Saturday, April 30, 2011
The Land of the Free by Gaysian Attorney
Tonight, Blumberg/Seibert, Wynne/Druar, Roca/Sur, and Punsalan/Swallow were avenged. After decades of torture, the U.S. finally won and then some. Meryl and Charlie did it on Russian soil. They beat scheming Skate Canada. The neophyte Shibutanis medaled over Didier's skaters. Igor and Marina swept the podium. The list goes on and on. As someone who's been watching ice dance since the early 90s, whodathunk that this day would come.
Crone and Poirier
The Canadian National Champions took a hit in Moscow. When was the last time the Canadian National Champs placed below the second Canadian team at Worlds? The twizzle error in the SD hurt them, and then this FD somehow had fewer technical elements than the other free dances (and no, there wasn't a combo lift, I checked). They peaked too early in the season.
Ilinykh and Katsalapov
The baby Russians were beautiful to look at, but that was all. The program was easy, there were almost zero transitions, it was chock full of crossovers, and still, they weren't able to skate it cleanly. They struggled on the twizzles and on the combination lift. 10th in the FD, and 7th overall.
Weaver and Poje
The Canadian silver medalists surprised even themselves by leapfrogging into the top 5. What got them there were stunning lifts and an attack lacking in some of the other teams tonight.
Pechalat and Bourzat
The French were a virtual lock for the bronze medal. Even the fanboyest of Shibutani fans realized that the bronze was sewn up for Didier's latest national champions barring a fall. And what happened? A fall. And not just any fall. A two-skater fall at the start of the circular step sequence. As Fabian said in the kiss and cry, "8 points." Indeed, the loss of those points dropped them to 6th place in the FD and though they hung on in podium position for a little while, eventually ended up 4th overall, leaving France without a medal for the third straight year.
Bobrova and Soloviev
The Russian national champions are probably the least inspiring Russian champs in decades. After their odd Chess short dance, they gave us a free dance to music some have described as reeking of early 90s Russian gymnastics floor exercises. They stumbled on their circular footwork sequence and dropped to 6th overall. Mother Russia is lucky that their combined placement with the baby Russians just barely added up to 13 and got them 3 teams for next year's Worlds.
Then came the upstarts. What seemed impossible last season and even at the beginning of this season was now real. The door was open. And it's likely they knew it because they didn't skate their Smile/Let's Face the Music free dance as freely as they have previously this season. Nevertheless, the cleanliness and ease of this program well-deservedly moved them up from 4th after the SD to 3rd overall, and nabbed them a bronze medal at their first Senior Worlds. Who was the last team to do that? I would think you'd have to go back to the 1993 edition of Worlds when Krylova/Federov did it. And when was the last time a skater of Asian heritage stood on the dance podium? I'd have to say never!
Virtue and Moir
With the lead after the SD, the true top Canadians were in position to do something the French-Canadian team of Duchesnay/Duchesnay could not do in Albertville in 1992: debut a FD and win the one and only competition they entered that season. Alas, it was not meant to be. Just as Yu-na could not do it in the ladies' event, Virtue and Moir could not deliver the best FD of the night when the program had never been competed before. Their dance-ability and bravery for branching out are to be commended. The opening third of the program was beyond outstanding. The decision to use lyrics was effective, and the speed and partnering were there. But as the program moved into the slow section and the final third, Voir didn't have the speed and flow that World Champions need. Even with an extra month of training, the last 2/3 of the program just did not look battle-tested. Judy Blumberg called it choppy. But still, they collected nine 10.0s and all positive GOES, with only two of those being +1. Could the Americans possibly top that?
Davis and White
Marlie took the ice knowing they needed to skate full out to win. And that they did. They did what the Shibutanis didn't quite do. They skated aggressively to a tango that is the culmination of all of Igor's tangos. And at the same time, they held out every move and delivered clean technical elements. The passion and sure-footed-ness that was lacking in the beginning of the season were all there. The lifts, the footwork, the spin, and the dance were all there, as reflected in their all +2 and +3 GOES, including straight +3 GOEs on their level 4 twizzles. But they not only beat Voir on the technical mark, but outpaced Voir in component scores with 57.73 to Voir's 56.29, with seven 10.0s and an AVERAGE of 9.75 for choreography. There was no doubt in my or Judy Blumberg's mind that Marlie earned it, and the IJS finally rewarded that. The first dance gold for the US of A belonged to Meryl and Charlie in the year 2011.
And it must be noted that coaches Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva swept the podium. When has this ever happened? To the haters out there, these coaches have taken the IJS and run with it while maintaining the artistry of the sport. They have almost single-handedly made this discipline the most fascinating of all the four skating disciplines, and the sport is better for it.