Worlds pave way to skate off to Olympics

By Kendra Clark
April 5, 2001

by Kendra Clark
staff writer

Tears, smiles and dreams came together for a week of memorable moments at the 2001 World Figure Skating Championships, held in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Over the past week three world champions were dethroned, one showed what she is made of and many struggled through injury. All of this came together for a peak preview of what could possibly be the scene at next year’s Olympic games.

The week started out with the pair’s event. The showdown was between three teams. After the short program Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze found themselves in first place with a technically sound short program. Trailing Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze in second was the Chinese team of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, also with a clean short. The third spot was filled by the Canadian team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, despite Sale stepping out of their side-by-side triple toe loop jumps.

Nothing could have been more exciting than the placements going into the free skate. The Russians were the first team to skate out of the three. They skated a clean, but not technically sound program. They experienced a few bobbles on landings, with Berezhanaya hanging onto a landing on their throw triple salchow. Skating directly after the Russians, the Canadians were greeted with great enthusiasm by the crowd. They skated a lyrical and clean program, which left the audience mesmerized. The only error coming from Sale who singled her axle jump. The singled axle did not affect the judge’s decision and the Canadians moved ahead of the Russians. The last to skate as the team in second place. Skating after much excitement the Chinese performed a technically superb performance, which included two side-by-side triple jumps and high throw jumps. Despite great technical content, the Chinese lacked artistry, they settled for the bronze. At the end of the night, the Canadians won their first gold medal in pairs since 1994, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze settled for second and bronze went to Shen and Zhao. The United States finished in seventh and eleventh respectably.

Some strange events occurred in the ice-dancing event of this year’s championships. Unlike in previous years, the placements of dance teams changed throughout the week. Going in to the free dance the Italian team of Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurzio Margaglio were ahead of last year’s world champions Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizarat, France. The French team had dominated all season, only being defeated by the Italians at the European Championships.

The French skated an artistically good program, which left them satisfied. But the night belonged to the Italians who skated to their first world gold medal. It was a historic day for the team, but also for Italy because it was their first world championship too. Finishing in third were Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbuckh, who are from Russia. The United States finished ninth and seventeenth.

The men’s event proved to be exciting with a battle between men of all ages. Two trying to prove that they could still compete, one trying to keep a world title, one trying to take the title and one trying to prove that he belonged on the podium.

The battle for the podium was between five men. Elvis Stojko of Canada was trying to make come back from a season of injuries. Sadly, he did not have the skates that he expected and on his birthday finished tenth.

Timothy Goebel of the United States was in fourth place going into the free skate. He skated a technically sound program, which highlighted two quadruple jumps with one being in combination with a triple toe loop. He maintained his fourth place position. Goebel’s teammate, Todd Eldredge, was trying to make a statement at these championships. After placing fourth at the last Winter Olympics he took time off from competition and this was hid first chance to make a statement on the world level. Eldredge lacked the quadruple jumps that all of the top men do today, but showed amazing artistry and perfectly centered fast spins. His consistency landed him in third place and left many thinking that he should have placed higher. Alexi Yagudin of Russia was the reigning world champion. He came into the competition with a foot injury and required painkillers to skate. After bombing out in the qualifying round, Yagudin turned around and gave two technically and artistically sound programs in the short and free skate proportions to finish second.

The man to stand on top of the podium was Yagudin’s teammate Evgeni Plushenko. Plushenko landed a quadruple toe loop, triple toe loop, double loop combination to out skate the men and win his first world title.

The ladies proved to be a nail biter to the end. With the battle between Michelle Kwan of the Untied States and Irina Slutskaya of Russia everyone was entertained. After the qualifying rounds Kwan and Slutskaya were tied for first. After the short program, Slutskaya claimed the first position with a program that showcased high jumps and fast spins. Kwan came in second with a slight two foot on her triple lutz double toe loop combination. Angela Nikodinov, also of the United States, skated to the number three positions with nice jumps and good choreography.

Kwan and Nikodinov’s teammate Sarah Hughes came in fourth. Hughes began the free skate with a seven triple performance to Don Quixote. She displayed artistry that was beyond her age, 15, and landed her triple salchow triple loop combination. After this, she began the wait of about 45 minutes.

The next to skate was Kwan. Trying to prove that she was not dried up and too old, she mesmerized the audience with a seven triple program. Displaying her outstanding artistry and landing her triple toe loop triple toe loop combination she left the audience on their feet. Skating right after Kwan, Slutskaya had to wait for the audience to quiet down before she could skate. Skating to Don Quixote she missed her first combination and went onto try to fit the jumps into the rest of the program. Half way through she stepped out of the triple loop of her triple lutz triple loop double toe loop combination. The rest of her program featured fast spins and nice speeds. She left the ice thinking that she had done it, but her score would later tell that she had moved to second place, with Kwan moving to first and Hughes in third.

The last to skate of the evening was Nikodinov. Skating to Sleeping Beauty she showcased excellent choreography. She stayed on her feet until the last half minute of her routine when she fell on a triple salchow. She then lost focus and went on to double a planned triple lutz and toe loop. She finished fifth.

The week ended with a gala, which featured the top skaters in each discipline. The week was exciting and displayed a sneak peak to what the world can expect for the Olympics. Skaters came to Vancouver with dreams, some were fulfilled, but others weren’t. One thing for sure is that all of these skaters created memories that will last a lifetime and are all looking forward to next season.

Many of the top skaters will be coming to Philadelphia on Sunday, April 8. They will be skating on the Tom Collins Tour of Champions on Ice at the First Union Center.

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Kendra Clark

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