Despite two errors, one major, one minor, Michelle Kwan managed an easy victory in the long program to take the gold medal in the ladies event. She landed five triples, two in combination with double toe loops. Mid-way through the program she fell on triple loop and later doubled a planned triple Salchow. This is the last appearance of "Lyra Angelica" in competition for which shed earned marks of 5.7-5.8 in the first mark and 5.9's in the second mark. After the exhibition. tomorrow, Michelle begins a one month break with her family before continuing with the new season by preparing two new routines which have to be ready by the end of October for the start of the Grand Prix (formerly the Champions Series).
Maria Butyrskaya placed second in a somewhat controversial decision. She had errors on four jumps, falling on triple flip and double Axel, and putting hands down on triple toe loop and triple Salchow. She also, however, landed four other triples - Lutz, Salchow, toe loop, an loop. Her moody, somber presentation of like music was generally on, so her placement was not without some merit.
On the other hand, you also had Angela Nikodinov who landed four triple plus triple Axel, doubled a triple Lutz, and may have put a hand down on triple Salchow; but also stood up. Her expression, however, was inconsistent, and the glue of the program was generally weak, so you get to trade off Angela's stronger first mark against Maria's stronger second mark. In the end the second mark tipped it in Butyrskaya's favor so far as the panel was concerned.
Although only fourth in the long, Victoria Volchkova won the bronze medal thanks to her third place finish in the short compared to Nikodinov's sixth. Like Nikodinov, Volchkova was strong in the first mark and weak in the second. She managed four triples, one an improvised Salchow near the end, but stepped out of three others. Her spins were all very simple and the connecting glue of the program was no better than junior level.
Irina Slutskaya held fifth in a mediocre skate. She landed only two triples and watered down an already not particularly difficult program into next to nothing. She left out or down-graded four jumps and fell on another. She did not attack the program and clearly was under-trained for this contest.
Skating last, and with the weak performances turned in by some of the other ladies, Laetitia Huber had her chance to hold fourth place or even move up, but she also ran into trouble in the long program. She landed only two triples and two double Axels. Three other planned triples had errors. For the most part, she got into the exotic rhythms of her music, but had troubles sustaining it through the whole routine and her marks suffered on both the technical and artistic sides.
Elena Sokolova moved up one spot over the short with a new long program that was presented slowly and carefully. She landed three triples and one double Axel, but doubled, stepped out of, or left out five other triples. It is a pretty piece of music with some promising choreography that could serve her well this season, once she gets it down, but it isn't close to ready right now. The same comment is true of Anna Rechnio's program. Her program was also massively altered and improvised, with only two triples being landed. She also skated slowly and carefully without attacking. In many ways it looked more like a practice run through than a competitive effort. Yet another work in progress to be revisited later in the season.
In what is likely to be the last competitive appearance of her Rachmaninov short program, Michelle Kwan skated with joy and passion, and earned the first 6.0 of the season. She skated clean, and except perhaps for the need for a little more flow out of the combination jump, she was picture perfect. Unlike many competitors among both the men and women, her triple jump out of footwork (triple toe loop) really is out of footwork and her spins were right on. Her marks were 5.8 and 5.9 in the first mark and 5.9 and 6.0 in the second mark, the 6.0 coming from the British judge. Michelle and third place finisher Victoria Volchkova were the only two ladies to skate clean short programs tonight.
Maria Butyrskaya got off to a rough start but then settled into her program and finished strongly. She began by putting one hand down on the triple Lutz of her Triple Lutz - double loop combination. That was followed by a triple loop with a big reach for the ice and a turn out of the landing. After that the spins and remaining jump, the double Axel, were solid and her presentation warmed up for a nice finish.
Newcomer Victoria Volchkova skated a clean program with triple Lutz - double loop and triple flip. Although clean, she was slow and careful with a decent line, but not a great deal of feeling. Her technical marks were better than Butyrskaya's, but the weakness of the presentation held her back in the second mark, consigning her to third place in the short.
There was some speculation that Laetitia Hubert might have to pull out due a flairup of chronic foot pain during practice today, but after a tentative warmup she skated her short program well up until the last element at the very end of the program. She opened with triple flip - double toe loop, and later in the program landed triple toe loop. She sustained the emotional feel of the music ( a piano solo piece by Michael Nyman) throughout the program and then at the climatic moment at the end when she does a double Axel directly into the closing pose she "waxeled" badly. At center ice she acknowledges a warm audience response with a rather sheepish look on her face.
Irina Slutskaya, looking just a tad heavier than at the end of last season, is going for a new look this season. With short brown hair and a gold velvet dress I did not even recognize her at first glance. Her program was a change of style also. She gave a very expressive performance to the music "Autumn Leaves" and earned second marks of 5.4 through 5.7. Unfortunately she had problems with both the jump combination and the solo triple jump which cost her dearly. All we got to see of the opening jump combination was a double loop, and she then subsequently fell on the solo jump, a triple toe loop. The double Axel was solid, with her signature arm over head position and her spins were solid also, including her other signature move, the combination spin with forward and reverse Biellmann positions.
The second U.S. skater, Angela Nikodinov, had an undistinguished skate. She landed triple Lutz - double toe loop and the double Axel, but fell on triple flip near the end of the program. More seriously her program was too slow, too simple, with undistinguished choreography. After several years together, surely her coach, Peter Oppegard, can do better with her than this.
Anna Rechnio had only one error in her performance, two footing triple Lutz and then completing the combination with double toe loop. Technically the remainder of the program, which included triple loop, was well done, but overall the performance was flat with little expression or enthusiasm. It is basically a nice program, but without attacking it she is in deep trouble. It received some of the lowest second marks of the night (5.1-5.5).
Finishing off the group was Elena Sokolova. Looking a little bit slimmer than at 1998 Worlds, she gave a decent presentation to "Blues" by Harry James, but had two serious errors on her jumps. She opened with triple Lutz - double toe loop, two footing the triple Lutz and then stepping out of it. On the subsequent triple loop she also landed on two feet, but this was more artfully concealed and several of the judges apparently missed the deduction from the look of the marks when they came up on the scoreboard.
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