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Category: World Figure Skating Championships

A hundred days until the Vancouver Games is just another day to Evan Lysacek

FabforumWhile Olympic organizers marked the 100-days-out point before the Vancouver Games, world figure skating champion Evan Lysacek on Wednesday did what he’ll do with 99 days left, 98 days, and just about every other day before the Olympics.

 He trained long and hard, skating powerfully through a morning practice session at the Toyota Sports Center.

Although a surprise blizzard delayed his return from last week’s Cup of China competition in Beijing, he was on the ice Wednesday as usual, sharing the surface with Italy’s Carolina Kostner, 2008 U.S. champion Mirai Nagasu, Bebe Liang and others. Afterward, he pondered whether 100 days is a long time or a short time to wait for what looms as the biggest moment of his career.

“Both. I have mixed feelings,” said Lysacek, who pulled up from third after the short program to finish second at the Cup of China behind Japan’s Nobunari Oda.

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Nicole Bobek allegedly key player in drug ring

Nicole Bobek was one of the most gifted -- and troubled -- U.S. figure skaters of the last 20 years.

Her spiral was so eye-catchingly exquisite that Michelle Kwan emulated it, then refined it into her signature move.

But Bobek's life rarely was refined and often seemed to be spiraling downward with behavior that made her a poor man's Tonya Harding.

Now, at age 31, she may have hit bottom.

Monday, a New Jersey prosecutor said Bobek had played a "significant role'' in a drug ring that was allegedly involved in the distribution of methamphetamine.  According to nj.com, the web site of the Jersey Journal newspaper, prosecutor Edward DeFazio said Bobek "was actively involved in the upper echelon in this thing.''

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Cinquanta and Grandi, they must be related.

As Phil Hersh pointed out, figure skating's czar, Ottavio Cinquanta of Italy, speaks a lot, says little and seems committed to doing stupid things that hurt the sport. Since figure skating is consistently one of the most popular sports in the Winter Olympics, it would seem that someone associated with the International Olympic Committee -- or, you know, the sport itself -- might eventually want to look for a new guy to give hour-long state-of-the-sport addresses that are both imperious and insipid.

One of the most popular Summer Olympic sports, gymnastics, has the same deal. Bruno Grandi, also of Italy, runs the International Gymnastics Federation. He, too, is fond of meddling with the scoring system -- making it something impenetrable to the casual fan -- and ignoring important issues (Chinese age controversy, anyone?) He also loves speaking for hours at a time and saying nothing. How has it happened that these two men, who seem far removed from the sports they are supposed to help foster, have kept their jobs?

-- Diane Pucin


Tara Lipinski on the women's competition: Time to up the ante

Editor's note:  With the World Figure Skating Championships in town last week, Ticket to Vancouver featured posts from skaters who have been in elite competitions and won. It ended Saturday night with the ladies' free skate competition. Gold medalist and 1997 world champion Tara Lipinski, who wrote on Thursday and again on Saturday, wraps up that event for us today.

Tara Kim Yu-Na skated her heart out Saturday night. She took the ice with a commanding lead coming out of the short program. She left the ice with a world title, becoming the first skater to earn over a combined 200 points.  Nerves can take away the natural emotion and passion that skaters feel on the ice.  Not Yu-Na, her skating had a remarkable lyrical quality accompanied by fierce athleticism.  As I watched her, I felt her every emotion and was completely drawn into her program. Coached by newly inducted World Hall of Fame member Brian Orser, she kept the audience captivated the entire four minutes.  I am so happy for Brian, he is a wonderful skater and no doubt a dedicated, caring, and immensely talented coach. His experience has probably been most invaluable to her. 

Mao Asada knew she had to bring it.  She is the only female to ever land two triple axels in competition.  Saturday night she landed one of the two in her program. The first was in combination and flawless.  Mao was in it to win and skated her free skate with familiar race. Coming in as reigning world champion may have added to the pressure, but at this level there is always pressure.  She has a year to get ready for the Olympics and I know she will be training hard with Coach Tatiana Tarasova, who has taken more skaters to Olympic gold than any other.  If she skates with two triple axels in Vancouver, she may be tough to beat.

I know Joannie Rochette must be excited to have the Olympics on her home turf.  Her two programs were choreographed beautifully, the short by Shae Lynn Bourne and the long by Lori Nichols. She is energetic and powerful. How exciting it could be to skate for gold in your country!

I am so proud of Rachael Flatt.  At her world championships debut she took fifth place. She skated strong and if you didn’t know better it looked as though she had been there a few times before. One of the things I like about Rachael is that she is a focused competitor. If she has nerves I couldn’t tell by watching her. She sure keeps them in tow.  
 
Alissa Czisny came back in the long, not letting misses from the short program affect her performance.  Alissa, I know what you went through. I had a rough short program at the 1996 world championships but skated well in the long. It is a great way to end the competition and begin to focus on next year.

Although Vancouver is less than a year away, these ladies have an entire season facing them. You can’t get ahead of yourself -- a lot can happen. You have to take each competition one at a time. A year can also bring a lot of surprises.  The current favorites might not be the favorites in Vancouver.  I think it will come down to who wants it most and who is going to train the hardest.  There will be highs and lows in any season but its all about peaking at the right time. It’s also time to up the ante. Yu-Na won with five triples. The door is still open.  It will be interesting to see who walks thorough it.

Choreographing my programs for my Olympic year was one of the most memorable and cherished moments of my journey to Nagano. I hope that all these talented ladies will treasure the special moments as they prepare their new programs for this upcoming year.

They could be the programs that take them to the games.

They could be the programs that take them to the gold.

-- Tara Lipinski


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


Rachael Flatt can hardly wait for next year

Rachael Flatt, the 16-year-old from Del Mar, was not in awe of the occasion during her first world championship free skate.

She did six triple jumps and her only mistake was in failing to complete her triple-triple combination.

She earned a season-high score of 113.11 points. Whether that moves her up from seventh place overall won't be determined until this final group of skaters has finished.

Until then, check out her post-skate interview:

-- Diane Pucin


Alissa Czisny feels redeemed

Czisny_300_2Alissa Czisny didn't fall during her long program.

And if she didn't complete more than three credited triple jumps, and seemed to improvise throughout her free skate done to the music of Dr. Zhivago, the 21-year-old U.S. nationals champion said she will use the lessons she learned from faltering so badly in her short program.

She was 14th going into Saturday's performance and wants to improve her mental toughness during the next year of preparations for trying to qualify for the 2010 Olympics.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Alissa Czisny performs her long program on Saturday during the world championship women's competition at Staples Center. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Here's Alissa's interview not long after her long program:


Staples Center looks nearly full

Staples_300As it gets close to the time for the first U.S. skater, Alissa Czisny, to take the ice, Staples Center looks nearly full. And there are a lot of people holding tightly to South Korean flags. This is going to be almost a hometown crowd for short program leader Kim Yu-Na.

Plus there's a line five deep waiting for autographs from men's champion Evan Lysacek and his coach Frank Carroll. The folks trying to order fresh pasta from the nearby food stand are having trouble getting their hot plates out of the crowd without causing sauce disasters.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Women's leader Kim Yu-Na acknowledges the Staples Center crowd after her short program on Thursday night. Credit: Kyle Terada / US Presswire


Figure skater Candice Didier is OK after fall

Candice Didier, the Frenchwoman who took a hard fall on a triple toeloop jump and crashed into the Staples Center boards, suffered a bruised hip but will be released shortly from a medical clinic and is supposed to make a full recovery.

Didier took a three-minute injury timeout after her fall and was able to finish her long program.

-- Diane Pucin


Painful afternoon unfolds at figure skating championships

Didier_500

Watching the early groups of skaters in the free skate, the ones who scored worst in the short program, can be both heartwarming and frightening. So far today it's been both.

The first skater, Ana Cecilia Cantu of Mexico, fell on her first jump and on another fall she hit the boards harder than any Kings hockey player. Cantu finished her routine, though, just like she did at Four Continents where you can see some of her routine here.

But more frightening was the fall taken by French skater Candice Didier, who, in the first minute of her routine missed a jump that left her sliding into the boards, first with her elbow, then head and finally with her torso. She screamed in pain, curled into a ball and held her ribs as medical personnel lifted her off the ice. As she sat in the kiss-and-cry area bent over in pain fans shouted "turn off the cameras" and her suffering was taken off the large overhead monitor.

After an allowed three-minute injury timeout, however, Didier gathered herself and finished her routine with only one other fall. She received a standing ovation and smiled through her tears while holding her side as she awaited her scores. Her routine actually put her in first place after three skaters. And here's Didier during her short program Friday.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Candice Didier falls to the ice and toward the boards at Staples Center during her long program on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. Credit: Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty Images


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