2001 World Figure Skating Championships

Vancouver, Canada

19 - 25 March 2001




Daily Notes

Saturday, 24 March 2001

Michelle Kwan faced the odd year jinx and Irina Slutskaya in the ladies free skate and met the challenge.  She skated a clean strong program to win the long program on a seven-two split of the panel.  This was one of those performances where she was "in the zone" and everything came together on the ice.  Slutskaya, who skated after Kwan, started off hesitantly in the first third of her program but then went on to skate a strong program.  She landed a triple Salchow - triple loop - double toe loop combination, the first lady to land a jump combination of that class in ISU competition.  In winning here Kwan became the first lady to repeat as World Champion since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1991 and 1992, and she is the first lady since Katarina Witt to win four World Championships.

After she saw her marks Slutskaya looked keenly disappointed, and her coach said she though that Irina should have won.  During the awards ceremony she looked uncomfortable and bored, but later, in the post-event press conference, she was in good spirits and showed little sign of displeasure or disappointment. 

Sarah Hughes skated a nearly clean program - with but a small cheat on the second jump of a triple Salchow - triple loop combination.  She placed fourth in the long program but it was good enough to win the bronze medal.  Maria Butyrskaya turned in a strong performance to place third in the free skating but ended up in fourth place overall.  Had Butyrskaya finished one place higher in the qualifying round or had she beaten Hughes in the short program she would have won the bronze medal.  In the short program Hughes placed ahead of Butyrskaya on a five-four split of the panel.  Thus, the difference between being on the podium and packing your skate bag for these two competitors ended up being the placement of one judge in the short program.

Following her performance, Butyrskaya made a bit of a scene in kiss-and-cry.  After her first marks were posted she made a sour face and got up as if to leave.  She stopped just short of leaving the area and watched the second set of marks come up.  An animated discussion with her coach followed during which she looked extremely disgusted.

Friday, 23 March 2001

Prior to the World Championships this season Irina Slutskaya had beaten Michelle Kwan five programs in a row in ISU competition and also surpassed her in the USFSA's Fall ProAm competition.  In the short program today Slutskaya made it six programs in a row with a convincing victory in the ladies short program.  Skating a clean program, Slutskaya placed first on a seven-two split of the panel.  While Kwan garnered two first place ordinals she also was placed third by three of the judges.   Kwan performed her well received "East of Eden" program but did not skate clean, two footing the triple Lutz in her jump combination.  Angela Nikodinov and Sarah Hughes both had good skates with Nikodinov placing third in the short program and Hughes fourth.

In the ice dance event Fusar Poli & Margaglio won the gold medal on a close five-four split of the panel, dethroning the 2000 Champions Anissina & Peizerat.   On the awards podium Anissina was visibly dejected, and afterward in the post event press conference unambiguously expressed the couples' dissatisfaction with the judging of the event.  She said they felt that they had beaten the Italian team in both the original dance and the free dance.  She did not mince words, and the fact that she made an extended comment at all highlighted her displeasure as she rarely speaks at length at press conferences.

Peizerat  in commenting on the change of positions in ice dance - or the lack of it - implied that the judging here was just a knee-jerk repetition of the European results and not a fair and independent judging of the performances put on the ice here.  The Italian team, obviously thought otherwise, and in separate comments Margaglio said the results here were a validation of the results at Europeans where the Italians also beat the French team.

On the more general subject of the lack of movement in ice dance we note that in the ice dance final the top 21 of 24 couples maintained their positions after the original dance, leaving more than one person here to wonder why bother at all with four dances in the competitions when apparently one will do.

Thursday, 22 March 2001

By winning the original dance today the Italian team of Barbara Fusar Poli & Maurizio Margaglio took sole possession of first place in the ice dance event on a six-three split of the panel over the reigning World Champions Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat.  The tie between Irina Lobacheva & Ilia Averbuch and Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz was also broken with the Russian team besting the Canadians on a six-three split of the panel.  Reigning Bronze medalists Margarita Drobiazko & Povilas Vanagas placed fifth in the free dance and are now in fifth place after the OD.   Going into the free dance the gold medal is there to win or lose for the Italian and French teams.  The Russians and Canadians will be vying for the bronze.  The Lithuanians still have a shot at the bronze, but they have their work cut out for them sitting two places behind the Russians.  They can win the bronze by placing third in the free dance, but moving up two places in ice dance is a Herculean task leaving their chances extremely small.

Alexei Yagudin fought gamely in the men's free skating, but he made several errors and ended up with the silver medal.  Evgeni Plushenko was nearly perfect and won the free skate and the gold medal, placing first in all three sections of the event.  Todd Eldredge had a clean but quadless skate to win the bronze medal.   He was barely edged out of the silver on a five-four split of the panel against Yagudin.  Yagudin has been competing all week on pain killing injection administered before the practices and before both the short and long programs, leaving half his foot numb each time.

Wednesday, 21 March 2001

The ladies qualifying rounds were held today, and in an unusual schedule choice the two groups were split by the pairs free skating which was held in the afternoon.

Irina Slutskaya easily won Group B which began competition shortly after 11 AM.  It was the easier of the two groups and she had no real competition.  In the evening, Group A took the ice.  Michelle Kwan gas an excellent performance to win the group.  She was followed by Sarah Hughes and Angela Nikodinov who also performed well.  Maria Butyrskaya had numerous errors in her program and placed fourth.   Se does not appear to be competitive for a medal.  At this point it looks like the two American ladies and Viktoria Volchkova will be fighting for the bronze, with Kwan and Slutskaya, of course, neck-and-neck for the gold.

In pairs Canadians Jamie Sale & David Pelletier moved up from third place after the short to win the gold medal.  They are the first Canadians to win the pairs championship since Brassuer & Eisler in 1993.  The French team of Abitbol & Bernadis withdrew from the competition due to Bernadis tearing an abdominal muscle during the short program yesterday.

Tuesday, 20 March 2001

Competition today again was nearly 12 hours, non-stop.  For the first time in an ISU Championships there were enough dance entries (36) that the compulsory dances where broken up into two qualifying groups.  The top 15 couples in each group will go on to compete in the original dance on Thursday.

In the men's short short program Evgeni Plushenko edged out Alexei Yagudin in a close and controversial decision.  It is virtually impossible now for Yagudin to repeat as champion with Plushenko having a virtual lock on the gold.  Todd Eldredge had a strong skate to place third in the short and is now placed second overall after the short.  Were Eldredge to win the free skate and one other skater also beat Plushenko in the long, Eldredge could conceivably win the gold.  That appears to be the only scenario that would deprive Plushenko of the championship.  Seven men landed quads in the short program (Timothy Goebel, Chengjiang Li, Yunfei Li, , Anthony Liu Evgeni Pushenko, Alexei Yagudin, and  Min Zhang).

Monday, 19 March 2001

It was a busy day today with nearly 12 hours of continuous competition.   The men's qualifying beginning at 8:30 in the morning with Group B skating first followed by Group A.  The men were then followed by the pairs short program.   There were 22 men in each group with the top 15 in each group advancing to the short program which will be skated tomorrow afternoon.  The biggest story of the day was an injured Alexei Yagudin self destructing in Group A where he was lucky to have placed fifth.  This turn of events leaves the door wide open for Evgeni Plushenko to win the championships and he is not the favorite going into the short program.

In the pairs the three favorites all skated well and after the short program Berezhnaya & Sikharulidze hold the lead, with the Chinese team Shen & Zhao and the Canadian team of Sale & Pelletier close behind in second and third place.   Given the way the three teams skated today any of these teams has the tools to capture the gold on Wednesday.

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