The 2003 World Figure Skating Championships began last night, with the pairs short programs. Twenty-one teams skated 2.40-minute routines containing eight required elements. Although this phase counts 30% of the total scoring (with the final long program counting 70%), it is a fact that one simple error in a short program will USUALLY 'kill' a great competitor's chances of winning a medal. However, a glaring error in side-by-side sitspins by reigning World Champions, Shen/Zhao of China, did not keep them from landing in 2nd place, just behind their main competitors -- Russia's Totmianina/Marinin, who skated a PERFECT program to 'Peer Gynt', with brilliant elements and great speed. Undisputed winners of last night's phase. The 3rd and 4th spots also went to Russia.
The 2000 World Champs, Petrova/Tikhonov, made a comeback of sorts with a short program that was cleanly skated, yet was lacking the speed of T/M and the charisma of S/Z. There was speed and bubbling charisma in spades from the youngest Russian team -- tiny blonde Yulia Obertas and partner Oleg Sokolov -- if less-than-perfect elements (almost a hand-touch-down on the triple throw..but, in the arena's replay monitor overhead, all could see that she did NOT actually touch the ice).
So my white-blue-red flag of Russia was waved high last night!
IMO, China was lucky with S/Z's 2nd spot, due to the sitprin error. Their two younger teams skated beautifully, partularly the long-limbed, lyrical Pang/Tong, in 8th place. The 3rd Chinese team, Zhang/Zhang, are in 7th currently. All Chinese pairs' throws seem to reach half-way up to the rafters of the arena! Television does not do justice to those throws.
On the other hand, North American teams were not quite as lucky, with Canada's Langlois/Archetto faring best, in 6th place after an absolutely-perfect program...after which the judges marks were loudly booed. In fact every single North American pair's marks were booed and hissed. I agree only with the booing of L/A's marks. The other Canadian team -- their national champs, Lariviere/Faustino, currently 15th -- had a hard fall to the ice during one of the elements.
The USA teams either had a fault (Scott/Dulebohn, currently 13th, with the guy messing up his side-by-side triple jump... a step-out) or skating cleanly but with minimal stretch and/or elegance. The newest USA pair team (Orcher/Lucacs, 14th) is in sore need of ballet training, they are so sloppy looking. The audience could not believe their low marks (4.2s and such) after a clean skate of perfect elements but, hey, the overall quality of skating, lack of speed, and lack of balletic finesse was so evident, it was clear as day for any BalletAlertnik! Best finish for the USA was 11th place for Inoue/Baldwin.
LOTS of stretch and ballet training were in evidence for a young Japanese team that skated -- for me -- the most under-rated performance of the evening: an ice version of the Soviet pas de deux "Spring Waters"! WOW! WOW! WOW! It's obvious - their coach is none other than Tamara Moskvina of St Petersburg, coach of many a great pair of the past, including Berezhnaia/Sikharulidze. Watch our for this Japanese team to move up quickly, despite tonight's ridiculous placement of #12!!! They are the 'Sasha Cohen' of pairs, IMO.
Also fantastic last night: Poland's Zagorska/Siudek (currently 5th)...for once, putting it together with a clean short program that was well marked. Their effortless, creatively-positioned lifts are the best of the bunch.
All the scores & others stats on this competition may be found here:
2003 Worlds: Pairs Short Program, 3/24
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