Movement at the Top in Men's Short Program at Worldsby Laura Fawcett
Photo by Michelle Harvath
(3/21/06) - Where has Brian Joubert been?
After his successful 2004 season, in which he won silver at both Europeans and Worlds, it was only a matter of time before the charming Frenchman grabbed World gold.
But somewhere on the way to the 2006 Olympic Winter Games Joubert was no longer a factor. He finished sixth at the 2005 World Championships and did not win at either of his 2005 Grand Prix Series events, though he did qualify for the Grand Prix Final (he finished fifth). Sure, most skaters would call two Grand Prix medals and a bronze at the European Championships a dream season, but for Joubert it was more of a nightmare. His once consistent jumps deserted him, and he finished sixth in Torino.
Wherever he's been, he's back. His short program Tuesday evening at the 2006 World Championships in Calgary was the best of the night. He's still in third place overall, but with just more than three points separating the top three, Thursday night's free skate promises to be a barnburner.
“This season was very, very difficult for me, especially at the Olympic Games,” Joubert said. “It was not easy to come back to France with the journalists. But when I came back to my tricks it was magic. My feeling was back, and everything was O.K. I don't know why.”
Joubert hit a quad-triple, triple Axel and triple flip to collect a personal best 80.31 points. Overall he's .12 points behind second place Nobunari Oda of Japan and 3.28 points behind Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel.
All three U.S. men are in the top 10, led by Johnny Weir in sixth.
The three-time U.S. champion opened his program with a gorgeous triple Axel, showing again that his version of the jump may be the best in the business. He sailed through the triple Lutz-triple toe combination but underrotated the triple flip. Fatigue settled in late in the program and caused a problem on his final combination spin, which was only graded level one.
“I wasn't totally sure how today was going to go or what I was going to be able to do,” said Weir, who has been struggling with back pain all week. “I gave my all yesterday and gave it my all today.”
This was the last performance of Weir's “The Swan” program, made famous by his red glove which he nicknamed Camille. Although he said he did consider tearing Camille into shreds, he has other thoughts now.
“Camille's more famous than I am,” he joked. “I'm seriously considering donating it to a museum.”
Evan Lysacek, third overall after qualifying, had to take an extra step between his triple Lutz and triple toe in combination, and that cost the reigning World bronze medalist valuable points. With five of the top 10 skaters landing quads, there was little room for error.
Photo by Paul Harvath
Skating in the third group, Matt Savoie's short program score of 69.25 held up well against the final 12 skaters. He finished ninth in the short and sits in 10th heading into the free skate. Savoie enters Cornell Law School next fall and he's on track to end his competitive career with his best-ever finish at the World Championships. His previous best was 12th in 2002.
Savoie only managed a triple-double combination, and like Lysacek, the mistake hurt him in the overall standings.
“I was most happy to do the Axel – that was the most important part of the program for me, because I've hade some trouble with it in practice,” Savoie said. “Doubling the toe after the flip was a bit uncharacteristic. I haven't had trouble with that for two years. Watching the replay it looked like I didn't stay tight during the landing and swung the free leg wide.”
Japan's Nobunari Oda continued his round of clean performances, landing a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe and triple flip to place third in the short and sit in second overall with 114.38 points. Oda did not receive a single negative grade of execution.
“I was just thinking about doing three jumps cleanly and enjoying myself afterwards,” said Oda, who's proving to be the surprise of the World Championships. “Actually after landing the triple Axel I felt more comfortable, and also the crowd support helped me. I had fun tonight.”
Despite finishing fourth in the short program, Lambiel still leads with 117.64 points. He stepped out of his triple Axel and only managed a double toe after his quad but was otherwise clean.
“I'm enjoying my time on the ice,” he said. “I don't feel the pressure I had in Torino.”
Canada's Emanuel Sandhu fell on his triple Lutz but still finished second overall in the free skate with a quad-triple combination. He's in fifth overall.
The men's competition concludes Thursday with the free skate at the Pengrowth Saddledome.