As I launch into this final installment of Fractured Fairytales, please know that I'm keeping tabs on all the various breakups/pairups/retirements/reverse retirements that have already taken place in the early weeks of the "off-season"... and will post about them later this week. (Another one of the above is bound to happen by then anyway.)
So let's dedicate this edition of FF to THE LADIES...
The Battle Royale
Once upon a time in the Far East, there were two countries considered to be “rivals”—something which manifested itself in different ways through the years, not the least of which came to be figure skating. One country, Japan, built up a deep team of very talented men and women that could overtake any competition at any given time. The other country, South Korea, found itself putting most of its competitive hope in just one young lady, known as Kim … but oh, how that young lady could steal the show! Even the most formidable Japanese opponents were often forced to take a back seat to her. There was only one problem with this-- if Kim opted not to compete for a while, there wasn’t much of a backup plan… other than to feverishly await her return.
So when the all important World Championships came around, fourteen months after Kim had become the newest Olympic figure skating queen, 13 months since she had last competed, and about 9 months since an infamous falling out with her now-ex coach, a string of questions hung thick in the air: was she as great as she’d ever been? Could she sweep in at the end of the season and take the biggest crown of the year with zero mileage on her 2011 programs? Or would one or more of Japan’s finest, who had been representing their country proudly all year long and felt even more of a need to do so in this… arguably one of Japan’s darkest hours… step up for the win?
Once it became clear that Japan’s youngest representative at the event wasn’t quite ready to challenge for the throne, and perhaps its best-known representative simply wasn’t up to the challenge this year (see the bonus Fractured Fairytale The Girl Who Started All Over), it came down to one relentlessly consistent young woman by the name of Ando. And when all was said and done, there was one clear winner… on paper anyway…
FREE SKATE RESULTS
Total jumps: Ando’s 45.53 to Kim’s 42.07
Total spins: Ando’s 16.00 to Kim’s 15.42
Total footwork: both earned 4.23
Components average: Kim’s 8.358 to Ando’s 8.058 (per component)
But whether you thought Kim wasn’t being rewarded enough for her OGM grace, or was getting too much of a free pass with her imperfect short program, it’s hard to deny what kept Kim from victory: the jumps, pure and simple. She may have been the most gifted all-around skater of the day—her components were certainly scored as such—nonetheless, singular but major flaws in both programs kept the Korean queen from her throne. Which left a proud Ando with something to make the people of her country smile… even if it was for just a minute or two.
The Belle of the Bronze
Who knew 3rd place could be such a coveted position in the World Championship rankings? Three maidens named Leonova, Kostner, and Czisny… that’s who.
Leonova was a sprightly Russian skater with hair of many colors… not many colors all at once; rather, a multitude of shades over time. This time she was a relatively bright shade of red, in a season that had proven at that point to be anything BUT bright. Kostner was a pretty tall Italian lass who had managed a pretty good season, despite having to forego two of the most difficult jumps in her repertoire. And Czisny was an elegant American lady who had spent the past year chasing her demons down in various corners of rinks around the world, determined to redeem herself for missing the Olympic team. She had been successful, for the most part. And her success had led her to Worlds, where she sat in 4th after the SP. There in Russia, where Worlds was held, Leonova had the crowd wrapped around her satin-gloved finger. The longer she skated, the clearer it became that she had risen to the occasion as she hadn’t done all year, especially in the way she landed her jumps solidly rather than stepping or flipping quickly out of them. It was a lovefest like no other as Leonova’s scored sailed her into second place…
She was down to third place when Kostner took the ice and, to the bewilderment of some (and probably many in the arena) when she skated a pretty, but technically less challenging program… and ended up beating Leonova for bronze by less than one point. To break it down by the numbers, it went like this:
FREE SKATE RESULTS (NOTE: Leonova and Kostner were in a dead heat going into the FS)
Total jumps: Leonova’s 43.34 to Kostner’s 39.92 +3.42
Total spins: Kostner’s 15.05 to Leonova’s 14.71
Total footwork: Kostner’s 5.33 to Leonova’s 4.30
Components average: Kostner’s 8.078 to Leonova’s 7.728 (per component)
As for Czisny, well, the legend will go that a fall on her first triple lutz—a fall she attributed to “nerves,” the all-purpose name for many of those demons she’d been chasing—cost her from upsetting both Leonova and Kostner for the bronze medal. But even without the jump, she had a better overall jump score in the free skate than bronze-medalist Kostner. And her magnificent spins—as much a trademark of the maiden as her soft-spokenness—earned her more points than any other lady in the event, including Kim and Ando! But her footwork was deemed a point or so less complex than Leonova’s… and 2 points or so less complex than Kostner’s. And when it came down to the all-important components, Czisny’s averaged 7.642 points. It was just a shade below Leonova’s average, and quite a bit below Kostner’s… nothing strong enough to transcend the rest. And so Czisny came up a little short for a medal, and yes, perhaps a few straggling demons came and held it out of her reach this year. But she’d stayed in the hunt throughout, something she'd rarely done before… and won over plenty along the way.
And learned that sometimes, all that glitters doesn’t have to be gold. Or bronze, for that matter.
The Song of Sarah
Finally, we come to the story of a Swiss miss who’d had a somewhat turbulent career, punctuated by ill-timed injuries. Although she was an 8-time national champion, a 2006 GP bronze medalist, and even a two-time European silver medalist, she’d never cracked the top 5 in three Olympic runs and nine World Championships. In fact, at 2010 Worlds she suffered a wrenching fall in the SP and failed to qualify for the finals. Still, she wasn’t ready to call it a career. At age 26 at the start of the 2010-11 season, she pushed through additional injuries to get to one last competition—the 2011 European Championships—where she finally claimed gold.
In other words… Sarah Meier was not even present at these World championships; she retired immediately after Europeans in February after calling her victory “the perfect ending.” Which goes to show just how difficult it can be to find an Un-Fractured Fairytale in figure skating.