Saturday, 23 March
Following the free dance, in which the Israeli couple of Galit Chait & Sergei Sakhnovski won the bronze medal in a five-four split over Lithuanians couple of Margarita Dorbiazko & Povilas Vanagas, the Lithuanian Skating Federation filed a protest with the event referee, Courtney Jones. In addition, the Bulgarian dance couple of Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviyski circulated a petition in support of the Lithuanians for third place.
In their letter to Jones, the Lithuanian Federation based their protest only on the grounds, "we feel the result for third place was clear for our team" and supported it by writing "We have the support of many ice dance judges, experts and skaters for this medal for our team." The letter closed by asking Jones to look into the result. The protest, however, was rejected by the referee without comment or explanation.
This afternoon, the Lithuanian and Bulgarian dance couples gave a press conference regarding the protest. At this press conference the Lithuanians made serious allegations against the father of Galit Chait, alleging that payoffs were made to some of the judges and that physical intimidation against several couples took place. If this was in fact the basis for their protest, the Lithuanians should have set that forth in their protest letter and they should have requested an investigation into these specific allegations, but they did not. Consequently, as far as the ISU is concerned this matter is closed, and no investigation is planned at this time.
This evening, the ladies event concluded with the free skating.
Irina Slutskaya won the free skate in a six-three split over Michelle Kwan. She landed six triples in a well skated program but did not attempt a triple-triple combination. It was a well skated program, stronger both technically and artistically than in the qualifying round. Kwan also landed six triples and did not execute a triple triple combination, but only the three judges who placed Kwan first, placed her ahead of Slutskaya in the second mark, an indication of the progress Slutskaya has made over the years in the second mark and also the weakness of the choreography in Kwan's long program. Fumie Suguri dropped to third place in the free skating to win the bronze medal. She landed five triple jumps, doubling a triple loop.
Sasha Cohen moved up to fourth place despite several errors, landing four triple jumps. She moved ahead of Yoshie Onda who landed seven triple jumps, but who was not competitive with Cohen in the second mark. Onda again attempted triple Axel without success.
Jennifer Kirk withdrew from the competition following the short program due to injury. She has been plagued by overuse injuries in both hips this season and was unable to continue in her current condition.
Friday, 22 March
In the ladies short program, Michelle Kwan ran into trouble and found herself in familiar territory, in third place and in need of help to win the gold medal. Irina Slutskaya skated a clean, confidant program for which she earned two marks of 6.0 for presentation. Odd how three weeks ago the same program skated equally well was not considered nearly as artistic. Given the generous number of sixes awarded Alexei Yagudin, one is led to wonder whether, the Russians and their Eastern European friends, still miffed over events at the Olympics, are making a statement in their generous allocation of sixes to the top Russian skaters.
There is no doubt, however, that Slutskaya skated the best short program of the group. It was clean and well presented. Fumie Suguri placed second with a clean skate of similar difficulty as Slutskaya's. Third place was taken by Kwan who stepped out of her opening triple Lutz. The remainder of the program was well done, but the error was fatal. Now placed third overall, Kwan must win the free skate and Slutskaya must place no higher than third for Kwan to win the gold medal.
Sasha Cohen placed fifth in the short program behind Yoshie Onda. Cohen stepped out of her double Axel, costing her at least a place, and maybe even two. Jennifer Kirk did not have a good skate, falling on triple Lutz and triple flip, and placed 15th in the short program. Her performance was mediocre and following her skate it appeared her hip was giving her some pain.
Maria Butyrskaya withdrew from the competition following the qualifying round, and did not skate the short program. In withdrawing she cited physical and emotional exhaustion.
The ISU just can't win. When they don't shuffle the deck in dance they are criticized for the lack of movement and when they do shuffle the deck they are accused of misconduct.
The gold medal was won by Irina Lobacheva & Ilia Averbukh with their "Tribute to Sep. 11" program. They took first place in the dance on a seven two split over Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz. They skated their Michael Jackson medley the best have this season, and Kraatz seemed particularly pleased with their effort at the conclusion of the dance.
In a five-four split, Galit Chait & Sergei Sakhnovski moved up to third place over Margarita Drobiazko & Povilas Vanagas. The Lithuanian Federation protested the result and a petition was launched in support of the couple. In looking at the marks it is interesting to note that even though the Israeli couple beat the Lithuanian's five to four on a head to head basis, if you take the marks as just nine independent opinions both the ordinals and the raw marks were superior for the Lithuanian's compared to the Israeli's. So who deserved to win the bronze medal? You may well ask. We also not that the Lithuanians beat the Israeli couple in three out of four dances and both couples ended up with a total factored place of 7.0. We again ask the question posed after the men's event. Should not the competitor with the best record against the other receive the higher final placement, or baring that, should not two competitors with the same final score simply remained tied?
Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev again placed ninth, and finished two places up from the Olympics thanks to the absence of Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat and Barbara Fusar Poli & Maurizio Margaglio from this competition. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto placed 13th to finish 13th overall.
Thursday, 21 March
The original dance held few surprises with the top nine couples holding their positions after the compulsory dance. Irina Lobacheva & Ilia Averbukh skated a tango and flamenco that was well done and received unanimous first place marks. Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz placed second, with one judge placing them third. Their eccentric routine consisted of Flamenco and tango rhythms. Opinions for third and fourth place were more divided, with Margarita Dorbiazko & Povilas Vanagas placing third with marks of second through fifth, followed close behind by Galit Chait & Sergei Sakhnovski who performed a flamenco, paso doble and tango that received marks of third through fifth. Americans Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev placed ninth while Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto dropped a spot to place 14th in the OD, performing a flamenco and tango.
It was a foregone conclusion entering the free skate that Alexei Yagudin would emerge as World Champion, so one could just sit back and enjoy the coronation. The real drama was for the silver and bronze medals, where anything might have happened.
Yagudin won the gold medal with unanimous first place marks on the strength of eight triple and quadruple jumps and a strong presentation that earned him two marks of 6.0 in the second mark. Alexander Abt, poised for his first world medal after placing second in the qualifying round and short program faltered in the free skate, failing to land an essential quad and placed fourth, just out of the medals.
Timothy Goebel gave a somewhat sloppy performance, but still managed to eek out three quadruple jumps to move up to second in the free skate and second overall. His presentation was respectable, but still only in the 5.5 to 5.8 range for the second mark, with much room for improvement.
Takeshi Honda held on to third place by placing third in the free skate, just ahead of Abt. Honda and Abt both ended up with a total factored place of 6.0 for the three programs, but with Honda placing ahead of Abt in the free skate he was awarded third place overall. Abt on the other hand, beat Honda in two out of three programs, including one of the two free skates. One wonders then, if this method of tie breaking is really fair. Should not the skater who has the better record against the other be placed higher? Or, if they are tied in total points at the end of the competition, should not the two skaters simply be tied?
Michael Weiss had a decent skate, landing five triples but no quadruple jumps. He placed sixth in the free skate and sixth overall. The third American skater here, Matthew Savoie, landed seven triple jumps to place 11th in the free skate and 12th overall. Technically it was a decent effort but received weak second marks.
Wednesday, 20 March
This morning and afternoon the ladies qualifying round was held with 40 skaters competing in two groups. The top 15 skaters in each group made the cut to compete in the short program on Friday.
The skating in the two groups was not at the same overall high level as the men on Monday, with only a few really good performances turned in. Of the two groups, the first was the most difficult with Maria Butyrskaya, Jennifer Kirk, Michelle Kwan, Julia Sebestyen, and Fumie Suguri lumped together while in the second group only Sasha Cohen was a factor to put any pressure on Irina Slutskaya.
Group A was won by Michelle Kwan who gave a strong performance, though not error free. It was not skated at the level of her performance at U.S. Nationals, but was more confident than at the Olympics, with the palpable tightness she displayed their absent. She doubled a loop jump but also landed the triple toe loop - triple toe loop combination. Fumie Suguri did a nice job with her program, lading five triple jumps and executing strong fast spins. She was followed by Julia Sebestian who also landed five triple jumps, including a triple flip into triple toe loop sequence. Sebestian presented her program well but her jumps were not as clean nor her spins as strong a Suguri's. Jennifer Kirk, substituting for Sarah Hughes who decided to skip the World Championships, placed fourth, landing six triple jumps in the process. It was a decent performance skated with fair speed, but she was hampered by a sore hip. Maria Butyrskaya placed sixth behind Jennifer Robinson, in a slow sloppy performance. She landed but three triples and fled the Kiss and Cry area immediately upon leaving the ice.
In Group B Irina Slutskaya had a decent skate, landing four triples in the process. The first third of the program was a little sloppy, but she managed to pull things together and still give a strong artistic presentation of the program. Nonetheless, though, she lucked out by being in the weaker of the two groups as her performance would not have held up in Group A. Skating last in the Group, Sasha Cohen skater her long program fairly well landing six triple jumps. Her jumps were a little scratchy and her triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination was slightly cheated. The young, strong jumping, Yoshie Onda placed third. She attempted eight triple jumps, landing six. Her attempt at triple Axel failed as did a triple flutz.
At the end of the qualifying, Michelle Kwan and Irina Slutskaya are poised to continue their rivalry in the short program, and all three U.S. lades are within striking distance of a medal.
The pairs event this evening looked a little like a dance event, with the top eight teams holding their places from the short program. The absence of Berzhnaya & Sikharulidze and Sale & Pelletier, who have taken the money and run, opened the door for Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao to win their first world title (and the first world gold medal in pairs for China) and for Tatiana Totminanina & Maxim Marinin and Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman to win their first World Championship medals. The pressure from anticipation was evident in all three of the leaders after the short program, with no-one skating clean. Only former World Champions Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov skated clean, but their somewhat sluggish and lackluster performance prevented them from capitalizing on the other's mistakes. Following their performance, Ina & Zimmerman had the look of competitors who knew that they had let their opportunity slip away, only to be surprised to find the judges placed them third on a five-four split over Petrova & Tikhonov.
Of the top three teams, only Totmianina & Marinin were unambiguous about their future plans, stating they will continue to compete in ISU competition for the next four years. The Chinese team implied they would decided one year at time, but would most likely be back next year, while Ina said she and Zimmerman had not discussed future plans and would make that decision at a later data. Their coach, Tamara Moskvina, told us she would be remaining in the U.S. for the next season, but would be cutting back her time as a full time coach and would instead be working more with teams on a consulting basis.
In the pairs event, the Chinese team of Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang entered the record book as the first team to successfully complete a quad twist at a World Championship, despite Dan Zhang bouncing off her partner's shoulder on the catch. This team has previously accomplished this element at both the 2000 and 2001 World Junior Championships. (The Zhangs are neither brother and sister not husband and wife.)
Tuesday, 19 March
Today, 28 dance couples skated the two compulsory dances of the ice dance event, while in the evening the men skated their short programs.
Alexei Yagudin crushed the competition with an outstanding performance judged flawless by five judges, with the Ukrainian Judge marking him a perfect 6.0 in both marks. This is the first time a 6.0 has been awarded for technical merit in a men's short program. His five marks of 6.0 for presentation is also a record for the World Championships. Previously, Midori Ito received two 6.0s for technical merit in the short program at the 1989 World Championships. The last man to receive a 6.0 for presentation in a men's short program at a World Championships was Mark Mitchell in 1993.
Second in the short program was Alexander Abt who is now in good position to win his first World medal. Takeshi Honda placed third in the short program ahead of Timothy Goebel on a seven-two split of the panel, with his margin of victory determined by the second mark for three of the seven judges. Honda is now fourth overall, however, due to his lower placement in the qualifying round. Trailing the leaders in fifth place is Michael Weiss, who still is in striking distance for a medal.
Eight quadruple jumps were landed in the men's short program.
In the compulsory dance, held earlier in the day, the three top ranked teams all held their relative places from Salt Lake City. The Russian couple of Irina Lobacheva & Ilia Averbukh won both dances with only one judge denying them a first place mark in the first dance, the Golden Waltz. Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz were judged best in that dance by one judge, but were also placed third by three others. Holding third after the compulsory dances were Margarita Drobiazko & Povilas Vanagas.
The couples in places four through ten mostly held their ranking from the Olympic games, though there was some discernable movement among those teams. The American team of Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev moved up to ninth place from their 11th place finish at the Games thanks to the absence here of the gold and bronze medalists from Salt Lake City. The second U.S. team of Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto placed a respectable 12th.
During the skating of the Golden Waltz, four team had major spills, with the French team of Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder falling twice. The six hour monotony of the dances was also broken up by Shae-Lynn Bourne, who had a costume "problem" and ended up skating the majority of the Golden Waltz with her chest fully exposed.
Monday, 18 March
The World Championships began with the first of three 12-hours days of non-stop competition. Only one of the Salt Lake Olympic Gold medalist, men's champions Alexei Yagudin, will be competing here. Most of the first day was devoted to the two qualifying groups of the men's event which saw 39 skaters vying for 30 available places in the short program. In the evening, 20 teams skated the pairs short program.
In the men's qualifying, Alexei Yagudin had little serious competition to challenge him. Evgeny Plushenko is not competing due to injury, and for reasons yet to be explained the Russian Federation did not name a substitute, leaving the Russians with only two of their permitted three entries. Earlier in the season, Yagudin said that he would no longer be performing his Gladiator routine in competition, but following the lead of Plushenko last year Yagudin decided to to perform two different long programs in this years competition, Gladiator in the qualifying round and The Man in the Iron Mask in the final free skate.
In qualifying Group A Yagudin easily out-paced his nearest rival, Alexander Abt, with Takeshi Honda placing third. Matthew Savoie, a substitute for Todd Eldredge, who retired from ISU competition after the Olympics, placed a distant sixth in the group, well behind the leaders. Timothy Goebel gave a fine performance to win Group B. He was followed by Michael Weiss who was paced several tenths below Goebel, except for by one judge who placed him first. Third place in the group was taken by Chengjiang Li.
A total of 12 quads were landed in the two qualifying groups.
Following the short program, prior to the draw for the free skating, the top three teams were awarded small medals for their placements in the short program. This is a practice the ISU followed many years ago and has been revived at these championships.
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Copyright 2002 by George S. Rossano