Chuncheon Leisure Games 2008
PreludeOn Friday evening, we were all treated to a big opening ceremony, with very important people who talked in Korean on a huge scene for a very long time. We were lucky that there were two big TV screens that were simultaneously showing the English translation; otherwise it would have been hardly bearable. Then followed huge fireworks, which also lasted for a very long time, but with music on a huge sound system... I must say it was quite spectacular! Then we were treated to presentations of the Leisure Games on the above-mentioned big screens. And then again, it was the turn of the drums live show – quite impressing too – and then the dancing show that reminded me of a R'n B version of Fame. Kind of cool too, but we left to go and have dinner...
ProgramAs it is most often the case, the competition was planned on two days. On Saturday: Speed slalom qualifications for men and women, and freestyle battle.
Several nationsThe competition started around 1 PM, as planned... so that we had the time to sleep in, and then to go altogether by skate from the Motel, where all the skaters stayed, to the place of the competition. In the Motel, the melting pot was impressive: there were people from Korea, Singapore, France, Thailand, Taiwan, USA, Australia, UK, China... In fact, people were mixing especially to play video games on Nintendo DS...
Speed Slalom QualificationsSo the competition began with the womens speed slalom qualifications, around 1 PM. On a ground that we qualified unanimously of ‘very slippery'. And this is all the more frustrating that after half a second of investigations, we realized that the ground underneath the plastic puzzle used as the competition area, was made of a perfect and smooth concrete. But it is not the first competition organized on this plastic ground, and it is hard to protest.
For the womens speed slalom, the biggest half of the skaters was Korean, the other half was more eclectic with two Thais, one Chinese (Chen Chen, #5 WSSA), one English (Naomi Grigg, #3), and one French (Chloé Seyrès, #1). After the two qualification runs, Chloé Seyrès is in the lead with the two best times – including the second in 5.19 sec: it's the new WSSA World record. Chen Chen (CHN) ranks second with her first run in 5.67, then Jong Jae Won 5KOR) and Chia Chi (TWN) rank third and forth with respectively 6.16 and 6.13. Only the first four are qualified for the finals on Sunday.
As for the men, they were 30. Only the eight first were to be kept for the morrow. Yu Jin Sung (KOR, #20 in WSSA speed slalom) got the best time (5.11), closely followed by Wang Heng (CHN, #2) with 5.14, himself also nearly as closely followed by Sébastien Laffargue (FRA, #3) with 5.19. The next three skaters – Guo Fang (CHN, #1), Ping Kai (TWN) and Igor Cheremetieff (FRA) – are situated around 5.3. And the last skaters to get qualified, both around 5.5, are Jia Hong (TWN) and Kim Joo Young (KOR).
A slippery ground like the one we got generates two problems: the first during the run up when we tend to... slip, and the second during the slaloming-part when we can't but content ourselves with the initial speed – it's impossible to accelerate.
Womens Freestyle BattleBattle-time! There too, the slippery ground is quite disturbing: apart from a few falls, a lot of riders are a bit apprehensive to try some tricks that necessitate a ground response.
The Freestyle Battle was presented only as a show this year on this WSSA Competition. The jury, though made of experienced skaters (amongst them: Kim Tae Hong, just back from London), were informed on the job about the notation system. Nevertheless, the results remained logical and coherent. The Battle will be quoted 'one cone' (basic event) in the WSSA circuit, given its status of simple exhibition – although the level was exceptionally high.
Women first... it was quite a small aperitif with only six riders – eight registered, but two gave up at the last minute. Such a shame, especially when it happens in my semi-finals group! Then the first semi-final coup is made of Chloé Seyrès (FRA, #1 WSSA) and of Jeon Jae Wong (KOR), who are qualified for the finals whatever the results. The second semi-final group presents a far more interesting challenge: it is made of Chen Chen (CHN, #2), Naomi Grigg (UK, #3), Chia Chi (TWN), and Lee Ji Hee (KOR). Chen Chen is fare above the rest and qualifies for the finals without efforts... in practising her scales: one line of wheelings, another line of footgun, another one of Korean spins, and a few dancing steps to get fluidity to the whole... it's only warm-ups for her. The second place of the group goes to Lee Ji Hee. The decision must have been hard to make as Naomi Grigg and her were very close in performance during the three runs. Lee Ji Hee tried more technical tricks than Naomi, but Naomi was much more at ease on the cones.
In finals, Chloé Seyrès (FRA) and Chen Chen (CHN) are strongly fighting for the first place. This is when Chen Chen decides to skate for real (this is the end of the warm-ups): ultra-fast sevens, one foot heel specials, frontward to backward wheelings... Chloé Seyrès also brings out the big guns (as far as possible on a slippery ground) and defends herself with kicks, spins, wheelings and sitting tricks. As for the two Korean girls, Jeong Jae Won and Lee Ji Hee, they don't break with the Korean typical style made of stylish steps. After the three runs, the last trick remains: a 20-cone kasatchoc on the 80s, turning on the last cone, and back (only a few cones) for Chloé Seyrès; and a 5-cone butterfly on the 120s for Chen Chen. Finally, the jury decides to put Chen Chen first, Chloé Seyrès second, Jeong Jae Won third, and Lee Ji Hee forth.
Results of the Womens Freestyle BattleChen Chen (CHN)
Chloé Seyrès (FRA)
Jeon Jae Wong (KOR)
Lee Ji Hee (KOR)
Mens Freestyle BattleThe Mens battle follows immediately... it's a different ball (wheel?) game. Maybe they are only 20, but they are all serial killers of freestyle. To cite a few: Igor Cheremetieff (FRA, #1 WSSA), Guo Fang (CHN, #2), Wang Heng (CHN, #5), Bao Hui (CHN, #6), Yu Jin Sung (KOR, #9), Lin En Ning (CHN, #13), the Cheung brothers (SIN, Clarence #16 and Terence #19)... All nearly without exception, are experts in never-ending toe spins, in ultra-fast sevens (te or heel), and in smooth and light freestyle moves. For each group, the decision is a real headache... and this is true from the eighth finals on. In quarter finals, the cleansing is pitiless: the end for the Cheung brothers (SIN), Bao Hui (CHN), John Stanning (AUS – who goes on with his trip around the world, cf. Battle US and Battle Warsaw), and Yiu Jia Hong (TWN).
Semi-finalsThe first semi-final gathers three Koreans (Kim Tae Bin (#41), Lee Jong Suk (#300), and Lee Chung Gon) and one Chinese (Lin En Nin). Lee Jong Suk, coming out of the blue (in fact, coming from the 300th place if the World Ranking...) continues his way and ranks 1st of his group, beyond dispute. Lin En Nin finishes 4th: he is out. As for Kim Tae Bin and Lee Chung Gon, they fight in an ultimate last trick: Lee Chung Gon goes first with a toe seven ending in a never-ending toe spin. Kim Tae Bin – who masters the same kind of trick panel, takes up the challenge and does the same... but a few losses of balance prevent him from ending with a clean spin, which costs him his going through to the finals. The 2nd place thus goes to Lee Chung Gon.
The second semi-final group is even closer, with Igor Cheremetieff (FRA), Yu Jin Sung (KOR), and the inseparable Wang Heng (CHN) and Guo Fang (CHN). Wang Heng is 1st, Yu Jin Sung is 4th... and here is the same hesitation for the distribution of the 2nd and 3rd palces... it is true that Guo Fang showed highly technical tricks (seven to... seven but in the opposite direction... I got it: the first 7-cone seven was his switch?!) but he was often out of the line. And Igor Cheremetieff didn't pass all his tricks either, but he showed varied tricks which enabled him to win his ticket to the finals, raking 2nd.
FinalsThe finals. The cream of the one-wheel psychotics, for a change: Lee Jong Suk (KOR), Lee Chung Gon (KOR), Wang Heng (CHN), and Igor Cheremetieff (FRA). The finalists chose their order of passage according to their World Ranking. Igor Cheremetieff decides to go first, Wang Heng to go fourth, Chung Gon chooses the third place, and Lee Jong Suk finds himself at the second place.
Very often in battle finals, it's easy to guess two internal fights: two riders fighting for the 1st place, and the two others for the 3rd place. But here, it's more like a general massacre: the four riders aspire to the 1st place! Igor Cheremetieff distances himself thanks to his powerful style, contrary to the others who mostly count on lightness. Is it sufficient? He plays with kicks, sitting tricks (big advantage facing Asian adversaries who skate without cuffs) – but he also plays using the same panel as the others in showing sevens and toe wipers. Wang Heng's dexterity is impressive, and he remains steady as for his performances from the beginning of the battle – let's note a slight fall of his trick-passing rate. Lee Chung Gon and Lee Jong Suk are very present also. Surely the last trick is going to determine a lot of things: Igor Cheremetieff tries (twice without the discounted success) the-longuest-wheeling with only one skate (the free foot, in its sock) and he manages 20 cones of the 80s on his second try, but puts his foot down while he is turning back at the end of the line. Lee Chung Jon manages a nice toe seven on the 10 cones of the 80s, ending with that same toe spin that previously offered him his qualification in finals. Lee Jong Suk also plays on the 10 cones of the 80s with a full speed Korean spin ending with a heel spin. At last, Wang Heng, still on these same 10 cones, manages a 3-cone external back heel seven with a discouraging balance.
No doubt now that the last trick is determining! It propels the unknown Lee Jong Suk at the 1st place, in front of Igor Cheremetieff (2nd), Wang Heng (3rd) and Lee Chung Gon (4th)
Results of the Mens Freestyle BattleLee Jong Suk (KOR)
Igor Cheremetieff (FRA)
Wang Heng (CHN)
Lee Chung Gon (KOR)
Finally, we found ourselves altogether in a restaurant booked by the organisation, before walking back to the Motel with the utmost difficulty (too tired to walk).
Speed Slalom KO SystemsOn Sunday morning at 9AM, a coach was waiting for us in front of the Motel to give us a ride to the competition area.
The women started with the speed slalom KO systems.
Good surprise: the organisation finally decides to keep the first eight times of the qualifications.
The charts are a little upset by a last minute qualification: that of Sin Eun Young (KOR) who couldn't be there on Saturday, and who runs in 5.88: she comes thus at the 3rd place of the qualifications ranking.
The quarter finals unfold without surprise: the favourites (i.e. the first four times of the qualifications) go through.
The same for the semi-finals: the first two (Chloé Seyrès (FRA) and Chen Chen (CHN)) win respectively against Jong Jae Won (Kor) and Sin Eun Young (KOR).
The consolation finals are quickly done: Jong Jae Won hits three cones on her first run, and strikes on the second. It is then Sin Eun Young (KOR), her opponent, who wins the consolation finals and gets the 3rd place.
The finals are less easy. In pure speed, Chloé Seyrès is faster. But during the first run, she shifts 3 cones out of the line and offers the first round to Chen Chen. She equalises on the second round. As for the third round, C.Seyrès is leading but she's got a fatal loss of concentration at the end of the line and shoots one cone... the 0.2 penalty puts her 3 hundredths behind Chen Chen who seizes the 1st place.
Results of the Womens Speed Slalom KO SystemsChen Chen (CHN)
Chloé Seyrès (FRA)
Sin Eun Young (KOR)
Jong Jae Won (KOR)
The Men go on with their quarter finalsJust like the women, no surprises for the quarter finals: the favourites win their rounds.
The first semi final was between Yu Jin Sung (KOR) (first of the qualifications) and Guo Fang (CHN), and the second semi final between Sébastien Laffargue (FRA) and Wang Heng (CHN). During the first semi final, Yu Jin Sung strikes on two of his three runs, and in the second Sébastien Laffargue strikes on his first run and makes two penalties on his second run. They find themselves against each other in the consolation finals, letting the real final to the two Chinese Guo Fang and Wang Heng.
S.Laffargue wins the consolation final in two winning rounds, helped by his opponent Yu Jin Sung who accumulates mistakes (three cones on the first round, and a strike on the second).
[NB: a little reminder of the WSSA definition of a strike: a strike corresponds to more than 4 fallen cones. Above 4 cones, the run is not taken heed of.]
The show offered by the finals is much more impressive: the first round is won by Wang Heng who remains in first position despite a fallen cone; the second round goes to Guo Fang who accelerates and does a perfect, contrary to Wang Heng (two penalties); and the third round is finally won by Wang Heng who speeds up a little more (5.18), still making a perfect – Guo Fang is behind, furthermore with two penalties.
Results of the Mens Speed Slalom KO SystemsWang Heng (CHN)
Guo Fang (CHN)
Sébastien Laffargue (FRA)
Yu Jin Sung (KOR)
Freestyle JamThe next competition is that of Freestyle Jam. This discipline is under-developed in Europe – where it sometimes timidly appears as simple shows – but it is far more developed in Asia. It is part of the official Classics, just like speed slalom, and individual freestyle. This time there were only 6 teams. Fortunately, Quantity isn't synonymous with Quality... and quality was there! With the Cheung brothers (SIN), Guo Fang and Lin En Ning (CHN), Kim Tae Bin and Yu Jin Sung (KOR), Sin Eun Young and Kim Min Hyo (KOR)... and even Naomi Grigg (UK) and John Stanning (AUS) got hooked on jams. Usually jams are mostly made of dance steps combos, synchronised or with a mirror effect, and pay a particular attention to music. This doesn't prevent from showing big tricks (synchronized sevens with the same ending).
The winning jam (the Koreans Kim Tae Bin and Yu Jin Sung) was none the less very well performed (synchronicity, yet a few cones down but not too many) but also particularly original with jumps from one line to the other keeping the synchronisation... the seconds are the Chinese Guo Fang and Lin En Ning – too bad they shot so many cones. The third place goes to Sin Eun Young and Kim Min Hyo (KOR), slower than and maybe not as technical as the two first places.
Womens Individual FreestyleNo rest for the jury: it's immediately time for the womens freestyle. There are 5 judges. To make it simple: each judge gives a global mark, the lower and the highest mark are eliminated; they add the three remaining marks, then divide the result by two, and remove the penalties. The marks are given immediately after the run of the skater.
The order of passage is made following the registration order. They are 12 skaters. It's the first skaters to go who get out while the going is good. Amongst the 4 first to go, are the three girls who will finish on the podium: Naomi Grigg (UK, number 2 to go, #5 WSSA), Chloé Seyrès (FRA, number 3, #1 WSSA), and Chen Chen (CHN, number 4, #3 WSSA). All three perform globally well, and remain faithful to their skating: N.Grigg (ranking 3rd) counts on style at the expense of pure technique, with a very smooth final impression; C.Seyrès (2nd place) manages with a clean run – even if slightly reserved because taking edges on a slippery ground is quite risky; as for Chen Chen (1st place... yes she makes it a hat trick winning the speed slalom, the battle, and the individual!) she shows a run close to perfection – except for a one foot heel special she doesn't pass, and a hesitation on a style-effect jump – with no fallen cone, and a broad smile upon her face (as usual). The 4th and 5th, Jeon Jae Wong (KOR) and Sin Eun Young (KOR), closely follow N.Grigg but they made too many mistakes kicking cones, which prevent them from ranking in the top 3.
Results of Womens Individual FreestyleChen Chen (CHN)
Chloé Seyrès (FRA)
Naomi Grigg (UK)
Slides Show by the Micro Slide Team SingaporeTo make a break, the public is treated to a slide show given by the Micro Slide Team from Singapore. Some very long slides, more or less complex, but always very visual (even the arms position is worked on very closely); individual slides, synchronised jam, crossed slides... with or without preparation (launching move). To sum up: it was a show of quality made by a united team full of energy.
Mens Individual FreestyleAnd let's go again for the rest of the competition: now is mens individual freestyle. 37 riders. Principally Asian: Koreans (Yu Jin Sung (#9), Lee Chung Gon (#270), Lee Joung Suk (#166), Kim Tae Bin (#41)...), Chinese (Guo Fang (#2), Wang Heng (#5), Lin En Ning (#13), Bao Hui (#6)...), Singaporeans (Clarence (#16) and Terence (#19) Cheung), Thailand and Taiwan people... On the contrary, you could count the non-Asian people on the fingers of one hand: Igor Cheremetieff (FRA, #1), Sébastien Laffargue (FRA, #17), Jeremy LaCivita (US, #56), and John Stanning (AUS, #57).
Some of you may wonder: where is Kim Sung Jin? And yet he is at home here in Korea... In fact, he was there... to cheer his friends, and chat with people. Why was he only a spectator? The little avant-gardist genius of freestyle is having a sabbatical year to concentrate on his studies...
The competitionNow that I've cited the main actors of the freestyle competition, let's talk about the ranking. If you go by the reputation, there are the freestyle twins Guo Fang and Wang Heng (CHN) who should ensure the show, Igor Cheremetieff (FRA) who'd better count on the difference (of skating) to be a cut above the rest, Yu Jin Sung and Kim Tae Bin (KOR) the slalom-session mates of Kim Sung Jin (this remark is meant to situate the level of the two friends – who won the jam sooner in the afternoon). One notch bellow, there are still Lin En Ning (CHN) the god of style (this appreciation is totally subjective) and Bao Hui (CHN): their respective styles are full of dance steps particularly original, and they both work hard on the placing of their arms. Also there are the Cheug brothers (SIN) as well as Lee Chung Gon (KOR – who ranked 3rd in Anyang the previous week, just behind Yu Jin Sung and Kim Tae Bin) who can probably put their oar in the top-ranking.
Finally, it's Yu Jin Sung (KOR) who takes hold of the 1st place of the individual freestyle. It's hard to find fault with his run: no cones down, clean, set to the music, quite visual (except for a footgun... actually more standing than sitting) with nice spins and combos soundly linked. For once that he makes the most of his run – because he seems to have a chronic malediction during national competitions. Ranking 2nd (only half a point below), Guo Fang's run (CHN) is also nearly-perfect (kicking only one cone at the end of the 50s doing a jumping toe wiper) – in my opinion he didn't show enough consequent tricks (too many dance moves), which I find so frustrating as a spectator when I know he manages very technical tricks at a very high level of success (cf. his performances in the battle competition). The 3rd, 4th and 5th places also take up in half a point (and they are at only a point from the two first places): respectively they go to Bao Hui (CHN), Kim Jon Hwa (KOR) and Igor Cheremetieff (FRA). Bao Hui makes a good general performance, except during the technical peaks of his run: he strikes three cones doing a toe wiper at the end of the 50s, is out of the line for his toe seven at the end of the 80s, and he manages his last technical trick (one foot heel special on the 80s) with difficulty. Kim Jon Hwa does well, for his come-back, with a real kasatchoc on the 80s (rare enough in Asia to be underlined), frontward to backward as well as backward to frontward wheelings: a well-built consistent run. Igor Cheremetieff shows a highly technical run with lots of powerful technical tricks. It's probably the four cones he kicked and his approximate skating to the music (key-element for the judging) that prevent him from reaching the podium. Apart from a frontward to backward wheeling at the end of the 50s and a toe seven, he manages all the other tricks. Wang Heng's run was not a success, kicking far too many cones to reach the top-five, and ranks 6th. Lee Chon Gon and Lin En Ning don't show extraordinary performances either (same problem of cones), which relegates them to the 7th and 11th places. The Cheung brothers end up in the middle of the charts (Terence 14th and Clarence 21st). Ki Tae Bin, although one of the favourites, fails: he falls on his very first trick... he tries to make up for it during the rest of his run, but it is a real blow to the general impression, and he ranks 13th.
The videosYu Jin Sung
Kim Jong Hwa
Résults of the Mens Individual Freestyle:1. Yu Jin Sung
2. Guo Fang
3. Bao Hui
End of the competitionThere was an idle time between the end of the competition and the podiums: they were planned at 5PM and we had to wait for the officials.
The first three of each category were given prize money.
On the whole, this was a rich and full competition: each discipline of slalom-skating was the subject of a competition. For a first rehearsal for the real 2010 event, this is rather promising.
WSSA RankingAt the end of this WSSA Main competition, the world ranking gets some modifications.
The main change is Chen Chen (CHN) reaching number #1 in womens freestyle slalom (at the expense of Chloé Seyrès), ad number #2 in speed slalom. Naomi Grigg (UK) takes Shin Eun Young's (KOR) 4th place in the world ranking, thanks to her good performance. As for Shin Eun Young, she reaches the top-10 in freestyle and the 6th place in speed slalom.
For men, the absence of Kim Sung Jin (KOR) (who thus loses the points he got last year in Jeon-Ju) throws him out of the top-10, and offers to Rudy Op't Veld (GER – absent in Chuncheon) the 2nd place in the world ranking. Yu Jin Sung (KOR), the big winner of this weekend, wins 3 places and becomes #6. Also a good operation for Lin En Ning (CHN) who reaches #7 (previously Xuan Le's (FRA) place) despite a fairly average result.
In the speed slalom world ranking, Lan Wang Heng (CHN) gets hold of the 1st place thanks to his victory – 1st place previously belonging to Guo Fang (CHN), who loses 2 places (cf. he was 1st last year the the Jeon-Ju competition). This enables Sébastien Laffargue (FRA) to pull himself up to the 2nd place. Igor Cheremetieff gets the 4th place at the expense of JB Milleret (FRA). Let's note also the fall of Yu Da Jin (KOR) (absent) in the ranking, who gets out of the top-10. This gives Christian Stelzer (GER) the 10th place.
The next decisive competitions for the world ranking will be Battle UK (Oct.11-12, Nottingham, England), and the Asian Championship in Haining, China (Oct.14-15)
A few useful linksInternational Leisure Games
World Slalom Series
Korean freestyle association websiteText: Chloé Seyrès
Photos : all rights reserved