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Kristi did her part. Nancy and Tonya fell apart.

Still, chances for a second consecutive medals sweep by American women was strong after Saturday's original program at the World Figure Skating Championships.Olympic and defending world titlist Kristi Yamaguchi waltzed to the top spot, as expected. Using the same flowing program to "Blue Danube" that catapulted her to her first national crown in January and to the Olympic gold medal last month, Yamaguchi was as polished as ever.

The 20-year-old from nearby Fremont, Calif., moved into a strong position to become the first U.S. woman since Peggy Fleming in 1968 to repeat as world champion.

"I felt a little stiff, not over my feet," Yamguchi said. "I'm very happy with the way the program went today."

Her coach, Christy Ness, boasted that Yamaguchi has won five out of five original programs with this routine.

"Each time she does it, there are different strengths," Ness said. "So I think the big thing is how she performs it. the more confidence, the better the presentation."

Nancy Kerrigan, the Olympic bronze medalist, and Tonya Harding-Gillooly, who was fourth at Albertville, both botched their required combination jumps. That dropped them to third and fourth, respectively, behind Yamaguchi and Lu Chen of China.

"People talk about an American sweep," Kerrigan said. "But I don't think we have to do it. But it would be nice. Being in the top four, it's possible."

Kerrigan, runner-up at the 1992 nationals and third at last year's worlds, was in the first grouping. After a weak takeoff for her combination, she cut the first part from a triple lutz to a double. But she went down on the second part, a triple toe loop.

The judges were relatively kind to her, particularly on her artistry marks, which ranged from 5.5 to 5.8. That was enough for third place heading into Sunday's free skate, worth two-thirds of the total score.

Harding-Gillooly, skating in the final grouping, had even more trouble with an entirely new routine. Skating to "Moon River," she never got to try a combination jump.

Instead, the silver medalist at the '91 worlds and 1991 U.S. champion cut a triple lutz to a double and then stepped out of it too close to the end boards to do the triple toe loop.

Those failures could have been disastrous, but the judges were kind to her, too.

"I just rushed the triple," Harding-Gillooly said.

Although Chen, Laetitia Hubert of France, Canadians Josee Chouinard and Karen Preston, and American Alcie Sue-Claeys, who skates for Belgium, all were clean, only Chen prospered.

The 15-year-old relative newcomer to the international scene - Chen made her senior debut only last year - was sixth at the Olympics after a stunning free skate. She continued her surge with a superb original program Saturday, the only one to rival Yamaguchi's.

Hubert repeated her fifth place in the Olympic original program. At Albertville, she couldn't stand up in the free skate.