One post away from my avatar
One post away from my avatar
I think most people know by now that I could gush for days on end about the amazing qualities Butyrskaya had, but the only comment I want to add to this thread is re: Kwan. When Maria was asked about the results of the SLC Olympics, she said something along the lines of "It would have been fair had Kwan won," and also went on to say that she gave all the credit in the world to Sarah Hughes for going out there and risking things the way that she did.
When it comes to Maria, i'll be honest and say that i never liked her skating because it felt very forced to me. But what i will say about her is that she had a passion for the sport unlike anyone else. The odds were always against her, yet everytime she proved them wrong so for that i applaud her.
I liked Maria's passion and drive, but could NEVER relax watching her. Those stiff knees reminded me of Kerri Strug (pre Atlanta Olmpyics). I would literally cringe when Maria hit her landing positions, antcipating her bones actually grinding and shattering. It's hard to get drawn into a skater's performance when you are more concerned for her knees.
I will say the one program that I absolutely loved of hers was Habanera - it was an exhibition that I desperately wished she turned into a competitive program. The music was perfect for her.
And any criticisms of Kwan were harmless. (I'm a Kwan fan who agreed that MK's short haircut and overly red highlights were not a good look for her). And Michelle was able to prove that she could win outside of North America. Those statements aren't that harsh. And she was far more complimentary than critical overall. If nothing else, she respected Kwan as a competitior.
I thought Maria's triple loop was the prettiest I've ever seen.
As for her comments about MK, I only remember one. She was asked by some commentator about MK, and she laughed and in her fractured English she said, "Oh, Michelle is big problem for me!" It was said very good naturedly.
I think Maria showed that you did not have to be a teenager to win. She competed after 25 in which people are now saying for skaters is too old. I like the over 20 ladies because they have been through a lot and the maturity shows when they skate. I think Maria did a great job of this. Sometime we don't appreciate a skater until after they are retired. This is why I think they should stay as long as they want and are competitive.
Maria skated in one of those team competition TV specials last season, and she couldn't land a single jump. I actually felt embarrassed for her.
If she wants to have a pro career, she needs to get back into training.
She should have turned pro after her 99 World title, or atleast after failing to defend her title after the 2000 Worlds. Maybe winning the short program at the 2000 Worlds gave her incentive to keep trying, and the Olympic being two years away, and just missing the Oly bronze in 98. Still her highest stock as a pro was likely at that point, by the time she turned pro, her value had already slipped after terrable Oly and World(qualifying round only)showings, and the new generation of pros were also coming on board.
The last I saw of Maria was on European TV skating at this year's Obertsdorf Champions Gala. AFAIK, she's doing work on the European exhibition circuit (I think she was at SOI Belgium last year, but don't quote me on that)
I never cared for Maria as an amateur until rewatching her programmes from '99 Worlds. Except for stiff-leg landings, she had one of the better jump techniques of the ladies at that time, with a true lutz and flip (although she had problems landing the latter in competition) and an awesome 3loop. Her spins (except for the layback) and spirals usually had good, clean positions as well
The discussion on 2000 Worlds makes me feel a little sorry for Irina -- at both that event and SLC, she was having an undefeated season (I think) when she came in with a free skate that enabled another American skater to leap over her head to gold. I like to see Maria, though, because I like fighters.
Irina Slutskaya did not have an undefeated season either in 1999-2000 or 2001-2002. 2004-2005 was her one and only undefeated season.
1999-2000 was the season when Irina finally overcame her weight and jump issues and began to emerge as a top competitor on the world scene. She started off the season with a bronze medal at the Sparkessen GP event, behind Maria Butyskaya and Elena Liashenko. She won Cup of Russia over Soldatova and Volchkova to make the GPF, where she had her first victory over Michelle Kwan. She went on to win Europeans and finish second at Worlds, to Kwan.
In 2000-2001, Irina won three GP events and the GPF, Russian Nationals and Europeans. Her only loss that season was Worlds, where she finished 2nd to Kwan.
Irina’s 2001-2002 season was an up-and-down one. She finished 2nd to Sarah Hughes at Skate Canada, then won Cup of Russia over Volchkova and Nikodinov. She won the GPF with a 4-triple final FS in a controversial decision, then placed 2nd at Europeans to Maria Butyrskaya. Irina finished 2nd at SLC, then won her first World Championship.
In 2002-2003, Irina won bronze at Cup of Russia behind Volchkova and Cohen, and silver at NHK behind Yoshie Onda. She lost her Russian championship to Elena Sokolova, but regained her European championship. She then withdrew from Worlds due to her mother's serious illness.
I dont know if anybody ever noticed but the same 4 judges were involved in two decisions in the ladies event at the 2002 GP final. Of course everybody knows in the long program Slutskaya had 4 1st, and 3 3rds, for her 4-triple performance, while Hughes had a 7-triple(although bad flutzes and cheats)and Kwan a 6-triple performance. The other decision that was a 4-3 split, in the same event, interestingly had the same 4 judges voting for a Russian competitor.
In the short program(the 1st of 3 programs at the GP final)Maria Butyrskaya finished 2nd in the short on a 4-3 split over Kwan(Slutskaya had unaminous 1st place votes for the short program); the 4 judges who voted for Maria were interestingly the same 4 who voted for Irina over Kwan and Hughes in the final free program. Also in the 1st free program, where Maria had a bad skate, she finished 4th in that 2nd program(the 2nd of 3 GP final programs)behind Hughes on a 4-3 split, the 3 judges who voted for Maria over Hughes in this program were 3 of those 4 judges again. It is hard to believe there was not some sort of block in place beforehand to help Irina and Maria out when you look at the ordinals in retrospect.
True, but it is hard to know whether the judges in question were deliberately in cahoots or it they just genuinely liked Maria's and Irina's skating styles over Kwan and Hughes.
Butyrskaya skated a clean SP in the 01/02 GPF; didn't Kwan have some type of small, small error? And in the first LP, neither Butyrskaya or Hughes really skated that great, I think they each did maybe 4 triples at the most, so it was a cointoss.
Michelle and Maria both skated clean short programs. Michelle had a wobbly landing but otherwise was very good. Maria had a very good first half but slowed down enormously in the second half of the short program, it looked like she was crawling, and her last 3 or 4 elements were ragged and sloppy looking. In the first long program Hughes had 4 clean triples, and Maria only 2, if I remember correctly; plus Maria re-arranged her program to try jumps she had missed and missed them again.