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UKRAINIAN SPRITE SKATES TO WOMEN’S WORLD TITLE

SHARE UKRAINIAN SPRITE SKATES TO WOMEN’S WORLD TITLE

With a giggle, a wiggle and very serious skating, 15-year-old Oksana Baiul of Ukraine made a smashing debut to win the women's title Saturday at the World Figure Skating Championships, her first international competition.

Crossing herself to start and finishing with a girlish clap of excitement, Baiul did five triple jumps on the ice. But it was her sassy show to a Broadway medley from "A Chorus Line" and "Cabaret" that gave her the gold.That, and a dismal performance from American Nancy Kerrigan, the U.S. champion and Olympic bronze medalist who seemed to be battling a bad case of the nerves all week. Kerrigan, 23, had led Baiul after the short technical program Friday.

The United States won no medals at the world championships, the first time since the years 1962-1964, following the plane crash that killed the entire team en route to the 1961 world championships in Prague.

As a result, America will send its smallest figure skating squad to the Olympics since ice dancing was added as an event in 1976.

Surya Bonaly, with her typically aggressive but less artistic performance, came in second among the women. China's rising star, Chen Lu, won the bronze medal for the second year in a row.

Fourth went to Japan's Yuka Sato, and fifth to Kerrigan.

Baiul cried as she saw her results. "The tear drops were God's kisses from my mother," she said. Her mother, a factory worker, died two years ago and her father when she was 2.

Baiul has all the toughest jumps - although she says she plans to add more - but is her 94 pounds of coltish energy as she bounces, bumps and wriggles to the music that makes the audience hers.

Baiul first turned heads in January, when she placed second in the European championships. Her coach said she hadn't been good enough to qualify for the Junior World Championships before and placed fifth in the Prague Skate, a minor event in 1992.

Kurt Browning of Canada won the men's gold medal for the fourth time Thursday night. Elvis Stojko of Canada turned in a superb effort to take the silver medal and Alexei Urmanov of Russia captured the bronze medal.