The Championships finished with the men's event. Three quad toe loops were landed in the competition, a solo effort by Zhengxin Guo and quad-triples by Anthony Liu and Chengjiang Li..
Tonight Min Zhang of China became the first skater to land a clean quadruple jump in the short program of an ISU Championships or major senior international competition.
Angela Nikodinov, who won the ladies bronze medal here without the benefit of a coach, has finally decided to leave Peter Oppegard and the International Training Center in Lake Arrowhead, California. Nikodinov and Oppegard have been on the outs off and on for several months and he worked with her only briefly at U.S. Nationals two weeks ago. He did not accompany her to Halifax for this competition. When she returns to the U.S. after this competition she will be moving to Oakland to work with coach Kristy Ness.
Today the media were given a demonstration of the new ISU replay system. The system is used during the judging of the singles and pairs short programs and the compulsory dances. This is the second ISU Championships to officially use the replay system, the first being this year's European Championships. The system uses digital video technology to capture the eight required elements of the short programs which the judges can access after each performance before deciding on their marks. For the compulsory dances each dance is divided into three or four segments (depending on the dance) which are captured for each repetition of the dance. Thus far, the judges on the average have typically been using the system twice per judge per event. According to ISU referee Ron Pfenning use of the system has not slowed down the judging process, has reduced the pressure under which the judges work, and improved the consistency with which the panels take deductions. When this system was first proposed some judges were skeptical of its potential value or feasibility, but every judge who has used the system has been won over by it and it is looking to be an overwhelming success.
Not that it has anything to do with this competition, but coach Richard Callaghan confirmed that Nicole Bobek had an ovarian cyst removed at the Mayo Clinic about ten days ago. He said that during the surgery some scar tissue from a previous surgery five years ago was also removed. He had no firm indication what her future plans would be.
The competition has proceeded smoothly thus far. The most exciting thing off the ice today is the snow storm. Thankfully there is a indoor pedway downtown so one never has to go outside.
ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta met with the meager compliment of media here and was peppered with questions on a variety of subjects. Regarding this competition there was curiosity about how he felt about the US not sending its top guns to Halifax. He said that as ISU president he respected the right of the federations to send whoever they want on their teams, but admitted that as a spectator he is as disappointed as anyone that Michelle Kwan is not here. He then went on to stress again that as ISU president he would not discuss with USFSA officials what some observers think is a tepid support of the competition. On that last point no one quite believed him.
Elvis Stojko is here to help make this event as successful as possible, under the circumstances, for the CFSA. He is also scheduled to compete at the Grand Prix Final which begins three days after this competition ends. He has asked to be released from his obligation to compete in the final for medical reasons - namely that his groin injury prevents him from competing in two major competitions in such a short period of time. Cinquanta said that as a three-time world champion, Stojko's word that he would not be able to compete for medical reasons was good enough for him, and that no medical investigation would be required to make a decision. It is appears that Stojko will be released from the Final as he requested.
On a related, but larger question of whether the ISU schedule was too crowded with two major event back to back, Cinquanta was adamant that ISU events were laid out with sufficient time between events that it did not present any burden on the skaters to compete in consecutive events, and that any schedule conflicts that might arise are only of the skater's making (e.g., extra shows or exhibitions). When pressed on whether it was reasonable to expect a skater to appear in Halifax on a Sunday afternoon exhibition (which the medalists are required to participate in) and then fly 1/3 of the way around the world and skate in a practice the following Wednesday he continued to defend his position strenuously. Clearly, however, this contention, is ridiculous. A skater would not be able to leave Halifax for Russia until Monday and would not arrive in Russia until Tuesday night. It would then take at least three days to fully recover from jet-lag, by which time the competition would be half over. In the U.S. skaters who compete in international competitions are not required to compete in qualifying competitions if the qualifying competition begins within ten days of the end of the international competition, in recognition that skaters cannot compete at full potential when major events occur with so little time between them.
The quality of the venue for the Salt Lake Olympic Games received a great deal of attention. Cinquanta stated that the Salt Lake Olympic bid included raising the ice floor as part of their proposal and that nothing had changed to release them from that obligation. He was surprised to learn that during U.S. Nationals the Salt Lake organizing committee stated that they had made the decision not to raise the floor. Cinquanta stated that the minimum "technical" requirement of the ISU and the IOC was that a 30 m X 60 m ice surface of good quality be available for the competition, but that there was a "moral" responsibility to provide the spectators with the best view of the competition possible. He said that he would be going to Salt Lake in two months for further meetings with the Salt Lake organizers. No doubt the sight lines and the possible use of the E-Center for the skating venue will be a major issue to be discussed at that time.
The inaugural Four Continents Championships began today with the skating of the compulsory dances and the pairs short program. Eighteen countries were eligible to send skaters and thirteen did. Each country was permitted three entries, but most did not send a full team. As a result there was no need for qualifying rounds in the men's or ladies events. The Canadians sent all their top skaters, but the U.S. did not. Three teams dropped out of the pairs event which now has only 8 entries. The Kakakhstani team of Marina Khalturina & Andrei Kroukov have broken up, Canadians Jamie Sale & David Pelletier are out while he nurses a herniated disk. Americans Laura Handy & Paul Binnebose withdrew due to illness, and Eve Chalom & Mathew Gates are out with Gates suffering from double pneumonia.
Another symptom of the problems this competition faces is the fact there are only seven judges on each event, and all four dances in the ice dance event will be judges by the same panel. There just aren't enough high level judges in the 18 Federations to staff nine-judge panels, and four dance panels. This year's competition has barely started and already there is the growing suspicion that the Four Continents Championship will require a great deal of work over the years to develop it into a prestige event.
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