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Hot skating topic is whether Eldredge will attempt quad

And now, Todd Eldredge faces the great quad question.

After skating an immaculate short program, Eldredge must decide whether to include the four-spins-to-win move in Saturday's 4 1/2-minute free skate that will decide the Olympic figure skating gold medal.The quad is part of the program of all the other top skaters - Elvis Stojko of Canada and Russia's Ilya Kulik and Alexei Yagudin. Each has landed it in competition, something no American skater has managed.

Eldredge, who practices the jump, tried his first one with medals at stake in the nationals last month and came close before losing it on his landing. He compensated for the crash with an otherwise flawless routine to win his fifth championship - the most for an American skater since Dick Button won seven in the 1950s.

Still, Olympics are a significant gap in Eldredge's resume, a place where he has never medaled. To change that, he may have to resort to the challenging move that has raised the bar in figure skating.

The long program highlights CBS-TV's Saturday night coverage of the games. The network will show men's and women's hockey and Nordic combined skiing in the afternoon, and will package the women's combined downhill, the women's 500-meter speedskating, men's cross-country skiing and the first two runs of the two-man bobsled with the figure skating at night.

The freestyle program accounts for two-thirds of the final mark in figure skating and its content is entirely up to the skater.

"You have to have the whole package," said Eldredge, who was third following the short program. "If you do all the triples and a quad, and don't have the artistry, the program is lacking somewhere.

"It's more a question of whether another triple axel is more important than doing the quad. If you do two triple axels and eight triples and all the spins and you have all that, I still think the quad is more of a bonus factor."

Eldredge would like to believe that judges prefer a more balanced package of traditional jumps and spins without the glitz of the quad. That said, he also knows the other skaters almost certainly will include it and that could make a medal difference.

For the record, he practiced the quad on Friday. And he missed it.

Eldredge's teammate, Michael Weiss, has taken the jump a step further, incorporating a lutz, which forces the skater to change directions after taking off. He came close to connecting on it at the nationals and he will try it Saturday, although his 11th-place standing after the short program has him out of medal contention.

So what is Eldredge to do? Much of his decision will depend on what the others show the judges.

"Kulik skates before me, so I will know what he does and I will know what I have to do," Eldredge said.