Mon, Jan 17, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Kwan soars once again

AP , PORTLAND, OREGON

Michelle Kwan holds her gold medal after winning first place for the ninth straight year in the US Figure Skating Championships in Portland, Oregon on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

Michelle Kwan won her ninth title at the US Figure Skating Champion-ships on Saturday night, tying Maribel Vinson for the all-time record.

She earned four more 6.0s, giving her 42 at nationals in an illustrious career that began more than a decade ago.

Now 24, Kwan is as dominant as ever, with no one in the UScoming close to challenging her.

"Nine incredible national championships," Kwan said, looking stunned at the magnitude of what she's done. "I don't know, every one is so different and unique."

It's always the same story at US championships. Kwan wins, and Sasha Cohen fails to come through when it matters most. Cohen finished second after botching two jumps and was lucky to finish ahead of up-and-comer Kimmie Meissner, who made a bit of history herself with the first triple axel by a US woman since Tonya Harding did it in 1991.

Earlier, Johnny Weir won his second straight men's title. Tim Goebel was second.

Vinson won nine titles in the 1920s and 1930s, a mark that once seemed certain to stand. Gretchen Merrill, Tenley Albright and Peggy Fleming -- they all won multiple titles, but none came close to Vinson.

But it's somehow fitting that Kwan was the one to finally reach the pinnacle. Her former coach, Frank Carroll, trained with Vinson, and Carroll would often tell Kwan stories about Vinson and the lessons she'd taught him.

Vinson died when the plane carrying the US team to the 1961 world championships in Prague crashed in Belgium.

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