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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kwan Favored to Repeat at Nationals




CLEVELAND -- Two-time world champion Michelle Kwan is expected to claim her fourth national title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this week, but a repeat victory is far less certain for men's defender Michael Weiss.


While Kwan, 19, stands head and shoulders above the U.S. competition, Weiss, the 1999 world bronze medalist, will battle local favorite Timothy Goebel for supremacy in the men's event.


The true test of Kwan's mettle will not come from fending off her nation's new generation of up and comers, but in showing the world that she has upped the technical ante in her programs to rival that of Russia's Irina Slutskaya.


Slutskaya, vying for her third European title in Vienna, Austria, outskated Kwan at last month's ISU Grand Prix superfinal to stamp herself a leading contender for the 2000 world title.


Among the rest of the women at the U.S. nationals, competition for the remaining two world championship berths should be fierce. Sarah Hughes, seventh in her world championships debut last season, 2000 Junior Grand Prix winner Deanna Stellato and Angela Nikodinov are among those vying for silver and bronze behind Kwan's likely golden performance.


The uncertainty surrounding Weiss's title defense stems from a stress fracture in his left ankle that kept him off the podium at two Grand Prix events last autumn, and from Goebel's technical prowess.


Goebel, who trains in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, made history at Skate America last October as the first skater to land three quadruple jumps in one program. The feat earned the 19-year-old college student the nickname Kid Quad and his first of two silver Grand Prix medals.


Weiss, 23, said last month that his injury had healed, although he was continuing a variety of daily treatments to strengthen the ankle.


"Things didn't go well for me early in the season and I just want everybody to know I'm back on track and ready to repeat as national champion," said Weiss, who has one quad planned in each program.


Goebel, 12th in his world debut in 1999 but third at the recent Grand Prix final, intends to unleash twice as many quads this week.


"I'm not really going into it thinking of being national champion. I just want to go out there and skate two really good programs, land the three quads again and make it back to worlds," Goebel said.


"Skating is very unpredictable. ... I could have an off night and [Weiss] could skate the two programs of his life and blow the rest of us out of the water."


The United States has just two world championship berths available for men and 19-year-old Matt Savoie is expected to pressure the favorites in a bid to claim one of them.