Reigning Olympic champion Tara Lipinski won the women's competition at the World Figure Skating Championship last night before 12,007 at MCI Center to become the youngest winner in the event's 27-year history.
Lipinski, 17, received two perfect marks to beat world champion Denise Beillmann of Switzerland and France's Surya Bonaly. Oksana Baiul of Ukraine was fourth and Tonia Kwiatkowski of Lakewood, Ohio, finished fifth. In the men's competition, Alexei Urmanov of Russia, 1994 Olympic champion, beat France's Philippe Candeloro, two-time Olympic bronze medalist. Brian Boitano was third. Reigning Olympic champion Ilia Kulik finished fourth and Rudy Galindo was fifth.
Lipinski, 17, skated slowly and gracefully to the music "Dream Catcher" in a remarkably mature program that included three triple jumps. She competed although her back had been hurting earlier in the day. "I was so excited," she said of her perfect scores. "I have worked on my artistic side of my skating a lot over the past two years. I can look at videos and really see a difference. And I think now it is starting to show."
Beillmann, who celebrated her 37th birthday yesterday, said Lipinski showed her maturity last night. "She really skated very well. . . . The jumps, she always does very well," Beillman said. "But I think the artistic got more mature. She improved."
Last night's triumph for Lipinski is the latest accomplishment for the figure skater, whose rise in the sport began in 1997, when she won the U.S. national and world titles. In 1998, she upset Michelle Kwan to win the gold medal at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. She is the youngest U.S., world and Olympic champion. After her Olympic victory, Lipinski, of Sugar Land, Tex., turned professional and joined the cast of Stars on Ice.
In the pairs competition, Elena Leonova and Andrei Khvalko of Russia, the 1997 U.S. Open champions, edged Olympic silver medalists Elena Betchke and Denis Petrov of Russia to take the title. Reigning Olympic champions Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev of Russia finished third, and Mandy Woetzel and Ingo Steuer of Germany were fourth.
In ice dance, four-time U.S. champions Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow defeated Maya Usova and Evgeny Platov of Russia.