All right, here it goes. The normal disclaimers regarding Werner's abcense of political correctness apply.
Pictures at an Exhibition
First of all, let me explain to any potential readers that this time I am not going to write about the past championship. The show is over, the audience has gone back home, and there is no point talking about the movie. More so since the press center of the Sports Palace was swarming with journalists, journalers, writerers, and all other penners, so the reading mass was surely well supplied with information on all hues of yellow, from a lemon to a “child accident”.
However, if your curiosity is willing to be satisfied with a few sketches around and about…
For me personally, the world championships started with a big tragedy, was accompanied with a huge disappointment, and ended with a feeling of deep satisfaction from meeting the heroes and heroines of the ice battles of the past. For example, I haven’t seen the still charming Elena Valova for about twelve years, since she moved to USA. Same goes for the not-so-new American Igor Lisovsky and Oksana Baiul. Even the Australian Sergei Shakhar’ – I haven’t seen him for five or sex years; same goes for the New Zealander Vyacheslav Kuznetsov; also a rare bird to see in Moscow – the ice dance queen Oksana Grishuk. Also the inseparable trio Bestemianova/ Bobrin/ Bukin, and Alexander Zaitsev, and many others, far but not forgotten. Though, honestly, all those fighters, while recalling the old days, hardly talked about their joint battles. They had other things to talk about.
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Having arrived in Moscow on Monday, the 14th of March around noon, and having just dropped my things off at a hotel, I rushed to the other side of the city to say my final good byes to a good friend, the Azerbaijani figure skating federation president Hussein Aliev. I won’t go into the details of his death, noting just that he ended his life at his post, just as a few years earlier did Carlo Fassi in Lausanne or Valerij Dolgov in Kiev. Accompanying Aliev into his last path were such important functionaries as the ISU president Ottavio Cinquianta and the ISU committee member German Panov. Obviously, Russian figure skating president Valentin Piseev was there. Though one who called Husein his best friend, his Georgian colleague Iraklij Japaridze, could not free an hour of his apparently very busy schedule for the farewell. I guess it’s not for naught that the folk wisdom tells us when the real value of friendship comes out.
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Clearly, one of the main themes of this championship was the withdrawal of Evgeny Plushenko from the free skate – a day of mourning for all plushenites and a holiday of all yagudians. The latter immediately put forth rumors about the athlete’s cowardice, whom I, to their chagrin, consider the figure skating Eu-Genius. Needless to say, Zhenya’s injury is real, though its causes are a different issue: as opposed to other skaters, competing against each other, Plushenko through his teacher’s will wages a war against Alexei Yagudin for the past seven years. It doesn’t even matter that Yagudin himself has long graced the eligible ice only as a coach. At times it appears that Alexei Nikolaevich Mishin, still not having recovered from the Salt Lake City loss, has transferred the image of Yagudin onto his second run-away-to-Tarasova, Andrej Gryazev; thus he makes his Sad Knight fight this pre-star kid, who honestly doesn’t deserve it. Perhaps that puts Evgeny into the problem of the necessity of a complete victory; a head busy with outside thoughts has trouble concentrating on difficult jump combinations. This inevitably leads to injuries. I suppose Zhenya puts up with his coach’s policy because his trusts him implicitly, correctly considering Alexei Nikolaevich his Creator.
Without Plushenko, the men competition turned into a marathon without the leader; Stefan Lambiel, the most psychologically stable of the bunch, won it. Though a good friend from the still active skaters called the final results the “Gay Day”. He explained that out of the top ten only Lambiel and Chengjian Li like girls, while Jourbert, even though he is heterosexual, skated “like a real ***”. If this tendency continues in the future, both single skating disciplines will be able to join into one, since lesbians are not appearing among the lady skaters.
After the European championships in Turin I wrote that the gold medal was a gift to Irina Slutskaya. In Moscow, in my opinion, her lead in the short program was a gift. However, Irisha’s free skating was an absolute triumph, the best attack from this long deserving fighter. The little lady of the big house managed to rise above her illness and pain to show all she learned over the years from Zhanna Gromova, Margarita Romanenko, and ten years of international competitions. Just as her first, the second gold medal of the World Champion Irina Slutskaya was honestly earned. I would like to see as her direct heir on this throne Italian Carolina Kostner, whom I consider the best young skater of European style. In addition, Carolina is a very classy young lady, a modest girl whose character is not infected by even a microbe of star sickness. After her, perhaps, it will be turn of my current Junior favorite Olga Naidenova.
In the days of ice dance competitions I was often asked why the judges are ignoring the wonderful Bulgarian team Albena Denkova and Maxim Stavijski. I answered that, in my opinion, three factors have to contribute for the victory: atlete(s), coach, and federation. In the Bulgarian trio one leading horse stopped pulling its weight even before Dortmund, going its own way and leaving the team somewhat lame. I don’t know whose bright idea it was to lower the impression from the mastery of those skaters through a uniquely losing free skate. Well, perhaps I know but won’t tell. It’s disgusting.
I was impressed with the champions Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov. Alexander Zhulin succeeded in creating a winning dance for them, and even managed to make Roman open up on the ice, making him show uncharacteristic flexibility and softness. Kostomarov seems to have taken off his protective armor. Tanya, meanwhile, sparkled with every facet of her extraordinary talent and skill.
To be fair, I consider the first placement in the free with four mistakes a gift of fate, this time played by Russian Figure Skating Federation. This, however, is not the dancers’ fault, and not their work. If the judges considered them the best – then they are World champions, with which I once again congratulate Tanya and Roma.
As to the American pair Belin/ Agosto, I was greatly excited by their original dance, and mildly so by their free. Thin as a needle, the doll-like Tanith doesn’t exactly fit the profile of the hot passionate “romano chavela”. On the other hand, I’m sure that if Tanith, dressed as a gypsy, came up to any man (including the almost former me) with an offer to read his fate, he’d gladly offer her more than his hand. It’s too bad that the team won’t be able to compete at the Olympic Games in Turin. They’d be almost guaranteed a place on the podium.
Looking very good were also the French Dlobel – Schoenfelder, having soaked in and put into their programs the ideas of several brilliant coaches including Tatiana Tarasova. Back in Turin the audience marveled at their Original and Free dances; in Moscow Isabelle and Olivier have surpassed themselves. However, even considering their free dance the best of what I’ve seen, I fully agree with a statement of Marin Skotnicky. This dance coach, famous for his innovative ideas noticed that the Frenchmen’s skating is robotic, that they don’t put their souls into the dance. And the dance without soul is an army march.
I had to be impressed by the free dance of the first Israeli team Chait/ Sakhnovsky, exhibiting the biggest speed on the ice. Galit and her partner are impressive – they managed to maintain this crazy speed throughout the program.
Well, finally we come the Ukrainians Elena Grushina/ Ruslan Goncharov, as much the dance veterans as the winners. Nikolai Morozov found Ruslan a very winning image, while Elena had hers from birth. The technique of this husband and wife team with impeccable, but their traditional love of the classics creates an illustion of turning the free dance into the thousandth anniversary show of “Swan Lake” on the Bolshoi Theater stage in great need of repair. Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov almost managed to avoid that mistake this season.
As to the absence of tickets and the presence of many empty rows, I wrote about it last spring in the “Moscow Championship Spiral”.
Artur WERNER, 03/23/2005