I was in attendance at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships last week for the ladies short, dance free, and ladies free. As you all know the results and happenings of the competition, my own miscellaneous thoughts:
- Yu-Na Kim's performances, especially the SP, were magical. She owned the triple+triple combo and her overall presence was quite comparable to when Katarina Witt was skating. To see her skate well was not really a surprise, as during both the short and long program Kim nailed jump after jump in warm-up, with the exception of falling on the back-end of a triple flip+triple toe towards the end of her long program warm-up. The energy she brought to the ice during her short program was astounding, and had the audience in the palm of her hand throughout the entire skate. There was one moment before she took to her step sequence in the short where the audience cheered for her and her face just lit up; she was clearly having an incredible time out there. Her long was brilliant too, and while it was a wee bit disappointing not to see her go for broke and try the loop, I loved the Ina Bauer into the double axel with the spiral coming out of it. There was quite a bit of national pride at skate amongst the fans in the building; the Korean fans went absolutely nuts when Kim finished but a contingent of Japanese fans sitting behind me didn't even bother to stand after either program of Kim's.
- Joannie Rochette was wonderful, but it's a shame that her long, a performance I was really looking forward to, failed to live up to its potential. Her short was very elegant, especially with the beautiful spiral out of the double axel, and her very precise, nuanced choreography. I actually never witnessed her trying a triple lutz+triple toe in the short program warm-up, so I was surprised to see her stating in an article after the SP had concluded that she was planning on going for it in the competition. Her long warm-up was very good, but her skate was a bit tentative with two relatively major errors. I think what is most impressive about Joannie's skating is her great amplitude on her jumps, and the beautiful use of her arms and her back.
- Miki Ando did two flawless, rotated triple lutz+triple loops during warm-up for her SP, so it was a real shame to see that the one she did in competition was under rotated on the second jump. Miki looks far more impressive live than on TV, as she really has decent posture, great speed, and great height and ice coverage on her triple jumps. While I personally didn't care for her SP, her LP was excellent, and I don't just mean the jumps. While I usually find Miki's skating to revolve around the triple jumps, (BTW she never tried a quad salchow in warm-up), she had great facial expression and I thought her last step sequence was very dynamic and strong. She certainly didn't have the most difficult choreography, but she absolutely sold what she could out of that performance.
- Mao Asada probably had the most disciplined warm-ups of any of the ladies, trying triple jumps right and left. She looked good during her SP warm-up, landing triple flip+triple loop and a couple triple lutzes. Unfortunately, towards the end of the warm-up the lutz came away from her, stepping out of one attempt and doubling another. The latter mistake came back when she skated her program, but otherwise she was quite lovely. The thing that differentiates Mao so much from Kim is that she skates like no one is watching her, whereas Kim skates like she wants to bring the house down. Asada, while very beautiful, had a sense of predictability in her programs this year that made her less exciting to watch than Kim in my opinion. During the warm-up for her long, Mao landed two beautiful triple axels, both unquestionably rotated and cleanly landed. While her first 3A in her long was fine, she seemed to be too far back in the air to cleanly complete the second. While I don't despise her "Masquerade" long as some other fans do, I think that the major weakness of the program is Mao's absence of a slow section. The choreography is difficult, but unfortunately she makes it look difficult because she doesn't have any time to rest. Her step sequence was the best choreographic passage of the program; very dynamic, intricate, and it went with the music. Kim and Asada had no collisions or near-collisions during either warm-up; if anything Asada was intentionally avoiding Kim.
- Rachael Flatt's artistry is entirely in her face. What is lacking with her is that her arms are fairly stiff, and she holds a lot of tension in her shoulders and upper back, thus causing her to look shorter. It was particularly obvious in the short, when Joannie skated directly after Rachael, with Joannie having a really straight back and Rachael being more hunched over. With that said, Rachael was very wise to switch her long program back to last year's "Romantic Rhapsody" because that one had superior choreography and was a superior music choice as well. Rachael should absolutely be commended for her continued strength as a competitor, and her long program seemed to get stronger as it went. Her triple+triple is an area for concern, however, because she missed it both times in competition. She completed one 3/3 in the short program and long program warm-ups, but both times the triple toe was noticeably under rotated.
- Laura Lepisto has improved her artistry; I believe I noticed more emotion and presence than at Europeans and other previous competitions. Her weakness in presentation, like Flatt, is her relatively stiff arms. She landed a beautiful triple toe+triple toe during the SP warm-up but only did a triple toe+double toe during the competition. She has nice technique, and is a very clean skater who I will look forward to seeing more of in the future.
- Alena Leonova was most enjoyable to see. I was not a happy soul when she beat Caroline Zhang and Ashley Wagner for the world junior title, but all of that disappointment went away when I saw her short program. Sometimes, you just like to see a skater who isn't so technically polished, but really fights for everything and who clearly enjoys skating. She really just looked like she was at the World Championship for the first time and she was going to enjoy every bit of it. Her spirals and spin positions are unquestionably in need of improvement, but her jumps are quite solid (a slight exception being the lutz) and she reminded be quite a bit of Stephanie Rosenthal from 2006 Nationals in terms of her ability to show that she enjoys skating.
- Fumie Suguri's skating, sadly, made me wish Yukari Nakano had been there instead. While Suguri did skate with some palpable fire in her short program, her Otonal long program was quite a festival of boredom. However, technically she was pretty strong, and her soft landings to her jumps are absolutely one of the strongest points to her skating, and such a quality was something that not many of the other girls had. She and Ando came very late to the SP warm-up, and Suguri herself was marked with going overtime by a second during her SP. I was looking at the clock as Suguri finished her SP. She reached her ending pose at 2:50, but the clock strangely went on an extra second to 2:51, thus incurring a deduction for being overtime.
- It was great to see Sarah Meier back in action, and I thoroughly impressed at how steady and relatively fit she looked considering her injuries and lack of training time. She looked very solid throughout her warm-ups and competition skates, and I particularly enjoyed her long program (the same LP she did last year), which had a particularly nice step sequence.
- Elene Gedevanishvilli has great spark and energy to her skating, and had a particularly nice triple lutz and triple toe+triple toe combination in her long program. She has excellent speed, just needs to polish her positions and improve her consistency.
- Alissa Czisny looked excellent during the SP warm-up, not missing a thing. After her triple lutz+double toe in the short, I thought we were in for an excellent program until Czisny held on to her triple flip entrance edge way too long (and thus too close to the boards), and she tried to get her weight forward to compensate for the lack of room she had, thus ending up falling. Her long program warm-up was also strong, landing the triple toe+double toe+double toe that she didn't do in her actual skate. Czisny landed two clean triple lutz+double toe combinations in her long, in addition to a triple flip. Her triple loop was noticeably under rotated, and was rightfully downgraded. While Czisny is a very elegant skater, she really does lack speed in comparison with the top women. I think that could play a part into why her jumps are so wonky, considering that she often goes into her jumps with fairly slow and tentative entrances.
- According to Philip Hersh's latest article, Carolina Kostner was not injured and this is most surprising. Kostner really needs to invigorate her training habits, because in the warm-up for the long program, I looked at her fairly closely and never saw a triple+triple attempt or a triple lutz attempt. I also didn't see a triple+triple attempt during her short, although if I remember correctly she did do a clean lutz during the warm-up. Her PCS score of 58.48 for her long program was absolutely absurd, although thankfully inconsequential to the final outcome. I actually was very disappointed when Kostner skated so poorly in the long, because I find her "Dumky Trio" long to be very elegant, yet fiery.
That is all.