The Goodwill skating events finished up tonight with the free dance and the ladies long program. In the dance final guess who won? Well, at least Joseph & Butler picked up two third place ordinals for their free dance, which is where they belonged for both the OD and the FD.
We had heard that a "bigwig" of some sort might be at the ladies final tonight, but no hint who it was going to be. Way cool when Jimmy Carter ended up awarding Michelle Kwan the gold medal. In less than six months she gets to meet two presidents. (And the way things are going by next year it could be three.)
Michelle is developing quite a cult following, and in a recent survey of sports marketing insiders she was named as the second most marketable woman athlete, ahead of an impressive list of heavy hitters for women's athletics. Also on the list were Tara Lipinski, fourth, and Kristi Yamaguchi, seventeenth.
The pairs finished up rather as expected tonight witht the two Russian pairs ending up one-two. The Polish team of Zagorska and Siedek took the bronze, most by virtue of being the remaining team that was most prepared to compete this week.
In the men, Todd Eldredge went out in a blaze of glory, in one of the finest performances of his career. At its end, the crowd called out for sixes, but none were to be had. Afterwards I only half seriously asked ISU Council member Claire Fergeson why the judges were so stingy and got back an unexpected answer. Instead of a politically correct 'the judges did what they thought appropriate' I was told that the ISU is now actively discouraging the judges from giving sixes. She said that the technical committees have told the judges not to give out sixes and that any judge that gives out a six will receive a letter from their technical committee - we presume either asking for an explanation or of reprimand. It is a sad thought that skaters who might deserve that mark will be denied it because judges are afraid of the consequences if they do what they feel is the right thing only to find that second guessing committee members do not agree. Whether Eldredge actually deserved a six is open to opinion, but it is sad to think that he may have been denied it for purely political reasons.
Tonight the ice dancing continued with the original dance, using last year's rhythm The Jive. Three of the four teams are coached by Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov and they finished one-two-three. Bringing up rear was the U.S. team of Joseph & Butler.
The OD was immediately followed by the start of the ladies event with their short program. Eight ladies made it here out of the original ten planned. The U.S. has Michelle Kwan and Angela Nikodinov, while Russia has entered Maria Butyrskaya, Irina Slutkaya, Elena Sokolova, and, new to senior events, Victoria Volchkova. Rounding out the line up are "old-timer" Laetitia Hubert of France, who is staying eligible and Anna Rechnio of Poland. During today's practice Huber was in some pain due to a chronic foot problem and there was some speculation she might not compete, but she did appear, and skated fairly well. Nicole Bobek was originally scheduled to be here. but she and coach Richard Callaghan agreed she was not ready to compete and she withdrew. Tanja Szewczenko of Germany was also schedule to appear but withdrew due to illness (cold/flu - unrelated to her previous more serious health problems).
Mid-way through the final week of the 1998 Goodwill Games, the figure skating events finally kicked off at the Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, the site of the 1986 U.S. National Championships. Some already thin events where made even thinner by the withdrawing of several skaters in the weeks prior to the event, and the failure of last minute attempts to find substitutes. It is just too early in the season for many skaters to be ready, especially in pairs and dance when partner breakups have to be taken into account. Most sorely missed will be Nicole Bobek (for the curiosity factor) and Anissina & Peizerat (the only invited team who would have given Krylova & Ovsiannikov a challenge).
This evening four dance couples competed in the Silver Samba compulsory dance, seven pair teams competed in their short program, while nine men went head-to-head in the men's short program. Tomorrow it will be the ice dancing original dance and the ladies short program.
Calendar-wise this is the first major event of the new season, but in terms of rules part of the last. The short programs are being run under last season's rules (no quads, no throws), none of the new dance rules are in effect, and the ordinal scoring system will be used. The recently approved short program replay system will also not be used by the judges in this competition.
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