Originally created 03/06/02

Hughes withdraws from world championships



COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Don't read anything into Sarah Hughes' decision to skip the world championships.

The Olympic gold medalist withdrew from worlds Tuesday, saying the whirlwind that followed her Salt Lake city upset hasn't left her any time to train. But she isn't turning pro like Tara Lipinski did after winning gold four years ago, and she still plans to compete at the Olympic level next year.

"She said, 'Make sure everybody knows I'm still going to compete,"' said Robin Wagner, Hughes' coach. "She really wants to compete. She says, 'I've won this, which is great, but I want a national title, I want a world title. I just really love competing."'

Hughes pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history when she won the women's free skate Feb. 21 and soared from fourth to first. The 16-year-old from Great Neck, N.Y., beat Irina Slutskaya of Russia and six-time U.S. champion Michelle Kwan.

Hughes also did the toughest technical program, becoming the first woman to complete two triple-triple combinations at an Olympics.

She considered going to the world championships, which are March 18-24 in Nagano, Japan. But she hasn't even been on the ice since the Olympic exhibition Feb. 22, let alone had time to seriously train.

Since leaving Salt Lake City, she's been to the Grammys, where she met the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Train. She's made numerous TV appearances. She also visited the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where she rang the opening bell.

She even hobnobbed with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and got a key to the city. And this weekend, her hometown is throwing a parade in her honor.

"Winning the world championships is one of the goals I have set for myself," Hughes said in a statement released by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

"Unfortunately, while the past two weeks have been terrific, they have also been very exhausting and have not afforded me the opportunity to properly prepare for the competition."

And the last thing she wants to do is go to a competition - especially one as big as the world championships - unprepared. So Hughes plans to take the rest of the week off, go back to high school and then get back on the ice.

"We've always been really prepared for things," Wagner said. "It took a long time to make the decision because she really wanted to go. But then the sensible side said, 'I'm not ready for this.'

"We think it's the right thing to do."

Hughes isn't the only Olympian skipping the world championships. Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who were awarded duplicate gold medals after French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted she'd been pressured to put a Russian pair first, withdrew last week.

Ice dance gold medalists Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat won't be going to Nagano, either. The couple retired last week.