2004 World Championships

Dortmund, Germany

Reports by Maggie Doyle and Marcia Burchstead

Ladies Qualifying Report     Men's Qualifying Report
Ladies Report     Men's Report
    Pairs Report    Dance Report



(Click on the above links for detailed results and reports)

Saturday, 27 March

The ladies event wrapped up with some great skating and a bizarre stunt just before Michelle Kwan's turn to skate.  As she was stroking on the ice before being called to skate an unidentified man climbed over the boards, skated to center ice, stripped to the waist, and skated around the ice in a yellow tutu and black tights.  On his chest and back was painted the name of a website.  Kwan was motioned off the ice and it took several guards a few minutes to remove him from the ice.  He was taken away for questioning, and after some investigation was later released, as it is not a crime here to disrupt a sporting event with a marketing stunt.

Following the interruption, Kwan then took the ice again and had a fine skate, her only error doubling a triple Lutz, which was the last jump of the program.  She placed second to move up and win the Bronze Medal.  Shizuka Arakawa and Sasha Cohen also skated well.  Arakawa won the Gold and Cohen the Silver.  It was Japan's first Ladies Gold medal since Yuka Sato in 1994.

Two days ago, during his annual Worlds press conference, ISU president Cinquanta was asked about spotty security here.  He dismissed the concern.

How is it that a spectator was able to bring a pair of skates to his seat, and why were seats that allowed easy access to the ice not better patrolled?  And why did it take so long for security to respond?

After the event Kwan indicated at first she thought he was a sweeper (flower girl) and then a streaker.  Then she said it dawned on her he could have a gun and left the ice.

Sometimes security arrangements at large skating events go over the top, where only a prudent thoroughness is needed.  Arrangements here, however, have not met that standard.

Friday, 26 March

The Ladies short program served notice that a new generation of skaters have arrived.  Sasha Cohen gave a strong performance and appears under control to win her first World title.  The Japanese ladies let it be know that women without triple-triple combinations will now be at a major disadvantage.  Michelle Kwan placed fourth and appears out of the running for anything but the Bronze medal, though a silver is not out of the question under the right circumstances.

In the dance final, there was a fair bit of place switching, with Germany's Kati Winkler & Rene Lohse moving up to third place.  Ravka & Kostomarov and Denkova & Staviski held their places going into the final to take the first two places.  Belbin & Agosto held fifth place, a small but still important improvement since last year.  With continued progress this year, they could be medal contenders next season.

Michelle Kwan was ruled to have gone over time in the short program by 2 seconds.  It cannot be determined with complete certainty, but it appears that the 0.1 deduction in each mark most likely cost her one place in the standings and effectively knocked her out of the running for the Gold medal -- assuming the judges actually took the deduction.  The U.S. Team filed a protest in order to verify the timing.  The protest was disallowed by the referee, Jan Hoffman, the decision being that the time had been confirmed by three independent sources.

Thursday, 25 March

This afternoon the Original Dance proceeded pretty much as expected, with the medal favorites coming into the Championships firmly in command of the top three places.  Americans Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto are on track for a fifth-place finish, which would be two places better than their seventh place finish at Worlds last year.

In the evening, the Men's event was well attended, due largely to the prospect that the host country's Stefan Lindemann might medal.  He did not disappoint the home crowd, placing third to win the bronze

The Men's final had, perhaps, the greatest depth for a men's final at Worlds since the "Battle of the Brians" in 1988.  The last warm up group had six strong performances, and when the snow had settled, Evgeni Plusheko took the Gold, followed by Brian Joubert and Lindemann.  They were followed closely by Stephane Lambiel, who some thought outskated Lindemann.

Johnny Weir moved up to finish fifth in his first appearance at Worlds.  He was followed by Michael Weiss who finished sixth.

Wednesday, 24 March

Forty-two ladies competed today in two groups in the qualifying round for the ladies event.  Michelle Kwan dug herself a hole by placing third in her group, making her chances of winning the ladies title extremely difficult, but not impossible.  Skating last in the same group as Kwan, Japan's Miki Ando came close to landing a quad Salchow, falling on an attempt that was less than 1/4 turn under-rotated.

There were some who thought that Kwan was scored too high, and her marks were booed by the audience for that reason.  (Kwan placed ahead of Susanna Poykio on a 4-3 split).  That again begs the question, if one believes this result was incorrect (and we are not saying it is or it isn't, since it is irrelevant to our point) would CoP have prevented this "incorrect" result?

The same comments for the Pairs Short Program apply here.  Kwan could just as well been rightly or wrongly scored third by the panel under CoP, or any other system for that matter, if that is what the majority of the panel felt like doing.  Even with her single loop, Kwan's CoP base mark is close enough to her nearest competitors that there is enough latitude in the quality of execution points and program components to more than compensate for the fall in the triple Lutz.

An ironic consequence of this, is that if the majority of a panel under CoP decides to hold up a skater by adding or shaving a few tenths of a point here and a few tenths there, the scores from the minority of the panel that got the "right" answer become anomalies under the proposed ISU accountability process, and those judges end up being punished instead of the judges who scored the event incorrectly!  This example, and the Pairs Short Program, nicely illustrate the concern some still have that the ISU approach to scoring system reform and accountability does not solve the main problems that exist in judging, and that motivated reform efforts in the first place.

In the Pairs final the judges began their "Farewell to the 6.0 Victory Tour", by handing out 12 6.0s, ten of them going to Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao.  Shen & Zhao won the free skate, but placed second overall after placing only fourth in the Short Program.  Whether they would have won in a cumulative point system such as CoP or ME6, can never be known with complete certainty, but from the scores handed out here, it looks like probably not.

At mid-point, the Championships continue to run smoothly, though thus far they have been sparsely attended.

Tuesday, 23 March

The compulsory dance at this year's championships is the Midnight Blues.  The 29 couples entered here competed in two groups, with a total of 24 couples moving on to the Original Dance.  Overall it was a rather uninspiring competition of rather uninspiring dance.

In the men' short program Emanual Sandhu lived up to his reputation and moved down.  Johnny Weir and Michael Weiss are in striking distance for medals, though their chances are slim.  At least they are likely to place well enough for the U.S. to hold on to two positions in the men's event for next year.

One final comment on last night's pairs short program, the reigning champions, Shen & Zhao will "need help" to retain their title.  That, at least, is one clear difference between the current system and all the proposed systems on the ISU Congress agenda.  CoP, the Modern Era 6.0 system and the Russian scoring system proposals all allow competitors below the top three in earlier parts of an event the chance to win it all in the free skate without depending on the results of other skaters.

Monday, 22 March

Today's competitive events consisted of the two men's qualifying groups and the pairs short program.  The men's skating provided few surprises, except perhaps that of Emanual Sandhu winning his group.  The fourth place finish of the reigning World pairs champions in the short program, however, was a bit of a shock.

Even with this low finish, there were some in the press room who felt the fourth place finish of Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao was a gift, and yet another example of the evils of the 6.0 scoring system and proof of the need to adopt CoP.

Virtually everyone agrees (and has for the past two years) that some form of scoring system revision is necessary and desirable.  However, the knee jerk reaction of many individuals now to blame every decision of the judges they disagree with on the stupidity or dishonesty of the judges, or the characteristics of the scoring system is nonsense.  Likewise, to claim that CoP (or any other scoring system for that matter) would have produced results the malcontents would better prefer is nonsense heaped upon nonsense.  It is indeed a towering pile of nonsense.

The opinions of the malcontents in this case were not unanimously held in the press room, and from the looks of the marks there appears to have been as much diversity of opinion on the official panel as there was in the press room.  To think that under CoP there would not have been similar diversity of opinion is foolishly naive; and to claim that CoP would have gotten a different answer, no less to predict what that answer would have been, is even worse than what we call in science and engineering a "wag" (wild ass guess).

In making a wag, one should note the following,  The top six teams all attempted virtually the same required elements, and the CoP base marks for these elements was almost exactly the same for all the teams.  This means that under CoP, the results would have been entirely decided by the subjective grades of execution for the elements and the program components marks that make up the vast majority of the program point totals in CoP.  Using the subjective latitude within CoP one can plausibly reproduce this evening's results using CoP.  One can also produce several reasonable alternative results.  Which result one chooses to believe is purely the subjective opinion of the person evaluating the performances.  [The preceding is based on actual CoP calculations made following the event.]

If the panel felt that Shen & Zhao skated better than 15 other teams this evening, then any scoring system they might have used could produce that result.  Whether it is 6.0, or CoP, or any other scoring system, it is the same judges that are evaluating the skating and deciding the result according to more or less the same criteria, not the scoring system.  If fourth place was the result the judges believed was appropriate (or wanted to arrange), then fourth place is the result they would likely have gotten under any system.  The scoring system is no more than a tool the judges use to implement their decisions about the quality of the skating.  To think otherwise is to think it is the tool that makes the decision, and not the people who wield the tool.  Basically, if one drives a nail into a block of wood with either a hammer or a rock, the end result is the same so far as where the nail ends up is concerned.

Prior to the pairs short program the on-ice opening ceremony was held.  After the obligatory flags and group skating of young local skaters, there were videos of past German international stars.  While these were played in the arena, young skaters performed the same routines in time to the videos, after which the original performers were introduced.  Debbie Park performed an acrobatic act 50 feet above the ice on a ribbon of fabric and Vladimir Bessedin & Alexei Politschuk performed a pair routine in drag to "The Swan".  The official World's song was performed as the brother and sister team of Christina & William Beier (German ice dance silver medalists for 2004) performed.  The show was produced by the production company founded in 1999 by former German Champion Daniel Weiss, and was one of the better opening ceremonies presented at a World Championships in recent years. 

Sunday, 21 March

Several pre-competition events took place today.  In the morning a three hour dog and pony show was given by to promote the CoP scoring system and in the evening an opening ceremony and reception was held in the city's museum of industrial technology.

The CoP meeting was held primarily to present the changes to the system that have been made since the conclusion of the Grand Prix, and to spin the system to strengthen support for the proposal at the upcoming Congress.  For those who liked the system prior to arriving here the change were viewed as making a good thing better.  For those who came here feeling the system had major flaws and was not yet ready for adoption, the changes presented were viewed to be superficial and inadequate to warrant support of the system at this time.

The main goal of the meeting was to make the argument, that despite any problems one might think to be present in CoP (not that the ISU admits there are any problems), CoP with its "hypothetical" problems was still better than OBO and its "known" problems.  Basically the message was, it's close enough as it is.  Pass it now, fix it later.  Due to the great length of the meeting, however, a detailed discussion of what was presented will be deferred until after the Championships.

In the evening, an opening ceremony and reception was held.  Like a number of other steps that have been taken since the 2002 Winter Games,  this is the most recent example where the ISU has clearly decided to emulate the IOC and the Olympic movement in projecting its public images.

The ceremony here was patterned on a Olympic Games opening ceremony, with an entrance of the athletes with the flags of their nations, a musical theme composed specifically for the Championships, other musical performances including a pop version of the "Ode to Joy" (long an anthem associated with the Olympics), and remark by assembled dignitaries.  All that was missing was the raising of the ISU flag and oaths from the skaters and officials.

Whether these developments over the past two years are due to evangelistic zeal on the part of the ISU president because of his involvement with the IOC by virtue of his position as president of the ISU, or a way of ingratiating himself with the IOC in his quest to obtain permanent membership in the IOC is an open question.  Nevertheless, the calculated decision to present the ISU as a multi-sport Olympic governing body with all of the associate Olympic-type hype is clear -- though what benefit this has to the sport of figure skating remains to be seen.  In any event, putting political undercurrents aside, the opening and reception organized by the DEU (German Skating Federation) was quite enjoyable and well done, and was one of the more pleasant Worlds openings we have attended in many years.

Return to title page