|Michelle Kwan||Sarah Hughes||Elena Sokolova|
Notes after the short program:
Of the five best placing skaters in the short program, only Michelle Kwan skated a clean program. Skating to music by Eric Clapton from the motion picture "Rush" she opened with double Axel and then landed triple Lutz - double toe loop. Following a nice layback spin she landed triple flip. The remainder of the program consisted of a circular step sequence, death drop, her signature serpentine spiral sequence. She closed with her standard combination spin, receiving unanimous first place marks for her effort. This was the first outing for this program which was choreographed by Christopher Dean. In deciding to work with Dean for the short program she said, " I wanted something very different new and I thought why not try somebody new. It's sort of a new way of looking at skating through his eyes."
Sarah Hughes placed a distant second with a program that had some pretty moments but was inconsistently skated. She also opened with double Axel and then completed a triple flutz - double toe loop with a poorly controlled landing edge on the second jump. She then executed a flying camel changing to the Biellmann position which was followed by a triple flip with a step out for a deduction. Next came a layback spin, circular step sequence, circular spiral sequence, and a closing combination spin. She received four second place ordinals, just edging out Elena Sokolova for second place.
Sokolova skated with speed and enthusiasm but made two significant errors. She began with her combination jump in which she cheated a triple Lutz which was followed by a toe Axel. This shaky combination was then followed by a nice triple loop. Following a flying camel spin and serpentine spiral sequence she attempted a spread eagle - double Axel - spread eagle sequence but stepped out of the double Axel. She completed the program with a combination spin, a lively circular step sequence and a closing layback spin. She was placed just below Hughes with three second place marks and four third place marks. Sokolova has move from Moscow to St. Petersburg and is now working with Alexei Mishin. "Sometimes you need to change something in life to be better," she said, "I hope I will get better."
The placements below the top three were a bit of a hodge-podge with no skater receiving a majority of fourths or fifths. The third American lady in the group, Angela Nikodinov, ended up seventh in the short. Her program was skated beautifully with an outstanding presentation, but she missed two major jump elements which killed her in the first mark. She fell on triple Lutz in her opening combination and then completed a flying camel, triple toe loop, and a combination spin. She then popped the double Axel in a half hearted attempt. She finished with a very good circular step sequence, a serpentine spiral sequence, and a layback spin.
Notes after the long program:
In the long program Angela Nikodinov was able to move up one place in the long program and two places overall to finish fifth in the Ladies event. Skating to Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" She did a good job with the music and received decent second marks for her effort but on the technical side her jumps were left in the warm-up. She began by popping double Axel to a single and then landed triple Lutz and triple Flip. In the remainder of the program she attempted four more triples and doubled all of them (loop, Salchow, Lutz, and toe loop). In addition, her program did not include a combination jump.
Sarah Hughes was first to skate in the second warm-up group. After her name was called to skate she received a lengthy lecture from her coach at the rail which appeared to drag on for well over a minute - to the point some people began to wonder if something was wrong or if it would exceed the two minutes allowed and get her disqualified. Finally though, Hughes took the ice. Skating to the (too) often used ballet music "Don Quixote" she did an outstanding job. She landed six triples and two double Axels in the program, including a difficult triple Salchow - triple loop combination which only a handful of skaters have mastered. Her solo triple Lutz was only slightly flutzed compared to the tremendous change of edge that was present in her short program combination. Her style was pleasingly balletic and although the music is very overused it was very well done. She received an overwhelming and deserved standing ovation at the close of the program. The judges were less generous in their opinions doling out marks in the 5.6-5.7 range, perhaps because she was skating first in the warm-up. She received 6 second place marks and one third place mark from the Italian judge. Afterwards Hughes said, "It might have been (one of her best performances). If it wasn't it was defenitely one of the best. We're (Hughes and Coach Robin Wagner) both happy with the start of the season."
Two skaters later, Elena Sokolova presented her program skated to the Masquerade Waltz. It was nicely skated with fair speed and nice connecting moves but included only four triples, two of which were completed only on second attempts. She landed triple Lutz - double toe loop, triple loop, triple flip, and a triple toe loop with a reach. She also landed three doubles (including a double Axel) and missed one other double. She received placements of second through fourth, with four judges placing her third.
Next to skate was Michelle Kwan performing to "Song of the Black Swan", choreographed by Lori Nichol. She began with a triple loop that she stepped out of, and then landed triple flutz - double toe loop. She did not try the triple-triple and executed triple toe loop - double toe loop instead. After double flip and double Axel she landed triple Salchow, and then to make up for the errors earlier in the program substituted triple toe loop where the Charlotte spiral would otherwise appear in the program. Following a slow combination spin and footwork sequence, she did half a spiral sequence and then landed triple flip. She closed with a death drop. She received half a standing ovation from the audience and unanimous first place marks from the judges.
Kwanatics read no farther, the following will only annoy you.
When the marks for Hughes went up they looked decidedly too low and when the marks for Kwan went up they were embarrassingly too high - with absurd 5.8 and 5.9's in the second mark. Her unanimous first place ordinals were the worst example of reputation judging to be seen in singles skating in many years, with Hughes out-skating Kwan in both technical content and presentation. In the first mark Hughes completed six triples, including a very difficult triple-triple combination, to five triples for Kwan, with two triple-double combinations. In the second mark Hughes gave a beautiful performance while Kwan's program was uninspiring, slow and boring. For 3 1/2 minutes out of the four Kwan skated back and forth down the center line of the rink from one end to the other in straight lines, placing jump after jump in the same place, and with nary a curved lobe to be seen. It was 2 minutes 10 seconds before she put in half of a spiral sequence on a curved edge and over a minute later before she did another half circle. One is not surprised to see such a poorly constructed program at the Novice level and below, but for a three time World Champion to present such a program is unfathomable, and for the judges to reward it as they did inexplicable.
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