BOSTON (AP) – Michelle Kwan will unveil a new routine today as she gets it ready to compete in the U.S. Championships.

The practice she really needs, though, she isn’t going to get.

The U.S. Figure Skating Challenge at Boston University’s Agganis Arena will use an American Idol-style, phone-in voting system to determine the winners. That means Kwan, who’s missed the past two months with a strained ligament in her right hip, will go to Nationals next month with just one competition under the new scoring system adopted in the wake of the Salt Lake City judging scandal.

“The new system is a big enough challenge,” Kwan said Saturday. “I’d rather have that as my main focus.”

Instead, the five-time world and nine-time U.S. champion will have to worry about her new routine and her injury.

“It’s manageable,” Kwan said. “It’s not 100 percent, but I’m getting better.”

Kwan hurt her right hip and withdrew from the Oct. 6 Figure Skating Classic in St. Paul, Minn. She had hoped to return for the Cup of China in Beijing, but wasn’t able to make it back and missed the entire Grand Prix season.

To get used to the scoring system, which abandoned the traditional perfect score of 6.0, Kwan had some judges come out to practice to tell her what she was doing right or wrong.

Kwan won’t get any experience with the new judging system this weekend: The Boston event will allow television viewers to vote by calling a number or text messaging. Fans in the arena will be able to vote at their seats.

“It’s a good opportunity for me to get out there,” Kwan said. “It will be nice just to go out there for my own good – see where I’m at.”

Kwan’s last serious injury was a stress fracture in her foot before the 1998 Olympics. This time, the injury wasn’t just a problem when she skated – even walking was a problem.

“It wasn’t like I could avoid the triple Lutz, or a certain jump, because everything hurt,” she said. “It was getting frustrating. You sit back and watch the competitions go by, going through the programs in my head.”

Two months ago, Kwan could only be on the ice for about 30 minutes at a time; when her training is in full-swing, it’s more like three hours.

“I was thinking, Thirty minutes on the ice? Is this a joke? You’re supposed to be training for the Olympics,”‘ she said. Building back up to a regular training schedule “was so gradual. I would have to go by how I felt.”

Still, Kwan is optimistic that she can be ready for the championships.

“I’ve done this before,” she said, noting that in Christmas of 1998 she was still having trouble with the double Axel. “The thing is just making sure I don’t have any more setbacks.”

Kwan will skate her short program to Totentanz by Franz Liszt, the same music used by Irina Slutskaya – a matchup reminiscent of the “dueling Carmens” performed by Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas at the 1988 Olympics.

“Everyone has their own interpretation of the music, so it’s no big deal,” Kwan said. “It just happened that we picked the same music.”


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