ALSO ON SLAM!
Sunday, March 26, 2000
Fourth title a formidable task for Stojko
NICE, France -- The beautiful people are arriving on the Cote d'Azur, a promise of early summer sweeping in with the warm Mediterranean winds.
Sailboats, resplendent in the French blue, white and red, bob peacefully on the Baie des Anges while, less than a mile inland, the Palais des Expositions, site of this week's world figure skating championships, sits majestically off Voie Malraux, its palm trees and water fountains glistening in the afternoon sun.
Not your typical venue for a world skating championship.
This lovely resort town stepped in to hold the worlds when the International Skating Union decided last year that Brisbane, Australia, originally selected to organize the competition, would not be able to pull it off financially.
The question now is, will Canadian star Elvis Stojko be able to pull off his fourth world crown, with the men's qualifying competition, worth 20% of the overall mark, beginning today?
Or, for that matter, will the promising Canadian pairs team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, together for less than two years but already a Grand Prix winner, prove it belongs with the very elite of pairs teams in the world?
Stojko, who turned 28 last week, has to get by the formidable Russian duo of Alexei Yagudin and Evgeny Plushenko, 1-2 in the world last year, and brash but talented Americans, Timothy Goebel and Michael Weiss.
Stojko touched down in Nice on Thursday and promptly nailed a quadruple lutz in practice, a jump never performed in competition. Whether the Richmond Hill skater attempts the jump in the men's free skate Thursday is a moot point if he fails to skate well today or in tomorrow's short program. One slip and the two Russian teenagers will move in for the kill.
All the top men likely will attempt a quad in the short, and the Russians a triple-triple-double combo in the long. Stojko has done that combo in practice but he won't try it here.
"I don't think it is a real necessity," he said. "If you miss it, it puts a damper on the program."
Sale and Pelletier, who have received perfect scores of 6.0 for their moving Love Story free skate this year, became instant contenders yesterday with the withdrawal of two-time defending world champions Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia.
Berezhanaya tested positive for a banned stimulant.
The St. Petersburg native told doping officials she inadvertently took the substance for treating bronchitis.