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Slutskaya to skip European meet

MOSCOW -- Irina Slutskaya will skip next month's European
championships, but she plans to skate at the March World
Championships despite being idle all season with heart problems and
other ailments.

Slutskaya is back on the ice for limited practices, though still
taking medication for an inflamed sac around her heart. She has not
skated competitively this season.

"She is practicing again," her agent, Ari Zakarian, told The
Associated Press on Tuesday. "She hopes to show the (Russian)
federation she is healthy enough to skate at worlds.

"Irina never planned to skate at the Russian championships
later this month, and she is not ready to compete at Europeans."

Slutskaya, the 2002 world champion, was hospitalized for much of
last summer with pneumonia, chronic asthmatic bronchitis and the
heart problems.

Slutskaya, second at the 2002 Olympics to Sarah Hughes, will
need permission from the Russian figure skating federation to be
placed on the world team. Those world championships are at the end
of March in Dortmund, Germany.

Last summer, after appearing on the Champions on Ice tour,
Slutskaya returned to Russia with a persistent cough and fever that
came and went unpredictably. She had blood tests and X-rays, which
showed an enlargement around the heart.

Slutskaya saw a heart specialist and began treatment. She was
off the ice from mid-July until Sept. 20. She hoped to compete in
the Grand Prix series in the fall, but never felt strong enough for
a full training schedule.