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A Wonderful Championship
by Sonia Bianchetti Garbato
March 2018

The 2018 World Figure Skating Championships took place in Milan, Italy, from March 21 to 25 in the Mediolanum Forum of Assago.

Championships in Milan

The last time the World Championships were organized in Milan was in 1951, 67 years ago, in the beautiful and adored Palazzo del Ghiaccio where I used to train. I do remember these championships because they represented a key landmark for my future policies as a figure skating ISU Officer.

For the first time, I perceived that something was wrong with the balance between compulsory figures and free skating. I was only 17 years old at that time! In the Ladies, Jeannette Altwegg, GRB, won her first World title thanks to the superior quality of her compulsory figures, although she placed only 6th in free skating. Her free skating was a real disaster. Jacqueline Du Bief, FRA, skated a marvelous program and placed first in free but only second overall. The pubic did not understand how this could be possible. Jacqueline was unanimously considered the winner by the audience and was received by a standing ovation, while poor Jeannette was whistled on the podium. I felt sorry for Jeannette but I thought that if this could happen, it meant that something was wrong with the system. The results of this championship caused a big controversy in the figure skating world. It was a result that would repeat itself in the early 1970’s, with far-reaching consequences for the sport. When I stopped competing and became a judge, the idea that the compulsory figures had too much weight in the final result was already growing in my mind and from the day I was elected to the ISU Figure Skating Technical Committee, in 1967, I set myself a goal: the elimination of the compulsory figures.

The 2018 championships were very well organised and very successful. The arena was filled up every day and the atmosphere very warm and friendly, thanks to the support of an enthusiastic and competent audience.


The pairs event was very exciting and of the highest technical level.

Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany, Olympic Champions, won their first World title. Dressed in lavender-hued costumes, they performed a sparkling free skate to "La Terre Vue du Ciel" by Armand Amar, with breathtaking gorgeous lifts, huge throw triple jumps and a split triple twist while rotating horizontally in the air. Not only it was a very good performance technically, it was also fascinating and appealing to watch. The step sequence was just brilliant: musicality perfect, interpretation superb, stunning and mesmerizing. It was a complete performance, showing both technical and artistic mastery at the very highest level. Aljona and Bruno had such beautiful, uninterrupted flow across the ice; every element and movement blended smoothly into the next. The mood was intense. It was one of the best and most emotional programs that I can remember. They collected 21 perfect 10.00 in the components for performance, composition and music interpretation.

They got a huge and well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd.

Eugenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, Russia, won their first World silver medal. They opened their boogie-woogie program to “Candyman” and “Naughty Naughty Boy” with a quadruple twist followed by a solid side-by-side triple Salchow and a throw triple Salchow and loop as well as difficult lifts. However, Morozov double the side-by-side Salchow and struggled with the toe loop combination. Although technically very good, their free program lacked the intensity and the emotional part that make the programs fascinating and appealing.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, France, won the bronze medal. Skating to “Sound of Silence”, they put out a great long program. Their technical elements were really good. Their throw jumps were fairly successful and got full rotation. Vanessa crashed badly on the throw triple Salchow but she recovered immediately and they did not make any further mistakes. Their lifts were very strong. Everything was at a high quality level, both technically and artistically. I was very impressed by the level of emotion and the strong sense of unison and relationship that they brought to the whole program. They just connected so well with the music, the crowd, and each other. Each moment of the music corresponded to a movement of their arms, hands or body. It was really a triumphant program for Vanessa and Morgan.


Kaetlyn Osmond, Canada’s 2018 Olympic bronze medallist, won the gold medal. Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi and Satoko Miyahara claimed the silver and bronze medals. For the first time since 2013, no Russian lady was on the podium. Osmond is the first Canadian lady to become world champion since Karen Magnussen in 1973.

Skating to the “Black Swan”, Kaetlyn Osmond performed a dramatic and 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 was a step out in the double Axel-triple toe loop combination. She is a very elegant skater and beautifully glides on the ice delivering a powerful and emotional skate. She impressed with the ease of her jumps and the smooth, incredible flow out of the jumps. She also has excellent spins and original choreography.

Wakaba Higuchi pulled up from the eighth place after the short program to win the silver medal. Skating to “Skyfall”, she perfectly executed seven clean triples, including two triple Lutz-triple toe loop combinations as well as two double Axels and level-four spins. She glides very well on the ice on soft knees.

Satoko Miyahara was absolutely sublime to “Madame Butterfly” in an enchanting performance. Her line and edge were exquisite and her double Axel-triple toe loop combination late in her program was excellent. Her only mistake was a fall on the triple Salchow. Wearing a light blue costume, Miyahara’s maturity shone through as she moved through her elements while landing six triple jumps. She closed out her program with a choreographic sequence, a double Axel and a lovely layback spin.

I would like to express all my sympathy and moral support to Carolina Kostner and Alina Zagitova, who after having placed first and second in the short program, with two marvelous performances, had problems in their free skates. Very likely, the reason was mainly the big stress after the Olympic Games. I am personally very sad, as I think all their skating fans are. We all are with you!


The men’s event, unfortunately, was just distressing. The worst I can remember in many years. It looked like a falling contest with 14 splashes among five of the top competitors as they attempted the “essential” quads. There were three falls by Shoma Uno of Japan, who nevertheless took the silver medal; two by Mikhail Kolyada of Russia, who took bronze; five by Boyang Jin, China, and four by Vincent Zhou, USA.

I prefer not to comment on these programs and their results because I have difficulties in understanding the marks awarded in the Program Components.

Luckily, the competition ended with an outstanding performance from Nathan Chen, USA. Skating to “Mao's Last Dancer” and “The Rite of Spring”, while all of his top competitors fell, the 18-year-old Chen completed six quadruple jumps in the free program to become the first American man to win the title and any world medal since Evan Lysacek won gold in 2009. The only minor error came when he stepped out of his sixth quadruple jump, a Salchow. All his jumps are perfectly landed with beautiful running edges. They all look so easy, as if they were just single jumps!!!


The championships ended with a marvellous dance event which raised my morale!

Skating to a deeply moving "Moonlight Sonata” by Ludwig van Beethoven, the two-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, France, won the gold medal. They floated over the ice, immediately enchanting the audience with beauty, elegance and technique. Their unison is unique and their opening twizzles were perfectly synchronized and their lifts are original and magical. The way they interpreted their marvellous music was simply breathtaking and reached the heart of everyone in the audience. They received a total of twenty-eight 10 marks and nine judges unanimously awarded a 10 for Performance.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, USA, skating to sultry blues to “Make It Rain”, placed second and won their first world championship medal. They delivered a beautiful and appealing program, much appreciated by the public.

Dancing to “Je suis malade”, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, CAN, put out an emotional performance with beautiful lifts, twizzles, spins and diagonal footwork. Very original and exciting.

Anna Cappellini and Luca La Notte, ITA, skating to the wonderful “Life Is Beautiful”, created a magic atmosphere. Their performance was really unique and truly memorable. They were intense from start to finish. They are magic and transform every movement into something special. Their charisma is unique and their choreography was mesmerizing to watch. They missed the podium by just 0.27 points.

These championships were the last event of the 2014-2018 Olympic quadrennial and hopefully the last event with the present rules which, unfortunately, killed the popularity of the sport, caused the loss of sponsors and the interest of the television companies. The skaters are falling all the time. I don’t think an audience enjoys that. They want to see people do the jumps but also do creative and artistic programs.

“I don’t even enjoy watching skating today because it’s all about quadruple jumps,” said Dick Button, a two-time Olympic champion. “The winner in men’s figure skating will be the one who performs the best and most quadruple jumps, period and end subject.”

As it has been said repeatedly during all these years, especially after the disaster in the men’s event in Sochi, too much importance is given to the difficulty of the program and especially to the number of quads included. The emphasis on accumulating points has seen the sport lose its artistry, the freedom to tell stories and be creative. The revised scoring system had challenged skaters to expand the sport’s technical boundaries. But what is even worse, in my opinion, is that the skaters get points even for triple or quadruple jumps that aren’t “clean”, where they make mistakes and fall down, which naturally pushes them to execute technical elements that are more and more difficult, even if they seldom can execute them correctly. There are skaters who have not even landed a quad in practice, but still they throw out a quad in competition.

In the free programs, there is no time to do anything except to prepare for the next jump. It is very energy-consuming and that is why they have no energy nor freedom to create original and attractive programs.

The footwork, from a choreographic aspect, is painful to see. The rules giving extra credit for arm movements and torso lowering during the footwork results in choreography that, in most cases, resembles a windmill. It doesn’t mean anything, nor does it reflect the music. It is just horrible. I think the future is in the quality rather than in the quantity.

Besides, there is a little lack of balance between the jumps and the artistic content. More artistry emphasis must be put in the judging. Skating isn’t all about jumps. Skating used to be a beautiful sport. It was an art. It was creative and personal. Every skater has a different personality, and they should interpret things differently. Technically, doing quads and triples is important, but all the other things, the edges, the beauty of gliding, the body line, are important too. It’s the package. I personally think that the regulations need to be completely rethought. But some light seems to be visible at the end of the tunnel. In June, the ISU Congress will be held in Seville, Spain. On the agenda there are many interesting proposals that could really make the difference. We can only hope and wish that they will be approved.

And I would like to close this article with the words of Javier Fernandez: “Skating is about who is the most complete, not who is the best jumper, right? So that's the point I think everybody is having in mind right now."

Thanks, Javier, and my best wishes for the future of our sport.