Ice Skating

Ice Skating
▪ 2009


Figure Skating.
       Canada came away as the biggest winner at the 2008 International Skating Union (ISU) world figure skating championships, held in March in Göteborg, Swed., by capturing a gold, a silver, and a bronze medal. Jeff Buttle took the gold in the men's competition, giving Canada its first world figure skating title since Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz won top honours in ice dancing in 2003. It was also the first gold for a Canadian man since Elvis Stojko captured the world title in 1997. Canada's silver medal came from Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in ice dancing, and Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison won the bronze in pairs.

      France's Brian Joubert—the defending men's world champion and the bronze medal winner at the 2008 European championships in Zagreb, Croatia, in January—won the men's silver, and Johnny Weir helped the U.S. avoid going away without a medal for the first time since 1994 by taking the bronze. Weir went into the world championships on a high note after having finished with the exact same overall score as Evan Lysacek at the U.S. championships in St. Paul, Minn., in January. Lysacek took his second straight U.S. title on a tiebreaker, but his hopes of winning at the world championships were dashed the week before the event began after he hurt his left arm in a fall during practice and was forced to withdraw.

      On the women's side in Göteborg, Mao Asada of Japan won her first world title after having finished second in 2007 to countrywoman Miki Ando, who withdrew from the 2008 competition during her free skate because of shoulder and leg injuries. Asada, a likely favourite for the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, announced in June that she would train under famed Russian coach Tatyana Tarasova. Italy's Carolina Kostner, who took gold at the European Figure Skating Championships, won the silver medal, and 17-year-old Kim Yu-Na of South Korea took the bronze for the second consecutive year.

      The American pairs and women did not fare well at the world championships. Heavily favoured ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto failed to medal for the first time since 2004 after a rare fall in the compulsories. Belbin and Agosto, who won their record-tying fifth straight U.S. title in St. Paul, announced that they were leaving their longtime coaches after missing the podium in Sweden. Former world champion Kimmie Meissner finished seventh in the women's competition; she had also come in seventh at the U.S. championships.

      France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder won the ice dance world crown two months after a second-place finish at the European championships. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy gave Germany its first pairs world title since 1997; they also won a gold medal in Zagreb.

      The sport of figure skating lost one of its greatest competitors in 2008 when champion skater Christopher Bowman (Bowman, Christopher ) died in January from a drug overdose and an enlarged heart. Nicknamed “Bowman the Showman” for his theatrics on the ice, the two-time Olympian won two U.S. national titles and two medals at the world championships before retiring in 1992.

Speed Skating.
      American Shani Davis in 2008 once again showed the world why he was one of the best speed skaters ever to put his blades on the track. The 2006 Olympic 1,000-m champion had struggled to a sixth-place finish at the world allround speed-skating championships in Heerenveen, Neth., in 2007, but his return to Heerenveen in February 2008 for a World Cup race was a different story. He finished the 1,500 m in 1 min 45.25 sec to beat Denny Morrison of Canada and clinch the World Cup season title in the event. Davis then won his second speed-skating title in three days by finishing with a time of 1 min 8.63 sec in the 1,000 m (0.12 sec ahead of Morrison) for his seventh victory of the season in a World Cup race. A week before, in Inzell, Ger., Davis had broken the track record by winning a 1,000-m race in 1 min 9.65 sec. In the final event of the 2008 speed-skating season, Davis won the 1,000 m in track-record time at the world single-distance championships, held in Nagano, Japan. He clocked 1 min 8.99 sec to finish 0.04 sec ahead of Yevgeny Lalenkov of Russia, while Morrison took the bronze in 1 min 9.42 sec. Morrison won the 1,500 m in Nagano, clocking a track-record time of 1 min 45.22 sec and finishing 0.10 sec ahead of Davis and Sven Kramer of The Netherlands.

      Jeremy Wotherspoon of Canada (34.92 sec) edged Japan's Joji Kato (35.07 sec) at Heerenveen to clinch the World Cup speed-skating title in the 500 m. A sixth-place finish in the 5,000 m was enough for Havard Bokko of Norway to win the season title in the event. South Korean Lee Kang Seok secured the 100-m World Cup title. In women's action, Kristina Groves of Canada finished third in the women's 1,500 m at Heerenveen to capture the season crown. Jenny Wolf of Germany won the season title in the 100 m and 500 m, and compatriot Anni Friesinger was the 1,000-m champion. In team pursuit, Kramer helped The Netherlands win the men's title, and Groves led Canada to the women's championship.

Paul DiGiacomo

▪ 2008


Figure Skating.
      At the 2007 International Skating Union (ISU) world figure skating championships, held in March in Tokyo, only ice dancers Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria were able to retain the crown they had won a year earlier. After the 2006 Turin (Italy) Olympics ended in February, all of the gold medalists stepped away from competition, and many newcomers were able to replace them on the podium at the 2006 world championships a month later. In 2007 the U.S. team returned from Tokyo with just one bronze medal (won by the reigning U.S. ice dancing champions, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto), its lowest total since 1994.

       Japan's home team made history, winning a gold and two silvers. Miki Ando became Japan's fourth women's world champion, and Mao Asada was second, giving Japan two medals in the same event for the first time. Another Japanese, Yukari Nakano, was fifth. Meanwhile, South Korean prodigy Kim Yu Na took bronze, her dazzling short program followed by a free skate that put her on the way to victory until she ran out of energy and fell on two jumps in the final two minutes. Kim, who had missed nearly a month of training with back problems, nevertheless became her country's first world medalist. The big loser was Kimmie Meissner of the U.S., who had earned the 2006 world title with a brilliant free skate before capping a thoroughly inconsistent 2007 season with a fourth-place finish. Meissner won her first national title, in January in Spokane, Wash., with a lacklustre performance and then failed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final before her mediocre showing in Tokyo.

 There was no jumper more consistent than France's Brian Joubert, who unseated Switzerland's Stéphane Lambiel as world champion. Lambiel settled for bronze behind silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. Joubert shook off a history of coming undone in big competitions by winning everything, big and small, in the 2007 season. He was placed first in all seven competitions he entered—including the French, European, and world championships and the Grand Prix title—while landing 17 of the 19 quadruple jumps he attempted in those events. Evan Lysacek put on a stunning exhibition of jumping in Spokane to end Johnny Weir's three-year reign as U.S. champion. Lysacek landed a quad and eight triples in the free skate at the national event. At the worlds, however, where he had been bronze medalist the previous two years, he was an uninspired fifth.

      Chinese pairs skater Zhao Hongbo knelt on the ice to propose marriage to Shen Xue, his skating partner of 15 years, after their gold-medal performance at the worlds, but Shen did not recognize his intention. Zhao later proposed in a more straightforward way, and the couple were married on May 28. Shen and Zhao also announced their retirement from competition after a career that included two previous world titles (2002, 2003) and two Olympic bronze medals (2002, 2006).

      North American television broadcast rights of future world championships were in doubt. The ESPN network's four-year contract with the ISU was due to expire after the 2008 worlds, and no network was likely to ante up anything close to the $5 million ESPN annually paid for rights. In Canada the CBC already had declined to extend its broadcast contract that ended in 2007, and no one had announced plans to pick it up. There was some good news for North American fans: NBC agreed to a three-year deal with the U.S. Figure Skating Association after ESPN/ABC chose not to continue its 43-year association with the USFS, and the CBC signed a four-year deal with Skate Canada, replacing CTV, which had a nearly 30-year association with Canadian skating. As the steady decline in TV ratings for figure skating continued, chances for a quick turnaround were dimmed by the lack of attention-grabbing American stars.

Speed Skating.
 American Shani Davis, once among the most outspoken of athletes, said only a few dozen words for public consumption in 2007, but his performances continued to speak volumes about the prodigious talent of the 25-year-old Olympic champion speed skater. Left unexplained was the reason for his subpar sixth-place performance in February at the world all-around speed-skating championships, held in Heerenveen, Neth., which he had won the previous two years. “Talk is cheap. I just want to skate,” the Associated Press quoted Davis as saying on March 4, after he broke his own world record in the 1,500 m with a time of 1 min 42.32 sec at the Calgary (Alta.) Olympic Oval. (That was 0.36 sec faster than the mark he had set a year earlier at the same rink.) A week later Davis rallied to win two titles, the 1,000 m and 1,500 m, at the world single-distance championships in Salt Lake City, Utah.

      Davis's effort in Calgary was one of the 10 world-record performances in long-track speed skating during 2007. Sven Kramer of The Netherlands figured in four: one in the 5,000 m, two in the 10,000 m, and one as a member of a Dutch team-pursuit trio. Kramer, aged 21, also won his first all-around title after having finished third in 2005 and 2006. His compatriot Ireen Wüst matched Kramer's achievement, taking her first women's all-around championship.

      Wüst was runner-up to Germany's Anni Friesinger at the world sprint championships, held in January in Hamar, Nor. South Korea's Lee Kyou Hyuk won the men's title, with Davis third—making him just the third American man (and the first since Eric Flaim in 1988) to have won overall medals in both the sprint and the all-around championships.

      At the short-track world championships in Milan, South Korean Ahn Hyun Soo, triple gold medalist at the 2006 Olympics, won a fifth straight overall world title, cementing his place, at just 22 years old, as the most accomplished short-track speed skater in history. Jin Sun Yu of South Korea won her third consecutive women's world championship.

Philip Hersh

▪ 2007


Figure Skating.
       Japan's first figure skating gold medal, the overall domination of the Russian skaters, and the tearful withdrawal of Michelle Kwan of the U.S. were the biggest figure skating stories that came out of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. Shizuka Arakawa, age 24, the 2004 world champion, struck gold for Japan on February 23 when she turned in a brilliant long program in the women's singles competition. From the moment she started her performance with a soaring triple lutz–double loop combination, her skating approached perfection. Arakawa nailed 11 jumps, including 5 triples, while none of her rivals was able to match her artistry or athleticism. Sasha Cohen, the U.S. champion who had won the women's short program two nights earlier, fell on her first jump, spilled again later in the program, and finished as the silver medalist. Russia's Irina Slutskaya, the two-time world champion who won every competition she entered in 2005, also took a bad fall and, visibly disappointed, secured the bronze. Japan's previous Olympic medal total in figure skating had stood at one—the silver Midori Ito captured in the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France.

      Russia's Yevgeny Plushchenko, the overwhelming favourite leading into the men's competition, lived up to his billing with a personal best overall score of 258.33, which ensured him the gold medal that eluded him in the 2002 Salt Lake City (Utah) Olympics. Plushchenko dominated in Turin, setting new personal bests for each phase of the competition, and finally won the only international title that had previously eluded him. Jeff Buttle of Canada finished as the silver medalist, while 21-year-old American Evan Lysacek took the bronze.

 Russia scored another pair of Olympic gold medals when Tatyana Totmyanina and Maksim Marinin beat their rivals in the pairs competition, and Tatyana Navka and Roman Kostomarov were judged best in ice dancing. The U.S. team of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto won the ice-dancing silver medal.

      Almost two weeks prior to the competition, on February 12, Kwan told U.S. skating officials that she would have to withdraw from the Games because of a previously incurred groin injury that caused her to fall in practice. Kwan, the nine-time U.S. champion and five-time world titlist, had petitioned and auditioned her way onto the 2006 U.S. team, but the injury forced her to pull out. She thus apparently closed out her career without an Olympic gold medal; she won the silver in 1998 and the bronze in 2002. Kwan was replaced by 17-year-old Emily Hughes, the younger sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes. After the Games, Kwan declared that she would attend the University of Denver as a full-time student and would not compete during the 2006–07 season, but she did not announce her formal retirement.

      On January 14, skating before a crowd of 13,000 at the Savvis Center in St. Louis, Mo., Cohen captured her first U.S. figure skating championship gold medal. Having rebounded from the flu, she skated a relatively clean program highlighted by exceptional spins and footwork and finished with 199.18 points, more than 28 points ahead of second-place Kimmie Meissner. Hughes, who was third in St. Louis, was named to the Olympic team as an alternate until Kwan's withdrawal paved the way for her to go to Turin, where she finished seventh.

      The U.S. men's competition went to Johnny Weir for the third year in a row, despite his third-place finish in the long program. He finished first in a short program that included four triple jumps and superb artistry that won a standing ovation from the crowd. Lysacek won the free skate with 150.44 points, which boosted his overall total to only 0.87 point behind that of Weir. Matt Savoie took third place with a surprisingly strong performance that knocked Michael Weiss, a three-time U.S. champion, out of the spot that he expected to win on the U.S. Olympic team roster. Rena Inoue and John Baldwin took the pairs title, while Belbin and Agosto won the ice-dancing gold.

      In the European championships, held in January in Lyon, France, the Russian team secured a clean sweep of the gold medals. Plushchenko came through with a spectacular free skate to capture his fifth men's European title and defeat the 2005 world champion, Stéphane Lambiel of Switzerland. Plushchenko executed a quadruple toe loop early in his program and followed with four triple-jump combinations that had the crowd enthralled. Slutskaya, the 27-year-old defending world champion, took the women's European title for a record seventh time. Totmyanina and Marinin picked up their fifth consecutive European pairs gold medal, and Navka and Kostomarov won the ice-dance competition.

      None of the Olympic gold medalists competed at the world championships, held in Calgary, Alta., in March. Lambiel retained his world title, while 16-year-old Meissner rose from fifth place in the short program to win the free skate and upset Cohen for the women's gold medal. China's Pang Qing and Tong Jian, who finished fourth in Turin, won the pairs title. Ice-dance duo Albena Denkova and Maksim Staviski of Bulgaria captured that country's first world figure skating gold medal.

Speed Skating.
       South Korea's well-documented superiority in short-track speed skating was highly visible throughout the 2006 Winter Olympics. Thanks to superb performances by triple-gold-medalist skaters Jin Sun Yu and Ahn Hyun Soo (see Biographies), South Korea bagged six gold medals, three silvers, and a bronze—the most successful Olympics ever for the Asian nation. Jin captured her third gold medal on February 26, the last day of the Games, in the 1,000-m final. She also took gold medals in the 1,500 m and in the 3,000-m relay, winning those events with a manic finishing sprint. Ahn took the 1,000- and 1,500-m men's finals, racing past Apolo Anton Ohno of the U.S. as a prelude to another gold, in the men's 5,000-m relay. Ohno won the only short-track gold medal by an American, in the men's 500-m final, beating silver medalist François-Louis Tremblay of Canada by 0.067 second.

      The United States topped the men's medal standings in Olympic long-track speed skating with three golds, three silvers, and a bronze. Shani Davis (Davis, Shani ) (see Biographies) finished first in the men's 1,000-m final and won silver at 1,500 m. Chad Hedrick gained the 5,000-m title, finished second in the 10,000 m, and held on for third in the 1,500 m. Joey Cheek, the 500-m gold medalist, took a silver behind Davis in the 1,000 m. Canadian Cindy Klassen (Klassen, Cindy ) (see Biographies) finished as the overall top competitor at the Olympics, as she skated away with five medals (one gold, two silver, and two bronze) in five events.

      Davis and Klassen also had brilliant gold-medal performances at the world all-around speed skating championships in Calgary in March. Davis won the men's 500- and 1,500-m events to finish with a world-record total score of 145.742 points. Klassen swept all four women's races (at 500-. 1,500-, 3.000-, and 5,000-m distances) to amass a record total of 154.580 points. She won each of her races by at least a full second.

Ron Reid

▪ 2006


Figure Skating.
      The happiest moment achieved by any figure skater in 2005 undoubtedly belonged to Irina Slutskaya (Slutskaya, Irina ) (see Biographies) of Russia on March 19, when the 26-year-old won her second world championship gold medal and the soaring adoration of her hometown fans in Moscow's Luzhniki Sports Palace. Slutskaya's victory not only completed a remarkable comeback from the disappointments she had endured in 2004, when health problems forced her to withdraw from several major events, but also finished off a 2005 season that saw her win every competition she entered. Slutskaya secured the world title with her highest score of the season, despite a penalty imposed under the sport's new scoring system (see Sidebar (Figure Skating's New Judging System )) for executing an extra triple loop.

      Slutskaya graced her home ice with seven clean triple jumps, including a triple lutz–triple loop reminiscent of her superb performances of the past. Sasha Cohen of the U.S. finished second, about eight points behind Slutskaya, after being penalized for minor flaws in some of her jumps and for landing a triple flip off-balance. Italy's Carolina Kostner took the bronze medal with a score that was 0.37 point better than that of American Michelle Kwan, who finished out of the top three for the first time since 1995. Kwan fell on a triple salchow, and her other jumps did not match the more energized efforts of her rivals.

       Stéphane Lambiel of Switzerland won the men's gold medal, the first of his career in a major competition. His victory owed less to a program that was not without errors than to the late withdrawal of defending champion Yevgeny Plushchenko of Russia. Plushchenko, a three-time world champion, pulled out of the competition because of a groin injury. Lambiel's score was almost 17 points better than that of Jeffrey Buttle, who won the silver medal for Canada. American Evan Lysacek made his world championships debut at age 20 memorable by winning the bronze medal. Johnny Weir, the two-time U.S. champion, was bothered by an ailing foot and finished fourth.

      The Russian pairs team of Tatyana Totmyanina and Maksim Marinin successfully defended their world title, taking their second consecutive gold medal. Mariya Petrova and Aleksey Tikhonov earned silver for Russia, while China's Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao took the bronze. Russia also struck gold in ice dancing when Tatyana Navka and Roman Kostomarov beat their competition for the second straight year. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto captured the silver medal, the first in ice dancing for a U.S. team in 20 years. Ukraine's Yelena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov were third.

      The 2005 season had looked more promising for Kwan two months earlier, when she won her ninth women's singles title at the U.S. championships in Portland, Ore. Before an enthusiastic crowd whose cheering almost drowned out her music, Kwan made history with a victory that tied the career record for U.S. championships held since 1937 by Maribel Vinson. Cohen had two bad jumps but hung on for second place ahead of 15-year-old Kimmie Meissner, who made history herself by landing the first triple axel in the U.S. women's nationals since 1991. In the men's competition, Weir won his second straight title, while Timothy Goebel, the bronze medalist at the 2002 Salt Lake City (Utah) Winter Olympics, finished second.

      In the 2005 European championships, held January 23–27 in Turin, Italy, site of the 2006 Winter Olympics, Slutskaya skated to her sixth gold medal, equaling the career records of Germany's Katarina Witt and Norway's Sonja Henie. Susanna Pöykiö of Finland took the silver medal, the first for her country, while Yelena Lyashenko of Ukraine won the bronze. Plushchenko won his fourth European men's title, despite a spirited challenge from Brian Joubert of France, who won his second European silver. Germany's Stefan Lindemann took the bronze medal.

Speed Skating.
 In early February 2005 in Moscow, Anni Friesinger of Germany won her fourth world all-around speed-skating championship, while Shani Davis of the U.S. captured the men's all-around title. Friesinger was clearly the class act of the women's competition, winning the 500-, 1,500-, 3,000-, and 5,000-m races. Cindy Klassen of Canada, the 2003 world champion, won the silver medal, while three-time Olympic champion Claudia Pechstein of Germany took the bronze. Davis had a tougher time, but he won the 1,500-m race, finished second in the 500-m, and placed fifth in both the 5,000- and 10,000-m finals. Teammate Chad Hedrick won the silver medal ahead of Sven Kramer of The Netherlands with the bronze.

      At the world short-track speed-skating championships in Beijing on March 11–12, South Korea's Ahn Hyun Soo won his third straight overall title. American Apolo Anton Ohno, an Olympic gold and silver medalist in 2002, got off to a rocky start, however. He was disqualified twice before making an impressive showing in the 1,000-m final, when he came from last place to win the gold in little more than 90 seconds. Ohno also took the 3,000-m final and skated a leg that helped the U.S. capture gold in the 5,000-m relay. Three weeks earlier, at the U.S. short-track championships in Milwaukee, Wis., Ohno had captured the men's overall title for the seventh time. Jin Sun Yu of South Korea won the women's overall title in Beijing.

Ron Reid

▪ 2005


Figure Skating.
      On June 6, 2004, after a yearlong tryout, the International Skating Union (ISU) approved a new scoring system that replaced the familiar 6.0 score for a perfect performance with a format based on points for technical and artistic elements. The change evolved out of the judging scandal that erupted during the pairs competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. The new system, in which jumps, spins, edge quality, footwork choreography, and theatrics would be judged for individuality rather than as part of an overall performance, was to be introduced in the 2004–05 season.

       Michelle Kwan, probably the world's best-known amateur figure skater, with five world and eight U.S. titles, had the last 6.0s awarded in an ISU competition when she received six such scores at the 2004 world championships, held in Dortmund, Ger., in March. She finished third overall, however, behind Shizuka Arakawa of Japan and Sasha Cohen, who had scored a silver behind Kwan at the U.S. nationals. Arakawa won her first world championship—the first by a Japanese skater since 1994—with a program that included six triple jumps that neither Cohen nor Kwan could match. Cohen had led the competition going into the concluding free program but suffered an awkward landing that flawed her attempt at a triple Salchow jump. She finished with the silver, her first medal in an international event. The competition started and ended badly for Kwan, whom the judges penalized for the first time in her career for taking too much time to complete her short program. Later, her free program was hardly helped when, during her warm-up, a male masked intruder leaped from the stands, skated to the centre of the ice, and stripped down to his bare chest and a tutu.

       Russia's Yevgeny Plushchenko (see Biographies (Plushchenko, Yevgeny )) won the men's world title, surviving a fall that came as he was going into his final jump, a triple loop. Before Plushchenko went sprawling—after his skate blade hit a sequin that had fallen from his costume—he had taken over first place with a bold program that included his trademark quadruple-triple-double combination jump. In a competition noteworthy for its clean programs, Plushchenko was the only skater who suffered a fall. He prevailed, however, for his third world title in four seasons and a measure of revenge against France's Brian Joubert, who had beaten his Russian rival for the gold medal at the European championships in Budapest in January. Stefan Lindemann of Germany was a surprising bronze medalist after having finished fifth in Budapest.

      Russia also got gold-medal performances at the world championships from the pairs team of Tatyana Totmyanina and Maksim Marinin and the ice-dancing duo of Tatyana Navka and Roman Kostomarov. Both of the Russian couples had won their respective disciplines at the European championships, where Julia Sebestyen received the loudest cheers as the first Hungarian woman to win the women's singles gold medal. Her victory ended a Russian winning streak that had started in the event in 1996.

      The 2004 season got off to a superb start for Kwan in January at the U.S. national championship in Atlanta, Ga. She skated a clean program that included six triple jumps and gained momentum over the final 45 seconds to finish ahead of Cohen and Jennifer Kirk, the 2000 world junior champion. The surprise winner of the men's gold medal was 19-year-old Johnny Weir, the 2001 world junior champion. Weir skated a clean program to take his first national title, while defending champion Michael Weiss claimed the silver medal and Matthew Savoie took the bronze. Rena Inoue and John Baldwin captured the U.S. pairs title, improving two places on their bronze-medal finish of 2003 despite a seriously flawed performance. The flawless skating of Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto brought them the U.S. ice-dancing championship after three consecutive runner-up finishes.

Speed Skating.
      On Feb. 8, 2004, in Hamar, Nor., Chad Hedrick, a 27-year-old Texan, became the first American in 16 years to win the world all-around speed-skating championship. Hedrick's teammate Shani Davis, who came home first in the 1,500-m final, finished second in the all-around to further reduce the usual dominance of Dutch skaters in the men's competition. Renate Groenewold, however, gave The Netherlands its first women's all-around title in 30 years. For the third year in a row, the women's 500-m final was won by American Jennifer Rodriguez, who also won the 1,500-m title. Before the competition at the Viking Ship Hall in Hamar ended, nearly 10 years to the day after the venue showcased some of the best competition of the 1994 Winter Olympics, personal best marks were achieved by 35 men and 22 women, and Eriko Ishino of Japan set a junior world record of 4 min 9.26 sec in the 3,000 m.

       South Korea dominated the 24th world short-track speed-skating championships, contested March 19–21 in Göteborg, Swed., by 144 skaters representing 33 nations. The South Korean men's team captured 9 out of 10 individual gold medals. Ahn Hyun Soo led the golden haul with victories in the 1,000-, 1,500-, and 3,000-m finals and a leg that helped his team win the 5,000-m relay. In the women's competition South Korea also topped the field, thanks to victories in the 1,000- and 1,500-m finals by Choi Eun Kyung. The South Korean women finished with a wire-to-wire victory in the 3,000-m relay, beating China for the gold medal by one second.

Ron Reid

▪ 2004


Figure Skating.
      In 2003 the International Skating Union, still smarting from its judging scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics, launched a controversial new computerized system to determine a skater's marks. The chief element of the new system was anonymity for 10 judges, only 7 of whom had their votes counted. On the ice, Michelle Kwan of the United States and Yevgeny Plushchenko of Russia each captured a world championship gold medal, just as they had in 2001.

      Making her 10th appearance in the world competition, Kwan captivated a crowd of 16,000 spectators at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., matching athleticism with artistry and an assuredness that had abandoned her in the 2002 Winter Olympics, where she settled for a bronze medal. Kwan landed six triple jumps in the error-free long program she skated on March 29. Her performance ended to thunderous applause as Kwan became the first woman in 43 years to win the world title for the fifth time. Yelena Sokolova of Russia won the silver medal, and Fumie Suguri of Japan took the bronze for the second year in a row.

      The 22-year-old Kwan started the 2003 season on a note of uncertainty, but in taking an uncustomary easygoing approach to her skating, Kwan soon found success. In January she won her seventh U.S. championship (and sixth in a row), in Dallas, Texas, skating a clean program that included six triple jumps and her trademark change-edge spiral. All nine judges ranked Kwan first, while 17-year-old Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Olympic champion, won the silver medal and Sasha Cohen took the bronze. Michael Weiss captured the U.S. men's title by outskating Timothy Goebel, the first man to land three quadruple jumps in a single performance (at Skate America in 1999). Ryan Jahnke was the bronze medalist.

      Russian Aleksey Yagudin, the defending champion and 2002 Olympic gold medalist, was forced out of the world championships by a hip injury, but Plushchenko, who had captured the European championship in January at Malmö, Swed., returned to the worlds after a year's absence to win his second gold medal. In the qualifying round Plushchenko landed the first quad toe/triple toe/triple loop combination ever achieved in world competition. In the free skate Plushchenko excelled in a program that included a quad toe/triple toe/double toe, two triple axels, and four more triples. Goebel took the silver medal, while the bronze went to Takeshi Honda of Japan.

      The Chinese duo of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo received a standing ovation after a thrilling performance that brought them the pairs gold medal for the second year in a row. Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz topped their rivals to win the ice-dancing gold medal.

Speed Skating.
      The Dutch men and the German women were the most successful skaters at the 2003 world single-distance speed-skating championships, held in Berlin. Jochem Uytdehaage and his Dutch teammates Bob de Jong and Carl Verheijen skated to a 1–2–3 finish in the men's 5,000-m final on March 14, two days before de Jong took the 10,000 m by a 10.2-sec margin over Verheijen. The Netherlands earned two more gold medals from Erben Wennemars, who won his first world title in the 1,500 m the day before he won the 1,000 m.

      Germany's Anni Friesinger, the 2002 Olympic champion, struck gold in the women's 1,500-, 3,000- and 1,000-m finals. In the 3,000 m Friesinger sped to the finish line 1.92 sec faster than teammate Claudia Pechstein, who captured the 5,000-m gold.

      On March 7 in Heerenveen, Neth., Canada's Cindy Klassen won the final women's 1,500-m race of the World Cup long-track season, edging out American Jennifer Rodriguez by 1.08 sec. Rodriguez came back to win the 1,000-m final a day later, collecting her sixth medal of the World Cup season. Klassen ranked number one in the World Cup season's 1,500-m standings, with four gold medals and one silver.

      In the men's competition Wennemars took the 500-m final in 35.25 sec and the 1,000 m in 1 min 9.11 sec. Russia's Yevgeny Lalenkov won the 1,500 m with a time of 1 min 47.77 sec to finish first in the World Cup 1,500-m rankings with three gold medals and two silver medals. The Netherlands scored again when Uytdehaage, a double gold medalist at the 2002 Olympics, captured the men's 5,000-m final in 6 min 27.42 sec on the last day of the competition.

      In short-track competition Apolo Anton Ohno of the U.S. won his second career World Cup title in February. Scoring 196 points out of a possible 200, Ohno edged South Korean Ahn Hyun Soo by two points. Ahn took revenge a month later when he won the men's overall title in the short-track world championships in Warsaw, where Ohno won only one medal. South Korea's Choi Eun Kyung won the women's overall title at the worlds.

      In the world short-track team championships, contested March 15–16 in Sofia, Bulg., Canada won the men's team title for the sixth time in 12 years. China took the women's team title, despite the fact that South Korea finished first at every distance except the relay, which was won by Italy.

Ron Reid

▪ 2003


Figure Skating.
      On Feb. 21, 2002, Sarah Hughes, at 16 the youngest member of the U.S. Winter Olympics team, pulled off one of the most startling upsets in figure-skating history when she captured the gold medal in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the performance of a lifetime. Hughes held fourth place in the ladies competition after the short program. In the longer free skate, she delivered a go-for-broke effort fueled by dazzling athleticism and landed an unprecedented seven triple jumps, five in combination, during one of the most technically demanding programs ever skated in Olympic competition. Neither the silver medalist, Irina Slutskaya of Russia, nor bronze medalist Michelle Kwan, the six-time U.S. champion and overwhelming pre-Games favourite, came close to matching Hughes, who radiated joy.

      Hughes's upset victory helped to return respect to a sport that had suffered a judging scandal in the pairs competition when the French judge, Marie Reine Le Gougne, cast the decisive vote that gave the gold medal to Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia, despite six flaws in their program. The Canadian team of Jamie Salé and David Pelletier (see Biographies (Sale, Jamie, and Pelletier, David )) had skated an error-free program earlier, hitting all of their elements and thrilling an appreciative crowd. When the marks were posted for presentation, however, the Canadians were outscored by the Russians 5–2 (with two tie votes.) The vote left Salé in tears and Pelletier in stunned disbelief moments before the crowd of 16,000 spectators sent up an angry chorus of booing.

      During the investigation launched by the International Skating Union (ISU), Le Gougne initially claimed that she had been coerced into voting for the Russian pair by Didier Gailhaguet, the president of the French skating federation. Gailhaguet denied the charge, amid allegations that Le Gougne's vote was a trade-off for the Russian vote in favour of the French team in ice dancing. Five days later the ISU, bowing to pressure from both the International Olympic Committee and the public, awarded a second set of gold medals to the Canadians while allowing the Russians to keep theirs. In April both Le Gougne and Gailhaguet were given three-year suspensions by the ISU and were banned from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

      No such controversy sullied the men's competition, thanks to a flawless performance by Aleksey Yagudin of Russia. The reigning European champion landed two quadruple jumps and won four perfect 6s from the judges. Russia's Yevgeny Plushchenko took the silver medal, while the bronze went to American Timothy Goebel in his first Olympic competition.

      In ice dancing Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France won the gold medal. The silver medal went to Irina Lobachyova and Ilya Averbukh of Russia, while Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy won the bronze, despite a fall.

      Yagudin followed his Olympic success with another gold-medal performance on March 21 at Nagano, Japan, where he won the world championship for the fourth time in five years. After skating a difficult program that included two quadruple and six triple jumps, Yagudin was rewarded with seven 5.9 marks and two 6s for presentation. Goebel also skated a strong program to win the silver medal, while the bronze went to Japan's Takeshi Honda, despite a fall.

      All of the other Olympic winners skipped the world championships. Slutskaya beat Kwan for the eighth time in their last 10 meetings and thus prevented the defending champion from taking her fifth world title. In pairs competition Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, the bronze medalists in Salt Lake City, survived a fall to become the first Chinese duo to win at the world championships. The ice-dancing gold medal went to Lobachyova and Averbukh.

Speed Skating.
      Eight world records fell on the ultrahard ice of the Utah Olympic Oval during the Games' long-track competition. Jochem Uytdehaage of The Netherlands captured two gold medals with world-record performances in the 5,000-m and 10,000-m finals and took the 1,500-m silver medal behind American Derek Parra. Germany's Claudia Pechstein (see Biographies (Pechstein, Claudia )) ruled the women's long track, striking gold in world-record time at 3,000 m and 5,000 m.

      At the long-track world championships, held in Heerenveen, Neth., on March 15–17, Uytdehaage took the men's all-around title. Germany's Anni Friesinger, winner of the 1,500 m in Salt Lake City, captured her second consecutive women's all-around title.

      In short-track competition China's Yang Yang (A) became the first athlete from her nation to capture a Winter Olympics gold medal when she won the women's 500-m final; she struck gold again in the 1,000 m. Australia won its first Winter Games gold medal by accident when Steven Bradbury was the last man standing in the five-man 1,000-m final. China's Li Jiajun had run into American Apolo Anton Ohno on the final turn, and the crash knocked down every skater except Bradbury. Ohno, who dived across the finish line for the silver medal, won a gold four nights later in the 1,500 m, thanks to the disqualification of South Korea's Kim Dong Sung.

      At the short-track world championships in Montreal in April, Yang took the women's overall title for the sixth straight year, while Kim swept all four individual events to win the men's overall title.

Ron Reid

▪ 2002


Figure Skating.
      Michelle Kwan of the U.S. and Yevgeny Plushchenko of Russia celebrated an extraordinary figure-skating season during 2001, a year in which each once again captured a world championship.

      Kwan, aged 21, gave an indication of what she would achieve on January 20 in Boston, where she won her fourth straight U.S. women's championship and the fifth of her career. Kwan's remarkable free-skating performance earned a total of nine perfect 6.0 marks from the judges. She tied her record of seven 6.0s for her short program and added two more in the longer free skate to become the first woman to win four consecutive U.S. titles since Linda Fratianne (1977–80).

      Plushchenko, aged 18, also got off to a superb start by winning the men's title for the second straight year at the European championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, on January 25. Plushchenko skated a bold program that included an extremely difficult quadruple toe loop and seven superbly executed triple jumps to win an emotional rivalry with fellow Russian Aleksey Yagudin, who also landed two quads and seven triple jumps. The intensity of the Russians' competition was so close that two judges gave first place to Yagudin. The European women's title went to Irina Slutskaya for the fourth time, even though the Russian champion, who had beaten Kwan twice earlier in the year, hardly looked in top form as she struggled with the flu. Russia made it a clean sweep in the women's competition for the third consecutive year when Mariya Butyrskaya won the silver medal, despite two falls, and Viktoriya Volchkova took the bronze. Russian skaters finished with 8 of the 12 medals possible in the European championships.

      With her victory in the world championships at Vancouver, B.C., on March 24, Kwan was hailed as the dominant skater in her sport. She started the final night in second place, trailing Slutskaya, and responded with one of the greatest performances of her career. It brought Kwan her fourth world title (her second in a row) and left her tied with Carol Heiss for most world championship medals won by an American woman (6). While Slutskaya managed the first triple Salchow/triple loop/double toe combination ever witnessed in a ladies' world championship, she finished as the silver medalist for the second straight year. Sarah Hughes, the runner-up to Kwan at the U.S. championships, rallied from fourth place after her short program to capture the bronze medal, the first of her career in world competition. When Angela Nikodinov took fifth place, it completed the best finish by an American team since the U.S. swept the ladies' competition in 1991.

      Plushchenko picked off the men's title that had eluded him the previous two seasons. He landed a quadruple jump during a strong free-skating program that included eight triple and two double jumps to leave Yagudin, a three-time world champion, as a runner-up once again. Todd Eldredge, the 1996 world champion and five-time U.S. champion, captured the bronze medal. At 29 he became the oldest man to medal since Roger Turner took the silver in 1931 three days short of his 30th birthday.

      The pairs title went to hometown favorites Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, the first Canadian duo to win the gold since 1993. Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy, the ice-dancing gold medalists of the European championships, took their first world title in what was the first-ever world figure-skating medal for their nation.

Speed Skating.
      Rintje Ritsma of The Netherlands captured the men's all-around title at the 2001 world speed-skating championships contested February 9–11 in Budapest. A second-place finish in the 10,000-m race on the final day of competition enabled Ritsma to move past his countryman Ids Postma to secure the fourth world title of his career. Anni Friesinger of Germany took the women's all-around championship, holding off teammate Claudia Pechstein. Friesinger increased her first-day point total by winning the woman's 1,500-m final in 2 min 3.38 sec as a prelude to a sixth-place finish in the 5,000 m for a final total of 169.690 points. Pechstein finished second for the fifth time in her career by a centimetre or so, with 169.791 points. The women's competition might have evolved more predictably had Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann, the European all-around champion and eight-time world champion from Germany, not been disqualified in the 3,000 m for an inexplicable lane-change mistake.

      Pechstein rebounded in a big way on March 2 in Calgary, Alta., where she won a World Cup 3,000-m race in 3 min 59.27 sec—a world record. Canada's Michael Ireland set another world record on the same track one day later when he covered 1,000 m in 1 min 8.34 sec. Ireland's Canadian teammate Jeremy Wotherspoon finished second by one one-hundredth of a second in what may have been the most exciting race of the year. Chris Witty of the U.S. lowered the women's world record for 1,000 m to 1 min 14.58 sec later that day.

      Chinese athletes dominated the world short-track speed-skating championships at Chonju, S.Kor., during the final week of March. Yang Yang (A) topped the women's final standing for the fifth straight year, winning the 1,500-, 1,000-, and 3,000-m finals, in that order. (See Biographies (Yang Yang ).) Li Jiajun took the men's overall title for the second time since 1999, winning the 500-m and 1,000-m finals.

Ron Reid

▪ 2001


Figure Skating.
      Russian athletes, who dominated figure skating throughout the late 1990s, slipped appreciably in 2000, a season in which American Michelle Kwan (see Biographies (Kwan, Michelle )) quashed rumours of her decline by winning her third and least-expected world championship.

      The Russian slump was hardly noticeable early in the year. At the European championships in Vienna in February, Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze came back from second place after their short routine to win the European pairs title, the fifth in succession by a Russian team. Mariya Petrova and Aleksey Tikhonov, the defending champions from Russia, led after the short program but wound up as the silver medalists after Petrova abandoned a triple jump in the opening of the long program, a costly major error.

      Yevgeny Plushchenko ended the two-year reign of his Russian countryman Aleksey Yagudin by winning the men's free-skating program. Plushchenko, age 17, completed a quadruple jump and eight triples to finish as the first-place choice of all nine judges and the second youngest European champion in history. Yagudin, the two-time world and European champion, was not at his best after having sustained a broken bone in training on January 25. Dmytro Dmytrenko of Ukraine, in his finest finish since he won the men's 1993 title, took third place.

      Irina Slutskaya defeated Mariya Butyrskaya, her Russian compatriot and the defending champion. Each woman hit six triple jumps in the long program, but the judges unanimously selected Slutskaya, who won her third European title and her first since 1997. It was a redemptive victory for Slutskaya, who had failed to make the Russian team in 1999 and almost quit the sport. Viktoriya Volchkova finished third to complete a Russian women's sweep for the second straight year.

      Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France ended Russia's three-year gold-medal run by winning the ice-dancing title, partly because the defending champions, Anzhelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov, did not compete. Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio took the silver medal, the first team from Italy to score that high in the championships. The bronze medal went to Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas of Lithuania. It marked the first time since 1968 that Russia failed to medal in ice dancing.

      Kwan captured her fourth U.S. championship at Cleveland, Ohio, on February 12, surviving a fall in both her short and long programs in a repeat of the cautious approach that cost her a gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. None of Kwan's rivals, however, was experienced enough to capitalize on her vulnerability. Sasha Cohen, age 15, took the silver medal, while 14-year-old Sarah Hughes skated a more demanding program than Kwan's but finished third.

      The men's competition produced one for the record book when Timothy Goebel landed three quadruple jumps and thereby became the first American to land a quadruple jump in the national championships. Goebel, however, lost to defending champion Michael Weiss, whose challenging routine was superior in terms of spins, footwork, and drama and included eight triple jumps. Weiss's artistic marks included a perfect 6.0, the first of his career. Goebel captured the silver, while Trifun Zivanovic, the 1999 silver medalist, took the bronze.

      Kyoko Ina, twice U.S. national pairs champion with her previous partner, Jason Dungjen, returned to the top of the podium with her partner of only two years, John Zimmerman. Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev retained the U.S. ice-dancing title.

      Kwan was the biggest story of the world championship competition, held in Nice, France, from March 26 through April 2. Third after the completion of her short program, Kwan rebounded with her finest performance in two years to capture the women's title with one of the most demanding programs of her career. Slutskaya and Butyrskaya finished second and third, respectively. Yagudin, healthier than he had been a month earlier, took his third consecutive men's championship as Canadian Elvis Stojko, the 1997 world champion, and Weiss finished second and third, respectively. Petrova and Tikhonov took the pairs gold medal, with 1999 silver medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China second. Two-time champions Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze had been barred from the event after Berezhnaya tested positive for a banned stimulant. Anissina and Peizerat topped their rivals in the ice-dance competition.

Speed Skating.
      Among the highlights of the 1999–2000 speed-skating season, Canada's Jeremy Wotherspoon broke the world record for 500 m on January 29, the same day he captured his third World Cup title at Calgary, Alta. Wotherspoon set the 500-m record at 34.63 sec and covered the title-clinching 1,000-m race in 1 min 8.96 sec. The latter mark barely missed the world record of 1 min 8.49 sec he had set 16 days earlier in the Canadian sprint championships.

      Gianni Romme of The Netherlands topped the season's final World Cup standings in the 5,000-m and 10,000-m distances and lowered the world record for the shorter event to 6 min 18.72 sec. Romme also led the final overall standings at the world speed-skating championships contested in February in Milwaukee, Wis., where he finished as the men's overall champion after winning the 10,000-m title by almost 17 seconds. Ids Postma, the 1998 winner, and defending champion Rintje Ritsma finished second and third, respectively, for a Dutch medals sweep.

      Eight-time world champion Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann shattered her own world standard for the women's 3,000 m at Calgary on January 30, finishing in 4 min 0.51 sec, more than a full second below the former record. Two weeks earlier, at Hamar, Nor., she had improved the world record for 5,000 m to 6 min 56.84 sec. It was the third straight season in which the 33-year-old Niemann-Stirnemann had broken the world mark in the 5,000 m. It was not enough to retain the world title, however, as her German compatriot Claudia Pechstein took the women's all-around championship at Milwaukee, capturing the 3,000-m gold medal and finishing second in both the 1,500-m and 5,000-m finals.

      At the world short-track speed-skating championships at Sheffield, Eng., in March, China finished atop the standings with 6 of the 12 gold medals. South Korea was second and Canada third. Ryoung Min of South Korea captured the men's title to wind up an impressive season in which he also took the overall world junior title and finished third in the World Cup standings. China's Yang Yang (A) defended her title in the women's competition for her fourth straight world championship and won the 1,000-m and 1,500-m finals.

Ron Reid

▪ 2000


Figure Skating
      Russian athletes dominated competitive figure skating in 1999, sweeping every event at the European championships in January as a prelude to a more impressive sweep at the world championships in March. At the latter event, contested in Helsinki, Fin., Russia became the first country to capture every world championship medal since ice dancing was added to the competition schedule in 1952.

      The Russian mastery was led by 18-year-old Aleksey Yagudin, who made a successful defense of the world and European men's singles titles he captured in 1998. At the European championships in Prague, Yagudin survived an off-key short program made worse by a fall before he came back to skate an extraordinary long program that included a quadruple toe loop and seven triple jumps. Yagudin won top marks from the judges to lead the Russian sweep in which Yevgeny Plushenko, his 16-year-old training partner, finished second, and Aleksey Urmanov, the 1994 champion, took third.

      A greater surprise at Prague came in the performance of 26-year-old Mariya Butyrskaya, who won the women's gold medal over her much younger competition with a demanding long program that included seven triple jumps. When Yuliya Soldatova, age 17, and Viktoriya Volchkova, age 16, won the silver and bronze medals, respectively, it marked the first time the Russian women had swept their competition, to match what the Russian men had done in every European championship since 1996. The Russian team of Mariya Petrova and Aleksey Tikhonov captured the pairs gold medal. Russia struck gold yet again with the ice dancing team of Anzhelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov.

      In the U.S. championship held in Salt Lake City, Utah, Michelle Kwan, age 18, won her third women's national title on February 13, despite a late fall on a triple lutz jump. Kwan landed six other triple jumps without trouble, but it may have been an ill omen that the U.S. competition included many skaters who could not complete even one triple jump. Naomi Nari Nam, a 13-year-old too young to compete in the world championships, finished second, and Angela Nikodinov, age 19, was third. The men's championship went to 22-year-old Michael Weiss, who had barely missed the U.S. gold medal on two previous occasions. He fell on a quadruple toe loop but landed eight triple jumps cleanly.

      At the world championships on March 25, Yagudin captured his second straight men's title with an exceptional free-skating program that included the difficult quadruple toe loop and eight triple jumps. Plushenko won the silver medal, as Weiss finished his finest season ever by taking the bronze.

      On March 27, Butyrskaya upset Kwan for the women's world championship with a brilliant performance featuring seven triple jumps, dazzling footwork, and powerful spins. Kwan's chance of repeating as world champion faded when she fell on a simple double axel and finished fourth in the short program. At the age of 26 years and 272 days, Butyrskaya became the oldest women's world champion in history, as well as the first Russian to win the women's title. Russia's Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze took their second consecutive world pairs gold medal, and defending champions Krylova and Ovsyannikov won in ice dancing.

Speed Skating.
      During the 1998–99 speed skating season, the short distances were dominated by Canada's Jeremy Wotherspoon, who won the world sprint championship in February, as well as the World Cup titles at both 500 m and 1,000 m. He also set world records at both distances, but he saw his 1,000-m record of 1 min 8.66 sec fall to rival Jan Bos of The Netherlands after only one day. Bos's Dutch teammate Rintje Ritsma captured the all-around world championship in Hamar, Nor., in February, but he failed to repeat as overall World Cup titlist, losing to Adne Sondral of Norway.

      Gianni Romme of The Netherlands produced the fastest time ever recorded for a 5,000-m, outdoor speed skating race in a 1999–2000 World Cup event in Inzell, Ger., on November 14. Romme skated through freezing temperatures on hard ice and covered the distance in 6 min 31.02 sec. His time was five seconds faster than the former record held by Ritsma.

      Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann racked up her 93rd World Cup victory on the same day Romme broke the record at the same track, winning the women's 1,500-m race the day after she won the 3,000 m. With those races, Niemann-Stirnemann began the 1999–2000 season on a highly consistent note. The 32-year-old German star took the 1998–99 season title at 1,500 m and the overall title for the combined 3,000 m and 5,000 m, the 16th World Cup title of her remarkable career. In February she also had set another world record at 5,000 m and just missed breaking her own record at 3,000 m en route to her eighth all-around world championship.

      Chinese skaters dominated the world short-track speed skating championships at Sofia, Bulg., in March. Li Jianjun of China finished as the men's overall champion after taking the 500-m and 3,000-m finals. Satoru Terao of Japan won the 1,000-m final and finished second to Fabio Carta of Italy in the 1,500 m. Yang Yang (known as Yang Yang [A]) won her third straight overall women's title with gold medals in the 500-m, 1,000-m, and 3,000-m events. She also took silver behind her identically named teammate, designated Yang Yang (S), in the 1,500-m final. Chinese skaters finished the competition with six individual gold medals and gold medals in both team relays.

Ron Reid

▪ 1999


Figure Skating.
      After the sordid Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan controversy that had focused added attention on the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Nor., the competition between two other Americans, 15-year-old Tara Lipinski (see BIOGRAPHIES (Lipinski, Tara Kristen )) and 17-year-old Michelle Kwan, at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, was as welcome a duel as it was splendid. At two recent previous meetings, including the 1998 U.S. championships just prior to the Olympics, Kwan had handily defeated Lipinski. In Nagano Kwan, the 1996 world champion, jumped out to an early lead over Lipinski, the 1997 world champion, after a nearly perfect short program. In the free skate Kwan landed seven triple jumps, including a flawless opening triple lutz-double toe loop, but she held back on one of her most difficult jumps, earning just 5.7s and 5.8s in technical merit while garnering 5.9s for artistry. Lipinski capitalized on the opening left by Kwan, earning 5.8s and 5.9s for technical merit and similar scores for artistry. Six of the nine judges placed Lipinski in first place, which gave her the gold medal and a place in history. Lipinski surpassed Sonja Henie, Norway's 1928 Olympic gold medalist, by two months to become the youngest figure-skating champion in Olympic history. China's Chen Lu, the 1995 world champion, took the bronze.

      On the men's side Ilia Kulik of Russia emerged from a trio of gold-medal hopefuls after the short program by turning in one of the most dominant long programs of the decade. Kulik's series of 5.9s separated the 20-year-old Russian from Todd Eldredge, the five-time U.S. champion and 1996 world champion, and three-time world champion Elvis Stojko of Canada. Stojko, who had won silver at Lillehammer, was hoping to earn Canada's first men's figure-skating gold medal. A pulled groin muscle prevented him from attempting his trademark quadruple toe-triple toe combination, but his eight triples were good enough for silver. Eldredge suffered a series of failed triple combinations and a crash, which left the door open for France's Philippe Candeloro, who captured the bronze.

      Russia continued its dominance in the pairs competition, with Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriyev holding off teammates Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze for the gold. Since 1964 either a Soviet or a Russian pair had won gold in this event, a streak of 10 consecutive Olympics. The Russian team of Pasha (formerly Oksana) Grishuk and Yevgeny Platov won the ice-dancing competition, but not without some controversy. Grishuk and Platov, who had won the gold medal at Lillehammer, turned in a flawed performance in which Grishuk stumbled. Nevertheless, judges refused to place the four-time world champions behind the other Russian pair, Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov, and sparked a heated debate that could eventually lead to a retooling of the way ice dancing was judged at future international events.

      Although Krylova and Ovsyannikov fell short at the Olympics, they managed to claim the title against a depleted field at the world championships the following month. In all, the Russians captured three more golds at the event, held in Minneapolis, Minn. Russia's Aleksey Yagudin won the men's title, and Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze prevailed in the pairs. In the women's competition Kwan regained the world championship after Lipinski decided to turn professional and did not compete. Not a single Olympic champion competed in the world championships, and only 4 of the 12 medalists from Nagano were present.

Speed Skating.
      It was only fitting that The Netherlands should dominate the speed-skating events at Nagano, since it was Dutch scientists who developed the clapskate, which had turned the sport on its ear in 1997. The revolutionary design of the clapskate featured a hinged front toe with a retractable back heel that audibly clapped when it hit the base of the skate. The skate allowed the blade to stay on the ice longer and provided skaters with more power per stroke.

      That increased power translated into five new world records in 11 events. Dutch skater Gianni Romme shattered the world record by more than 15 seconds in the 10,000 m shortly after breaking his own world record in the 5,000 m. Romme led a Dutch men's team that won 9 of 15 medals. Marianne Timmer of The Netherlands broke the 1,500-m women's world record and won two golds, but German women took home an Olympic-best six medals, led by Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann (see BIOGRAPHIES (Niemann-Stirnemann, Gunda )) with a gold and two silvers. American sprinter Chris Witty, the world-record holder in the women's 1,000 m, was upset in that event by Timmer, who established an Olympic record in edging Witty by 0.28 second. Nagano marked the first Olympics since 1984 in Sarajevo in which American speed skaters failed to win at least one gold medal.

      A month later at the world championships in Heerenven, Neth., Niemann-Stirnemann set a world record in the 3,000-m event and just missed one in the 5,000 m on the way to capturing her seventh overall title. Ids Postma of The Netherlands retained the men's all-around championship.

      Aside from four medals won by Canadians, short-track speed skating in Nagano was dominated by Asian nations. South Korea won six medals, including three golds. China also captured six medals, and Japan took home two. South Korea's Chun Lee Kyung turned in the top individual performance, with two golds and a bronze. Takafumi Nishitani won Japan's first-ever medal in Olympic short track. Canada's Annie Perreault triumphed in the 500-m event after teammate Isabelle Charest, the reigning world-record holder, crashed with just two laps to go in her race. At the world short-track championships in Vienna in March, Canadian, Chinese, and South Korean skaters continued to dominate, led by Marc Gagnon of Canada, who won his fourth overall title, and China's Yang Yang, who won her second.


▪ 1998


Figure Skating.
      In 1997 figure-skating competition at the top level continued to be highly remunerative for the most successful performers, in marked contrast to what had been a virtually amateur sport only two years previously. For the second season in a row, lucrative prize money provided added incentives for top skaters to continue skating in competitive events. A total of nearly $1 million was again awarded to 144 skaters at the world championships in Lausanne, Switz., from $50,000 for the men's and women's winners and $75,000 for the leading pair and dance couples down to $2,500 for the 24th singles skaters and $3,750 for the 24th partnerships.

      Whereas women skaters once tended to reach peak form in their early 20s, the dominance of teenagers became progressively apparent at the world championships. With the degree of athleticism rapidly advancing, growing concerns about the physical and mental demands led to new minimum age limits, precluding skaters under 15 from senior championships but, significantly, exempting any below that age who had already competed before this change of rule. The chief beneficiary of the exemption was Tara Lipinski, who made history with a technically brilliant performance to become the youngest women's champion ever. The American mighty mite took gold at the age of 14 years, 9 months, and 12 days—32 days younger than the 1927 champion, Sonja Henie of Norway. Weighing only 34 kg (75 lb) and standing only 1.42 m (4 ft 8 in) tall, Lipinski landed seven triple jumps in her free program, including her unique combination of two triple toe loop jumps. Lipinski's title-defending compatriot, 16-year-old Michelle Kwan, finished a close runner-up.

      Setting new jumping standards, Canada's Elvis Stojko see (Stojko, Elvis ) BIOGRAPHIES) became the first skater in a world championship to land a combination of quadruple and triple toe loops. He also included six other triples and finished with a sequence of seven Arabian cartwheels to regain the men's title from the American runner-up and defending champion, Todd Eldredge. Stojko vaulted from fourth place after the short program to claim his third triumph in four years.

      In a very close pairs contest, Germany's Mandy Wötzel and Ingo Steuer took their first pairs title after having twice finished second, toppling the defending Russians, Marina Yeltsova and Andrey Bushkov, in a tight split judges' decision. Russians Oksana Grishuk and Yevgeny Platov swept comfortably to their fourth consecutive ice-dance success, again outpointing their compatriots Anjelike Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov.

      The meeting was clouded by the death of Carlo Fassi (see OBITUARIES (Fassi, Carlo )), the Italian-born coach of several famous past champions, after he suffered a severe heart attack. His latest pupil, American Nicole Bobek, was clearly affected while bravely completing the women's event.

      The second Champions Series was again based on results at six venues and awarded prize money of more than $2 million. Ending two weeks before the world championships, the series provided a foretaste of what was to follow. Stojko, runner-up the previous year, finished ahead of Eldredge in the men's competition, and Lipinski defeated Kwan. Wötzel and Steuer won the pairs, but the ice dance differed from the world championships as the Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz scored an upset to defeat Krylova and Ovsyannikov.

      The International Skating Union (ISU) ordered a review of the complex placing system for the judging of figure skating. "We have made huge steps forward in recent years," said the ISU president, Ottavio Cinquanta, "but it is crucial that the public can more easily understand how our extremely technical sport is judged and we must develop a fair and comprehensible method." In support, this change was resolutely urged by the influential International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Speed Skating.
      The season's prize money budget of $5 million spread among major ISU events included, for the second year, both large-circuit and short-track speed skating. At the world championships, held at the new arena constructed for the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, Ids Postma of The Netherlands became the new men's champion, and Germany's Gunda Niemann gained her third successive women's crown and her fifth overall title in six years.

      Both champions were among those competitors wearing a popular new-style "clap" skate that features a quick release at the heel and thereby provides a stronger push for the skater. When the foot is lifted from the ice, the blade snaps back into position. First seen in a more basic form on the Dutch canals in the late 19th century, the updated 1997 version proved to be faster than traditional blades. Coaches agreed that this development improved times appreciably, particularly over the longer distances, and a general changeover appeared imminent.

      At the world sprint championships, in Hamar, Nor., Russia's Sergey Klevchenya retained the men's title, and Germany's Franziska Schenk became the new women's champion. The second world single-distance championships, in Warsaw, underlined Niemann's dominance during the season as she won three of the five women's events. Rintje Ritsma of The Netherlands was the only man to win two events. The 12th World Cup series was contested over 10 meetings in 10 countries, and only Ritsma finished best in two of the four men's distances. Niemann, with a first and a second, emerged the most successful among the women.

      At the world short-track championships in Nagano, Kim Dong Sung of South Korea captured the men's title, relegating the Canadian defender and three-time former champion Marc Gagnon to second place. Chun Lee Kyung, also of South Korea, gained her third successive women's title but had to share the gold medal with China's first champion, Yang Yang.


▪ 1997


Figure Skating.
      In 1996 international figure skating introduced some notable changes. Contested during the year was the first Champions Series, which consisted of five prestigious competitions and a final tournament in Paris. This, as well as the world and European championships, for the first time offered the considerable added incentive of lucrative prize money.

      The world championships alone awarded 144 skaters $937,500. The prizes went to the top 24 finishers in each event, ranging from $50,000 for the men's and women's winners and $75,000 for the leading pair and the leading ice dance couple to $2,500 for the 24th-place singles skaters and $3,750 for the 24th-place partnerships.

      Held in Edmonton, Alta., the world championships provided a worthy climax to a momentous winter. The men's competition, arguably the best ever, ended with an absorbing duel between Todd Eldredge of the U.S., the runner-up in 1995, and Ilya Kulik of Russia, the 1995 champion of Europe; each landed eight triple jumps. The nine judges split six-three in Eldredge's favour. The fast-rising U.S. skater Rudy Galindo finished third, just ahead of the defending champion, Elvis Stojko of Canada. Stojko thrilled the crowd with an awesome, still-rare quadruple toe-loop jump that he might not have risked had victory not already been out of reach.

      Michelle Kwan gave the U.S. a second gold medal, gaining two sixes and seven 5.9s to edge the defending champion, Chen Lu of China. Irina Slutskaya of Russia finished third. Kwan, at 15, became the third youngest champion, behind Norway's Sonja Henie (14; 1927) and Oksana Baiul of Ukraine (15; 1993).

      As in the men's competition, the crowd witnessed another tense rivalry, the Kwan-Chen duel also dividing the judges by a vote of six to three, with perhaps Kwan's seven triple jumps to Chen's six deciding the issue. For the first time in a women's championship, both winner and runner-up received two maximum scores of six for presentation.

      The pairs title was captured by Marina Yeltsova and Andrey Bushkov of Russia, who had placed third in 1994. They defeated the 1995 European champions from Germany, Mandy Wötzel and Ingo Steuer, who had led after the initial round. The Russian duo of Oksana Grichuk and Yevgeny Platov scored their third straight ice dance victory, while another Russian entry, Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov, finished second.

      The inaugural Champions Series confirmed the season's overall women's supremacy of Kwan, with Slutskaya placing second. Winter-long consistency was also shown by Grichuk and Platov in the ice dance as they again thwarted runners-up Krylova and Ovsiannikov. Aleksey Urmanov of Russia outpointed Stojko to win the men's title. The pairs championship went to Yevgeniya Shishkova and Vadim Naumov, ahead of their fellow Russians Yeltsova and Bushkov.

Speed Skating.
      The season was as revolutionary for speed skaters as for their figure counterparts. Increased amounts of prize money were introduced at all major contests. In the world championships cash was earned by the top 12 men and women, ranging from $25,000 for each all-around champion (over four distances) to $1,000 for those in 12th place.

      A new event was successfully launched at Hamar, Nor.—world single-distance championships with separate titles for the winners over five men's and five women's distances, as in the Olympic Games. The men's champions were Hiroyasu Shimizu of Japan (500 m), Sergey Klevchenya of Russia (1,000 m), and three Dutch racers, Ids Postma (5,000 m), Jeroen Straathof (1,500 m), and Gianni Romme (10,000 m). The most successful woman was Annamarie Thomas of The Netherlands (1,000 m and 1,500 m), the other victors being Svetlana Zhurova of Russia (500 m) and two Germans, Gunda Niemann (3,000 m) and Claudia Pechstein (5,000 m).

      The aforementioned tournament supplemented the long-established world championships held in 1996 at Inzell, Ger. Rintje Ritsma of The Netherlands and Niemann retained their men's and women's crowns. Also, Canada's former Olympic rink at Calgary, Alta., was confirmed as the world's fastest when four new world men's records were set there by three Japanese and one Dutch skater.

      In the separate world sprint championships at Heerenveen, Neth., Klevchenya gained his first men's triumph, and Christine Witty of the U.S. took the women's prize won the previous two years by her celebrated compatriot Bonnie Blair. In the world short-track championships at The Hague, Marc Gagnon of Canada recaptured the men's title, his third in four years, and Chun Lee Kyung of South Korea retained the women's crown. (HOWARD BASS)

▪ 1996

      The worldwide expansion of ice skating continued in 1995 as Andorra, Cyprus, and Portugal increased the membership of the International Skating Union to 55 nations.

Figure Skating.
      More than 200 skaters from a record 42 nations contested the world championships in Birmingham, England, on March 5-12, the first for which England had served as host in 45 years. The retention of the men's title by Canada's Elvis Stojko was an inspiring achievement, the more noteworthy because he was suffering from torn ankle ligaments. Although failing an attempted quadruple toe loop jump, Stojko executed eight triple jumps and gained a maximum score of six for technical merit from the French judge. Todd Eldredge, the veteran United States national champion, who had led after the initial round, fell on a triple axel, which arguably cost him first place. Philippe Candeloro of France, not skating his best, finished third, ahead of Russia's Olympic gold medalist, Aleksey Urmanov.

      Chen Lu won China's first world title in figure skating by gaining the women's crown in a close contest with Surya Bonaly of France. Making her seventh attempt for the gold medal, Bonaly finished second for the third consecutive time. She presented a free program of ferocious difficulty, accomplishing seven triples with entertaining, ostentatious athleticism; but they were not always well fitted to her music, and she received relatively poor marks for presentation.

      Chen's skillful interpretation of music from the film The Last Emperor featured nine major jumps, all landed without a quiver. Nicole Bobek, the U.S. national champion, led going into the free skating, but two tumbles dropped her to third place just above her highly promising compatriot Michelle Kwan, only 14.

      With superior overhead lifts and daring triple throws, Radka Kovarikova and Rene Novotny, of the Czech Republic, maintained the pairs lead that they had established early in the competition and deposed the Russian defending champions, Yevgeniya Shishkova and Vadim Naumov. Jenni Meno and Todd Sand won the bronze medal for the U.S.

      The class of the Russian Olympic champions Oksana Grichuk and Yevgeny Platov successfully defended their ice dance title with an enterprising free-skating performance that simulated tap dancing. The fast-improving Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko featured a popular emotional display to music of the Beatles to gain Finland its first silver medal in the event, marginally in front of the French couple Sophie Moniotte and Pascal Lavanchy.

Speed Skating.
      Rintje Ritsma of The Netherlands coped with hazardous weather conditions to claim the overall title in the men's world championships at the small Italian mountain resort of Baselga di Pinè on February 11-12. Keiji Shirahata of Japan finished second, and Roberto Sighel of Italy was third. Gunda Niemann of Germany captured the women's crown at Savalen, Norway, on March 4-5, ahead of Lyudmila Prokasheva from Kazakhstan and Annamarie Thomas of The Netherlands.

      In the separate world sprint championships, at Milwaukee, Wis., on February 18-19, Kim Yoon Man of South Korea was a surprising men's winner. But his feat was somewhat eclipsed by a glorious women's title defense by the outstanding American Bonnie Blair, who—in her farewell appearance—won all four races just a week after she lowered the women's world 500-m record to 38.69 sec at Calgary, Alta.

      Two women's world records were also set in short-track racing. Nathalie Lambert of Canada covered 1,000 m in 1 min 34.07 sec at Hamar, Norway, and Chun Lee Kyung of South Korea clocked the 1,500 m in 2 min 27.38 sec at Jaca, Spain. Marc Gagnon of Canada set a new men's 1,500-m world record of 2 min 18.61 sec at Guildford, England.

      In the world short-track championships at Gjövik, Norway, on March 17-19, the South Korean Olympic champion Chae Ji Hoon took the men's title, and Chun gained the women's. The team relay events were won by Canada (men) and China (women).


▪ 1995

      The first and probably last Olympic Winter Games to be contested only two seasons after its predecessor took place in Lillehammer, Norway, on Feb. 12-27, 1994. (See Special Report (XVII Olympic Winter Games ).) This once-only measure was taken because Olympic officials decided that the Winter and Summer Games would be more profitable if they were held two years apart rather than during the same year.

Figure Skating.
      Unprecedented interest was created in 1994 by the International Skating Union's selective reinstatement of ice-show professionals. Even so, the only such skaters to recapture an Olympic title were the immaculate Russian pair Yekaterina Gordeyeva and Sergey Grinkov, who repeated their 1988 success. They were, however, pressed hard by their compatriots Natalya Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriyev, the defending Olympic champions. The Canadian world champions, Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler, finished third despite some spectacularly high throws.

      The men's contest was a triumph for another Russian, Aleksey Urmanov, who outjumped Elvis Stojko of Canada. Philippe Candeloro of France valiantly gained the bronze medal ahead of Viktor Petrenko of Ukraine, the champion of Europe. Oksana Baiul, a deceptively delicate-looking Ukrainian, followed her sensational 1993 world victory with another tremendous performance to take the Olympic women's crown. Nancy Kerrigan of the U.S. was a close runner-up, and Lu Chen of China placed third. Germany's two-time Olympic gold-medal winner, Katarina Witt, though only seventh in a much-heralded return, pleased the crowd with her elegant artistic presentation but could not match the jumping athleticism of her younger rivals. The presence of Tonya Harding of the U.S., who was permitted to skate only because of legal pressure following her subsequently admitted collusion in an earlier attempt to injure Kerrigan, was an unwanted distraction. Harding was later stripped of the 1994 U.S. title that she had won and was banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

      An exceptionally close finish was provided in the ice dancing, won by Oksana Grichuk and Yevgeny Platov of Russia over their world titleholder compatriots, Maya Usova and Aleksandr Zhulin. The crowd's favourites, Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, gained the bronze medal after a 10-year absence from competition and only weeks after defeating both Russian couples in the European championships.

      In the world championships at Chiba, Japan, on March 22-26, the local favourite, Yuka Sato, was the women's victor, gaining a 5-4 decision over Surya Bonaly of France, the four-time European champion. Both jumped six triples, but Sato had the edge on presentation. Brasseur and Eisler sought to retain their pairs title with justifiable optimism—until misfortune hit Brasseur. Skating amazingly well with a cracked rib, she and her partner somehow managed to secure the silver medal behind the new Russian victors, Yevgeniya Shishkova and Vadim Naumov. Grichuk and Platov added the world ice dance title to their Olympic success, surviving a rare fall to win from Sophie Moniotte and Pascal Lavanchy of France.

      The men perhaps presented the most exciting event, in which Stojko became the new winner. He achieved seven perfect triple jumps and daringly added a highlight combination of quadruple and triple toe-loop jumps, though the second landing was flawed. For technique he received a 6 from the U.S. judge, the other eight each awarding 5.9. Candeloro, perhaps the season's most improved skater, finished second, with Vyacheslav Zagorodnyuk of Ukraine taking the bronze ahead of Olympic winner Urmanov.

      Former world and Olympic figure skating champion John Curry died in April after a three-year battle with AIDS. (See OBITUARIES (Curry, John Anthony ).)

Speed Skating.
      In a record-shattering season that left only two previous major world records intact, the most amazing new mark, an improvement of nearly 13 seconds, was the 13-min 30.55-sec triumph in the Olympic 10,000 m by Norway's Johann Olav Koss (see BIOGRAPHIES (Koss, Johann Olav )), whose three gold medals—the others were in the 1,500 m and 5,000 m—equaled the 1952 feat of his fellow countryman Hjalmar Andersen. The other Olympic men's winners were Aleksandr Golubev of Russia in the 500 m and Dan Jansen of the U.S. in the 1,000 m. Another U.S. skater, Bonnie Blair (see BIOGRAPHIES (Blair, Bonnie Kathleen )), was the outstanding woman sprinter, winning both the 500 m and 1,000 m. Blair's 500-m success made her the only speed skater of either sex to have won the event in three consecutive Olympics. The other speed-skating events were won by Emese Hunyady of Austria (1,500 m), Svetlana Bazhanova of Russia (3,000 m), and Claudia Pechstein of Germany (5,000 m).

      Koss regained the overall title in the men's world championship at Göteborg, Sweden, on March 12-13, followed by two Dutchmen, Ids Postma and Rintje Ritsma. Hunyady captured the women's crown at Butte, Mont., on February 5-6, ahead of Ulrike Adeberg of Germany and Mihaela Dascalu of Romania.

      In the separate world sprint championships at Calgary, Alta., on January 29-30, Jansen set a new world record of 35.76 sec in the 500 m. Blair won the women's 500 m in 39.12 sec.

      The men's and women's world short-track overall titles were retained at Guildford, England, on March 31-April 2 by Marc Gagnon and Nathalie Lambert of Canada. The men's and women's team relays were won by Japan and Canada. Men's Olympic short-track events were won by South Korea's Chae Ji Hoon (500 m) and Kim Ki Hoon (1,000 m). Cathy Turner of the U.S. took the women's 500 m, and another South Korean, Chun Lee Kyung, won the 1,000 m. The relay events were won by Italy (men) and South Korea (women). (HOWARD BASS)

▪ 1994

      A drift toward opening top figure skating competitions to previously recognized professional performers was significantly indicated by the declared readiness of the International Skating Union to consider applications for reinstatement. Among former world titleholders hoping to take advantage of this new situation in 1994 were Katarina Witt of Germany; Elaine Zayak, Brian Boitano, and Christopher Bowman of the U.S., and Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. Gaining reinstatement would allow them and other professionals to compete again in world championships and the Olympic Games.

      In speed skating the sprint event claimed particular attention in 1993. After it had taken 13 years to lower the world 500-m record by just one second, another two-tenths of a second were taken off in one season.

Figure Skating.
      In addition to the demands of technical skill and artistry, the ability to perform under pressure was clearly demonstrated in the women's world championships, in Prague on March 7-13, when a 15-year-old Ukrainian appeared not to have any nerves while winning the gold medal in her first appearance at the tournament until she cried with emotion while watching her high marks flash on the scoreboard. Oksana Baiul, first of the major contenders to skate in the final round, effectively put stress on her rivals with a cleverly expressed, very sound performance to a tuneful medley from film musicals. It was a sensational endorsement of a remarkable silver medal-winning display eight weeks earlier in her international debut at the European championships in Helsinki, Fin.

      In striking contrast, the more experienced U.S. skater, Nancy Kerrigan, second in 1992 in Oakland, Calif., had become a firm favourite after leading in the technical portion of the competition. She began her long free-skating program uncertainly, however, touching her hand down on an opening triple toe Salchow and turning an intended triple Lutz into a single. Obviously feeling the tension, Kerrigan dropped to fifth in the final standings. It was the first time since 1969 that U.S. women skaters had not won a medal in the world championships.

      Runner-up Surya Bonaly of France, the European champion, produced her customary high standard of jumps and spins, but artistic shortcomings cost her the gold medal. Lu Chen of China finished third, and Yuka Sato of Japan was fourth.

      A model of unflappable coolness, Canada's Kurt Browning returned triumphantly from his series of back injuries to claim his fourth men's crown in five years. Although he included two great axels among his five triple jumps, a reduction in the number of his customary multiple leaps was amply compensated by majestic showmanship when depicting Humphrey Bogart as Rick from the classic film Casablanca. His energy-conserving interlude midway through his rendition portrayed humorous nonchalance with hands in pockets, an original touch that probably clinched the gold medal, the French judge responding with a perfect score of six.

      Browning was outjumped by his compatriot Elvis Stojko, who landed eight triples, but Stojko's presentation suffered by comparison. Aleksey Urmanov of Russia placed third.

      A second gold medal for Canada was achieved by Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler in the pairs competition, breaking an eight-year Soviet/Russian monopoly. Their powerful overhead lifts and triple throws, interpreting Sergey Rachmaninoff music superbly, proved too good for the German runners-up, Mandy Wötzel and Ingo Steuer. Russia's Yevgeniya Shiskova and Vadim Naumov finished third.

      A Russian eclipse in the dancing never looked likely, however. Maya Usova and Aleksandr Zhulin led a national clean sweep with a hypnotic blues free dance of dramatic power, comfortably ahead of their compatriots Oksana Gritschuk and Yevgeny Platov in second and Anjelika Krylova with Vladimir Fedorov in third.

Speed Skating.
      Falko Zandstra of The Netherlands, the previous year's runner-up, captured the overall title in the men's world championship at Hamar, Norway, on February 13-14. Johann Olav Koss of Norway, the 1991 winner, finished second ahead of Rintje Ritsma of The Netherlands. Gunda Niemann of Germany retained her women's crown on home ice in Berlin on February 6-7. Emese Hunyady of Austria was runner-up for a second successive year, followed by another German, Heike Warnicke.

      In the separate world sprint championships, at Ikaho, Japan, on February 27-28, Igor Zhelezovsky of Belarus won the men's event for a record sixth time, and Ye Qiaobo retained the women's title for China. When Dan Jansen of the U.S. established a new world record for the 500-m sprint on March 21 at Calgary, Alta., his time of 36.02 sec bettered the figure he had set 14 months earlier by an astonishing 0.39 sec. At Heerenveen, Neth., Koss reduced the men's world 5,000-m record to 6 min 36.57 sec.

      In the world short-track championships, at Beijing (Peking) on March 26-28, Marc Gagnon and Nathalie Lambert, both of Canada, claimed, respectively, the men's and women's overall titles. Italy, however, won the men's and women's team relays. (HOWARD BASS)

* * *

 the recreation and sport of gliding across an ice surface on blades fixed to the bottoms of shoes (skates). The activity of ice skating has given rise to two distinctive sports: figure skating, which involves the performance of various jumps, spins, and dance movements; and speed skating and short-track speed skating, both of which are forms of racing on ice skates. ice hockey is the best-known team sport that involves skating.

      Ice skating probably developed in Scandinavia as early as 1000 BC, the first skates being made from shank or rib bones (bone) of elk, oxen, reindeer, and other animals. It is not known when the metal runner was introduced, but early Dutch prints depict skates with metal blades. Until the middle of the 19th century the metal portion of the skate was fastened to a wooden base or footplate and the whole of the skate was fastened to the foot with leather thongs or straps. A major improvement came from the United States in 1850 when E.W. Bushnell of Philadelphia introduced the all-steel skate, which replaced the cumbersome wooden footplate. The main developments in the figure skate after 1900 were the addition of the toe pick, a group of sawlike teeth located at the toe of the blade, which enabled skaters to obtain better purchase in the ice when doing certain jumps, and the innovation of the “closed-toe” blade of one-piece steel, which added strength to the skate and permitted a much lighter-weight blade.

      The contemporary figure skate (figure skating), which is the type best suited for general pleasure skating as well as for figure skating, is easily distinguished from other skates by the toe pick at the front of its blade. The blade itself is about 4 mm (about 0.157 inch) wide. A hollow ridge along the blade emphasizes its two sharpened outer edges; these are the surfaces on which skating movements are made. The blade is approximately the same length as the boot or shoe to which it is attached. The boot, which is usually black for men and white for women, has a strong, reinforced arch support and a stiffening material around the heel and under the arch. The speed skate is low-cut, allowing for freer movement of the ankle. Its blade is much longer than the shoe (usually between 42 and 46 cm [16.5 and 18 inches] long for men) and only 1 mm (0.039 inch) thick. The hockey skate is a hard, protective boot with a short blade that is curved at the ends to allow for quick turns.

      As a recreation skating has been continuously practiced on the canals of The Netherlands since the Middle Ages by both males and females. Skating on the frozen ponds and fens was popular in England (United Kingdom) in the 17th century, and the first skating club was formed in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1742. In the 1740s British servicemen introduced ice skating to North America. It was also popular at the French court about 1776; Marie-Antoinette was among the skaters. Napoleon Bonaparte skated at Auxerre in 1781.

      The development of refrigerated ice rinks started the transformation of ice skating from a seasonal pastime to a major sport and entertainment. The first rink with artificially frozen ice, a private one, the Glaciarium, was opened in London in 1876. The first artificially frozen rink in the United States was installed in the old Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1879. Throughout the century more and more public rinks with artificially produced ice appeared. The ability to create sheets of ice inside large arenas gave rise to both skating sports and ice shows, which became a popular family entertainment in the 20th century. It also allowed for ice skating to spread to regions with warm climates.

      Sports involving ice skating alone were organized by the National Skating Association of Great Britain (1879), the National Amateur Skating Association of the United States (1886), and the Amateur Skating Association of Canada (1888). These groups, with other national groups formed in the interim, founded in 1892 the International Skating Union (ISU), which thereafter became the world governing body for speed skating, ice dancing, and figure skating. World championships had begun in the 1890s for speed skating (men only) and figure skating. Women's speed-skating world championships were first held in 1936. Figure skating for men, women, and pairs was included in the Olympic program at the 1908 Games in London, and other skating events were added later: speed skating for men in 1924 and for women in 1960; ice dancing in 1976; and short-track speed skating in 1992. The rise in popularity of ice hockey from its mid-19th-century beginnings coincided with that of pure skating in the 1920s. Ice hockey appeared in the Summer Olympics in 1920 and was included in the Winter Games upon their inauguration in 1924. In 1998 women's hockey made its Olympic debut.

Men's world figure skating championships winners
       World figure skating championship-men World figure skating championship-menThe table provides a list of the men's world figure skating championships winners.

Women's world figure skating championships winners
       World figure skating championship-women World figure skating championship-womenThe table provides a list of the women's world figure skating championships winners.

Pairs world figure skating championships winners
       World figure skating championship-pairs World figure skating championship-pairsThe table provides a list of the pairs world figure skating championships winners.

World ice dancing championships winners
       World ice dancing championships World ice dancing championshipsThe table provides a list of the world ice dancing championships winners.

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

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