Monday, March 24, 2008

2008 World Wrap-Up

The 2008 World Figure Skating Championships have wrapped up in Goteborg (here in North America we call it Gothenborg...but I'm going with the Swedish spelling!) and what an unexpected and at times unusual set of events.

Let me begin with the Ice Dance competition. I was very happy to see Delobel and Schoenfelder of France win this. Eleven (yes...eleven!) consecutive appearances and in the first ten they had never won a medal...what perserverance! Their program set to the movie soundtrack "The Piano" is beautiful. While I felt they didn't skate as well as they did at the Grand Prix Final or Europeans, they were clearly the class of the field! What a huge outcome for the Canadians, Virtue and Moir, who took silver! I made a bold prediction earlier this season...that this team would challenge for the podium...and not to toot my horn but I was right! Their "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" program is just magical and I think Igor Speilband has truly worked his magic with this team...breathtaking. They had fantastic speed at the end of the program. Also, Susie Wynne made some great comments at the Four Continents Cup and they actually made the changes, going back to their original outfits that worked better and redoing the choreography to really bring back the speed, outstanding! I have a bit of an issue with the brionze medalists. While RussiansKhoklova and Novitski have made improvements in their skating and their lifts are amazing and crowd pleasing, I don't beleive their connective footwork, step sequences, or side by side movements are great and I feel they were given a big gift in that bronze medal. Kudos to the the Americans Belbin and Agosto for sticking with it after the fall in that Compolsory Dance and skating well from that point on...they just had to much ground to make up after that fall (however, a bit ridiculous that they lost ground to the Russians in the Original Dance!). They too had, in my opinion, an amazing Free Dance. Three spots for the U.S. in Ice Dance in L.A. due to Tanith and Ben's fourth and Davis and White's sixth place finishes.

With the men I must first issue an apology. True story: I had written Jeffery Buttle off this season. In my poll, I didn't even include him because after his less than great Grand Prix Season and failure to recapture his Canadian title, I just didn't think he had it in him to win...or even medal really. But alas, Jeffery Buttle has won the men's title in Goteborg, becoming the first Canadian since Elvis Stojko in 1997 to do so. Buttle had a clean free skate that lacked a quad so when the huge technical score came up I was at first shocked considering Brian Joubert, who ended up with the silver, had posted a big number just before him and seemed like the easy winner. But I rewound the TiVo and grabbed a calculator and added up the jump points between Joubert and Buttle and sure enough Buttle had a higher number. France's Joubert took out his quad combo and played it safe. Buttle threw everything he had and did it all with positive GOE's. That, along with level three and four spins and footwork made the difference. Not to take anything away from Joubert, he was great, especially considering the season he's had, that was an accomplishment. Nice to see the imporvements in his skating as well. And very well done for Johnny Weir as well, winning that bronze (the only medal for the U.S. at these worlds), and showing that his hard work has paid off. Also, that bronze medal when combined with Stephen Carriere's 10th place finish will earn three spots for the U.S. men in L.A. next year. The top three men's performances which dazzled were a stark contrast to the other men who seemed to self-implode. Verner, Takahashi, and Lambiel...all considered to be leading contenders for gold self-destructed and failed to skate well here in this event. I kind of feel like this event went to the underdogs!

I found the pairs event anti-climatic. The German team of Szolkowy and Savchenko took the title with a less than stellar free skate. The Chinese team of Zhang and Zhang were uninspiring in their silver medal. The best team, in my opinion, was bronze medalists Dube and Davison from Canada. I felt they had a heart out there and were really working at putting on a great performance. I just love this team and was very impressed with them at this event. How cool was the throw Quad Salchow from Kawaguchi and Smirnov of Russia! A shame the rest of their program didn't work out as well. And what was up with Maxim Trankov's (of Mukhortova and Trankov) costume/slash arm...use better material! And not such a good day for the U.S. I think U.S. Figure Skating needs to make a better effort at improving our Pairs program through funding and seminars because 10th and 12th just doesn't cut it. I'm also not happy with the age rule that prevented McLaughlin and Brubaker from competing here. My guess is that the U.S. is going to be squawking about this at the June ISU Congress!

I am really confused with the ladies competition. Confused isn't a good word...baffled! Let me begin with saying this..."in my opinion the judges got this one wrong...way wrong!" Japan's Mao Asada won the competition, as expected, but rather unexpectedly...let me explain. When she completely biffed it on that opening Triple Axel, I didn't think she was getting back up. But she went on to complete her program well (although she did get dinged on her Lutz for a wrong edge). Italy's Carolina Kostner is all over the place (which by the way, how did she ever win that short program? Meissner had a better short than she did!) but still gets great marks...okay? She wins the silver. Yu-Na Kim of South Korea was her cool elegant self. A single Lutz was her only mistake and actually she won the free skate and took the bronze. Here's my biggest program of the night was delivered by Yukari Nakano of Japan. Beautiful Triple Axel (that was ridiculously downgraded to a double!) and all the triples to boot and she loses ground and finished fourth...what? I could understand her not getting ahead of Asada and Kim but Kostner was horrific and no way should have beaten Nakano. It is times lke these when the I really don't like the current judging system. Kimmie Meissner wasn't great, but it was better, and it was clear improvements were made since Nationals...seventh place isn't a disaster but unfortunately only two U.S. ladies will get to compete in L.A. next year (shame considering we'll have the deepest field of ladies in the World!). I think the future is unclear for her. I will be a tough road to hoe moving forward for her to make next years' World Team and ultimately the Olympics...we'll have to wait and see. Also, wishing Miki Ando a speedy recovery as she had to withdraw due to a calf muscle tear, she was obviously devestated.

Interesting week in Goteborg. Seemed like a great audience for the event and I think it was over all a well done event. Also, weird to know that is the last time for ESPN/ABC to host the event. The figure skating banner is officially passed to NBC at this point.

Full results can be viewed here.


Anonymous said...

Carolina was propped up by the judges. She has no business winning any medal. it should have been Asada, Yukari, Yuna in that order. Yukari will never win an Olympic medal with a wrapped leg. It's simple as that. Neither Bebe nor Meissner skated worst or better than Kirra but she got 4th placement because it was hosted in Sweden. Had it been hosted in Tokyo, she would have gotten the placement she belong: 8 or 9. This is a swan song for Bebe and Meissner. They will never have a chance to go to the Worlds again. If I were in their shoes, I would just hang up my skates. What's the point of continue skating when USFS will no longer assign you to any grand prix events? There is no way that Kimmie is going to out jump those jumping beans next season. She'll probably ended up with 4,5 and since we only have 2 spots, she won't even be the alternate for the worlds. You got a world gold and that's better than most people could wish for. Time to say goodbye when going is good (or in this case, not so good).

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Buttle. But I do think his winning is slightly unsatisfying because he won due to everyone faltered. It's like Kimmie winning the worlds because everyone who's suppose to win sucked. There is no point of arguing about the quads. Had Takahashi, Lambiel, Joubert do a perfect program, their scores would have been higher than Buttle's. Plain and simple. It always come down to who held their nerves better. This year, it's Buttle. Better luck next time Joubert. By the way, I rather enjoyed Kevin van der Perren's 3/3/3. Now that's more impressive than 4/3 to me.