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Michelle Kwan graduates -- and some figure skating talent surfaces

Michelle Kwan

In the better-late-than-never department:

What with the holidays and spending some vacation time in a place where the only ice was in my soft drinks, I never got around to commenting on the following wintry matters.

1. Congratulations to two-time Olympic medalist and five-time world champion Michelle Kwan on completing what she jokingly referred to as her "10-year plan" for college. Kwan, who took her first college courses at UCLA in the fall of 1999, was graduated from the University of Denver in November with a major in international studies, a minor in political science and grades good enough to consider applying to some of the country's elite graduate programs in international relations.

Last week, she was named to the President's Council on Physical Fitness, and she has dropped some hints about performing again.

2. It was a PG-13 show at the recent Russian Figure Skating Championships.

The top two finishers in the senior women's (????) division are too young for not only the 2010 Olympics and the next two senior world championships -- but this year's junior world championships.

Winner Adelina Sotnikova and runner-up Elizaveta Tuktamisheva were 12 years old during the event. Tuktamisheva had finished 10th a year earlier at age 11. The two clearly are being fast-tracked for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

For the record, Kwan was 12 when she competed in her first senior nationals  -- and finished sixth against much tougher competition than the Russians faced. She went on to win a record-tying nine U.S. titles.

3. Two years ago, Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal won the World Cup overall title and, at 24, looked like alpine skiing's next great star. Last winter, Svindal was injured so badly during a training run that some felt he might never again compete.

This season, Svindal is making one of the most impressive comebacks in sports, with two World Cup wins on the same Beaver Creek, Colo., slopes where he crashed. Despite some recent

inconsistency, Svindal is third in the overall standings going into this weekend's World Cup races in Switzerland.

4. Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. of Wheaton, Ill., has joined her mom, four-time Olympian Nancy Swider-Peltz, as a national all-around speedskating champion. Junior won the U.S. title in December at age 21. Her mother, a U.S. Speedskating Hall of Famer, was 19 when she won the 1977 title. They both competed at the 2002 Olympic trials, but neither made the team. Junior has helped the U.S. women finish  third and fourth in the two World Cup team pursuit events this season.

5. U.S. bobsled driver Todd Hays, who won an Olympic silver medal (4-man) in 2002, came out of a two-year retirement that began when Hays finished his third Olympics in 2006. Hays, 38, has finished fourth (2-man) and ninth (4-man) in his most recent World Cup races. Meanwhile, the leading U.S. driver, Steve Holcomb, who won four medals in six December races, remained in Lake Placid because the recession-pinched U.S. federation decided to just have one sled in Europe for the January events. The idea was to give Hays a chance to improve his seeding for the February world championships in Lake Placid.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Michelle Kwan in a 2006 file photo. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

 
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