Joubert Leads After Men's Short; Americans in Striking Distance of Podium

by Laura Fawcett
Brian Joubert
Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

2007 World Championships Photos, News, Blogs, Starting Orders

(3/21/07) - France's Brian Joubert leads the pack after an unexceptional men's short program Wednesday afternoon at the 2007 World Championships. Joubert was the only man to break the 80-point barrier (83.64), but four men, including Americans Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek, are within about 10 points of the leader.

No one was particularly spectacular in the competition, which was broken up into two parts to accommodate the 42 participants. Only the top 24 qualified for the free skate. Joubert was the closest to excellence, with his quad toe-triple toe, triple Axel and somewhat shaky triple flip. Using his James Bond program from last season, he certainly looked confident and poised to finally win his first World title.

“I did my personal best, so it's perfect,” Joubert said. “I feel good on this ice. I worked a lot on my short program after the Europeans.”

Lysacek and Weir were both satisfied with their performances, but for different reasons.

Lysacek (73.49 points) attempted the quad in the short program for the first time in his career, and although he stumbled out and did not get full credit for the combination, it was an obstacle overcome.

“I knew it was a risk,” he said. “This season, to me, was about going to nationals and winning, and I come to this World Championships now and I feel like, ‘OK, we're building, I want to improve something about my skating, and playing it safe and doing the same old triple Lutz-triple toe is not the way to take that next step toward becoming an Olympic champion.'”

He added that the quad was on his mind all day.

“It was a step I had to take. I was really scared all day; I was just sitting there in my room thinking about quad, quad, quad, quad, quad. Frank (Carroll, Lysacek's coach) said after he could tell I was in another world because I didn't walk through any triple Axels, I didn't walk through any triple flips … Maybe that's not the best approach, but it was a big hurdle. The decision was easy because I knew it was something I had to do at some point, and why not do it here when we're three seasons away from the Olympics?”

Joubert singled out Lysacek and reigning World champion Stephane Lambiel (in sixth with 72.70 points) for their efforts with the quad.

“I am disappointed because they (the other skaters in the competition) didn't try it [the quad],” Joubert told reporters. “I am happy for Lysacek because he tried it. He had falls in practice, but he went out and tried it.”

Like Lysacek, Weir didn't skate his best, but positive GOEs on six of his elements overcame a stumble out of the triple flip and a little trouble at the end of his straight line step sequence (which received a level two). Weir (74.26) is definitely big in Japan, and he said his hopes of skating well in front of his fans may have added to his nerves.

“My performance today was just OK,” he said. “I was nervous wanting to perform my best for the Japanese audience, and I lost a little lung capacity. I was breathing about half [capacity].”

He said he was a little shocked with the scores, not thinking they would be as high as they were.

“This wasn't as crummy as it could have been,” he said. “I knew Joubert had skated great and posted a high number. I wanted to keep the level in the building up. I was disappointed with the flip naturally, but overall I'm fine with it. I'm at peace with this program, and I can finally put my horse to sleep (referencing the chess piece on his costume).”

Johnny Weir
Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

Canada's Jeff Buttle had no problems in his short program, receiving a standing ovation from his fans. He landed a triple flip-triple toe, triple Axel, and held on to his triple Lutz to score a personal best 79.90 points. Buttle missed the fall season with a back injury.

“Today I just wanted to go out there and fight,” he said. “I went for everything. Because it's a short season for me, my goals here are more personal goals than competitive goals.”

Squeezing into third place (74.51 points) at the end of the afternoon was Japan's Daisuke Takahashi, who finally gave the Japanese audience something to scream about.

Interestingly enough, Takahashi didn't agree.

“It was my worst performance in this season,” said Takahashi, who had the back end of his triple flip-triple toe combination downgraded). “I was very nervous since the six-minute warm-up, and my legs were trembling throughout the program.”

The Japanese champion had to hold on to both parts of his combination, but he landed the triple Axel and triple Lutz without incident.

Ryan Bradley missed his triple Axel in his Worlds debut, ending up a disappointing 19th place. The U.S. silver medalist has 62.88 points, but with the close scoring among all the men, he could easily improve that ranking.

“It was definitely disappointing to not go out and do my best,” he said. “It just wasn't in the cards today. I let my mind get a little away from me. It's my first Worlds, and I guess it happens.”

After missing the triple Axel, Bradley held it together to land his triple flip-triple toe, and triple Lutz, something he might not have done a couple of years ago.

“The difference between me now and me then ... I feel like right now it's all about getting those points and getting things done. You make a mistake and you have to leave it … sweep it under the rug and move on. I feel like that really helped me a lot today because if I had dwelled on that mistake, even if I had done the other elements they wouldn't have been done well and it probably would have come back to haunt me. I'm still kicking.”

Lambiel, who skipped the European Championship, fell on his triple Axel and turned a planned quad-triple into a triple toe-double toe.