With his fourth place result in the short program, Todd Eldredge needed a win the long program and a little luck to win the gold here. Todd did his part of the job, but luck failed him and he ended with the silver, his fifth World medal in seven World Championships.
Except for the Chinese man Guo, the first two warmups were mostly undistinguished. Guo attempted two quad toe loops and landed one, a quad-triple combination. Guo opened with an incredibly difficult series of jumps. He began with triple Axel - triple toe loop, then quad toe loop - triple toe loop (with only the quad clean), followed by a deathdrop and a triple Lutz. An incredible but costly feat. In the middle of the program he ran out of gas after completing a triple loop and a triple Salchow. He left out two elements in the middle of the program to rest, and then near the end of the program he attempted the second quad toe loop. By that time however he was completely spent and he put a hand down and then fell. He received strong first marks but was marked considerably lower in the second mark and this prodigious technical effort could only garner a 12th place result.
In the third warmup group, most of the men continued to struggle. A strong performance was given by Langdon despite falling on triple loop and triple Axel, and stepping out of triple flip. The best effort of this group, however, was Cousins, who landed six triples including one triple Axel, but falling on another.
The main fireworks, of course, were in the fourth and final warmup. Unlike the pairs free skate where most of the pairs in the final warmup skated not to lose, the men in the final warmup all skated to win.
Michael Weiss started off but ran into trouble early. He fell on his opening attempt at quad Lutz and then put his hand down on the Axel in a triple Axel - double toe loop combination. He completed triple flip - triple toe and three more triple (including a solo Axel) before doubling a closing triple Lutz, and then threw in an extra double toe which he probably intended to be a triple. He dropped to seventh in the long for a sixth place finish.
Weiss was followed by Viacheslav Zagorodniuk who attacked his program and made only one error, doubling a triple Lutz near the end of the program. He received a standing ovation for his effort and the third place spot in the long program. His fifth place finish in the short program, however, kept him out of the medals.
Of the medal favorites, Alexei Yagudin went first. Despite the pressure he skated with poise and completed seven triples, but also made two errors leaving the door open for Eldredge - doubling an attempt at quad toe loop and singling a toe loop in a triple flip combination. But before Todd skated, the German Andrejs Vlachtchenko had his turn.
Vlachtchenko really attacked his program and skated with passion. He landed seven triples, but many of them were a bit sloppy, and with so many strong skaters in the final group could only manage to move up one spot, to fifth place. That left the last two skaters, Eldredge and Evgeni Pliushenko.
Everyone expected Eldredge to fight for the gold, but hardly anyone would have predicted that he would attempt the quad when it was completely unnecessary; but attempt it he did - though unsuccessfully. He followed with triple Axel - double toe loop, which should have been a triple-triple. To compensate he threw a triple Lutz - triple toe loop which otherwise would have been a triple-double. He then went on to land four more triples for a total of seven. Again, part of this was improvisation. Doubled his closing triple Salchow, he chose to drop a final double Axel and replaced it with a triple toe loop. For the last third of the program the crowd was in a frenzy. From the time he landed the second triple Axel to the end of the program the roar of the crows was deafening with each completed element. He received all nine first place ordinals, but the gold would not be his if Plushenko did not place ahead of Yagudin.
Skating last, Plushenko opened with an attempt at quad toe loop and fell. He then chose to improvise the remainder of the program. He came around a second time and tried the quad again, and again he fell. He then landed triple Axel - triple toe loop, omitted a triple loop, fell on triple Axel, omitted a double Axel, landed a triple Lutz - triple toe loop and a triple flip, threw a triple loop instead of a Salchow, and added an unplanned triple flip. All these modifications completely disruption the presentation of the program which bore little resemblance to the one he did in the qualifying rounds. When the ice chips settled, he ended up fourth place in the long behind Zagorodniuk, for a third place finish and the bronze medal.
By virtue of placing fourth in the short program Eldredge ended up with the silver medal, and despite placing second in the long Yagudin took the gold. Yadugin is the second youngest men's World Champion, just 6 days older than the record holder, Donald MacPherson of Canada. Plushenko may be the youngest men's World medalist, but the record on that is still being researched. Without doubt, though, he certainly one of the youngest.
What looked to be an easy run at the gold medal for Todd Eldredge is shaping up as another potential nightmare after the short program. Skating in the fourth of five groups, a clean skate was essential after two strong performances by Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko. Todd opened strong, perhaps too strong, and pressing too hard for the triple Axel in his triple Axel - triple toe loop combination he stepped out of the first jump and then quickly threw in a double toe loop. The remainder of the program was clean and well skated, but it wasn't enough for anything better than third place at the time. In the last warmup group Michael Weiss skated a clean program with triple Axel - triple toe loop to move ahead of Eldredge into third place. With a fourth place finish in the short program, Yagudin must place no higher than third in the free skate in order for Eldredge to win the gold. This is not out of the question since Plushenko has the potential to beat Yagudin, but it is not the most likely scenario for tomorrow. After the competition Eldredge said, "My performance could have been better. My triple Axel was too wild, too big and out of control. Maybe I tried a little too hard."
Skating together in the third warmup group, the two Russian men both skated strong programs. Plushenko went first, attempting triple Axel - triple toe loop, and triple Lutz, but two footing the landing on the triple Axel. Two skaters later Yagudin landed the same jumps in his short program. With a clean program and better flow out of his jumps and greater finesse Yagudin took first with 7 first place ordinals. Plushenko, however, had a slight edge on the second mark and in the long program it will come down to who skated the best that day.
In the last warmup group, Michael Weiss opened with triple Lutz and then also landed triple Axel - triple toe loop. His performance was strong and confident, but lacked speed and presence compared to the two Russian men.
Skating in the first warmup group, the much anticipated Canadian skater Emanuel Sandhu had another disappointing skate. After the qualifying round he expressed confidence that he would place in the top 10, but his confidence was misplaced. He fell on triple Axel and doubled his triple Lutz. Further, he skated lethargically, and the choreography of his program was not of senior World Championships quality. He ended up 29th and was eliminated from the competition.
The second Canadian skater, Jeffrey Langdon, skated last and did a bang-up job. He skated clean with triple Axel - double toe loop and triple flip. After the performance he said, "It was one of my best short programs all year and it was great to do it here. I think it was an advantage to skate last. You have to think positive whenever you skate. There has been energy in this building all afternoon and I wanted to give them the show they were waiting for. The American crowd is great and there are so many Canadians - it is fabulous."
The most amusing performance of the afternoon came from the quirky Laurent Tobel of France. While an amusing performer, the connecting moves in his program are not particularly difficult and with a fall on his opening triple Axel combination he ended up in 19th place. Tobel looks to be developing in to the Gary Beacom of France.
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