1999 World Campionships

Daily Notes and Comments

Sunday, 28 March 1999

The ISU has suspended, effective immediately,  Mr. Alfred Korytek of Ukraine and Mr. Sviatoslav Babenko of Russia for misconduct during the judging of the pairs event.

Saturday, 27 March 1999

Competitive events finished today with the ladies free skating.  Maria Butyrskaya won the ladies title with a strong skate that was unambiguously the best of the day.   She is the first Russian lady to win the World title and the oldest ladies champion in the history of Worlds.  With her victory Russian sweeps all four gold medals at this World Championships.  Michelle Kwan moved up to win the silver medal with a respectable skate, though one with several small errors.  Julia Soldatova in her first World Championships won the bronze medal.  The other two U.S. ladies were both able to move up over their short program standings.  The U.S. ends up with three spots for the ladies event at next years Worlds.

Friday, 26 March 1999

The second section of the ladies event - the short program - took place with only one of the favorites prior to the Championships sitting in the top three spots after the short program, and that skater was not Michelle Kwan.  Maria Butyrskaya, Julia Soldatova, and Vanessa Gusmeroli all skated clean programs.  Michelle Kwan fell on her double Axel and ended up in fourth place for the short program and fourth place overall.   Kwan cannot win the gold medal on her own by winning the free skating.   Butyrskaya must place third or below for Kwan to win the gold.  This is not out of the realm of possibility since Butyrskaya is not the most consistent skater, but given the strength which with she skated in the short program that does not seem likely - after all who would have thought Kwan would be in fourth place by falling on a double Axel.

The Dance event was completed in the evening with the skating of the free dance.   Anissina & Peizerat skated a magnificent free dance and earned four first place marks, the closest they have come to beating their rivals Krylova & Ovsiannikov who placed first and repeat as World Champions.  Bourne & Kraatz held third place for their fourth World bronze medal.  Just as in the pairs event the audience and the judges did not come to the same conclusion.

The "Ottavio Show" took place today with ISU President Cinquanta meeting the media for his annual Worlds press conference.  He began by summarizing what he considered to be the important accomplishments of the ISU this season and then answered questions from the media on a wide variety of subjects..  The items he mentioned as ISU accomplishments consisted of the following: the implementation of the replay system, the implementation of the (horrible) new scoring system, the continued development of synchronized skating leading up to the first World Championships in that discipline next season, the successful initiation of the Four Continents Championships, and the start of an initiative to invite representatives of active international competitors to future ISU council meetings.  He also announced the Grand Prix Final for next season is tentatively set for Paris, France on 14-16 January, 2000.  We will report at greater length on his comments some time shortly after Worlds.

Thursday, 25 March 1999

In a surprising upset, French team Anissina & Peizerat won the Original Dance leaving open the possibility they could win the dance championship here.  Anissina & Peizerat and Krylova & Ovsiannikov both have 1.6 points in total factored place and either team can win the gold by winning the free dance.  Canadians Bourne & Kraatz placed third in the OD and are currently sitting in third place.  Firmly in fourth place are the second Russian team of Lobacheva & Averbukh.  U.S. dancer Lang & Tchernyshev placed tenth in the OD to maintain tenth place over all.   Chalom & Gates dropped one spot to 17th.  For the U.S. maintain two spots for next year the combined place from the two teams must be 28 or less leaving a margin of one place at this point.  It looks encouraging that they will beau able to hold on.

Alexei Yagudin and Evgeny Plushenko traded places in the long program to place 1-2,   while Michael Weiss moved up to take the bronze medal.  A total of seven quads were landed in the long programs, including a quad Salchow - triple toe loop from Timothy Goebel.  It was the first time that combination has been landed in international competition.  Goebel placed 12th and the third U.S. man, Trifun Zivanovic, 16th.   The U.S. ends up with two spots at next year's World Championships.

Wednesday, 24 March 1999

The ladies qualifying rounds took place today.  The favorite coming into the competition, Michelle Kwan, won her group easily despite a lackluster performance.   Comparing the two groups, it seems pretty clear no one will come close to her if she stands up in the short and long programs.  The quality of the two ladies groups was well below that of the men.  Between the two groups only three skates gave performances of any quality, and at the bottom there were far more competitors who barely met the novice or junior level of skill compared to the men's event.  Sarah Hughes skated fairly well, placing fourth in her group - a fine accomplishment for a 13-year-old in her first senior Worlds.  Angela Nikodinov was a mediocre ninth in her group.

Shen & Zhao gave Berezhnaya & Sikharulidze a good challenge but the Russians took the gold on the strength of the second mark.  The bronze was taken by Zagorska & Siduek.  These were the first World pairs medals for both China and Poland.   The U.S. teams of Ina & Zimmerman and Hartsell & Hartsell placed 9-10.   Handy & Binebose appeared briefly on the ice during the warm-up and then withdrew due to illness.  Binebose has the flu.  He got sick after Nationals and missed Four Continents.  After recovering he came down with another episode earlier in the week.

Due to the expectation of immanent military action in Kosovo, the International Olympic Committee announced that the rededication ceremony for the Zetra Olympic Hall in Sarajevo that was schedule for 30 March 1999 in that city has been postponed.  No date for a future ceremony was indicated, and one may not be held in Sarajevo at all, as future developments may warrant.

Tuesday, 23 March 1999

Six hours of compulsory dance today.  Any hopes of displacing Krylova & Ovsiannikov were dashed when Anissina & Peizerat and Bourne & Kraatz tied for second.  To displace the Russians either of these two teams would have to win both the original dance and the free dance.  Not likely.  It looks like Krylova & Ovsiannikov are headed to another gold medal while the French and Canadian teams battle it out for the silver and bronze.

In the men's short program Evgeny Plushenko and Alexei Urmanov placed 1-2.  They are in good position to hold those places in the long program.  Elvis Stojko is sitting in third and would need help to win under the new weighting factors which include the qualifying results.  Stojko would have to win the long, and Plushenko and Yagudin would both have to place third or lower for Stojko to win the gold medal here.  That doesn't seem likely, but is not impossible if Urmanov pulls off an upset of his teammates.

Micheal Weiss did a decent job and is sitting in fourth place after the short.   Timothy Goebel is in 13th followed by Zivanovic in 14th.  For the U.S. to retain its three spots in the men's event Weiss would have to hold fourth place and Goebel or Zivanovic would have to move up to ninth or higher.  A tough job.  Goebel is thinking of attempting two quads in the long program, a Salchow and a toe loop.  If he succeeds he would be the first skater to land two different quads in the same program.

Monday, 22 March 1999

Worlds began today with the men's qualifying round and the pairs short program.   This is a new schedule for the competition compared to previous years which was established once the qualifying rounds were made part of the final results in the singles events.  The ladies qualifying rounds will take place on Wednesday.  Previously the qualifying rounds took place on Sunday and Monday with the official start of the competition taking place on Tuesday.  Five quad toe loops were landed by skaters in Group B (which skated first) and a quad Salchow was landed  by Timothy Goebel in Group A.  This is the first quad Salchow to be landed in a World Championships.   In Group B, Michael Weiss finally connected on a quad attempt and landed one of the five quad toe loops.  He is the first U.S. man to land a quad toe loop in international competition.

Michelle Kwan gave a half hour press conference today and repeated her mantra of "work hard, enjoy yourself in what you are doing, and be disciplined" - over and over.  More interesting comments were had from her coach Frank Carroll.

Asked about the qualifying round structure at Worlds Carroll came out strongly in favor of the system used two two years ago when the top ten skaters from the prior Worlds did not have to compete in the qualifying rounds, and the qualifying rounds were not part of the final results.  (In a separate interview Alexei Yagudin also came out opposed to the new qualifying format.)  Another lively response was given by Carroll in regard to the inconsistent ISU age limitations.

Both the second and third place ladies at U.S. Nationals this year do not meet the ISU age requirements for Worlds.  One (Naomi Nari Nam) was not allowed to compete here, while the other (Sarah Hughes) is present due to a loophole which allows a medalist from World Juniors to compete at (senior) Worlds regardless of the age restriction.   Carroll said he was completely opposed to the current age restrictions, and that there should be no problem judging younger and older skaters together since the maturity of the older skaters invariably caries the day in sorting out the competitors.  He did not address the reason put forth by the ISU for the age restriction, which is that senior level competition is to great a physical strain for skaters below the current age limit (although not apparently too great a strain if a skater is both young and a World Junior medalist).

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