Links to event reports at lower left
Saturday, 30 April
by Alexandra Stevenson
Davis & White tango to win first world ice dance title ever for U.S. The "new" era in dance was clearly demonstrated with a different couple at the top for the fifth straight year.
That has been a recent development. There were different champions for six straight years, 1999-2004, but prior to that a dethronement was rare in the ice dance championships, which were instigated in 1952. The first did not occur until the Soviets Natalia Linichuk & Gennadi Karponosov upset their teammates in 1978. That was only because Irina Moiseev & Andrei Minenkov had a bad collapse at the end of the West Side Story Free Ottawa. Then Linnichuk & Karponosov were beaten by the Hungarians, Kristina Regoeczy & Andrei Sallay in 1980, whom many thought should also have won the Olympic gold. Isabelle & Paul Duchesnay of France dethroned Russia’s Marina Klimova & Sergei Ponomarenko in 1991 but that had a back story about Marina being wrongly accused of taking an illegal drug. The situation became a far more fluid as the 21st Century clicked in.
The real gold in Moscow goes to Igor Shpilband & Marina Zoueva, who coached all the medalists in this year’s world ice dance championship, plus the third ranked Americans, who finished ninth in their first Worlds, and the two half American couples who represent the country of the male partner. No other coach or coaching team has dominated the world dance podium in this fashion, except in the early years when the formidable Gladys Hogg ruled the Britons from the Queens rink in Bayswater, London.
The world ice dance championship was instigated far later than the other three disciplines in this sport, and an American couple did win the ISU "tryout" event held in 1951 to determine whether ice dance should be included in the world championships. But, until now, a US couple has never stood on the highest step of the podium. The US has claimed silver. Andrée and Donald Jacoby, taught by the first world ice dance champion, Jean Westwood, were first to do that in 1959, behind Courtney Jones & Doreen Denny. Kristin Fortune & Dennis Sveum and Lorna Dyer & John Carrell were the silver medalists in successive years, 1966 & 1967 behind Britons, Diane Towler & Bernie Ford.
Judy Schwomeyer & James Sladky, according to their coach Ron Ludington, were denied the world title because of an accounting error in 1970 when Ludmila Pakhomova & Alexander Gorshkov won their first world their title. The "Set Pattern Dance" had been raised from 10% to 20% that season, although it was still counted as a part of the compulsories. The Americans presented the Yankee Polka, winning that section. The dance was so good, the ISU opted to make it a compulsory dance.
But, according to Ludington, that accounting change was NOT incorporated into that Worlds, which were in Ljubliana. It was the late British judge Mollie Phillips, who swayed the balance against the Americans. There were four communist judges, from the Soviet Union, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Five were from the West including Mollie who voted for the Russians. Many years later, she was asked, ‘Why?’ She told this correspondent, "Because Sladky’s bottom stuck out." Well, of course, posture is a very important part of skating. However, Sladky had a very muscular behind and he liked tight trousers, so this was a body attribute, not a problem with his stance. That a world title depended on such a subjective view was really an appalling part of ice dance in those days. Since then, Colleen O’Connor & Jim Millns were second in 1975, and Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, were second in 2005 & 2009.
Shpilband & Zoueva, who are not a couple off the ice, knew that an American victory was possible, and that the top three on the podium could be their pupils. He said, "In many ways, this was a dream come true." She said, "We are very proud. We’re very happy it happened in Russia. We built a bridge between Russia and North America." Both were born in Russia, and were international competitors representing the Soviet Union. Zoueva skated with Andrei Vitman, placing fifth in Worlds in Japan in 1977, in which Linda Fratianne won the women’s gold, and the British referee of this year’s contest, Janet Thompson Coton, took silver with her partner, Warren Maxwell.
Shpilband fell in the 1982 World Junior Championships in the compulsory Rumba but still won silver with partner Tatiana Gladkova. He stayed on his feet the following year and they walked away with that title. Zoueva, who holds dual Canadian and Russian citizenship, found she liked Canada while competing in two Skate Canadas. She and her partner earned silver in Moncton in 1977, behind Thompson-Coton & Maxwell. Zoueva's son, Fedor Andreev, was born in Russia. He is now seeking to represent Russia with past European champion, Jana Khokhlova. They are training with his mother and placed fourth in this season’s nationals. Zoueva came to Canada after the fall of communism, in 1991, when her son was seven.
Shpilband actually defected on January 24, 1990, before the mind-boggling political upheaval, when the Soviet Union still existed. He had been touring with Tatiana Tarasova and Jayne Torvill & Chris Dean's joint show in the US. "It wasn't in my mind to defect," Shpilband explained much later. "But four others from the show did so and I got caught up with it and the next thing I knew I was in a motel and the FBI were involved and I was afraid to say, 'Hey! I'm just a bystander!’" He married, but is now divorced from one of the other defectors, Veronika Pershina, and they have a daughter, Ekaterina, who is now a singles skater at intermediate level.
Americans helped the defectors to get jobs at the Detroit SC. In 2003, Igor moved to the Arctic Edge Arena when it was built in Canton, taking Davis and White with him. Zoueva, who holds both Canada and Russian passports, and a green card to work in the US, came down from Canada with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Igor became a U.S. citizen as soon as that was possible, 11 years ago. His and Zoueva’s first world success was with US champions Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto (who won silver when Worlds was last held in Moscow, in 2005).
The general manager of the Arctic Edge Arena, Craig O'Neill, was shocked when he arrived at the rink Monday, the day after Worlds concluded with the Exhibitions, to find Zoueva already back at work. "We have teams to get ready for next season," she told him. "We’re already behind hand because of the delay of Worlds."
Friday, 29 April
The Ladies Short Program ended in a virtual tie between Yuna Kim and Miki Ando, with Kim leading by 0.33 points. Just four points back, Ksenia Makarova and Alissa Czisny are in a virtual tie for third place, with Czisny 0.5 points behind Makarova. Mao Asada received a downgrade on her triple axel attempt and also an under-rotation call on Triple flip and sits in seventh place, over seven points behind the leaders.
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir lead in the Ice Dance event, with 74.29 points, while Meryl Davis & Charlie White trail them at 73.76 points. Davis & White bested Virtue and Moir by 0.05 point in Program Components, but trailed the Canadians in element points. Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat hold third while Maia and Alex Shibutani place fourth in their first senior World Championships.
Estimated Attendance: Ladies Short Program 3200 at start, ending with about 5400, Dance Short Dance 5000.
Thursday, 28 April
Finally, a decent controversy to write about! Many are wondering why Florent Amodio did not receive a music deduction in his Free Skate today. Some judges voted for a deduction we are told, bit not the majority needed to take the deduction for the use of vocal music with lyrics. The process for the music deduction now is that the judges and the Referee "vote" for whether a music or costume deduction should be taken. Previously the Referee alone decided if this deduction should be take. There is a button the the touch screens for these two deductions. If the majority of all the judges and the referee push the button for a deduction the deduction is taken by the computer. For a tie vote it is not.
In our opinion, the music was clearly a violation of the rule, and we where also told that Amodio chose the music expecting a deduction to be taken, but did not care. And in the end it would not have mattered. A one point deduction would not have changed his final place.
Some think the deduction is for the use of any "vocal music" but it is specifically for "vocal music with lyrics." That means vocalizing -- the signing of tones without words -- is permitted. A gray area is music with nonsense words. Some judges consider the singing of nonsense words lyrics, but most do not. So "doo bee doo bee doo, etc." are not lyrics and not a deduction. An example of that here is at least two programs to "Singing in the Rain" which includes these nonsense words. Amodio, however, used real words, phases and sentences which say something, and that makes them lyrics which should have received a deduction.
Then in the brain seizure department we had Nobunari Oda who executed triple toe loop - triple toe loop instead of a quad triple, and then followed up with triple Axel - triple toe loop. Three triple toe loops made for no points on his second element. Had he executed a decent triple Axel - double toe loop he would have won the bronze medal. This is not the first time Oda has lost an element because he has apparently not mastered the art of counting to three.
Estimated Attendance: Men's Free Skate 6000, Pairs Free Skate 5200.
Wednesday, 27 April
The championships began in earnest with the Mens' Short Program and Pairs Short Program. In the afternoon session Patrick Chan opened nearly a 12 point lead, with a record breaking score of 93.02 points. A soaring quad toe loop - triple toe loop combination and strong triple Axel pushed his element score above 51 points, and he received two marks of 10.0, for Skating skills and for Performance and Execution. The U.S. men languish in eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth place.
In Pairs the Chinese, German and Russian teams scored within 3.65 points of each other in a tightly contested event. Qing Pang & Jain Tong also led in Program Components in an expressive performance to Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers." Savchenko & Szolkowy were 0.05 points back in components in a lively clean performance to "Korobushko."
The opening ceremony, between the two competition segments, paid tribute to Japan for the recent multiple disasters in Japan that caused transferring the championships from Tokyo to Moscow. ISU president Cinquanta also recognized the fiftieth anniversary of the plane crash that killed the 1961 U.S. world team and cause the cancellation of the World Championships. The competition was opened by officially opened by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who we found, loved to give speeches as mush as president Cinquanta. Many notables of Russian sports were in the VIP section for the opening ceremony. Prime Minster Putin stayed for the first two of six warm-up groups of the Pairs Short Program.
Since the Russian day does not start before 10 AM, site seeing and getting to the arena for a 1 PM session does not mix. But we did manage to squeeze in the creepiest attraction in Moscow, a trip to Lenin's mausoleum. The state of preservation is amazing! Of more interest to the geek in me was the resting place of Yuri Gagarin, first man in space fifty years ago this year.
Twenty four men and sixteen pairs move on the the Free Skates that take place tomorrow.
Estimated Attendance: About 2000 at the start of the Men's Short Program, increasing to about 3600 by the end. 5600 for the Pairs Short Program.
Tuesday, 26 April
For the dance qualifying round, 17 dance couples performed their Free Dance programs to qualify for the Short Dance segment. Fifteen couples directly qualified for the Short Dance, where 25 competitors are permitted, so the top ten couples today advanced. Canadians Kaitlin Weaver & Andrew Poje won the qualifying round with respectable component scores in the low sevens, and a total segment score of 87.22
In the Ladies event, 26 skaters competed in the qualifying round. Like the men, 18 skaters directly qualified to the Short program and the top 12 skaters in the qualifying rounds advanced today to fill out the 30 permitted Short Program entries. Mae Berenice Meite, from France, won the qualifying round with a total segment score of 98.88, with component marks averaging in the mid fives.
These two qualifying rounds complete the qualifying and the real competition begins tomorrow with the Men's and Pairs Short Programs. The first two days of the championships have unfolded smoothly and the Russian Federation has done a great job pulling things together in just a few weeks. Peter Krick, head of the ISU Sports Directorate, also deserves a great deal of credit for making things come together from the ISU side.
Returning to the hotel was an adventure this evening. Next Monday is the May Day parade and the first practice was this evening. Military equipment for the parade is staged at the old airport on which the arena is located. The main road back to the city center was closed for four miles and the bus was supposed to drop us at the nearest subway stop instead of at he hotel. But apparently the driver thought we were all to stupid to make it back on the subway and and on the way to the metro decided to take us drive us to the hotel on side streets instead, then got lost, and eventually had to park the bus several blocks away and guide us on foot the end of the way. So after an hour of exploring the back highways and byways of Moscow we made it home. Traffic in the city was grid-locked for hours.
For the historically minded - the local area was originally called Kodynka field. It was the site of a mass panic during the festivities following the coronation as tsar Nicholas II in 1896. 1000-1500 people were trampled to death in a panic over the distribution of coronation gifts at the filed. The area later became an airport and was the site of the first airplane flight in Russia. The airport was replace during world war II and was finally closed in 1989. The area has been redeveloped in part, and there have been on and off plans to build a modern air and space museum in the area.
Estimated Attendance: About 750 at the start of the day, increasing to about 1500 by the end of the day.
Monday, 25 April
The revamped competition format has made for a somewhat more leisurely competition. Qualifying rounds have returned, with some of the entrants advancing directly to the competition, and others having to qualify to advance to the Short Program. In the Men's event today 24 competitors were competing for 12 places to advance to the Short Program. Eighteen skaters directly advanced to the Short Program based on their ISU rankings. For the others, their Free Skate results today determined if they got to stay for the competition or if their season was over.
The Men's qualifying round were poorly attended, and one wonders if there will be an audience of any significance this week. While planning our trip here we looked at the availability of tickets, and with a week to go the official web site still did not have tickets available for sale. They were still only taking contact information from people interested in purchasing tickets. After we arrived we had an e-mail in our in-box asking if we were still interested in purchasing tickets. Kind of late for that question, ya think?
Estimated attendance: 1000
Sunday, 24 April
On this first day of practice, many of the competitors passed on skating their practice session. Even skaters who were scheduled to compete the next day. Many members of the U.S. team left the U.S. on Saturday and arrived in Moscow today in the late mooring. Ryan Bradley did not practice, while Ross Minor and Richard Dornbush did. Ricky's coach Tammy Gambill is a saint. She had an upgrade to business class, but swapped it with Ricky so he could sleep while she flew in steerage. It showed in his practice.
The skaters are staying in a hotel a 5-10 minute walk from the arena. From the outside it looks like a pale stone prison, but we are told it is otherwise a decent hotel. Officials are about a mile away, and everybody else in various hotels closer to the city center.
This is one expensive city. The arena is about five miles from the city center about a 20 minute walk from the nearest metro station. Taxis are extremely expensive and the official bus schedule is not particularly useful. There are three busses a day. One before 7 AM, one an hour before the first event, and one in the evening. Not helpful for anyone who has things to do in the arena before the events start. Internet connectivity at the Marriott is nearly $200 for seven days, and the hotel charge is $60 for a four mile drive to the arena. Dinner at the hotel or a mid-quality restaurant is $60-70 per person.
The arena is new and clean; not nearly as upscale as modern large arenas in North Amerce, but still nice. The seating area is a riot of color, with bright multi-colored, marginally comfortable plastic seats. Food and drink are not allowed in the seating area, so the arena is pretty clean. Internet access from the press room is free (nice) but connectivity is intermittent at best. Sometime is takes nearly an hour, and several attempts to upload to the site, with the constant dropouts in service. So maintaining the site from here is a struggle.