The 2001 Sparkassen on Ice Cup (Nations Cup) figure skating championships were held at the Emscher-Lippe-Halle, November 9-11, 2001, in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. This is the third of a series of six competitions before the Grand Prix Final which is to be held in December in Ontario, Canada.
World Champion Evgeny Plushenko made his debut in fine form, sweeping ordinals in both the short and free programs with two rock-solid programs. Amazingly, his coach, Alexei Mishin, has curtailed Plushenko’s training for fear that he may peak too soon in this Olympic season. If the nineteen-year old is capable of easy quadruple toe-triple toe combinations when not at his peak, one can only imagine what he will be skating like at the Olympics.
American Timothy Goebel placed second with a strong performance, qualifying himself for the Grand Prix Final for the third consecutive year. Goebel, as well as bronze medalist Chengjiang Li of China, landed a quadruple salchow and a quadruple toe loop, proving that the era of the quad is here to stay.
Maria Butyrskaya took the ladies title despite landing only four of her seven planned triple jumps. Persistence paid off for the former World Champion, who landed her triple lutz and loop on the second tries.
Throwing in elements did not work as well for American Angela Nikodinov, who dropped from second after the short program. After opening with three solid triples, Nikodinov singled and doubled the rest of her jumps, changing her program as she went along.
Nikodinov opened the door for Yoshie Onda, who landed six triples and attempted the triple Axel. Onda’s silver medal makes her a prime contender for a berth on Japan’s Olympic team.
China’s Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao took the pairs title with 5.8s and 5.9s on both marks. More significant than the throw quadruple salchow they were practicing are the improvements in presentation and choreography.
The Chinese could turn the anticipated duel between Sale and Pelletier and Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze into a three-way battle.
Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman of the U.S. scored an important victory, defeating former World Champions Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov– a team whom they had never previously beaten. With both pairs skating clean programs, an extra set of double Axels and more dynamic choreography vaulted the Americans ahead on a split decision.
In the dance event, World Champions Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio debuted their new programs to a rather lukewarm set of marks that nevertheless easily won them the title. This week’s Trophée Lalique will feature the debut of their main rivals, Anissina and Peizerat of France.