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New stars on the horizon
by Sonia Bianchetti
The 2010 World Figure Skating Championships, held in Torino, Italy,
in the beautiful Palavela, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ISU
World Figure Skating Championships. They also concluded the skating
season as well as the Olympic cycle, which was not the best one for
figure skating, with the appeal and the popularity of the sport going
downhill year after year.
Let's hope that the ISU will turn this sad experience into treasure
and at the next Congress will adopt the necessary changes to make the
sport less demanding for the competitors and the judging less
complicated and more understandable for the fans and the general
In Torino, the arena was packed every day for the free programs
with an enthusiastic crowd, and the atmosphere for the skaters could
not have been better.
Once again, I experienced two opposing feelings: on one side, my
distress in seeing so many talented top world skaters virtually
falling apart both in short and free skating, and on the other, my joy
in seeing some really outstanding programs and especially seeing some
young very promising skaters coming along: Patrick Chan (CAN), Adam
Rippon (USA), Javier Fernandez (ESP), Denis Ten (KAZ), and Michal
Brezina (CZE) are all technically very good and, even more important
in my view, they can skate. They glide and move on the ice with
elegance and charm. In the Ladies, although she blew up in her free
program, Mirai Nagasu (USA), is a wonderful young marvel, a great hope
for the future. She can execute all the jumps at great speed as if she
were flying on the ice. Her spins are among the best I can remember
and her flexibility is unique. She has all she needs to become a great
champion and I do hope she will.
To attend all events was an exhausting endurance challenge. There were 55
Ladies, 48 Men, 25 Pairs and 27 Dance couples. To sit in the arena
fourteen hours in a row is a nightmare even for the most passionate fans!
Lets hope that at the next ISU Congress, to be held in June this year,
some kind of qualifying system will be adopted, and especially that the
horror of having the bottom group of qualifiers skate their free program
during a separate session in the afternoon, at least 45 minutes before the
official starting time in front of a nearly empty arena, will be cancelled
As for the competitions, with the exception of very few outstanding
programs, the skating was simply depressing for the poor quality of
skating and the total lack of choreography and musicality in both the
short and free programs. Very sad!
New records were set for number of falls in competition, even among the
medal winners. In singles and pairs there were more falls than
In the Men's free, only Brezina skated a flawless program.
Nevertheless, in spite of the number of falls, mistakes and poor skating,
a record of seasons best scores was also achieved. This was a real joke.
To me, it was rather a record of the judges' best scores.
How long will it take for the ISU President, Ottavio Cinquanta, to
understand that as long as the results in figure skating are determined by
human beings and not by stopwatches, the scores are doomed to change
depending on the mood of the panels of judges or the instructions they
receive, rather than the ability of the competitors?
In Pairs, none of the top four teams skated a flawless program, but all
four gave a strong performance.
The gold medal went to Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China. Although,
in my opinion, they were not as good as in Vancouver, they skated a
good program and their interpretation of Impossible Dream was
just great. The fluidity, speed and difficulty of their lifts and
twists were just stunning, and their throw jumps were, in my opinion,
by far the best of the evening, with perfect and smooth landings.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, winners of the last two
world titles, placed second. They gave a moving performance to Out of
Africa, their new, original and well-choreographed free program.
Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia dropped to third overall,
winning the bronze medal. They made a brave attempt at a throw quad
Salchow, with Kavaguti taking a hard fall on this first element. She also
fell on a throw triple loop. Their program however was good and featured
original and attractive lifts and spins.
Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov of Russia skated their last
competition together. They announced they will split and will continue
to skate with different partners.
I cannot refrain from expressing once more my frustration, and that of the
many skating fans, watching all the ladies grabbing their skates in the
death spiral! We can only wish and hope that the ISU Figure Skating
Committee will forbid for the next season this feature that has simply
destroyed the beauty, the elegance, the harmony of one of the most
attractive elements in pair skating.
In the Men's event, Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) placed first and won the first
world gold medal in men for Japan.
Skating to La Strada by Nino Rota, he performed an
outstanding program. His only flaw was a landing on two feet on his
opening quadruple flip, which was also downgraded. This was the first
ever attempt to execute a quadruple flip in competition. His steps are
fantastic, skated on deep edges at great speed and changing
directions. The choreography is wonderful and he expresses the music
through each movement of his body, his arms and his face. He played to
the judges and the crowd. Just marvellous!
The silver medal went to Patrick Chan, from Canada.
Patrick, who was also the silver medallist at last year's worlds, didn't
have his strongest performance. He fell down on a triple loop and was
struggling to hold the landing of a triple Salchow. However, his skating
is beautiful, with long and deep edges. His program is well choreographed
and he moves with elegance and style while interpreting with passion his
music. A young and promising skater.
The bronze medal went to Brian Joubert from France. He opened with a quad
toe-loop/double toe-loop combination, followed by a quad toe-loop, but he
couldn't keep up the momentum. He fell on a triple Lutz and had an edge
call in the triple flip. He placed fourth in free skating.
The third best free and the only flawless program of the event was
performed by Michal Brezina, from CZE.
Michal is a young and very promising skater. His jumps are of the highest
technical quality, properly started at full speed and landed without any
visible effort. Very captivating is his presentation, the way he uses his
arms and his body while skating on deep edges. His program is well
constructed and beautifully choreographed to the music. Definitely the
second best for me that evening.
The dance event was the best with four couples performing excellent and
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN) placed first. Skating to the romantic
Adagietto of Gustav Mahler's Symphony #5, they performed an excellent
program even if, in my opinion, not as good as in Vancouver. Their
skating, on deep edges, was so smooth that they seemed to float over the
ice. They had great power and speed, and they executed original and
innovative lifts with the same grace as ballet dancers. They have a great
natural style and class which is also reflected in their costumes.
The silver medal went to Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA). They placed
first in the free dance and they were unbelievable. Skating to the Phantom
of the Opera, they performed an excellent program, skated perfectly to
their music with fluidity and speed, flying across the ice in perfect
unison on deep edges in the fast part and using deep edges to convey
romance and lyricism in the slow portions. They were very strong in the
technical elements, with beautiful and innovative lifts. They skated one
of the most beautiful programs I can remember. They were just magic.
Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali from Italy placed third. They skated a
very emotional free dance to Gli Emigranti by Nino Rota. The bronze medal
was a great achievement for Federica, who is facing serious health
problems and was not sure until the last minute whether she would be able
to compete. Best of wishes to Federica.
Very good and captivating was also the free dance of the French couple,
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bouzard, who placed fourth overall but third
in the free dance.
As an historical note, this may have been the last time that a compulsory
dance was skated in a championship. A new combination dance might replace
the compulsory dances from the next season, depending on the decision of
the ISU Congress.
Contrary to Vancouver, the Ladies' event was the most disappointing and the
judging was embarrassing, to say the least.
The short program was a real mess!
So many Ladies and so little skill in the first half of the Short Program.
The technical standard was extremely low and only a few skaters reached
the fives or more in the components. Most were scored in the threes and
fours, and some even in the twos. Overall the skaters in this group looked
like mediocre Novices or Juniors. They should never have competed in a
But even among the top skaters the results were upside down.
Mirai Nagasu (USA) totally unexpectedly placed first with an unbelievable
flawless short program. She attempted a triple Lutz/triple toe-loop
combination but the Lutz had an edge alert and the toe-loop was
Mao Asada (JPN) placed second. She executed a triple Axel/double toe-loop
combination but the triple Axel was downgraded.
Laura Lepisto (FIN) placed third with Yu-Na Kim (KOR) only seventh and
Miki Ando (JPN), eleventh!
Yu-Na was a great disappointment. After under-rotating the triple flip,
which was downgraded, she lost concentration and fell out of the entry to
her layback spin, which was scored as non-executed. Then, entering her
spiral sequence, she looked like she was lost in the arena and made
another error that put the sequence at level 1. Her components marks were
rather high anyhow.
The free skating was another kind of upside-down.
Mirai Nagasu blew up in her program and placed only eleventh.
Laura Lepisto gave a pleasant performance, but she doubled two triple
loops and a triple Salchow. She placed sixth but, in my opinion, she was
definitely over-marked, especially in the components marks, compared to
Carolina Kostner (ITA), Miki Ando (JPN) and Cynthia Phaneuf (CAN). Had she
been given the correct marks, the final result would have probably been
Yu-Na Kim did not have the skate she needed to win the gold. She fell on
the triple Salchow, and popped a double Axel into a single at the end of
her program. It was otherwise a good performance, but, in fairness, not up
to her standard and not deserving of first place in the free. With this I
do not mean that, on the whole, she skated poorly. Her jumps were of the
highest technical quality, properly started and landed. Her skating on
deep edges at great speed is and was very good, as well as her spins and
step sequences. What was missing, to me, that night was her soul, her
expressiveness. She was not as captivating as usual. She gave me the
impression that she was physically and mentally worn out. Still, her the
components marks for Performance/Execution and Interpretation did not
reflect that at all!
Mao Asada performed a strong, solid and flawless program which led her to
win the gold medal. Skating to the Bells of Moscow by Rachmaninov, she
started off her free program with a beautiful triple Axel followed by a
triple Axel/double toe-loop combination. The second triple Axel was
downgraded, though. Mao was the first woman to execute a triple Axel in
the Olympic Games since her compatriot Midori Ito landed one in the 1992
Olympic Games in Albertville. She skated with good speed and
determination. Her spins and the spiral sequence were beautiful. On the
whole she gave a lovely, elegant and passionate performance. She fully
deserved to be the World Champion.