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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chen Wins Last Amateur Gold

BIRMINGHAM, England -- When a foot injury forced Chen Lu out of last year's world figure skating championships in Japan, the doctor advised her to take six months off and have an operation.

Without surgery, he said, she might have to stop skating for up to a year.

That was too much for Chen to take, so she sought a second opinion.

In Beijing, a Chinese doctor treated the stress fracture of her right instep, kept her off the ice for a month and said surgery would not be necessary.

By the end of last April, without the operation, Chen had joined the busy world tour of Olympic and world champions. And now she is world champion, the first for China in the sport, in the last year the event will be all-amateur.

Chen captured the title in a tight battle with Surya Bonaly of France on Saturday, winning on a countback after neither had a majority of first place votes from the nine judges.

Her victory was a long time coming after first taking bronze at the 1992 world championships. A year later she was third again as Oksana Baiul won the gold medal.

And at last year's Lillehammer Olympics, Chen had to settle for third once more. Then the injury prevented her from capitalizing on the absence in Japan of the two who had beaten her in Norway, Baiul and Nancy Kerrigan.

She said she felt "quite lucky" after Saturday's triumph.

"I worked hard and this is my result from that hard work. It is not only the first time for me but for China and that has great significance to me," said Chen.

Though 18, Chen is, in coach Li Mingzhu's words, "still a child. She has not thought at all about what she wants to do when she stops skating."

She may not have to worry about money after her career, following Saturday's International Skating Union announcement that prize money will be paid in ISU-sanctioned events from next season.

The money being offered for a possible six-event Grand Prix circuit could be as high as $2.5 million.

The ISU was spurred to act by the proliferation of new events in North America in the wake of last year's Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan saga.

But they are also keenly aware of the need to keep leading skaters in their championship events. "We want to allow them to replace medals with money," said new ISU president, Ottavio Cinquanta.

The ISU had also been asked by some member associations, mainly in North America, to provide the means for ineligible (that is to say, professional) skaters to compete against eligible skaters.

To that end, they intend to expand an international series of open events from the current two to a maximum of eight.

National associations will be invited to apply to stage them. Prize money will be awarded in those events with the ISU's blessing, in the international championships and also in a Grand Prix circuit comprising five existing events and a final to be set up for the end of the 1995-96 season.

Though the ISU officials did not discuss possible figures, Canadian association president David Dore said Skate Canada, a Grand Prix event, would offer $50,000, $30,000 and $20,000 for the top three finishers in singles events. Prizes are to double in the Grand Prix Final.