Saturday, 29 March
Ladies final. Michelle Kwan. 'Nough said.
A group of athletes competing here at the World Championships met today and announced the formation of an International Athletes Commission. The released a statement outlining the objectives of the organization.
The ISU president gave his annual Worlds press conference. In his remarks he energetically defended the use of secrecy in the judging system and indicated he would give no ground on that subject. He also announced he considers the proposed scoring system essentially complete and will ask the ISU Council to approve the use of the system in the Grand Prix events next season. Passage is expected.
Friday, 28 March
The chance for a ladies sweep here, which appeared to be such a real possibility on Tuesday, seemed remote after the qualifying round in which Sarah Hughes placed sixth in her group. Following the short program this afternoon all hopes were dashed with Hughes placing eighth and now standing 9th in the overall standings. Sasha Cohen tied for fifth with Viktoria Volchkova in the short program, and is also tied with Volchkova for fourth in the overall standings. Highes now has virtually no chance for a medal here, while Cohen could still pull up to the bronze medal if she can manage to best Fumie Suguri by two places in the free skate.
The short program was won by Michelle Kwan who received one mark of 6.0 in the second mark. Whether it counted in the results is a mystery of the super secret scoring system. Elena Sokolova followed close behind, placing second, while Fumie Suguri ended up third.
Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz won the free dance this evening with a well skated routine to take home the gold medal in ice dancing. Irina Lobacheve and Ilia Averbukh dropped to second, while Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviyski held third place.
Of the nine randomly selected judges, five of the nine favored the Canadians, but a close inspection of all 14 marks indicates in all likelihood (at the 90% confidence level) Bourne & Kraatz won the gold medal on the roll of the dice, and had the full 14 judges been used to determine the results, they probably would have ended up with the silver medal.
Thursday, 27 March
The original dance was contested this afternoon with all 29 couples skating their routines "Memories of a Grand Ball." Irina Lobacheva & Ilia Averbukh took first place, followed by Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto placed seventh, edging out teammates, and current U.S. National Champions, Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev by one place.
In the evening the mens event was completed with the skating of the long program. Evgeni Plushenko took the gold medal, topping Timothy Goebel who the silver medal. Takeshi Honda placed third. Michael Weiss struggled and placed fifth.
Between events, Alexei Yagudin gave a press conference, offering his opinions on current events at the ISU. He spent the day with ISU representatives discussing the proposed scoring system and by evening it appeared he was succumbing to "the dark side of the force." Many of his comments were contradicted the descriptions of the system given by the ISU in presentations earlier this week. He said he was opposed to the current interim system with its random selection of judging and secret marks but was surprised to learn from the media that will remain the case in the proposed system. In regard to the new World Skating Federation, he said he became aware of it several weeks ago and had discussed it with Paul Wylie but was not an advocate for it or against it.
Wednesday, 26 March
The ladies qualifying round was completed today with 42 ladies competing in two groups. Michelle Kwan won Group A, the more difficult of the two groups. All three US ladies were seeded in this group and all three made the cut, though Sarah Hughes had a difficult skate, placing sixth. Sasha Cohen placed second in the group behind Elena Sokolova of Russia. Group B was won by Fumie Suguri.
In the evening, the pairs event was won by Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao, whose free skate was one of the most magnificent pair performances ever put on the ice at a World Championship. The team received two 6.0s in both the first and second marks. Under the new super secret system, however, it is not known if these marks were included in the actual scoring, or if the team received the rare and highly prized perfect score of 6.0-6.0. The latter seems to be a rather raw deal for the team.
As the audience size has increased from session to session, so has the public reaction whenever the ISU president is introduced or the new secret judging system described. The crowd was particularly vocal during the pairs award ceremony.
Tuesday, 25 March
Controversy and politics continue to dog the Championships. Prior to the start of events today a press conference was held to announce to formation of the World Skating Federation, whose goal is to replace the ISU as the international governing body for figure skating. The acting president of the group is Ron Pfenning, who will serve in that capacity during the startup phase of the organization. We will cover the formation of this new body next month, after the completion of the current Championships.
The ice dancing event began today with the skating of a single compulsory dance, the Austrian Waltz. The 29 couples competing here were broken up into two groups for the skating of the dance. Group A was won by Irina Lobacheva & Ilia Averbukh, while Group B was taken by Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz.
In the evening the men's short program was contested, in the second phase of the men's event. Evgeni Plushenko won the short program, followed closely by Timothy Goebel.
Monday, 24 March
Competitive events began today with the qualifying round for the men and the pairs short program. As is the standard procedure, at the start of each event an announcement was made describing the new format for the judging panel and the display of the marks. In each case the announcement was loudly booed by the audience an cries of "no secret judging" rang out from all corners of the arena. Later in the evening, at the opening ceremony prior to the start of the pairs short program, ISU president Cinquanta was loudly jeered by the audience when he was introduced to officially open the competition. He looked extremely uncomfortable but gamely proceeded with his opening remarks.
Readers who have not seen the letter sent to the ISU president by Katsuichiro Hisanaga, President of the Japan Skating Federation and former ISU vice president for figure skating, can find a copy of it at www.frogsonice.com/skateweb/articles/jsf-protest-letter.shtml It is a remarkable document that clearly lays out the many ISU skating regulations that are being ignored and perverted by ISU management.
In the men's qualifying, Michael Weiss won Group B despite two footing the first three jumps in his program. Group A was won by Evgeni Plushenko, followed closely by Timothy Goebel who placed second. The third US man, Ryan Jahnke placed third in Group B.
In the pairs short program, Tatiana Totmianina & Maxim Marinin placed first, followed by Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao. Of the three US teams, Rena Inoue & John Baldwin Jr. turned in the best performance, placing 11th. Tiffany Scott & Philip Dulebohn placed 13th and Kathryn Orscher & Garrett Lucash placed 14th.
Sunday, 23 March
The competition has yet to begin and already it is drowning in controversy. Over nearly a two week period beginning March 6, the referee of the men's event, Ron Pfenning, and ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta exchanged letters regarding the procedures in Communication 1197 that clearly contradict the established rules in the ISU regulations, and which were not passed as rules at the 2004 congress. This exchange culminated with ISU president removing Pfenning as the event referee. Subsequently Pfenning resigned his position on the ISU figures skating technical committee, blasting the ISU president for his failure to insure the ISU was operated in compliance with its own rules. Copies of the correspondence relating to these matters can be found on the Skatefair and other web sites, and make for interesting reading.
Pfenning is just one of several ISU officials and ISU member federations who have protested the autocratic rule of the ISU president. He is merely the most recent to pay the price for standing up for integrity. He will probably not be the last.
In his resignation letter Pfenning wrote "The integrity of administration of the sport of figure skating has deteriorated over the past several years and continues to do so. Not only do we find corruption and collusion amongst the judges and Member federations, we now observe ISU Officials breaching the Rules and Regulations which past Congresses have adopted and which remain in force." And later, "Currently within the ISU there is little or no opportunity to be heard, even by ISU Office Holders, of which I am one, when one holds positions and opinions contrary to the President or Vice President for Figure Skating."
The Skatefair protest is scheduled for Friday, outside the MCI center, at 5:30 PM EST. Sally Stapleford OBE, the former chairman of the ISU figure skating technical committee who was run out of that position by the ISU president at the 2004 congress, will speak at the rally.
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Copyright 2003 by George S. Rossano