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Michelle vs. Sasha in Lake Placid? Time will tell.

Keep this circled on the calendar, figure skating fans: midnight, Sept. 1.

That's the drop-dead date for five-time world and nine-time U.S. champion Michelle Kwan to decide whether she's going to make a comeback or not.

Then keep this in mind: Skate America. Lake Placid, N.Y. TBD.

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There's an opening in the U.S lineup in the penultimate Grand Prix event, Nov. 12-15.

All of the other top women have their two GP assignments. The last spot could be for a youngster or it could be for...Kwan???

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Think of it, a showdown between Kwan and 2006 Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen, also on the comeback trail, on the ice made famous by the "Miracle on Ice" 1980 U.S. hockey team.

Kwan is skating again. Although she's been accepted at Tufts University for graduate work in international studies, she could delay her start. Who would deny her a chance at the Olympic gold medal, the only color to elude her.

If not Tufts, Sasha?

Kwan will have to compete in regional championships. If she chooses Artesia, Calif., her long-time training site and home of the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, she'll have to register for the Southwest Regionals, to be held in Scottsdale, Ariz., Oct. 23-27.

Although she has until midnight, Sept., 1, to tell U.S Figure Skating officials if she's in comeback mode, they have asked her to tell them before the end of July, so that they can prepare for the expected tidal wave of fan and media interest.

Kwan hasn't named a coach yet, but continues to practice on her own. She says she's pain free following hip surgery. She admits she still loves to skate.

By the time the flame is lighted at the Olympics in February, however, she'll be 29--ancient by figure skating standards.

Her agent, Shep Goldberg, says unlike Cohen, his client has not asked for a Skate America spot and he doesn't know which way she's leaning.

"It's not like 60-40 or 70-30," he says. "She hasn't made any decision. I'm waiting just like everyone else."

It's worth the wait.

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