Worlds finest skaters compete for the crown

By Kendra Clark
March 22, 2001

photo obtained from internet

by Kendra Clark
staff writer

Vancouver, British Columbia, has been raided, by figure skaters that is. Throughout the week, starting on March 18 and ending on March 25, Vancouver will play host to the most prestigious yearly figure skating competition, The 2001 World Championships.

It is here where the crucial world champion will be crowned. With the Olympics almost knocking at the door, many of the skaters want to show their stuff and gain experience. The skaters not only want to gain experience before the upcoming games, but it is here where each country will see how many spots will be opened for their Olympic team.

Three spots in each discipline are the maximum numbers that any country can send to the Olympics. The number of entries is determined by the placements of the skaters at this year’s championships.

To be able to send all three, a country cannot have more than 13 points. These points are added by the placements. An example is first place receives one point and second place receives two points, and so on.

The first event to take place will be the heated pairs event. Two pairs team are in heavy gold medal contention. The Russian team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who are former world champions, and the Canadian team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier have been trading wins all seasons on the Grand Prix Circuit. The Canadians took the first meeting of the season at Skate Canada, but the Russians took gold at Trophee Lalique. In their last meeting before these championships, the Canadians overcame the Russians for the title at the Grand Prix Final. Both teams show great speed and choreography, but they will present two contrasting long programs.

The Russians will be performing a number titled Charlie Chaplin and the Canadians will give a dramatic performance titled Tristan and Isolde. The deciding factor may come down to Sale because she has suffered from nerves in the past, which kept them off the podium in last year’s championships where the team finished fourth.

The third team to watch out for is the Chinese team of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao. This team is known for its technical ability, which consists of power, speed, and great consistency. The United States is sending two pairs team, Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman and Tiffany Scott and Phillip Dulebohn. Both teams hope to try to stay consistent and place in the top 10.

In the ice-dancing event the teams to watch are Barbara Fusar -Poli and Maurizio Margaglio from Italy and Irena Lobacheva and Ilia Averbuckh from Russia.

Russians have always been very dominant in ice dancing, but the Italians defeated the Russians at the Grand Prix final this past February.

The Americans who will be competing include Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev, 2001 national champions, and the new team of Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto. Lang and Tchernyshev hope to make the top ten, where Belbin and Agosto will be attending their first world championships at the senior level.

The men’s field will have two Russians battling for gold, Current World Champion Alexi Yagudin and his rival Evengi Plushenko. Both have been victorious this season, but Plushenko defeated Yagudin at both the European Championships and the Grand Prix Final.

Three others that will be battling for spots on the podium will be Canadian Elvis Stojko and Americans Timothy Goebel and Todd Eldrege.

Stojko has been out all season with injuries, but comes into the championships injury – free.

Goebel is coming off of his first United States Nationals victory, but has had problems with his jumps.

Eldrege is coming back to competition this year after a hiatus and hopes to be in contention.

To be successful in the men’s competition a quadruple jump will be a must. Yagudin, Plushenko and Goebel all do two to three quads in their free program, where Stojko and Eldredge have one planned. Eldredge has only landed his once before in competition, but Stojko has been consistant with his.

In the ladies event, three will be contending for gold. American Michelle Kwan vies for her fourth world title, but Russians Irina Slutskuya and her teammate Maria Butyrskya are in strong contention to dethrone Kwan. The pendulum is hanging in the direction of Slutyskuya this year. She defeated Buturskya at the European Championships this past year and Kwan on several occasions including Skate Canada and the Grand Prix final, but both skaters had sub par performances.

The skaters are all very different. Kwan is known as the artist, as well as Buturskya, but Slutskuya is known as the jumper. To win Slutyskuya will have to land her triple triple combinations, which she has not been able to do this year. Both Kwan and Buturskya also have triple triple combinations planned in their free programs.

One skater to watch out for is American Sarah Hughes. The 16 – year – old has been steadily rising up the ranks. Hughes placed fifth at last year’s championships. She displays artistry and has been landing her triple salchow triple loop combination all season. The other American is Angela Nikodinov. Nikodinov is coming off of a breakout year. Over the off-season she lost weight and transformed herself into an artist. With consistent jumps and newfound confidence and artistry she hopes to skate to a top ten finish.

This year is especially crucial to the ladies because tradition has said that who- ever wins the ladies crown the year before the Olympics will go on to be crowned Olympic champion. Both Kristi Yamaguchi and Tara Lipinski were reining world champions when they were crowned Olympic champion.

Another little tidbit of tradition in the ladies competition is that history has proved that Kwan does not win the world championships in odd years. This is basically just a superstition, but she won her first championship in 1996 and then went on to win in every even year after that, ending in 2000.

The competition will be a heated battle, but a fun one to watch. The event has attracted lots of fans to Vancouver for the event. The championships will be televised on ABC.

The schedule is as follows:

Saturday, March 24, 9 P.M. to 11 P.M. This will include the Ladies short and the Ladies long programs, the long will be live.

On Sunday, March 25, 1P.M. to 4P.M., the Men’s short and long programs and also the pairs long.

On Sunday, April 1 from 4P.M. to 6 P.M., the free dance and exhibitions will be shown.

Repeats and additional footage can be seen on ESPN throughout the week, but check you’re local listings.

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Kendra Clark

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