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Helsinki 2017: An Unforgettable World Championship
by Sonia Bianchetti
April 2017

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 their skaters.

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 Korea.

Pairs Event

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 from Aliona.

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 pair.

Ladies Event

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 standing ovation.

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 ice.

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.

Dance event

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.

Men’s event

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 Components.

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.