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Friday, February 22, 2002
 
Two pairs teams finish hand-in-hand-in-hand ...

Associated Press


SALT LAKE CITY -- Finishing hand-in-hand in a spiral, the pairs involved in one of the Olympics' biggest scandals closed a figure skating exhibition Friday night in a show of harmony.

Figure pairs
Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia skate with Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier as they are now linked together in history.

Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze and Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were received warmly by the capacity crowd at the Salt Lake Ice Center during their individual programs and at the dramatic finish.

Gold medalist Sarah Hughes delighted the audience with a lively exhibition to a medley from the musical "Fosse" in a sparkling black unitard. She hit every triple jump she tried.

The 16-year-old New Yorker closed the regular portion of the show with a tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, skating to "You'll Never Walk Alone."

The most emotional piece of skating went to the woman Hughes beat less than 24 hours earlier on the same ice.

Michelle Kwan skated to Sting's "Fields of Gold." She had lost the gold medal she was favored to win and wound up with the bronze.

However, the crowd showed that it was still behind her and Kwan had tears streaming down her cheeks at the end.

Last week, Sale and Pelletier were given gold medals because of judging misconduct instead of the silvers they won on the night of the pairs long program. Sikharulidze and Berezhnaya finished first after a 5-4 judging split.

The Canadians skated when the silver medalists are usually scheduled. The Russians came out later, in the middle of the other gold medalists, including Hughes.

At the end of the show, all the top skaters came out for encores -- except for the two pairs.

Then the Russians and Canadians finished together, hand-in-hand and ending with a pairs death spiral with all four within inches of each other.

The next competition between them could be the world championships in Nagano, Japan, on March 18-24. However, the couples haven't decided whether to compete.

"We'll go to the worlds if we feel we're in shape," said Pelletier, who plans to decide next week. "But we also have to look at the opportunities that are presented to us."

That includes an exhibition in their home of Edmonton, Alberta, March 12.

"I want to go to worlds because that's what I do," Pelletier said. "I'm a competitor who likes to compete. But we're exhausted and we've got to be smart."

The other Olympic champions -- Hughes, men's champion Alexei Yagudin of Russia and ice dancers Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France, plan to be in Nagano.