E. Hughes is Turin-bound


TURIN, Italy -- Emily Hughes was eating a "Sarah Gold Roll" at a sushi restaurant in her hometown of Great Neck, N.Y., Saturday night when her father received a call on his cell phone.

She could tell from her father's smile that it was good news for her.

The U.S. Figure Skating Association's executive director was calling from Italy to inform her that Michelle Kwan had withdrawn from the Winter Olympics because of a groin injury and that Hughes, as the first alternate, had been added to the team.

But the Hughes family was told not to discuss it until after the U.S. Olympic Committee announced the news yesterday morning.

"It was kind of hard not to jump up and down," Hughes said, "so we went home and jumped up and down."

Hughes, 17, is the sister of 2002 Olympic figure skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes, for whom that sushi roll is named. Sarah, now a student at Yale, was at the restaurant with Emily when the call came and gave her only a few words of advice.

"She just said enjoy everything, have fun," Emily said during a teleconference from her home yesterday with reporters in Italy.

Outside, she said, heavy snow was falling.

"It's sort of nice, a nice backdrop to the whole thing," she said.

Because of the weather, she said she couldn't leave for Italy yesterday. But she said she probably wouldn't have left that soon anyway because the women's figure skating competition doesn't begin until Feb. 21.

One member of the women's team, Kimmie Meissner of Bel Air, has been in Italy since Thursday. The other, Sasha Cohen, arrived yesterday.

Hughes was third behind Cohen and Meissner at the national championships last month but was named as an alternate when Kwan's petition for a berth on the team was granted by the USFSA.

Kwan, who has missed almost this entire season with injuries, subsequently proved her fitness to judges but strained the groin muscle in her first practice here Saturday. She withdrew after a 2:15 a.m. visit to a U.S. team doctor in the athletes' village.

"I think it was fair that Michelle had all the opportunities to be named to the Olympic team," Hughes said. "I feel that it's unfortunate that she was injured. ... She has been very gracious and very humble. I have a lot of respect for her, on and off the ice. She's accomplished so much throughout her career."

Hughes said she is ready to skate here because she has been training since the national championships for the world championships in March.

"Since nationals, I have changed my program and tried to make it more difficult, to pick up some levels," she said. "I think I'm going to be able to accomplish that. ... I'm really looking forward to skating at the Olympics, and, hopefully, people can see me at my personal best."


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