The dance competition at the 2003 World Figure Skating Championships produced a lot of firsts. It was the first time that skaters competed in only one compulsory dance, the first time the Austrian Waltz was skated at Worlds, the first time a North American dance team won the gold and the first Worlds medal of any kind for Bulgaria. It was also the last time that two couples were scheduled to compete as both Canada’s Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz and Russia’s Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh have announced their retirement.
The event began with two groups of skaters competing in different groups for the compulsory dance. One group was won by the defending world champions, Lobacheva and Averbukh. They were followed by Ukraine’s Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov, who won three Grand Prix events this season, and Israel’s Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski, last year’s bronze medalists. For the Russians, it was their first and last time competing with the Austrian Waltz, while the Ukrainians has already skated it twice during the Grand Prix series. “We didn’t have much time to prepare,” Averbukh stated. “We really started to work on it only two weeks ago.”
In the second group, last year’s world silver medalists, Bourne and Kraatz, were the leaders over Bulgaria’s Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski and Russia’s Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, the European silver and bronze medalists respectively. Only the Russians had competed with the dance previously. “It was awesome,” Bourne stated. “We’re at the top of our game.” Staviski noted that “This is our weakest compulsory. We can do the others with our eyes closed.”
Lobacheva and Averbukh won the Grand ball original dance using a waltz to “The Blue Danube” and a polka to “Thunder and Lightning“. They were closely followed by Bourne and Kraatz who also used “Thunder and Lightning” and a waltz to “Voices of Spring“. Only a small mistake on a twizzle during a footwork sequence kept the Canadians behind the Russians. Denkova and Staviski were the only couple to show a minuet as part of their original dance to “March for the Turkish Ceremonies” and “Dance of the Witches” with Denkova noting that “in the 18th century, there were also grand balls with kings and queens.” They were followed by Navka and Kostomarov and Grushina and Goncharov.
The free dance was a study in contradictions as the Canadians performed a traditional Russian “sturm und drang” piece, while the Russians danced to rock and roll. Both of the dances were on a technically equivalent standard, with the Russians having the edge on lifts and carries while the Canadians had the advantage on footwork. But in the end, the key was passion. Bourne and Kraatz, performing to intense applause, gave everything in their “Adagio of the 21st Century,” but Lobacheva and Averbukh failed to match the intensity that they showed in winning the European Championships. The result was a 5-4 decision that gave Canada its first world championship in ice dancing. “Tonight is our night,” said Kraatz. “This has been a great ride skating with Victor for 12 years,” Bourne stated. “We’ve won the bronze, we’ve won the silver, and now we’ve won the gold.”
Denkova and Staviski, skating a Middle Eastern dance to “Afrah Baladi,” took the bronze, Bulgaria’s first medal at Worlds. It was a personal triumph for Denkova, who had been told she would never skate again after suffering a severe leg injury during the 2000 Worlds in France. “This medal means a lot,” she said. “After an injury, it is very hard to come back. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of work.” Navka and Kostomarov, also using a Middle Eastern theme, finished fourth with Grushina and Goncharov fifth, personal bests for both teams. For the United States, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto finished seventh while Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev were eighth. Canada’s other dancers also fared well with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon tenth and Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe 12th.