Bringing Down the House at Marshalls U.S. Figure Skating Challenge

by Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Michelle Kwan takes top honors at the 2005 Marshalls U.S. Figure Skating Challenge.
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla

Event Results and Photos

(3/29/05) — The skaters made the job easy for the judges at the Marshalls U.S. Figure Skating Challenge Tuesday night in Tampa, Fla. Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek brought the house down with their winning programs and each captured the $50,000 first prize.

Kwan, skating to “Bolero,” showed the spark and the passion that went AWOL in Moscow's qualifying round two weeks ago at the World Championships. Tonight her eyes showed intensity as she attacked jump and after jump, making them look easy. Her final footwork sequence was a highlight, with turns and twists that flew across the ice. Her jumps included two Lutzes and two flips, but no loop attempt and only a double toe near the end of the four minutes.

“I felt really good out there,” Kwan said. “The ice is really fabulous and to hear the audience – it's different than Moscow that's for sure. To come from Moscow to beautiful sunny weather, I was so tempted to go lay out at the pool! Just a week ago it was -10 Celsius, so it's like, ‘This is spring, this is what I like!' I'm a California girl!”

Lysacek showed the confidence that comes with being the new World bronze medalist. His “Singin' in the Rain” program demands attention from the playful opening through the beautiful pair of triple Axels and his triple Lutz-triple toe combination, across the footwork that floats from one end of the rink to the other, all the way to his closing pose that embraces the audience.

“That's the last time I'll be doing this program,” Lysacek said. “So to skate it clean was cool for me – a good way to retire it. Usually I just come and I want to have fun. I think I put on a good show; that's what I tried to do. I was a little disappointed. The second half of my program was a little blah because I felt kind of tired. I got in at 3:30 this morning. For the most part I had a good time and I think they (the crowd) enjoyed it.”

The Marshalls U.S. Figure Skating Challenge was contested under the 6.0 judging system, and Kwan was back in her comfort zone.

“I was much more at ease (tonight), but that's because I had to adjust to the new system (at Worlds) and I wasn't really comfortable with it yet,” Kwan said. “Moscow was definitely a learning experience. I went through a lot of emotions. It was frustrating at the beginning because you just have to learn so many new things. The point system didn't make any sense. And then I went to the Worlds and it was my first impression of it, being judged under the system and getting a lot of feedback from different judges and officials and callers. I have my eyes open now, and I know what it takes.”

World silver medalist Sasha Cohen fought through struggles with an injured groin to take second. Cohen had not performed a full run-through of her free skate since the final night of competition in Moscow.

Evan Lysacek at the Marshalls Challenge in Tampa
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
“I pulled my groin on Friday training, and I haven't done anything since,” Cohen said. “I took yesterday off, and I did doubles in the shows.

“I was happy I stayed on my feet," she continued. "Considering everything, my injury, I tried hard. It was nowhere near what I can do, but I can go home O.K with that.”

Cohen's program was lovely, even without the usual snap in her jumps. Most of Cohen's jumps were low and many two-footed, but her spins and spirals seemed even stronger. While Cohen admits that her body won't do what she wants because of the injury, she tuned in on choreography and mesmerizing arms that perfectly accented the nuances in the music.

Johnny Weir placed second with “Otonal.” He attempted the quad toe, although it was not successfully completed.

“I tried it and it wasn't that bad of an attempt for the first time in competition, so I'm pleased with that,” Weir said. “The rest of the program could have been a lot stronger, of course. I'm just so thrilled for the season to be over.

Weir's program included five clean triples and his usual excellent spins and footwork. His energy wasn't as high as it has been, something Weir attributes to the end of the season.

“I've been under the weather a bit,” Weir said. “It's just because I'm so exhausted with everything I've been doing. I haven't really had any downtime to prepare. I am not getting enough sleep as well as the same foot problem I had at Worlds.”

Rounding out the field, Timothy Goebel took third with six triples in a strong effort. Matt Savoie took a third-place ordinal from Goebel in a program marred by two falls. Pops and falls put Derrick Delmore and Shaun Rogers in fifth and sixth, respectively.

For the ladies, Jennifer Kirk skated better than she has since the 2004 U.S. Championships in Atlanta, landing all her jumps in a program that built as she knocked off each successful triple. Kimmie Meissner attempted the triple Axel, sitting down after fighting for the landing. Emily Hughes showed her bronze medal at the World Junior Championships was well deserved, as her floating program to “Sleeping Beauty” showcased five clean triples, including a triple flip-double toe-double loop. Beatrisa Liang had some problems in the middle of her program and placed sixth.

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