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Monday, February 11, 2002
Carroll tired of hearing about Russian dominance

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com


SALT LAKE CITY -- Russian skaters may have won the past two Olympic gold medals in men's skating (plus a gold by the United Team's Viktor Petrenko in 1992) and Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko may be heavily favored this week, but U.S. coach Frank Carroll is getting a little tired of hearing about it.

"I'm just amazed by the fact that there is this statement that the Russians are so good," said Carroll, who coaches U.S. hopeful Timothy Goebel. "I don't think Plushenko was so good in Nice. I don't think Yagudin was so good in Skate America a year ago.

"The Russians do fail. A lot of times they completely run out of gas. They're wonderfully artistic in spurts, but they're not great marathon skaters as far as getting through a long program all the way well. So they have their flaws. They have their weaknesses. Personally, I'm not crazy about the choreography.

"That's a matter of personal opinion but frequently they're faced with a panel of judges that are maybe people from the former Soviet Bloc who have been trained to appreciate skating from one outlook. It depends upon the draw too as far as what your perception is of the skating. If you're growing up in the Soviet system, maybe you'll look at it differently than if you were in the American training and judging system.

"So anyway, some controversy."

Carroll defended the U.S. team by pointing out that all three -- Goebel, Todd Eldredge and Michael Weiss, have beaten the Russians at some competition. He also voiced an old complaint, saying American and Canadian skaters need to be "50-percent better" than their Russian and former Soviet counterparts to beat them.

"I don't think we can go into a competition and be AS good," he said. "It's the same thing with the Canadians. We have to be significantly better."

"I love the fact that the Russians are the favorites," said Richard Callaghan, who coaches Eldredge. "I've coached for 30 years and when two guys are favored, my past experience is that someone else will come through and ruin it for them. I'm really happy the Russians are the favorites, so our guys can just do their work."

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.