Notes and Comments

Saturday, 22 March 1997

Tara Lipinski placed second in the free skating today, but held on to become the youngest Ladies Champion in the history of the ISU.  She takes that record away from Sonja Henie, who was 32 days older than Tara when she won her first Championships in February of 1927.  Michelle Kwan won the free skate on a majority of seconds, but her fourth place finish prevented her from repeating as World Champion.

With the completion of the ladies event, the competitive events here are finished.  Only the exhibition of champions tomorrow remains.

Friday, 21 March 1997

Today the ladies event started with the short program, with the air full of anticipation that Tara Lipinski would become the youngest Ladies World Champion in history.  She took the first step down that road winning the short program.

The dance event finished this evening with the skating of the free dance.  Oksana Grischuk and Evgeny Platov won their fourth World Championship, earning two marks of 6.0 in the process.

A memorial service will be held in Lausanne for Carlo Fassi on Sunday at the Olympic Museum.  Yesterday during the men's free skating, Nicole Bobek stood in for Fassi during the skating of fellow student of Fassi, Cornel Gheorghe.  She put him on for the long program and sat with him for the marks in the kiss and cry area.  Today he joined Christa Fassi at the boards as Nicole skated the short program.

As described by Nicole, one of Fassi's last requests to his wife was that she be there for Nicole during the competition; a touching testament to the devotion and concern he showed his student.  Said Nicole after her program, "My warm up felt great and I was very strong.  But right before I did the program, I looked at Christa and began crying.  My mind was racing but I was able to refocus mu energy into what I needed to do.  ... My short was not great.  I pulled in on everything ,but may landings were not strong.  It was better than at Nationals so I will build going into the free. ... It meant so much to have Christa with me.  I know how hard it was on her but it meant so much. ... I felt the warmth and support of the crowd.  Looking up to the flags waving and the cheers was great support.  I could feel their understanding of what I am going through."

Thursday, 20 March 1997

Carlo Fassi, age 67, well known and respected throughout the skating community, was taken to the Canton Hospital University Vaud at noon today by ambulance.  He had suffered a severe heart attack and died at 2:30 pm, local time.

Fassi coached many of the world's top skaters including Olympic champions Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, John Curry, and Robin Cousins.  In 1976 he was coach of both the men's and ladies champions, John Curry and Dorothy Hamill.  He was Chairman of the ISU's Coaching Commission.

Fassi was born in Milan, Italy.  As a skater, he won the bronze medal in the 1953 World Championships and was twice the European champion, winning the gold in 1953 and 1954.

Most recently he was on-staff as a coach and training center manager at the Ice Castle International Training Center in Lake Arrowhead, CA.  He is survived by his wife Christa, daughter Monica, and sons Ricky and Lorenzo.

Speaking about his former coach, a distraught Robin Cousins made the following comments.

"I was very lucky [to have had him as a coach], without him it never would have happened. ... He treated no two people [he was coaching] the same. ...  He did not have a magic wand, but if it worked for you... He was one of many great coaches.  I wonder, though, how many had the passion he did.  ... He was like a kid. ...  I don't think you had to be a student to be taken by this.  All you had to do was have brushed shoulders with him. ... I think John Curry would be a devastated at this as the rest of us."

Cousins talked at length with great fondness of his former coach and said that he had made himself available to help Nicole Bobek through the rest of the week. 

It was announced yesterday that Scott Hamilton has been diagnosed with testicular cancer and will begun undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.

Wednesday, 19 March 1997

The men's event began today with the skating of the short program this afternoon, and the pairs event finished up with long program this evening.

Outside of the skating, nothing very interesting happened today until the awards ceremony for the pairs event.  During the long program Eltsova and Bushkov skated after Kazakova and Dmitriev and were placed above them by the panel - first place at the time.  The audience felt their marks were too high and that they should have been placed below Kazakova and Dmitriev. They let their feelings be know through boos and whistling, which is their right.  During the awards ceremony, however, they went too far.

When Eltsova and Bushkov got their medals the audience applauded politely, but when Kazakova and Dmitirev were given theirs the audience was ecstatic, and again when they were given their flowers.  Later when the referee and assistant referee came out to congratulate the winners the audience again booed and whistled, and then applauded when Dmitirev kissed the hand of the referee, Mrs. Walburga Grimm - as if to say how gracious of him to accept the injustice of it all.  By this time Eltsova was crushed, knowing full well what it was all about.  The look on her face was tragic.  During the playing of the German National Anthem instead of holding her flowers in the usual way  she let them hang limp at her side.  Twice she tried to hold them up and assume the traditional pose, and each time it lasted but a moment, letting them fall again to her side.  She was clearly overwhelmed.  How rude and tacky of the audience, many of them Americans and Canadians, to ruin the moment for the skater, who was not responsible for the decision of the judges.  

Tuesday, 18 March 1997

The Championships began today with the compulsory dances and the pairs short program .  Punsalan and Swallow ended up in 6th after the two CDs, moving up one place from last year.  Chalom and Gates are tied for 17th, a respectable start for their first time at Worlds.  Bourne and Kraatz are in 3rd after the CDs, trailing Krylova and Ovsiannikov whom they beat in Canada two weeks ago. The two French teams are neck-in-neck, tied for 4th.  The leaders, as expected, are Grischuk and Platov.  If you haven't seen Grischuk since last year, what a shocker; platinum blonde hair, pale makeup, and thin as a rail.  She looks like an anorexic lady of the night.

Pairs started off largely as expected with Woetzel/Steuer and Eltsova/Bushkov splitting the first place ordinals, and Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze making a strong effort for third.  Meno/Sand and Ina/Dungjen are back-to-back in 4th and 5th place while Stiegler and Zimmerman were a disappointing 13th in the short program.  One off these teams must move up one place for the US to retain 3 spots in pairs for next year, so all three teams are under the gun for the long program.

Lu Chen was at a press conference to talk about her difficulties here.  Speaking through an interpreter she said that she has only be training for Worlds for about 4 weeks.  She has been off the ice recovering from a stress fracture that flared up at Skate Canada last November, and which forced her to withdraw from that competition.  She said that her goal her was to place high enough to qualify for the Olympics and thus avoid the necessity of competing in the Olympic qualifying competition that will be held next season .

IOC President Juan-Antonio Samaranch, and ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta gave a joint press conference; all part of an ISU/IOC love-fest that has been in evidence all week.  Most of the items they discussed were old news.  Mr .Samaranch  indicated that there never has been a plan to eliminate Ice Dancing from the Olympics, and that as long as the ISU holds competitions in Ice Dancing they will continue to be a part of the Olympic Games.  Both Mr. Samaranch and Mr. Cinquanta made negative comments about the scoring system and it appears the ISU is intent on ruining, ... err, ... changing the scoring system.  To what we can only guess at and tremble.

Monday, 17 March 1997

The ladies qualifying rounds were held today and it was Zambonis Group A and Zambonis Group B.  It was so dreadful, the remote possibility of a US ladies sweep here before it all began now is looking better and better.  If the three US ladies stand up this week there are only two other ladies who seem to have a chance of breaking up a sweep.

After some uncertainty it has been established that Hollander's 18th place finish in the qualifying round counts for 16 points in determining the number of men the US can send next year.  This means Eldredge and Weiss must have combined places of no more than 5 for the US to send three men in '98; for example, if Eldredge wins, Weiss would have to place no lower than fourth.  A pretty tough challenge in this group of men.

The Swiss have a reputation for efficiency, and their efforts here, at least, show it is well deserved.  We have seen none of the frantic last minute confusion so common at events in the US, and from day-one the worker bees all seem to know their jobs and are able to answer questions without consulting four other people first.  Their record so far for solving problems large and small is near perfect and it is clear the organizers have "sweat the details" in preparing for the event.  There is a curious penchant for forms and deposits for just about everything but everyone is so friendly in the process it has hardly been a bother.  Police and security volunteers can be found everywhere but they too seem to know their job and how to do it without the uncooperative, arrogant, and unfriendly attitude so prevalent at competitions at many large US arenas.

 Despite the compact arrangement of the venue, there is plenty of room where it is needed.  For our part, the press center is spacious and well run making getting the word out a lot easier than many events we cover where media accreditation is restricted and the space allocated is not unlike crowding 20 clowns in a volkswagen.  Observers from Minneapolis Worlds are here taking notes.  One can only hope they actually learn something from the experience.

Sunday, 16 March 1997

As is currently the custom, two of the four qualifying rounds for the men's and ladies singles were held today.  New this year is the requirement that all entrants must compete in the qualifying rounds, with the awarding of byes for the top ten seeded skaters from the previous year having been eliminated at the 1996 ISU congress.  The top 15 skaters in each group will survive the cut and go on to the championships.  If a skater from the host country does not make the cut, they get to go on anyway.  The Swiss man, Meier ended up 16th in his group so there will be 31 men skating the short program.  Tomorrow the ladies go at.

The arena has good ice but is tiny.  The ice is 30 m X 60 m (roughly 100 ft X 200 ft) and nearly fills the building.  Seating is limited as is working space in the building.  Most of the support activities for the competition are in large tents surrounding the arena.  So far the weather has been nice, spring-like with clear skies in the afternoon. The city and its surrounding are lovely and when it is clear the view of the Alps across the lake is spectacular.

We have new software for laying out our web pages.  I finally have a spell checker in the HTML editor so maybe there will be fewer of the horrendous spelling errors and typos you all, no doubt, have snickered at in the past.

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