The 2004 Marshall’s World Figure Skating Challenge was held Apr 6 at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The event, sanctioned by the International Skating Union (ISU), was the final Olympic-eligible competition for the 2003-04 season and featured some of the top figure skaters in the world.
The 13 competitors (7 ladies and 6 men) skated their long program in front of a panel of 5 judges: Francois Waitzman (FRA), Masako Kubota (JPN), Natalia Primachenko (RUS), Karen Butcher (CAN), Claire Ferguson (USA – for Ladies), Deveny Deck (USA – for the Men). The current 6.0 scoring system was used.
In addition to the competition, the event included an special exhibition performance by the 2004 US pairs champions, Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr., and the 2004 US ice dancing champions, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.
USA’s Sasha Cohen won the gold in this event, out-skating Japan’s Shizuka Arakawa who won silver. Michelle Kwan (USA) won the bronze.
Performing to Swan Lake, Cohen skated a brilliant program, landing a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination followed by triple flip-double toeloop combination. The 2004 World silver medalist landed four more triple jumps to earn marks from 5.8 to 5.9 for technical (T) merit and 5.9 to 6.0 artistic (A) merit for a first place finish.
“It was a great performance and I couldn’t have done it without Robin,” said Cohen. “It was very special for both of us.” Cohen added that the season started with a win in Madison Square Garden (Campbell’s Int’l FS Challenge) and ended with a win here. “So I am happy with that,” said the 19-year-old. “This was my best performance and it’s good to have one like that.”
Arakawa performed to Puccini’s Turandot, doubling the second jump on her first combination, but landed a total of seven triple jumps (one a triple Salchow-triple toeloop combination). The 2004 World champion’s technical and artistic scores ranged from 5.7 to 5.8. for a second place finish overall.
“My first jump wasn’t straight in the air and I couldn’t get up enough to land the second triple to do the three jump combination,” explained the 22-year-old from Tokyo. “But I really enjoyed the competition.”
Kwan had a decent skate to Tosca, but singled an Axel and doubled a Lutz, earning scores from 5.5 to 5.7 (T) and 5.8 to 5.9 (A) for a third place finish overall.
“I felt really good out there,” said the 2004 World bronze medalist, who added that this was a little more intense than a show program. “But it was a bummer that I made two mistakes. It’s been a long season and this was a crazy week. First I did Worlds, then I started on tour and had to learn my new program, and then I came here.”
Japan’s Miko Ando was fourth followed by Irina Slutskaya of Russia.
“Things have been going better and better,” said Slutskaya. “I’m feeling more comfortable then I did two weeks ago. I finally feel my legs and feel like myself on the ice.” The 2003 European champion added that the standing ovation she received was amazing. “Now I’m trying to catch all the good and bad moments and enjoy each moment because you don’t know how many you will have.”
USA’s Jennifer Kirk finished placed sixth while Japan’s Fumie Suguri was seventh.
Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko won the men’s event while Brian Joubert of France won silver. Johnny Weir (USA) won bronze.
Plushenko executed a quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination but stepped out of a triple Lutz in his tribute to Vaclav Nizhinski. The 2004 World champion earned scores from 5.7 to 5.8 (T) and 5.8 to 5.9 (A), and with a 3-2 judges split, was first overall.
“I love skating in the US,” said the 2004 European silver medalist. “I look forward to adding two more quads to my program next year (to keep up with Joubert).”
Joubert landed a quadruple toeloop-double toeloop in his Matrix routine, as well as a second quadruple jump, earning technical and artistic marks from 5.8 to 5.9 for a second place finish.
“I was very happy with my skating,” said the 2004 World silver medalist. “It was a good skate for me.” The 19-year-old will begin a 25-city tour upon his return to France.
Weir doubled one jump and stepped out of a triple Axel in his routine to Doctor Zhivago, earning marks from 5.4 to 5.7 (T) and 5.6 to 5.8 (A) for a third place finish.
Michael Weiss (USA) was fourth followed by teammate Evan Lysacek, who placed fifth.
Lysacek, who tore a groin muscle in practice prior to the Gala at Junior Worlds, is training lightly to allow the injury to heal. “I can only do 5 or 6 jumps a day,” said the 2004 Junior World silver medalist. “I felt fine here. It was my first time skating with the ‘big guys’.”
USA’s Timothy Goebel, who placed sixth, admitted to having a frustrating season but said he felt the boot problem had been fixed.
The event will be nationally broadcast by ABC Sports on May 9, 2004, from 1-3 p.m. EST.