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Germans take free skate gold

Mandy Woetzel and Ingo Steuer of Germany won the pairs free skate at the World Figure Skating Championships Wednesday.

Marina Eltsova and Andrei Bushkov took silver and Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev finished third.

Americans Jenni Meno and Todd Sand finished out of the medals for the first time in three years, settling for fifth overall, and Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen finished in fourth place.

The Russian pair of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze skated last with a chance to win everything and fell four times in three minutes, sliding all the way to ninth place.

The men's short program was an exercise in one-upmanship, with Todd Eldredge skating what his coach called "the best performance I've ever seen him give," and daring anyone to beat it.

Several came close, but only Alexei Urmanov succeeded. Urmanov, the 1994 Olympic gold medalist, and Eldredge, the reigning world champion, begin tonight's long program ranked 1-2, followed closely by Ilia Kulik of Russia and Elvis Stojko.

American Michael Weiss landed three triple jumps and completed his other elements without a glitch _ a solid program for a world championship rookie _ but against this high-caliber field it earned him only a ninth-place finish.

"It was a tough start to the competition," Urmanov said. "So many great programs."

Eldredge's might have been the best, flawed only by its early starting time. Eldredge skated third, out of 31 competitors, and the judges artificially blunted his scores, wanting to save room on the scoreboard for potential superlative performances that might come later in the day.

"To judge someone who skated third against someone who skated 30th is very difficult," Eldredge's coach, Richard Callaghan, said. "I thought Todd deserved to be first. He skated the best short program I've ever seen from him."

At least three skaters angling to dethrone Eldredge _ Urmanov, Kulik and Stojko _ promised to throw quadruple jumps into their long programs.

HAMILTON HAS CANCER: Scott Hamilton, a four-time world champion and the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, has been diagnosed with testicular cancer, and will start chemotherapy within a week.

"I feel 100 percent confident that I can overcome this disease and be back on the ice within a few months," Hamilton said.

Hamilton, 38, performed in Peoria, Ill., Sunday despite suffering from severe stomach pain during the last several weeks.

On Monday, Hamilton went to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where tests confirmed a tumor caused by cancer cells within his testicles.

Doctors there advised that chemotherapy was the best approach, and noted that 70-80 percent of men with the condition are curable.