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No dance surprises so far; Kwan looks to dispel doubts

Kazimir unable to qualify for men's free-skate program

There were no surprises during the ice dancing compulsory dances. The powerhouse French team of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat dominated their qualifying group, finishing well ahead of their next closest competitors, Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas of Lithuania.

Italians Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, the only team to have beaten the French this year, also won their qualifying group. Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz finished second, followed by Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia. American champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev finished fifth.

The ice-dancing competition will continue Thursday with the original dance.

Michelle Kwan, fresh from a second-place showing at the Grand Prix Final, said this week she is ready challenge her Russian rival Irina Slutskaya for the world's top spot and to dispel the doubts swirling around in the media about her ability to win.

"At last year's worlds, I felt as if no one really believed in me," Kwan said. "They were saying, 'Ah, she can't do it.' This year it's a little bit of the same. But I'm skating really well, probably the best so far this season. I feel ready for the competition."

Kwan admitted she made some mistakes this year, which she vowed not to repeat.

"I didn't feel that this year I worked smart enough," she said. "I have to understand why I am here and why I am doing this. This competition will give sort of a test for me, because I struggled through this year. Last year, I took some time off and came back slow. Maybe too slowly. Next year, I won't make that mistake."

Robert Kazimir, the Slovakian skater who trains in Bountiful, did not qualify for the free skate. Though he made it out of the qualifying round, Kazimir fell on hard luck when he drew first to skate. His early draw, plus a fall on a triple flip during his short program bumped him out of the top 24 that continue on to the free skate.

"The flip was weak," Kazimir said. "That's what I'm really mad about. It showed me that I'll have to work a little more to get ready for next season, so I can put my best out there."