Eldredge leads after men’s short program


Todd Eldredge has been skating long enough to know it doesn’t always take a spectacular jump to win. Eldredge led Wednesday after the men’s short program at the Four Continents figure skating championships, a test event leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics one year away. He opted against a tricky quadruple jump after seeing he could grab the lead with a less difficult combination. “It worked out, and that’s what sports is all about,’’ Eldredge said. “It’s strategic. You don’t have to go out and kill yourself just to prove a point. You go out there to win.’’ With reigning national champion Tim Goebel skipping Four Continents in favor of the Grand Prix finals next week in Tokyo, the night shaped up as a duel between two-time U.S. champion Michael Weiss and five-time champ Eldredge. It never happened. Eldredge took the lead with a safe routine, while Li Chengjiang of China was second and another American, Matthew Savoie, was third. Weiss was tied for fifth with Yamato Tamura of Japan.The short program counts for one third of the final score, with the outcome to be decided by Friday’s free skate. Weiss got into trouble early, rotating only twice on an attempted quad. He recovered nicely, hitting a triple axel triple toe loop combination, but hurt himself by two-footing the landing. Later, Weiss could only manage to do a double axel instead of a planned triple lutz. “I rushed the quad and after that, I felt like I had to fight through everything,’’ Weiss said. Eldredge was the last competitor on the ice and knew it wouldn’t take much to move into the lead. He decided against a planned quad, instead doing a set of two quick triples. The quad has been a problem for Eldredge, who returned to competition this season after a two-year break. He couldn’t hit it at nationals two weeks ago in Boston, and it dropped him to second place overall. So he skated a clean routine that was efficient if not spectacular, at least until he closed it with a trademark tight spin. When he finished, Eldredge lifted a fist into the air and pumped it twice. “That’s a fortunate thing about drawing last,’’ Eldredge said. “I got to know what went on ahead of time.’’ The three-year-old Four Continents is a second-tier event that doesn’t draw the top athletes, but still offers a distinction between fluid, sharp contenders and unpolished also-rans. The event is being held at the Delta Center, which will be the site of Olympic figure skating next February. The basketball arena has been criticized by fans and some in the skating community for its poor sight lines and pit-like atmosphere. In pairs, defending Four Continents champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier led after the short program. They felt their routine improved from their first-place but “so-so’’ effort at the recent Canadian nationals. In ice dancing, defending champions Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz of Canada led after comfortably winning two opening rounds of compulsories