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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 24, 2010

Flatt tops teen sweep at U.S. Championships


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Rachael Flatt blew away the competition in last night's free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash. The 18-year-old Flatt won her first ever title in the event.

ELAINE THOMPSON | Associated Press

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SPOKANE, Wash. Sasha Cohen's comeback appears to be over while the adventure is just beginning for Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu.

Flatt, 18, won her first title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last night, overpowering the rest of the field with a program that will stack up technically against anyone in the world. She scored 200.11 points, finishing more than 11 points ahead of the energetic Nagasu, 17.

"I certainly have things to improve on. My performances were not perfect, but it certainly has given me a lot of confidence," Flatt said. "I'm going to use that as fuel to motivate me and just improve my training leading into the Olympics."

The Olympic team will be named later. Ashley Wagner, the only U.S. woman to make last month's Grand Prix final, is third, but it would be a surprise if the selection committee strayed from the teenagers who finished 1-2.

Cohen, meanwhile, will be left to figure out what she wants to do next. The Olympic silver medalist was skating in her first competition since the 2006 worlds, and her 8-month comeback was beset by challenges, from injuries to equipment problems.

As beautiful to watch as Cohen is, the knock has always been her ability or lack thereof to deliver when it matters most. She has never done clean short and long programs in the same major competition, and that dubious streak continued here. She wound up a distant fourth.

"It wasn't the skate that I wanted or the skate that I trained for, but I could still really appreciate the challenge I embraced and the obstacles I overcame," Cohen said. "There wasn't any regret or wishing I could do it again. I was just really proud to be back after four years."

Flatt, runner-up the past two years, beat world champ Yu-na Kim in the free skate at Skate America, and she showed the same kind of mettle last night.

Earlier yesterday, Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their second straight ice dance title, beating Olympic and world silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto for the first time in their careers. Long overshadowed by Belbin and Agosto at home and internationally Davis and White left little doubt they are now equal to their friends and former training partners, as well as the other top teams in the world.

Their score of 222.29 was almost four points ahead of Belbin and Agosto.

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP

Italy's Kostner tops women: Italy's Carolina Kostner won her third European figure skating gold yesterday at Tallinn, Estonia, a much-needed turnaround after a string of mediocre results this season. Laura Lepisto of Finland finished second and Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia was third.