Here\'s to you Mrs. Robinson

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 6:43 AM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The old married lady bounced down the hall and bounded through the mixed zone like a little girl on her first trip to Disneyland.

Waving her arms madly and hugging whoever was in her path, old Mrs. Robinson basically went berserk as she hopped, skipped and jumped around on her way down to meet the media she\'d shed so many tears in front of in similar scenarios over the years.

This was the same Jennifer Robinson who 15 months ago, her career in crisis and trying not to cry after a complete collapse at an event just prior to the Olympics, met many of the same media members with a line to remember forever:

\"I\'m still a pretty girl.\'\'

Robinson was more than a pretty girl here yesterday in the qualifying competition at the World Figure Skating Championships, she was pretty good.

Better than she\'s ever been before.

Better than Sara Hughes, the Olympic champion who made a major mess of it in finishing sixth in her group.

Better than everybody except four-time world champion Michelle Kwan of the U.S. and Fumie Suguri of Japan, who won the qualifying groups.

Landing six triple jumps, Robinson put herself in a final flight at a Worlds for the first time in her career.

Second in her qualifying group to Suguri, the Windsor, Ont. skater tied for third going into tomorrow\'s short program.

\"That one was awesome, so awesome,\'\' she raved when she completed her wild romp through the mixed zone.

\"That was excellent.

\'\'That was a personal best performance for me, overall. That\'s the most solid performance I\'ve ever had at a world championships. To be in the final flight is just amazing. I\'ve never been there before.\'\'

What\'s amazing is she\'s 26.

A HONEYMOON TO HAWAII

In figure skating years, she\'s ancient, the skater who married Shane Dennison, a young skating coach, on Sept. 21.

\"When the world championships are over, we\'re going on our honeymoon,\'\' she announced.

Disneyland?

\"Hawaii,\'\' she said.

It\'s there she\'ll decide if she\'s going to come back to try to win a sixth title at Canadians in Edmonton next year and maybe even make the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games a goal at 29.

\"This makes it easier to go another year,\'\' she said. \"I\'m one of the oldest in the event. But I guess I\'m a late bloomer.

\'\'It\'s taken a while for me to hit my stride, but I seem to be getting better as I get older.\'\'

There\'s been plenty of speculation here that the top two Americans, Kwan and Hughes, the Salt Lake Olympic gold medallist last year, will retire after these worlds.

Kwan, who won her first Worlds at the 1996 Edmonton Worlds when Robinson finished 21st, is 22 years old. Hughes is 17.

Robinson, who has never finished higher than eighth at Worlds, was seventh at the Salt Lake Olympics.

IDOLIZING OLDER KIDS

She\'s surrounded by kids who idolize older kids. Like her 17-year-old Canadian teammate, Worlds rookie Joannie Rochette, who said skating in her first world championships was a thrill secondary to skating with Kwan and Hughes.

The Berthierville, Que. skater considered the highlight of the day just meeting her idol Kwan in the dressing room.

\"I said hi to Michelle and that was about it,\'\' she said about being too shy to start an actual conversation.

Hughes, who won the Olympic gold medal, walked in only a few seconds later.

Rochette said she couldn\'t concentrate during warm-up as she shared the same ice with the two.

\"I couldn\'t help but watch them in warm-up. I just wanted to sit down and watch them.\'\'

Rochette ended up ninth in her group and is in danger of dropping so far back (the top 24 proceed to the free skate final) it could cost Canada a second spot at next year\'s Worlds if Robinson doesn\'t hold her position.

The combined result of the two skaters must total 28 or less to get two the following year.

\"I know the number,\'\' said Robinson, who knows there are Canadians like Michelle Currie of Edmonton, Annie Bellemare of St-Eustache, Que. and Nicole Watt of Melfort, Sask. counting on her to give them something to shoot for if Robinson stays around.

\"I think about it.\'\'

She won\'t talk about the insane secret judging system in use here for obvious reasons but did deal with the formation of the World Skating Federation.

\"There is such a black mark on figure skating right now,\'\' she said, adding that it would be nice to be still skating when the sport finds a cure for the corruption and controversy.

\"The fans are fed up, my parents are fed up ... but on a day like today I still want to try and keep up with the 14-year-olds and their triple Axels, get new bruises and keep moving on.\'\'

Great old gal.


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