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Wednesday, January 2, 2002
Updated: January 17, 6:53 PM ET
Fan Guide

By ESPN.com news services

FROM START TO FINISH
Figure Skating

ESPN.com's animated fan guide feature takes you through the ins and outs of each sport. Check out each sport's fan guide for more.

Figure Skating


Olympic competition dates: Feb. 9, Feb. 11-12, Feb. 14-15, Feb. 17-21
Venue: Salt Lake Ice Center

The outlook
Women: American Michelle Kwan resumes pursuit of Olympic gold without longtime coach Frank Carroll, with whom she split last year. Kwan won silver at Nagano behind Tara Lipinski. Her challengers are expected to include Russians Irina Slutskaya and Maria Butyrskaya, and Americans Sasha Cohen and Sara Hughes.

Men: Russians Yevgeny Plushchenko and Alexei Yagudin are favorites and have dominated since 1998. Yagudin won three world championships in a row before Plushchenko grabbed the title from him last year. American hopes are Todd Eldridge and Timothy Goebel.

Pairs: Soviet Union or Russian skaters have won the last 10 Olympic gold medals in pairs. Anton Sikharulidze and Yelena Berezhnaya hope to keep the streak going. Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada are medal threats with American hopes riding on John Zimmerman and Kyoko Ina.

Ice dancing: Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France, 2000 world champions, are favored. Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz might have beat them in the Grand Prix final, but there's no hometown advantage in Salt Lake City.

The finer points
There are four Olympic Figure Skating events: women's singles, men's singles, pairs, and ice dancing.

The singles event consists of two sections: the short program and the free skate. The short program combines eight prescribed elements such as jump combinations and spins. In the free skating program, skaters, perform an original arrangement of techniques to music of their choice. Judges deduct points for a program that consists of too many or too few jumps, making a balanced program important.

The pairs event also consists of a short program and free skate. The couple works as one unit, demonstrating overhead lifts, throw-jumps with the man launching the woman and other maneuvers. The performance requires harmony, strength and grace.

Ice dancing is similar to ballroom dancing. The focus is on the complex steps in time with the music. The skaters maintain contact with each other, limiting lifts and jumps.

The ice dancing event consists of three sections: compulsory, original and free dances. In compulsory dancing, the couple performs two pre-determined dances. Original dances must follow selected rhythms, though the skaters can choose their own music and interpretive steps. In free dancing the skaters freely express their interpretation of the music they have chosen.