In Sports from United Press International

Feb. 21, 2002 at 3:14 PM
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Figure skating has Olympic spotlight

SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Michelle Kwan went for her first gold medal in figure skating Thursday night, the most anticipated performance of the Winter Olympics.

A four-time world titleholder and six-time national champion,Kwan had to settle for a silver medal four years ago in Nagano and again has had to face the pressure of competing as the Olympic favorite.

She got off to a good start Tuesday night, winning

the short program in the two-phase competition, which is widely regarded as the marquee event at the Games.

Next is the four-minute free skate, which Kwan will perform just before her biggest gold medal challenger -- Russian Irina Slutskaya, who has been runner-up at the last three World Championships.

"You never know what people are going to do," Kwan said. "It's a great competition. It's going to be tough and it's sort of like who's the strongest wins."

Known best for her technical moves and grace, Kwan will be the penultimate skater of the night, meaning the more athletic Slutskaya will be able to adjust her performance tactically.

The 23-year-old Slutskaya finished just behind Kwan on Tuesday,losing a 5-4 decision by the judges. But she is one greatroutine away from her biggest moment.

The United States women's hockey team meanwhile also went for gold when it faced archrival Canada in a game that had been expected since the teams arrived in Utah.

Having won the first Olympic title in Nagano and the last eight meetings with Canada, the Americans are considered favorites, but only slightly as both dominated the early rounds.

O'Hern sets record at Singapore

SINGAPORE, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Ian Woosnam's hopes of another victory here suffered an early blow as he struggled to a 1-over-par 73 on Thursday in the first round of the Caltex Singapore Masters.

Australian Nick O'Hern broke a course-record with an 8-under-par 64 to take the lead. Christophe Pottier of France is second after carding a 65 and Carlos Rodiles of Spain is third after shooting a 66.

Woosnam has not played in Singapore since winning the 1996

Johnnie Walker Classic by defeating Scotland's Andrew Coltart at the third hole of a sudden-death playoff at Tanah Merah,

literally across the road from the Laguna National course, which is hosting the $900,000 event.

With the top 64 players in the world golf rankings at the World Matchplay in California, Woosnam was one of the pre-tournament favorites despite not playing competitively for more than three months.

Romanowski reported leaving Boncos,

DENVER, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Bill Romanowski' s successful but often turbulent tenure with the Denver Broncos appeared Thursday to be over.

The Denver Post reported that the veteran linebacker asked for and will receive his unconditional release from the Broncos. Romanowski could be cut as early as Thursday but no later than March 1, saving the Broncos $1.1 million against this season's salary cap, the report said.

A team spokeswoman would not confirm the report.

The newspaper reported that Romanowski made his request after the Broncos asked him to convert his contract from one that called for $2.2 million in base salary to one loaded with incentives. He i was expected to receive reduced playing time due to the the emergence of outside linebacker Ian Gold, who was selected to this month's Pro Bowl as the AFC's special-teams standout.

A 14-year veteran, Romanowksi started all 16 games last season and finished with 69 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles.

Romanowski has been a member of four Super Bowl championship teams -- two with Denver and two with the San Francisco 49ers.

Seniors visit Mexico for Audi Classic

NAUCALPAN, Mexico, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- In a country where it is often suggested that you avoid drinking the water, Mike McCullough knows all about ending a drought.

McCullough will try to defend his title as the Senior PGA Tour heads south of the border for the $3 million Audi Senior Classic, which begins Friday at the Club de Golf Chapultepec near Mexico City.

McCullough won for the first time in 612 PGA Tour-sanctioned events last season, beating Jim Colbert and Bob Eastwood by a stroke at La Vista in Puebla.

Currently 15th on the money list, McCullough faces a field that includes Hale Irwin and Bruce Fleisher.

Irwin, a 33-timer winner on the elder circuit, finished second in last week's Verizon Classic, one shot behind winner Doug Tewell, who is taking the week off.

No suprises at Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Top seed Venus Williams of the United States and the next three seeded players all were victorious Thursday in the quarterfinals of the $585,000 Dubai Women's Open.

Williams defeated a Russian opponent for the second straight day as she notched a 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Anastasia Myskina. On Wednesday, Williams improved to 7-0 lifetime against Anna Kournikova, beating her for the second time in as many weeks.

The 21-year-old Williams captured her WTA Tour-leading third title on Sunday when she defeated Justin Henin of Belgium, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, in the final at Antwerp. She opened the year with a victory at Gold Coast, Australia and claimed the Open Gaz de France in Paris two weeks ago.

Williams is 17-1 in 2002, with her lone defeat coming to countrywoman Monica Seles in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open last month. Second-seeded Seles had an easier time Thursday, breezing to a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Angeles Montolio of Spain.

Third-seeded Amelie Mauresmo of France, who has six career titles, faces Seles in the semifinals. Mauresmo, who has lost twice to Williams this year, defeated Slovakian Tina Pisnik, 6-1, 6-2 on Thursday.

Fourth seed Frenchwoman Sandrine Testud, who is seeking her fourth career title, eliminated sixth-seeded Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6-2, 6-0. Testud, who reached the quarterfinals here last year, improved to 3-1 lifetime against Tanasugarn.

Watson named baseball discipline chief

NEW YORK, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Major League Baseball Thursday hired Bob Watson as its new dean of discipline.

Watson, a two-time All-Star and former general manager, was named vice president of on-field operations. He replaces Frank Robinson, who last week became manager of the Montreal Expos, a franchise now run by the commissioner's office.

The 55-year-old Watson, who was hired by MLB in December 2000 to supervise pace of games, will handle player discipline, time of games, uniform policy, stadium configuration and all other on-field matters. He will report directly to Sandy Alderson, MLB executive vice president.

Watson played 19 seasons in the major leagues for the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves. He became baseball's first African-American general manager when the Astros promoted him in 1993. He also worked in that capacity for the Yankees from 1995-97, winning a World Series in 1996.

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