encouragement fit to raise the roof. The fact that he skated last heightened the drama for his local fans, who still held out hopes of a medal, but he could not lift himself higher than eighth place.

Cousins dodged doing the quadruple salchow after falling on a triple axel early in his free programme, but Stojko stuck to his plan to attempt a quadruple toe-loop to ensure he held off the threat from the American, Todd Eldredge. He put both hands on the ice to recover his landing, but that failure did nothing to stop him. Indeed, the French judge still gave him a perfect six for technical merit.

His success in landing eight triple jumps (although he was flat-footed on one) was enough to see him through after two years out of top competition with a back injury and a subsequent loss of confidence. He, like Cousins, fell off a triple axel, but his performance was otherwise sharp and combative.

But if it was theatre that you wanted, then Philippe Candeloro was your man. The Frenchman began and ended a somewhat melodramatic programme, which included eight triple jumps and his trade-mark hops and spin, to the strains of the theme from The Godfather. The judges made him an offer he could not refuse - the bronze medal.

The early fall by Cousins took the sting out of his programme, while Clive Shorten, the British No 2, finished 19th after also hitting the ice during his ambitious routine.

It was a blessed return to something approaching objectivity in the evening after the subjective study of ice dance in the afternoon, when the couples showed off their interpretations of the quickstep.

As usual, those who chose to be there did not concur with those chosen to judge. The Russian defending champions, Oksana Grischuk and Evgeny Platov, won the section as they had the compulsories. The Russians, who should again have the edge in the concluding free programme tonight, maintained the panel's perceived advantage over the Finns, Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko, with the French couple, Sophie Moniotte and Pascal Lavanchy, again third.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 47