Russian law student wins Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico

Thursday, May 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Crowned the 51st Miss Universe, Russia's raven-haired Oxana Fedorova scored big points for saying the right thing during the pageant's final question _ and she didn't even blush.

The 24-year-old law student and university lecturer from St. Petersburg beat 74 contestants Wednesday after answering the final question: ``What makes you blush?''

To the roars of a raucous crowd, the 5-foot-11 Russian with green eyes grinned and said, ``When I say the wrong things!'' Many of the other contestants said they didn't blush.

Fedorova takes home prizes worth about $250,000. She also gets promotional contracts, a scholarship and will earn a salary while spending next year in New York.

``I feel good. I haven't been this happy in a long time,'' she said in Russian at a news conference after winning the crown. ``I am completely shocked. This is the first time my country has ever won.''

Contestants were judged in three categories _ swimsuits, evening gowns and interviews. Fedorova wore a white toga-like dress for the evening gown contest and won the swimsuit competition in a white bikini.

She gasped when her name was called and last year's queen, Puerto Rican Denise Quinones, placed the $250,000 crown of diamonds and pearls on her head.

Fedorova arrived on the U.S. Caribbean island late after a visa hang-up, and organizers joked she would either not make it or win the crown.

Miss Panama, 22-year-old Justine Pasek, who wants to be an environmental engineer, was the first runner-up. She won $3,000 and a trophy. Next year's pageant will be in Panama.

Miss China, 19-year-old Ling Zhuo, took second place and won $2,000 and a trophy. It was the first time China has sent a contestant.

Miss South Africa, 22-year-old Vanessa Carreira, took third place, and 19-year-old Miss Venezuela, Cynthia Lander Zamora, took fourth. Both women took home $1,000 and a trophy.

Absent from the top 10 were Miss USA, 23-year-old Shauntay Hinton, and Miss Puerto Rico, 21-year-old Isis Marie Casalduc, who won the Miss Photogenic award, taking home $1,000 and a crystal trophy.