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A Star Is Reborn
E.M. Swift
January 19, 1998
In a pas de deux with perfection, Michelle Kwan regained the U.S. title and became the leading lady on a potent national team.
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January 19, 1998

A Star Is Reborn

In a pas de deux with perfection, Michelle Kwan regained the U.S. title and became the leading lady on a potent national team.

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But in the short program, Lipinski tripped on the triple flip—suddenly, shockingly—while Kwan, coming off a bad night's sleep attributable to nerves, skated surely to Rachmaninoff's Finale, earning seven 6.0s. "It wasn't so much what she did, as the way she did it," her coach, Frank Carroll, said of Kwan. "She had a look of ease in her face, an aura. It was one of her best moments."

Lipinski, fourth after the short program, was "devastated," said Callaghan. She was also angry, somewhat humbled and absolutely determined to skate a superior long program and earn her way onto the Olympic team. It has been a tough year so far for the 15-year-old Lipinski, much as 1997 was for Kwan. As difficult as it is to live up to potential, living up to expectations is harder. Lipinski would be well served if she can rediscover the joy in her skating, win or lose.

Saturday was a start. Her seven triple jumps, which included two triple-triple combinations, propelled Lipinski past Bobek and fourth-place finisher Tonia Kwiatkowski, and put the shine back in her young eyes.

But Lipinski does not yet have the grace of Kwan, whose every gesture is artfully described. Kwan's three-position spin combination—layback to camel to sit spin—is as remarkable a sequence as her triple loop to "falling leaf" turn (in which she flutters like a leaf dropping to the ice) to double toe loop. The long program she performed in the nationals, choreographed by Lori Nichol, was filled with so many subtle treasures that it will be revisited on tape for years to come. That glow emanating from Philadelphia last weekend? It was a communal smile of approval from the legends of skating, past and present, welcoming Kwan into their ranks.

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