Lesson in Chinese
So, dear readers, imagine yourselves once again up in the stands of the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, awaiting the battle among the pair skaters who were at the top after yesterday’s short programs, and were now in the last two groups.
As you recall, short program results came as a surprise not just to the participants, but for their federations as well. The “magnificent five” were comprised of Xue Shen/ Hongbo Zhao, Aliona Savchenko/ Robin Szolkowy, Yuko Kavaguti/ Alexander Smirnov, Qing Pang/ Jian Tong, and Dan Zhang/ Hao Zhang. Maria Mukhortova with Maxim Trankov and Vera Bazarova with Yury Larionov came eighth and twelfth, respectively.
Last night, I watched the last group’s skate on a tiny TV screen. Seeing the recording today, I see that Savchenko and Szolkowy go more than their deserved; fair judging would have placed them third, if not fourth or even fifth. The Chinese showed quite strong and difficult short programs. Of course, my heart goes out to Masha and Max losing their chance for an Olympic medal, but they can only blame their nerves and their coach.
All that was yesterday. By today, the tears of yesterday’s losses have dried up, the joy of yesterday’s victory is safely tucked away, and the taught nerves are ready for the new performance. Will they hold up under this ultimate pressure?
Most likely, Tamara Nikolayevna Moskvina couldn’t quite hide from Yuko Kavaguti the foul remark of the Russian sports official Irina Rodnina which the paper “Soviet Sport” published on September 12, 2009 – “I think one could find a nice Russian girl for such a gorgeous guy as Alexander Smirnov. The choice of partner is questionable here.”
The famous and medaled pair skater of the last century has not only a sense of tactfulness and propriety, but has deemed it appropriate to insult a skater who’s been training with Igor Borisovich and Tamara Nikolayeva Moskvins for many years, and not only speaks Russian fluently, but has a Russian citizenship – meaning she is a Russian. Furthermore, if Rodnina doesn’t consider the petite Japanese skater a beauty, it’s her personal opinion, better kept to herself. Especially when it comes from one, whose nickname during her athletic career was “flying stool” due to her height and elegant figure.
I’ll take the liberty of only concentrating the best pairs as well as our teams; the rest skater for the figure, for statistics, or just for themselves.
Vera Bazarova and Yury Larionov showed a difficult and packed program; however, it wasn’t clean, but had many tiny errors. Nonetheless, those kids proved that Russian team can well rely on them for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
To that end, though, I’d be so bold as to recommend that Lyudmila Kalinina go to Igor Borisovich and Tamara Nikolayevna Moskvins to let those great masters polish those diamonds properly. The Perm natives lack the ability to show their “chocolate” side, they lack the brilliance, and their movements don’t have a tiger’s elegance.
Otherwise, I fear Valentin Piseev can take the team of the future from Kalinina, and give them to some Oleg Vasiliev, who’ll destroy their career as he’s already done with Victoria Volchkova, Natalya Shestakova, Pavel Lebedev, and others.
Dan Zhang/ Hao Zhang, who lost only to Totmianina and Marinin in Turin, were down in fifth after the short program. This made them try all that much harder in the free. They had a beautiful, difficult program full of hard elements and original lifts. Even though Hao fell on the 2A-3T, the Chinese remained in fifth.
Following them were Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov; in my opinion, they are their coach’s victims. The skaters looked even more tired than they did at Europeans. Their version of the famous “Love Story” looked like a play that’s being performed in the thousandth and first time. Both Masha and Maxim made several mistakes in the triple Salchow, 3T-2T combo, and several other elements. Nonetheless, they managed to move up from the eighth to seventh place.
Perhaps Vasiliev should demand that ISU makes its judges more like Themis and wear a blindfold – perhaps this way his students can medal with such skating.
First up in the last group were the European champions. Their first element was supposed to be a quad salchow and the figure skating world was playing a guessing game – will Yuko and Alexander take the risk? Will their coach bless this risk? As we have found out, the answer was “no”. As I feared, Yuko’s nerves didn’t hold up. The salchow lost one rotation; Yuko made a mistake in one place and fell in another. Tamara Moskvina’s “magic alloy” splintered on its ultimate test and finished just off the podium.
The German team also couldn’t avoid falls. However, Ingo Steuer chose not to take risks, and only included in the free program the elements that Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy can do in their sleep. That, according to the new judging rules, was deemed enough for an Olympic medal. The medal was bronze, though they really wanted gold.
The Chinese team Qing Pang/ Jian Tong showed the highest level of pair skating; it had fire, spice, elegance, and much much more. They were far better than the Germans and even better than the rest, but their short program errors gave them a silver medal instead of gold.
Meanwhile, the veterans of Chinese pair skating Xue Shen/ Hongbo Zhao, the Turin bronze medalists, became Vancouver Olympic champions. In something like the first time in the history of pair skating Russia ended up off the podium.
No doubt, the Chinese will remain the most dangerous medal contenders at the Olympics in So-Chi. To overcome them, one would need to start by reinstating the Soviet Union, together with its system of benefits for the best athletes and their parents.
In part, this is quietly happening already. Russia has practically gone back to the one party system, and tries to cover the fleeing birdies with the wings of its two-headed eagle, especially those who have decided they can already fly solo.
All that’s left is to reinstate the control over living arrangements and resurrect in the largest urban centers of the country the national factories where talented skaters’ parents can be provided with employment. In another fifteen or twenty years, the country would again have all the medals. Provided, of course, that the prices on oil and gas do not tank.