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Ice-Dance madness; Interesting Rivalry at Euro Skating Ch'ps


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 14 January 2002 - 03:59 PM

US Nationals are now over. Let's turn our attention to Europe.

Euros are next week &, as always, are telecast magnificently and in-their-entirety on EuroSport without commercial interruption (lucky Europeans!). They will be telecast in the US on the week-end of the 26th/27th, on ABC. It will be interesting to get a report from one (or more) of our European readers regarding the 'Battle of the Russians' in mens & ladies singles...not to mention the fascinating world of Ice Dancing, in which the current world champions from Italy (Barbara Fusar-Poli/Maurizio Margaglio) -- of Milan, the home town of several readers of this forum...Suzy...Guido?!-- will continue their Battle-Royal against ex-World Champs from Lyon, France -- your home town Estelle!!!! -- Marina Anissina/Gwendel Peizarat. Will Marina & Gwendel defend the honor of La France?

On a more general level, what do our readers think about ice dancing? This sport (which some macho-sportswriters claim is not really a sport but 'just an art') made its debut in the Olympics not so long ago -- 1976. Its roots are in championship-style ballroom dancing. The casual observer knows this aspect of figure skating from the plethora of recent judging controversies, e.g., many complaints by long-time Canadian champs (& medal faves for Salt lake City) Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kratz who feel that they were shut-out of the medals at the last Olympics by collusion among Ukraineans, Russian & other Eastern Blok judges. Will She-Lynn & Vic get the bum-rap again this year? Well -- surprise! surprise! -- they actually beat *both* the Italians & French at the recent Grand Prix finals. Talk about upsetting the apple cart.

By the way, other faves in ice dancing at this year's Olympics include a brilliant Israeli couple (Chait & Sakhnovsky) and the mysterious Russian team of Lobacheva/Averbuch....I write 'mysterious' because they missed the entire autumn schedule of Grand prix events & their routines are being kept quite hush-hush until Euros. Evil tongues say that this is accidentally-on-purpose to not allow the Italians & French prior-knowledge of what the Russians will be doing. Interestingly, the Russians have a new free-dance (final program) to 'Tribute to the USA'! Glasnost on ice.

Calling all ice dance fans..or non-fans with opinions!

- Jeannie

[ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]



#2 Colleen

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Posted 15 January 2002 - 11:29 AM

Unfortunately Plushenko won't be at the Euros due to an injury, so we won't be treated to that Russian rivalry until the Olynpics. I would love to know if he's actually hurt or not risking losing any more momentum to Yagudin before the Games. But I like him, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt smile.gif .
Regarding Ice Dancing, I do regard it as a legitimate sport because their footwork and lifts require amazing degrees of techinicality and the quality of their skating is judged harshly. By that I mean the same way dancers judge clean, turned out pirouettes vs. multiple, badly executed spins, ice dancers are judged on the quality and degree of their edges etc. So in this sport it's not enough to throw your leg in the air for a spiral, it actually has to look nice and be technically difficult to gets points.

But unlike other categories of figure skating it seems to suffer more from unfair judging. Anissina and Peizerat (and others) have obviously missed steps (a sin equivalent to falling on your bum several times) and still won competitions while other couples have skated cleanly. And this last Grand Prix is the only competition that I've ever seen where obvious mistakes have been penalized. That is my one great criticism of Ice Dance over pairs or singles: unknown skaters can come up and win or place well in the latter categories but ice dancing seems to require an established reputation for a team to do well. But hopefully there will be a trend now towards fairness rather than favouritism.

#3 BW

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Posted 15 January 2002 - 02:46 PM

As strictly a voyeur, I've never really enjoyed watching "ice dancing" anywhere near as much as "figure skating"... Don't mean to denigrate it as a sport or nonsport; it just doesn't thrill me to the bones, the way figure skating does. Being a couch potato as I watch these things means I need all the excitement I can get! rolleyes.gif biggrin.gif

#4 dirac

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Posted 15 January 2002 - 03:48 PM

I think singles and pairs definitely qualify as sports, but ice dancing....I dunno. There's no question that it takes a high degree of skill and the competitors are held to high technical standards, but is that in itself enough to qualify it as a sports event? And the judging is, as Colleen noted, weirdly subjective even by the subjective necessities of skating judging in general.


Aesthetically, I find ice dancing follows its landlubbing forerunner, ballroom dancing, a little too literally for much genuine inventiveness to show itself. However, I'll watch it anyway.

#5 Melissa

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Posted 15 January 2002 - 03:51 PM

I'm also not a big fan of ice dancing. But I fondly remember when Torvill & Dean broke new ground in the sport with their 'Bolero' program at the Sarajevo Olympics and their 2nd Olympic run at Lillehammer in '94. What a raw deal they got that time around. mad.gif

#6 Natalia

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Posted 15 January 2002 - 06:54 PM

Thanks for all the comments re. ice dancing. Not surprising!

Colleen - re. Plushy's no-show at Euros - the same thought crossed my mind! wink.gif I vividly recall the old Soviet Era when the CCCP's skating powers chose to keep their top skaters under wraps until Olympics, sometimes to keep programs secret, sometimes to not risk someone lowering his/her #1 rank before the big event. Maybe Plushy's coach -- Alexei Mishin, a.k.a. 'Mishin Impossible' -- has nostalgia for the old days? Well, like you, I'll think not & think positively!

#7 vagansmom

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Posted 15 January 2002 - 07:28 PM

Oh my - we're a suspicious bunch. I wondered the same thing about Plushenko and also chastised myself for the thought! I prefer to think good thoughts.

Jeannie, earlier today I began to respond to your question about ice dance as a legitimate sport but had to stop and delete it all because the more I wrote and thought, the more I wondered. My gut response was, "Yes, of course it is!" I took ice dance lessons way back when. It's grueling work and as you say, the quality of the edges is terribly important. It's very exacting, athletic work and most of its difficulty isn't of the nature that would thrill an average audience.

I was initially thinking that adding the element of ice and how to respond to its vagaries is what turns it into sport. Somehow that alone seemed a little lame as a reason though. So I then thought that what makes it sport would be the trickiness of those edges on the ice. Till pointe shoes loomed in front of my eyes. Once I started making comparisons between the difficulty of dancing on ice to the difficulty of dancing en pointe, I lost my certainty that ice dance is, in fact, a sport confused.gif So now I don't know what to think. I'd love to hear more comments. In any case, I'm delighted it's a sport because I get to watch it smile.gif

#8 dirac

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Posted 15 January 2002 - 08:07 PM

I'm going to be totally cynical and say that ice dancing is a sport because it adds to the skating coverage and thus gets high ratings and ratchets up the number of women viewers for winter sports. Well, it beats the luge.


If Plushenko doesn't watch out, his absences will begin to be greeted with the same reception meted out to those of the Williams sisters....

#9 Natalia

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Posted 20 January 2002 - 03:39 PM

Euros are now over. Once again, Russian skaters dominate, even with the absence of their top single-men's competitor (Pluschenko) and top pair (Berezhnaia/Sikharulidze)!

The event was held in Lausanne, Switzerland and is to be shown on US television, ABC, next Sunday afternoon (check local schedules for exact times).

Here are top-three winners in all categories...and pay attention to the Russian domination in each category...plus a very strong showing for France.

LADIES -

Total Russian sweep of the ladies singles medals:

Gold - Maria Butyrskaya of RUSSIA (the world champ in 1999 against Michele Kwan of USA, had two tough years but now she's baaaack!)
Silver - Irina Slutskaya of RUSSIA (still the fave for Olympic gold, as she's beaten Kwan three times this past year...but surprise loss to Maria here)
Bronze - Vika Volchkova of RUSSIA (the rising star of Russian skating)

Check-out their podium photo:
http://dailynews.yah...002135836a.html

MEN -

Gold - Alexei Yagudin of RUSSIA (World champ for two years running, before Pluschenko beat him last season)
Silver - Alexander Abt of RUSSIA
Bronze - Brian Joubert of FRANCE

Pairs -

Gold - Totmiamina/Marinin of RUSSIA (young pair...big surprise)
Silver - Abitbol/Bernadis of FRANCE
Bronze - Petrova/Tikhonov of RUSSIA (disappointment for them...they were world champs two years ago)

Ice Dance - "the rivalry"

Gold - Marina Annissina (of MOSCOW, RUSSIA but skates for France now) & Gwendal Peizarat - FRANCE
Silver - Barbara Fusar-Poli & Maurizio Margaglio of ITALY (current world champs...bitter rivalry with the French)
Bronze - Marina Lobacheva/Ilya Averbuch of RUSSIA

Where would European skating be without Russia & France? Leave it to Italy to be the lone-ranger that wins the only medal that's not for Russia or France.
Comments from our Euro-based members who may have seen this competition on Eurosport this week?

#10 sylvia

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Posted 20 January 2002 - 05:53 PM

I have to admit I was a little unhappy with the results of the ice-dance. I won't comment too much on the technical aspects as I think the top 3 or 4 teams are on a similar technical level anyway.

I loved the Italians Fusar-Poli & Margaglio and the Lithuanians Drobiazko & Vanagas. The Italians FD to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" was fast and furious, tremendously difficult and completely engaging. The only complaint I have would be a rather staid middle section.

Likewise the Lithuanians's choreography was as usual incredible and fit every note of the music (to a French singer). These two teams really DANCED to the music.

The French however...I'd love for someone to explain to me how they got that 6.0 (from the French judge I'm guessing). It was set to parts of Martin Luther King's speech with odd (and dull) elevator type music in the background. The lifts and spins were unoriginal, the choreography repetitive. It did little to show off their technical strengths. There was nothing I could see of their usual genius. They have a few minor highlights such as the the reverse lift where the woman actually lifts the man, but a few highlights do not make a program! I'd echo comments that the judges are going too much on reputation than performance. I wish A&P would go back to 'Carmina Burana', a masterpiece chreographed by Torvill & Deane which they used to win the 2000 Worlds.

The problem with 'Martin Luthor King' is that the choreography is supposed to be loaded with meaning (in this case I guess about freedoms, equality, etc, etc). I just don't think this kind of thing works in skating because the themes here are too complicated and when it's done badly the dramatics (which the French definitely have in spades) detract from their technical strengths.

I was disappointed when the 1998 Olympic winners Grishuk and Platov won with a similar kind of program - 'Memorial' (to football fans who were killed). Funnily enough I preferred A&P's Romeo and Juliet back then. Now A&P are finally in line for gold and I can't believe they're set to win with this stinker.

It's the Canadians Bourne & Kraatz with their Michael Jackson number and the Italians who take the opposite approach and I think are most deserving of medalling in SLC. After their upset win at the Grand Prix finals, I thought B&K had would actually stand a chance at winning gold. But with the kind of marks A&P were awarded they really have none at all.

Enough ranting from me. I'd love to hear what others thought about the ice-dancing.

#11 sylvia

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Posted 20 January 2002 - 06:08 PM

Regarding the pais skating, this year's Europeans were a little uninspiring.
Abitol and Bernadis were at their crowd-pleasing best, skating to a tango that finished with the theme to 'The Adams Family'. They're such a lively and strong pair, I was surprised they didn't up the technical difficulty of their program because it was in all other ways a winner.

Petrov and Tikonov looked so nervous and made so many mistakes (surprising for them) they really had no chance. And again, their program was quite forgettable. They lack the grace and emotional connection that compatriots B&S have.

I'm not yet pinning any hopes on the winners Totmiamina & Marinin. I think the lack finesse - still a little rough around the edges, skating to West Side Story.

I hate to say it but thank goodness the skating world has Sale & Pelletier because once Bereznaia & Sikharulidze (and I'm assuming Abitol and Bernadis) turn professional they're all we have of exceptional skating that's left. It constantly hits me the huge gap there is between the top 2 or 3 pairs and the rest of the field at any time.

#12 Natalia

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 05:46 AM

Thanks for the insights, Sylvia! Not a banneryear at Euros, it seems. I heard from a friend that even the top-three Russian women (who swept medals here) all had errors in their long programs. Slutskaya actually won that segment but finished 2nd overall to Butyrskaya because of the results in the short programe, where Slutskaya fell and was 3rd, while Butyrskaya was 1st. Salt Lake City will be interesting - no one huge favorite for ANY of the skating gold medals...although I am sure that NBC TV (in the USA) will go on and on and on hyping *only* Michele Kwan and the other US skaters. I wish that I could avoid the US networks and see the skating sans-commercials, on Eurosport! Alas, we don't have Eurosport on any of the cable providers in downtown Washington, DC,(where I live); it's available only in the far-away suburbs.

[ January 21, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]



#13 Gallica

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 09:55 AM

Hello Sylvia.I don't agree with you about the ice-dancing.I thought Anissina/Peizerat were by far the best .They made a complete change of image , they broke their image of romantic couple.This program is much more "modern" than what they used to do in the past:the movements , the costumes , etc...Marina changed her hair style.I think this change is due to last year's lost of europe and world champions title when they did their program on Beethoven which was considered too repetitive and not enough innovative.
It's not the french judge who gave them 6.0 , it's the azebaidjan judge.
I thought the Lithuanians were tremendous , they would have deserved to be second.They danced on the song "Deux corps se foudroient" by famous french rockstar Johnny Hallyday.These Lithuanians are stunningly beautiful , both Povilas and Margarita , they form a real couple , there is a harmony between them , same level , and they have charisma and are able to convey emotion.Their gesture is particularly beautiful , this is high art and I can't understand why they are always fourth.Unfortunately they are Lithuanians and unfortunately ice-dancing is very political.Lithuania is a small country and the lithuanian skating federation doesn't have at all strong influence.The italian couple Barbara Fusar-Poli/Maurizio Margaglio for example is famous for having been "pushed" in their career because the president of the ISU(International skating union) was (or is still?) italian.I didn't like the italian's program on Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive".I thought it was much more a gala program than a real competition program.I thought it was too much repetitive and lacking originality.Barbara can skate but the low point in this couple is Maurizio , he is technically not very strong , and if you look well at their program , he is very rarely on one foot , he doesn't do at all portés on one foot , and skates often on his two feet.So the problem in this couple is that the man is not strong enough , he lacks technic , they are not at the same level.
I just saw a short extract of the Canadians' Michael Jackson program and it seems very nice.Moreover they are coached by Tatiana Tarasova so they will probably have a chance to stand on the podium in SLC.(Tarasova is a reputed russian coach , famous for her teaching and diplomatic influence...)

About the men category.Brian Joubert of France was a big surprise and revelation.He is just 17 ,it was his first europan championships , was third at the National French Championships this year and owed his participation to this european champs to the catastrophic results of Stannick Jeannette ( bronze medal in last year's european champs) at the national champ. The french federation will only send two skaters to the olympics , Joubert with his unexpected third place will be one of them ( a big surprise for Joubert himself!) , so Jeannette will be in competition with Frédéric Dambier who finished at the 5th place in the european championships.
I think Joubert is a big revelation , he reminds me of Yagudin younger.He is very secure with jumps .And with his cute and pinkish face of teenager , he is so lovely!

#14 Natalia

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Posted 21 January 2002 - 01:09 PM

Thanks for another viewpoint, Gallica. Of course, I haven't seen this competition yet but, in defense of Fusar-Poli/Margaglio, I remember their incredible speed at Skate America '99, incomparison with the other couples. That was the competition where they premiered 'Lord of the Dance,' which remains my favorite program by the Italians.

The Lithuanians, in particular, have always lagged behind the rest of the pack insofar as speed is concerned but I agree regarding their line and physical beauty. (Margarita -- yet another Moscow expatriate! -- is a stunner & Povilas is extremely handsome. )They work with Christopher Dean as choreographer, I believe.

For sheer speed, though, nobody beats the Israelis...so fast that they sometimes appear erratic.

The top US ice dancers -- Lang & Tchernichev (yes...yet another Russian expat, now US citizen) -- are quite wonderful but have the misfortune of competing in an era when so many couples are even better. I see, at best, an 8th or 9th place for L&T. Anything above 8th place will be a huge victory for them. Speaking of...did anyone see yesterday's broadcast of the ice-dance portion of US Nationals? It was shown on ABC. I really like the #2 US team (Belbin/Agosto) but, as the girl is Canadian citizen, couple could not be selected for the US Olympic team. Same thing with the #3 finishers...so the US will be represented by the 4th-place ice dance team (in addition to Lang/Tchernichev). Unusual situation.

[ January 21, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]




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