The Electronic Magazine of Competitive Ice Skating
Dance SD: 6,400
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Sweepers are just too cute!
It's All about Me
Three World Titles go to Europe in Shanghai
It was somewhat surprising, but three of the four 2015 World titles went to Europe. A lot has been said about the shift in attention to Asia, but actually the Asians were not the top favorites in Ladies, Pairs and Dance – only in the Men, but in the end a Spaniard triumphed. China hosted a World Figure Skating Championship for the first time and had chosen an excellent facility with the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai. There were a few glitches in the organization and hassles such as complicated visa applications, unreliable internet connections, a little exaggerated security measures and some single-handed actions of the local organizing committee, but this didn’t affect the overall positive impression of the event plus the level was very high at least at the top in all four categories. It was a big plus that the Oriental Sports Center was full every day, even for the morning sessions, and overall 125,000 spectators attended the events.
Protocol Supplement (Only on ISIO. Music selections, time lists, planned program content, exhibition schedule and music)
Ladies Short Program Press Conference Audio (17:03, in English and Russian with English translation)
Men's Short Program Press Conference Audio (24:22, in English and Japanese with English translation)
Pairs Short Program Press Conference Audio (15:16, in English and Chinese with English translation)
Dance Short Dance Press Conference Audio (9:50, in English, opening comments by second and third place team missing)
Ladies Free Skate Press Conference Audio (18:50, in English, Russian and Japanese with English translation)
Men's Free Skate Press Conference Audio (37:58, in English and Japanese with English translation)
Pairs Free Skate Press Conference Audio (35:28, in English and Chinese with English translation)
Dance Free Dance Press Conference Audio (11:48, in English)
(Audio edited to remove dead time, translations to Chinese, moderator comments)
World Medalists Together at Closing Exhibition
(Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA), Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS), Javier Fernandez (ESP), Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN)
Fans Crowd Small Medal Ceremony for Ladies and Men's Free Skate
Yuzuru Hanyu's star power was shown off at the small medal ceremony on Sunday, where over 500 fans crowded the arena concourse for the ceremony. Some fans waited outside six hours to be first into the building to get a front row place, and waited another hour inside to see their idol get his medal for the free skate. This was a repeat of last year, where hundreds of fans waited up to four hours in the cold and rain to see the small medal ceremony held outdoors at those championships.
U.S. Ladies and Men Fail to Medal, Move up Enough in Free Skate to Hold Three Entries for Next Worlds
Of the six U.S. singles entries this year, only Jason Brown managed two clean programs in their events. Brown finished fourth in the Men's event, the best one could have expected for a skater without a quad. Adam Rippon recovered from his mediocre short where he was downgraded on quad Lutz and under-rotated on triple Lutz., to move into eighth place. In total the men scored one place better than needed to qualify for three entries next year. Josh Farris had two mediocre skates to finish eleventh.
Gracie Gold had the second best free skate and moved up to fourth place, just one mistake in the short and 2.51 points off the podium. Ashley Wagner also made a big move in the long, where she placed third best, for a fifth place finish, 6.46 points off the podium. Polina Edmunds finished seventh in both the short and the long for an eighth place finish. The U.S. ladies brought home no medals, but secured three entries in the ladies event for next year.
The message to the U. S. singles skaters here seemed pretty clear. For the men, without a quad, two otherwise strong programs can buy you a fourth place finish at best, unless quite a few men fall down ahead of you, which doesn't happen often, and didn't happen here. For the ladies, a clean triple-triple is required, particularly in the short, in order to fit three triples into the program. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, also set the bar a little higher, by showing a solid triple Axel in the short, and vowing to deliver one in the long also next season. Currently Tuktamysheva is the only lady out there with the elements to fit four triples into the short.
In addition, the consistency of the competition currently facing U.S. skaters is such that two clean programs are a necessity to reach the podium. The U.S. ladies this week showed the tools but not the consistency to reach the podium, while for the men's lack of command of the quads is the main obstacle keeping the U.S. off the podium.
Oh The Pooh-manity!
Winnie the Pooh Explosion Follows Hanyu Free Skate
Sweepers were put to the test for Hanyu as several hundred gifts rained down on the ice.
The sweepers here are all just too cute. They looked mostly age 7-12, and when skaters from China or their other favorites skated, they shrieked like sweepers do everywhere with a volume and pitch to set dogs barking a mile away. Quite a few spoke enough English well enough to tell about their own skating, where they came from, who their favorite skaters where. Most were what we would call Lutz-level and Axel-level skaters.
For skaters like Hanyu, there were too many tossies to carry back to the gates quickly, so about 20 sweepers went roaring around the ice scooping up gifts, frantically throwing them over the boards wherever they happened to be for others to pick up and bag. The tossie of choice for Hanyu fans is Winnie-the-Pooh. Most of these, he said after the event, would be donated to charities in Shanghai.
Weaver & Poje Upset in Dance Victory by Papadakis & Cizeron
Canadians Kaitlin Weaver & Andrew Poje could not hide their disappointment with a third place finish in the dance event. The Canadians had won at Grand Prix Final and Four Continents, and placed second in the opening segment of the event at Worlds. They seemed well positioned to win the dance title, but were bypassed by the young French couple Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron, who won at the European Championships last month, but placed fourth in the Short Dance here. Also in the mix in the pre-Worlds handicapping were Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates, who placed second at Four Continents.
The French couple has been together for eleven years, and this is their second season in the senior ranks. They trailed by 2.53 points after the short, but fought back in the free dance, which they won by nearly six points. Their program to music from Mozart's Concerto No. 23 was exquisitely performed with strong emotion, and received four marks of 10.0.
Chock and Bates, followed close behind in the free dance, but had three level-3 elements, and trailed by 1.72 points in components. Their routine to "An American in Paris" was well skated, and offered a striking contrast to the style adopted by the French couple.
Weaver & Poje offered yet a third artistic choice, skating this season to music from the Four Season. Their performance was scored with two level-3 elements, and also trailed the French couple by 1.84 points. They also received a one point deduction for an extended lift.
The top three couples offered very different artistic approaches; romantic from the French, modern from the Americans and classical from the Canadians. The judges, as they often seem to do, went with the program showing the greatest emotion and passion.
With a fifth place finish, Maia and Alex Shibutani ended up about as well as could be expected given the depth of this competition and the limitations of their free program. The American sibling's skated their waltz program superbly, but four minutes of waltzing is not a program concept the judges are ever going to put on the World podium. It is a concept they will not embrace, and one could say in choosing this program the coaches for this couple choreographed them for failure from day one.
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, moved up one place from the short to finish tenth.
2015 Ottavio Show Hints at Plans for Future Olympic Events
No World Championships would be complete without the annual "Ottavio Show" (president's press conference) at which he shares whatever is on his mind and then takes questions. The physical decline in president Cinquanta is startling. As the press conference opened he was staring vacantly into space, like the lights were on but no one was home. There have been rumors the past few years (since Junior Worlds in Milan) that he is ill, but his comments were coherent, at least to the extent his fractured English allows.
Regarding the future of the new team event that was unveiled at Sochi, Cinquanta said that the team event would now become a permanent part of the skating events at the Olympic Winter Games. In addition, he also commented in general on bringing synchronized skating into the Olympics. He did not provide details, but said that proposals to increase the profile of synchro within the ISU would be unveiled in a few months. He also voiced support for adding synchro to the Olympic schedule. A general proposal to do that, he commented, has been sent to the International Olympic Committee, and this proposal will be considered at an IOC meeting in June in Kuala Lampur.
Asked about how receptive he thought the IOC would be to this in light of the added expense it would entail, he made two interesting, though vague comments. First, he said the proposal presented to the IOC did not address the cost issue, but that if the IOC ended up having such concerns the ISU would then address them at that time. Second, he said that the proposal to add synchro to the Olympic program would not require the addition of another rink to the games. This latter comment was surprising, since all the other ice venues are currently booked full time during the games. How this could be accomplished he did not describe. The figure skating venue is also used by short track and has no days free in the current schedule. Adding the team event in Sochi required starting the team event a few days before the opening ceremony. He was quite clear that adding synchro would not entail the removal of the team event, but would instead be an additional event.
In light of president Cinquanta's musings last year on eliminating the short programs from competition, conspiracy theorist immediately started speculating that the time for syncho might be created by taking the short programs out of the schedule. If not that, the only other way to fit synchro into the schedule at the figure skating venue would be to eliminate some short track events in the arena. The long track arena is not an option, nor is the curling rink due to their sizes, and the hockey rinks are also currently booked full time during the games. The Sochi games used six rinks: Ladies Hockey, Men's Hockey, Curling, Long Track, Figure Skating and Short Track, and Figure Skating practice.
(Audio edited to remove dead time, translations to Chinese, moderator comments)
Duhamal & Radford Win Their First Worlds Pair Title
Canadians Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford capped off a winning season by winning their first World pair title. The team placed first in all their competitive events this season. A flawed landing on throw quad Salchow, and falling out of a position in a side-by-side spin marred the first third of the program, but they put that behind them for the remainder of the program to finish with strong elements otherwise, and components averaging near nine.
Sentimental favorites, Qing Pang & Jian Tong dropped from second in the short to third in the long and third overall, with a well crafted, well executed performance. Other than Pang singling a double Axel, they skated a clean program, and earned the highest component marks for the long. The couple came back for one more season in order to compete at the first World Championships to beheld in China.
Wenjing Sui & Cong Han moved up from third in the short to second in the long and second overall. They skate an athletically strong clean program, and earned the highest Total Element Score of the long. Their performing skills, however, continue to lag, with their component scores fourth best.
U.S. teams Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim and Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier placed seventh and twelfth overall in both the long, and the final standings. Scimeca & Knierim had errors on three elements and Denney & Frazier two. Neither team impressed the judges on the component side, with marks for both teams in the low sevens.
U.S. Ladies Falter in Short Program, Podium Seems Out of Range, Three World Team Berths in Jeopardy. Tuktamysheva Dominates the Short Program, Lands Triple Axel.
U.S. Ladies chances for the podium seem out of reach after the short program where the ladies finished seventh, eighth and eleventh.
Polina Edmunds had the cleanest skate of the three U.S. ladies, but with components not quite reaching seven, she is in over her head against the dominating Russian and Japanese ladies. Edmunds had only an edge attention on a triple flip. Gracie Gold missed both her jump combination and solo triple jump. Her components were third best, but her Total Element Score was more than 14 points behind the leader Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who landed a strong triple Axel. In the process Tuktamysheva scored the third highest Short Program score at a World Championships. Gold looked tense warming up the jump combinations, so error in the program, was not totally unexpected.
Ashley Wagner skated last among the 36 ladies entered. She looked secure in the warm-up, but under-rotated and fell on her jump combination, and under-rotated triple flip. Her double Axel was also poorly executed. She scored fourth in components, but with all three jump elements trashed she ended in 11th place.
Elena Radionova skated a strong clean program. Her main problem today was that she did not have a triple Axel.
Going into the free skate Satoko Miyahara placed third. Her teammates Kanako Murakami and Rika Hongo placed fourth and fifth. Looks like it will be a Russian and Japanese podium on Saturday.
U.S. ladies need to move up at least two spots in the free skate to hold onto three world team entries for Boston next year.
Opening Ceremony Spectacular Initiates First World Figure Skating Championships in China
The 2015 World Figure Skating Championships opened Wednesday with a spectacular show modeled on the format of ceremonies seen at the Olympic Winter Games. Approved and funded by the Beijing government, the show took three to four months to produce at a cost of about 3 million dollars. The show included multiple acts, dozens performers, aerial electronic props and performers, theatrical lighting, singers (including Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao) and guest appearances by Lu Chen, Evgeni Plushenko, Meryl Davis & Charlie White, and Shen & Zhao.
The show, as well as other aspects of the Championships, where funded by the government apparently to send a message showcasing China's status as a modern nation capable of putting on world class events.
Unlike other World Championships, which typically include volunteers from other countries, this is an all-China competition. All volunteers where required to be Chinese, we assume to show that China can run major events without help from any other nationality.
For the most part the LOC are putting on a fine competition; however, the lack of experience of some of the volunteers has shown through in some cases to negative effect. For example, in bypassing the experienced translators with knowledge of skating who often work at ISU events, the domestically provided translators have produced some confusing and nonsensical press conferences, with the non-English speaking skaters all ending up sounding like low level government bureaucrats speaking double talk.
Less comical was the press conference for the Pairs final Thursday night, which was the most inconsiderately nationalistic media event witnessed in my 29 year memory of covering Worlds. What was scheduled to be a half hour session that should have focused on the competition and the champions, Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford, degenerated into an hour long love-fest for the Chinese skaters by the Chinese media, who were nearly exclusively selected by the moderator to ask all but three questions, virtually ignoring the champions in the process. The Spanish media feeding frenzy after Javier Fernandez medalled at the Grand Prix Final was extraordinarily better handled in Barcelona than what happened here. In that case, local media interest in the home country medalist was not allowed to upstage the the champions Hnayu.
U.S. Men Ready to Take on the World’s Best
Brown, Rippon and Ferris Talk Strategy for Shanghai
by Liz Leamy
It would be fair to say that this year’s American men’s world contingent, comprised of Jason Brown, Adam Rippon and Josh Ferris, is quite varied in terms of their personality and demeanor. At the same time, each of these athletes all seem to possess the same supersonic level of drive in regard to their skating, which in turn makes them a formidable bunch.
In a pre-Worlds conference call last week, Jason Brown, the newly crowned U.S. champion, said he is looking forward to representing the country well in Shanghai and dismissed any notion that not having a quad would prevent him from racking up high scores. “I definitely do think I have what it takes to compete against the [top] guys,” said Brown, 19. “Every year my scores continue to grow.”
No doubt, Brown’s record speaks for itself. In 2013, the Highland Park, Illinois native, who has been training in Monument, Colorado with his longtime coach, Kori Ade for the nearly two years, scored second at Junior World without a triple Axel. The next season, he went on to score silver at the 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston as well as a coveted Olympic team berth, without a quad.
At that event, Brown outskated more than two dozen of the country’s top male contenders, a handful of who attempted a quad, with his ‘Riverdance’ number, a performance that to date, has received more than five million hits on YouTube, making it one of the most-watched programs ever on the internet.
This coming week, Brown, who is as tough as he is tender, is hoping to make yet another major impact with his skating on the world stage with his strong planned program content. “I’m so humbled to go into the World Championships as the U.S. champion and can’t wait to get out there,” he said. “My goal is to skate two great programs to have three spots for the 2016 Worlds in Boston.”
Adam Rippon, the 25 year-old 2015 U.S. silver medalist, also seems to be primed to do the U.S. proud this week. Last January, Rippon, a two-time junior world champion and the 2012 U.S. silver medalist, brought down the house at the U.S Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, with a memorable free skate that included a quad Lutz. “I went there to do exactly what I wanted to do,” said Rippon. “I wanted to show that my time is now.”
Regarded to be one of the sport’s rising stars as a junior, Rippon faced some challenges as a senior, including the difficulty of learning and mastering the triple Axel, overcoming several injuries, and working through some coaching changes. “I had immediate success in the junior rank and when that didn’t happen in the senior rank [it was hard],” he said.
These days, Rippon certainly seems to have hit his stride due to where he is right now in terms of his training situation and general mindset. Without question, he seems to click with Rafael Artunian, the coach with whom he has been training with in Artesia, California for the past several years. At the same time, he seems to get a huge confidence boost from his best friend, Ashley Wagner, the 2014 U.S. titlist who also trains with Artunian.
In considering these different variables, Rippon seems to be ripe to rock out some high marks this week in Shanghai. “I know it’s within me to do it,” he said. “I’m just getting ready to be amazing.”
Josh Ferris, the 2015 U.S. bronze medalist, is another contender to keep an eye on. This skater, who trains in Colorado Springs with Damon Allen and Christy Krall, gave one of the most interesting pre-Worlds conference call interviews last week, answering reporters with gut-wrenchingly honest and insightful answers about where he is with his skating. “[This year] I had to grow up a little bit,” said Ferris, the 2013 World junior champion. “There was something immature about how I trained and I had to get a new respect for [what I was doing].”
Last November, Ferris, 20, had a major wake up call after finishing a disappointing 11th place at the NHK Trophy in Japan. “The moment I stepped of the ice at NHK, I made up my mind to be different,” he said. “I started running two programs a day [when I got home], not just one.”
Ferris, who was second at Four Continents in February, seems to have turned a major corner due to the lessons he learned from that event and appears to be as primed as ever to take full advantage of his opportunity to make a good impression on the international stage in Shanghai. “I believe if I skate the best I possibly can, the way I know I can, I can contend with the best [there],” he said.
Ferris added that in time, he believes that the quality of his skating will only continue to get better. “Give me a year or so and I’ll be as strong as they (the top men) are,” he said. “I think eventually [I’ll get there].”
Ferris also talked about the friendly rivalry he has with Brown, who he has known for years. “Jason and I became friends last year during the tour,” he said. “I was a lot more introverted when I was younger and wasn’t [really] friends [with him].”
Now, Ferris views their friendship as a means to help further strengthen their own standard as skaters as well as that of the whole U.S. team. “I’m very excited and honored I can be part of the team,” said Farris. “I think the marks, regardless [of what they are], will influence me in a positive way.”
U.S. Ladies Ready to Take on the World
by Liz Leamy
This past year, there has much hullaballoo over the ‘ridiculously high’ skating standard of the Russian ladies, but rather, it might be worth turning this attention toward the U.S. ladies, who are a formidable group that has been only gaining strength and momentum with each season.
Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds, the top U.S. women, have also ‘spoken,’ and have made it crystal clear they want to make their mark at the World Championships this week.
“I think all of the U.S. ladies have proven themselves to be competitive and I think the possibilities to medal going into Worlds are really good,” said Wagner, the 2015 U.S. champion and 2014-2015 Grand Prix final bronze medalist.
This year, Wagner, the 2012 and 2013 U.S. champion, seems to be on a roll and has proven that she certainlu has the stuff to be one of the sport’s best. In December, she clinched bronze at the Grand Prix Finals and in January, went on to reclaim the U.S. title in Greensboro after having given it up to Gracie Gold in Boston in 2014.
At the 2014 U.S. Championships, Wagner, 23, had placed a disappointing fourth and then found herself in the middle of a media frenzy when she was named to the U.S. Olympic team over Mirai Nagasu, the bronze medalist. Following that announcement, Wagner in turn, faced a flurry of social media and press negativity, yet showed her steely resolve and placed a respectable seventh at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
“I love to prove people wrong, it’s one of my favorite past times,” she said. “I have to prove, now more than ever, that I’m going to be around for awhile.”
Wagner said she plans to keep competing as long as she can continue to keep mentally and physically pushing through her skating, which is no easy feat at the elite level. “I know if I put in the hard work, I’ll feel the way I did at [the 2015] Nationals,” said Wagner, who trains with Rafael Artunian in Artesia, California.
Going into Shanghai, Wagner plans to throw everything down to earn podium-worthy scores. “For me to get on the podium, I’m not going to have to leave anything on the table,” she said. “I have to get all the levels on my spins, do the triple-triple combination and make sure the outside edge on the Lutz is there.”
Gracie Gold, the 2013 and 2015 U.S. silver medalist, is also looking to rack up some high scores in Shanghai this week. This talented 19 year-old, who trains at the Toyota Sports Center in Los Angeles with Frank Carroll, seems as determined as ever to finish up the season on a high note after having had faced some challenges, including an ankle injury that kept her out of the Grand Prix Finals and several equipment issues.
“[This year] I switched blades, boot sizes and [had the situation] with my ankle,” said Gold, who was fourth at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. “I’ve been all over the place this year and I need to finish the season [well].”
Since the U.S. Championships, Gold has been training intensively and seems to be happy with where she is at right now going into Worlds. “I’ve been training really hard and skating really well,” said Gold.
Polina Edmunds, the 2015 U.S. bronze medalist, rounds out this formidable group and is another U.S. ladies contender who could very well have a podium-worthy showing this week. The high-energy 16 year-old, who trains with David Glynn and her mom, Nina, in San Jose, California, and is known to step up to the plate under pressure, should be good to go, especially considering that she walked away with gold at the Four Continents Championships in Seoul last February.
Edmunds, who is trained to run through her triples four-to-five repetitions at a time, is said to have been training clean programs these past few weeks, which should serve her well in Shanghai.
No doubt, these three gals are all top picks. Now all we have to do is sit back, watch and witness the U.S. gang do their thing.
U.S. Dance Teams Fired up for Shanghai
by Liz Leamy
Tonight, the top U.S. dance teams, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, Alex and Maia Shibutani and Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, will kick off the World Championships in an event that should be chock full of good drama, skating and storylines.
This year’s dance-off is also a competition that could truly be anyone’s game in light of the absence of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the 2014 Olympic champions and also Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2014 Canadian Olympic silver medalists, both teams of who have stepped away from the competitive ring.
No doubt, each of this year’s U.S. dance teams seem hungry to step in and establish themselves as premier contenders at this event, especially Chock and Bates, the newly crowned U.S. champions who clinched silver at the 2014/2015 Grand Prix Finals in December. “We’re feeling great and strong going into Worlds,” said Chock, 22. “This is the year.”
Chock and Bates, 26, two-time U.S. silver medalists who were eighth at the 2014 Olympics and train with Igor Shpilband in Novi, Michigan, seem primed to make their mark as a premier team in this discipline. The two, who have only been skating together for three and a half years, seem to click like nobody’s business and have risen quickly to the top due to the superior quality of their programs, which are consistently as interesting as they are difficult. “We’re both lucky to have found each other,” said Bates. “With every competition we have more self belief.”
Maia and Alex Shibutani, the 2015 U.S. silver and 2011 World bronze medalists, are also looking to score major marks in Shanghai.
This brother-sister duo, who train in Canton, Michigan with Marina Zoueva and have been skating together for more than 10 years, are going into this event with one of the most impressive competitive resumes of any international dance team. Last December, they were fourth at the Grand Prix Final and are three-time U.S. silver and two-time U.S. bronze medalists. “Heading into Shanghai, we’re feeling confident,” said Alex, 23. “We’re aiming to do the best we can.”
These days, the Shibutanis are also focusing on the quality of their skating rather than just their scores. “We’re not in control of our scores,” said Alex. “We’re just looking to [every] next step in our journey.”
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the 2015 U.S. bronze medalists, are also looking to have a good outing. The two, who train with Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, were fourth at the 2013 and 2014 U.S. Championships and seem primed to keep moving forward and upward.
“We feel the sky’s the limit,” said Hubbell, 24. “We’re having to prove how strong we can be competing at our highest level and showing everybody what we [already] know ourselves.”
Collectively, this is one group to take notice of in Shanghai this week, as U.S. ice dancing has become such a dominant force in the sport over the past decade. “It’s quite a presence and it feels powerful to be part of Team USA,” said Hubbell.
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