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Kwan might need miracle on ice

For the first time, I felt sorry for Michelle Kwan while watching her skate.

In the past, even when she was a little off, there was always something special about her performances. You could always see the sparkle that has made her one of the greatest skaters ever.

Sunday, competing for the first time in a season compromised by a painful hip injury, Kwan was just a painful sight -- all guts, no glory.

In two performances of a fan-judged event more con than competition, she attempted four triple jumps and landed none. She reduced one to a single jump, two to doubles (one landed two-footed) and clunked down two-footed on the lone jump that included three revolutions.

Her spins were improved but not yet impressive. The Kwan spirals that once lifted her above the rest looked merely competent compared to the ethereal versions of U.S. rival Sasha Cohen.

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Kwan skated what is to be her competitive short program for Sunday's first performance, but it was far from competitive -- no surprise given the training time lost to the injury. Since she is skating to the same short-program music as Olympic favorite Irina Slutskaya, it is impossible not to compare how well the Russian has used it while winning two Grand Prix events this season to how poorly Kwan executed it.

It seems doubtful Kwan can ramp it up dramatically by Jan. 12, when she is scheduled to skate the 2-minute-45-second short program at the U.S. championships. It is difficult to imagine how she will get through 75 more seconds of skating needed in the long program.

Philip Hersh

Chicago Tribune

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