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A wonderful World Championships
by Sonia Bianchetti Garbato
March 2013

The 2013 World Figure Skating Championships were held in London, Ontario, Canada, from March 11 to March 17 in the Budweiser Gardens arena.

These championships were particularly important because they are used also as the qualifying event for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Based on the results obtained by their competitors in each discipline, the Members earn the right to enter representatives in the Games.

The arena was pretty crowded every day and the atmosphere very warm and friendly, thanks to the support of an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience. It was an excellent idea to have a live chorus to sing the national anthems during the prize-giving ceremony. Very emotional.

In each event there were some outstanding programs but, once again, I found it very disappointing and distressing to see many top and talented skaters all mess up their programs and mar them with too many falls. This was particularly evident in the men's event, where the skaters are more or less obliged to try to execute quads if they want to get a result, even when they know that the chances of standing up are poor. But they do not care because a fallen jump, or a jump landed on two feet, still brings a lot of points. And this is just an aberration of the IJS. What we witnessed in London could be the straw that will break the camel's back. Let's hope that it will push the ISU to take the necessary steps to stop this massacre. The solution is simple: just change the rule and say that a jump marred by a fall or landed on two feet has no value, as is the case for spins, for instance, when the required number of revolutions or positions is missing or the required position is not attained.

In pairs, Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov, Russia, won the gold medal, placing first both in short and free. They opened their program to "Violin Muse" by Ikuko Kawai with a breathtaking triple twist, followed up with a side-by-side triple Salchow and a triple toe loop-double toe loop combination, excellent and original lifts and spins. Dressed in very elegant and beautiful costumes, they performed a marvelous program with unbelievable intensity and perfect unison. The choreography was superb and their interpretation of the music very emotional.

Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy won the silver medal. They placed third in the short and second in the free. Their program to "Flamenco Bolero" by Gustavo Montesano was highlighted by a throw triple flip, a triple toe-triple toe sequence, and a triple twist as well as level four lifts. However, Aliona doubled the side-by-side jumps and Robin fell on a triple Salchow. But at the very end of their program, blooming out of nowhere, on the crescendo of the music they executed a fantastic throw triple Axel!!! I thought I was dreaming. The program is well choreographed, appealing and emotional, and the way they interpret and express the music is wonderful. In London, though, I found them a bit more tense and less communicative.

The bronze medal went to Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford from Canada. They placed 2nd in short and 3rd in free. Their program, skated to the "Angel" movie soundtrack, featured a triple twist, a side-by-side triple Lutz, throw triple loop and Salchow, but all the lifts were graded level two. The program is very beautiful and well choreographed and there is a good feeling between the partners. They transmitted great emotion to their audience in London, which seemed electrified and honored them with a standing ovation.

The men's event was very exciting.

Patrick Chan, Canada, won his third World title. He was first in the short program with a stellar performance to Rachmaninov's Elégie in E-Flat Minor. He perfectly executed his opening quadruple toe-loop/ triple toe-loop combination as well as all the other elements. The program is well choreographed and created a magical atmosphere.

In free skating, he placed second. His program is delightfully choreographed to Puccini's "La Boheme", but it did not even come close to the magic of the short program. Chan opened with two huge quads and looked headed for certain victory. But then he had a fall on a triple Lutz, went splat on an underrotated triple Axel, had a step out and hand down on a Salchow and doubled the Lutz in a jump combination.

No doubt his skating is very good and he glides and moves well on the ice. Still, his placement and the marks he was awarded in the PC, in my opinion, are definitely not acceptable. How could he be placed ahead of Javier Fernandez and Yuzuru Hanyu, who executed flawless programs of a very high technical and artistic standard? And this is not the first time that this has happened. It has become "normal". I am speechless. Surely it is not Patrick's fault if the judges continue to overmark him. He is the lucky and happy victim of a judging system that, thanks to secret judging, allows the judges to carry on unpunished.

The great surprise of these championships was Kazakhstan's Denis Ten, who won the silver medal, placing second in short and first in free. Denis delivered the performance of his life, easily winning the free skate and becoming the first skater from his country to win a medal at a world championships. Skating to soundtrack of "The Artist", he performed the most beautiful, complete program with just one minor error, a doubled jump in his jump combination. He started off with a huge quadruple toe-loop followed by six more triple jumps and jump combinations executed at great speed without any visible effort. He also had a musical program, delightfully choreographed and presented. A real joy to watch.

Javier Fernandez of Spain, reigning European champion, won the bronze medal, the first medal ever for Spanish figure skating at a world championships. He moved up from 7th place in the short, where he singled the Axel, after placing 4th in the free. Performing to a Charlie Chaplin medley, Fernandez opened his free program with a big quadruple toe-loop and followed up with double Salchow/double toe-loop combination, a huge triple Axel and another quad Salchow, plus four more triples. His technique is great and the height and length of his jumps is just fantastic. Javier impressed the audience and reached their hearts with the way he enjoys his skating and his moves, interpreting and living his beautiful music. This is what makes our sport so appealing and unique and this is what our fans want to see: artistic skating! Once again, thank you, Javier!

But I want also to mention the excellent performance of Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan, who placed 3rd in the free. He started off with two quadruple jumps, toe-loop and Salchow, plus six more triple jumps and jump combinations that all received positive GoEs. But what is impressive in his skating is the softness of his knees, the speed and the facility with which he executes his jumps, the beauty of his sparkling step sequences.

The most exciting and stimulating event was, once again, ice dancing. Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA) won the gold medal. The silver medal went to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN) and the bronze medal to Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (RUS).

Davis/White's performance to "Notre Dame de Paris" was breathtaking. Their program is highlighted by intricate footwork and difficult lifts, but what is fantastic and unique is the way they skate, their unison, their passion. They talk with their bodies and they transmit a deep artistic emotion. Just fabulous. Thanks, Meryl and Charlie! You gave me a moment of intense joy and emotion that is so rare in skating nowadays. Virtue/Moir were also incredible. They performed a passionate, sensuous and captivating program with some innovative lifts. Their skating is superb and their interpretation of a modern Carmen reached the heart of the public, which expressed their appreciation with great enthusiasm and a standing ovation.

Dancing to "Man With A Harmonica" and "Tosca", Bobrova/Soloviev, the European champions, were ranked fourth in the free dance, but overall held on to third place to take their first world medal.

Anna Cappellini and Luca La Notte (ITA) placed 3rd in the free dance but placed 4th overall by a 1.09-point difference. Anna and Luca really interpreted Carmen and Don José with passion and emotion.

In the ladies, there were great expectations for the comeback of Yuna Kim after two "sabbatical" years. Many wondered whether she would really compete again and especially whether she could still skate at same technical level as she used to.

Well, Yuna did compete and proved to still be the marvelous skater we all remember and missed. She won the gold medal, placing first both is short and free.

Her short program, skated to the gloomy music from "Kiss of the Vampire", was impressive but far from the perfection we were used to. She seemed to me somehow cold and lacking in passion.

But in the free skating, performing to "Les Misérables", Kim perfectly executed a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, triple flip, and three more triple jumps as well as beautiful spins and footwork.

Her jumps are of the highest technical quality, properly started at full speed and landed without any visible effort. Her spins are done with great flexibility. She was flawless till the end, seducing the audience with her expressiveness. But what makes her so captivating is her presentation, the way she uses her arms, her head and her body while skating on deep edges. Still a real marvel.

The silver medal went to Carolina Kostner (ITA), the defending World Champion. She placed 2nd in short and 3rd in free. Her free program included a triple Lutz, triple flip-triple toe and two more triples as well as difficult spins and steps, but she fell on an underrotated triple Salchow at the very end. Carolina did not skate at her best. She was probably distracted by the nosebleed that she had to wipe in the middle of the free program. Nevertheless, her free program was just marvelous from the artistic point of view. Her interpretation of "Bolero" by Maurice Ravel was emotional, intense and captivating, skated with deep passion, a real masterpiece.

The bronze medal went to Mao Asada from Japan. Mao placed 6th in short and 2nd in free. In both programs she attempted her trademark, the triple Axel, but in both cases it was landed on two feet.

In her free program, skated to "Swan Lake", she executed five triples, including a double Axel-triple toe-loop combination, plus nice spins and good footwork. Mao seemed more concentrated on the difficulties of her program than the artistic side. She looked a bit tense and did not express the joy of skating as she has done in previous competitions. Still, an excellent performance.

On the whole, the ladies' event was really good and exciting with some new, young, and very promising skaters.

Well, the skating season is now over. All the skaters and their coaches will be concentrated on the preparation for the Olympic Games in Sochi. I can only wish all the best to everybody.