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Category: Ice dancing

Flatt, Nagasu finish 1-2 in nationals; Cohen a distant fourth

Flatt2_300 There could hardly have been a more dramatic series of story lines for the women’s free skate final Saturday night at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Would Sasha Cohen’s comeback end as brilliantly as she started it while finishing second in the short program Thursday?

Could the ingenue champion of 2008 and short program winner, Mirai Nagasu, complete her return from a wilderness of self doubt.

Would reliable Rachael Flatt live up to that reputation?

Could Ashley Wagner rally from fourth and fulfill the tweet in which she somehow found watching the movie, "Titanic," had inspired her not to go down without a fight?

The answers including a resounding yes for Nagasu and Flatt, who should have earned the two women’s spots on the U.S. Olympic team.

Wagner put up a good fight, and Cohen simply was underwhelming.

Flatt won the title with 200.11 points. Nagasu was second at 188.78, Wagner third at 184.70 and Cohen fourth at 174.28.

"It is stressful, but I think I handled it very well," Flatt. "It was so much fun. I’m still shaking."

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Meryl Davis and Charlie White complete ice dance sweep

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There was never any doubt.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White finished a clean sweep of all three phases in the ice dance competition at the U.S. Championships with a free dance Saturday to "Phantom of the Opera'' that had athletic pyrotechnics as dramatic as the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

The University of Michigan juniors, who never before had beaten five-time U.S. champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto in any phase of a competition, did it handily in all three parts this week.

Davis and White had won last year's nationals in the absence of their rivals, because Agosto had a bad back.

"[Beating Belbin and Agosto] is really a testament to our training and everything we have put into skating for 13 years,'' White said. "To come out at nationals and beat such an amazing team with the credentials that they have, it's huge for us, especially [going] into the Olympics.  We're going to take that and run with it.''

Davis and White received a meet record score of 222.29, breaking Belbin and Agosto's 2008 mark of 216.09.

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Interactive map: Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games

Our interactive map of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games covers the sporting venues and sightseeing spots in the host city, the Whistler skiing village and the scenic Sea to Sky highway connecting the two towns.


Scoring system, Dick and Michelle, Kim Yu-Na and other thoughts

Came home from the final evening of the World Figure Skating Championships late Saturday night and watched my tape of the NBC broadcast. Wished there had been more Dick Button and Michelle Kwan.

Noticed that there didn't seem to be a mention of figure skating on ESPN all week. Maybe I missed it. If so, sorry. But, geez, the world championships are held in the United States, an American man, Evan Lysacek, is the surprise men's gold medalist, and about 18,000 people are brought to their feet in a standing awe-vation over a Korean skater named Kim Yu-Na -- who, if you're an avid watcher of ESPN you've now probably not heard of. It was sports news; it's worth covering the worldwide leader.

And about the skating. It was lovely, it was inspiring, it made this skating fan look forward to the Olympic season. For awhile, especially during the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan and Tara Lipinski-Michelle Kwan-Sarah Hughes years, I covered a lot of figure skating. I first wrote about Naomi Nari Nam and Sasha Cohen here too. I've been more removed from the sport since the new scoring system was installed, but I've heard much about how horrible it is and how it's taking away the artistry and making the sport a robotic, jump-by-numbers snoozefest.

But that's not what I saw this week at Staples. It wouldn't matter if you used numbers, letters or perfect 6's, 10's, 100's or 1,000's, Kim was graceful and athletic, interpreted her music, felt her moves, covered the ice, jumped like Kobe and landed them like a Tiger Woods chip shot: silently and without movement. I don't see how the new scoring system has hindered Kim's development in any way.

Lysacek didn't need a quadruple jump to win a world title. He needed to land his triples, feel his spirals, play on the ice as if he were a gallant 1940s gentleman dancing to Gershwin, which he did, and the scoring system didn't stop Lysacek from playing to his strengths.

And it isn't the scoring system that is keeping the U.S. women behind Kim or Canada's Joannie Rochette or Japan's Mao Asada and Miki Ando. Can Del Mar's Rachael Flatt become a more musical, lyrical skater as she matures? Is Irvine's Caroline Zhang committed to the sport enough to rediscover the spark that made her a junior national champion? Will Arcadia skater Mirai Nagasu's foot heel? Will she be able to corral her talent and growth spurt and become the skater many think could challenge Kim and Asada? What if Cohen, who is living in Corona del Mar, decides to come back? Or Kwan (she teased NBC co-hosts Bob Costas and Button in Saturday's broadcast about whether she might make a comeback)?

What I liked was that even after Kwan saw Kim's ethereal, athletic and dominating winning performance, she was not intimidated. And maybe she shouldn't be. The top female skaters are still only doing five or six triples in their long programs. That's what Kwan was doing up until her injuries forced her from the Turin Games.

Should be a fun skating year leading to Vancouver. And a lot of the skating stories will be coming from Southern California. ESPN is opening its own studio out here next month. Maybe they'll even report on some of them!

-- Diane Pucin


More musical memories

Pernelle Carron and Matthieu Jost of France compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Pernelle Carron and Matthieu Jost of France used an uplifting compilation of Edith Piaf music, with Piaf's vocals, which had the crowd clapping and stamping feet, and it was perfect for ice dancing and for just plain singing along if you know a little French.

And the next couple, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy, chose a "Love Story" soundtrack sung by Nana Mouskouri. Now I loved the movie as much as the next girl and I know there was skating in "Love Story," but is what you're going for here, to make the fans (at least the female ones) all weepy?

-- Diane Pucin

Pernelle Carron and Matthieu Jost of France compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)


First for a moment anyway

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the United States compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It's not going to last, but there is a warmup group now so young Americans Emily Samuelson (18) and Evan Bates (19) are, right now, in first place at the world championships in ice dancing. This is the first senior worlds for the pair who won the junior world title last year. As they waited for their scores, the Staples Center crowd started chanting "USA." They had been 12th going into this final of three portions of ice dancing. There are 10 more couples to skate.

-- Diane Pucin

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the United States compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)


And to be fair...

Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania, skate in the ice dancing free dance competition at the World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles, Friday March 27, 2009. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Katherine Copely who, with Deividas Stagniunas, represented Lithuania just now in the ice dancing competition, was born in Cincinnati and lists Canton, Ohio as her hometown.

She also lists Stagniunas's home town of Kaunas, which is actually in Lithuania, as her other hometown.

Someone in crowd at Staples Center shouted something in Lithuanian at the couple. Stagniunas looked up and smiled. Copely just looked puzzled.

-- Diane Pucin

Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania, skate in the ice dancing free dance competition at the World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles, Friday March 27, 2009. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


Musical memories

Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski from Israel perform during the Ice Dance Free Dance event of the 2009 World Figure skating Championships, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on March 27, 2009

Growing up in a pretty conservative Catholic home, I was not allowed to listen to the album Jesus Christ Superstar when it first came out.

So I immediately ran out and bought it (the actual album, kids, no CDs back then!). I still have it, but I haven't heard that music in at least a couple of decades.

Until right now.

Alexandra and Roman Zaretski, the ice dancing team from Israel just skated to it. If I still had a record player I'd go home and play it!

-- Diane Pucin

Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski from Israel perform during the Ice Dance Free Dance event of the 2009 World Figure skating Championships, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on March 27, 2009. JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images


Questions. Ice dance questions.

Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin of Azerbaijan compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

Why is the girl dancer of Azerbaijan named Kristin Fraser?

Well, because she was born in Montclair, New Jersey, which is very far from Azerbaijan. Her partner, Igor Lukanin, is from Ekaterinburg, Russia, which is closer to Azerbaijan though the couple trains in New Jersey, which leads us to think that Fraser is going nowhere near Azerbaijan.

Lukanin's hobby, by the way, is going to the sauna. Fraser's hobbies are sleeping and watching TV. She doesn't say whether that's in or out of the sauna.

Not to fear, the couple also has a website. But be careful. They also sell real estate!

It's hard not to read the fine print of the media guide during the four hours of ice dancing finals.

-- Diane Pucin

Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin of Azerbaijan compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)


Twizzles, not the red licorice kind

So it's ice dancing original dance day, and one of the components for the couples is the synchronized twizzle. From the U.S. Figure Skating media guide, a twizzle is: "A traveling turn on one foot with one or more rotations, which is quickly rotated with a continuous (uninterrupted) action. The weight remains on the skating foot with the free foot in any position during the turn, and then is placed beside the skating foot to skate the next steps."

Got that?

Click here to see the difference between a twizzle and a spin.

We wish this were "Dancing With the Stars," where Bruno Tonioli, Carrie Ann Inaba and Len Goodman could comment on whether the twizzle was synchronized or not.

-- Diane Pucin


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