U. S. women must jump to it
BY JO-ANN BARNAS
Knight Ridder Newspapers
DORTMUND, Germany - (KRT) - On the podium, it looked good: two medals, silver and bronze.
But Chuck Foster, president of the U.S. Figure Skating Association, was looking beyond the performances of Sasha Cohen and Michelle Kwan on Saturday night in the ladies final at the World Figure Skating Championships.
He was looking ahead.
From his seat at the Westfalenhallen, Foster saw competitors from other countries attempt more difficult jumps and combinations than the American women.
He saw new world champion Shizuka Arakawa of Japan whip across the ice with a three-jump wonder: a triple lutz-triple toe-double loop combination. Arakawa followed that with another difficult combination, triple salchow-triple toe.
He saw the fifth-place finisher, Carolina Kostner of Italy, open her program with a three-jump combo: triple flip-triple toe-double loop.
And he watched as Miki Ando of Japan, a 16-year-old who finished fourth, attempt a triple lutz-triple loop combination, though it appeared as if she cheated the landing on the second jump. Ando, competing in her first senior worlds, has landed a quadruple jump at least three times in competition. She didn't come close to completing it Saturday.
The only U.S. skater who completed - or even tried - a triple-jump combination was Jenny Kirk, who trains at the Onyx in Rochester Hills. She fell on her triple toe-triple toe in the long program, but landed it in the short. She finished 18th.
The point being, the pendulum in women's skating is favoring athleticism again.
And Foster wouldn't mind seeing the Americans start moving that way, too.
``This competition showed that the bar has been raised,'' Foster said. ``Our people will have to start doing triple-triple combinations, triple axels and even quadruple jumps. We won't be competitive until they start to do that. That's a lesson to be learned for this event.''
There's movement in that direction.
Kirk and Richard Callaghan plan to work on securing a second triple combination - triple flip-triple toe - for next season.
Robin Wagner, Cohen's coach, said they would begin training a quadruple salchow on a harness this summer and would add a triple-triple combination for next season. Cohen practiced a quad before but stopped two years ago.
Kwan, five-time world champion, said that she, too, knew she had to push herself on the first mark. But first, she must decide if she wanted to compete next season.
``It's a test on your body,'' said Kwan, 23. ``But I know I need a triple-triple, that's for sure.''
Wagner said: ``That's where women's skating is going. You don't want to be in a position of playing catch-up. You want to be a leader.''
The incident involving a man from Montreal who jumped the boards and skated onto the ice in a yellow tutu before Kwan's long program was no laughing matter for the U.S. contingent. Security was lax all week at the Westfalenhallen, with inconsistent checks of credentials and no baggage searches for journalists. . . .
Arakawa was coached by Callaghan for a year before changing training bases to Simsbury, Conn., to be coached by Tatiana Tarasova. ``I want to congratulate Richard Callaghan, Shizuka's coach, who worked with her for a year,'' Tarasova said. . . .
Callaghan said he planned to meet with Kirk after the Champions on Ice tour to analyze her disappointing placement. ``I have to figure out what happened,'' he said. ``For a person who trains as hard as she does, muscle memory should have kicked in. If she would have did all of her work, she would have been in the top six or seven.'' . . .
It will be known this summer if skating moves to a new computer-based points system, perhaps signaling the end of the century-old 6.0 judging scale. If that happens, Kwan, who received six 6.0s Saturday night - though it wasn't known which nine of the 14 judges' marks counted - rightly ended the era. No other skater in history - man or woman - has received more perfect marks than Kwan.