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"A World Without Sky" by Sonia Bianchetti (Continued)

Sonia Bianchetti's Thoughts on the 2007 Grand Prix Final Continues


Stephane Lambiel - Grand Prix Final Winner

Stephane Lambiel - Grand Prix Final Winner

Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images
Sonia Bianchetti Garbato was a top figure skating official with the International Skating Union (ISU). She began her career with the ISU in 1963 and served until 1992. She continues to be involved in international figure skating and writes about the sport. In this article, she gives her thoughts after the 2007 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final.

A World Without Sky by Sonia Bianchetti (Continued)

In ice dancing, Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, skating to “ Masquerade Waltz”, won the ice dancing title ahead of Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, who skated to a selection from Chopin. France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder took the bronze, dancing to music from "The Piano". Not everybody agreed on these results. As a spectator, I preferred Belbin/ Agosto , who were very elegant on the ice and whom I also credit with having chosen dignified and appropriate costumes. At least one team did!

The men’s event, usually my favourite, this time was, in my opinion, the most disappointing. And not because of the skaters! Lambiel, Lysacek, Takahashi and Weir all possess the qualities and the capability to offer the best possible technical and artistic performances, each one with his own personality and style, if only they would be allowed to express themselves freely.

In Torino, only Daisuke Takahashi, from Japan, skating to “Romeo and Juliet” by P.Tchaikovski executed a perfect and very attractive free program. He was like a feather on the ice, hitting all his jumps, including a quad toe-loop. His body and arm movements were rapid but not frenetic, as they are with some skaters. They just fit the music. A great performance.

All the other programs, although beautiful and well choreographed, were marred by falls. Today the top skaters are trying to perform elements beyond their capabilities, including really good athletes. Even worse, the elements on which they concentrate are increasingly unattractive. And still worse is that these extreme elements are turning what once were performances into lotteries with lower chances of success upon any given day. There is not a single skater whom one would call a star. What was once a dance form is now more similar to gymnastics, poorly performed. The memory of what a “free program” was is fading away.

More telling than my words are those of Lambiel and Lysacek , quoted in the Sunday, December 16 issue of the Turin “La Stampa”. Lambiel, whose first place raised some questions, tried to explain the reasons why he preferred rather than taking risks insisting on a quad jump, very difficult to execute and not sufficiently rewarded, to choose jump combinations, easier to do and with higher values. He closed his interview saying that his choice “has worked, but I believe that some corrections are needed”. And: “The artistic side is an important part, we have to attract the people or they will get bored and will go to see Holiday on Ice. Now, both the short and the long programs are packed with compulsory elements, there is no way to create something personal. Even if I know that I cannot influence the system, I wish that things may change next year”. Lysacek added: “(the system) takes away any free creativity, but my problem is even more specific. I contest the values assigned to some jumps: the triple Axel is the most difficult, still it weighs very little, it does not reward the risk and I believe that even the public would get more excited” . What more can I add? Only: ISU leaders WILL NOT ignore their appeal.

December 18, 2007

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