If there’s anything that keeps figure skating exciting year after year, it’s that just when you think you’ve seen it all, the strange and unusual only gets worse!
What a men’s event this has been. From the eyebrow-raising scoring in the Short Programs to the Free Skate that saw World Records, equipment failure, 2-quad programs (times five!), rule-braking music with lyrics, significant home-ice advantage for Plushenko version 2.0, another medal lost for lack of counting, and Brian “the Matrix” Joubert in tight, glittery, baby blue lace with an awkward attempt to show, well, cut on his hand…I believe.
Let’s start with the least daunting – Patrick Chan.
He was clearly the champion at this event. He hit two beautiful quad toes, one in combination with an equally beautiful triple toe. His only mistake was on his nemesis — the triple axel. However, it was just a small step out, nothing major enough to be concerned with. Besides, his program components are worthy of every 9+score he received…maybe more. He skated a bit nervously, though, and it wasn’t as perfect as it was at Canadians. I felt much more tension from him than I expected. With a lead like he had, I expected a much freer, much more confident performance. But, he desperately wanted to win this title, so he didn’t want to let anything slip away. And he certainly didn’t, setting new Free Skate and overall world records along the way. He now owns them all.
Then there’s Takahiko Kozuka. He’s the only man in the final group that had to qualify, but he had likely the skate of his life to pull from 6th to 2nd overall. In fact, his perfectly executed quad, along with his perfectly executed, well, everything else, topped even Chan’s technical elements score with 98+! Early in the week, many wondered about a Japanese sweep in this event. After Daisuke Takahashi fell apart in just before Kozuka, we had to wonder if Japan would medal at all! No pressure, Taka. But he more than managed. From my perspective, despite Chan’s world record scores, Kozuka had the skate of the night. It was, in a word, brilliant.
Speaking of Daisuke…
His first element in his Free Skate was to be a quad. However, he hesitated going in, then popped it badly, and came up almost limping. Turns out, a screw came loose (out?) on his blade, causing the error on the jump. He then was on the clock to get it fixed, and I kept waiting for Mark Ladwig to come dashing out of the stands to offer his own skates a la Rudy Swiegers at 4 Continents! Dai and his coach handled it on their own, though. However, he was only allowed to restart his program from where he left off, meaning the first jumping pass was nearly worthless. The stop also clearly disrupted the rest of the program and he struggled on a triple axel and fell on a triple salchow. It was quite tragic to watch. The showdown between Takahashi and Chan was to have been spectacular. Now the reigning champ looked unlikely for a medal. He would, in fact, finish 5th.
The Russian rookie Artur Grachinski took after his idol and hit some big (albeit occasionally sloppy) jumps, including two quads in a skate that saw scores aided by the generous reactions from the home country crowd. He has some work to do before he’ll get those scores consistently, but congrats to him — and to Russia — for having a man on the podium, in his debut season nonetheless!
Brian Joubert had a rough go in the short program. In fact, I said I felt he should have been lower in the placements. However, he came back with a very nice long program today. Despite being a bit confused by the powder blue, asymmetrical lace and sparkles he was wearing (Remember his “Matrix” costume?!), I really appreciated the improvements he’s made in the presentation department this year. Not only did he have some gorgeous jumps, including a quad toe, but he really seemed in tune with the program itself. In fact, this time around, I though the should have been higher in the standings.
Or, perhaps, more that Michal Brezina should have been lower.
Brezina came out with two very strong quads. In fact, the second one was so easy, it caught me off guard! But he fell twice later in the program and struggled here and there. Yet, he ended up scoring high enough to out do Joubert, regardless.
The American men all skated respectably, with Richard Dornbush leading the charge, finishing 9th overall. Despite not being perfect, he earned very nice scores for his “Sherlock Holmes” program, setting him up nicely for international competition next year, I think!
Ross Miner put together two very nice skates here, as he said, showing that his Nationals performance wasn’t a fluke. He and Ricky both said they’re excited to get home and start training a quad for next season.
Ryan Bradley skated a two-quad program, as planned. However, struggles here and there (including only managing a single toe on the quad combo) significantly affected his scores. If he wants to continue competing (which I selfishly hope he does!), he is going to have to address some very basic things in his skating — like speed. He seemed to be barely moving at times and as on of my twitter followers pointed out, when you can read the signs on the boards as the skater goes by, he’s moving FAR too slowly! His transitions are almost non-existent, and that will have to be improved as well. Still, I’m so proud of him for going out and hitting both quads, especially without having competition experience this season!
There was much doom and gloom predicted for the US men here, and I’d say 9th, 11th and 13th place finishes are quite a bit better than many imagined. I also happen to think this may have been just the thing for young skaters like Ricky and Ross. They experienced Worlds without having a real medal contender on their team, yet they managed some respectable skates. They both mentioned how excited they were to get back home and start training. Maybe, just maybe, they’ve seen the potential for the US men’s skating program that is without a star like Evan or Johnny (Jeremy will be back next season, no doubt) and have new-found motivation to work up to the level they were surrounded by this week!
The program ended on perhaps the most bizarre note of all. Florent Amodio’s program is out there as it is, but after the first section of One Republic music, it shifted to the next song with lyrics. Twitter was buzzing, many people knowing there would likely be a deduction. Now, Amodio uses the same program — the version with lyrics — as his exhibition piece. Chances are, the CDs got mixed up. Whose fault that is, well, we don’t really know. No deduction was taken, however, which caused even more confusion! But, as was pointed out by another twitter follower, the rules state that in the case of a music violation, the judges vote on whether to apply the -1.00 deduction. If it’s not more than 50-50, no deduction is taken.
Still, it was an odd end to an even more odd event!
Congrats to the medalists, though, on their new hardware!
Find the complete men’s results here: http://www.isuresults.com/results/wc2011/CAT004RS.HTM