Return to Writings
Helsinki 2017: An Unforgettable World Championship
by Sonia Bianchetti
The World Championships 2017 were held in Helsinki, in the beautiful
Hartwall Arena, from March 29 to April 2. The arena was filled up with an
enthusiastic crowd, including a lot of fans coming from Japan to support
It was a wonderful, emotional and unforgettable Championship for me.
I consider Helsinki my second home town as far as skating is concerned. The
start of my adventure in international figure skating was at the Congress
of the International Skating Union (ISU) held in Helsinki in June 1963.
This represented a landmark in my life and I recall this exciting
experience from the very first moment. But Finland was also the first
country that invited me as the moderator for their national judges’ seminar
in Helsinki in 1971. This was the first time ever that a foreign moderator
was invited for a national seminar, and it was also my first international
seminar. I was very flattered and excited until I realized I would have to
invent this seminar myself! Until that time, there were no texts to follow
and no guidelines on how to hold such seminars. What I wrote at that time
became the basis for all future seminars and those lectures, updated in the
following years to reflect rule changes, remained valid until the
introduction of the IJS in 2004.
I was invited to Helsinki for many more years by the President of the
Finnish Federation, Mrs. Jane Erkko, who can be considered the founder of
modern figure skating in Finland. Jane and I worked very well together for
the development of the sport in her country and she has been one of my best
friends for more than 25 years. And it was Jane that, as President of the
Finnish Federation and of the Organizing Committee, “dared” to invite me as
her guest to attend the World Figure Skating Championships in 1999, in
spite of my well known problems with the ISU in 1992. When I arrived there,
the atmosphere around me was just fantastic. I was welcomed by my former
colleagues as well as the various judges, officials and coaches with great
friendship and appreciation for what I had done for figure skating. It was
as if nothing had changed since the years I was the Chairman of the Figure
Skating Technical Committee. This was another landmark for me because it
represented my comeback to my beloved sport. This is why these
championships in 2017 were and will remain so special for me.
But these championships were also particularly interesting and important
for the skaters because they were used as the qualifying event for the 2018
Winter Olympic Games, which will take place next year in Pyeongchang, South
The first event was the pairs competition. The level of the competition was
excellent, at least for the last group of pairs.
Wenjing Sui/Cong Han (CHN) placed first and won the pairs gold medal.
Performing to “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, they opened their free program
with a terrific quad twist and their throw triple Salchow and flip were
also gorgeous. Sui unfortunately fell on the side by side triple Salchow,
but they recovered immediately and all their lifts had great speed and
flow. They skate in perfect unison and the music suits them very well and
emphasizes their strengths.
Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (Germany) won the silver medal. Their
lyrical program to “Lighthouse” by Patrick Watson featured a huge triple
twist, beautiful lifts and a throw triple Axel (two-footed). Savchenko also
wobbled on the landing of the throw triple Salchow, but the quality of
their other elements was excellent and perfectly matched with their music,
just like their strong lifts and spins. They are very elegant on the ice
and they move in perfect unison, really transmitting their feelings and a
strong emotion. They seemed to be enjoying themselves with lots of smiles
The European champions, Eugenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (Russia), placed
third, although they were ranked fourth in the free skating, taking home
their first World Medal. Skating to “Music” by John Miles, they opened
their program with a fantastic quadruple twist, followed by a very good
throw triple Salchow and throw triple loop. Their only major error came
when they aborted the Axel lasso lift. The other lifts were excellent and
original, as well as their spins. They are a very elegant and appealing
The ladies competition was a mixed level. In front of a sold-out rink with
enthusiastic spectators, the three medalists and some others skaters showed
first-class performances, but the second half was pretty weak.
Evgenia Medvedeva (Russia) placed first both in the short and the free
programs and won the gold medal. She is in a class of her own. Wearing a
delicate pink and grey dress, Eugenia impressed with the ease of her jumps
and the smooth, incredible flow out of the jumps, a terrific speed across
ice, waiflike. The two-time European champion perfectly executed eleven
jumps, including triples and two double Axels, linked by intricate foot
work, sublime spins and original choreography. She glided across the ice
delivering a powerful and emotional skate to music from the “Extremely Loud
and Incredibly Close” soundtrack, which describes events surrounding the
September 11, 2001 attacks. Her free program ended with an expression of
despair as she learned she lost a loved one but that quickly turned into a
great smile of satisfaction for another impeccable program. She received a
She is the first woman since American Michelle Kwan in 2001 to successfully
defend her World title.
Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman took the silver and
bronze medals. For the first time, Canada had two ladies on a world podium.
Osmond, skating to Puccini's La Bohème, executed a
well-choreographed program that included excellent triple flip-triple toe
loop and double Axel-triple toe loop combinations, as well as three
additional triples. Her only mistake came when she doubled her planned
triple loop. She is a very elegant skater and beautifully glides on the
Daleman, skating to “Rhapsody in Blue”, executed a good program,
delivering each one of her elements with ease and elegance. She landed her
opening triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, a triple Lutz-double
toe loop-double toe loop and three more triples. She too is an elegant
skater, very pleasant to watch.
The dance event was very fascinating and appealing and the skating
level of all the couples very high.
Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) won the gold medal followed by
Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron of France while Maia Shibutani/Alex
Shibutani (USA) took the bronze.
Performing to “Pilgrims on a long journey” and “Latch”, Virtue and Moir,
who placed second in the free dance, performed an excellent program, skated
perfectly to their music with fluidity and speed, flying across the ice in
perfect unison on deep edges. They earned a level four for all elements and
scored 114.66 points in the free dance, a personal best, and 190.99 points
overall. They were also strong in the technical elements, with beautiful
and innovative lifts. Unfortunately, Moir stumbled at the end of the
circular step sequence, but they recovered instantly and continued strongly
till the end of their program.
Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (France) put out an excellent
performance to dance to “Stillness”, “Oddudua”, and “Happiness Does Not
Wait”, that was highlighted by smooth step sequences and beautiful lifts.
They displayed incredibly long and deep edges and they perfectly
interpreted and expressed their music with their bodies, as if there were a
perfect melding of their emotions. They were awarded eight 10 marks in the
Program Components and they got a standing ovation.
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (USA), skating to a dance named “
Evolution”, produced smooth footwork and impressive lifts. Their free dance
included complicated step sequences and original lifts and spins. I was
impressed by their beautiful music interpreted with a lot of class.
Now I would like to submit some questions on the Program Component
marks awarded to Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte in their free dance.
I generally prefer not to criticize judging in my articles, but this
time I cannot refrain from doing so.
In my opinion, Anna and Luca executed a superb program, with
beautiful skating on deep long edges. The choreography was original and
very appealing and their interpretation of the beautiful music, a Charlie
Chaplin medley, was outstanding. They really lived and expressed it with
all parts of their body, including their eyes. Their program was the only
innovative one and received a standing ovation. Nevertheless, they only got
a total of 55.31 points in their Program Components, which corresponds to 7th place. Unbelievable. So, my question is: does this make sense? Do these
marks really reflect what was done on the ice or are they simply
“pre-programmed” marks? Is there an acceptable reason? An explanation would
be much appreciated.
The men’s event was just breathtaking, with all the three top
skaters hitting four quads.
The Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan, won the World title and
set new record scores in the free skating. Shoma Uno won a second medal for
Japan while Boyang Jin of China got the bronze medal.
Hanyu, who stood in fifth place following the short program,
performed a superb free skating program to “Hope and Legacy” by Joe
Hisaishi, nailing his best performance of the season and a record of 223.20
points. He perfectly executed four quadruple jumps, including a quad loop,
plus five triple jumps including two triple Axels, spins and footwork. All
his jumps come “out of the blue” with no preparation at all and they are
perfectly landed on soft knees with beautiful running edges. They all look
so easy, as if they were just single jumps!!! He is unique. Impressive were
also his step sequences, especially, in my opinion, his choreo sequence
filled with original and beautiful moves. His skating is very soft and
graceful and filled with passion. Simply fantastic. One of the best
programs I have ever seen. He was awarded twelve 10 marks in the Program
Shoma Uno (Japan), skating to “Buenos Aires Hora Cero” and “Balada
Para un Loco” by Astor Piazzolla, gave an outstanding performance, both
from a technical and an artistic point of view. He perfectly executed a
quad loop, a quad flip, a quad toe loop and another quad toe loop-double
toe loop combination. All his triples are of the highest quality. But what
impressed me more is the way he skates on deep long edges, with great
flexibility. He really flows on the ice and transmits his joy of skating. A
very talented young skater and a great promise for the future.
Performing to “La Strada”, Jin put out a clean program that included
a big quad Lutz, three more quads and six triples. Technically, he gave an
outstanding performance. Surely a very talented young skater. Although his
skating and his artistic part of the sport has improved since last year, he
still needs to work on it.
I am very sorry that Javier Fernandez, after a sparkling short
program in which he placed first and received eleven 10 marks in the
Program Components, missed the podium. It was just an unlucky day for him.
Javier’s free program represents exactly what a good free skating program
should be. Not only jumps but also good and original choreography,
beautiful spins, intricate footwork, interpretation and expression of the
music. You are a marvelous skater and a perfect example of what figure
skating is supposed to be. Thank you, Javier.
Well, the 2017 skating season is over and it ended in the best
possible way. Thanks to all our marvelous skaters and coaches.
I hope to welcome you all in Milan next year.