|Photo © Alex Wilf
Mari-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauson
The Games haven’t seen as many falls as yesterday in the entire history of ice dance.
The original dance to the Latin themes (rumba, samba, cha-cha-cha) was always welcomed by the fans as it leaves a lot of room for the skater’s fantasy. On the other hand, in any type of dancing – ice or floor, Latin dance was always consider the essence of the soul, not technique and years of meticulous work. It was a turn of fate that wanted to make the event less predictable, as it was supposed to largely decide the fate of the gold. There was crazy tempo, limitless difficulty requirements, and at least eight equally ambitious teams..
The penultimate group had the first top ten accident when both Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas fell. Another unexpected surprise waited for Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski who were third after the compulsory dance, skated last in the group and seemingly should’ve been placed top. They staid in third behind the Ukrainians and the French.
Under the old system, there was almost no precedent at the big competitions for the standings to change after the compulsory. Look what happened here!
The second shock of the night was when Dubreuil/Lauson, who skated in the final group, were out of the medal contention. Marie-France lost the grip during the rotational lift and she flew to the side, falling on the ice from about a meter and a half.
Another fall came from Federica Faiella and Massimo Scalli.
Navka/Kostomarov skated perfectly, but it look like Fusar-Poli/Margaglio would stay on top. They danced so easily, but ten seconds before the music stopped, they fell on the rotational lift, and it was over for them as well.
«There are no falls in ice dance». Anyone connected to skating probably heard it several times. It’s not a 100% truth. Ice dancers fell at the competitions, but if it happened, it was an extreme incident, not the norm.
When Marina Anisina and Gwendal Peizerat fell at 2001 Europeans, losing any chance for the gold, I wrote, «This sport hasn’t seen such a tragedy for years. 10 seconds before the program was over, supposedly brining another gold for the 2000 European champions, Anisina’s blade got caught into her partner’s blade, he fell to her feet, she followed him, and it was over».
There were two memorable falls in Salt Lake City when the teams that had a chance to win crashed on ice. Maurizio Margaglio stumbled on the footwork, and 2001 World champions were left with the bronze; Shae Lynn Bourn and Victor Kraatz didn’t remain on their feet at the last second of the program.
But five out of top ten teams falling, and not even in the free dance!
«Why? Why were you doing those difficult connecting steps at the very end of the program?», Tatiana Tarasova asked Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas. “You could’ve finished peacefully without risking.”
Rita was almost crying, «If we would’ve made our dance easier, we would’ve been placed one of the last right away».
She might be right. Eight teams contending for the medals created such a headache for the judges, any missed element was of help as it allowed to cut the number of the contenders.
Under the new rules, dances without falls became as rarity as the dances with falls were before. On one hand, the necessity to do a certain set of difficult elements made most of the programs look alike but on the other hand, it equalized the contenders. You could’ve gotten ahead earlier with your fantasy, winning combinations, and original finds. Now, you can take any program you like as an example, and as they say, «Do it with us, do it like us, do it better than us». Of course, you can fall, but you also can be the winner.
Evgeni Platov told me yesterday, «To some degree, I’m glad these rules are in place. When I skated, I had to constantly listen to criticism that dance is impossible to judge, that this is not sport and why should it even be in the Olympics. Now there are criteria – five required elements in the original dance, nine in the free dance. Still, many things are hard to understand. One team can have marks ranging from the first place to the tenth. I, as a coach, want to ask why. Who would I ask? So, the judging irregularities will continue as long as the marks remain «closed».
There is another side. There are only four positions in dance that are marked with the top difficulty. It doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for any creativity. Maybe, there’ll be some changes after the Games. For example, it might be eight required elements in the free dance instead of night. It looks like the serpentine footwork will be removed. I can’t watch the dancers suffer 45 seconds doing it. Tania Navka did her program without this footwork in practice, and it was completely different picture.
I think everything would fall into place when the optimum proportion will be found, but there will be no more programs like Torvill and Dean’s Bolero or our Memorial with Oksana Grishuk. You can’t skate your soul out while controlling all the elements at the same time. You can allow some high emotion in the parts without difficult elements. Even if you fall there, it won’t be a large deduction. You have to control difficult lifts, or might end up very badly, like with the Canadian who was taken to the hospital right from the kiss-and-cry, and who knows if she’d be able to continue skating».
Marie-France Dubreuil took the hardest fall on Sunday when she lost her grip on the handhold and flew to the side from the spin, falling to the ice from a significant height. Platov said, «If not for those rules and crazy lift, there would be no terrible falls like that. Most likely, nobody would’ve fallen if it weren’t the Games. Everyone is very nervous».
Is that a tragedy? No doubt. We felt very bad for Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio. The fans were saying, «Did it make any sense to return to the Games just to fall a step a way from the gold for the second time in a row?»
Still, it’s hard to deny that the new rules made the dance a sport, a very interesting sport as cynical as it sounds for those who fell. I think everyone who watched the thriller in Palavela on Sunday would agree.