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Olympic champ wins his fourth world title

So much has happened to Alexei Yagudin in the past year.

He lost the world championship after owning it for three consecutive years. He had leg injuries, dropped 20 pounds, regained most of it and came back to win the Olympics.

Thursday, the Russian recaptured the title by taking the men's free skate at the World Figure Skating Championships.

Yagudin became the first to win skating's four major titles in one season: the Grand Prix final, European championship, Olympics and worlds.

He edged American Tim Goebel, who improved on his third place at the Olympics, and local star Takeshi Honda finished third.

Yagudin demonstrated he is nearly unbeatable, completing two quads and six triples, an identical routine to his victory in Salt Lake City.

He opened his routine with a quad-triple-double combination and seconds later hit another quadruple jump.

A triple axel was so high he finished the rotations well before coming down.

Yagudin's routine earned him perfect 6.0 scores for presentation from the Azerbaijani and German judges. The rest were 5.8s and 5.9s.

Goebel's was the best performance by an American at the worlds since Todd Eldredge earned silver in 1998.

As at the Olympics, Goebel had three quadruple jumps. But he had trouble with some triples. His high technical marks that almost challenged Yagudin were offset by presentation scores ranging from only 5.5 to 5.8.

Goebel said he was happy to make it to the finish.

"I really wanted to survive this competition," Goebel said. "I had to fight all the way through. And ending up with a medal with the way I kept fighting through the program means more than when you have one of those perfect skates."

American men have won a medal at worlds eight consecutive years.

Honda had a quad-triple combination but fell on another attempt.

Russian Evgeny Plushenko did not defend his title because of a knee injury. He was second to Yagudin at the Olympics.

Michael Weiss, the 1999 and 2000 U.S. champion and two-time world bronze medalist, finished sixth, falling on an attempt to become the first skater to land a quadruple lutz in competition.

Meanwhile, Russians Irina Lobacheva and Ilya Averbukh led the ice dancing after the original program. The Olympic silver medalists had the top marks in the section in which all couples do a routine to a Spanish medley. The free dance is today.

Second were Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz. The fourth-place finishers at Salt Lake City were in contention after the Olympic gold and bronze medalists skipped the event.

Third were Lithuanians Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas.

Four-time U.S. champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev were ninth.

The women's event continues today with the short program. Michelle Kwan and Irina Slutskaya won their qualifiers Wednesday.

Russia's Maria Butyrskaya, however, pulled out after a sixth-place finish in qualifying. Butyrskaya, the 1999 world champion, finished sixth in Salt Lake City.

Complaint not received, skating president says

NAGANO, Japan _ International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta said the organization has not received a complaint from lawyers representing the French judge at the center of the judging scandal at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Marie-Reine Le Gougne's attorney, Max Miller, said Tuesday he filed a formal complaint with the ISU, charging the organization's technical committee chairwoman, Sally Stapleford, and pairs referee Ron Pfenning "exercised undue influence" over Le Gougne and made false accusations.

The ISU plans to hold a hearing on the controversy April 29-30.

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