Ice skating: Kwan glides gracefully to gold

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The Independent Online
Ice skating

The American Michelle Kwan won the women's competition at the World Figure Skating Championships in Edmonton, Canada, after a close battle with the defending champion, Lu Chen of China.

Irina Slutskaya, of Russia, took the bronze medal with Britain's Stephanie Main finishing back in 22nd place.

Kwan and Chen each received marks of 6.0 - the highest possible and the only ones in this competition - from two of the nine judges in the long programme, which was worth two-thirds of the final total.

The 15-year-old Kwan displayed remarkable grace under pressure by performing brilliantly after Chen had been awarded two 6.0s and a standing ovation from the 17,000 fans just 20 minutes earlier.

"I think it's incredible that there is a Chinese-American that won the world championship," Kwan said.

Russia's Maria Butryskaya was fourth and France's Surya Bonaly, who captured the silver medal for the last three years, was fifth.

Slutskaya, who fell just 25 seconds into her programme when attempting a triple jump, showed great composure by coming back to land a combination triple-double jump and performed the rest of her routine without error.

The 17-year-old Slutskaya, in only her second world championships after finishing seventh last year, received excellent marks, but the fall apparently destroyed her chance to win silver or gold.

The long-awaited return of Japan's Midori Ito delighted the crowd, but Ito, who had an undisclosed illness that forced her to go to hospital on Thursday, had trouble with several of her jumps and finished seventh.

Ito, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist and 1989 world champion, was returning to the event after a four-year absence in which she turned professional before being reinstated for the championships.