2003 World Championships


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Off-ice politics

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Photo notes

Photos are Copyright (c) 2003, Sandra J. Loosemore, and are provided for personal viewing only except as noted in Skateweb's photo use policy.

For photo geeks: my camera is a Sony F707 digital. I was shooting at ISO 200, 1/250 second, F2.8. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to look at my photos during the week and I discovered afterwards that everything was underexposed by one or two stops. I probably should have used ISO 400 instead (but the image quality with this camera is a lot better at ISO 200, so it's a definite tradeoff). I've tried to brighten things up in software.

Sunday's report

Men's practice

I did nothing today except hang out at the MCI center to catch all 7 groups of men's free skate practice. Phew.... what a marathon. I'm afraid I was distracted by eating lunch during group 5 and missed most of group 7 while I was chatting with friends on the concourse. I tried to take photos of most of the other skaters. I have no photos of Plushenko or Li because they left before doing their runthrough, and for a few other skaters I just didn't get any good shots.

Anyway, on to the skating. Plushenko looked very sharp. We saw him land a completely clean quad lutz in addition to his 4/3/3 combination. He is doing "Carmen" for the qualifying round and will go back to his new program for the final, I hear, same as he did last year. Klimkin is also skating two different programs.

I enjoyed watching the runthroughs by Dinev and the two French guys, but don't recall much about specific elements.

Goebel and Weiss were both landing a lot of quads, but Weiss still couldn't buy a clean triple axel in his program runthrough, although he hit some nice ones both before and after. Jahnke's axel was on and off; he got one in his runthrough and popped the other. He seems to have better luck with it as a solo jump than when he's trying it in combination, perhaps anticipating the second jump too much in his head. I thought he looked a little tense today.

Jeff Buttle wow wow wow. His jumps were kind of off and on, too, but that program of his to the Elgar cello concerto is a masterpiece. He and Ryan Jahnke are head and shoulders above the rest of the field in terms of choreography and dance movement. Alas, Sandhu was looking like a train wreck and was not landing much of anything. If this keeps up, it's possible that he may not even make the cut again. I also don't think his program does much for him and it's too similar in style to his short program.

Takeshi Honda's quad toe is looking very solid but his axel and quad salchow were less so. I cannot remember if he ever landed either cleanly in this practice. He was also having a problem with the quad toe that he twice got too close to the boards and had to abort back half of the combination in order to avoid doing a Midori Ito. Li's jumping looked very sharp but it's hard to say how it will hold up in the context of his program since he didn't do a runthrough.


Monday's report

I was taking photos during the qualifying rounds, so my notes are somewhat minimal. Skaters are listed in skate order.

For those who can't decipher my jump shorthand: t = toe loop, s = salchow, r = loop (rittberger), f = flip, z = lutz, x = axel.

Men Qualifying B

Manuel Segura, MEX (19): 3s, another 3s, steps into 2f, flying camel, change sit, 2t/step out, 2f, spin combination very weak. Hmmm, didn't attempt an axel in his program? Or maybe I missed it?

Brian Joubert, FRA (9): "Untouchables". 4t fall, 3x fall, 4t, 3r had to fight for it, back sit/upright spin, 3x fall, change sit, straight-line steps, 2z, 3s, spin combo, MITF, 3f landed on toe, death drop, butterfly to end program. Well, he did land a quad, but no axel, and no combination. I felt sorry for the guys who had to be up for a 6am practice, but this was pretty pathetic.

Stanick Jeannette, FRA (12): "Little Prince". 3x fall, 2t, 2t again, flying camel into side sit, another sit spin, snake stuff, 3x with hand down, 2r, 3z, 3s, flying camel with flipover into forward sit spin. Second French guy in a row to self-destruct.... a bummer, because I enjoyed the concept and theme of his program.

Zoltan Toth, HUN (15): "Night on Bald Mountain". 4t two-footed, 3f, 3flutz/3t, flying spin of some sort (missed the entrance), 3flutz two-footed, 3r cheated, straight-line steps, 3s barely, 2x, butterfly spin, change sit, spin combination, MITF. Someone I talked to thought he was way undermarked, but the jumps were not really clean, and he had very little choreography going on between the elements.

Ilia Klimkin, RUS (4): upright spin, 3x/2t, completely missed pick on what was probably supposed to be a quad toe attempt, flying camel to upright spin, 4t fall, reverse camel, camel directly into 3s, MITF, 3z, spin combo, cantilever, 3r, 3f, 3f/3t step out, butterfly camel with a couple of hops to change feet. A lot of slow two-foot skating in this program, and he needs more variety in his spin positions (too many camels). OTOH, he certainly is different.... the music was all these strange bird noises.

Sean Carlow, AUS (20): 3x fall, steps into 2z, 3t fall, flying camel, MITF, pop r, travelling 3 turns into sit spin (I *think* that's why my notes say), circular steps, 2f stp out, 3t with hand down and step out into 2t, change sit, 3s fall, 2x fall, flying sit.

Ivan Dinev, BUL (7): "Kismet" by Bond. 3t, 3x/2t, 3z, death drop, 3x, 3r turn out, camel/flip/sit spin, 3f two-footed, 3s, flying camel scribble scribble, straight-line steps good, spin combination. Good for him! I don't believe I've seen Ivan skate in person since 1998 Worlds, and I found myself really liking him. He's now being coached by Rafael Artunian and he's developed the same kind of power and smoothness in his stroking as Alexander Abt. Given that Abt couldn't be here this year, this was the next-best thing.

Gregor Urbas, SLO (13): "Two Guitars". 3z/3t with both hand and foot down, 3x heavily two-footed, death drop, 3f, back sit/upright spin, 3x two-footed/2t, turns into 3r, nice 3z, headless scratch spin, circular step, 2s, spin combination fairly weak. Nice flow and edges, and boy is he ever a cutie! I kinda wish I could have brought him home with me as a souvenir of the competition. ;-)

Sergei Davydov, BLR (6): 3x/3t, 3x, flying camel, 3r, 3z, death drop, 3lip, spin combo, 3s, 3t step out, butterfly, straight-line step, change sit spin. Very fast over the ice, but not much personality and a boring program.

Michael Weiss, USA (1): "Malaguena" and "Aranjeuz" medley. 4t two-footed/3t two-footed, 4t two-footed, sit/upright spin, 3x/3t not pretty, 3r not pretty either, flying sit spin didn't seem to be held long enough, MITF, 2x leaning, 3f, 3s, 3z, death drop, straight-line steps, spin combination. Partial standing O, I guess from people who didn't see the two-foots. In spite of the messy jumps, though, he skated with a lot of attack and confidence.

Roman Skorniakov, UZB (10): 3x/3t cheated, 3x fell out, 3f, 3r, flying camel/flip/flip/sit spin, MITF, 3z big smile, change camel, 3s on toe with a turn out, upright spin, spin combination. Roman looked thrilled just to be here all week long and it was fun to see the interaction between him and his wife/coach Tatiana Malinina.

Takeshi Honda, JPN (2): "Riverdance". 4t/3t, 4s step out and hand down, 3x landed on toe, camel/hop/sit spin, 4t step out, 3f, circular step rather small, butterfly sit, 2r, 3flutz, death drop, straight-line steps, spin combo. The program had a lot of crossovers and two-foot gliding in it.

Dong-Whun Lee, KOR (17): "Legends of the Fall". Pop x, 3f fall out, 2z, 3s, 2z step out, flying camel, 3r, 2x/2t, camel, 3t hand down.

Karel Zelenka, ITA (14): "Light Cavalry". 3x/fall, 3z/3t two-footed, 3f/2t, 2, flying spin, circular step, change camel, serpentine steps, 3s, flying camel, straight-line step, 3r step out, 3t, spin combo. He is very very blond for an Italian.

Min Zhang, CHN (5): Medley of "Don Juan" and "Robin Hood". 3x/3t, 4s, 3t, flying camel sit, 4t, 3z turn out, 2r, death drop, 3f fall out, spin combo. Started out great but not much successful jump content in the second half of the program.

Stanislav Timchenko, RUS (8): "JCS". 3x landed on toe, 3z, 3x/3t, change camel, 3f, 3r fall out, flying camel, 3s, 3t fall out, circular steps.

Ryan Jahnke, USA (3): "Cinderella". 3x/2t, 3f/3r, camel/sit/back sit, straight-line steps, 3z/3t a little wild, camel onto outside edge, 2x, huge 'tano 3z, sit spin, 3r, 3s, 2x. Yay! I think that after the 'tano lutz I realized I was not going to be the only one standing for him. :-) Winning the bronze at Nationals seems to have given Ryan a sense of validation and given him that final push he needed to get off the plateau he was stuck on for such a long time.

Kristoffer Berntsson, SWE (16): 3x with low landing didn't look clean, 3z fall out, 3f fall, 3s, 3f fall, 3t, death drop. I was somewhat distracted and I missed some of his elements.

Tomas Verner, CZE (11): 3x touched free foot, 3f/3t, 3z two-footed, straight-line steps, fell out of messy spin combination, MITF, 2r, 3f, 3s fall out, 2x, scratch spin. I was interested to see him after hearing about him on the JGP circuit last fall. but the reality didn't live up to the expectation.

Clemens Jonas, AUT (18): "JCS". 3r/2t, 3z big splat, 2x fall, 2t, 2s, MITF, pop s, change sit. I got distracted again and may have missed some of his elements.

Men Qualifying A

Juraj Sviakto, SVK (14): Jazzed-up version of "Flight of the Bumble Bee", in an appropriate costume. 2r, 2x, 3z/3t cheated, 3r two-footed, flying camel, 3f/3t underrotated with a step out, flying spin (I think), 3s fall, 2z, 2x, spin combo, change sit. Lefty jumper.

Vakhtang Murvanidze, GEO (8): Voidy Mozart. 3x, pop t, 3r hung on, 3x/2t, 3f/3t barely landed on toe, 2s, 3s, change camel, spirals, 3z fell out, cantilever, 3t hop out, spin combo. I'm a convert; this guy's a lot of fun.

Kevin van der Perren, BEL (7): "Zorro". 3s/3t/3r (!), 3flutz/3t wild, 3f, 2x, 3flutz, death drop, circular steps exceptionally good, MITF, flying camel, straight-line steps, spin combo. This program was front-loaded in a major way although it was effectively presented. Wasn't he doing triple axel last year at World Juniors? It was nowhere to be seen in DC.

Bradley Santer, AUS (19): "Spartacus". 2z, 2t, flying camel, 3f fall, 3r fall out, 2s, pop z, change sit, death drop, 2t.

Tim Goebel, USA (2): "American in Paris" again. 3z, 4s/3t, 3x step out/3t hand down, spin combo, 4t big smile, flying camel, 3x step out, change sit, 3s, circular steps small, 3f, 3r, death drop. Eh.

Maciej Kus, POL (16): 3z fall, 3r, 3lip, flying camel slow, 3z fall, spin combo weak, 2x, 3f turn-out/2t turn out, 3t, 3s two-footed, back scratch spin.

Evgeni Plushenko, RUS (1): "Carmen". 4t/3t/3r(!), 3x/3t, 3s, 3x, 3f, 3z, 2x, flying camel, spin combo, gliding on two feet, straight-line steps to music, death drop, good fast spin combo. The program was super front-loaded with all the jumps in the first half and nothing else, but it was delivered with total command and there was never any doubt that this would be the winning performance.

Gheorge Chiper, ROM (8): 3x, 3z/3t hop out, 3r, 3x fell out, death drop, circular steps good, 3s, 3z, spin combo in corner, steps into 3f with hand down. Kind of tango-ish music and choreography.

Aidas Reklys, LTU (18): Another tango program. 2x into 3s, 2r, 3z fall, 3s step out, change sit, MITF, 3t step out, 2f, flying camel, 2x/2t fell out, circular step good, straight-line step. The first part of the program was just a lot of stroking around between jumps, and the tango choreography didn't kick in until towards the end.

Andrejs Vlascenko, GER (11): "Count of Monte Cristo" in an outfit with a flappy cape. 3x/3t, 3z step out, flying sit, 3f fall, 2f, flying spin with a lot of flipovers, pop x, 2r, serpentine(?) steps, 3s, 3r fell out, spin combo. I think I missed a spin in there somewhere.

Emanuel Sandhu, CAN (5): 4t fall, 3x/3t, 3r, 3z maybe two-footed, butterfly spin, 3s, pop x, 3x step out, upright/catch spin, 3f also maybe two-footed/2t, 3s, straight-line steps, spin combo, scribble spin.

Stephane Lambiel, SUI (3): "Chocolat". 3x(!), 4t/3t(!), 3f, death drop, 3z, 3r, straight-line steps, 3f/3t, dancey steps, 3s, terrific spins to end the program. I think he deserved to be second, ahead of Tim; the program was cleaner, and the spins and musicality were unquestionably of higher quality.

Yon Garcia, ESP (17): Circus program. 3z fall, 1x, spin combo, 2f, steps into 3s with a turn out, flying camel, 3r with a hand down, 2z/2t into 2f, change sit, 2x, 2s, scratch spin. So he can't do triples, but the rest of the program was pretty good, with engaging choreography and a pleasant, light style.

Aramais Grigorian, ARM (20): painful fall on 3f, 2f, 3s, spin combo, 2t, 2x, flying camel, 2r, really bad change sit spin.

Jeff Buttle, CAN (6): Elgar cello concerto. 3t, 3z wild, 3x/3t, flying camel, butterfly sit, MITF, 2s, 3s, 3x fall out, turns into back camel, forward camel/catch foot, 2r, super ina bauer on deep edge, straight-line steps, 3f, leaps, spin combination. It looked to me like he was fighting through this whole program instead of just letting it happen.

Silvio Smalun, GER (10): Modern arrangement of Handel Suite #4. 3x/2t with no speed, 4t fall, 3t, 3f/3t fall, 2, sit spin, 3z, 3s, change sit, spin combo, 3f fall, death drop almost fell on that too. Really interesting choreography.

Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari, FIN (12): 3z, 3f, turns into 3r, 2t, 3z fall/1t, 3s, spin combo, 2t, flying camel very slow, straight-line steps, 2x fall out, spin combo with a layback.

Chengjiang Li, CHN (4): "Star Wars". 4t/3t, 4s with touch down, flying camel, 3x with hand down, 3z, 3f, change camel, 3r, MITF, 3x, straight-line steps, death drop. I love the humor in the middle section of his program, like the bit where he makes "horns" on his head with his fingers.

Konstantin Tupikov, UKR (15): 3z with hands down, 3x, 3f two-footed, back camel really nice, 3f step out, 3r, flying camel, MITF, 3x underrotated and badly two-footed, 3s, 3t step out, back scratch spin, straight-line steps, spin combo.

Sergei Kotov, ISR (13): 2x steps into 3t, 3z, layback/back attitude spin, 2f, flying camel, 3r, spin combo, 3f fall, 2s, straight-line steps, 3s, change sit.


Pairs short program

Unfortunately, I was feeling pretty burned out after trying to do both photos and notes at the same time for 40 men, so I ended up taking neither notes nor photos for the pairs. My main impression about the pairs is that the secret judging is insane. Some of the teams who skated later on in the start order, especially, got incredible ranges of marks, stuff like 4.3 to 5.7. And it's impossible to tell whether some of the judges were just marking on a lower or higher scale but still giving ordinals that were not too inconsistent with the rest of the panel, or whether some judges -- and which ones -- were just totally out of whack.


Tuesday's report

World Skating Federation press conference

Most of Tuesday was taken up with off-ice activities. As many of you probably realize already, I am one of the people on the planning committee of the new World Skating Federation. They brought me in about 3 weeks ago to do their web site, so I wasn't involved with much of the policy-making aspect. I'm truly honored to be part of such a great group of people and you can bet I wouldn't have missed the men's practice if I didn't think the WSF press conference was a critical turning point and important historical moment in our sport. What the WSF is doing is so obviously The Right Thing To Do; I hope that the many fans, skaters, parents, and coaches who are regular visitors to SkateWeb will join me in urging their national skating federations to support and join the WSF. This is what we need to do to save our sport, to re-establish public trust and accountability, and to give the skaters a level playing field.

Men short program

Once again, this is in skate order, and I was trying to take photos at the same time so my notes are a little sketchy.

Sergei Kotov, ISR (27): 3z, flying camel, 3f/2t, 2x, circular step, spin combination recentered, straight-line step.

Zoltan Toth, HUN (26): 4t underrotated and two-footed with a step out into 2t, 2z, straight-line steps, 2x, flying sit, circular steps, spin combination.

Juraj Sviatko, SVK (29): 3x way underrotated, death drop, 3z/3t underrotated and landed on the wrong foot, 3f, lots of arm movements, spin combination, change sit, straight-line steps.

Gregor Urbas, SLO (23): "Carmina Burana". 3z/2t with no height, 3x turn out but at least landed on one foot, death drop, straight line steps, turns into 3r, circular steps, spin combination, change sit. Yay!

Karel Zelenka, ITA (24): 3z/3t, 3f turn out, circular steps smooth and fast, flying camel, 2x, straight-line steps, change sit. He's a good skater and it's too bad he just missed the cut for the free skate.

Silvio Smalun, GER (25): Charlie Chaplin program. 3x fell out/2t, 3z fell, death drop, circular step, 2x, spin combo, change sit, straight-line steps. The jumps were a disaster, but he had tons of character and very cool choreography in this program.

Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari, FIN (28): 3 flutz turnout 3t into boards, hard fall on 3f that was sideways in the air, change sit, 2x landed on inside edge, straight-line steps, flying camel.

Tomas Verner, CZE (20): 3x, 3z/2t, combination spin, straight line steps, 3f with a wonky landing edge, death drop, circular steps, change sit. Impressed me more here than in the qualifying round.

Roman Skorniakov, UZB (15): "Jalousie" tango. 3x/3t, 3z, change sit, straight-line steps fairly simple, 2x, spin combination, circular steps, death drop. Fairly slow skating. Both he and Tatiana looked thrilled, and rightfully so; I think this is about the best he can do.

Andrejs Vlascenko, GER (21): 3x fall, 3z, nice death drop, serpentine steps (I think), 2x, change sit, circular steps, spin combination.

Stanick Jeannette, FRA (12): First thing I noticed was how scratchy his stroking was. 3x/2t, 3z, death drop, straight-line steps, 2x, back/front sit, circular steps, spin combination.

Stanislav Timchenko, RUS (11): 3x maybe two-footed?/3t,3z, straight-line step, change sit, 2x, circular steps, spin combination. Tango program didn't quite work.

Gheorge Chiper, ROM (17): "El Mostro" tango. 3x/3t underrotated with hand down and step out, 3z, big death drop, circular steps, 2x, spin combo, straight-line steps, change sit.

Vakhtang Murvanidze, GEO (19): "Moonlight Sonata" with a deliberately bad music cut to a techno version of "Fur Elise". 3x, 3z/2t, flying camel, 3f landed on toe with a turnout and not done directly out of steps, straight-line steps, terrific change camel, serpentine steps, spin combination. As in the qualifying, tons of personality.

Ivan Dinev, BUL (14): 3f, 3x turn out 2t, change sit, circular steps with lots of stops and starts, 2x, straight-line steps, death drop, spin combination. Again, very Abt-like in his style; he's even skating to "Bolero" here, in a costume reminiscent of Abt's.

Brian Joubert, FRA (6): 4t/3t, 3x with a bad step out, death drop, 3f, circular steps, straight-line steps, spin combo. This is definitely a better program than his free skate, or perhaps he just holds up better when he doesn't have to skate for 4.5 minutes.

Kevin van der Perren, BEL (22): 3z maybe two-footed/3t, 3f, death drop, circular steps, 2x, change sit, straight-line steps, really nasty fall on the entrance to his spin combination. Too bad. I like this guy's skating a lot and he really presents himself well.

Ilia Klimkin, RUS (13): 4t/3t, 3x fall, change camel, 3f fall, butterfly camel, circular steps. I forgot to write down anything about his other footwork sequence or spin combination, but either the spin combo or change camel was back-to-front instead of the more usual front-to-back.

Chengjiang Li, CHN (4): Kung Fu music, whatever that is. 4t/3t, 3x, 3r from not much footwork, change sit, circular steps, flying camel, combination spin, straight-line steps not too impressive. Still, a good performance that pulled him up in the standings.

Sergei Davydov, BLR (7): 3x/3t, 3z, change sit, straight-line steps, 2x, flying camel, serpentine steps, spin combination.

Jeffrey Buttle, CAN (8): 4t hands down and step out into 3t, 3x, change camel very nice, circular steps, 3z, butterfly sit, straight-line steps, combo spin.

Emanuel Sandhu, CAN (10): 4t two-footed with a step out into 3t, 3x, death drop, 3flutz, change camel, straight-line steps, circular steps, combination spin. The axel and flutz landings weren't pretty or secure.

Min Zhang, CHN (18): 3x fall out, 4t fall out, spin combo, 3z, straight-line steps, good flying camel.

Evgeny Plushenko, RUS (1): Albinoni Adagio. 4t/3t, 3x skidded on landing, circular steps slow and not much ice coverage, 3z, change sit, straight-line steps, flying camel, spin combination. I found the whole thing kind of underwhelming, but nobody really challenged him for first place.

Ryan Jahnke, USA (9): "La Strada". 3z/3t, 3x fall, serpentine steps, great steps into 3f, change camel, circular steps CW and partly on one foot, spin combination. Too bad about the axel, but he really sold the rest of the program. Some Canadian fans were complaining about his placement ahead of Sandhu because Sandhu theoretically should have had a higher base mark from attempting a quad combination, but the quality of Ryan's other jump elements was undoubtedly higher.

Takeshi Honda, JPN (3): "Leyenda". 4t hung on/2t, 3x, change sit, 3 flutz, death drop (I think), serpentine steps, spin combo, straight-line steps.

Stephane Lambiel, SUI (16): 3x, 4t fall, circular step, death drop, 3z fall, spin combination, straight-line steps, change sit with unusual positions. Guess his inexperience caught up with him here.

Tim Goebel, USA (2): "Montagues and Capulets". 4s/3t, 3x, change sit, straight-line steps in here somewhere, 3f, circular steps small pattern, butterfly spin, spin combination. Eh. He got a standing ovation but I was underwhelmed. I still find his basic skating really lacking, stiff and awkward with no flow. At least he has fixed the costume since Nationals and gone with a simpler shirt and vest that looks less bulky and constricting.

Michael Weiss, USA (5): Some sort of rock music. 4t/3t clean, 3x, change sit (I think), circular steps, big fall on 3z (sigh), straight-line step, flying sit. Superb attack, energy, and presentation of the program, and up until the fall on the lutz I was thinking that he would have deserved to be in first place. I've been complaining about the unreliability of Weiss's lutz for years now and it's too bad it had to bite him here in the worst possible circumstances.


Wednesday's report

Sorry to say, I ended up missing the ladies' qualifying rounds entirely. I realized when I woke up that I was just getting too worn out and there was just no way I was going to be able to stay awake and alert if I spent the entire day sitting in the arena. I ended up catching up on e-mail and other things, taking a nap, and going over to watch men's practices in the afternoon instead, before catching about the last half of the pairs competition.

I also did not take either notes or photos on the pairs this time, sorry. Just a couple of comments....

When Totmianina & Marinin skated, I thought they had turned in a fine performance that could be worthy of winning a World Championship. The crowd reaction was kind of subdued, but I cheered extra loudly for them because I thought they deserved more than that.

Then Shen & Zhao skated, and the crowd suddenly got off their hands. People were standing and cheering when they still had at least 30 seconds left in their program. The atmosphere in the building was electric. But was the skating really worth it? Personally, I don't know. Sure, they deserved their win over T&M's more restrained performance, but I don't know if this will go down as the best pairs performance of all time, or even one of the best. Maybe it was just a reflection of my personal exhaustion that I just couldn't get into it myself.

Thursday's report

Original dance

I arrived late for this event and was concentrating on taking photos instead of notes. I am really sorry that I didn't get to see more of the dance competition since it is my favorite discipline after the men. :-(

It was pretty obvious that Lobacheva & Averbukh would win the OD after Viktor Kraatz got stuck on a twizzle in the straight-line sequence and ended up lagging 5 or 10 feet behind his partner. Denkova & Staviyski certainly win bonus points for coming up with an original dance that is truly original -- I love the Baroque style -- but they also had a little trouble with unison on the straight-line sequence.

After hearing at US Nationals about how much better Belbin & Agosto's OD was than Lang & Tchernyshev's, I was surprised here to see that they didn't really seem to have much of an advantage. OTOH, maybe I was just distracted by the way Tanith Belbin's dress was dripping pieces of red fluff from the hem all over the ice; I was seriously worried that they were going to skate over some of it and fall. It's a good thing they were last to skate.

Men free skate

Here are notes on the entire field, in skate order. This time I was not taking photos so my notes are a little more detailed.

Thomas Verner, CZE (21, 22 overall): 3x from a long hesitant entry, 3f turn out, 3z, flying camel with only 5 rotations, straight-line steps, camel/sit/back sit, edgy steps fairly slow, spiral with a bent leg on a flat into a 3r, pop f, 3s, change sit with a hunched back and poor free leg position, serpentine steps, 2x/1t, fast scratch spin.

Silvio Smalun, GER (23): Modern Handel arrangement in raggy orange outfit. Cool opening posing, 3x with hand down, 3t, 2x, more funky posing, 3f/3t fall, 3r, sit spin into a spin on one knee that's probably illegal but very inventive, pop z, 3s, change sit, toe steps that reminded me of Toller Cranston, travelly spin combination, circular steps, 2f, straight-line steps, death drop.

Andrejs Vlascenko, GER (12, 17 overall): "Count of Monte Cristo" in the outfit with a cape. 3x/3t, 3z, flying sit, 3f, 3t, straight-line steps, flying camel with a butterfly flipover, MITF 3x fall, 3r turn out, layback/back attitude spin, diagonal steps, 2s, spin combo.

Gregor Urbas, SLO (24): "Two Guitars". 2z/3t, 3x turn out, MITF, death drop, 3f, back sit/upright, 3x two-footed/2t, edgy steps, turns into 3r, posing with shoulder wiggles, 2z, back headless spin, circular steps, 3s, spin combo.

Kevin van der Perren, BEL (15, 19 overall): "Zorro". 3s/3t/3r very cool!, 3flutz step out, 3f/3t, 2x, 3flutz/2t, death drop, fast circular steps very nice, 2x, change sit, MITF, flying camel not good, straight-line steps, 2x, spin combination. The two extra double axels that weren't there in qualifying helped the balance of the program a little bit, but it was still way too front-loaded.

Vakhtang Murvanidze, GEO (22, 21 overall): Souped-up Mozart. 3x fall, 4t fall, 3r, flying camel very nice, posing, 3x hard fall, 3f, straight-line steps, 3s, 3t, death drop?, change camel, MITF with a skid spiral, 3z, cantilever, spin combo.

Min Zhang, CHN (9, 11 overall): "Don Juan"/"Robin Hood". 3x/3t, 4s fall, 4t/3t, flying camel with a messy exit, 3t (Zayak rule?), edgy steps, 3z, 3r, death drop with a hunched position, 3f, spin combination. Not much choreography going on in this program.

Roman Skorniakov, UZB (20): big smile, 3x fall but still smiling, 3x hand down and another smile, 3f/3t way underrotated, 3r, flying camel with a couple of flips into a sit spin, big smile at Tatiana, MITF with a nice spread eagle and ina bauer, 3z, more spread eagles, spin of some sort, 3s hung on, cross-foot spin, circular steps, spin combination with a "Zag spin" position. Really boring music (identified as "The Professional") and not a great deal of speed, but he sure seemed to be having fun.

Stephane Lambiel, SUI (10): "Chocolat". 3x, 4t fall, 3f/3t, butterfly sit with arms behind back, 3z fall, 3r from turns, circular steps, 3z step out/3t, spin combination, voidy dance steps, straight-line steps, 3s, change sit with position variations both front and back, headless scratch spin. Hard to believe he's not quite 18 yet! Tons of potential here.

Gheorge Chiper, ROM (17, 18 overall): Tango-ish program. 3x/3t, pop t, 3r with an ugly turn-out, slow steps and posing, brief spin, 3x turn out, death drop, circular steps with shoulder wiggles aimed at judges, 3s/3t fall, 3z fall out, spin in corner, 2f, camel/flip/sit.

Ivan Dinev, BUL (14): "Kismet" by Bond. Very fast, 3f, 3x/2t, gliding on two feet, 3z very close to wall, death drop, 2x, 3r, camel/flip/sit spin with a weak exit, MITF with a spread eagle, 3t ugly turn-out, flying camel to upright spin again with a weak exit, straight-line steps, spin combination again not finished off nicely. As much as I like Dinev's flow and edge quality, I could see there was way too much two-foot skating in this program, and it didn't help that the music was all at the same level and tempo.

Stanick Jeannette, FRA (16): Sorry, bathroom break. Helpful advice for skate fans: don't drink a large pot of tea with dinner before heading to a skating event, no matter how much you think you need the caffeine, if you don't want to spend the whole evening running to the rest room. :-P

Emanuel Sandhu, CAN (8): 4t two-footed/2t, 3x/3t, 3r with a quick step out, 3flutz two-footed, butterfly sit not held very long, slow edgy steps and posing, 3s, 3x bad two-foot, upright/back catchfoot spin very sloppy, MITF, 3f/2t, 2t. After he skated, I was thinking this would not place him in the top 10, but worse was yet to come....

Ilia Klimkin, RUS (11, 9 overall): "Dr. Diesel" (a different program than he skated in qualifying). Shredded leather pants. 3x/3t, 4t fall, flying camel/weird upright spin, 4t fall, reverse camel, camel into 3s, posing and pivoting, 3z fall, spin combination, cantilever into 3r, steps into 3z fall, 3f, spiral, butterfly camel with flip over, weird upright spin. Boring monotonous music didn't help him, I thought.

Stanislav Timchenko, RUS (13, 12 overall): "JCS". Back attitude spin from travelling 3's in sit position, 3x/3t, lots of steps into 3z underrotated fall, 3x in exactly the same corner as the first one, change camel, standing around on two feet, 3f crooked but clean, eagles, pop r, flying camel, 3t, circular steps, spin combination. He needs to learn how to project to the audience instead of looking at the ice so much, and maybe getting his hair out of his face would help, too. At this point, people were worrying that Russia was only going to qualify two men for next year, but worse was yet to come....

Ryan Jahnke, USA (18, 13 overall): "Cinderella". 3x fall, 3f/2r, camel/sit/back sit/upright, straight-line steps, 3z fall, camel onto outside edge, MITF, 3x fall out, 'tano 3z, 3r fall out, 3s, death drop, 2x. Yuck. Ryan had been having great practices all week, including the one the morning of the free skate, but when he came out for the 6-minute warmup I could see the panic in his face and knew it was not going to be pretty. But I never expected it to be quite this bad. Hopefully he can chalk this one up as a learning experience.

Jeffrey Buttle, CAN (19, 15 overall): Elgar cello concerto. 4t fall, 3z, 3x fall, flying camel didn't fly, butterfly sit, sequence of spiral/spread eagle/ina bauer into a 3s, posing, 3x fall, camel and reverse camel with catch foot, 3r fall, great ina on deep edge, pop f, leaps, 3t/2t, spin combination. Yuck again, another total meltdown. It wasn't just the jump mistakes that did him in, as with Ryan the whole performance just seemed "off".

Brian Joubert, FRA (6): 4t, 3x, another 4t no combination, 2r, a spin I think, 2x, change sit, straight-line steps, 3z/2t, 2s, spin combination, spread eagles, 3f hung on, circular step not a full circle, death drop, butterfly fall out at end of spin. Not a particularly impressive performance, either.

Takeshi Honda, JPN (3): "Riverdance". 4t step out, 3s, 3x/3t scary, camel/hop/back sit,slow skating on 2 feet into a lot of crossovers, 4t, 3f, circular steps, death drop, MITF, 3r, 3 flutz barely held on, butterfly, straight-line steps, mediocre spin combination.

Sergei Davydov, BLR (7): 3x turn-out/3t, 3x, flying camel, stop-and-go circular steps, 3r, 3z, death drop, another 3z no combination (I realized afterwards that this was likely a badly lipped flip), spin combination with obvious recenter on the change, 3s, 3t landed on toe with a hop out, straight-line steps fast with good flow, change sit not impressive. Didn't complete a combination in his program.

Tim Goebel, USA (2): 3flutz, 4s/3t, 3x/3t, spin combination, 4t, flying camel, 3x, spin combination, 3s, circular step, 3f, hydroblading into 3r with both hand and foot down, death drop, butterfly.

Michael Weiss, USA (5): 3t, 4t step out, sit/upright spin, 3x landed on toe and barely avoided falling, 3r, flying sit, spiral and edgy steps, 2x, 3f two-footed/3t, 3s, 3z, death drop, straight-line steps, spin combination. Wonder what he did with that rented Hummer that was supposed to carry his whole family to Atlantic City for his "victory celebration".

Evgeni Plushenko, RUS (1): "St. Petersburg 300" (different program from qualifying). 4t/3t/2r tight, 4t, upright spin, posing in front of judges, 3x, 3z, 3x/half loop/3f step out, 3r, flying camel, biellmann spiral, spiral, 3s, cool upright attitude spin, straight-line steps not full length of rink, death drop, spin combination. I just don't see where the "Tim was robbed" stuff is coming from; both Goebel and Plushenko made one mistake on a triple, everything else Plushenko did was still of better quality, and he skates with more complete authority and command than Goebel.

Chengjiang Li, CHN (4): "Star Wars". 4t/3t, 4s, flying camel nice, 3x/3t, steps into 2z (oops), 3f, change camel, weird stuff with the "finger horns"" got a great response from the crowd, 2r (oops again), more weird choreography, 3r (yes!), spin combination travel scribble scribble, straight-line steps, big death drop. A better performance all-around than in qualifying, with more attention to the choreography. Good to see that the crowd really got into it this time, too.


Friday's report

Ladies short program

I only have notes on the last 3 groups -- I started out this event by being distracted by eating lunch.

The one notable performance I didn't take notes on was from Julia Sebestyen, HUN (10), who skated a great program with a triple lutz combination and triple flip and tons of speed.... and then fell in a heap for no reason at all towards the end of her program, just tripped while stroking or something like that.

Carolina Kostner, ITA (4): Started out the third group with a bang. 3r from turns, 3z/3t, flying camel, spirals that zoomed around the rink, 2x, straight line steps with quick one-foot turns, spin combination with interesting positions, layback needed more stretch. Well-deserved standing ovation. I couldn't believe how fast and smooth she was.

Dan Fang, CHN (13): 2x, 3z/2t nice, 3t, change edge spiral, spin combination slow, flying camel travelled, circular steps, very nice layback. "Generic pretty music", I wrote.

Anastasia Gimazetdinova, UZB (23): 3z step out no combination, 2f only, flying camel, 2x, layback, circular steps, wimpy spiral sequence with only two positions, spin combination.

Galina Maniachenko, UKR (14): Piazzola tango. 3z/2t almost hit boards, 3f, flying camel, 2x hung on, layback with mediocre position that slowed down, spirals, spin combinations, straight-line steps all on one foot to end the program, wow!

Alisa Drei, FIN (18): 3z with hand down and step out into 2t, 3r, layback with a position Dick Button would hate, slow straight-line steps that got slower and slower, 2x, flying camel, perfunctory spirals, spin combination. More boring generic pretty music. It appeared that the Sekret Computer broke and there was a very long wait for her marks.

Joannie Rochette, CAN (16): 3f/3t, 3z from steps possibly two-footed, flying camel to inside edge, 2x, spirals, spin combination, layback. Good quality skating, but still more boring generic pretty music.

Anne Sophie Calvez, FRA (21): 3t/3t two-footed and turn out, 3z fall, flying sit very high but then almost wiped out on it, non-spirals like Laetitia Hubert did in 1998, layback didn't, 2x, spin combination.

Ludmila Nelidina, RUS (15): 3z/2t, 3f, very scratchy skating, 2x, circular steps, layback that was loudly scratchy, spirals, spin combination. Still more generic pretty music, yuck. The 5.7 for presentation was so outrageous that people were openly snickering at the marks. She has a stiff, awkward quality to her skating that reminds me of people who started skating as adults or in their teens.

Shizuka Arakawa, JPN (11): The "voidy swan". 3z/2t, 3 lip, flying camel, spirals, layback travelled, straight-line steps, huge splat on the entrance to her combination spin when she missed the hook on the camel, sigh.

Sarah Hughes, USA (8): Rachmaninoff cello sonata. 2x, 3flutz cheated/2t, 3f cheated, spin combination, circular steps, spirals in circular pattern, flying camel to inside edge, layback. I really appreciate the angular, powerful quality to the choreography of this program in the midst of so much boring pretty-pretty stuff, but everything about the way it was skated seemed heavy and a little forced.

Yoshie Onda, JPN (12): Who the heck had the brilliant idea of having a power skater like Onda skate to a dreadful piece of pretty-pretty music called "Love In Slow Motion"? How could anyone think doing anything in slow motion would work for competitive skating. Yeccchhh. Anyway. 3z step out and hand down/2t, 3f, circular steps, 2x, spin combination, spirals, another layback Dick would hate. Zzzzzzzz.

Elena Liashenko, UKR (7): 3z/2t, 3f hung on, flying camel very nice, spirals, 2x, layback, circular steps, spin combination. Still more soporofic generic pretty music oddly inappropriate for the strength of the skating.

Viktoria Volchkova, RUS (5): 2x, 3z/2t, 3 lip, spirals, layback, straight-line steps, flying camel, spin combination. Yup, you guessed it, more boring generic pretty music, and cautious skating without a lot of choreography.

Sasha Cohen, USA (5): 3z/2t not so badly flutzed as usual, 3f splat, flying camel very nice, 2x with wonky landing on inside edge, layback, spirals, straight-line steps not anywhere close to being the full length of the rink and with all the turns in the same direction besides, spin combination. OK, so it was "Malaguena", but at least it wasn't boring pretty pretty music.

Fumie Suguri, JPN (3): 3flutz/2t with a quick step out, 3f, flying camel to inside edge nice, spirals zoom zoom zoom around the rink, 2x, another layback spin Dick wouldn't like, ciruclar steps, spin combination concluding with a very fast scratch. Chopin piano concerto #2.

Jennifer Robinson, CAN (9): spirals, 3z/2t, 3f with a bad cheat and wild swinging landing, spin combination, 2x, butterfly back sit, circular steps, layback. Her lack of speed was especially obvious coming right after Fumie.

Michelle Kwan, USA (1): "The Feeling Begins". Opening posing and pivoting all on two feet, 2x, lots of speed into 3z/2t, flying camel, 3f, layback, spirals, big roar from crowd as she went into the straight-line steps that didn't go the full length of the rink (but still extended about 10 feet farther than Sasha's did), spin combination.

Elena Sokolova, RUS (2): 3z/3t possibly two-footed?, 3lip, flying camel, 2x nice, spin combination, circular steps. I forgot to write down anything about her layback. Music was "Samson and Delilah".

Free dance

I didn't take notes on the free dance. Just some general impressions....

I've been a big fan of Lobacheva & Averbukh (especially Averbukh) for a long time, but their free dance this year just didn't do it; Bourne & Kraatz had better material and deserved to win. I don't care for Bourne's transformation into Pasha II, but at least she's improved her skating to go with the peroxide hair. In fact, it's quite obvious that Kraatz is the weak link in this partnership now.

I find myself very much impressed by Denkova & Staviyski. I caught part of the practice earlier in the day, and just watching them stroke around to warm up, I thought it was fairly clear that they had the best edge quality of any of the teams in the final group. Another thing I like about them is the fact that they are fairly close in height -- I seem to recall Susie Wynne complaining that this was distracting to her, but I think it gives them a unison and a more equal visual relationship that most of the other teams lack. (Actually, it reminds me of the Duchesnays, who I always liked very much for this reason too.) A friend and I were talking after the competition about how dance is increasingly becoming more about "pitching the broad" instead of choreography, or show tricks instead of actual dancing, and we'd rather not see it turn into pair skating.

And, out of the final group, my personal favorite of all the programs and the one that seemed to be most obviously "dancey" was Navka & Kostomarov's, but I recognize that much of their choreography was just upper-body stuff and that they lacked the difficulty of the teams who placed above them.

Out of the lower-ranked couples, both US teams skated a lot better here than they did at US Nationals. The crowd seemed to get into Lang & Tchernyshev's dance a lot more than Belbin & Agosto's. I have to admit that both dances seemed more like show programs to me. As far as Chait & Sakhnovski are concerned, it's pretty much a given in ice dance that reverting to an old program midway through the season is a sign of sheer desperation and won't help win them any points with the judges for that reason.


Saturday's report

Ladies free skates

This time I have notes on the entire field, in skate order.

Anne Sophie Calvez, FRA (21, 22 overall): "On Golden Pond". Camel, 3t/3t didn't look completely clean, pop flutz, layback, 3f two-footed, spiral, eagle, more spirals, 2r overrotated, circular steps, layback, 2x, flying sitspin actually flew, 3z/2t, walley, steps, pop s, spin combination.

Sarah Meier, SUI (18, 19 overall): 3z turn out 2t, 3r, flying camel, 3f, 3s, spin combination, pop z (sounded like she clicked her blades together with a big "clunk"), layback, spirals, 2x, circular steps, 3t fall out, spin combination with a corkscrew back sit spin position where she held the blade of her free foot. Generic pretty music.

Idora Hegel, CRO (23, 24 overall): Zorro. 3t/3t fell forward onto both hands, 3s two-footed, 3z two-footed and again pitched forward, 3f, spin combination, spirals, 2x, flying camel, fell out of underrotated 3z, layback not held very long, straightline steps, 3r bad two-foot, sit spin variant into back cross-foot, circular steps, butterfly. Not much attempt to interpret the music.

Jenna McCorkell, GBR (20, 21 overall): 3z, 3s/half looop/2s, 3f fall, spin combination, 2x, 3r, two-foot skating, layback with ugly free leg, spirals all in catch-foot positions, 3t hand down 2t hop out, sit/back catch-foot spin, circular steps, 2x, flying camel. Something by Cirque du Soleil.

Anastasia Gimazetdinova, UZB (24, 23 overall): 2z, 3s, 3f, dancing on toe picks, 2r into 3t fall, 2s, flying camel, 3t fall in exactly the same place as the first one, spirals, layback, straight-line steps, 2s step out, spin combination, scratch spin unimpressive. Her music was some kind of new-age middle-eastern stuff, but it could have been an effective program if skated better.

Mojca Kopac, SLO (17, 20 overall): More Cirque du Soleil. 3r, 2z step out, 3t/2t, flying camel, 2x, 3s, layback not held, circular steps, 3t, back sit/catch foot spin with unusual position, 3s/2t two-footed, spin combination. She has a "different" style that I appreciated; she wasn't trying to be all pretty and graceful and ultra-femme out there.

Alisa Drei, FIN (10, 12 overall): Albinoni "Adagio" (more music that must be banned). 3z, 3t/2t, 3r, upright spin, 2x/half loop/2s, layback, 3f, flying camel, spirals, 3s, straight-line steps not all the way to the end of the rink, 2x, spin combination. Clean program got a big ovation from the crowd; she looked a lot more convincing here than she did in the short program, that's for sure.

Galina Maniachenko, UKR (16): Cello music. 2r, 3z turn out, steps into 3s, 2f, 2x leaning fell out, flying camel, 3t steps 2t sequence, attitude spin, spirals, 3f fall, straight-line steps, 2x steps 2t, spin combination. No combination. I noted that she had particularly good use of her upper body in her presentation.

Julia Lautowa, AUT (12, 15 overall): Malaguena and flamenco music. 3z turn-out 2t underrotated and two-footed, spin, 3f, 2r, 2t/2t, layback, brief back upright spin, 3r, straight-line steps, 3s, spirals, 2t, 2x hand down, spin combination, fell on her butt on her closing pose, and then made a "ta-da!" motion while sitting there which made everyone laugh.

Dan Fang, CHN (22, 18 overall). 3z/2t, fast, 3f splat, butterfly back sit, 3t, 3f splat just like the first one, nice layback, biellmann, spirals in small circle at end of rink, very slow into 2x fall out, labored stroking, 3s fall in the same corner as previous falls, spin combination, straight-line steps very slow. Very poor ice coverage and layout of this program, as she seemed to spend way too much time down at the far end of the rink where she kept falling. The ice was notably wet at the ends of the rink during this competition, too; people were wondering if that was why she was falling.

Joannie Rochette, CAN (19, 17 overall). Sorry, bathroom break.

Julia Sebestyen, HUN (14): 3s step out, very fast, 2z, 3f two-footed, 3t, 2x, flying camel, 3z, circular step at end of rink, turns into 3r fall, layback, spirals, 3f step out/2t, spin combination, butterfly back scratch. More of the dreaded generic pretty muzak.

Yoshie Onda, JPN (15, 11 overall): Cello concerto by an unidentified composer. 2x/2t, 3z fall, 3f bad fall, pop s, flying camel, 3r fall out, layback, 3z, spirals, death drop, circular steps huge fast powerful, 3t into 3t into 2x into 2x, spin combination. The first half of the program was dreadful but she really turned it on and attacked the end of the program.

Shizuka Arawakwa, JPN (7, 8 overall): "Titanic". 3z/3t/2r (!!), 3s, flying camel, 3lip two-footed, back camel/donut spin, 2z step out, 3r, spirals, layback straight-line steps, 3t, 2x, spin combination. Powerful presentation.

Sarah Hughes, USA (6): 2x, 3t, 3s, split, fast back spiral, 3r, back half-biellmann spin, slow into 3flutz/2t, series of 3 turns, 3f fell, circular steps small pattern and slow but with lots of 1-foot turns, spin combination, layback, 3t, spirals, flying camel with illusions into back scratch. Very detailed choreography but she was pretty slow throughout the program, and again everything looked heavy and forced. She skated this better at Nationals.

Elena Liashenko, UKR (8, 7 overall): Tango. 3z/2t, slow steps where the music called for more attack, 3f, 3t, posing in front of judges, pop f, 2x, sit spin, 2-foot skating in front of judges, spirals quite slow, 3s, layback, 3z maybe two-footed, straight-line steps, spin combination. In spite of the nits I was picking, the program as a whole was very effective, musical, and well-presented.

Jennifer Robinson, CAN (9): nice edgey steps to open, 3z/2t, 3s/2r underrotated, 3f two-footed, 2x, spin combination needs more energy, 3r, 3z two-footed (I could hear that one even if I couldn't see it), spirals, soft edges, 2s, layback, butterfly back sit, straight-line steps, 3t, flying camel.

Carolina Kostner, ITA (11, 10 overall): fast into 3r from turns, 2z/3t into boards, layback, 3f fall, spirals with good ice coverage, 2x/half loop/3s, death drop, 2s, steps in figure-8 pattern with walleys, spin combination, camel/back sit/half biellmann. Too bad about the jumps, but I'm really impressed by her speed and edge quality.

Michelle Kwan, USA (1): 3r very close to boards, 3z/2t, 3lip, 2x, flying camel, two-foot skating, 3s, camel/sit/back sit/cross-foot/scratch spin, spiral, 3t/2t a little wild, 3z, straight-line steps got the crowd going again, spread eagle, death drop, layback. Technically, I don't think this performance was quite up to the level of the one she did at Nationals, but it was obvious she was "in the zone" and that it was going to be almost impossible to beat this performance.

Viktoria Volchkova, RUS (5): Overused baroque medley. 3z/3t two-footed, slow motion, 3r, like molasses, 3 lip in same place as the lutz, layback, 3s, circular step, 3t, ina, spiral, spread eagle, 2z, still very slow and not getting to ends of the rink, 2x, spin combination. She's a very pretty skater, but I'm tired of pretty! She needs to attack and skate with more speed.

Elena Sokolova, RUS (2): 3z/3t, 3f, 3s/2t, flying camel, 3r, layback, 3z, ina, skid spiral, spiral, spin combination not very fast or well-developed positions, 3t, 2x, back scratch. Well, 7 triples including a 3/3 ain't bad, but the program was set to muzak with bad cuts and the choreography was minimal.

Sasha Cohen, USA (3, 4 overall): 3flutz/3t, 3flutz, 3f/2t, flying camel onto such a deep inside edge that she fell over, 3r, eagle, 3t fall, very slow into 3s, layback, ina, 2x, wimpy change-"edge" spiral, splits, skid spiral aimed precisely to give all the photographers at the end of the rink an extreme crotch shot, straight-line steps, spin combination, headless scratch spin. I'd noticed she'd had a terrible 6-minute warmup and this was a lot better than it could have been, but it was still utterly predictable that she was going to screw up somewhere in the program.

Fumie Suguri, JPN (4, 3 overall): "Swan Lake". Very fast into 3flutz/2t, more fast stroking into 3f, 1t/1t (argh!), death drop, layback, resting, hesitant entry into 3r, picking up speed into spirals, 3flutz into spread eagle, flying camel, hopping steps, straight-line steps not very complex, 3s spun out, 2x, flying through circular footwork, change sit and fast back scratch spin. People who were watching on TV were wondering why Fumie placed ahead of Viktoria who had one more clean triple, and the answer is simple: speed. Fumie was fast fast fast, while Viktoria looked like she was skating in slow motion.

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