Grand Prix Final

Men's Event

By Sandra Stevenson

Final Standings
Place Skater Country SP FS

Emanuel Sandhu

CAN 2 1
2 Evgeni Plushenko RUS 1 2
3 Michael Weiss USA 3 3
4 Kevin Van Der Perren BEL 5 4
5 Song Gao CHN 4 5
w Jeffrey Buttle CAN -  


Short Program

Starting Order - Short Program
  1. Emanuel Sandhu

  2. Song Gao

  3. Kevin Van Der Perren

  4. Michael Weiss

  5. Jeffrey Buttle

  6. Evgeni Plushenko


Short Program Placements
Place Skater Country
1 Evgeni Plushenko RUS

Emanuel Sandhu

3 Michael Weiss USA
4 Song Gao CHN
5 Kevin Van Der Perren BEL
w Jeffrey Buttle CAN


Jeffrey Buttle of Canada, who was the second qualifier with 21 points, had to withdraw due to a stomach flu which struck on Wednesday. He received medical attention and continued training but less than two hours before the event, he, and his coach, Lee Barkell, realized he was too weak and had no choice but to withdraw.

Emanuel Sandhu of Canada, the second reserve, jumped at the invitation to replace Tim Goebel who withdrew some days prior to the event due to continuing boot problems which had also caused him to withdraw from Skate America. The first reserve, Brian Joubert of France, declined saying he didnít have enough time to get ready.

Sandhu, who had accumulated 9 points by placing fourth in Skate Canada and fifth in Cup of China, looked the epitome of South American macho-ness as he started his Tango with arms folded insouciantly and a glower pervading his face.

He leant on his quad toe loop and had to put his foot down but struggled and got back airborne for his triple toe, a much better effort that his quad cartwheel in Mississauga. The 23 year old managed the other two jumps, triple Axel and triple Lutz, and was absolutely sensational in the footwork and spins. His choreography to Carlo Sauraís Tango by Laio Schifrin was sensational.

Sandhuís score was 78.26 good enough for second place. He was delighted, "I feel like I am at my first world championships. I have never done this event before and my hope was to qualify for this event last year. This year I finally got my chance. I couldnít have been more ready for the competition. I was really training well after the Cup of China. This is a sort of good karma thing and an early Christmas present."

Song Gao, a 22 year old from China who had qualified with 12 points for a fourth in Cup of China and a third in NHK, was competing in his first Grand Prix season, and was thrilled to have reached the final. He confided, "I stumbled on my triple Axel because I couldnít breathe." His combination of quad and triple toes was excellent but his presentation to Angelique by M. Magne was less mature.

He received relatively high marks for his Total Element Score of 38.14 (an insignificant 0.28 higher than Michael Weiss) but the lowest Total Program Component Score of 30.75. Collectively that gave him a Total Segment Score of 68.89, which put him in fourth place.

Kevin van der Perren of Belgium who had 13 points for a fifth place in Skate Canada and a second place in Trophťe Lalique, was another delighted to be making his "debut". The 21 year old said, "Tonight was my best short program of the year. I have always planned to do triple Lutz/triple loop but this is the first time all year that I have done it and it was my best score of the season."

Van der Perren said he loves the CoP system. "Otherwise I would not be here (because he does not yet include a triple axel and a quad in his routines)." His Tango Tanguera by A. Piazolla brought him 67.15 points and fifth place.

Michael Weiss, the 27 year old American, qualified with 17 points for his Skate America win and his fourth place in Cup of Russia. Skating to the crowd pleasing Henry V by Patrick Doyle, he played safe with a solid triple flip to triple toe loop which earned him 10.1 base value (bv) with a plus 0.80 Grade of Execution.

Despite a noticeable lean, his triple Axel earned him the bv of 7.5 with no GoE while his triple Lutz had 0.04 taken off the bv of 6.1. Weiss said, "I was very happy considering I have been in bed for a week due to the flu. I was worried that I would have trouble getting though the program. I paced myself all week and made sure that I brought myself back slowly and didnít go all out. I didnít need it yesterday or the day before, I needed it tonight and tomorrow."

His 73.33 Total Segment Score was good enough for third place.

Evgeni Plushenko was the overwhelming favorite and the 21 year old Russian took the lead despite falling on his opening jump, the quad toe loop, in his Tango and Flamenco routine.

"I feel like an idiot that I fell. Iím a hundred percent ready for this competition and I landed the quad and the triple Axel in the warm-up. I donít know what happened on the quad. Of course you feel the altitude and itís hard but you can skate. My knee is ok. I can skate. It gives me pain but not all the time. In the mornings I feel most pain, in the knee and my back. I feel like an old person."

Despite the heavy fall he did his other elements in superior form. The straight line footwork in particular was performed with great energy and intensity.

His outfits are often remarkable. This black costume is noteworth for the black chiffon gloves.

There was some discussion about the fact that CoP awards marks even on a fall as long as the rotation is completed. The quad toe has a base value of 8.0. Minus 3.0 Grade of Execution was taken off for the fall but that still meant he earned 5.0 for rotating four turns in the air. In this manner, the skater is rewarded for taking the risk. However if the skater fails by a quarter turn to do the revolutions then the move is classed a bad triple.

Plushenko ended up with 78.25 only 2.71 ahead of Sandhu.


Free Skating

Starting Order - Free Skating
  1. Kevin Van Der Perren

  2. Song Gao

  3. Michael Weiss

  4. Emanuel Sandhu

  5. Evgeni Plushenko


Free Skating Placements
Place Skater Country

Emanuel Sandhu

2 Evgeni Plushenko RUS
3 Michael Weiss USA
4 Kevin Van Der Perren BEL
5 Song Gao CHN


Emanuel Sandhu

What a remarkable event this was. Plushenko gave a performance befitting his status as world champion and quirkily lost to Sandhu who, as second reserve, never expected even to take part. Plushenko was heavily penalized because he wanted to show off his new combination. He didnít realize a third combo is not allowed. The new combo was allowed but then when he went to do the third combo he earned zero points for it.

Plushenko was last beaten in a made for television event in Daytona Beach in early fall 2002. He has not lost an important event since the Olympics.

First to skate was Van der Perren who chose music from the sound track of the movie, Robin Hood. He said, "I was better than I expected. This morning I woke up with the flu so I already have a fever and I had to skate the free tonight. I was really scared about my ability to breathe and less worried about the jumps. After the warm-up I was already dead tired and the program was yet to come. I am happy it is over."

Van der Perren, who has competed in four Worlds, was 19th in Washington. He recently moved to Newington, CT, to be trained by Nikolai Morozov.

Despite his weakened condition, Van der Perren gained the straight base value of 7.6 for his triple Lutz to double loop. Then he got the base value of 14.6 for the three jump combination of triple Salchow-triple toe loop-triple loop plus a 1.20 Grade of Execution. He fell on his triple Lutz incurring a minus 3.0 GoE to the base value of 6.1 but did pull off a triple flip, triple toe loop and two double Axels.

He had Level 2ís for his change foot sit spin and change foot combination spins.

Afterwards he was obviously completely depleted and looked as if he was about to pass out. He appeared barely able to leave the ice. His effort earned 121.88 points which gave him an overall total of 189.03 which allowed him to push Gao out of fourth place.

Gao, who is from Heilongjiang, was 16th in his only world championship in Nagano in 2002. His music was Man in the Iron Mask. His Total Element Score was only 0.10 more than Van der Perrenís despite opening with a combination of quad and triple toe loops Ė base value 12.5 with a Grade of Execution of +0.80.

He followed that with a triple Axel to triple toe loop which has a base value of 12.0 and he received a Grade of Execution of +1.0.

However, from then things went down hill and ten of his other twelve elements had negative Grade of Executions. The other two elements were triple flip and double Axel which was supposed to be a triple. He only just held onto the triple Lutz. His loop was a single. His Salchow a double and his last but one move was a single Axel.

Gaoís Total Program Component Score (factorized) was 55.70 as opposed to Van der Perrenís 65.00.

He said, "I was really tired and I felt even dizzy. I didnít feel well. I had an upst stomach. I hadnít eaten all day."

Weiss, the current (and 1999 and 2000) US champion, is trained by Don Laws at Laurel, MD. His choreography is done by his wife, Lisa Thornton. They have two children, Annie-Mae, born in September 1998 and Christopher Michael, born in October 1999.

Unfortunately it wasnít a good skate but he stayed third. "I donít know what happened. I have never been hit by Mike Tyson but after I finished my program it felt like I had. I have been sick with the flu and the easy thing would have been to just pull out but I am glad I stuck with it and competed."

Weiss had an almost sideways lean on his opening triple Axel and aborted the planned triple toe loop second jump. Instead of the next move, expected to be a quad toe he did a double Axel. His triple flip was okay but the second jump of the combo, triple toe, looked two footed. His triple loop had a very strained landing and he fell on both a triple Axel and triple flip. His triple Salchow was flawed but he did a good triple Lutz.

The program, to When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, Amazing Grace and Battle Hymn of the Republic, is excellent and he has excellent spins, footwork and transitions but with so many errors it becomes uncomfortable to watch.

Sandhu, the 2001 and current Canadian champion who is trained by Joanne McLeod, did one of the best programs I have ever seen the Vancouver skater perform.

Skating to Ninkov Latora by Violaine Corradi, Slow and Sassy by Henri Mancini and Take California by the Propellerheads, he began with a quad toe but stepped out of the second jump in the combo, the triple toe. He got the base value of 12.5 but with a deduction of 1.20 for GoE. He did the second combo, triple Axel to triple toe but only just and got a deduction of 0.80 on the base value of 12.0. The triple loop followed by triple Lutz got positive GoEís.

There was an interesting straight spread eagle and a music-matching shake of the head. The Salchow turned into a double but it was followed by a triple Axel and triple flip. He altered his routine slightly to try a second attempt Ė this time successful at a triple Salchow. He had a exuberant finish with two change foot combination spins Ė one a Level 3.

He earned 75.74 Total Element Score and 77.00 Total Program Component Score (factorized). That gave him 152.74 for the free which turned out to be first place. Overall he gained 228.29 which was good enough for the gold.

He was amazed to finish on top of the podium. "This is just crazy. To do it when it counts, I think, that is what being a champion is all about. As I have experienced before, you never know, what is going to happen. This is a step in the right direction and to be able to share it with the audience, my coach, friends at home and all of Canada is important to me."

Plushenko skated brilliantly starting with an excellent quad toe-triple toe combination with a base value of 12.5 plus 1.2 Grade of Execution. Initially he planned to add a double loop to that first combination.

When that didnít happen, he decided to try his new combination of quad toe to double loop. That has a base value of 9.5 and he received a Grade of Execution of +0.80. That double loop would cost him the Grand Prix Final title he had won last year.

Only two combinations are allowed so his third move, triple Axel to double toe loop, was awarded no points. That was a lot of energy sapped for nothing.

He also executed double Axel, triple Lutz, and triple loop. His triple flip was strained and the only move to receive a slight negative GoE of -0.20. His music is Tribute to Vaclav Nijinski by Edvin Marton. (Nijinski, a Russian, was one of the greatest ballet dancers ever.)

Plushenko also presented interesting spins and flamboyant, very energetic footwork. He was greeted with a total standing ovation.

His total element score was 66.54 and for total program component he received 80.40 which gave him 146.94 for this section

That put Plushenko 5.80 behind Sandhu for the free. When combined with the short, the difference was only 3.10.

His coach, Alexei Mishin, said, "Too stupid! He wanted to do the second quad with the double loop and I said, ĎGo Ahead.í But he forgot not to do the triple Axel in combination."

Of his second place, Plushenko said, "Iím surprised because I didnít skate badly. Actually I think I skated well. I donít know how Emanuel skated. Iím happy with my skate. I did two quads, one with a double loop and I think this combination has never been done before. Iím not so happy with the result and with my placement."

The difference between first and second place is $10,000 Ė winners get $35,000 while runners-up earn $25,000.


2003 Grand Prix Final Men's Medalists


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