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Michelle Kwan  Wins US Ladies' Figure-Skating Championship for Eighth Time - 2004-01-11

Michelle Kwan put on a graceful, flawless free-skate performance to win the U.S. ladies' figure-skating championship for the eighth time. It was her seventh consecutive national crown, a record.

The nine judges at Saturday's competition in Atlanta, Georgia, gave Kwan seven perfect 6.0 marks for artistry. During her 12 trips to the nationals, the 23-year-old Californian has received 35 perfect scores.

Among American women figure-skaters, only Maribel Vinson has a record to rival Kwan's. Vinson won nine national titles during a 10-year stretch in the 1920s and '30s.

Kwan triumphed over Sasha Cohen, a rising star of American skating who led the competition after Thursday's short program. Cohen's free-skate performance Saturday began on a strong note, but she fell on a relatively simple triple toe loop jump and made a shaky landing on another late in her program. Jennifer Kirk placed third.

Michelle Kwan now has won medals at the U.S. championships for 11 straight years, also a record. She has won five world championships and two Olympic silver medals, but never the Olympic gold.

In the men's competition, Johnny Weir won his first U.S. national championship, pulling off a free skate that, like Kwan's, had the crowd on its feet cheering.

Weir, who is 19, received his first perfect 6.0 and had no marks below 5.7. He won by a solid margin over three-time former champion Michael Weiss. Matthew Savoie placed third.

The top three men and top three women at the nationals all will go to the world figure-skating championships in March at Dortmund, Germany.