Slutskaya Defies the Odds; Cohen Wins Silver at 2005 Worlds

by Sal Zanca, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Irina Slutskaya at the 2005 World Championships
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla

Event Results, Photos and News

(3/19/05) — If there ever was a feel-good moment in figure skating, seeing new World champion Irina Slutskaya bask in the adoration of the Moscow fans at Luzhniki Sports Palace was one. Coming back from a season of frustration a year ago, Slutskaya claimed her second World title Saturday.

“This gold medal is probably the dearest to me in all my collection,” she said, clutching the medal as she tried to explain how she felt.

After she struggled at the 2004 World Championships people started to count her out.

Instead she completed an unbeaten year Saturday with her highest score of the season, despite receiving a penalty for doing an extra triple loop.

She hit seven clean triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple loop that brought back memories of her golden days in 2000.

“I really believed in myself,” she said. “I felt I could do it because I was jumping great in warm-up and made great jumps throughout the training sessions. “I felt so confident I did the extra loop. They penalized me but luckily that didn't take out too many points. I think if I didn't do it, I could have scored more points.”

Her routine to piano pieces by Croatian and Japanese composers scored 130.10 points.

Sasha Cohen scored 124.61 in her free skate to finish second and win her second consecutive World silver medal. Five-time World champion Michelle Kwan was fourth overall, but she had the third-best free skate score, 113.98. Italy's Carolina Kostner picked up the bronze, her first World medal, edging Kwan 200.56 to 200.19 overall.

Slutskaya recalled her health problems that began in November 2003.

“I would not call it a low point,” Slutskaya said. “You don't have a choice. [If] you have a sickness, you have a sickness. I hope I will serve as a good role model to people who feel bad and have no faith in themselves, in case they have no faith in recovering. I hope my example will prove anything is possible and they can find a way out in any situation.

“I'm happy because it's so difficult to come back so many times, to suffer so many misfortunes,” continued Slutskaya, who also missed the 2003 World Championships because her mother was ill. “Let's live to the Olympics!”

Cohen was penalized for small flaws in some jumps and for a triple flip that she landed off-balance. She finished about eight points behind Slutskaya, 222.21 to 214.39, but looked at the loss as a challenge.

A second straight World medal for Sasha Cohen
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
“I feel I could have skated a little bit better and it would have been nice to move up to the gold,” Cohen said.

She knows what she has to do to make that move.

“It's going to have to be a lot of work with the points system, to take advantage of every possible point and just executing flawlessly,” she said.

She didn't do that Saturday with her routine to “The Nutcracker,” but she started off well with two combinations and an impressive triple loop. Then things unraveled as she barely held on to the landing on a triple flip and had a combination that was slightly two-footed on the first part and stepped out of the second.

“Mistakes come when you are not confident, and I think I wasn't sure enough of myself at the end,” she said. “When you are a little tired it takes something away from your confidence.”

Kostner took advantage of the technical aspects of the system with a huge triple-triple-double combination at the start that earned more than 12 points within 15 seconds of the start. That helped make up for other small mistakes.

Kwan leaves Moscow without a medal — the first time she has not finished in the top three since 1995. She fell on a triple Salchow and her other jumps lacked the energy other skaters had.

“I can leave Moscow satisfied, but disappointed — kind of a roller coaster ride and not as consistent as I wanted it to be,” she said. “I have a lot to learn from the new system. I'm kind of disappointed, but I guess there's another chance, another year, another opportunity.”

And she wants to take her time in thinking things out and consider what happened this week.

“I have get my mind together, get everything organized and schedule. and find in my heart and do all the math (needed for the new system),” Kwan said.

Jennifer Kirk also had a much stronger free skate Saturday than in her qualifying round. She looked more comfortable on the ice and landed four triples. She fell on her triple loop and singled her planned triple Salchow. She says she is looking forward to the upcoming Olympic year.

“Definitely next year is very important, and I'm happy that my performances were able to get better (this week),” Kirk said. “I'm not saying I felt good, but I'll just have to keep working.”

While others wonder what went wrong and how to correct things, Slutskaya can just sit back and know what it takes to win a World title again.

“Stay the way I am,” she said.

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