Table of contents:
I didn't take any notes on this phase of the competition, just photos. Sorry.... The dance the skaters did at this event was the Westminster Waltz.
|Pairs short program|
Lariviere & Faustino were the first pair up, skating to some kind of bouncy music. Jacinthe fell on her triple toe, and again on the exit of the death spiral, and I thought their lift fairly simple. Other elements looked fine to me.
Sale & Pelletier skated to slow jazz music. Jamie overrotated her triple toe and stepped out, and I only counted three rotations in their pair spin after they changed feet. On the positive side, their other elements all looked really good; the twist was spectacular, and their lift had many changes of grip and position.
Shen & Zhao skated to the diamond commercial music. While I was peering at my camera viewfinder I didn't spot any obvious deductions, but I noticed that their unison in both timing and position was really off on their solo spins, and likewise that their extensions were mismatched on other elements (such as the lift exit). Their program is constructed with a lot of counterpoint choreograpy which I'm sure helps to disguise how pervasive their unison problems really are.
Ina & Zimmerman did the same "Truman Show" short program as last year. The big error was that their throw was so crooked in the air that Kyoko splatted on the ice when she came down, but they were also way out of unison on their solo spins.
Totmianina & Marinin skated to "Liebestraum". Landing of the throw was very scratchy and on their lift it seemed like they almost ran out of ice on the exit and that the set-down was hasty and awkward.
Miller & Weiss skated to a piano arrangement of "Summertime". Jeffrey put his hands down on the triple toe, Jessica fell on the throw, and their unison was a bit off on the solo spins. Aside from the obvious flaws, I noted that, compared to the other teams, their ice coverage was not up to the same level; they never really got into the corners of the ice at all, for instance.
Scott & Dulebohn are also using the same program as last year, and they skated it cleanly except for a unison problem on their solo spins. Phil is still having problems with his wrist, it seems, and it showed in how small their twist and throw were compared to the other teams.
Kautz & Jeschke skated to the same middle-eastern flavored "Songs from the Victorious City" music that Alexander Abt used a few years ago, wearing amazingly elaborate costumes that were dripping with dangly gold trim (see photo). Their performance was a total mess, with four falls and errors on just about every other element as well. I don't think they're normally this awful, but that they just were never able to regain their composure after starting out with a freak fall on a spiral, of all things. Some people I talked to thought the referee should have blown the whistle to stop them before they hurt themselves. Anyway, apparently they *did* hurt themselves, since they withdrew before the long program.
|Ladies short program|
Michelle Currie skated to "Evita" with a beat. Triple flip was OK, triple lutz was underrotated and landed on the wrong foot but she tacked a double toe on anyway, other elements looked OK to me although she could have used more speed. People were commenting on her resemblance to Denise Biellmann.
Caroline Gulke skated to some slow jazz music. Triple toe/double toe for a combination, popped the loop out of footwork, slight scrape on the landing of the double axel. Again, she looked slow, but I liked her carriage and presentation. She looks fairly tall and she uses her height well.
Viktoria Volchkova had a hand down on the triple lutz, coming to pretty much a complete stop so she also had to take a step before the double toe. Only a double flip, weak spiral sequence. Her music was some really generic-sounding muzak stuff.
I think Elena Sokolova's music was "Don Quixote". Slightly cheated triple lutz into double toe, triple loop out of footwork, tried the double axel out of a spread eagle but missed it (I can't read my notes here).
Sabina Wojtala's tango program was a huge disappointment. Double lutz/double toe, popped the loop after delaying the entry so long that there's no way that you could have considered that the jump was done out of the preceding footwork even if she'd completed it.
Angela Nikodinov skated to generic-sounding "pretty" music. She fell on a mildly flutzed triple lutz, landed a triple toe as her jump out of footwork (she's been doing a flip here in previous years), and then popped her double axel. Whoever thought Angela needed to lose weight was totally off-base; she just looks sickly and lethargic now, and the real problem is still in her head.
Sarah Hughes did double axel, triple flutz/double toe, and triple flip with a step-out. Her spins were a highlight. I thought this was an excellent program, with good connecting steps, and sophisticated music.
Siyun Sun surprised everyone by making it into the final group for the free skate by doing a clean short program of lesser difficulty; she did a triple salchow/double toe combination and triple toe out of footwork. Her presentation skills were totally adequate for the technical level of her skating. Her program was skated to Indian-sounding music.
Michelle Kwan's program is skated to electric guitar music. People keep complaining that all of her programs are the same and she keeps using the same kind of music, but I just don't see it -- if you think about it, just in the past three years she's skated to rock, muzaked Beatles, top-40 classical ("Carmen"), a movie score ("Red Violin"), and a tango (middle section of her 1999 free skate), as well as the romantic-period classical music that most people associate with her. Anyway, she skated a clean program with the usual elements, although she is doing her lutz from the short entrance now instead of from the long diagonal edge.
The two Japanese girls, Chisato Shiina and Arisa Yamasaki, both seemed to be way out of their depth here. I believe they both were attempting triple lutz combinations and triple flips out of footwork, but neither of them seemed to be having much luck with these jumps even in practice. I think they would have done a lot better if they'd taken the same approach as Sun and stuck with easier elements that they can actually do.
I didn't take terribly detailed notes on this phase of the competition. As a general comment, virtually all the teams have chosen to do a quickstep and foxtrot medley for the OD this year -- the regulations also give them the choice using charleston or march rhythms.
It's pretty sad to see the level of the dance teams that Russia is sending out on the Grand Prix circuit nowadays, since they always used to have so much depth in this discipline. Grebenkina & Novikov seemed to have the more difficult programs of the two, but they were very slow. Ulanova & Pavlov skated with a little bit more speed and flow but their choreography was simpler, and I got the impression that Pavlov's skills aren't up to doing anything more -- he was struggling with the required twizzles, for instance.
In addition to the limitations of their technical abilities, Tsusuki & Farkhoutdinov's problem seemed to be that they just don't "get" the Western style of ballroom dance. Their program was a mishmash of "Dancing Fool" and "Fever", which really did not go together at all (or with their costumes, for that matter), and I had the impression that they just didn't know what a quickstep or foxtrot were supposed to look like.
Delobel & Chapuis did "get" it, on the other hand; they used an arrangement of "Bei mir bist du schoen" that had a variation in tempo so that they got both the quickstep and foxtrot with one piece of music that flowed pretty seamlessly. Some of us were puzzled about why the judges favored the other French team instead, but I think they must have had some mistake on a required element, that I didn't catch.
Lang & Tchernyshev skated to Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" as a quickstep, interpolated with another piece with a similar style for the foxtrot section. The quickstep part was fine, but the choreography of the middle section didn't seem to have much to do with the foxtrot.
Ouabdelsallam & Delmas skated to "Nobody does it better" as a foxtrot and "Man Wanted" for their quickstep. I didn't find either section of the dance very convincing in interpreting the rhythms they were supposed to represent. I also noted that they had trouble maintaining a constant distance from each other on the straight-line footwork sequence, getting very far apart for a good part of it.
Fusar-Poli & Margalio did the Fred-and-Ginger thing, skating to "Puttin' on the Ritz" and "They can't take that away". This program works fine; it has a lot of speed and attack, and they certainly interpret the character of the dances well.
Bourne & Kraatz used "Jumping Jack" (Ilia Kulik's music) as their quickstep, and "Business of Love" as their foxtrot. Victor had a fall at the beginning of their straight-line step sequence and they pretty much lost credit for that whole element because he wasn't able to catch up again until at least half-way through. I can't really comment on the difficulty of this dance because I was so distracted by the ugly costume that Shae-Lynn was wearing -- if the collar and the pointy things on the gloves weren't bad enough, that ruffly underskirt alone would have made me shudder in horror (see photo).
Drobiazko & Vanagas were the nonconformists, skating a Charleston to a German(?) version of "Yes sir, that's my baby" along with a quickstep section to "Dancing Fool". They, too, had a fall in their straight-line step sequence when Margarita lost her balance, but it happened at the very end instead of the beginning and they were able to recover quickly.
Handra & Sinek used a piece of music that must be called "Happy Feet" as their quickstep. I must say that, throughout this entire event, they looked very much at home in this level of competition, skating with good speed and confidence.
Chait & Sakhnovsky skated to a medley of "Sing sing sing" and "Bei mir bist du schoen", and they were really hot in this phase of the competition -- their program had a lot of energy, and the audience loved it. I thought it was rather questionable for them to finish behind Drobiazko & Vanagas who had the fall. My only complaint is that Galit's costume was too overdone and didn't seem to match the music at all (see photo).
|Men's short program|
Todd Eldredge was the first skater up. Big splat on the quad toe that was supposed to be his combination, another splat on the triple axel, triple lutz out of steps wasn't the most secure either. I really don't know if doing a quad in the short is a good strategy for Todd. Yes, he can do the jump, but in practices it seems to take him an awfully long time to warm it up; if he's going to use it successfully in the short program, it has to be so automatic that he can go out and hit it right off the bat, with only the 6 minute warmup. OTOH, maybe he thinks that the only way he can work up to that level of comfort with it is by continuing to try it in competition.
Alexei Yagudin was up next to show the way it's supposed to be done. Quad toe/triple toe landed very close to the boards, huge triple axel, triple lutz. I haven't seen what Plushenko is doing this year, but I find it hard to imagine that this short program of Yagudin's is going to be beatable as long as he hits his jumps. It's really got everything, including -- for a change -- a tasteful and flattering costume. Alexei is also looking more fit than I've ever seen him before, like he's finally shed the puppy fat that sometimes made him look a little bloated.
Tim Goebel skated to "Also Sprach Zarathustra", doing a quad something that looked so heavily two-footed on the entrance that I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be a salchow or a toe loop, triple axel/triple toe, double axel. I'm not sure why he isn't doing the quad in combination and the triple axel as the solo axel, so he can do another triple as his jump out of footwork. Being cynical, perhaps it's because his lutz is still so problematic that he doesn't feel he can rely on it. Tim's spins were still in need of help, too, and while I see some occasional improvements in his posture and presentation, it's still generally a problem area for him.
Emanuel Sandhu finally showed that he can bring his jumps outside of Canada. Quad toe had a step out on the landing and also no footwork on the entrance; I wasn't sure if it was intended to be his combination, but in any case he then threw in a triple axel/triple toe and a double axel. Perhaps the biggest change I see in him from past years is that he really *moved* on the ice, both in terms of speed and quickness through his footwork, and skated his whole program with energy and attack. I was really pleased to see that the judges were willing to reward him in the second mark. Incidentally, at the end of the competition I observed Alexei Mishin (who is coaching Elena Sokolova and not any of the other men in the event) going out of his way to congratulate Emanuel.
Trifun Zivanovic is skating the same program to "The Mummy" as last year, but in a different black and gold costume. Triple lutz was landed on two feet with a step-out, triple axel/single toe, really weak spins. He looked pretty wretched out there. I later heard that Trifun had been both injured and ill prior to this event and was not able to train much for the previous couple weeks.
Silvio Smalun skated to some music with drums and flute. Fell on triple axel, popped the lutz, double axel. The program didn't leave much of an impression on me, to tell the truth.
Roman Serov skated to an orchestral version of "Caravan" in an elaborate black and gold outfit. Triple axel with a scratchy landing and step into a double toe, triple lutz, looked like he tapped his free foot on the deathdrop, double axel out of a spread eagle was heavily two-footed and overrotated. His spin combination kind of faded out, but he did a gorgeous change-foot camel spin with three position variations in the back camel alone. He seems to have problems with consistency but I found him interesting to watch.
Andre Kaden did a tango program which was well-presented but full of technical faults. Triple lutz, fell on triple axel, flying sit spin neither flew nor sat in the air, circular step sequence didn't come close to covering the full width of the ice, fell again on the double axel.
Yamato Tamura skated to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and I think part of the Apassionata as well. Fell on quad toe, popped the axel, death drop looked like it was short of rotation, triple lutz landed very low to the ice.
Vincent Restencourt skated to a bizarre mix that started out with Elgar's Enigma variations and quickly transitioned into some electronic-sounding stuff. Triple axel/double toe, triple flip, double axel.
Alexander Abt was the final skater. His music was vaguely middle-eastern sounding, with a beat. Fall on quad toe, triple axel with a hop on the landing into a double toe, double axel.
|Pairs free skate|
My notes on the pairs are a little sketchy -- I found it hard both to take in all the details of the lifts, etc, and to take detailed enough notes to adequately describe what I was seeing, at the same time that I was juggling the camera trying to take photos.
Ina & Zimmerman had the bad luck to have to skate first -- since they were 5th in the short, they didn't make it into the final group. Their music is a disco arrangement of the well-known Paganini theme. Triple toes and double axels were clean, triple twist, double axels into double toes. Throw triple loop had some sort of glitch on the landing, forward inside death spiral, solo camel/sit spins, lift with flip dismount, throw triple salchow. By this time John was looking like he was ready to die and they obviously left out the last lift in their program before ending with a pair spin. They must have had more than one other lift in their program, but it didn't make it into my notes. Another skater I talked to afterwards told me that John had said that finishing that program was the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life.
Miller & Weiss were up next, skating to the same Mendelssohn violin concerto program they used last season. Triple twist, a lift, triple toes where he put his hands down, throw triple salchow, double axels where they both had messy landings, solo spins, spirals into a back outside death spiral. Pair spin, back press lift, pair camel, a spiral thing into some kind of throw, straight-line steps and some opposition choreography, a 1-arm lift, forward inside death spiral. I thought Jeffrey looked about ready to die by the end of the program, too. Although they finished last, they didn't embarrass themselves at this competition, or look hopelessly out of place.
Lariviere & Faustino skated to some pleasant classical-sounding music that I couldn't identify. Elements were triple twist, triple toes, back outside death spiral, slow edgy serpentine footwork, throw triple loop with a fall, solo spins, a lift, another lasso lift, another set of triple toes where he had a messy landing, pair spin, spirals into a throw triple salchow, double flip/double toe sequence, more spirals into a forward inside death spiral. They seemed to be just a little bit sluggish and behind their music at the end, but overall it was a solid performance.
Scott & Dulebohn skated to classical music with piano that Louis diCesari has identified as the Prokofiev piano concerto #3. They opened with a series of solo jumps, double axels into split jumps into triple toes, which Tiffany stepped out on. Triple twist was pretty crashy, then they did a lasso lift, a throw triple salchow with a fall, a back press lift, solo spins, spirals into a throw triple loop that Tiffany again had to step out on, double flips, a pair spin, straight-line footwork, and a helicopter-type lift at the end. I was a little surprised that the judges put them ahead of Lariviere & Faustino, but then I decided that they were probably getting credit for doing a more difficult program in spite of the mistakes.
Sale & Pelletier skated to music from "Tristan & Isolde" -- intensely romantic in style, with some solo violin and piano parts. Throw triple loop, triple toes (Jamie only did a double), triple twist, a lift, throw triple salchow, another lift, solo butterflies into back sit spins (an unusual element for pairs to do), back inside death spiral. After a section of posing, double axels into double toes, a series of spirals, another lift, a death spiral from a spread eagle entrance, and a pair spin. This performance was the highlight of the entire week for me; the program works at both a technical and an emotional level.
After that, I had a hard time appreciating Totmianina & Marinin's program, yet another interpretation of "West Side Story". Triple salchows, triple twist, throw triple loop, triple toe/double toe combinations with poor unison, plus I thought it looked like Maxim two-footed the landing of his triple, a pivot move, a couple of lifts, a throw triple salchow that Tatiana stepped out on two feet, flying camels, and a sluggish pair spin. Some other people I talked to really like this team, but they do absolutely nothing for me.
Shen & Zhao skated last, recycling their program from last year. Series of double axels into triple toes, triple twist, a throw triple loop, a lift, another set of solo triple toes which Zhao popped and Shen just had a messy landing, a star lift, another throw where Shen could not check the landing, solo butterfly spins that looked pretty pathetic compared to the ones that S&P did, an equally weak pair spin, another death spiral, and some straightline footwork. I was surprised to hear that many people thought it was a close decision between them and Sale & Pelletier, given how sloppy S&Z got in the second half of their program. If they'd nailed everything and had spins that weren't such an embarassment, then yes, they might have won on the technical mark.
I was actually hoping that by arriving late for the dance competition I would miss the first group of skaters, but unfortunately they were running over half an hour late because of problems with the ice surface. I was told that during the afternoon ladies practice that I skipped, one of the skaters had made a gigantic divot with a loose chunk of ice about the size of a dinner plate. The ice technicians were still out there working on it when I came in, blasting at it with a fire extinguisher to help freeze the patch.
So I had to suffer through the first group after all. The two Russian teams were pretty forgettable; Ulanova & Pavlov did a sultry but sloppy Latin dance, and Grebinkina & Novikov used the kind of new-age music with a heavy beat and a crooning female vocalist that was all the rage last season.
I wish I *could* forget the Japanese team's dance. Tsuzuki & Farkhoudinov skated to a cheesy vocal version of "Swan Lake" with lyrics about "a swan so white" and "I could die to be with you my prince". I'd already had to sit through this twice during practices and three times was about more than I could bear. I wonder if these poor skaters are aware that everyone was making fun of their music. During one of the practices I even spotted Naomi Lang doing some exaggerated arm-flapping while their music was playing!
Ouabdelsselam & Delmas started the second group dancing to music that I described in my notes as "electronic jungle music with heavy breathing". Their costumes were kind of cool, with what looked multicolored masks on their chests and a heavy black fringe (see photo), and the dance itself was interesting, too, although they were skating very slowly through the first half of the program. Unfortunately, they had a nasty fall at around the 3:30 mark and it took them forever to get back into their choreography. I couldn't tell whether Alia had dazed herself in the fall or if they had just gotten so far behind their music that they had to wait for a point where they could catch up again. Before they did so, the referee blew the whistle on them but they ignored it and eventually picked up and finished the program. I think they lost 10-15 seconds of their program while this was happening, and some of the judges gave them a full point hit in their technical merit mark for it. I heard later that the fall may have been the result of more problems with the ice surface; apparently the paint was coming up in that area.
Lang & Tchernychev were next, skating to a mix of the Bach "Air on the G string" and "The Four Seasons" with storm sounds mixed in. I really hated the way their music switched back and forth, and I felt like they were trying to do a "Greatest Dance Hits of 1992" program instead of anything original. They did skate with good speed and energy all the way through their program at the expense of looking somewhat sloppy to me, and my overall impression was that there were too many lifts and too much posing and not enough footwork.
I've pretty much blanked out on Delobel & Chapuis's dance. My notes say only that they skated to extremely repetitive vocal music.
Handra & Sinek skated to rock music with vocals and electric guitar (other people have said this was Santana, but I didn't recognize it myself). Once again they looked like they belonged at this level of competition, skating with good energy until about the 3 minute mark when it looked to me like Handra started to struggle through the circular step pattern. I generally liked this dance, except maybe they could lose the one lift that looked like Sinek was deliberately trying to display Handra's crotch to the audience.
Fusar-Poli & Margaglio led off the final group. I will say right away that I hate both their music and their costumes and found it impossible to evaluate the technical merits of the dance because the presentation aspect was so over-the-top theatrical. Their "music" includes spoken dialogue as well as sound effects like a car crash and sirens, while their costumes had these stiff "wings" attached to the backs of their shoulders (see photo) and surely merited a deduction for being excessively theatrical and inappropriate for athletic competition.
Bourne & Kraatz skated next. People I talked to were undecided about whether their costumes were supposed to represent shredded Canadian flags or shredded flesh; I was leaning towards the former interpretation, myself. (See photo.) In any case, to me they seemed restrained compared to what FP&M were wearing. On the other hand, even if their costumes were OK, I hated B&K's music. It's like "Bolero", droning on for far too long with absolutely no variation in tempo or mood, and a shrieking female vocal to boot. Yeccchhhh. On top of that, for large sections for the dance it seemed like they weren't even skating to the beat of the music. Tarasova has given them choreography reminiscent of Grishuk & Platov's 1998 free dance, with Shae twizzling like crazy -- she seems to be able to handle the difficulty, but I noted that Victor was struggling a bit when he had to twizzle too. The one thing I was impressed with in this dance was how they linked some of the elements together; for instance, I think there was one section where they did dance spins in opposite directions and then transitioned directly into a lift.
Chait & Sakhnovsky were next, skating to a dance arrangement of the well-known Paganini caprice for violin. Galit's dress had a violin design on it (see photo), and Sergei was evidently trying to portray Paganini himself, who was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his violin-playing skill; Sergei certainly looked diabolical, at least. But I've already seen far too many dances where the woman portrays an inanimate object who is merely manipulated by the man. Their performance was fast and energetic, but at times it was so frenetic that they got pretty sloppy. Their ending lift and pose is one of those particularly tasteless things where Galit is being supported by a hand in her crotch (see photo) -- in practice, they did this right in front of the section where I was sitting, causing just about all the women seated around me to burst out in laughter. Sergei looked more like a mad gynecologist than a mad violinist.
Drobiazko & Vanagas, thank goodness, skated a "normal" dance in "normal" clothes -- it's a tango. I thought the opening section of their dance was fine, but it seemed to sort of fizzle out at the end, and I wasn't sure if this was the fault of their choreography or whether they were just too tired by the end of the program to skate with the kind of sharpness and tension that a tango requires. When they were done, I really had no clue where the judges would place them.
As a side note to the dance competition, Vladimir Kotin was present, acting as D&V's coach (he is Elena Tchaikovskaya's assistant). During one of the practice sessions, I worked up enough courage to go over and tell him that he used to be my favorite skater. :-) He looked surprised and pleased that anybody still remembered his skating.
|Ladies free skate|
I'm going to be merciful here and not detail every single fall or popped jump for every skater. Overall, the level of skating at this competition was *really* weak, with several of the skaters looking either like novices or like the senior ladies who don't make it past regionals in the US.
Chisato Shiina skated to classical music I didn't recognize. She was trying all the triples up to the lutz, but fell four times and the only one she got cleanly was a triple toe/double toe combination. She really ought to be doing the JGP circuit instead of seniors.
Angela Nikodinov delivered a typical performance for her, starting out by popping her axel, landing triple lutz and flip, and proceeding to double all of the remaining jumps in her program. Like I said before, her weight loss seems to be hurting her stamina instead of improving it. I thought her music was "Swan Lake" (I still had those unfortunate Japanese dancers in my head) but it turns out that it's really "Sleeping Beauty".
Arisa Yamasaki looks like she is not yet ready for junior internationals, much less a senior Grand Prix event. Like Shiina, she was trying all the triples, but only landed a triple salchow/double toe competition. She also missed her double axel. Her spins need work as well. Her music was a classical medley.
Sabina Wojtala was up next, skating to the Rachmaninoff "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini". She landed triple lutz/double toe, a delayed double flip (not sure if it was intentional, but it looked neat), triple toe/double toe, and triple salchow. The main problem with her skating is that she's very choppy, with no flow or power in her stroking, and her in-between skating consisted of little else besides mechanical stroke stroke stroke from one element to the next.
Caroline Gulke, by contrast, is a fine skater, with pleasant carriage and presentation and good flow and ice coverage. Unlike the Japanese girls, she was trying only triple toe, salchow, and loop; the opening triple toe was huge and clean, but she fell on all of her other attempts and also had trouble with her double axel. No notes on her music.
Sarah Hughes started off the second group. She really took her time getting ready to skate after her name was called, to the point where I was worried that the referee was going to disqualify her -- but instead, the announcer re-introduced her, and gave her still more time to get into position before starting her music. She's skating to "Don Quixote", and I have to say that this program is a step backwards for her, especially compared to her short program. It's trite and un-original, other skaters have already done a much better job with this music, and the choreography is simplistic and repetitive. I really noticed this when I was looking through the photos I took of Sarah in practice, where I found I had at least half a dozen shots of her with her arms in the stereotypical "Spanish" position with one hand perched on her hip and the other arm raised overhead (see photo).
Anyway, Sarah did a double axel, triple salchow/triple loop where the loop was at least slightly cheated on the landing, death drop, triple loop by itself, triple flutz, spirals, a triple flip that was also slightly cheated on the landing, a spin (flying camel, I think), circular footwork, her usual excellent layback, another double axel, triple toe, split flip, and a spin combination that included a fully extended vertical split position. Both she and her coach looked thrilled at this performance, and she got a huge standing ovation from the audience.
By contrast, Siyun Sun looked like one of the novice skaters who didn't belong in a senior Grand Prix event. Her presentation was pleasant enough, but she landed only a clean triple toe/double toe combination and an underrotated and two-footed triple salchow. On the positive side, she is a good spinner.
Elena Sokolova was up next, skating to "Masquerade Waltz", which is music that I like, but I thought that it's too heavy for her. She landed an underrotated triple lutz/double toe, triple loop, two-footed triple flip, and triple toe -- everything else was popped or doubled. At least she stayed vertical and did not fall.
After this came Michelle Kwan. I like her music and find it interesting in an intellectual way, but my impression is that it's not really suitable for a championship-winning skating program because it doesn't have enough tension to it. It's not the sort of thing that's going to draw people out of their seats or get people caught up emotionally, and the lack of excitement is probably going to be reflected in her scores, as well. On top of that, while there are some nice choreographic touches here and there in the program, I don't think the program is technically well-constructed in terms of its layout. For example, I observed that all four spins are done in exactly the same place on the ice, and there seemed to be a lot of empty space while she was setting up her jumps. If I were in a position to give advice to Michelle, I'd tell her to dump this program and come up with something completely new for Worlds.
In the actual performance, Michelle started out with a step out on the triple loop, triple lutz/double toe combination from a short entrance, layback, triple toe/double toe, double flip, flying camel with variations, double axel, triple salchow, improvised triple toe, opposite direction camel stepping into a spin combination in her normal direction, straight-line steps, triple lutz, spirals, and a death drop. After she doubled the flip, I was thinking Michelle was not going to have enough content to beat Sarah, but the extra triple toe she threw in was probably just enough to do it, and I don't have a problem with the way the results came out; Sarah is a fine skater who turned in a fine performance, but the quality and security of her basic skating isn't quite at the same level as Michelle's yet.
Incidentally, Michelle was wearing her hair in a bun that was some sort of hairpiece. She came out with it like that for practice on Friday, but it promptly came loose and she skated over to where Frank Carroll was sitting at the judges' table, pulled out the hairpiece with a grimace, and handed it to him.
Getting back to the competition, Viktoria Volchkova skated next. She landed a huge triple lutz, triple flip, underrotated triple loop, a scratchy triple salchow, and a heavily two-footed triple toe. She was very slow, especially at the end of her program. I think I would have put her ahead of Sokolova on the basis that her lutz and flip were undeniably of better quality than the ones that Sokolova did. Viktoria's music sounded like generic muzak to me.
Michelle Currie skated last, unfortunately looking like one of the senior ladies who wouldn't make it out of regionals in the US. Like the Japanese girls, she had all the triples up through the lutz in her program, but she landed only one of them, a triple toe. The basic level of her in-between skating is OK, though. Her music had a Spanish or Latin flavor to it.
|Men's free skate|
One of the big stories of the men's event happened during the Saturday morning practice. Todd Eldredge was about 2/3 of the way through his program runthrough when he had a massive collision with Silvio Smalun, who had just fallen on a jump himself and was sliding helplessly across the ice right into Todd's path as Todd was going backwards at full speed to set up a jump. Silvio was not hurt since he was already down when it happened, but Todd went flying and hit the ice very hard. He was obviously stunned (see photo) and in pain when he finally got up and there was some question about whether he would be too sore to skate his long program the next day. Todd looked fine in practice on Sunday, though.
Silvio Smalun was the first skater up in the long program. He skated to an arrangement of the familiar Paganini theme (that music sure kept cropping up a lot at this event), with choreography that featured a lot of angular positions, besti squats, and cantilevers. He managed a clean triple toe, flip, loop, and salchow; big splat on the axel, and a step-out on the lutz.
The other German guy, Andre Kaden, was up next. Based on watching them in practices, I thought Kaden was probably the better skater of the two, but it didn't show in this performance. (Somebody mentioned that Kaden had been ill, which makes sense.) Steps into a triple lutz, fall on triple axel, triple loop/triple toe with hands down on the second jump, massive splat on triple flip. He looked pretty wiped out all through the second half of his program. His music was probably a movie score; it had a slightly jazzy feel to it.
Trifun Zivanovic skated a program that evidently was supposed to be "Dracula". He started out strongly enough with triple axel/double toe, triple toe, and another triple axel, but proceeded to double the lutz, flip, and salchow. Trifun still managed to look miles better in this program than he did in the short, though; he was really working hard in practices on both Saturday and Sunday.
Next up was Roman Serov, skating to "Chess" in a costume that was reminiscent of the one that Andrej Vlascenko wore some years ago -- half black, half silver, with little gold capelets across his shoulders in the back (see photo). He opened with a fall on what other people have assured me was an attempt at a quad loop, then went on to land a fine triple axel/triple toe, triple lutz (possibly flutzed? I thought it was a flip at first), triple flip, triple salchow out of a spread eagle, triple toe that was possibly two-footed, and a triple loop. Like most of the skaters at this event, he really slowed down at the end of his program and looked visibly tired long before it was over.
Yamato Tamura's costume looked like it belonged with "The Mummy" (see photo), but I don't think that was the source of his music, which was some violent choral music. I thought the music was interesting in its own right and that it could have made a compelling skating program, but it surely deserved a deduction for being vocal music with lyrics. Yamato started out with two attempts at a quad toe (popped the first one, fell on the second) and for a while I thought he might do the Plushenko thing and keep trying it over and over again, but he had the sense to move on, eventually landing a poor-quality triple lutz and triple flip/triple toe combination, and a triple salchow near the end of his program. He had a big splat at the end of his program when it looked like he was going for a death drop or butterfly. I think Yamato is an interesting skater, but that he needs to improve the technical aspect of his skating and his consistency to be able to pull this program off.
The second warmup group started out with a bang -- Tim Goebel, skating to "Henry V" in a very Todd-like outfit with a blue vest over a white shirt. His jumps were triple flip (it seems other people thought this was a lutz, but it was right in front of me and I saw a flip), quad salchow/triple toe, triple axel/double toe, quad toe, triple axel, quad salchow, another triple flip, triple salchow. So, on the positive side, Tim did land an awful lot of jumps, but on the negative side, his spins were only of average quality and featured his usual ugly positions, he was painfully slow and his ice coverage was poor (his circular step pattern didn't come close to covering the full width of the ice, for instance), and he didn't show a full set of triples (he didn't do a lutz or loop in spite of doing two flips, three salchows, and three toe loops). I do see some improvement in his carriage and in-between skating since last year, but it's only the change from "totally pathetic" to "weak". Both Paul Wylie and Scott Davis used this music to much better effect, and it's probably a mistake for Tim to use something that is going to invite such unfavorable comparisons.
Todd Eldredge was up next. I noticed during practice earlier in the day that he was warming up a triple loop/half loop/triple salchow combination and surmised that this was going to replace the quad at the beginning of his program, and it did. After that he fell on his triple axel again, same as in the short program -- I'm worried that this jump which used to be so consistent for him is now giving him such problems. Triple lutz and flip were fine, and after a lot of stroking he went for another triple axel which was cleanly landed in combination with a double toe. Very fast into a triple toe, closing with by far the best spin combination of the event. He was much faster throughout his program than Goebel; and his spins, edges, and carriage were all far better too.
Vincent Restencourt skated to "The Mummy" dressed in very ordinary clothes, except that the back of his shirt had a picture of what I thought was a spider until I counted its legs -- no, it must be a beetle (see photo). Popped a planned quad toe, triple axel/triple toe, another triple axel with a scrape of the free foot, triple flip, popped a flutz, triple salchow looked very labored, triple loop. He really seemed to lose energy at the end, his spins were weak throughout the program, and I noted that even the section of posing in the middle looked half-hearted.
Alexander Abt was the first of the two "Gladiator"s to skate, dressed in an elaborate outfit that evidently was supposed to resemble armor (see photo). This was a horrifyingly bad skate for Abt. For one thing, his program begins with about 35 seconds of nothing but posing at center ice -- I was getting so impatient for him to get moving that I was actually watching the clock. He eventually picked up some speed and went for a quad toe, which looked slightly two-footed to me. Fell on triple axel, tried again and landed it, triple loop, triple lutz that I think was also two-footed, doubled the salchow and flip. He didn't do a jump combination of any sort in his program, the spins were messy, and he was simply *crawling* across the ice in slow motion between his elements. I like Alexander, but I thought he was vastly over-marked by the judges; he certainly ought to have been behind Serov (who had 6 or 7 clean triples including the only triple axel/triple toe of the competition) and probably Restencourt as well.
Emanuel Sandhu skated next. I didn't recognize his music, but it was kind of muzak-y with a section with a dance beat in the middle where Emanuel jumps around and wiggles his hips. Emanuel looked amazing in the Sunday morning practice but he stayed out there so long and did so many jumps that I was afraid he was going to leave them all on the practice ice, and that's pretty much what happened. Huge splat on his opening quad toe attempt, and another one on his triple axel (which was planned as a triple axel/triple toe combination) before he got his feet underneath him. Triple flip was ok, then he popped another axel attempt, did an easy triple salchow, triple loop/triple toe combination, triple lutz possibly two-footed, triple toe -- but then he screwed up the entrance to his trademark spin combination and had to improvise his way through it, right at the end of the program. It's a good sign that he was able to collect himself and attack the rest of the program so strongly after such a bad start, but he owes his placement in this event to the second mark. It's obvious that the judges really love his line and originality.
Finally, Alexei Yagudin did the second "Gladiator" program of the night, dressed in an outfit that not only included simulated armor, but that had some weird spikes on one shoulder and a cape on the other (see photo). It was evident from the start that Alexei's strategy was going to be to try to conserve his energy so that he'd have something left at the end of the program, but it didn't work. After popping two attempts at a quad toe and putting a hand down on a triple axel, it was all over for him, and he must have known it. He did triple flip/triple toe, solo triple axel (he should have gotten a Zayak rule deduction since neither axel was in combination), triple loop, triple salchow, double lutz. I thought his first spin combination was pretty weak, and he was moving so slowly that his straight-line step sequence that is supposed to be the climax of his program only covered 3/4 of the ice surface instead of the full length. On top of that, the program as a whole had no excitement and fell flat as a pancake. I was shocked when his marks came up, and couldn't believe that three of the judges actually placed him first; I was sure he'd be third in the long, behind Eldredge, who not only did one more triple and did not merit a Zayak rule deduction, but who skated with a lot more speed and conviction, and who had much better spins.
I was told later that the ice conditions during the men's free skate were really bad -- the ice was 5 degrees warmer than it was supposed to be, and very soft. This probably gave the skaters as much difficulty as the altitude did.
Photos are Copyright (c) 2000, Sandra J. Loosemore, and are provided for personal viewing only.
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