The televised portion of the 2003-2004 figure skating season got underway on October 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York City with the second Campbell’s International Figure Skating Classic. The event will be televised on ABC on October 19, the week before the Grand Prix season begins with Skate America in Reading, PA.
The ISU-sanctioned competition brought together all of the medalists from the 2003 World Figure Skating Championships in men’s and ladies. That included men’s gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, silver medalist Timothy Goebel of the United States, and bronze medalist Takeshi Honda of Japan. They were joined by the remainder of the 2003 U.S. Nationals podium, including three-time gold medalist Michael Weiss, bronze medalist Ryan Jahnke and pewter medalist Scott Smith.
On the ladies side, 2003 Worlds gold medalist Michelle Kwan, silver medalist Elena Sokolova of Russia, and bronze medalist Fumie Suguri of Japan were joined by U.S. Nationals silver medalist Sasha Cohen, 4th place Ann Patrice McDonough, and 5th place Jennifer Kirk. Only 2002 bronze medalist and 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes, a New York native, was missing from the top five finishers in the United States last season. Hughes has retired from competitive skating to concentrate on her college studies at Yale.
Missing from the original list of competitors were both of Russia’s 2002 World champions, Alexei Yagudin and Irina Slutskaya. Yagudin is still working to get back into competitive form after hip surgery this summer, while Slutskaya has been hospitalized for the last few weeks suffering from a viral infection.
Under the format for the competition, the participants skated a single free program. Judging for the event was under the old scoring system, using five judges and a 6.0 scale for both the technical and artistic impression mark. All judges marked were included in the scoring. With only one program to be skated and a small judging panel, ties in the standing were almost inevitable.
Goebel, the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist, drew first to skate. Wearing a black costume with red squiggles, Goebel used his new free program to Queen Symphony composed by Tolga Kashif.
He opened with a triple Axel/double toe/triple toe combination but stepped out of the landing of the third jump in the combo. Goebel then landed a triple salchow/triple toe loop and a triple toe before going into a death drop and a sit-change-sit combination spin. The 2001 U.S. champion then doubled a planned triple Axel and did spirals before hitting his patented triple salchow out of hydroblading. Goebel next landed a double Axel from a stationary position before going into his straight-line footwork sequence. The 23-year-old then landed a triple lutz, followed by a spread-eagle into a triple flip. The program finished with a short circular footwork sequence, followed by a butterfly and final combination spin. His marks were all 5.5s and 5.6s for both technical and presentation.
Ryan Jahnke followed, switching from his classical Cinderella free program of last season to a vibrant native Brazilian dance free skate using Charmada, Casa Nostra, Cor Do Amort and Candyall Beat in a brown, purple and green costume.
Jahnke opened with a bad fall on his triple Axel, which ruined a planned triple Axel/triple toe combination, then barely landed a triple toe loop, which was intended to be a quad toe. He did a nice combination sit spin before trying a triple lutz/triple loop combination, but after turning out on the lutz, he could only manage a double loop. Jahnke then did a number of moves in the field, followed by a combination spin, before trying the triple Axel again. He doubled it, but followed with a good ‘Tano triple lutz. After a camel and upright spin, the 25-year-old Jahnke landed a triple flip with a step out and a clean triple salchow. A straight-line footwork sequence was to be followed by a planned double Axel/triple loop, but was downgraded into a double loop with a step out. He ended with a death drop into a sit spin. His marks ranged from 5.0 to 5.4 for technical and 4.9 to 5.4 for presentation.
Three-time U.S. champion Michael Weiss was the third American to skate. Wearing a blue-gray military style costume, he skated his new free program to When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Amazing Grace, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Weiss tried a quad toe loop/triple toe loop combination to start, but fell on the quad toe, which he had not been landing successfully in practice. He then tripled the next planned quadruple toe loop before going into an upright spin. Weiss stumbled out of a planned triple Axel in a triple Axel/triple toe combination and did not attempt the second jump. But the 27-year-old then landed a triple loop before doing a flying spin and his moves in the field. He followed with a nice walley to triple Axel, before going into a circular footwork sequence. Then he landed a solid triple salchow and triple lutz. A camel spin was followed by a jump into a sit spin before he did a pike (shoot the duck position) into a triple flip/double toe combination. A straight-line footwork sequence, a flying camel and an upright spin finished his skate. The judges gave Weiss technical marks from 5.2 to 5.6 and presentation marks from 5.5 to 5.7.
Japan’s Takeshi Honda skated a new free program to Warsaw Concerto, wearing a black costume with gray tatters on one side. Honda popped his first quadruple toe loop attempt into a double, ruining a planned quad toe/triple toe combination. He then downgraded a planned quad salchow into a triple before falling out of the landing of a triple Axel, preventing him from completing the planned triple Axel/triple toe combination. After an outside camel, the 22-year-old Honda tried for his third planned quad, a quad toe loop, but fell on the attempt. The 1999 and 2003 Four Continents champion landed a triple lutz and an Arabian before doubling a planned triple loop and fighting for the landing of a triple flip. After some nice spread eagles, the program ended with a death drop, a straight-line footwork sequence, and a combination spin. Honda’s technical marks ranged from 5.0 to 5.3, but his presentation marks were much higher, from 5.3 to 5.6.
As usual, reigning world champion Evgeni Plushenko elected not to show his competitors anything of his new free program before the season, instead skating to last year’s free program to St. Petersburg 3000 in the same white and gray costume.
Plushenko wasn’t in prime form, but it was more than enough to stifle his competitors. After two-footing his opening quadruple toe loop, Plushenko elected to skip the triple toe loop he had planned to follow it. He added the triple toe after his next quadruple toe loop, successfully completing the combination. The 20-year-old next landed a good triple Axel and a triple lutz before stepping out of the landing on the triple lutz in his triple lutz/double toe loop combination. However, the rest of his jumps were solid – triple flip, triple loop, and a triple salchow. He then completed a sit spin with changing positions, a Biellmann spiral, a combination spin, a fast straight line footwork sequence, a flying camel, and a multi-position combination spin. His marks were all 5.8s for technical merit and 5.9s except for one 5.8 for presentation.
Scott Smith, who won a silver medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September, skated last, using Michael Kamen’s Concerto for Saxophone in an unadorned black costume with a blue belt. Smith opened with a solid triple Axel/triple toe combination and a clean triple toe loop. He next attempted a quadruple salchow, but fell on the attempt. After a flying camel, the 21-year-old fell out of the landing of a triple lutz, then went into a straight line footwork sequence. He barely saved the landing of an off balance triple loop, then executed a nice camel spin. He two footed the landing of a triple Axel, then completed a triple flip before showing off a death drop and a series of spread eagles. Smith turned out of the landing of his final triple salchow before finishing with a combination scratch spin. The judges gave him marks of 5.1 to 5.5 for technique and 5.3 to 5.6 for presentation.
Plushenko, Goebel and Weiss finished 1-2-3, while Honda, Jahnke and Smith all tied for fourth.
Ann Patrice McDonough started off the ladies portion of the competition skating a new free program to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in a brilliant white costume relieved only by the black and gold of a swan’s beak on her chest.
With the sleeves of the costumes emulating the swan’s wings, McDonough flapped her way through the program. She opened with a double Axel and missed her planned triple/triple combination, landing the triple lutz but falling on the triple toe. The 2002 World Junior champion landed a triple loop before doing a flying camel into a donut spin. Next came a barely-landed triple flip but again without the planned second jump in the combination. McDonough completed a triple salchow before going into her spiral sequence, then completed a triple lutz. After her layback spin, the 18-year-old doubled her final triple flip. She finished with a death drop, a straight line footwork sequence, and a final combination spin. Her marks ranged from 5.2 to 5.4 for technical merit and 5.4 to 5.6 for artistic presentation.
Jennifer Kirk followed, skating to Die Fleidermaus in a relatively plain light aqua-colored costume. She started with a solid triple loop, but then fell on the triple lutz at the front end of a planned triple lutz/double toe combination and left out the second jump. A gorgeous layback spin was followed by a nice spiral sequence, before Kirk tried a triple toe/triple toe combination, doubling the second toe loop. The 2002 Four Continents champion landed her triple flip/double toe combination before going into a pair of combination spins using most of the possible positions. She went into a spread eagle, followed by a triple flip, on which she fell. Kirk came back to land a triple salchow, but then skated through an uninspired straight line footwork sequence before landing a double Axel. A flying camel/scratch spin combination ended the 19-year-old’s program, for which the 2000 World Junior champion received technical marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.3 and presentation marks from 5.2 to 5.5.
Audience-favorite Michelle Kwan skated next, arriving on the ice in a lavender costume with a plunging neckline, abundant décolletage and no illusion fabric. After acknowledging the crowd with its “Kwan-tastic” banners, the five-time world champion debuted her new free skate to Puccini’s Tosca.
Kwan nailed a triple toe loop, but then two-footed the triple lutz in a planned triple lutz/double toe combination, leaving out the second jump. She came back strongly, hitting a triple flip immediately followed by a strong double Axel. A flying camel preceded a clean triple salchow before the 23-year-old went into her layback and combination spins. After her trademark inside/outside spiral, Kwan landed a clean triple toe/double toe combination and went into a spread eagle. But the seven-time U.S. champion popped the triple lutz out of footwork before doing her hand-on-the-ice spiral. A straight line footwork sequence and a death drop completed the program, which ended with Kwan’s head bent back over her shoulders, a position she held for quite a while as the applause rang out around her. The judges gave her 5.4 to 5.7 for technical merit and 5.7 to 5.9 to presentation. After the event, Kwan noted that she had been breaking in new boots and was concentrating on finding areas in which she needed to improve.
Japan’s Fumie Suguri was next to skate her new Mozart free program in a turquoise dress with loose sleeves. The 23-year-old fell on her opening triple lutz, then completed a triple flip before falling again on a triple salchow. After her layback sin, Suguri two-footed a triple loop, putting both hands on the ice, then two-footed another triple lutz. The 2001 Four Continents champion followed with a solid spiral sequence and a clean double Axel, then a flying camel. She landed a triple flip/double toe combination, but then stumbled near the end of her following straight line footwork sequence. Her program ended with a camel/layback/sit/fast scratch spin combination. Her technical marks ranged from 4.9 to 5.3 with 5.2 to 5.6 for presentation.
Russia’s current national champion, Elena Sokolova, skated in a black costume with flesh-toned slashes on the bodice. Obviously suffering from jet lag, Sokolova started by barely landing a triple lutz with a turnout, stepping out of a double flip that should have been a triple, and landing a double salchow instead of a triple. A flying camel was followed by a shakily-landed triple loop, a layback spin, and a triple toe. After her spin combination, the 23-year-old blonde landed a double toe/double toe combination, again downgraded from triples before doing a spiral and circular footwork sequence. She finished with a double Axel before briefly striking her final pose. The judges were unimpressed, with technical marks from 4.5 to 5.1 and presentation marks from 5.1 to 5.5.
Doll-like Alexandra (Sasha) Cohen was the final competitor of the night and she lived up to the billing. Like McDonough, Cohen skated to the third act of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, but her black-and-white costume was substantially more understated, with swan feather motifs on the body, but no wings on the arms.
Cohen opened with a triple lutz/double toe combination, which is slated to be upgraded to triple lutz/triple toe later in the season. The reigning ISU Grand Prix Final champion followed with a triple flip/double toe combination, spontaneously adding the second jump to her planned program after a beautiful triple flip. She completed a solid triple loop before doing a camel spin/sit spin and trademark Sasha spin. The 18-year-old then held onto the landing of a double Axel before her spiral sequence, then did another camel/scratch spin combination. A spread eagle was followed by a clean triple toe loop and a two-footed triple flip. Cohen then landed a triple salchow before going into an excellent layback spin. A straight line footwork sequence and a final multi-position combination spin ended her program. Cohen received straight first-place ordinals from the judges with all 5.8s for technical merit and all 5.9s for presentation.
In the final standings, U.S. skaters Cohen, Kwan, McDonough and Kirk ranked first through fourth with Suguri fifth and Sokolova last.
The event also featured two exhibitions. U.S. pairs champions Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn skated their new short program to Bizet’s Farandole in burgundy costumes. Their elements included a throw triple salchow, back press lift to a one-arm hold, and a double twist. Scott doubled her jump on the side by side triple toe loops and fell out of the death spiral. U.S. dance silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto performed their new West Side Story free dance, a work in progress. Agosto wore jeans and a T-shirt while Belbin performed in a bright red dress.