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Alexandra

Women's skating

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I'd argue that we're not even seeing Michelle's artistry at her best. I wanted her to win so badly in Nagano but I've been disappointed in her programs since. Her presentation of programs is always excellent because her basic skating abilities are of such quality. But it's been a exactly 4 years since I've been moved by one of her skates. I feel like she stagnated after Nagano. As for her technical abilities, she hasn't pushed any boundaries. I don't feel she has advanced the sport in the last few years the way Slutskaya has, or Cohen is trying. Silly I know, but I'd love to see them taken risks in the SP with some triple-triples the way then men did with quad-triples in the SP.

I guess it's just a matter of preference again. Am I one of the few that really enjoys Slutskaya's style? She may not have the balletic style of Cohen but I still see grace and flow in her skating and she's exciting and sparkles in a way that the others don't.

[ February 21, 2002: Message edited by: sylvia ]

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I enjoy watching her, too. She's a little too hearty to fit into the waif or princess mold, but energy, daring, and enthusiasm go far with this viewer. In the past her lack of musicality was a little oppressive for me; one of the things I always admired about Kwan was her unfailingly musical skating, and frequently to music whose rhythmic impulse was not at all obvious. Slutskaya was better with things like "Don Quixote". But she can really light up an arena.

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Robin Cousins made an interesting dance analogy after the ladies final, saying again it was a matter of taste and that not everyone had to be balletic. He said Irina would never be 'Royal Ballet', that she was more 'Mark Morris' and that was ok.

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Wow, that Ladies long program was a HUGE surprise. I'm pretty crushed that we didn't get Irina-Michelle, 1-2 or vice-versa. It never once occurred to me that Sarah Hughes could be Olympic champion but she really did have the best LP of the night. I've been a big critic of hers - I'm not a fan of her skating. It looks awkward at times and her jumping technique drives me nuts. (preparations are the strangest I've seen). But she really delivered. Gotta admire her for skating her heart out, doing those triple-triples and skating pretty clean. I'm surprised Irina didn't slot in any herself though she did look really nervous. So I'm disappointed she held back because I love her Tosca though I think she overdid the drama a little. (Wish she'd take a note from Yagudin's book - his Tosca in Worlds 2000 was pure genius.) And she's capable of doing those combinations but deserves to be 2nd in the LP. And I guess that the SP did make a huge difference in the final placements after all!

Michelle was disappointing, program wise and technically. She was beautiful throughout but this program isn't one of her masterpieces. I can understand the low presentation marks - the fall on her flip really brought her program to a halt. And her jumps were tiny - only a few inches off the ice. I guess nerves just got the better of her. I really hadn't expected her to skate clean with the season she's had. I feel awful for her - to be beaten in the Olympics by yet another teenager. I think she was prepared to take home silver but not bronze. She looked so devastated on the podium. Irina was in tears too when the placements were announced but she looked her bubbly self when she came out for her medal. Sarah's reaction to her win was priceless - worth every disappointment I've felt in Olympic skating this year - really wonderful!

Sasha - loved the attitude she had throughout her skate! Carmen's been done to death though - I guess it must be like a rite of passage for all skaters but enough already! The poor music edits didn't help.

Maria seemed so tense throughout her skating, like she was gritting her teeth on every jump. Kudos to her for landing them all! She didn't have the grace she usually brings on ice. She also looked a little out of shape (that costume wasn't flattering at all). And I really disliked her screechy music - I can't believe this was the best she could come up with for the OLYMPICS. It's a disappointing end to an amateur career.

And Victoria Volchkova self-destructed in spectacular fashion. She's one of the top 6 skaters and the best jumpr in the world when she has the confidence. But it was one bad jump after another. She also needs a decent chroreographer. She's so tall with lovely long limbs but she doesn't skate 'big' and all I could see were elbows, pointy elbows. So much for Russian ballet training.

Fumie Sugari was lovely - not so sure about the music edits.

I'm a little dissatisfied though I shouldn't be since I've been the only trumping that jumps matter (clean jumps would be nicer though!). It's been a disappointing Olympics. The only competition that really did it for me was the men's. Oh well. I wonder if we'll see all 3 at the worlds in Nagano - I'm still inclined to put Michelle-Irina as co-favourites if they do. More thoughts later - it's 5am in the UK!

[ February 22, 2002: Message edited by: sylvia ]

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Well, I am laughing, laughing, laughing. I truly never expected Sarah Hughes to win but it was fair. She had the skate of her life and it was clearly better than that of the others. The 3 ahead of her after the short program all were nervous and tight while Sarah's skating was loose and free. What a difference when you don't feel as though you have anything to lose!

I think it was fair that Slutskaya took second and Kwan third. But it could've gone the other way, with Kwan second, and still seemed fair. I'd have had a hard time choosing one over the other based on their skates.

And Sasha, well, she LOOKED frightened even in the warmup. She was taking those short, short breaths we take when we're really scared. I was hoping she could use that energy to really attack her program but it wasn't to be. After her fall, though, she skated beautifully.

Both Kwan and Slutskaya seemed nervous. I was surprised to see it from Slutskaya who's usually up to a performance. I especially expected her to have a strong skate because she would've known that Michelle's performance was less than perfect. It was unusual to see Slutskaya's jumps shaky - I don't recall ever seeing her so rattled.

But hooray for Sarah Hughes! I'd never have picked her, didn't think it was her time, but she did everything right. I just hope she doesn't disappear ala Lipinski; I'd like to see her grow into her skating even more.

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Well, the whole time I was watching Hughes' LP, I was holding my breath, and when it was over, all I could think was, "If this doesn't get a medal, heads will roll." Hers was probably the most-deserved gold medal I can think of. Everyone else seemed so tense after that; I could almost hear them think "I HAVE to win this medal or else!" Hughes, meanwhile, wasn't really after a medal, she just seemed to enjoy herself so much.

That said, I was rather sad for the more senior skaters, like Butyrskaya and especially Kwan. Their technical performances were not perfect, but they were so graceful and poised and lovely to watch. But grace and poise and elegance won't do much without technique in the world of figure skating, and that, in my opinion, is what distinguishes it from ballet, and it also explains Lipinski's gold medal [yes, I think Kwan should have had it... frown.gif ].

As for Sasha Cohen, I wasn't won over by her the way I was by Kwan and Hughes. Perhaps it's her diva-like presentation, but she's still quite young. Maybe four years will mellow her out a bit. It'll be interesting. And I also hope that Hughes will be back for more, more, more!

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Hooray for Sarah Hughes! biggrin.gif I've always found her refreshing - I think it's the pure enjoyment she always shows on her face while skating.

I am sad for Michelle Kwan - the long awaited minutes on the ice were just not hers last night. She, remains, however one of the best and certainly most poised.

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Sarah Hughes had the attitude an Olympic Champion should have. She skated her best, with a good attitude, and she ended up winning the gold. THe Gold was almost like the icing on the cake: a superfluous fact that added to her already perfect performance/mentality.

On the other hand, I was sadded by the Bronze medalist. I have never liked Michelle, but last night I fully realized why. She has lived her life to win the gold, which was/is he downfall, I think. And when she was on the podium, fighting back tears, I just felt like yelling at her to get over it. One should be generally happy when they win the bronze. After all, (although I know this is almost a cliche) the Olympic spirit is all about doing one's best, or just being there competing and having fun.

That is why I applaud Sarah Hughes, and I cried througout the whole medal ceremony. And she is from New YOrk, too. How appropriate.

Sasha Cohen still has time. SHe hasn't been on a large world tour, and she still has time. I think her artistry was lacking, especially in her choreography. The announced mentioned she choreographed it herself, and it showed.

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Oh, I love it!!!! Madison Avenue's script was thrown out the window last night! With all due respect to the pre-competition faves, I simply adore it when upsets take place. biggrin.gif

Sarah Hughes - who is far from my favorite in artistry - truly deserved her win last night. What brilliant, FAST skating. TWO very difficult triple-triple combos, too. And, unlike the short program 'Ave Maria', this long program to the ballet 'Daphnis et Chloe' is well choreographed WITHOUT hunching shulders that marred the 'Ave Maria.' CONGRATS, SARAH HUGHES!!!!

Irina Slutskaya - VERY deserved silver medalist. [AND, had she been ranked #1 in the short programs last Tuesday, as many believed she deserved, would have been the winner tonight.] So powerful. Easy on the eye. If she had skated with her usual speed, she may have made the 3-3 combo that could have made the difference. However, she delivered all triple jumps that she attempted, even though one had a sloppy landing. Did not touch-down hands to the ice or fall, like Michelle.

Michelle Kwan - bronze now, after a tentative & sloppy skate, by her standards. Actually, she was lucky to have been marked in 1st place in the SPs, thus allowing her to hang on to bronze in the finals. That silver in Nagao 98 wasn't so bad after all, was it? And what about NBC constantly honing in on "the closed double-doors"..."Michelle is somewhere behind those closed doors." Yeezzz...

Sasha Cohen - 4th overall. Still THE most gorgeous, artistic skater of the night, IMO. I would have placed her in 3rd overall, with Suguri 4th & Michele 5th.

Fumie Suguri of Japan - 5th - like Cohen, gracious & balletic. Pure delight to watch.

Maria Butyrskaya - 6th - hard to believe that this was a WorldChamp three years ago. So tense & tight.

I wonder how many of these ladies will stick around on the 'amateur - eligible' circuit after the games? Next year's World Championships are right here in Washington, DC. Will we be seeing Hughes then? Will Sasha continue (she was quoted as saying that she wouldn't stick around for Turin 2006 Olympics). Will Irina press-on...she'll be 27 in 2006, still younger than Butyrskaya this year. Heck, will Michelle stay to chase the elusive Olympic Gold on mo' time?

[ February 22, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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I'm so happy for Sarah Hughes. Being in 4th place with nothing to lose, she went out there, didn't let the Olympic jitters get the better of her and skated the performance of her life. In the past I've found fault with her gangly carriage on the ice, but last night it was like she blossomed into a complete artist/technician with beautiful flow and great jumps, including those 2 triple-triple combinations. And how about the audience eruptive response to her? What a thrill.

I felt so awful for Michelle. During her tentative short program, memories of Nagano flashed before me. But it was shocking to see her fall -- something she rarely does. She's had to deal with incredible pressure for 4 years to finally win gold, and I wasn't surprised she cracked -- Michelle's only human.

After Sasha's superb short program, I thoought she'd come out last night with guns blazing, true to her feisty nature. But you could see on her face during the warm-up how nervous she was. She skated beautifully except for her fall and her musicality is such a joy to watch. We're going to see a lot more of Sasha in the future and she's only going to improve as she gets more competitions under her belt.

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http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics/2002/figure_skating/news/2002/02/22 /skating_protest_ap/://http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ol...ing_protest_ap/://http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ol...ing_protest_ap/://http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ol...ing_protest_ap/://http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ol...ing_protest_ap/://http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ol...ing_protest_ap/://http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ol...ing_protest_ap/

Russian officials have filed a formal protest of the women's figure skating finale, saying the Russian silver medalist should get her own gold medal because of biased judging.

The only thing I can think of behind their reasoning is the grounds they have from the judging in the SP - if Irina had come first and skated the way she did the the LP then she could have won overall. But really it's a moot point - who knows how she would have skated as the leader going into the LP. No one need this, least of all Irina and Sarah. It could come to nothing like the Lithuanian and South Korean protests.]

[ February 22, 2002: Message edited by: sylvia ]

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Thanks, YABM!

re. the Russian protest. Good! Time to give the North American Media-Marketing Establishment a bit of its own medicine. Read my earlier posting on "A Russian View" - an op/ed piece that gets to the heart of what is bothering the Russian people about all this.

Indeed, Sylvia, the TECHNICAL reasons for the protest have to do the judging of last Tuesday's Ladies Short-Program event, in which Michelle Kwan was marked in 1st place above Irina Slutskaya, who was marked 2nd. Michelle's landings were shaky (not landed on curves of blades , as they should have been) while Irina's were perfect with more flow. Also, some feel that Michelle's energy level was less-than-deserving of the 5.9s for the second marks (artistic impression) while Irina was energy-plus.

But the protest goes well beyond the TECHNICAL specifics...to address the SPIRIT of what Russians perceive to have driven the extraordinary consessions made to Sale/Pelletier in the awarding of a second set of Pairs gold medals (not to mention other irregularities, such as kicking-out the Russian woman skiing champion on alleged-doping charges just before her main event, in which she was favored to win gold). Money makes the world go 'round - that is what (rightly or wrongly?) is perceived by Russians and other nationalities as being the driving force behind the Olympic Games nowadays. * Remember how -- from the time of the Opening Ceremonies -- NBC advertisements were already featuring Sale/Pelletier, with the voice-overs touting "Can the North American kids break the 40-year SOVIET-RUSSIAN DOMINATION of the Pairs event?" The scripts are written and, doggone it, they better come to pass, by hook or crook!

In the Ladies, there was a VERY interesting twist to the script...the North American Kid won...but not quite the "kid" who had been pre-annointed by NBC.

Enough from me - please keep this lively discussion going. I'm off to Russia tomorrow, where I am SURE to be asked by friends around the dinner tables to comment on all this. Brushing up on my Russo-Skating vocabulary....mnie nravitsa katok...

[ February 22, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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It may be worth pointing out that, for all the talk about things being "easier" for Hughes because of her berth in fourth place, she may very well have felt a great deal of pressure to prove herself,and it would have been just as "easy" for her to lose her nerve after the short program than to skate as well as she did. It's rare to see an athlete surpass all expectations in such spectacular fashion. Interesting also that this year, it didn't come down to "artistry vs. athleticism"; Hughes beat everyone on both counts. I felt lucky to be watching.

As for Kwan -- well, Scott Hamilton called it "a courageous performance," which is what they always say when an American crashes and burns. I have not been impressed by her recently, but she showed a champion's guts in pushing through to the bitter end. The poor jumping threw off her performance rhythm and even her presentation abilities failed her. I was not rooting for her but it's sad to see a great star go out this way. I'm still puzzled as to why she has not been able to raise her jumping game in the last four years --she was seventeen in Nagano, hardly too old to work on it. Oh, well. I think we're approaching the time when a skater who can't do at least one clean triple-triple is not going to make it to the top spot on the podium, if we're not there already.

Sasha Cohen -- indifferent choreography, and although strictly speaking this next isn't relevant, the back of her costume appeared to be missing. She has a very special quality, but I hope she realizes that just because you can raise your leg really high is no reason to do it all the time. That dog-on-a-hydrant look is the sort of thing one really must strive to avoid. One more thing, and this is also a matter of taste -- split jumps are exciting but not very attractive, and there's no need to overdo them.

Slutskaya -- well, she just blew it. The word that occurred to me was unfocused. A pity that she has been graceless in implying that she's just another victimized Russian. She had her chance, and I'm sure on some level she must know that -- last night she didn't have the look of someone who thought she'd been robbed, but of one who knew she just hadn't quite done her best. (She may feel, and one sees her point, that if Kwan could hold onto first after two-footing and falling, that she herself had done well enough to

get the gold, by those standards.)

Saw Fumie Suguri for only the second time. Very impressed, although I hope she drops the soulful looks that seem to be popular with some skaters. (To me it just looks like intestinal distress.)

Finally -- the commentators last night kept referring to"another teenager [beats Kwan]." First, if Hughes hadn't beaten Kwan, Slutskaya probably would have. Second, as noted Kwan was an elderly seventeen in Nagano to Lipinski's fifteen, and she's still not exactly aged. Also, from the intonation on the word "teenager" you'd have thought that there was a conspiracy of evil teenyboppers conspiring to rob Princess Michelle of her rightful throne.

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I was SO disappointed that Cohen used that long program once again. I was unimpressed with it at Nationals and liked it even less last night. It doesn't show off her strengths and it's lightweight in between the jumps. I sure hope she's willing to listen to other people's advice and make some changes.

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As BalletNut noted, she seems a little full of herself right now. A contrast to Hughes, who didn't come on like La Divina, she just went out and skated divinely.

Colleen, looking forward to hearing your views on last night --

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Oh don't worry, I couldn't resist commenting even if I wanted to smile.gif . I've just been writing a paper all day (Are the women in Chaucer's Legend of Good Women really all that 'good'--very interesting topic).

Well, I don't think I've been as disappointed in a skating competition since, well the Ice Dance FP. And as much as I generally don't enjoy Sarah's skating, I was totally taken in last night. It was fast, exciting, and even pretty musical some of the time. I still dislike some aspects of her skating (her knee is eternally bent in her spiral sequences), but for the first time since I've seen her skate (3yrs now I think) I wasn't side-tracked by those problems. It was genuinely a great skate and deserved to win the LP.

On the other hand, I was enormously disappointed by Michelle and Irina. Irina was incredibly slow, it was like she was crawling along the ice. And Michelle was way too tentative (kinda like I am when I'm asked to do triples on pointe). She was like a scared rabbit on her jumps. Both programs were okay for sure, and a lot better than most, and I do commend Michelle for picking herself off the ice and pushing through; but for one of her (and Irina's too) most ardent supporters who is rarely disappointed, I was greatly disappointed last night.

And Sacha was just boring I'm sorry to say. When I heard the music my first reaction was "Oh dear, not this program". Admittedly it wasn't horrible or anything, but I wasn't crazy about it. Lori Nicol needs to work her magic here. Definitely not the greatest Ladies' competition I've ever seen. The Men's was definitely better.

And now the Jamie and David non-sense is coming back to haunt the IOC. They totally opened the floodgates for protests and now they're reaping the rewards of it. Had Irina been in 1st coming out of the SP she would've won the gold. So I guess that's the basis of the protest. Although I don't agree with Russia's current behaviour I think there is a legitimate complaint over how the judging is done in general (hello understatement of the century!). I think with the new mandatory deductions things will improve, but I also think they need to make things a bit simpler (drop the whole factored nonsense). They should just average the two sets of marks (tech. and artistic) for both the SP and LP, and those two marks should determine the overall winner. So, there would be an average for the SP and an average for the LP. I suppose in the case of a tie then the judges can be asked to vote on the ranking. But theoretically that should reward the skaters who turned in 2 good programs.

At any rate, I don't know if I really want to see Michelle or Irina at the World's next month. They are both beautiful skaters in their own right but I'm just so disappointed in both of them and their effort ( Michelle's result especially hurt my heart) last night that I don't think I could take a repeat in a few weeks. Or maybe that's just what they need, to go out of amateur competition (which they will likely do after this season) with one more attempt at the perfect competition.

Sigh, first Elena and Anton, now this...this just hasn't been my Olympics rolleyes.gif

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Well, I think Elena and Anton are recovering. Things got very cutesy-wootsy with them and and the Canadians at the exhibition last night -- a two-couple death spiral for example. (Yagudin put on a fine show, also. In more ways than one.)

Funny thing about the exhibitions and shows. It's as if the skaters say to themselves, "Terrific! No more combination jumps to worry about, and at last I can skate to all the family friendly pop music I want! Bring me those Neil Diamond tapes pronto!" An exception being Elena and Anton, who did a charming Chaplinesque number.

(I should note for the record that I mean no offense to any Neil Diamond fans who may read this board. I mention this only because I know that Neil's fans can be quite intense. He's a great guy. Really. smile.gif )

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Interesting article from NYTimes - the judges are finally free to explain to the press how they gave the marks, and they've done so for the ladies comp.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/23/olympics/23JUDG.html

And the French judge Marie Reine Le Gougne finally opens up and says pressure came from the Canadian Federation, not the Russian one.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/24/olympics/24JUDG.html

Everything's just getting too bizarre. This Olympics isn't one I'm going to be looking back on too fondly.

Btw, I enjoyed B&S's Chaplin number too! They included every single one of their best lifts and they looked so charming. S&P were their usual crowd-pleasing selves. The double death spiral is an element B&S have used before with Nagano's gold medalists Kazakova and Dmtriev on tour. And Irina was so adorable in her cowboy number.

[ February 24, 2002: Message edited by: sylvia ]

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Colleen, I'd actually love to see Irina and Michelle at Worlds. The two of them ARE at present the best skaters in the world and just succumbed to the pressure that dogged so many skaters. Irina'll want her first world title - can't imagine her risking holding back on triple-triples ever again after that FP.

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