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Worlds 2003: Ladies finals (3/29)


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What a superb Ladies finals event! This may be 'old news' to most of you but - Kwan skated the performance of a lifetime at MCI Center - even by her own high standards! A sold-out crowd of almost 20,000 up on their feet a good full-minute before the end of Michelle's music. Screaming and cheering non-stop from the moment that Michelle began her trademark spiral from one end of the ice to the other...through her final two jumps...through her emotional footwork and final spin. One full minute of us screaming and jumping up and down as she skated. This performance alone was worth the mega-bucks that some paid YEARS AGO to secure all-event seats. This was a miracle of skating, dance, movement; I feel so honored to have been there in person. Even Peggy Fleming was crying in the ABC booth, I could tell. Dick Button probably couldn't find words; he stood up and applauded. I can't wait to see the tape of this. (I had someone tape it for me. I'll see it in Moscow.)

Sokolova, in 2nd, was also a delight. The toughest jumps - solid 3-3 combo (the only other 3-3 was performed by Sasha Cohen...who then did her usual melt-down, to finish a disappointing 4th). I especially loved perky Sokolova's expression during the final 30 seconds of her routine. She actually received one first-place placement from one of the judges. Watch out for Sokolova to win many Grand Prix events this year...she's the new "Euro Challenger' to the USA women.

Fumie Suguri of Japan overcome her injuries & poor-practice performances to skate beautifully when it counted the most - during the competition. Exquisitely fluid 'Swan Lake' - no, she is not the 'kinky swan' from the short programs (that was her compatriot Arakawa). Fumie is a delight to watch - free and easy - happy to be there...unlike the laboring of Sasha Cohen or Vika Volchkova, who were in 4th and 5th, respectively.

Sasha Cohen is so gorgeous - so talented. One of these days she will put together three perfect programs to earn a spot on the podium. Her new Russian coach (Tarasova) sure looked upset during Sasha's two falls - one from a triple jump, the other during a spin. As always, gorgeous positions & overall style but not exactly charismatic, a-la-Suguri, Sokolova (last third, when she smiled) or Kwan, who was the Queen of Charisma last night. Cohen needs to work on her one-ice sweetness and allowing the audience into her heart. It was nice to see Cohen land that 3-3 combo, prior to her falls.

Volchkova skated slowly and conservatively to Bach 'Air' and Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' - and it paid off, with a clean program that landed her in 5th place. Volchkova achieved what Cohen did not - three perfectly clean programs (no falls or major errors)...and Volchkova was just as known, as Sasha, for 'blowing-it' in the finals. Not tonight!

Sarah Hughes capitalized on the mistakes of several girls in the 'middle group' of skaters and was able to leap her way from 12th to 6th place overall...despite a tentative, heavyish program that was nowhere close to the quality of her 2002 Olympics free skate. Nobody is stating the obvious - at age 17, Hughes' body has drastically changed (as did Oxana Bayul's one year after HER Olympic victory). IMO, the weight gain & maturation of Hughes' body is the main reason for the poorer performances...not her drastic schedule. Sure, that contributed to it too. But...even if Hughes could practice 24 hours a day/seven days a week, she now has a tall, curvy body that won't allow the dorts of easy 3-3 combos that won her the Olympics. Perhaps the commentators are afraid of pointing out this fact? I wish Sarah well...being accepted into Harvard University is nothing at which to cry!

Final placements/additional comments on lower-placed ladies:

1 Michelle KWAN USA






7 Elena LIASHENKO UKR - peppy, musical, clean skate, although she left out 3 loop. She wuz robbed of 6th place, IMO. Hughes was held up.

8 Shizuka ARAKAWA JPN - the 'kinky swan' did well and ended 8th

9 Jennifer ROBINSON CAN - put together 3 clean programs this week...but lacking in content of those above her...so this was the best that she could possibly have done. Good for her.

10 Carolina KOSTNER ITA - horrible free skate; her only good program of the week was the short.

11 Yoshie ONDA JPN - THE single-most disappointing performance of the week, for me. This gal is the most naturally-talented jumper in the field...was 5th at Worlds last year...should have made top-5 here...had, instead, three terrible programs, all with falls. I'm miffed.

12 Alisa DREI FIN - FINALLY put it together with a great long program...but too late, after poor quals and SP.

13 Ludmila NELIDINA RUS - the Retro-hair Woman failed yet again to land the 3-aaxel cleanly. One fall elsewhere...but still landed 6 or 7 triples and rose to 13th place overall. She's very young and may improve in a year or two. Remember her name.

14 Julia SEBESTYEN HUN - like Onda, another powerful jumper who had lots of bad luck here. She usually finishes in top-10.

15 Julia LAUTOWA AUT - a clean, energetic Spanish-flavored skate...until she skates backward into her final pose and - PLOP! - falls on her fanny to the final beat of the music, laughing her head off.



18 Dan FANG CHN - horrible, horrible free skate...so disappointing after fabulous qualifier and short program. We all felt so sad for her, while she sat in Kiss n'Cry...truly crying, surrounded by her coaches AND four 'Chinese KGB-type' men...who always came out to watch the Chinese skaters...fans call them 'THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA' as they always stood four-abreast in their big white identical coats, right in front of the gate to the ice...as if to keep their althletes from defecting. Our collective hearts go out to the beautiful Dan Fang & hope that she will have the opportunity to compete once again. Her final performance was not reflective of her true abilities. She is a gem!

19 Sarah MEIER SUI

20 Mojca KOPAC SLO

21 Jenna McCORKELL GBR - she gained many fans here. Lovely, lovely edges & deep knees. Fantastic spirals. Solid jumps, though not 100% clean in the LP.

22 Anne Sophie CALVEZ FRA


24 Idora HEGEL CRO

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Why do the judges always give so low marks to Liashenko? Her freeskate was really good artistically! I just feel so sorry for her!

Jeannie: Do you know if Liashenko is pronounced with an o or with an a at the end? And what about Plushenko and Timoshenko?

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Hi, Susanne -

I pronounce it with "ah" sound at the end. As in...Maya DUMchenkah, rather than the way it's spelled - "DumCHENko". [The accented syllables are a whole other story, LOL! I think I finally have the 'rules' down pat for Russian men; still guessing on many Russian women surname syllable-emphasis, e.g., why is it PAVlova & not PavLOVa? Linked to daddy's way of pronouncing it...which is linked to daddy's first name...of which we get a clue by knowing the woman's Patronymic...oi, vey!]

As for Elena L., she has actually been scored rather fairly in recent years. She has consistently made top-7 or top 8 at Worlds; almost always makes the Grand Prix finals, etc. She has hung in there for seemingly ages...since earning a bronze medal at - what? - the 1995 Europeans.

There is a reason for her lower-than-usual marks at this year's worlds. I did not realize it at first but, in reviewing the video, I see that she left-out the triple loop jump. Too, she doubled a couple of planned triples. But she had a clean skate, artistically - beautifully performed, whereas the Sarah Hughes' of this world faltered/fell.

A lot of people (especially U.S. TV commentators) love to make a big deal about Elena L's 'telegraphed jumps' with long entrances. NOBODY points out the gorgeous basic stroking quality and L-O-N-G edges. One of the greatest joys of attending practices in DC was watching Liaschenko do her first couple of minutes of warm-up - textbook-gorgeous forward cross-overs, then skating down the rink in alternating outside edges. Nary a scratchy souond of the blade (so smooth). I could stage a ballet just to that - my jaw just dropped watching her edging technique.

If school figures were still part of the competition, I bet that Liashenko would win hands-down. Cleaner, longer, smoother edges than even Michelle Kwan.

Falling asleep...

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