http://ptichkafs.livejournal.com/31342.htmlLike always, the usual disclaimers regarding this journalist apply. In particular, this interpreter does not necessarily share Mr. Werner's opinion about the outward appearance of female ice dancers, and certainly has some strong disagreements with him regarding the direction of men skating in general and the results of this particular championships in particular. Enjoy!March 26, 2008 21:13
All reforms are leading to the ISU president burying figure skating in near future.
Another figure skating season came to an end in a marvelous "Scandinavium" arena of a nice Swedish city of Gothenburg. It ended with a decent World championship whose last chord was the cacophony of men's single skating. Later on, we'll talk about the representatives of the stronger as well as, alas, weaker gender. I'll start with what I usually leave for dessert - ice dancing, which is sometimes still referred to as sports dancing.
Let me indulge myself a bit with an old man's grumbling and journalistic demagoguery. Sports dancing?! Excuse me, but isn't it an oxymoron, like artistic 10 kilometer run, or ballroom jumps with a pole? This concept, which I think only existed in the Soviet Russian language, has long outlived itself. Sometimes, though, it seems that deep in the souls of the Soviet, and now Russian functionaries it is still alive and well, making many young Russian dancers look like athletes laboriously doing their homework assignments. They are not ladies and their gentlemen, but partners at work; they're like skim milk, alcohol-free wine, or caffeine-free coffee. Obviously, some dances were created with a goal of showing the dancers at their most sex appealing, but the Russians, alas, resemble school children passing their sexual maturity exams using Kama Sutra as the textbook. The poor souls try to perform each element learned from this textbook so painstakingly that the technique shows, but the sex appeal disappears forever.
A few days prior to leaving for Gothenburg, I enjoyed watching the TV show "Ice and Flame" from the "Dances on Ice"[i] series, and once again saw that my memory did not fail me. I won't judge the attractiveness of the actors and singers participating in the show, but it did also feature the recent top stars of Soviet figure skating, such as Marina Klimova, Marina Anissina, Elena Grushina, Oksana Grischuk, and Oksana Kazakova! Those are beautiful young and young-looking women with great bodies, charming faces, revealing costumes, and the most alluring moves. So? The temperature of their attractiveness was not a degree higher than the temperature of the ice they were skating on. Even the most potentially sexy of them, Oksana Kazakova, looking like a gym teacher. On the other hand, the jury featured the not-so-young talented actress Tatiana Dogileva. Her attractive smile alone, combined with some very feminine gestures, made me immediately want to pull the beauty from behind the judges' table and skate with her until utter exhaustion, be it around the bed, the sofa, or the floor, in skates are preferable without. That is a true sex appeal.
Then again, it's time to get back to the championships and today's dancers. Among the Russians, God certainly made Katya Rubleva and Jana Khokhlova very attractive. However, the raven shine of her hairdo almost automatically transforms Katerina into a war-style "Katyusha" in men's eyes, making men run for cover to avoid a potentially lethal shot. By the way, it's somewhat similar with Isabelle Delobel, whom it's easier to imagine out in the fields or in a fishermen's boat rather than on the Moulin Rouge stage. As to Yana, she's like a new recruit - she knows how to use weapons, but hasn't gotten to a sniper level yet. Though this bomb is so loaded, it can create a true explosion given the right lighter. Many ladies from other countries also share this problem. Tanith Belbin is beautiful like a Barbie doll come to life, and the rest should just be left alone.
Ice dancing competition delighted with the variety of dance in its many forms. At the very least, the top eight teams were true dancers.
Of course, many fans were disappointed with Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder becoming world championships. I won't hide that I, too, would rather see another team at the top of the pedestal, but the Frenchmen honestly earned their "gold". Their rather boring original and free dances were put together very shrewdly from painfully familiar elements and the movements which the dance veterans were extremely careful in performing as to avoid even the slightest error. Their skating wasn't very interesting, but it was impeccable, so Delobel and Schoenfelder remained in the lead throughout the competition.
The best skating, the best free skate, and the best dancing on the ice overall was certainly presented by the Canadian due of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Many specialists consider this team to be the main contenders for the top prize in Vancouver. I share this opinion, and consider their second place in Gothenburg to be well earned.
Of course, the senior team of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, should have placed higher than Tessa and Scott, but Tanith fell in the compulsory dance, and made a few small mistakes in the other two. The judges then wanted to give the Americans their fair third place, but here is where the Extreme and Qualified Representative of V. V. Putin named Alla with a patronymic of Viktorovna comes in[ii]. With her help, the foreigners were 26 hundredths of a point behind the only local leaders of "Nashi"[iii], Yana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitksi; the latter thus became the bronze World medalists. Why am I, a long-time fan of Yana and this team in general, am not too happy with this victory? I am glad, but I don't like to see Khokhlova and Novitksi get presents that can hurt them in the near future. There were many among the media who have seen their free dance in Zagreb, while Yelena Vaitsekhovskaya and I enjoyed it back in Paris, and I have also seen it in Saint Petersburg. Our opinions coincided - Yana and Sergei only truly won the free dance in Paris, while they performed it probably the worst in Gothenburg. Both youths were tied up with fear, making their skating too labored.
There was strong, powerful, beautiful and original dancing from the Italians Federica Faiella/ Massimo Scali (working with Pasquale Camerlengo, Anjelika Krylova, and Ludmila Vlasova), Americans Meryl Davis/ Charlie White (the third team of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva), French Natalie Pechalat/ Fabian Bourzat (who will likely become France's primary team next season, and who started learning to skate with Oleg Volkov and Gennady Akkerman), and, of course, the British Sinead and John Kerr (showing almost miraculous work of Evgeni Platov).
From among the lower-placing team, it was nice to watch the Lithuanians Katherine Copely/ Deividas Stagniunas (working successfully with the famous Soviet dancers of Yelena Garanina and Valeri Spiridonov), and, of course, the hapless Ekaterina Rubleva/ Ivan Shefer, the spare favorites in the group of Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin. There was some decent old-time skating from the Azeri veterans Kristin Fraser/ Igor Lukanin. Rumors say that this oldest of dancers will stay eligible until his youngest grandson can replace him on the ice.
It was quite painful to watch a very decent Polish team of Joanna Budner/ Jan Moscicki. If only the boy's mother and the team's coach Bozena Bernadowska finally realized that the ice dancing world does not begin or end in Odintsevo, the Poles might have danced their way into the final.
I have already written about the semi-Belarusian team of Ksenia Shmyrina/ Egor Maistrov after Zagreb. They haven't gotten any better since then, though it's hard to get worse as well; they placed twenty-ninth in the compulsories, and twenty-sixths in the original.
Pair skating placements have again demonstrated the non-viability of the new judging system, and proved that I was right to call this sport "pairnography". Even if we believe that the 2006 World champions, 2007 World silver medalists and the winners of the recent "Four Continents", the Chinese Quing Pang/Jian Tong have suddenly become lame and unlearned all their skating, the leaders in this segment were certainly their countrymen Dan Zhang/ Hao Zhang. It's hard to see what made the judges gift the German team of Savchenko/ Szolkowy with the first place. Perhaps they took pity upon the former informer of GDR Secret police who used to report on his GDR team comrades, and has since not realized the nastiness of his actions.
To be honest, the bronze medal of the Canadian duo of Jessica Dube/ Bruce Davison can only be seen as a deep bow toward Vancouver. The Russo-Japanese team of Yuko Kawaguchi/ Alexander Smirnov managed to rid itself of the shortcomings they showed in Saint Petersburg and Zagreb, and certainly deserved the bronze medal! They were, indeed, third after the short. But, as they say, god does his thing, and the devil does his. Tamara Nikolayevna Moskvina worked her magic with her students, bringing them to the pedestal level, but the judges did their own little miracle, unduly tripping up the team. We can understand the judges, but it's too disgusting.
At one point, Ottavio Cinquanta decided to create the so-call "Four Continent" championship to restrict the access of the weakest skaters to the World championships. Despite the effort, the number of the weak has only grown. It turned out that even the federations whose only ice is in the freezer and whose weak skaters are all bought have one ace - their votes at the ISU elections can support not only the ideas of Cinquanta the "great reformer", but also his candidacy at re-election. That's why the first program at Gothenburg saw more than four dozen skaters representing most of the old and new countries of our planet, including such traditionally skating nations as Monaco, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Greece. This brings to mind an old Dostoevsky-inspired joke. When Raskolnikov is asked if he should have killed the old lady for just a ruble, he proudly responded: "What do you understand? Ten old ladies mean ten rubles!" I guess the counting of potential votes for the president and his reforms at the ISU follows the same principle.
Due to the high demands of Valentine Nikolayevich Piseev, he didn't have any medal contenders among the ladies, and won't have any anytime soon. Seventeen-year0old Ksenia Doronina came seventeenth, and that's not bad. Her poor posture would make this Petersburg beauty look bizarre on the pedestal. Fighting for the medals were representatives from the four continents whose championships recently passed in Korea.
I wimped out of watching more than half-a-hundred ladies. No matter how beautiful the participants are, such quantity can turn anyone into a woman-hater or even prompt into changing orientation. A dozen plus was more than enough.
Mao Asada from Japan was recognized as the top world skater, though she was second in both the short and the free. It was assumed that the girl trained with Rafael Arutunian, but she came to Sweden all on her own. Mao (no relation to the Great Helmsman!) spent Christmas vacation at home, and only invited the coach to join her at the championships in Korea. Not knowing how well his student trained at home without his oversight, Arutunian refused to go to the Four Continents. Only time will tell if this will lead to peace or to a new coach. What helped Asada become champion is the luck that was unlucky for others. First, one of her main rivals Miki Ando had to withdraw due to injury. Then, after many mistakes, Carolina Kostner fell from first place onto the third (dragging Tomas Verner along). For a reason I do not understand, Yukari Nakano was pushed from third place into the fourth despite an almost error-free program. Finally, Yu-Na Kim from Korea won the free skate.
The day of the free skate could be dubbed "the return from outer space". Many ladies skating in the later groups very much felt the gravity; those include the charming Kira Korpii from Finland and the American skater Kimmie Meissner. That's how it is with women - they are always unpredictable.
Men and women in one?
Finally, we've reached the chronologically last type of skating, men single skating; perhaps the upcoming ISU congress should officially rename it into femen skating. Only here can we see on the same ice the samurai Daisuke Takahashi without a sword, and geisha Johnny Weir with an open back. Perhaps next season the viewers can enjoy fake eyelashes, busts, and hips, as well as wigs and lipstick. In the final, the skater of the now-almost-traditional sexual orientation could even throw his garters to his favorite judges. Those used to Ru Paul will meet his Canadian sister Emma Sandue with standing ovation; why not? Weir as a girl dressed as a boy, and not any boy but the coach Victor Petrenko, will take on the Chio-Chio-San image, and will elegantly wave a fan. Weir's other teachers, Galina Zmievskaya and her daughter Nina Petrenko, will teach Weir how to do that.
It is almost a pastoral utopia, a summer breeze, a heart's respite. However, I have to be the naysayer here. As one of the best international men's coaches said a few years back, this style will just drag the skating down into the butt.
I can't disagree, since the impression in Gothenburg was of a judging panel, or rather the technical specialists and callers, having been collected from the far side of the Moon. The true warrior Takahashi was found to have an extra combo, and was therefore relegated to the fourth place. Brian Joubert barely squeaked out a silver medal despite being down in the sixth after the short. Stephane Lambiel was beaten into the fifth place overall, whereas Kevin Van Der Perren from Belgium came sixth despite being third in the free; Sergei Voronov came seventh with fourth place free skate. Meanwhile, Johnny Weir became the bronze medalist with a fifth place free skate. As to the mediocre Jeffrey Buttle from Canada, he avoided any extremes, managed to sneak in between the drops, and became the World champion. I guess the way was well oiled with maple syrup.
Here, again, we save a few unkind words for the new judging system and it spiritual leader Ottavio Cinquanta. Due to his numerous and thoughtless reforms, figure skating has become the sport of cloned elements, and the championships - battles of the mediocre and the weak. Brian Joubert openly admitted to taking it safe by leaving out the quad after seeing his opponents play the zamboni. The smart coward was rewarded with a silver medal. If Cinquanta headed the international mountain-climbing federation, I guess he'd value ten safe climbs up the neighborhood hill higher than one assent to the Everest.
This all reminds me of an old nursery rhyme[iv]:
All around the world's ice rinks
Ottavio chased the skating.
Ottavio thought 'twas all in fun.
Pop! goes the skating.
Just ignore beauty on ice,
Everyone - come marching.
We don't care if it looks nice,
Pop! goes the skating.
[i] Skating with celebrities type show
[ii] Alla Viktorovna Shekhovtsova, also Piseev's wife
[iii] Play on words. "Nashi" is a Kremlin-supporting youth movement created by Putin to show how the Russian young support the government. The word "Nashi" in Russian also means "ours", meaning that Khokhlova and Novitksi were the only team Shekhovtsova had to bargain for.
[iv] Werner uses a humorous song from a Russian cartoon to ridicule Cinquanta and the NJS. I tried to do something similar with a rhyme more familiar to English-speaking readers. So, if it's totally lame, don't blame Werner, blame me.