Hughes hopes to emulate big sister Sarah with gold
United States figure skater Emily Hughes, , completes an axel during her routine in the women's free skate event at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Louis, in this Saturday, Jan. 14, 2006 file photo. United States figure skater Michelle Kwan pulled out of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games Sunday Feb, 12, 2006, through injury and the U.S. Olympic Committee asked to replace Kwan with Emily Hughes. A response was expected later this week. . (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

TURIN, Italy — Emily Hughes was out for sushi with her family, eating what the local Japanese restaurant calls a "Sarah Gold Roll," when the phone rang.

"My dad got the call, and from his expression I could sort of tell it was really good news," Hughes said Sunday.

If she ordered the roll named for a certain Salt Lake City feat for good luck, well — it worked.

The 17-year-old sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes will travel from her Long Island home to Turin to compete in the Winter Olympics. She replaces Michelle Kwan, who dropped out with a groin injury Sunday.

"We were told to keep it a secret," she said on a conference call. "It was hard not to jump up and down, so we pretty much went right home so we could jump up and down."

Hughes will have plenty of jumping up and down to do next week on the ice. Tentative plans were for her to arrive in Turin later this week, but a blizzard in New York could hamper travel arrangements.

"Everything has been hectic," she said. "After nationals, I was focusing on school, on SATs, and now I am going to be on a flight to Torino.

"I think I have been training hard … I'll be ready to compete whatever it is, and right now it is the Olympics. I feel ready."

Emily Hughes has made a more meteoric rise in skating than Sarah did, even if she isn't quite at the level her sibling reached in 2002. She capped the 2004-05 season with a bronze medal at the world championships — the JUNIOR world championships.

In her first year as a senior competitor, Hughes was fifth at Skate America and Cup of Russia in the Grand Prix series, then placed third in a mediocre field at nationals. By her Olympic season, Sarah already had been third at worlds — yes, the real worlds — and had two thirds in Grand Prix finals. She had made the podium at nationals three times.

Comparing sisters is unfair, though. Few skaters develop as rapidly as Sarah Hughes did.

Or as Kwan did. She was a world champion at 15.

"The Olympics is an incredible experience," Kwan said. "I know she'll have an amazing time and I'm sure she'll make the country proud."

Hughes repeatedly has praised Kwan, saying she had no problem with the process that allowed the nine-time U.S. champion to skip nationals and petition for a medical bye onto the team. She said Sunday that Turin barely was in her mind as she prepared for the world championships in Calgary in March, her initial reward for finishing third at nationals.

"I think that it was fair that Michelle had all the opportunities to be named to the Olympic team and I feel it is unfortunate that she was injured," Hughes said. "Worlds are a really good opportunity for me — and now the Olympics are coming up."

But not the opening ceremony and the parade of athletes, which she missed. Hughes didn't seem bothered by that; simply getting to compete in the games was a far bigger thrill.

"I got to watch on TV, I don't think I really missed out too much," she said.

Her family won't miss out on another Olympic trip, either. Parents, brothers and sisters — including Sarah — soon will be in Turin.

"My family is definitely coming, some already called and asked, 'When are we leaving?"' she said. "Sarah is home with me and so is my younger sister Taylor and they can't wait to go. (Sarah) is really supportive of me, she said to enjoy everything and have fun."

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