Sunday, April 4, 2010

World Championships 2010—So like 2008, and so unlike (1)

On first glance, Mao’s second World Championship win was strikingly similar to the first: not only did it take place in Europe, but it also occurred right after parted ways with her coach.  And just like in 2008, Mao was second after the short program, and placed second in the long program behind Yu-Na Kim, but she did enough to win.

However, unlike 2008 Worlds, which left me with a feeling of triumphant euphoria, the 2010 World Championships left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.  One of my friends, equally disgusted, asked me, “How can you go on watching figure skating when the judging is like this?”


My own thinking before 2010 Worlds was similar to my thinking before 2008 Worlds—back then, after seeing how the judges had scored a flawed Yu-Na Kim so closely to a nearly-perfect Mao in the 2007 GPF LP, I didn’t feel like watching Worlds.  If Mao could not win, then I had little interest in skating. 

The same thing happened to be before the 2010 Worlds.  After seeing the ludicrous scores the judges gave to Yu-Na Kim at the Olympics, the message was clear to me: as long as Yu-Na Kim shows up, they’ll give her the gold.  Heck, she doesn’t even have to jump!

Sure, there was a possibility that Yu-Na Kim would make mistakes.  She probably had lost motivation after the Olympics and probably didn’t practice as hard.  On the other hand, the judges were clearly behind her, and she must have been very aware of that—so there was absolutely no need for her to be nervous; she could go in being 100% confident that the judges would boost her scores.

As for Mao, well, I knew that she’d be motivated because she wanted to make up for those mistakes that she made in her long program at the Olympics.  That’s all I really wanted for her—to do two programs that she could be completely satisfied with.  But honestly, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to seeing her programs again; although Mao managed to do the best she could with them, they were not my favorite programs of hers.  And moreover, I thought, what’s the point?  Yu-Na will win anyway.

Mao in practice (March 25)


On the day of the Ladies’ short program, I tried hard to avoid seeing the results before I could watch the competition myself.  But despite my best efforts, four of my friends partially gave away the results by sending me messages like, “Did you see the headline, ‘Mirai Nagasu shines while Queen Kim struggles’?”

So when I finally sat down to watch the competition later that night, I had some idea what had happened, but not the whole story.

The Universal Sports broadcast started right in the middle of Carolina Kostner’s performance, which was right before Mao’s. 

Although I had tried to distance myself from the competition, my heart inevitably began to race as Mao took the ice.  Here we go!!

The all-important opening triple axel—she nailed it!  The flip—clean as a whistle!! Oh boy, Mao is on tonight!  She didn’t quite have that spontaneous, genuine joy that she did at the Olympics, but she seemed much faster in the SP than she did there.

2010 World Championships SP (British Eurosport commentary)
“Waltz” from “Masquerade Suite” by Aram Khatchaturian

At the end of the program, Mao looked quite satisfied. 

The only question was, how would the judges score it?

I knew Mao had scored 73.78 at the Olympics, so I was very disappointed when a mere 68.08 flashed on the screen.  The triple axel must have gotten downgraded, I thought.  Poor Mao!  However, Mao herself did not look too disappointed.

Mao and Shanetta Folle in the kiss 'n' cry

So cute!
(I wonder who she's looking at!)

A few skaters later, Miki Ando took the ice.  She seemed to hesitate for a long time before her opening triple lutz combo, and as a result, she fell on the lutz, missing the combo completely.  Not good!  (She eventually ended up 11th after the short).

Then Laura Lepisto skated.  She nearly fell on the double axel, and yet her score was barely 4 points below Mao’s.  Then I really began to feel mad about Mao’s score.

In the final group, Mirai Nagasu was the first to skate.  Now, she is my second favorite skater.  I love her bubbly personality, her lightning speed, and her amazing spins and flexibility.  But she doesn’t even come close to Mao for me.  So I felt strangely torn when I saw her score higher than Mao: 70.40.

Truthfully, I probably enjoyed Mirai’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” program more than I enjoyed Mao’s “Masquerade Waltz.”  I could easily see why your average skating fan, as well as a judge, would enjoy it more.  (Mao, please, please get a new costume designer!)  But that didn’t mean I thought Mirai was the better skater.  I mean, Mao did a friggin’ triple axel!

The underlying message from the judges was loud and clear:  we don’t want to see triple axels; we will downgrade your triple axels; don’t use heavy music, choose something bubbly and pretty.

On the Universal Sports broadcast, Johnny Weir remarked that he thought Mao’s triple axels were sometimes downgraded even though they were clean.  It was gratifying to hear Johnny criticize the judging like this, but it did not make the situation any less frustrating.

I had thought that the change in the rules to prevent the judges from seeing the underrotation calls would help Mao, because the judges wouldn’t see the underrotation in real-time, and therefore would give her the positive GOE’s she deserved.  However, it seemed like the opposite was occurring; the judges weren’t sure if her triple axel was fully rotated, so they proactively assumed that it was downgraded and assigned negative GOE’s.  Not a good situation for Mao.


After Mirai’s sparkling short, it was finally time for “The Queen.”  And at first, it seemed like business as usual.  Perfect triple lutz/triple toe loop combination.  A bit of a two-foot/funny landing on the triple flip, but she always struggles with that jump.  Then the weird stuff started to happen.  I’ve always thought Yu-Na Kim’s spins and spirals were very weak, and now, she finally botched them.  She nearly fell out of a spin, and she had to stop her spiral sequence midway to avoid falling.

Still, despite those bizarre mistakes, she pretty much landed all her jumps, so I was expecting a huge score.  For once, however, the judges gave me a pleasant surprise—only 60.30 for her messy performance, which seemed quite fair given it was about 18 points below her record score at the Olympics.  (Though of course I knew that if Mao did something like that, she’d barely make 50 points.)

Yu-Na Kim ended up 7th after the short program.  She wouldn’t even skate in the final group.  Shocking.  Truly shocking.

But the competition was not over yet.  If Yu-Na skated perfectly in the long program and the judges gave her another 150 score, she would be extremely difficult to beat...

1) Press conference after the short 

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