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Chen is on top of world; Bobek falls into third

Published Oct. 3, 2005

China's first figure skating world champion trains in Beijing and Burbank, Calif., idolizes Peggy Fleming and employs an agent.

Chen Lu is very much a woman-child of the international skating world.

Saturday, this 18-year-old from the winter sports city of Chang Chun turned The Last Emperor into ballet on ice and won the World Figure Skating Championships' most valued prize _ the women's gold.

"This is not only a first for me but a first for all Chinese skaters," Chen said. "It has great significance."

So do the performances registered by Americans Nicole Bobek and Michelle Kwan.

Bobek, the leader after the technical program, finished fourth in the free skate final with two falls, but managed to hang on for the bronze medal behind France's Surya Bonaly.

And Kwan, 14, showed that she is skating's future, delivering seven triple jumps in a performance that moved her to tears and moved the crowd to its feet.

"I was so nervous," Kwan said. "And I was so overwhelmed. I skated so great to the end."

The judges could take a pick of styles. There was Chen, the 1994 Olympic bronze medalist, balletic, not as technically proficient as the others, but packaged beautifully in a program choreographed by former Canadian champion Toller Cranston.

Bonaly was the best jumper, but she performed as if she had the weight of all France on her shoulders. For the third time, she had to settle for the silver. But unlike last year, when she tossed away her prize in disgust, she received her silver with a smile and a wave.

"I just tried to skate my best and show what I can," she said. "This year, I just took the medal."

Bobek, 17, was the natural, all speed and elegance. For 51 seconds she was terrific, landing two combination jumps, bringing the crowd along for a spin to music from Doctor Zhivago. But then she fell, not once, but twice, missing a triple loop and a triple salchow.

"It wasn't my best performance," she said. "I was upset I missed those two jumps. But I came here to do a good job. I proved to a lot of people that I could do that job. I'm happy."

In a move to entice figure skating's biggest stars and unify a split sport, the International Skating Union will introduce prize money to its World Championships and set up a Grand Prix.