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Skater Inoue Reveals Bout With Lung Cancer


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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060209/ap_ ... NlYwN0bWE-

Rena Inoue needed to find more inner strength than she'd ever summoned up on the ice. A year and a half after her father died of lung cancer, Inoue was diagnosed in 1998 with the same disease. "The hardest part was telling my mother," Inoue said. "It had been just a year since my dad died. I said, 'I just cannot tell her.'

"But I told her. She definitely was freaking out."

Inoue is now 29, a two-time U.S. pairs champion with partner John Baldwin and is skating in her third Olympics. Most importantly, she's healthy.

Nearly eight years ago, she thought she had pneumonia, but doctors found a spot on her lung. Having recently gone through her father's battle, the family's resolve was tested once again.

"It was at the really very beginning," said Inoue, who skated for Japan in the 1992 and '94 Games. "The doctor said, 'You're very lucky.' Normally people don't know they have it at that stage.

"I was kind of OK when I heard it. I mean, I wasn't happy, but my doctor said he'd found it early. He didn't take it seriously. He didn't say, 'You have to face your death.'"

Inoue revealed her cancer episode this week at the Turin Olympics, where she and Baldwin are considered outsiders for a medal. She said she underwent six months of chemotherapy and has been cancer-free since. Inoue requires only one visit to the doctor per year, and she hardly ever talks about it.

"When somebody asks me I don't really hide it," she said. "It's just not something I would have told."

Inoue came to the United States in 1999 after graduating Waseda University in Japan with an education degree. She didn't meet Baldwin until 2000 when, at the suggestion of his father, Inoue had a tryout with Baldwin. They clicked, and have been together since.

They're also a couple off the ice, and Baldwin planted a deep kiss on Inoue at the national championships last month after their free skate earned them a second national title. During that program, they became the first pair to complete a throw triple axel.

In Turin, they plan to do the difficult maneuver in the short program and the free skate, feeling they need any edge they can get. Inoue and Baldwin almost certainly will need it, having never finished higher than 10th in the world.

They will skate fourth of 20 pairs in Saturday's short program.

"I wanted to do something special, something no one else could do," Inoue said of the throw triple axel, which few pairs even practice. "We finally did it in the nationals. We definitely had our moment there. I just knew I could do it."

So did their coach, Peter Oppegard. He partnered with Jill Watson — who previously coached Inoue and Baldwin — in 1988 to win a bronze medal at the Calgary Games. It's the last Olympic medal for an American pair.

Oppegard believes his duo can build on the performance at nationals, which probably was Inoue and Baldwin's best in their five seasons together.

"I feel, and maybe I'm slightly biased, but I saw a lot of performances at nationals and one of the highlights was John and Rena's," he said.

Baldwin, a former singles competitor who has been a senior skater since 1990 — his first appearance at nationals was in 1986 as a novice — planned to quit if he didn't find a suitable partner six years ago. Now he and Inoue, who became a U.S. citizen in September, own a little piece of skating history.

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