Mon, Feb 13, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Michelle Kwan out with chronic injury

UPS AND DOWNS Kwan cut short her first practice at the games on Saturday after aggravating a groin injury before deciding that she just couldn't perform

AP , TURIN, ITALY

Figure skater Michelle Kwan of the US ahead of a news conference in Turin, Italy, yesterday. Kwan dropped out of the Games because of a groin injury.

PHOTO: AP

Michelle Kwan won't win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics this year.

The American figure skater dropped out of the Turin Games yesterday because of a groin injury, bringing her quest for that elusive Olympic gold to its most disappointing end yet.

In other events, eight gold medals were to be contested later yesterday, including in the men's downhill. Hermann Maier was one of the favorites in the marquee event, along with Americans Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller.

On Saturday, speedskater Chad Hedrick won one gold and vowed to win four more, while Germany earned two golds.

Hedrick flirted with world record pace for much of the grueling 12-and-one-half lap, 5,000m race.

And although he faltered briefly, his time of 6 minutes, 14.68 seconds was .02 seconds behind the Olympic record set at high altitude in Salt Lake City four years ago.

Michael Greis of Germany won the first gold medal of the Turin Games, beating favorite Ole Einar Bjoerndalen in the biathlon. Bjoerndalen had been hoping to become the top gold medal winner in Winter Olympics' history.

Georg Hettich won Germany's second gold by dominating the 15km Nordic combined. His jumps of 101.5m and 104m on the normal hill gave him a cushion going into the 15km cross country race.

Jennifer Heil of Canada won the women's moguls.

Kwan cut short her first practice at the games on Saturday after aggravating the groin injury. Though she said she didn't want to drop out, the injury worsened as the day went on. After being evaluated early yesterday by Dr. Jim Moeller, she decided to withdraw.

"Taking myself off the team is the most difficult decision I've ever had to make," Kwan said in a statement, "but it's the right decision. This injury prevents me from skating my best, and I've said all along that if I couldn't skate to the level that I expected from myself I'd withdraw from the team.

"The Olympics is the greatest sporting event in the world and what's most important is that the United States fields the strongest team possible. As much as I'd love to represent the United States in Torino, I would never stand in the way of that."

The US Olympic Committee has asked to replace Kwan with Emily Hughes, the third-place finisher at last month's national championships. A response was expected later this week, and Hughes was to travel to Turin yesterday.

Kwan missed last month's US nationals with a groin injury, and needed a medical bye onto the Turin team. Moeller said yesterday he does not believe the current injury is related to the groin problem Kwan had during the national championships.

This was to be the last chance at an Olympic gold for the 25-year-old Kwan, the face of figure skating for the last decade. Though she won five world championships and nine US titles, she always came up short at the Olympics, winning a silver medal in 1998 and a bronze in 2002.

Japanese ski jumper Masahiko Harada was disqualified Saturday from the normal hill competition for having skis that were too long for his weight.

Harada, 37, had been selected for Japan's team for the normal hill competition Friday but was told before Saturday's qualifying round he had been disqualified.

Harada, a member of Japan's gold medal-winning team at the 1998 Nagano Games, would have been the oldest competitor in the field.

Harada said he weighed 200gm less than he should have.

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