Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lipinski Has Lead in World Title Chase

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lipinski Has Lead in World Title Chase

Article excerpt

* At 14, she would be youngest to win - breaking Sonja Henie's record.

She says she isn't even thinking about winning, even now. "I'm not expecting it at all," said Tara Lipinski, who's only four minutes from becoming the youngest woman to win the world figure skating title. "If I thought I could win this, it would be too much pressure."

No 14-year-old since Norway's Sonja Henie in 1927 has won the crown, but after skating a textbook short program Friday afternoon at the Malley Ice Rink here, the ninth grader from Sugar Land, Texas, is on the verge. And 16-year-old Michelle Kwan, who won the title last year, is all but out of contention after stepping out of the triple lutz in her combination. "I'd rather be first," said Kwan, who's sitting in fourth behind France's Vanessa Gusmeroli and Russia's Maria Butyrskaya. "But there's nothing I can do now except skate well (today) and do it for myself." It was a shattering day for last year's medalists, none of whom finished in the top three. China's Chen Lu, out of shape and struggling with an injured foot, skated pathetically and ended up 25th, missing the cut for the long program and automatic Olympic qualification. "It didn't go well, but it's got nothing to do with stress," said Chen, who won the 1995 title and was runner-up last year. "I simply haven't had enough time to train after my injury." And Russia's Irina Slutskaya, last year's bronze medalist, was mired in sixth after falling on her combination. "She was very nervous," said coach Zhanna Gromova. Except for Lipinski's effort, it was a sobering day for the Americans, who had been hoping to sweep the women's medals for the first time since 1991. Nicole Bobek, the 1995 bronze medalist, was obviously distracted by the death of coach Carlo Fassi here Thursday afternoon and placed eighth. "My warm-up felt great and I was very strong," said Bobek, who ended up stepping out of her combination and falling on her triple toe loop. …

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