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American Woman Pulls Off Figure Skating Upset - 2002-02-22

American Sarah Hughes has pulled off a shocking upset of favorites Michelle Kwan of the United States and Irina Slutskaya of Russia to win the gold medal in the ladies figure skating. Hughes came from fourth place after the short program to capture the Olympic championship.

Many at the Salt Lake Ice Center thought that either American Michelle Kwan or Irina Slutskaya of Russia would be standing atop the podium after Thursday's long program.

Sarah Hughes was considered a long shot because of her limited international experience. The 16-year-old Great Neck, New York native skated second in the final group and was flawless.

Kwan won the short program and was considered the favorite ahead of Slutskaya headed into the free skate. But the 21-year-old American fell while attempting a triple flip and her scores left room for someone else to take the top spot.

Skating last, Irina Slutskaya did not fall, but had noticeable faults on two of her jumps. When her marks were announced, a stunned Hughes screamed, cried and hugged her coach Robin Wagner as she realized she had won the gold medal.

Slutskaya took the silver medal and Kwan went home with the bronze. American Sasha Cohen, who was third after the short program, fell during the first minute of her long program during a triple lutz jump.

This is the second Olympics in a row a relatively unknown challenger has denied Kwan the gold. Four years ago she finished second to countrywoman Tara Lipinsky.