ALSO ON SLAM!
Sunday, April 2, 2000
A unique event awaits in Vancouver
The plan is an ambitious one aimed at making the 2001 meet in Vancouver, March 19-25, like none before it.
Skaters will perform in the giant General Motors Place arena, which seats more than twice the 8,000 squeezed into the Acropolis exposition hall in this French city. In Vancouver's Plaza of Nations, Skatefest will include nightly entertainment, quality exhibitions, interactive zones, fireworks, and a public presentation of medals to the skaters following each night's competition.
The worlds were last held in Vancouver in 1960, which marked the first time they were broadcast internationally.
In assessing the performances of his 11 skaters at these worlds, David Dore, director general of the Canadian Figure Skating Association, was elated that he'll be able to assign 12 to Vancouver after Jennifer Robinson, who finished eighth, got under the top-10 requirement needed to qualify a second entry in women's singles.
"We were strong in all four events, which keeps us on target for the 2002 Olympics," said Dore. "We wanted to have a good strong team going to Vancouver, and we have it.
"We're really excited because we're hosting the event and having the two ladies is over the top for me."
Elvis Stojko's silver was Canada's only medal at these worlds. There were three for Russia, although the Russians are sore about missing the ice dance podium for the first time in 32 years, two for each of the United States and France, and one for each of Canada, China, Italy, and Lithuania.
It's hard to mount the podium when there are 200 skaters from 47 countries trying to get onto it.
Stojko will join fellow world medallists later this week to begin a U.S. tour, and he will decide during his two months on the road if he'll continue at the top competitive level.
"At this point, I think you assume he's back," said Dore, who then cast an element of doubt on his assumption: "I never like to see people going back down the ladder. He put a lot of effort into going up the ladder this year."
Dore said he expects Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz, who won world ice dance bronze for four years in a row but ended this season in January after Bourne had a knee injury treated, will be back with a new act.
"Shae-Lynn and Victor need more speed and drama," he said.
Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, who earned the vacated Canadian title, were impressive last week in achieving the best debut result in the discipline by Canadians since Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall in 1982.
"Their speed really put them in the ball game," said Dore.
Jamie Sale and David Pelletier can be satisfied with finishing fourth in pairs in their first appearance, but they will always know they let medals slip through their fingers. The experience can only make them stronger as they work towards the world title that will inevitably belong to them.
"We were strong in all four events and that is what you strive for -- that total balanced team," said Dore.
Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe showed great promise by taking 15th spot in their worlds ice dance debut.
First-timer Ben Ferreira didn't set the world on fire by finishing 19th in men's singles, but it is obvious the talent is there. Kurt Browning debuted in 15th spot in 1987 and went on to win four world championships.
To see Kristy Sargeant and Kris Wirtz finish 10th in pairs after being no worse than seventh four years in a row was sad. But the sport has brought them together on and off the ice, and for that they can be happy.
The most dazzling wins were by California teen Michelle Kwan, who won her third title, and by Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, whose ice dance triumph was the first for France on home soil in 48 years.
To see 20 quadruple jumps landed in the men's competition was amazing.
This meet also had too many unfortunate incidents:
-- French skater Stephane Bernadis reporting he was attacked in his hotel;
-- Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, the two-time world pairs champions from Russia being disqualified for a doping violation;
--Bulgarian ice dancer Albena Denkova going home on crutches after surgery to repair leg muscles slashed in a practice collision;
-- Ukrainian Dmitri Palamarchuk suffering a concussion in a terrible fall during the pairs free-skating show.
A bad taste also will be in the mouths of all the Canadians who bought tickets and booked flights to Brisbane, Australia, then were left out in the cold when the meet was moved due to a TV contract squabble. That's why there were far fewer maple leaf flags in the Nice crowds than at previous worlds.
Vancouver will be different.