2008 World Figure Skating Championships

Gothenburg, Sweden


Ladies Report     Men's Report    Pairs Report    Dance Report

Follow these links to event reports.



Sunday, 23 March

Men's SP report is finally up.  Serious work is done.  The exhibition takes place this afternoon.

Overall this was a smoothly run, well organized championships.  The centralized arena, practice rink and hotel were about as convenient as it gets, and the facilities were first rate.

But did I tell you how expensive it is here?  $5 cup of coffee?  $10 Big-Mac? $5 can of soda?  As much as we enjoyed our stay here, looking forward to 2009, and warm, sunny Los Angeles.  Actually I am looking forward to warm sunny Los Angeles tomorrow.  Only 28 hours of travel to get there from here, starting Monday morning!

Saturday, 22 March

Championships finish today with the Men's Free Skate.

After speaking to several ISU officials we confirm that music deductions are appealable, and the French federation did protest Joubert's music deduction in the Short Program.  The protest was turned down and the deduction stands.

And to clarify terminology -- "vocal music" is music that includes the singing of words, and is not permitted in singles and pairs.  "Vocalizing" is the singing of sounds, but not words, and is permitted.  Though Joubert's music was used twice before this season without deductions, the referee (Fabio Bianchetti) at this event ruled the music included the singing of some words and took the deduction.

Skating to a full house, Jeffrey Buttle won the Men's event.  Brian Joubert moved up to win the silver, and Johnny Weir won the bronze -- the only medal for the U.S. at these championships.

Official attendance: 9505

Men's FS report is up.

Friday, 21 March

46 Men in the Sort Program this morning.  Dance Free Dance in the evening.

First half of men is done.  Igor Matcypura leads at tis point and is guaranteed to make the final round.  Alban Preaubert has withdrawn prior to the Short Program, citing an injured back.  Anton Kovalevski is also guaranteed to make it to the final round.

Short Program upset.  Buttle places first, Weir second, Takahashi third.  Lambiel fifth, and Joubert in sixth with two deductions (fall and music).  Who'd have thunk it.

Delobel & Scheonfelder hold on for the gold in Dance.  Belbin & Agosto fought back valiantly, but ended up fourth, 0.26 out of the medals, with the fall in the CD the crucial deciding factor in the event.  Even without a medal, American dancers did tolerably well, placing 4th, 6th, 12th, and 11th, 14th, 17th and 16th.

The entire medal hopes of America now rests on the shoulders of Johnny Weir!  Weir, of course, does not consider skating a team sport.  But even when it's all about me, you still want to win a medal.  So go Johnny.

Official attendance, Men's SP 8080, Dance FD 9506.

Dance FD report is up.
Men's SP report will be delayed.

Thursday, 20 March

Coming up today, the Original Dance in the afternoon, and the Ladies Free Skate in the evening.

Kimmie Meissner has been working triple Axel in practice with some success.  Will she put one in her program tonight?  Time will tell.

Brent Bommentre's skates and costumes finally showed up last night.  He will be competing today in the new skates brought in at the last minute, but will be wearing  his original costume.

Medal anxiety is setting in, as fears rise that the U.S. will be shut out of the medals this year.  In the OD, Belbin and Agosto placed fourth in the Free Dance, but still lost ground in the points they need to medal.  The bronze is still within reach, but the signs are not good.  Our not-all-that-important prediction is that they will end up fourth when the snow settles.  Medal hopes thus turn to Kimmie and the magic a triple Axel would work - and the Men's event has yet to begin.

No triple Axel from Kimmie, nor Mao either.  Mao wins the gold while placing second in both the short and the long!  Miki Ando attempted to skate but withdrew after two element, citing muscle cramps and a partially torn leg muscle which she injured this morning. Yukari Nakano attempted a triple Axel, but it was downgraded.

The medal funk deepens!

Official attendance for the OD, 5372, Ladies SP 9431.

Dance OD report is up.
Ladies FS report is up.

Wednesday, 19 March

Today is the day from hell.  Every competitions, it seems, has at least one.  We start with 53 Ladies Short Programs and end with 20 Pairs Free Skates.  Fourteen hours from start to end.

This morning at breakfast I saw an article in the International Herald Tribune by Alan Schwarz (you can find it on the internet).  It began with the following lead: "One stands 6 feet 2 inches, wears panther black and dates ESPN's Hottest Female Athlete.  The other weighs an avian 125 pounds, favors sequined swan outfits and coyly brushes off patter about his sexuality."  A few paragraphs later the piece goes on, "Lysacek, who fashions himself a hard-core athlete, has won the last two U.S. national titles.  Weir, an athlete into hard-core fashion, won the previous three.  Lysacek favors skating's jumps and stunts can do without all the pomp, while Weir is one of the most hypnotically graceful male skaters."  The accompanying pictures, chosen to match the editorial drift of the piece, show Lysacek on the left in a shot from an exhibition program looking "manly" and "edgy" while the other shows Weir in an edge move from his "chess" program looking, not to mince words, "effeminate".  How long did they search, I wonder, to find the two pictures chosen to send the message?

I have to say, this is about the most offensive piece about male figure skaters I have seen in a long time.  And one that is not even fully accurate either, given that at the recent U.S. Nationals, Weir beat Lysacek in cumulative TES for the two programs (the main athletic measure of the sport) and also in cumulative skating skills (the other athletic measure of the sport) -- and that within the inner rink-world of skating one often hears as much speculation about Lysacek's sexual identity as Weir's.  While underneath the surface there is as story to be told about their rivalry, this gay-bashing tripe is not that story.

Fifty-three skaters and nine hours later, Carolina Kostner holds a small lead over Mao Asada.  Kimmie Meissner lies 4 points out of the medals.  In Pairs, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy won the gold medal, overtaking Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang with a technically challenging free skate.  Attendance at the "crack of dawn" was limited to perhaps 500-800 spectators, but by the end of the event, the crowd had grown to about 5300.  At the evening session, official attendance was 8142.

Pairs FS report is up.
Ladies SP report is up.

Tuesday, 18 March

First day of competition with the Argentine Tango starting at 1 PM and the Pairs Short Program in the evening.

It would seem the airlines don't know where Gothenburg is from all the lost luggage stories.  Brent Bommentre's skates and costumes went missing and he has had to improvise since.  New skates were brought here by a friend who left for Sweden after Bommentre arrived here.  Yesterday he went shopping for clothing for today's compulsory dance -- basic black for the Argentine Tango.  Finding African themed clothing for the Original Dance will be more of a challenge.  A new costume is being quickly put together in case his luggage does not show up in time for the OD.  Navarro & Bommentre skate last in the CD today.  Belbin & Agosto skate 6th and Davis & White 22nd.

And when the dust cleared, Delobel & Schoenfelder are on track to win the gold medal in dance, while Belbin & Agosto fall into fifth place2.96 points out of the medals.  Estimated attendance this afternoon was 2000.

In a hard fought contest, Zhang & Zhang took the Short Program.  The U.S. teams accomplished nothing worth writing home about, so we won't.  Inoue & Baldwin sit in tenth place.  Official attendance was 8569, but about a quarter of those went home before the event was over.

Prior to the start of the Pairs Short Program, the opening ceremony was well done, and far more entertaining than the usual dreary things you find put on at worlds.   The competition was opened by Crown Princess Victoria, who, from the reaction of the audience, appears to be well liked.  Usually at opening ceremonies, the dignitary trotted out to open the competition disappears shortly thereafter, but tonight the Princess stayed to the end, viewing from the ISU VIP area.

More on the Dance and Pairs events in the competition reports coming up soon.

Pairs SP report is up.
Dance CD report is up.

Monday, 17 March

Yesterday held such promise for the week.  The sun was shining.  Birds were chirping.  Crocus were in bloom.

And today we wake up to snow on the ground and in the air.  So much for a springtime week in Gothenburg.

Official practice began yesterday and continues throughout the day today, with draws for dance and pairs thus far completed.  Missing from this weeks festivities are Evan Lysacek who was injured just over a week ago while flogging triple Axels and quad toes.  Oksana Dominina & Maxim Shabalin are also out since Shabalin wrecked his knee by skating at Europeans.

At the Sunday practice Miko Ando was practicing quads, with no success, and afterwards announced she would not be attempting one in competition.  Mao Asada missed part of her practice session, and did not skate her turn in the music rotation, mainly stroking for the second half of the practice.  Ashley Wagner reportedly had a good practice session, as did Bebe Liang.  Kimmie Meissner arrived this morning and has two days to get un-jet-lagged.  Good luck there.  Her first practice session here will be later this afternoon.

There are a record number of entries here, and a record number of ladies.  Fifty three!

The opening press conference this afternoon was the usual rah-rah stuff, but there were still a couple of interesting moments.  Asked about the age rule to compete at Worlds, in light of the several U.S. skates who were age ineligible this year, Ottavio Cinquanta reiterated that his "medical experts" have confirmed for him since U.S. Nationals, that the age requirement is properly set, and that he intends to stick with the current rule.  He was also asked about the TV contract for 2009 Worlds, replying that the ISU had arranged TV coverage with NBC.  Beyond that he was unclear whether those arrangements covered more than the one competition, and then cut off further possible questions by saying that he was unwilling to disclose the details of the agreement or the negotiations.

Yu-Na Kim was asked how she was recovering from her hip injury.  She said "I am not 100% right now.  I hope I don't get nervous because of it, and show a good program."  In a follow up question about the attention she receives from the media in Korea, she remarked that she was getting more attention from the media, but she was not as confident as last year, so she tried not to pay too much attention to the media.

On the other side of the confidence scale, Daisuke Takahashi was asked about the pressure he was under to become the first male champion from Japan saying, "I don't feel pressure because I want to be world champion."  Though earlier he was asked how his success this season thus far made him feel about his chances here.  "I must do 100% my best, more than in Korea," he said.  "I am excited about the competition."  (Korea of course, referring to the recent Four Continents Championships.

At an evening reception for the press I was chatting with Dick Button and, being is Sweden, I asked him about his experience meeting Ulrich Salchow when Button competed at the 1947 Worlds in Stockholm.  I had heard that Salchow had given Button one of his medals at that competitions. But that is not quite right.  At some point during the competition (or maybe before, or after, Button could no longer remember) Salchow invited a group of competitors to his home.  While there, Salchow took Button into the trophy room which was lined with Salchow's many awards and trophies (Salchow was 10 times World Champion and Olympic gold medalist in 1908).  There, Salchow told Button he did not want Button to leave the competition without a trophy, and that he could have any one he wanted.  The trophies ranged from the small to large; some modest, some lavish.  Button said he thought it might have been inappropriate to take the smallest, but also not appropriate to take the largest, so he selected one of middle size, this trophy being Salchow's 1901 Championship trophy.  The trophy was with Button for many years, but he no longer has it.

Button had copies made and gave the original to John Misha Petkevich, with the condition that Petkevich could only give the trophy to someone in skating deserving of it when the time was right, and that that person must follow in suit.  So Petkevich now has one of the copies of the trophy and the original to be handed on in the future.  Button said that future recipients need not necessarily be champion skaters; but only a person whose contributions to the sport made them deserving.  He told me the next person has been selected, but would not say who it is or when it might occur.  From that meeting 61 years ago a lovely but largely quiet tradition is being created.

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