Joubert Wins the Gold, But Takahashi Provides the Momentby Laura Fawcett
|Daisuke Takahashi weeps with joy in the kiss and cry (with Nikoli Morozov)|
(3/22/07) - Brian Joubert won the gold, but Japan's Daisuke Takahashi won the prize.
In front of an adoring crowd of about 6,500 fans, Takahashi dealt with the pressure and had the skate of his life to win the free skate and the men's silver medal Thursday night at the 2007 World Championships in Tokyo.
Takahashi wept with joy after his performance, as the thunderous applause echoed through the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym in what truly was a special moment for the host country.
Joubert's short program lead helped him finally capture the title that has eluded him for so long. The Frenchman also had a solid, albeit conservative, performance, but it lacked the spark he has shown in previous outings.
Defending champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland collected the bronze, while the Czech Republic's Tomas Verner was a surprise fourth-place finisher.
Americans Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir finished fifth and eighth, respectively. Although it wasn't the result either had hoped for, the combined placement of 13 assures the United States of three spots again for next year's World Championships.
Joubert landed three quads in a program during the Grand Prix season, but Thursday night he only hit one of two planned quads. After his first quad toe, he went on to land seven more triples, but there was an overall hesitancy to his program.
“It was very difficult,” Joubert said. “I'm very tired. I did not attempt the second quad because I wanted to give the audience a clean program. I worked for the gold.”
Takahashi followed Joubert on the ice, and the audience held its collective breath with every jump. Not to worry, however, Takahashi was on fire, with his only error being a hand down on his opening quad toe.
After the skate, Takahashi huddled in the kiss and cry with coaches Utako Nagamitsu and Nikoli Morozov, tears flowing freely. It was the first World men's silver medal for the Japanese. Takeshi Honda won two bronze medals for Japan in 2002 and 2003.
“I heard the roaring cheers from the audience when I got really tired,” Takahashi said, “so I just tried to respond and complete the program.”
The event surprisingly turned out to be a virtual quadfest. Although they weren't all rotated or landed, nine different competitors were given credit on the detailed results for attempting a quad jump. Two athletes –Lambiel and Verner – attempted two in their program, with Verner the only one hitting both cleanly.
Lambiel jumped from sixth to third with an uneven performance that was judged second-best of the night. His spins continue to be some of the best, and he received GOEs of plus 2 and 3 on his final combination spin. The rustiness that people expected after he skipped the European Championships never really materialized.
True, he wasn't in top form, but there wasn't much shabby about his performance.
|Brian Joubert won his first World title.|
Photo by Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP
“This is the real Stephane Lambiel today,” he said. “What was important for me is to have a good performance here. Yesterday, I was a little bit sad because I made mistakes, but I am happy with my performance and my triple Axel.”
Verner is well on his way to being the new heartthrob of men's skating. Oh, yeah, and he can skate. The Japanese girls showered him with stuffed hearts throughout the competition, and he paid them back for their devotion with the best free skate of his career.
“I was so surprised about my technical score, over 84 points,” he said. “I didn't expect that.”
Verner, the 2007 European silver medalist, didn't even make it out of the qualifying round at Worlds two years ago.
Lysacek competed his “Carmen” program for the final time, and it isn't one he wants to remember. He stood up on his quad and added the double toe, and went on to land seven more triples, although most were shaky, and two of his combinations included an extra turn between the jumps.
“I felt like I was going to go out and up my technical difficultly and try everything no matter what,” he said. “I guess mission accomplished. But yeah, it's the worst score I've ever had for the free skate, so it kind of sucks that it happened here. I'm not going to lie. I kind of wanted to wuss out at one point and not do the quad, because it's not been perfect.”
Although disappointed with his lackluster skate, there was a good sense of perspective as he analyzed his Worlds outing.
“I'm proud of what I did, which was … to go out and try a quad in both programs, and that's what I came for,” he said. “It's hard sometimes to focus on that when you want to medal. But you know, I have two, and at some point I'm going to have to take that next step and say, ‘If I want to win I have to do a quad in both programs and I have to dominate.' That's where I'm at. I'm not going to come here and do the same exact program I did a year ago and make no improvement whatsoever in a year. I think I gave it everything. I couldn't give it anymore.”
Weir finished 10th in the free skate and eighth overall. He opened with a beautiful triple Axel-triple toe, but then his program unraveled and he hit only four more triples.
“Obviously today wasn't a great performance, but I still fought through the whole thing,” Weir said. “I'm glad that I ended the season fighting. I didn't give up at all, and that's something I'm very proud of, and now I'm just excited to get home and take a little break and then get back to work for next season so I don't have another season like this.”
Weir said he will have two new programs next year.
“I tried and tried and tried with this number – the music is beautiful, my costume is beautiful, the actual program is beautiful – but there's something that's not clicking and I'm not feeling it in my heart, so when I go out there to perform, it's like ‘Oh, this again.'”
Ryan Bradley moved up four spots to 15th with an improved performance. After he doubled the opening triple Axel, he went to plan B, rearranging his program to maximize his points.
“We work it real flexible at home,” he said. “I know what elements I need to do, and if I do a plain double Axel or even a plain triple Axel in that opening, I've got to get a triple-triple in, and we train that Lutz-toe. To be honest, at home I'm training a triple toe at the end of everything, so that if I need it, it can happen, I can throw it in.”
His free skate included seven triples, but he fell on a double Axel late in the program. His Worlds experience, although not exactly what he wanted, certainly whetted his appetite.
“The competition's just intense,” he said. “There's so many great guys. It's a really good event. They're all putting new stuff out. It's a great direction (that) the sports headed, and I'm excited to be a part of it. It just makes me want to be even better the next time I come back so I'm up there with those top guys. I'm ready to do my best and put the quad out and take the steps I need to get up on that podium.”