2003 World Championships
by Maggie Doyle
Competitors could have saved money ordering their old fashioned tuxedos and open hand arm gloves with pastel chiffon dresses together in bulk as that was the standard costume choice for many of the skaters in this event with a few exceptions. Since there were more than 25 competitors, the ISU split the compulsory dance round into two qualifying groups.
Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia skated the Austrian Waltz for the first time in any competition. He said, "Frankly, we didn't have much time to prepare it. We learned the steps during the summer, but then we didn't have this dance in our Grand Prix events, and we prepared another dance for Europeans. We had to prepare the second free dance for the Grand Prix Final and didn't have time for this Waltz. We really started to work on it only two weeks ago. Considering that, we're very pleased with this performance." Their performance was smooth and included deep knees.
They won all nine judge's ordinals and this was their final compulsory dance of their career. They will turn professional immediately following this competition, beginning a 70-performance tour of France and Switzerland in April. They were off time during some spots in their patterns, which seemed to be reflected in some of their marks, which ranged from 5.4 to 5.7 for technique and from 5.6 to 5.8 for timing/expression. "The timing in this dance is very difficult," Averbukh said.
Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov of the Ukraine dressed in all white gave a strong performance highlighted by their strong unison of movements and extensions and her strong twizzles and their quick turns. "The Austrian Waltz is a difficult dance. You can see right away who can skate well and who cannot. We've done it twice in competition this year, so we felt comfortable with it," she said. This team will skate in the twenty-third spot in the 29 team skating order for the "Memories of a Grand Ball" Original Dance.
Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski of Israel are currently in third with technique marks ranging from 4.9 through 5.5 and timing/expression marks from 5.2 through 5.6 after a solid performance and skated with their usual speed. "We felt good out there. The Austrian Waltz is new this year and I like it. It is nice to be here, we have lots of audience support," she said. "I am very happy with how we skated. We skated this dance better than we did at Skate America and I am satisfied with our placement," he said. This team skates twenty-fourth, the last team of the second to last warm-up group for the original dance.
Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev of the USA sit in fourth place at this stage and were stronger on the first pattern than on the second. "For the first skate of Worlds this was okay and it was pretty clean. The crowd was great," he said. Lang noted she had no longer been having trouble with her injury since nationals and that hadn't been affecting their training for this event at all. This team will skate 28th with only their teammates of Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto to follow. They finished just ahead of the French team of Isabelle Delobel and Oliver Schoenfelder in what looked like a close decision. They both had 138 for their TPIF.
Canada's Shae Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz skated their final career compulsory dance and won Group B in a field of fifteen with a lovely soft waltz. . Their marks ranged from 5.4 to 5.8 for technique and from 5.6 to 5.8 for timing/expression. In a field of 29 skaters, this team will compete at the start of the second to the last warm-up group in the 20th team position.
Bourne said, "We feel great and we've never felt this good in our career. This is the best feeling, the best skating we've ever done. We just can't wait to show our next two programs." Kraatz added when asked if losing some of this season due to Bourne's injury hurt them, "We focused on three events (this season) and for us, that works."
The Bulgarians Albena Denkova and Maxim Straviyski gave a solid performance with excellent timing and power, skating this dance for the first time in competition. This duo skates second in the final group as the twenty-sixth team in the original dance competition. "I was quite nervous as most of the other couples have more experience with this new dance. They did it at their Grand Prix events. I hope I will be more relaxed in the Original Dance," said Denkova. S
Russians Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov placed third in this group with a rapid paced waltz and will be the opening team for the final warm-up group (twenty- fifth in the skating order.) "I prefer the fact that there is now only one compulsory dance but the Austrian Waltz is a hard dance. We did it at Skate America and we worked on it a lot before this event," said Kostomarov.
The USA's Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto finished fourth in this stage and will be the final competitors for the Memories of a Grand Ball Original Dance. They had skated this waltz as juniors and are quite comfortable with it, which showed in their performance. They skated it elegantly with quick turns and good flow for marks ranging from 5.0 to 5.6 for technique and 5.4 through 5.6 for timing and expression. They finished ahead of Canada's Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon who were fifth.
"It is very special to skate with teams we looked up to as kids. Sharing the podium at Four Continents with Bourne and Kraatz was very special," said Belbin. " We don't try to figure out placements ahead but hopefully (in coming seasons) we can lead the wave of the generation coming up to replace the wonderful teams that are retiring this season," she added. Agosto said, "In the past we have jumped up (in the standings) from the compulsories and hopefully we can do that again here."
Competitors may chose two or three rhythms from the "Memories of a Grand Ball" Original Dance which included waltz, polka, march or gallop this season. According to ISU rules the pattern of this dance must proceed in a generally constant direction either clockwise or ant-clockwise. The dance pattern must not cross the long axis of the ice surface except once at each end of the rink. All steps, turns, rotations and changes of position are permitted provided they are appropriate to the designated rhythm and music.
Difficult and intricate footwork is required for both skaters as is the inclusion of required elements. No lifts or spins may be included in the step sequences. During the circular step sequence, dancers must use the specified Waltz, Tango or Fox-trot hold.
The required elements include one circular step sequence executed in the middle of the rink and utilizing the full width of the ice surface, and one mid-line step sequence that must include one series of synchronized twizzles (two twizzles each partner with no more than three steps between twizzles) and partners should remain close together. Two lifts are required but not more and have a duration of five seconds each and one dance spin but not more and must have a minimum of three revolutions. Combined spins and lifts are not permitted. There is a mandatory deduction for violation of required technical elements of between 0.1- to 0.4 and an omission of a technical element is a 0.5 deduction. If a team has a violation of technical restrictions (other than required elements) that costs them a tenth of a point per violation.
Irina Lovacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia won the original dance utilizing the waltz and polka rhythms in a close decision on a five four split of the nine mystery judges whose ordinals counted. On one of their lifts, her foot remained on the ice, which would have given them a deduction. Their marks still ranged from 5.7 to 5.9 for composition and required elements and from 5.5 to 5.9 for presentation. Their waltz to "The Blue Danube" was skated with smoothness and their Polka utilized the music, "Thunder and Lightning" by Johann Strauss. Averbukh said, "It was difficult for us to skate. The audience knows the Canadian couple better than us and received them better." He also noted there was no Russian judge on the panel, which made him nervous but they have the lead going into Friday's free dance. This team will skated third of the five-team final warm-up group.
Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz had a twizzle mistake on his straight-line footwork section, placing second by just one judge. They had strong audience support and also used two Strauss music selections for their waltz (Voices of Spring) and polka (Thunder and Lightning) rhythms. Their program was highlighted by a nice change of levels lift and strong circular footwork and they skated with more speed than the leaders. Bourne said, "It felt so great from beginning to end. We had a slight twitch at the end in the parallel footwork on one of the twizzles, it will probably be a deduction but not too bad, nothing major, it wasn't a huge interruption and we didn't lose our focus." They drew to skate first in the final warm-up group for their free dance.
Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviyski of Bulgaria gave the judges and audience a change of pace with their elegant Baroque styled dance that features the music "March of the Turkish Ceremonies (March) and Dance of the Witches (waltz). Highlights included their straight-line footwork and strong final lift. Their marks ranged from 5.4 to 5.7 for composition/required elements and from 5.3 to 5.8 for presentation. "It was a good performance and we are very happy with the crowd reaction, " said Denkova. They may use this program as an exhibition program in the future, with some simplifications. Her partner added, "Like in soccer, we had our own section in the audience that cheered for us." They will be the second to the last team to skate for the free dance.
Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia performed with lots of energy and with wonderful extensions to their "Sweet and Affectionate Beast" Waltz by E. Doga and they also utilized a march rhythm very effectively. "I think we did very well today. We had a little, little problem but it was not on one of the elements. Roman's blade lost a little edge and was a little shaky but it was at the beginning. I think we did a very good job," said Navka. This team finished fourth and will skate as the final competitors in the free dance.
Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov of the Ukraine skated a Strauss Waltz followed by a Strauss Polka and then returned to the waltz rhythm in their Original Dance. She is still the stronger member of this team but they captured the flavor of the polka and waltz well and they finished fifth. They will be the second team to skate in the final group for the free dance.
Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski of Israel were the only ones of the top teams to use three different rhythms using march (Redetzy March), waltz (Waltz by D. Shostakovich) and polka (Polka from the Bartered Bride by B. Smetana in their performance. They were one of the quickest teams in terms of speed and their program was highlighted by their final lift for sixth place at this stage of the game. They must skate in the second to the last warm-up group for the free dance, drawing spot 18 in the twenty-four-team field.
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto of the USA were seventh while U.S. national champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev placed eighth. Belbin and Agosto gave a strong performance that shone and was highlighted by level changes in their lifts and directional changes in their twizzles. She was shedding feathers from her costume but they said it wasn't a distraction. "She was molting," joked Agosto. She added, "This has happened before even though we shake it and shake it to get any loose feathers out so we are kind of used to it. I won't be wearing this costume in competition anymore. Her mother Michele Belbin creates all her lovely costumes for her.
Their nine ordinals were in a wide range, one third, two fourths, a sixth place, four sevens and an eighth place ordinal. "We saw that (third). It was almost more exciting than the final placement‚¶ It's just showing if we continue to work this hard and to perform this well we can continue to open doors for ourselves. With experience we just continue to walk through them," explained Belbin. They skated to Verdi's "La Traviata" drinking song for their waltz and "Jolly Robbers" for their polka.
Coming off Lang's ankle injury, which she says, hasn't been a problem since nationals, Lang and Tchernyshev gave a solid performance utilizing the waltz and polka rhythms. Their elegant waltz was to music by D. Shostakovich and their polka used music by B. Smetana by they were hurt by their lack of speed compared to other top couples and a short loss of unison on the straight-line footwork. Highlights included a nice level change move at the start of their program and a strong lift. Lang worked hard after the program's end to encourage the crowd. "I think we skated well and the crowd was amazing and carried us through. We had one little mistake on the straight line footwork but it was okay," said Lang. They had increased their difficulty since four continents for this original dance. "We tried to make the straight-line footwork much harder and today there was a little slip there," added Tchernyshev.
The Canadians gave one of the best performances of their careers skating with passion and drama and their footwork section was sensational. The MCI audience responded well to them. "I need to be pinched; it is so hard to believe. We are so glad we stayed and did this year. It was our best year ever," said Bourne. The marks ranged from 5.7 to 5.8 for technical merit/required elements and from 5.8 to 5.9 for presentation. Kraatz added, "Tonight is our night so I am just very happy." They are the first Canadian world dance champions.
Kraatz explained why he stayed on the ice while his partner was up blowing kisses to the audience. "I was savoring the moment. I was remembering all instances of great success and defeat. I thought this could be it. We skated great and thought whatever happens, happens." Bourne commented,"I wanted to have a great year with Victor and take our skating to a new level.... The skating spoke for itself."
Bourne clarified, "We never really left Tarasova. I was injured at the time and that was her decision. In ice dancing you spend more time with your choreographer. Until this year, people didn't know it was Nikolai that was the mastermind behind our programs. He was really the one making the routines, making the elements. We were lucky not to lose him as he is really the key person with this team."
Last year's champions and this year's silver medalists, Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia performed energetically with quick footwork and strong spins in vibrant highlighter yellow costumes. Averbukh was not pleased with the judges' decisions today. "Of course, the Canadian couple is very popular here in America, and the audience has waited a long time for them to win this gold medal. But in spite of the antagonism, I think we were able to draw part of the audience on our side with our performance. I'm very happy with the performance. We are not happy with the result, obviously," said Averbukh.
This Russian team's program did not excite the MCI audience for a rousing response but perhaps the decision to direct many of the program highlights toward the judges where there were lots of empty sponsor seats contributed to that. Their marks ranged from 5.7 to 5.9 for technical merit/required elements and 5.8 to one 6.0 for presentation. He added, "Shae-Lynn and Victor are a very strong couple, and it was a long way for them to the gold."
This free dance program which used musical selections of "Little Richard's "Baby Face", Fever, and "Jumping Jack" reminds of their "Trutti-Frutti" competitive/exhibition program in some of the included moves and steps. This duo had said all week that this was their final season but Averbukh appeared to reconsider during the press conference. "Right now I want it back and win another gold. I am not sure we have the power to do so but it is my dream," he said.
Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviyski won the first world championship medal for Bulgaria with their bronze medals, skating to an Egyptian themed "Afrai Baladi" by Mostafa Sax with strong footwork and impressive lifts. Denkova said," We are so proud of having won the first skating medal at Worlds for Bulgaria, and we hope to begin a tradition (of Bulgarian medals.)
Finishing just off the podium in fourth place, Russia's Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov skated with energy and emotion to Peter Gabriel's "The Feeling Begins" from Passion. They are coached by Sasha Zhulin who also does their choreography. "I am very proud of them and their performance," said their coach.
Elina Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov of the Ukraine skated with good speed to Magnus Fiennes "Quixote" as performed by Bond. They remained in fifth place to finish fifth overall. "It is difficult to access this program until we see it on TV," he said. She said," The battle for third place with the Bulgarians and Navka and Roman did not affect us or the way we practiced this season."
Last year's bronze medalists, Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski returned to their "Theme of Paganini" by Andrew Lloyd Weber program but updated for this season's requirements here but placed sixth in the free dance and overall. "We decided to change our program after the Grand Prix final. The judges though our program was good but the music was too heavy for a public audience. We talked it over with our coach and he agreed. It has been a tough season. We have learned a lot this year and are happy we skated well in all three events," she said. He added, " Every team here has been through one or two tough seasons. We want to skate three more years and prove ourselves. We want a medal."
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto skated a challenging dance to Elvis Presley selections, improving their world placement from 13th last year in Nagano with a seventh place finish. Fellow Americans and U.S. Champions, Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev had a less challenging but lovely dance with strong unison to place right behind this young couple in eighth place.
"You have no idea how much it helps us to hear them (the audience). It is a very demanding program and just to know we are connecting with them like that really pushes us right to the end. To have it (this competition) end on such a high note for us was very rewarding," said Belbin. Agosto added," We take all the energy the audience has to give and it makes it so much easier for us to pour ourselves into it. The performance felt smooth to us; it felt like we were right on top of it and kept our flow. We were pretty happy with it."
On their own performance Lang said," I gave it just everything. It's been an emotional season. We only had three competitions this season but it feels like three years long. We have been under so much stress this year with Tanith and Ben really running after us. Everything happens for a reason so it is good that the USA has two teams in the top ten." Tchernyshev said graciously,"I just want to say I am so proud of my partner. She gave it all today when it was needed."
All the requirements does make it easier for the judges to compare programs but it also takes some of the individuality out of the free dances. The Free Dance counts for 50% of the total score and must not exceed four minutes, plus or minus 10 seconds. In the composition of the free dance, all steps, rotations, turns and changes of position are permitted but at least one skate of each partner must remain on the ice at all times except during the permitted jumps and lifts. Maximum length of separations is five seconds except for the beginning or end where they can be 10 seconds.
Required elements for the free dance include at least two lifts but not more than seven with a maximum duration of five seconds and at least one dance spin but not more than three. There are two required sequences of twizzles; one must have two twizzles started from a backward edge. Two footwork sections were required and the specified spin must be in the waltz position.
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