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Back to the ice rink – Figure Skating World Championships in Helsinki – Part 1

Note: This and the following blog entries are in English, because the topic is at least partly figure skating and I have more English speaking Facebook friends that might be interested in reading a report about skating than German ones 😉

Some years ago I was a really huge figure skating fan and my friend S. and I attended big events (usually Europeans, Worlds or the former Grand Prix in Gelsenkirchen) practically every year. Nowadays I’ve lost a bit of interest in skating, so we’ve only been travelling to a small local competition every year (Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf). But his year the combination of the World Championships taking place in one of our favorite cities (Helsinki) was just too good to say No 😉 , so we decided to go to our first big event in nearly 10 years (my last big competition as a spectator was Worlds in Göteborg 2008).

We arrived on Wednesday after a very smooth and punctual flight from Frankfurt and took the first day for a small walk to the harbour (our very excellent Hotel Fabian – I definitely recommend this hotel for any trip to Helsinki – was located very close to the harbour and the City center) and the cathedral before having dinner at a nice Italian restaurant.

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Harbour of Helsinki in evening light

Wednesday, March 29th

Wednesday was the first competition day. We had been told by the hotel staff that it would be fastest to take any regional train to „Pasila“ station, but in order to see a bit of the city on the way we wanted to take the slower tram instead. Except for that we didn’t find the stop for Tram #7 and gave up after about 10 minutes of wandering around 😛 The event took place in „Hartwall Arena“, a rather modern typical multifunctional event arena, that I found quite comfortable in comparison to most other arenas of the past, especially the seats were rather soft and nice (not only in comparison to the worst arena ever – the architectally fancy and new Palavela in Torino, that still probably brings nightmares to any skating fan who has attended an event there). Also I found the food offers better than at many other events (here Worlds in Dortmund comes to mind as an exceptionally bad example), even if very „Fast food“ centric, but we still managed to avoid eating there for the entire week. Since the train to central station was so fast, we always went back to the city between the afternoon and evening events and ate something there.

Ladies Short program

The first event of the competition was one of my absolute favorites (I have to say I was very unhappy with the event schedule that placed Ladies and Pairs first and Men and Dance last 😛 ), the Ladies short program. Due to the rather high ticket prices we only had All event tickets for the upper ranks (or „Nosebleed seats“ as North Americans call those kinds of places), but we were quite pleased with them, the sight was rather better than I had feared. I hadn’t brought my DSLR camera, because I thought we’d be sitting too far away, but in hindsight the photos with zoom lens would probably have been not too bad.

The first highlight of the event was Carolina Kostner, who due to her comeback had to skate in a rather early group. She skated to a very dramatic music and was able to deliver a rather solid skate. Of the music choices of the SP I nominated „You raise me up“ (barf), „Tango de Roxanne“ and „Chicago“ as the most overused choices 😉 Of the earlier skaters I was the most impressed with Kailani Crane from Australia (which I had already seen at Nebelhorn Trophy), Yvett Toth from Hungary and the tiny Elisabet Tursynbaeva from Kazakhstan. Evgenia Medvedeva is undoubtedly the strongest female skater at the moment, but I think I wasn’t too crazy about her SP, because it was to some rather boring piano music. Ashley Wagner on the other Hand skated to a Dance Remix of „Sweet Dreams“ from the Eurythmics, which was a nice change from the more conservative choices. My favorite from the Ladies SP was Anna Pogorilaya, who just has a very mature style and always a certain drama about her.

Overall I was very impressed with the short program as a competition, because the level was great, nearly everybody skated clean or at least very nearly clean (I remember only a single really bad skate) and I was wondering whether the level of figure skating has improved so much over the last 10 years or if this was an exceptionally good event (the next days showed that it was rather the latter), because I remember sitting through some pretty horrid competitions during past events 😀 An unexpected surprise were 2 Canadian ladies on the podium after the SP, especially since Gabrielle Daleman seemed like pretty much a complete newcomer to me at the beginning of the season.

Pairs SP

The evening competition was the Pairs SP, which also turned out to be exceptionally good. Here the fact that you now have to reach a certain amount of Points earlier in the season to qualify for Worlds really seems to help the overall Level of skating, because quite honestly in the past there always were some weak pairs at Worlds and Euros that made you worry for the safety of the skaters when they tried overhead lifts or that were only capable of doing double side by side jumps or throws. Here we got to see some really good skates in the earlier Groups already, for example from the very promising Australian pair Alexandrovskaya & Windsor or from the rarely seen pair from North Korea Ryom & Kim, who seemed very excited about their good and engaging skate (it must be hard for the North Korean skaters to prepare well for big competitions, because they nearly never get to attend any international competitions, so they can’t get much experience in competing against rivals), which got them onto an excellent 14th place.

The top pairs were all very interesting to watch, also because they had a good mix of music choices, with Duhamel & Radford for example skating to the 80s song „Killer“ and the other Canadian pair to a Folklore program, that I already had liked very much at Nebelhorn. Marchei & Hotarek had managed to come up with a Blues Version of „Seven Nation Army“…I was very happy that Sui & Han (who definitely are my most favorite Chinese pair ever) were able to take the lead, she is just a rock star and totally sold that music (and I don’t even like Blues)

Sawchenko & Massot also skated well and their cute and fun program looked much improved from the beginning of the season. Aljona just seems to have so much more fun skating with Bruno Massot (which I’m sure has nothing to do with her former partner, but with the old coaching and overall situation of the combination „Sawchenko-Szolkowy-Steuer“) , which leads to me enjoying Sawchenko & Massot a lot more than Sawchenko & Szolkowy in the past, even if I find Robin was the more elegant skater. Bruno does well with Aljona, but of course his posture and expression leaves room for improvement.  Robin of course also was at Worlds, as a coach for Tarasova & Morozov, who skated a Swing program and were very fast.

Overall I was very impressed with the first day of competition, because both events had exceptionally good performances and S. and I agreed that the trip had already been worth it for those 2 competitions alone 😉

 

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