In the short program the men's event fulfilled its expectations as the premier event of Skate Canada. The top four men all gave strong performances and three quads were landed.
In a close competition Alexei Yagudin edged out Elvis Stojko in a 6-3 split. Compared to Skate America he was a rocket with fast spins and good speed throughout the program. He landed quad toe loop and triple Axel - triple toe loop. His death drop was spectacular.
Stojko completed a program with similar content to Yagudin, and like the Russian was a blur compared to last week. He landed quad toe loop and a triple Axel - triple toe loop combination. On his diagonal step sequence he flew done the ice. While the skaters complained loudly about competing at altitude last weekend, when looking at their skating here at sea level one gets the impression that training for a week in the clouds was of some benefit to them.
Placing third was Chenjiang Li who also landed a quad toe loop and triple Axel - triple toe loop. Unlike many Chinese skaters who appear on the international scene with strong technical skills and weak presentation skills, Li has the the makings of the whole package right now. His connecting movements were well rounded and his presentation was of top senior quality with second marks as high as 5.8.
Rounding out the top four was Todd Eldredge. He skated a program that was less difficult than the top three men's with a triple Lutz - triple toe loop combination, triple loop, and triple Axel. Nevertheless, of all the men here his program was skated with the greatest overall speed and best connecting moves and footwork.
Also competitive here was Takeshi Honda who placed fifth due to a fall on a quad toe loop attempt. He landed triple Axel - triple toe loop but with the 0.4 deduction for the error the fall in such a strong group was catastrophic.
Alexei Yagudin struggled and stumbled through his free skate here but still came out on top, at least in the skating. Largely because there were no quads or clean programs from the top men, his flawed effort was good enough to win the free skate and the event. Despite the many errors from the top entrants there were still some thrills in the competition, but the biggest fireworks came in the closing press conference. The proceedings there consisted of the usual questions about how the skaters felt about the ice and their performances. The press officer made the last call for questions and was wrapping up the conference at which point Yagudin decided he had something he just had to share with everyone, and made a statement. Several actually. Apparently he was attempting to quash some supposed rumors about his personal life but in the process only stoked the fire instead. Before the press conference most of the assembled press knew nothing of what he chose to bring up and afterwards it was all that was talked about.
So here is the gist of what he said. After his free skate he said his coach (Tatiana Tarasova) came to him and told him that some people (who were not identified) had spoken to Tarasova and made comments to her about Yagudin associating with a "strange friend" at the competition. Yagudin told the press to leave his personal life alone. He said that "last year there were rumors I was gay and this year rumors I am an alcoholic." He admonished the media "not to write bullshit." He said his job was to skate and the media's job was to report on the skating. Among other comments he added that "my private life is my private life" and that "if I want to make some guy my friend I will."
As for the skating ...
Elvis Stojko was first to skate in the final warmup. He stepped out of his opening quad toe loop and then added steps into double toe loop. He followed with a triple Lutz and then fell on triple Axel. He next landed triple Axel - double toe loop and a triple flip. Triple loop was doubled and followed by a waltz jump and then by triple Salchow. It total only 4 triple were successful. Improved over Skate America, however, was the overall skating with faster skating and more finished edges and skating movements.
Stojko was followed by Chenjiang Li. Li fell on quad toe loop and then landed triple Axel - Triple toe loop. He then had a single Axel and a double Lutz. In the last section of the routine he landed triple flip, Salchow, and Lutz. Despite the five triples, at 2:30 into the program he ran out of gas and gave up on connecting moves. At this point in his career he can put together a respectable short program but he still does not have the stamina to sustain a complete 4 1/2 minute free skate. He ended up sixth in the free skate and dropped to second overall.
Skating next was Alexei Yagudin who opened with triple Axel - triple toe loop and then fell on quad toe loop. He stepped out of the second jump in triple flip - triple toe loop and landed triple loop and triple Lutz. His closing Salchow was popped to a single. He also fell on a forward spiral and got up with a sheepish look on his face. In general his skating was sloppier than typical and afterwards he criticized the lack of an ice cut between the two groups of men. When the marks came up showing him the winner over Stojko a loud and sustained round of booing came forth from the crowd, but with six triples to Stojko's four and a triple-triple combination to Stojko's triple-double it was the correct result.
With the top three men in the short program making errors and failing in their quad attempts the door was open for Eldredge, but like all the men in the group he too made several errors. He missed his opening triple Axel, landing single Axel - triple toe loop. He then landed triple loop, stepped out of another triple, and landed triple Lutz. Following the middle section of the routine he doubled a flip, fell on triple Axel, and landed triple Salchow. He landed four triple as did Stojko, but without the triple Axel ended one place behind him. What a difference 15 months as a pro has made in his skating.
Laurent Tobel skated next in a routine characterized by his quirky amusing style. It was very well done and very funny, skating to music from "Austin Powers". Virtually the entire routine was skated through a fire alarm that that went completely ignored. (It was a false alarm.) He opened with triple Axel - triple toe loop and then triple flip. The combination looked clean but lacked flow and good landing edges. Following the flip he failed to land another triple.
Last to skate was Takeshi Honda who had the opportunity to move up from his fifth place finish in the short. He opened with triple Axel and then fell on quad toe loop. He then went on to land triple Salchow, triple Lutz - double toe loop, and triple Axel - triple toe loop. A triple loop ended in a fall and a closing triple flip was successful but with a weak landing edge. Like Yagudin he landed six triple jumps including a triple-triple combination. His presentation to music from "Rising Sun" was the most solid and complete of the evening and a case could have been made for placing him first, but he was edged out by Yagudin. By placing second in the free skate he moved up to the podium for the bronze medal.
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