Joubert takes gold in Tokyo
The 2007 ISU World Figure Skating Championships continued Thursday with the Men’s Free Skate.
Following a decision of the 51st Ordinary Congress of the ISU in June 2006, no Qualifying Rounds were held. The top 24 skaters from the short program advanced to the Free Skate.
Brian Joubert of France won his first world title, while Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi won the silver. The bronze went to last year’s world champion, Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland.
Takahashi who stood in third after the short, placed first in the long with 163.44 points, moving up to second overall with 237.95 points.
Takahashi performed a compelling program to Phantom of the Opera that built in intensity as it progressed. The Grand Prix Final silver medalist put a hand down on his opening quadruple toe loop, but then he collected himself and executed a beautiful triple Axel followed by another one in combination with a double toe loop. Following his level 4 upright combination spin, was a dynamic level 3 circular footwork sequence which flowed and fit the music perfectly.
With the crowd cheering, the Japanese Champion completed a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a triple Lutz-double toe loop-double loop combination, and three more triple jumps – all of which received bonus points for being done after the ½ way mark of the program. He had a small bobble on the landing of his level 3 flying upright spin and was awarded just the base mark.
The cheering of the audience rose to a roar as Takahashi started his level 3 straight line footwork sequence that involved his whole body in the interpretation of the music. He finished his fast level 3 combination spin to a standing ovation that had him sobbing with relief and joy.
“I’m very happy to have won the first world silver medal for Japan,” said an emotional Takahashi. “Obviously there were no big mistakes on my jumps but I do not think my spins and footwork were 100%. I heard the roaring cheers from the audience, and when I got really tired, I just tried to respond and complete the program. I was not as nervous as I was yesterday. I focused on showing what I could do.”
Takahashi was proud to be the first Japanese man in history to win a World silver medal.
“It means a lot to me,” said the 21-year-old. “I am very happy.”
“The people who are at the top have two quads in there programs,” continued Takahashi, “so my goal for next year would be to put in two quads into my program.”
Lambiel rose from sixth place after the short to third overall (233.35 points) after placing second in the long program with 160.65 points.
The Swiss Champion displayed his recently renewed love of skating with his passionate performance to Flamenco music. He opened his program with the two jumps that eluded him yesterday in the short program – a triple Axel and quadruple toe loop (in combination with a double toe loop-double toe loop) – and then a beautiful triple loop and double Axel.
Both of Lambiel’s level 3 circular and straight line footwork reflected the driving beat of the music. The rest of his jumps were performed after the ½ point of the program which included another quadruple toe loop (with a hand down and step-out), a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a triple Salchow. A wonderful flying sit spin showed off his beautiful positions and was graded level 4 and the 2006 Olympic silver medalist concluded his program with another combination spin that ended in a fast headless position and which had the crowd rising to their feet.
“It was great,” said Lambiel. “It was my new program and I had this energy to fight for it. This energy made the difference. This is the real Stephane Lambiel today.”
The 21-year-old felt it was important to skate a good long program.
“I think the most important thing for me was the performance, and you could see that the fight was hard,” said Lambiel. “But it was really nice to fight here. Maybe nobody thought after the short program that Lambiel comes back, but I was ready. I was there” and I was really happy to be here participating in this World Championships, and I did my best.
“Yesterday I was little bit sad because I made mistakes,” continued the 2006 Skate Canada Champion, “but today I am happy with my performance and my triple Axel. [The last two seasons], I just practiced for the Olympics and it went well. Then I lost my motivation and it was hard to find the energy. But today I had great energy.”
Lambiel, who sat out the European Championships, explained that after winning an Olympic medal and two world titles, he had to evaluate what he really wanted in skating.
“I had to find out what I was really skating for,” explained Lambiel. “When you have dreams and you make them come true, it’s very hard to know what more you want. For me, this season was the answer. I’m skating because I love to express my emotions when I’m on the ice, and figure skating is not just a sport, it’s also a show. It must be something in harmony. You have to make it beautiful on the ice, not just as far as the elements are concerned. When I’m skating I’m trying to feel this harmony – to feel that the crowd is loving what I’m doing and not just to do the elements. That’s why I’m here and competing.”
Lambiel plans to continue skating next season, but says he needs to find a way to juggle skating with studying.
“I’m in good shape now and have to continue fighting,” he said. “I have one month now to think about it. On my fridge I have a list – I want to attend acting school maybe, or of course to improve my English, my German, my Portuguese, learn Russian, learn Japanese. . . I just have to think about it.”
Overnight leader Joubert finished third in the long with 157.21 points, but with a total score of 240.85, was able to maintain first overall.
Joubert skated an exciting program to a Metallica medley, opening with a quadruple toe loop, followed by a triple flip and a triple Axel.
The European Champion followed up with a level 3 circular footwork which accented the beat of the music and was awarded +GOE and a fast level 4 back sit change sit spin. After the ½ way point, he executed a triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, a triple loop-double toe loop-double toe loop combination, a triple flip-double toe loop combination and a triple Lutz.
Joubert admitted to being very tired and waiting for the scores was torture.
“It was very difficult,” said the Frenchman. “I didn’t sleep well last night and I had a bad practice this morning. I didn’t attempt the second quad because I wanted to give the audience a clean program. I worked for the gold.”
“It’s been a great season,” continued Joubert. “Today was a difficult day. I gave it everything I could tonight. Alain Calmat brings me luck. He was here when I won the first European title for France since  and now the first worlds since . I’m relieved and very excited. I was a little nervous, because Stephane Lambiel did a good program.”
Joubert is already thinking of next season.
“I have some ideas for new programs,” he shared. “I am thinking about the Olympics also; we have to be ready for this.
“I think the new judging system is still not good for the quad,” responded the 22-year-old when asked about all the medalists doing quads. “I think figure skaters must try it. The quad is very important for the future of figure skating. Maybe they are going to change something (in the value of the quad).”
Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic, who was ninth after the short, came in fourth overall (226.25 points) after placing fourth in the long with a new personal best of 155.80 points.
The European silver medalist exhibited excellent skating skills and high jumps with beautiful air position in his program to Requiem for a Dream. A flurry of gorgeous jumps opened the program: quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, a quadruple toe loop, a triple Lutz, a triple Salchow, and a triple Lutz-double toe loop-double loop combination, and a triple loop – all of which received +GOE and was only interrupted by a level 4 flying sit spin.
Verner also executed a level 3 change foot combination spin that was award +GOE, a level 3 circular footwork that flowed with the music, a level 4 sit spin, and a straight line footwork sequence which had the audience clapping and that built in intensity as the music swelled. The only error came when he stepped out of the landing of a triple flip, putting his hands down.
“I was so surprised about my technical score – over 84 points,” said Verner. “I didn’t expect that because I knew that I was tired and my spins were weaker than usual. But the two quads were there and [most of the other] jumps as well.
“I was just tired,” Verner said of the triple flip. “I didn’t get around and I couldn’t hold it.”
USA’s Evan Lysacek finished fifth in the long (148.69 points) and overall (222.18).
Dramatic opening moves set the tone for Lysacek’s program to Carmen. Skating with an intense determination, the US Champion landed a quadruple toe loop-double toe loop combination (with a turnout on the quad). The triple Axel which followed was not pretty, but clean, and he landed six more triple jumps – two of which were in combination.
Lysacek also produced two level 3 footwork sequences, using the dramatic music to it’s fullest, as well as two very good combination spins which had excellent positions.
“It was definitely my worst skate and my worst score of the season,” admitted Lysacek. “I’ve been sick for a few days, but I fought through it. Maybe it was the pressure of being a two-time world medalist. It was a very big step to put the quad in, because my goal here was to raise my technical difficulty. As a consequence, maybe that brought my energy level down today. I guess that’s what I have to work on for next season.”
The US Champion hasn’t given too much thought to future plans yet.
“All I know is that I’m going home and taking a long break,” said Lysacek. “It’s been a long season.”
Nobunari Oda of Japan, who stood in 14th after the short, placed sixth in the long (142.77 points) and catapulted to seventh overall (209.94 points).
The Japanese silver medalist opened his routine to music from the Mission Impossible soundtrack with a triple Axel-triple toe loop-triple loop combination, a double Axel, and a triple Salchow-double toe loop combination. The 19-year-old also produced a level 2 circular and level 3 straight line footwork sequence which interpreted the music beautifully, as well as two more double Axels and a triple lutz-double toe combination (which was not counted as it was a fourth combination).
“I did all the jumps,” said Oda. “That was good. However, one triple Lutz didn’t count. I made the same mistake last year (doing four jump combinations when only three are allowed). I tried my best, but I could have done better. The audience helped me a lot, and I really enjoyed skating [and] feeling them behind me. I felt more nervous than yesterday because it was a new program. Overall I’ve learned a lot this season.”
Kristoffer Berntsson of Sweden, who stood in 15th after the short, placed seventh in the long with a new personal best of 140.20 points, placing ninth overall (206.29).
The 2007 Nordics Champion excited the crowd with his upbeat routine to Saturday Night Fever, Studio 54, and Boogie Wonderland, executing seven triple jumps which included a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination. He also produced three level 4 spins while entertaining the crowd with level 3 circular and straight line footwork.
“Europeans were a disappointment for me,” reflected Berntsson. “I finally found the feeling I wanted at the Nordic Championships. [But here] I improved my personal best by more than 20 points. I set out to skate my absolute best and I did it. I saw the standing ovation when I came off the ice and thought ‘Wow! This is fantastic!’”
“I added the triple toe to my Axel because the Axel was so solid,” Berntsson continued. “I made only one small mistake; otherwise it was perfect. This is my first time skating to music like this. I really like this music. The audience loved it and the clapping helped me. What a feeling!!!”
Jeffrey Buttle of Canada slipped from second after the short to sixth overall (214.96 points) after placing eighth in the long program with 135.06 points.
The Four Continents silver medalist stepped out of a triple Axel and fell on a quadruple toe loop (downgraded to a triple) as well as his first triple Axel. Despite the mistakes, he otherwise produced five more triple jumps and didn’t disappoint with intricate and expressive level 3 footwork and good spins in his routine to music from the soundtrack Ararat.
“Just being here was really awesome,” said the Canadian Champion. “Obviously I put some pressure on myself, but not because I was in second (after the short program), but because I wanted to skate well. I just didn’t have the right kind of attack. It was forced. Last year, I really regretted not going for my Axels and my quad in the long program, so this year I went for them. They weren’t the best quality, but I was just determined to rotate no matter what.”
USA’s Johnny Weir put out an expressive routine to Child of Nazareth, opening with a good triple Axel-triple toe loop combination, a triple toe loop, and a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination. However, the 22-year-old only landed two more triple jumps, doubling both a planned triple Axel and triple loop, as well as singling a planned double Axel. His footwork was only graded a level 1 for the circular and level 2 for the straight line. His spins, however, were well done showing excellent speed and positions.
The US bronze medalist earned 132.71 points for a tenth place finish in the long, slipping from fourth to eighth place overall with 206.97 points.
“This was the most complete long program I’ve done this season,” said Weir. “I don’t know if it was better than previous performances this season, because I did make mistakes, but I think it was the best way I could end it feeling the way I felt this season.”
Stefan Lindemann of Germany, who stood in 16th after the short, placed ninth in the long with a new personal best of 133.38 points and 12th overall (198.78 points).
Sergei Davydov of Belarus slipped from eighth to tenth overall, while France’s Alban Preaubert finished 11th.
Christopher Mabee of Canada, who stood in seventh after the short, placed 14th in the long and overall.
It wasn’t his best performance, but the Canadian silver medalist felt that just competing at his first world championships was a step towards where he wants to be.
“I’m just going to learn from this and how I competed in this atmosphere,” said Mabee. “I’ve just got to take it with a grain of salt.”