The men’s event kicked off with its share of excitement at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships being held at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden. Jeffrey Buttle of Canada took the lead after the short program in which he scored 82.10 points.
Johnny Weir (USA) edged Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi by 0.39 points for second place.
Meanwhile the ice dance competition concluded with three new pairs of medalist standing on the podium. Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France claimed the gold medal and the title. Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took the silver and Russia’s Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski captured the bronze.
Buttle gave a strong performance to “Adios Nonino” by Astor Piazzolla. “I felt very comfortable today on the ice," Buttle said. "I have been practicing hard and training well so I went out there today knowing that all hard training was over and I was just going to enjoy myself and have a good skate and I am glad that I did.”
He nailed a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a solid triple Axel and a triple Lutz out of footwork. The 2008 Four Continents silver medalist was awarded a level four for the flying sit and the combination spin and a level three for the two step sequences to pick up 82.10 points (44.07 element score/ 38.03 program component score).
Performing to “Yunona and Avos,” Weir nailed a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, a triple Axel and a triple flip. His jumps were smooth and effortless.
The three-time U.S. champion scored a season best of 80.79 points (42.64/38.15). “I felt fantastic on the ice today," he said. "The audience helped me through this performance and I felt like it was a regular run-through I did everything I am trained to do.
"I've been happy to be in Sweden for such a long time because I feel that I'm comfortable here, I am not rushed. The short program came at the perfect time, just when I'm getting at the point when I'm a little bit too comfortable. With the long program tomorrow I'm excited to get that over with.”
Takahashi opened his innovative routine to a Hip Hop version of "Swan Lake" with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination but then stumbled out of his triple Axel. The Four Continents champion recovered to nail a triple Lutz and produced fast, well centered spins, earning a level four for two of them. The crowd cheered for his extravagant footwork. Takahashi got a level three for both step sequences and scored 80.40 points (41.15/39.25).
“I was a little nervous but I enjoyed skating a lot and the audience helped a lot. I missed the triple Axel so that wasn’t very good,” Takahashi said. “I have been in Sweden for quite a long time to prepare for this competition and first I found it hard but today I was ready.”
The skaters ranked fourth to sixth are not far behind which promises an interesting battle in the free skating. Tomas Verner (CZE), 2008 European champion, skated a strong short program that included a triple flip-triple toe combination, a triple Axel and a triple Lutz. He is within striking distance of the podium at 79.87 points.
Stéphane Lambiel (SUI) finished fifth. He stumbled on his triple Axel, but landed a quadruple toe loop. However, the second jump in the quad-triple toe combination was downgraded (79.12 points).
Reigning World champion Brian Joubert landed a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, but fell on his triple Lutz. He is currently ranked sixth (77.75 points)
Delobel and Schoenfelder delivered a beautiful performance of their “The Piano” free dance. The French duo completed a rotational lift in a low position, a intricate yet flowing footwork, a serpentine lift with changes of position and a curve-rotational lift.
They received a level four for the steps and lifts and a level three for their spin to collect 104.96 points (53.57 element score/51.39 program component score), surpassing their previous personal best of 101.96 points from three years ago. They were ranked second in the free dance but remained in first place overall with 212.94 points.
“It is more than just being happy. It was a long way for us. It is our first medal at Worlds and it’s the gold medal, so this is just amazing,” Delobel said. “We did a great job. We focused on our technical elements but also skated with passion and emotion which gave us points for the presentation.”
Virtue and Moir gave an inspiring performance of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” They opened their romantic program with excellent twizzles followed by a curve-rotational lift and a combination spin. Their steps were difficult but looked effortless. The 2008 Four Continents champions scored a new personal best of 105.26 points (54.69/50.59) and won the free dance by just 0.32 points. Overall they moved up from third to second at 208.80 points.
“We are definitely excited I think you could tell that from the kiss and cry. This is the high light of our skating carrier so far. We are so pleased with how it went today and about how it went the whole week, we expected to come here and just do this, it is different thing to actually come and follow through so we are extremely pleased with ourselves,” Moir said.
Khokhlova and Novitski’s dynamic performance to “Night on Bald Mountain” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King” was highlighted by their spectacular lifts and a dance spin with many changes of positions. Their side-by-side midline footwork was smooth and right on the music, but Novitski briefly slipped during the circular step sequence.
The couple was awarded a level four for all elements except for the two step sequences that were graded a level three. The European bronze medalists earned 99.29 points (50.66/48.63) which added up to a total of 203.26 points. “
Right now I don’t have any emotions. We had hoped to fight for a medal, but it was more like a dream. When it yesterday became realistic with the silver, it pushed us and we really wanted to repeat the success. It was enough for the bronze, which is great – to have the bronze at Worlds. But right now I still don’t fully understand it,” Khohklova explained.
Novitski added, “We are very happy with our scores and placement, it is definitely a big step forward to us. There was a lot of tension, especially in the last warm up group. When we got out on ice we were trying not to think about a medaling, we just want to focus on skating as well as we can."
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto (USA) finished fourth with a their lyrical Chopin Free Dance. They were ranked third in the free dance (203.00 points).
Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali (ITA) produced a smooth performance of their program to “Yentl” and were awarded a level four for all eight elements. They were fourth in the free dance and fifth overall (201.91 points).