World Figure Skating Championships
by Alexandra Stevenson
30 couples from 22 countries took the ice on Tuesday afternoon for the 3-time around the ice race with pained, snooty expressions that is the Paso Doble. Since the cut for those advancing to the Original Dance is 30, they all got through. If the results of this section stand up through the next two sections, the USA can claim to be the ice dance center of the world, quite a statement for a country which has never spawned an Olympic gold medalists or world champion in this discipline. The top four couples after Tuesdayís Compulsory Dance are trained in America. The top two are coached in Aston, PA, by Natalia Linichuk & Gennadi Karponosov. The 3rd & 4th couples are based in Canton, Michigan and are trained by Igor Shpilband & Marina Zueva. The championships got off to a dodgy start. The first competitors, Ksenia Shmirina & Yahor Maistrov, a married couple who represent Belarus, the country of his birth, took a few steps and the music stopped. All went well for the organizers when the music was restarted, although not for the skaters. They lie last, two places down from their finish last year.
1. 40.77 (21.10+19.67) Oksana Domnina, 24, & Maxim Shabalin, 27, the Russians who now train in Aston, skated 24th immediately after the Canadians who were last yearís silver medalists, and right before the former US champions who train with them. Shabalin was the matador, personified and glorified, in a white outfit adorned with gold. She was the poor bull, in a near backless, black outfit. He emoted heavily with lots of bravado and gusto, which was particularly appropriate since he was doing it on sub-standard knees. Both are practically devoid of cartilage. He has had three knee operations, two on the left and the most recent on the right. In January, he fell and re-injured his right knee yet again during the Compulsory Dance which took them out of the European championships. After his courageous showing, he said, "Iím still continuing my recovery. We started to train again almost immediately after Europeans (in January) but there were a few moments when we were forced to leave out some practice to rest my leg. As to the performance today, it was good. We maintained the pattern throughout all the three sequences, which is very important. If you are off even a little bit, you can loose points on the technical mark. Technically, it was good, and we pulled ourselves together. We had to show the character of the dance, the corrida (the bull fight). Iíve liked the Paso Doble and Iíve done this dance every since I was child. It was one of my favorite dances." Asked what it is like to train with their close rivals, Belbin & Agosto, Shabalin said, "I canít say weíre close friends. We respect them. We like them and we hope they like us." Domnina said, "The Paso Doble is a little harder emotionally for me than the (Viennese) Waltz (which was left in the draw after the Finnstep had been pulled out for the Europeans). But it was interesting to get into a different image. It fits with the change in my image (going from blonde to brunette).
2. 39.65 (20.26+19.39) Tanith Belbin, 24, & Ben Agosto, 27, definitely made a good starting impression, certainly in a different league from her fall in the compulsory last year which put them out of medal contention. His blindingly white matador outfit with heavy black netting was a bit in-your-face but her red outfit was gorgeously flouncy with black on the underskirt and a red piece in her hair. Agosto had said she had really worked on her basic power during his enforced layoff. That was obviously true. He compared her to a race horse, and she lived up to his description. Definitely a thorough-bred! Surprisingly, he revealed, "Weíve never competed the Paso before, not even in juniors. Itís a ferocious compulsory. I feel it suits us perfectly, given what we want to show at this competition. We had to make sure we put out a strong performance. Weíve been working so hard to come back. We felt confident coming in and weíre really happy with how we skated. Itís a good way to start out the competition and now itís an all-out dogfight. My back feels really good. Iím practicing full out. Iím as strong as I could be. I do have to take more time to warm up and cool down though." She said, "I just think that this is a great dance to start the competition off with because our mindset is that weíre fighting. We had to fight for months to get through Benís injury and to get through last season with the disappointing finish at Worlds. Now is the time to showcase our new abilities. Weíre frustrated because we havenít been able to do so until now. We have to think, ĎItís our medal to lose.í Last year, I really wanted it, but deep, deep down I didnít feel I could do it. Natalia and Gennadi have given us that confidence."
3. 39.37 (20.48+18.89) Tessa Virtue, 19, & Scott Moir, 21, got slightly more for the element score but were beaten on the components. As usual, they were very positive although Virtueís shins still bother her. She has made progress since the Four Continents Championships where she would come off the ice, immediately take off her skates and go to the medical station for treatment. Only later would she meet journalists and had to have a seat while they were grilling her. This time, although she did take her skates off immediately in the Kiss & Cry area, she didnít have to get ice packs put on her legs right away and she was able to stand to talk to the media. Virtue, who performed in a black and white outfit with white frills, said, "We love the Paso. It went by pretty quickly." Her partner had a little more=2 0to say. "I donít think itís the right approach for us to go out there and try to beat everyone. We just aim to do our best. We were pleased with our performance. It was fun. Our goal was to dance and really sell it. What else can you ask for?" As a coach should be, Marina Zueva, was convinced her pupils, Virtue & Moir, should be in the lead. "Tessa and Scott were the best by style, by step, by partner and expression. A lot of other coaches have confirmed that to me." When asked is there any animosity between the teams training in Canton, Zueva said, "No. Absolutely not!" What never? "Never, never, never!" Well, maybe when sheís not around? "Tessa & Scott and Charlie & Meryl are absolutely the best of friends." Well, was that the same when she was on the world competitive scene some decades ago? At last she smiles. "That, I donít answer."
4. 37.73 (19.30+18.43) Meryl Davis, 22, & Charlie White, 21, drew to skate last but one right after their teammates, Bates & Samuelson, and just before Pechalat & Bourzat. With his blond hair sleeked back, White, who normally has a full mop of curls looked almost unrecognizable. He admitted, "Weíre shooting for the top three. We generally try to stay away from thinking about placement. We know that if we do our best in competition, results will come." Their best sections are still to come, but third is a reach. They were sixth last year in their second worlds. His partner said, "We just wanted to come in and skate better than weíve ever skated before. And, I think, we did that. We like the Paso Doble. I think weíve learned to like it more and more. Itís an intense dance and once you get into character, itís a fun dance." Did they remember taking the US Novice championship silver in 2002 in the Staples Center after winning the compulsory section? Did Davisí fall in the Free Dance make them think of splitting their partnership? Both agree that that was never a possibility. At that point, they were 15 and 14. "We had already been together for so many years," Davis said. "There were mistakes made in competition before then and mistakes made after, but that was never discussed." White added with a smile, "There were mistakes and falls by both us along the way!"
5. 37.34 (19.02+18.32) Last yearís world bronze medalists, the Russian champions Jana Khokhlova, 23, & Sergei Novitski, 27, fresh from their runaway victory in the European Championship, took the ice 21st, first on after the second resurface. He was in a see-through chiffon shirt giving a V-shaped glimpse of chest partially covered by a bolero jacket. She was also in black. Khokhlova said, "We have mixed feelings. The audience received us quite well. We know that the North American audience obviously supports their own skaters. But there were Russian fans in the tribune and that helped. We were=2 0very focused Ė maybe too much. We watched the practices of the others and we know it wonít be easy here." He said, "We skated the Paso Doble for the first time this season. There is pressure on us. We want to leave as world champions." At the moment, they are 3.43 points out of first place.
6. 36.54 (18.92+17.62) Nathalie Pechalat, 25, & Fabian Bourzat, 28, gained the French national title in the absence of the injured Delobel & Schoenfelder. Last summer, they moved to Moscow to train there. He is continuing his studies over the internet, and she is working as an intern at a French company based in the Russian capital. He said, "We skated really well. Of course, you think when you skate last, that it will be a bit difficult because of the ground up ice, but we got right into the dance and weíve worked a lot on the Paso Doble since the Grand Prix. I think you could see that. We have a softer style, with more upper body movement. We are not too stiff. Our goal is the top six, and be close to the top five." She said, "I think it was a good improvement over Skate Canada, (where they finished third overall after making some major mistakes). The Paso was well done, very dynamic. We chose more the Spanish style of the Paso Doble and we worked with the same choreographer who did our Flamenco (their Original Dance last year). We were looking for a more sensual Paso Doble. This suits our style of skating - a softer style with more upper body movement. We are not being too stiff. Other might choose a more rigid style."
7. 36.30 (18.58+17.72) Federica Faiella, 28, & Massimo Scali, 29, the 6-time Italian champions, who have trained in Detroit since 2006, are competing in their 8th world championship. Their best place was 5th last year. They skated first in the last warm-up group of five. She said, "We felt so good, winning silver in Europeans. We were so happy. We were also happy when they picked the Paso Doble for here. I think, today, we did a really good job. It was powerful and precise. But these championships are hard. There are a lot of really strong competitors."
8. 35.30 (18.12+17.18) Sinead, 30, & John Kerr, 28, the British champions, skated immediately following Faiella & Scali and right before Bates & Samuelson. "It was probably not the best ice," said John. "But thatís the same for everyone. Being European bronze medalists puts a little more pressure on because then peopleís expectations are higher. But, in another way, some of the pressure is off because you already achieved your seasonís goal." The Kerrs, who are brother and sister, train in Princeton, New Jersey. They finished eighth in last yearís Worlds.
9. 34.39 (18.22+16.17) Pernelle Carron & Matthieu Jost, who represent France, are competing in their first world championship, although they have taken part in three Europeans finishing 9th twice and sixth this year. She said, "Weíve been practicing in a North American rink (which is smaller than the Olympic size used mainly in Europe). That was a help to adjust to the ice size of the Staples Center." He said, "Weíve prepared very well the past ten days (in San Diego) and we refined our expression and everything else. Our technical score was excellent. The component score was quite good as well. We are very disappointed Isabelle (Delobel) was injured. Without them (Delobel and partner Olivier Schoefelder, last yearís world champions), it will be very hard to qualify France for three teams next year but, together with Nathalie (Pechalat) and Fabian (Bourzat), weíll try our best.
10. 33.33 (17.46+15.87) Vanessa Crone, 18, & Paul Poirier, 17, who were the runners-up for the Canadian title, are making their debut in this event. They were not intimidated by their draw, skating immediately following the Russian European champions, Khokhlova & Novitski, and right before Virtue & Moir, and they didnít look out of place. He said, "We were really happy with our performance. There werenít really any expectations on us with this being our first World Championships. We just set out there to have fun and I think we stayed really relaxed during our performance and that helped portray the character of the dance." Crone said, "The Paso is a ton of fun. It suits our personalities. We worked rea lly hard on our expression because in our Grand Prix, our marks were higher for technical than for presentation. Today, it was the opposite. That helped us feel better about what weíve done over the past couple of weeks. We donít really have a placement goal."
11. 33.30 (17.28+16.02) Anna Cappellini, 22, & Luca Lanotte, 23, from Italy, who placed 10th in this championship last year, skated 16th, first on of the fourth of the six warm-up groups. She said, "We felt pretty good out there. We did almost the best we could have skated. Our marks were good. We are building for the next Olympic quadrenium. We want to learn to skate our best and not have any particular fear." Her partner did admit, "Our pattern on the last sequence (of 3 which are meant to be identical) was a little strange. Our goal is to be in the top ten." This is their third world championship. They finished 13th and 10th in the past two.
12. 32.85 (17.42+15.43) Alexandra, 21, & Roman Zaretski, 25, are a sister and brother team representing Israel and trained by former world bronze medalist, Galit Chait. He said, "We love this compulsory Ė itís much better than the Waltzes."
13. 32.51 (16.90+15.61) Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates are making their debut. Samuelson, who appears a little star-struck, said, "The talent of all the teams here is just incredible. There are teams20youíve admired for years, and all of a sudden weíre here competing against them. This is only the second time weíve competed the Paso. We just performed it like we did in practice. Thatís the most important thing, to learn how to compete." Her partner said, "Weíre the 3rd US team. Weíre here for the experience. Thereís really no pressure on us. Tanith & Ben and Meryl & Charlie are going to take care of business and get three spots for the US next year."
14. 30.35 (16.02+14.33) Kristin Fraser & Igor Lukanin, who have represented Azerbaijan since 2001, although she is an American and they live in Montclair, NJ, skated 18th. He appeared in a rather strange version of a black tux with long trailing tails lined with shocking pink, which some found distracting. The blonde Fraser was in a black dress, short in the front, long in the back, with layers.
16. 28.46 (15.26 13.20) Katherine Copely, who turned 21 on January 9, was born in Cincinnati while her partner, Deividas Stagniunas, was born in Kaunas. They represent his country, Lithuania, but train in Canton, Michigan, with Igor Shpilband. They are competing in their third world championship. Last year they advanced from 23rd to 14th.
18. 27.24 (14.60+12.64) Cathy Reed, 21, & her brother Chris, 19, who were both born in Kalamazoo, are the twice Japanese champions. They h ad to pull out of the Four Continents because of his right knee. He explained, "I went to many doctors. I had a lot of treatment and therapy on it. Iím just pleased to be back skating." His sister, who wore extremely dramatic eye make-up, said, "I was very excited to be out there and very nervous, but it felt very good. I love doing this compulsory. Chris and I love to dress up and portray characters."
23. 25.11 (13.76+11.35) Caitlin Mallory, who was born in Oakland, CA, & Kristian Rand, who is Estonian, were born only ten days apart in June and are both 21. They represent his country but train in Canton, Michigan in the Shpilband school. This marks their debut in this event.
26. 21.51 (12.24+9.27) Nikki Georgiadis, who turned 18 on March 17, & Graham Hockley, who will be 19 on April 22, are Canadians who represent Greece. They train alongside Crone & Poirier in Scarborough, Ontario. They were 15th in the recent world junior championships and this is their debut in this event. Ioana Harmony Risca & Chase Andrews Brogan, who train at the Detroit Skating Club with Seth Chavetz, had hoped to become the first ice dance couple ever to represent Roumania in the world championship. She has a Roumanian passport because of her parentsí birth. However, she was born in Sterling Heights, MI, and currently lives in Oakland, Michigan. Brogan was born in Connecticut. His home town is Wallingford, CT.
1. (CD+OD) 105.45; OD 2. 64.68 (33.40+31.28)
Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin presented a Waltz. They drew to
skate 24 th, 4th of the penultimate group of 5
couples. The rules for this season state that competitors must use music
from the 20s, 30s & 40s. First impressions left people a little
puzzled by the Russiansí choice of Russian composer, Dmitri
Shostakovitchís Waltz from Suite No.2 for Jazz Orchestra. It
certainly didnít sound like what Americans normally classify as jazz.
However, the judges liked it, not only did they get Level 1.60 GoE for
their non-touching steps, they also got this score for their circular
steps. Their poorest move was their spin which rated only +0.20. Five of
the judges awarded it only the base value. However they received +1.0
for their straight line lift and +0.60 for their twizzles. Domnina said, "We are happy with what
we did, but it always can be better. We are excited about getting Level
four for all our elements. That is what we are always striving for. This
was probably our last performance of this dance. We tried to give the
maximum." Shabalin said, "Our goal was to be
different than the other couples, and we reached that goal. We are
satisfied with our performance today. Iím glad we are first. We hope
to show our best skating tomorrow." Asked whether he has recovered
from the fall he took in the Finnstep at the Europeans in January, which
forced them to withdraw from that event, he said, "I am fine but I
still skate with a little bit=2 0of pain. The knees are never going to
be 100%. I will be happy if they will be, like 90%. But, realistically,
it isnít going to happen."
2. 104.81; OD 1. 65.16 (33.90+31.26) Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto were over the moon when their marks flashed up. They were even more pleased when, after every one had skated, they discovered they had won this section, and, although they lie second overall going into the FD, that margin is small. They were the only couple to have all nine judges punch in +2 for an element. That was for their first move, the twizzles, which earned the five-time, but not current, US champions a full point over the base value. (If it seems funny that all those +2s equal a mean of +1, itís because the mean has to be adjusted to be in line with the size of the base value.) They received a mixture of +2s and +1s for the other four elements. The spin got +2 from five judges, the circular steps got +2 from only two judges and both the midline non-touching steps and their rotational lift got six +2s and three +1s. Their poorest score was still above the base value. It was a +0.70 for their spin. Belbin & Agosto got the best technical score for all five elements, 33.90. That was 0.40 more than Pechalat & Bourzat of France who got the next best technical score. Domnina & Shabalin were third in this category, 0.10 behind the French couple. Belbin & Agosto were pipped by a minuscule 0.02 on the components score by Domnina & Shabalin but were a significant 1.96 points ahead of Davis & White, who got the third best component score. Belbin wore a snazzy red beret and a frothy garden party white dress with red sparkles. She also had a red ribbon around her white boots, an added touch making them resemble jitterbug attire. Agosto was a slightly suspect, sophisticated man-on-the-town with a white tuxedo jacket over what would have been a daring (in that era) black shirt and pants. Skating first in the last group of five couples, they performed a "Tap Dance" to Steppiní Out With My Baby by John Kander and Fred Ebb. Belbin said, "We felt really great tonight. After we missed Nationals (and had to petition for a place on this world team), weíre just so happy to have the opportunity to skate this program in front of our home country. The crowd definitely helped us along." About training with their closest competitors in this event, Belbin said, "It truly helps us every day. Itís not a secret that we compete every day in practice. But itís a very supportive atmosphere. Itís helpful to be surrounded by people who absolutely understand what we are going through. Weíre beyond where we thought we could ever be as far as our skating goes. Thatís why we came to Natalia and Gennadi in the first place. We just feel so much more capable and confident on the ice. People are coming up to us and telling us that they see the improvement." Agosto said, "Itís been an Ďinterestingí year for everyone. Iím feeling really strong and confident, and itís great to be back. My back is feeling fantastic. Itís been a long, tough road and we really wanted to be here. We wanted to show what weíve accomplished over the last year and there was no way we were going to sit this one out. We want to be the best. Thatís what weíve been working toward."
3. 100.42; OD 6. 61.05 (31.90+29.15) Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir just did not seem themselves. Skating to Wonít You Charleston With Me? from the movie, The Boyfriend, 28th in the field of the 30 couples, they were not able to completely convey the exuberant sheer joyfulness of this dance. Moir almost fell on a twizzle in their first element and had a couple of other bobbles. He explained, "I had control at the beginning. I just over checked my turn a little bit and then I fought a little too hard to get it back. I was chasing the twizzle a little bit. When youíre twizzling beside the best twizzler in the world, when you make a little mistake, it is really obvious." They still received the maximum, Level 4, for all their elements but only +0.30 GoE for their twizzles and +0.20 for their spin. His20partner said, "I was able to squeeze his hand and give him a look that was meant to convey that weíre going to get through this. Heís good at snapping right back and forgetting about it and moving on. Thatís what you have to do in that situation, especially when itís right off the bat. Weíre a little further back than we were at the beginning of the day. Obviously, that was not our plan. But weíre still in third. I donít think that changes what we want to do, which is show we are the best in the world and we have the best free dance." She obviously is not at her peak and is trying to ignore residual pain in her shins. "Back in December when I first got on the ice, I got really excited if I could stand on one foot. It took a long time to get that muscle memory back. Iím really proud of us for making it this far. Weíre just taking in stride."
4. 100.33; OD 3. 62.60 (33.30+29.30) Meryl Davis & Charlie White skated 27th, right after Belbin & Agosto and immediately before Virtue & Moir. They got exactly the same GoE, 1.60, as the top two couples, for the Mid-line non-touching steps. They earned +1.20 for their diagonal steps, which was the same as Belbin & Agosto, and +0.70 for the other three elements. Their Happy Feet Charleston was very extroverted, extravagant and extremely enjoyable. In an understatement,20Davis said, "I think weíre doing pretty well." Surprisingly, White said, "We made some errors but it is things that would not be visible to anyone watching. Itís great to have the technical skills credited."
5. 99.02; OD 5. 61.68 (32.30+29.38) Jana Khoklova & Sergei Novitski skated 25th, immediately before the last warm-up group, performing to Samís Blues and Puttiní on the Ritz. They were the leading skaters NOT to get all Level 4s. Their diagonal step sequence was awarded "only" a Level 3, although it earned +1.0 GoE. Khokhlova said, "We were in a very positive mood when we went out to skate. We were not nervous, but, obviously, my mistake on the twizzle cost us points. We got a level four, but we were out of sync." They received their lowest GoE for the Twizzles of +0.50.
6. 98.37; OD 4. 61.83 (33.50+28.33) Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat performed 22nd, second on in the penultimate warm-up group. They presented a Lindy Hop to It Donít Mean a Thing if it Donít Have That Swing by the Puppini Sisters from the Hellzapoppin soundtrack. Of their fourth place in this section, which left them still sixth but closed the gap between them and the Russian European champions to only 0.65, Pechalat said, "It was a very good score. We beat our season best by three or four points and we had Level 4 in each element. Thatís great for us. We tried to have a clean program. Our legs were okay and we were very powerful." Their highest GoE was +1.60 for their Midline steps and the lowest, +0.60 for their spin.
7. 95.43; OD 7. 60.13 (32.10+28.03) Sinead & John Kerr, skating 29th of the 30 couples, performed a Lindy Hop to The Boogie Bumper by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the beginning and end. In the middle the music was a West Coast Swing to Minnie, the Moocher. They put on a very energetic performance, which the crowd seemed to love. "It was wonderful getting a standing ovation," Sinead Kerr said. "We had a quite a lot of people travel from Scotland here and, because we train in America, we have a lot of fans there. We also fans in Russia Ė they have a web site for us and a lot of Asia fans. Itís quite amazing." They received the sixth highest technical score and the seventh highest components. Their diagonal steps, which received Level 3, was their only non-4 move but it received a full +1.0 GoE. Their highest GoE, +1.40, was for their midline steps; their lowest was +0.50 for their twizzles.
8. 92.22; OD 10. 55.92 (30.80+27.12) The European silver medalists, Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali, who represent Italy but train in Detroit, are prone to falls. They were one of only two couples to suffer this misfortune in the Original. (The others were Leonie Krail & Oscar Peter from Switzerland who finished 27th and did not make the top 24 allowed to go forward for the Free Dance.) Skating last, they presented a tap dance to music from the movie Follow the Fleet including Let Yourself Go and Letís Face the Music and Dance. Faiella, in a white top and red skirt, & Scali, who was dressed as a sailor, began with their spin which earned their lowest GoE of +0.30. All but their last element, the diagonal steps which was Level 3, gained Level 4. Their top GoE was +1.0 for their non-touching steps. Fortunately for them, their fall was not on an element. Scali explained, "I was doing a cross-over and I think my one boot hit the other boot and I lost my balance. I tried to catch it and I thought I did, but then I completely lost it." He went down and pulled her along with him so they got a deduction of two points. "Itís a shame. I think we couldnít have hoped for much more than 7th place here anyway, but still. . . It was a little sad for us to come here after the medal at Europeans and now we know, going into the Free Dance, that we had no chance of a medal here."
9. 92.07; OD 8. 57.68 (30.90+26.78) Pernelle Carron & Mattieu Jost from France skated 23rd, right before Domnina & Shabalin, to Basin Street Blues by Louis Armstrong. They were the highest couple to receive two Levels lower than 4. Both their diagonal steps and their midline non-touching steps were given 3s, although they received the coupleís highest GoEs, +1.20 and +1.0 respectively.
10. 89.63; OD 9. 56.33 (30.80+25.53) Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, Italy, skating 13th, executed a Lindy Hop and a Slow Foxtrot to two version of Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen by Sholom Secunda. Like Carron & Jost, both their diagonal steps and their midline non-touching steps were given 3s, but received their highest GoEs for these elements.
11. 88.08; OD 12. 54.75 (30.30+24.45) Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier from Canada were competing in their first senior world championship. Skating 21st, they presented a fun routine to Scott Joplin music from the movie, The Sting with Crone in a period cloche hat. This is the couple who invented the stationary lift when they were competing in junior level. Poirier, who is 17, said, "We had a few struggles this season, but overall we are happy with this performance. Our elements and our performance were strong today. We arenít sure why we didnít get a level four on the spin, we had that all season. We also are trying to keep learning and doing new and different lifts each season, not just something that no one else is doing, but things no one has yet tried to do." Crone, 18, said, "It is great to be in the same warm up group with the top skaters. Itís a real boost to our confidence and shows us what we can strive for in the future. Itís different seeing the top skaters live than watching than them on TV. We saw here what we need to learn and what to work on to be at the top."
12. 87.48; OD 11. 54.97 (30.90+24.07) Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates, the US 2008 world junior champions, skated 17th, which was second in the fourth group of six warm-up groups. They climbed one place up from 13th after the compulsory, performing Swing to Let Yourself Go from the soundtrack of Follow the Fleet. He was a sailor and she was in a red dress with gloves and black garters. Samuelson, 18, said, "Weíre not really expecting anything at this competition. Itís our first Worlds so our goal was to go out there and skate our best. Thatís definitely one of the best weíve ever skated the Original in competition. We donít know why we got a Level 3 for our midline steps. Weíve been getting Level 4 for it. But the judges will give us what they want to and all we can do is be happy with how we skated. All we can do is keep improving. Weíre going to go home, keep training and hopefully be on the Olympic team next year. We have to work really hard to raise our skating skills and level of ability to the top teams." He said, "The crowdís response was absolutely incredible. We received our first standing ovation=2 0and thatís worth more than any kind of score we could possibly get. I think itís really good for us to come in the pre-Olympic year before weíre gauging ourselves against the very best in the world, pairs who have been to ten world championships. Weíre here at our first one and weíre trying to be competitive with them. Weíre doing our very best and training hard. We performed well but I think there are still some improvements we can make."
When, in June, they decided to train in the United States, there were some who laughed, saying it was a move of desperation. Others thought they were being disloyal to Russia (as would be the case if the reverse happened). It was a definite gamble. But coaches Natalia Linichuk & Genadi Karponosov had worked their magic before with the Bulgarians, Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviski, whom they took from being out of the medals in the 2005 world championships, to winning the title twice, in 2006 & 2007. Many at home felt they were being disloyal, even though their new coaches, who won the Olympic gold in Lake Placid in 1980, were Russian. Karponosov said he sympathized with their new pupils because he and his wife and partner had gone through a similar situation of being overlooked by their Association in favor of another couple. He is Jewish and although, as world champions, they were the favorites going into the 1980 Games, the Soviet Federation reflected the government discrimination policy, and wanted another Soviet dance couple to take the gold. Karponosov said, "Our coach hardly spent any time with us that season. Our free dance was not as good as the year before. It was a bad situation."
Domnina and Shabalin had despaired once more after he tripped during the 2009 European championships on the new compulsory, the Finnstep, and slammed down onto his knee. They were only fifth in that section and had to withdraw. Many wrote them off at that point. To have bounced back from such a low, to win the title was such an emotional roller-coaster that they were left completely drained of emotion. He said, "Right now we donít have any emotions. We canít believe it yet. We try to not think about what place we would get because thatís a certain way to lose. We are so tired. We gave all our emotion on the ice. We let it all out and now we are just empty. At the end of the program, I said something like ĎThank Godí. As we skated, my strength was fading, but some how, when we got close to the end of the program, we were able to pull out the last strength you have. I donít know where that came from. I still felt strong at the end of the program. Iím sure this will mean very, very much for us, but right now Iím not feeling anything, except, maybe a little relief. We reached a goal we have been living for so many year. Weíve strived to achieve this for many, many years." They teamed up in 2002. "And now that itís here, it just seems a little unreal, like a dream." Standing on the podium, singing the national anthem, was "unbelievable".
Domnina & Shabalin skated 23rd, with only Khokhlova & Novitski yet to perform, immediately after Davis & Whiteís showing had practically brought the roof down. The Russians earned only the fourth highest technical score, but that was a mere 0.70 behind Davis & White, who were top in this category, and only 0.20 behind both Belbin & Agosto and Virtue & Moir, who were tied. The Russians won the components score by 0.38 over Belbin & Agosto, with Virtue & Moir a further 0.49 lower. Davis & White were fourth in this category, 0.45 behind the Canadians. Domnina & Shabalinís performance, set to Khatchaturianís music for the Russian ballet, Spartacus, earned straight Level 4s. One of the nine judges was continually out of line with his/her colleagues, punching in the sole zero for the Domnina/Shabalinís first move, the twizzles, and only "+1" for the rest of their moves. (Before making an assumption, know that there was no American judge on the panel. However, there was a Canadian judge, Jodi Abbott from Edson, Alberta, and the referee, Ann Shaw, is Canadian.) They began with the twizzles, for which four judges had punched in +2, four +1 and the errant zero. Their circular steps were given all +2s (except the out-of-linerís +1). Three judges gave their straight line to curve lift their maximum of +3 with the rest awarding +2 except for Mr./Ms. ĎNothing Over +1ís +1. For their curve lift they were given two +3s, six +2s and the solitary +1. Their combination spin was less well done with only one +2, the rest +1 (including the low-marking judge) and one zero. The Midline steps and the rotational lift received six +2s and three +1s. Their final move, the straight line lift, was given two +3s, one +1 from you-know-who, and the rest +2s.
2. 205.08; FD 2. 100.27 (50.50+49.77) Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto recaptured the silver they had won in Worlds in 2005 in Moscow. In Russia, they had been thrilled at their success, which had come on a straight forward ascent from their debut at worlds in 2001 in Vancouver where they had finished 17th. The only bump in the path to their winning the 2006 Olympic silver medal had been her ineligibility to compete in the 2002 Games because she was Canadian and the struggle to get her US citizenship in time for the next Games. A special bill had to be past and there was much tension involved before she got the papers just before New Yearís Eve 2005. But then things took a detour. The Olympic gold medalists, Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov, Russians who trained in New Jersey, did not continue to Worlds in Calgary a few weeks later so Belbin & Agosto were the clear favorites. But they finished 3rd. They were 3rd again the next year and last year they dropped to fourth. Then, this season, they Agosto had a back injury kept him off the ice and out of the US championships.
After all these trials, is it any surprise then, that this correspondent, who has covered them since they won their first international, a Junior Grand Prix in Montreal in 1999, has never seen them in such an emotional state as when they completed this Free Dance? After the routine ended, Belbin collapsed on to one knee at the center of the ice, to hug Agosto, and, as he got up from his final pose, she took both his hands to grab his head, give him a fleeting kiss and then buried her head in his chest, with tears of relief streaming down her cheeks. She was wearing a glamorous blood red outfit and Agosto was in a painterís white tattered smock befitting the doomed characters in the beloved opera, Tosca, which provided their accompanying music.
They skated 2nd in the top group of five, immediately following Virtue & Moir. They gained Level 4 for all their moves except the twizzles, which was given a Level 3 by the Technical Specialist, Andrzej Dostatni, because her hands werenít completely behind her back while executing these traveling one-foot turns. The difference between the base value of the two levels for this move is +0.70. Although that would have put them in the lead for the Free Dance it would not have changed the overall result, although it would have made it closer. (The Russians won by a margin of 1.22.) Belbin & Agosto received only three +3s, two for their straight line steps and the other from one of the same judges for their curve lift. "We are completely aware that nothing is going to be handed to us," said Belbin. "We have to be that much better to win the gold. We have to be phenomenal to win the gold. I think we have to struggle to do more than skaters from other countries. We didnít have an American judge. We just want the same advantage that everyone else has."
Judges are supposed to be independent of national prejudice but all the ice dancers appear convinced that having your own countryís judge on the panel is an advantage. There is certainly a psychological advantage of knowing there is some one "in the know" who you believe is "on your side" Belbin was referring to the subjective part of judging ice dancing which will always be result in differences of opinion. There is also a perceived lack of US officialsí willingness to "schmooze" with officials from other countries, which comes in part because of lack of other language skills and geographic location. The sport has definitely become fairer with the adoption of the complicated new system, as witnessed by the quick rise in world standings by Virtue & Moir and Davis & White who would have had "to wait in line" in the old system.
Belbin added, "We feel really, really happy that we were able to perform a clean program. Itís definitely the best weíve competed this routine which we havenít done it since the Cup of China. Weíve really improved and weíre really happy to show the program and what weíve developed this year. There were mixed emotions about the result. Itís obviously very emotional. There were so many different options for how Ben could have gotten through this injury. He could have been defeated by it, but instead, he fought through it. We train with Maxim and Oksana every day, so we certainly appreciate all their hard work and we can definitely see their qualities." Agosto said, "This year we made so many changes, not just the coaching change but trying to change just about everything about the way we perform. This program really allowed us to develop a new side of ourselves and a new, adult, mature sense. I think itís really brought out a new side of us. Itís been a very long and difficult road. We're so happy to have gotten through all of this and to have put out three strong performances we felt so good about."
Now they have to face the situation of whether the worldís top two couples can really benefit from training together with the same trainers.
3. 200.40; FD 4. 99.98 (50.70+49.28) Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir were disappointed. They felt that bronze, after winning silver last year, was a down step. That wasnít really the case. Had Domnina & Shabalin not been injured and forced to withdraw, they would probably have placed above them last year, as might Belbin & Agosto had not she had a freak fall in the compulsory. They also are projecting a positive attitude but, in fact, they are not completely back to where they were before her leg operations which caused them to lose a lot of training time. They used music from Pink Floydís Dark Side of the Moon album. The piece, The Great Gig in the Sky, is, according to their agents, "a soulful metaphor for death". It opens with the sound of and loose change, and mocks greed and consumerism.
Virtue said, "Iím extremely satisfied. I felt way stronger and was able to push through to the end. I wasnít even focused on my legs. Mentally itís such a treat to not have that constantly running in my mind. As much as you try to push it back, itís still there, but today it was just enjoying every movement. It felt really together." Moir said, "Tonight was all about us. We just wanted to go out and skate, not for what the judges thought (which is a strange take since this is the seasonís most important competition), but what we thought. We skated the best we could and weíre so happy about that. Itís been a tough year, and this reminds me of why I love the sport so much and why we suffer through stuff. I couldnít be more honest in saying that I really donít care what the judges say today. Iím really self-satisfied and have a really good sense of accomplishment."
In the Four Continents championships, she wore a far different outfit than here. It was a light chiffon-y, flowery sort of thing that was worn by the flower children, mindless, unrealistically optimistic, completely at odds with the type of Pink Floydís music. The new outfits were all black including her black tights. She explained, "We wanted the program to speak for itself, and let the skating come out before the outfits. With simple black youíre able to see our lines and with a contemporary program itís all about movement, so I think you can see it clearer."
All their levels were 4 but strangely, showing that there was a large range of opinions within the judging panel, they gained one award of the maximum +3 GoE from four different judges for four separate elements (the combination spin and all three lifts). Undoubtedly the most impressive move in the routine was their "no hands" lift in he is squatting in a bent leg spreadeagle which she stands on one leg on his upper thigh. It is a move they have invented. Itís spectacular and looks very, very risky. There was a collective intake of breath from those in the audience followed by a huge thunder of applause. Their least impressive element was the final diagonal steps, which earned one 0, one +2 and the rest +1.
4. 200.36; FD 3. 100.03 Meryl Davis & Charlie White gained third place in this section, as they had in the Original and they missed the bronze medals by a sliver, just 0.04. They got the highest technical score, but were 4th on the components. The received Level 4 for everything. They set the tone with their opening move, the combination spin which earned unanimous +2s. Their long lift was rewarded with five +3s (the maximum the judges can punch in) and four +2s. The circular steps earned five +2s and four +1s. Their curve lift got one +3, two +1s and the rest +2. Their twizzles received three +3s, five +2s and a +1. Their straight line lift was given six +2s and three +1s. Their midline steps were their lowest marked element but it was still impressive with one +2 and the rest +1s. They concluded with their rotational lift which was awarded one +3, seven +2s and one +1.
Their Free Dance, set to two pieces from Camille Saint-Saens opera, Samson and Delilah, including the famed Bacchanale, built in speed so they were going flat out at a time when they were increasingly tiring. Davis said, "It felt really good to me. I think that was probably my best performance that Iíve ever felt. Weíve been working really hard and it was hard to get it in shape at first because it was such a demanding program. But at this point in the season we were able to enjoy the program. Competing here at Worlds in our home country has been wonderful. And to finish a Free Dance like that, with that kind of audience reaction just means the world to us. We couldnít be happier." He said, "The routine took a lot of practice. You have to build your way up. Itís a matter of taking little steps, getting there one step at a time. Eventually, your body just gets used to the moves and then youíre able to add expression and stuff."
5. 194.36; FD 5. 95.99 (49.80+46.19) Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat, the French champions, were thrilled with this position and gaining all Level 4s. This is their sixth world championship and their best place was last yearís seventh. Before they saw the score, she said, "Whatever the result is, we are very happy with our performance. We had a good competition overall. We got a level four for all elements in a Free Dance for the first time. We love this program. Physically we were very ready and so eager to get out on the ice. I didnít feel tired. We have changed the program from before so some parts were faster and happier and the audience liked it. The American crowd gave us good support. It helped us to push through. They performed to La Notte di Favola by Nicola Piovani, the very famous circus music, La Marche des Gladiateurs and Jonglage by Maxime Rodriguez. They played carnival performers with Pechalat in a tutu-like outfit consistent with her role. Optimistically, she said, "We arenít far away from a World and European podium. We should be able to touch it next season."
6. 193.41; FD 6. 94.39 (48.20+47.19 -1.0) The Russian European champions, Jana Khokhlova & Sergei Novitski of Russia, were philosophical. He said, "Coming here, we were ready for everything. We could win or end up far away from the podium. Obviously, the second possibility came true. But this is not our last World Championship. I think we skated our Free Dance very well today. Itís difficult to compare it with the program we did at Europeans. Yes, there was a little wobble, but nothing that would us get us a deduction." The deduction, in fact, was for an extended lift. He did not get her back on the ice in the time allocated. Had they not incurred that deduction, they would have been fifth. They skated to Rhapsody on a Theme by Rachmaninov and Caprice 24 by Pagnini. He played an artist and she was his muse. They received all Level 4s except for a Level 3 for their spin.
7. 186.07; FD 7. 90.64 (47.10+43.54) Sinead & John Kerr, the British champions, presented a very emotional showing playing a brother and sister, looking after each other and trying to survive, after a catastrophic event has taken place. She said, "Itís a shame this is the last time we will compete with this routine because I really enjoy this one. I thought there would be less pressure on us this competition, but I still felt nervous. This has been fantastic. I think that we were really ready for this World Championships. I think that having it in Los Angeles was amazing. The audience has been great for us." Her brother said, "Itís been a fantastic season, easily been the most successful season for us with the bronze medal at Europeans and another top 10 finish here." They received two Level 3s, for their circular steps and for their straight line lift. The rest were all 4s.
8. 182.76; FD 8. 90.54 (46.80+44.74 -1.0) The European silver medalists, Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali of Italy, were still in shock from the fall they took in the original. He said, "It was really, really, really hard. More than the mistake yesterday there was this disappointment with the results of the Paso Doble. We arrived here after an amazing season. We got our first medal (silver) at Europeans and we got into the Grand Prix Final. So was it was an amazing season. We knew we didnít have a judge (on the panel) and it would be difficult to fight. We didnít come here to fight for 7th place. We came to fight for a top five finish. So after yesterday we had to skate clean. We really feel proud. I am really proud of Federica, since she hasnít been feeling well the last couple of days." In their free dance, set to Beethovenís Moonlight Sonata, he portrayed Pierrot, a stock, sad, classic mime, who in a theatre is normally dressed in a white clownís outfit as Scali was, with an obsession for the moon. She is his Columbine. She loves him but he loves only the moon. All but their twizzles and midline steps were level 4. Like Khokhlova & Novitski, they incurred a 1.0 deduction. This would have changed their placement in the Free Dance, but it would not have made a difference to their overall position.
9. 178.72; FD 10. 86.65 (45.10+41.55) Pernelle Carron & Mattieu Jost from France presented a resuscitated old number set to two famous songs by the even more famous, Edith Piaf, Venez Milord and La Foule. They began the season with a free dance which had a spoken dialogue to the music, which is a French variation of rap. Jost admitted, "The old Free Dance was a bit difficult for the public to understand. If you donít want to understand, you will never understand something. So we are doing something more light and more pleasant for the public. We went back to our program from two years ago. It was really, really fantastic! And we adapted it for the new judging system and to match our skating.
We did a very clean program. We are a little bit disappointed. The lift and the spin were both difficult and we donít understand the points, but we will figure that out later." They received four Level 3s, for the midline steps, the circular steps the reverse rotational lift and the combination spin. Carron said, "We gave all our energy in this program, and the public supported us very well. The music has a lot to do with and Iím very happy with our performance tonight. We felt a lot less nervous than at the Europeans, because we had to skate at the very end of the best groups there and that was very stressful. I was way more relaxed here."
10. 175.70; FD 11. 86.07 (44.70+41.37) Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte from Italy skated to music from the tear-jerker movie Love Story. Cappellini said, "We felt like we fought through to the end. But it was one of those days when things werenít flowing perfectly. We didnít get scared. We fought. We tried to make it right, even during the performance." They had two Level 3s (for their circular and diagonal steps) and a Level 2 for their straight line lift. The rest of the elements received Level 4. "After our last competition, we werenít so pleased with our results, so we felt we had to fight and try to improve. And we did, so we're really happy. We were hoping to improve our results from last year (when they were also 10th), but that didnít happen, but we are happy anyway because we fought all the way through. We didnít let ourselves get disappointed. We just pushed it till the end."
11. 174.76; FD 9. 87.28 (47.10+40.18) Emily Samuelson, 18, and Evan Bates, 19, the 2008 world junior champions, made a very impressive debut in this event. Their free, set to Amazonic by Tonci Huljic, was ranked ninth best. All but the circular steps and the midline steps were level 4. She said, "The most important thing is that we skated three great performances. We put our hearts out there every single time and skated the best we possibly could. I feel elated and relieved. I don't know how else to describe it. Weíve gained the experience of more international crowds, more international competitors, and the grand sense that this is a big competition. It is not just the Olympics that are important. In a sense the World Championships are like the Olympics, because you have the best competitors and it's every year. To have the experience a year before the Olympics is very helpful and I think it builds our confidence.
Bates said, "Hopefully we demonstrated this week the strong qualities we have, and that we have shown we belong in the senior world championships. Itís been a long season for us. Here at the World Championships and also at the Four Continents Championships we skated the best we could, and thatís the kind of momentum we want to carry on to the Olympic season. I could hear the crowd. We definitely had the support of the home crowd, and I could feel the energy from the crowd start to build. Thatís why the last 30 seconds of the program were the most fun for us."
12. 173.16; FD 12. 85.08 (45.40+39.68) Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier, the Canadian silver medalists, were making their debut. They gained all Level 4s except for Level 3s for the circular and diagonal steps. Crone said, "This is the first competition that weíve had all three sets of sections that were our best weíve done all season. So this is by far our best competition. We're happy to finish on such a high." She had changed her costume from the last competition. "Last time I had a pink, silk dress, but we decided that since itís Worlds and a new experience for us that we would try something different. We wanted to go a little simpler and elegant. Our story is that we're going on a walk together on a date or as friends and we wanted to make it simple and have us tell the story instead of our costumes." They used the music Doce de Coco by Jacob do Bandolim. Asked about their first experience of world seniors, although they are the silver medalists from junior worlds, she said, "Itís completely different from what weíve ever done. We had the help of Tessa (Virtue) and Scott (Moir) guiding us through and I think thatís helped a lot. The learning is that everybody is here to win and everybody here are extraordinary skaters, so we have to bring what weíve got and hope for the best. Poirier said, "We really tried to show that we were ready to be seniors. Weíve had a lot of comments still this season that we look a little junior-ish, and thatís fair criticism, so we really looked out to mature our image and make our skating more mature. We think our costumes help project that, as well. We really wanted to increase the size of our movements. Junior teams tend to skate a bit smaller, everything isnít fully done to the maximum."
2009 Worlds Medalists
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