WFSC 2012 in Lishui (China) - Day 3 (4/4)
WFSC 2012, Lishui: Saturday, Aug. 25th - DAY 3.2 – Battle Competition
...but the delay is reasonable and we already know that we will manage to finish the program! The next (and last) report will focus on the Battle competition.
After the competitions of Speed Slalom and Slides, let’s make room for Battles! The competition has already started yesterday evening in the sports hall with the pre-qualifiers and the men’s first rounds (eights finals), so that both men and women are at the same stage on that Saturday evening: Quarter-Finals. The competition unfolds alternating men and women, so that the two categories are treated in parallel and the two finals happen one after the other. For more clarity, I will not organize the report in a chronological order (by rounds), but one category after the other.
Women’s Battle: Quarter Finals
QF#1 –There are 16 women divided into 4 groups. Out of the qualified women, 11 of them are in the Top-16… As soon as the first group, decisions are hard to take for the crucial second place: Fight 1 – Zoé Granjon v. Meng Yun. The first place goes to Daria Kuznetsova by right: She is high above in her two runs, with a long combo made of a [ back to front Wheeling + cobra + Korean spins ] as well as a [ 10-cone heel seven ] on her first run, a good [ 10-cone toe footgun ] and a [ toe shift + butterfly (changing the front leg in the middle) ] for her second run. Huan Yu-Hsuan, who won the pre-qualifiers of yesterday (see video), ends up 4th. Only Meng Yun and Zoé Granjon remain and it is hard to choose… their performances are quite messy (lots of cones down), Meng Yun shows slightly harder technical tricks or combos like [ back heel seven ] or [ toe flip + seven ] but Zoé’s tricks last longer and she has more links… The French finally goes through to the next round. This is a 2 v. 1 decision.
QF#2 –The second group witnesses another dual: Klaudia Hartmanis v. Chen Chen! They are fighting for the first place and they are very determined: big combos for the two of them [ back-front-back heel Wheeling ] for Klaudia, [ butterfly + back-front toe Wheeling + shift + seven ] for Chen Chen… and let’s not forget side-tricks such as [ toe wiper ] for Chen Chen, and [ toe foot gun ] and [ kasakspin + kasakchok] for Klaudia… The Polish is more varied with her sitting tricks but the Chinese convinces 2 judges out of 3 for the first place.
QF#3 –Things come in threes. It is then quite naturally that the judges come across another divided decision for the third group where Chinese team-mates Su Fei Qian and Guan Yu Xiang redouble their efforts for the first place. Marina Boyko is in the running too, but the Chinese dexterity get the better of her, although she fought bravely: [ toe footgun on 10 cones ] and [ kasakspin ], [ heel seven on 12 ] and [ toe seven on 8 ], her [ special heel flip on 15 cones ] and a creditable combo [ butterfly + flip + seven ]. The Chinese strike stronger with [ toe footguns ] longer than hers, bigger combos [ back cobra + toe shift + flip ] for Guan Yu Xiang, back and forth tricks on the line [ heel shift 11 + 16 ] for Su Fei Qian and [ sewing machine left & right with a stop’n go transition ] for Guan Yu Xiang… The question is: Who should rank first? Guan Yu Xiang, the 2012 junior speed and classic world vice-champion, takes the advantage with a 2 v. 1 decision, in front of Su Fei Qian the 2012 senior classic world champion.
QF#4 –The fourth group is led by 2012 junior classic world champion Feng Hui and is the only one to run smoothly. The ranking is quite clear, with Wang Ching Yu-Xin 2nd, Polina Semenova 3rd and Barbara Bossi 4th. Feng Hui dominates the group: super fast [ heel seven ], super long [ toe chicken leg ], impressive combos [ back-front toe Wheeling + big sewing-machine ], and original attempts [ heel + toe shift with a jumped transition ], etc.
SF#1 – The first semi-final is a Chinese group with a Russian lost in the middle. But Daria Kuznetsova is not intimidated and seizes one of the two qualifying places for the final! She is varied, quite clean and shows clever combos. Su Fei Qian qualifies too with impressive shifts, flips, sevens, chicken legs, and of course the fashionable toe footgun. On the other hand, Chen Chen does not seem to have come up with a battle plan and uselessly persists in doing [ toe shifts ] again and again, from her very first trick to her very last. Although she does a couple of (unconvincing) sevens, a christie and a butterfly to vary a bit, it is far from being enough to go through. As for Wang Ding Yu Sin, the last competitor of the group, she showed quite a varied and strong performance with combos such as [ heel reverse shift + flip on 12 cones ], [ heel flips ] and [ heel shifts ] on 15 cones, etc. but she still lacks maturity and power in her skating. This will come with age.
SF#2 – The second semi-final gathers two European and two Chinese. Guan Yu Xiang and Feng Hui get hold of the two qualifying places, leaving the consolation final to Klaudia Hartmanis and Zoé Granjon. They did pretty good performances though… but the Chinese were Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger. Just to mention a few: [ big sewing-machine on 15 cones ] [ toe Christie on 15 ] [ toe shift on the whole line, stop’n go for 4 more cones ] for Feng Hui, [ toe wiper on 15 cones ] [ toe footgun on 14 ] [ toe shift + toe seven on 4 cones then back on 15 ] for Guan Yu Xian…
The European’s Revenge. The same protagonists come into the ring. They have only two runs and one last trick to convince the judges. They have already shown all their cards and they also know the qualities and weaknesses of their opponents. Klaudia Hartmanis is careful to show a bit of everything: heel and toe wheelings, spins and sitting tricks, and she is the only competitor to do external seven which she highlights in presenting it as her last trick. Her clever performance propels her to the 1st place of the consolation, i.e. to the 5th overall place. Zoé Granjon opts for the same strategy.
She is a bit less clean but her 15-cone toe seven as a last trick puts her at the 2nd place (6th overall), in front of Wang Ding Yu Xin who despite impressive flips and shifts, and good combos, obviously did not gain power and speed over the round. Let’s note her cute last trick: a flip cobra, alternating front and back every two cones. Chen Chen ends up last, more because of strategy deficiency than because of lack of potential: if she can do combos such as [ butterfly + back toe Wheeling + shift to seven ], why does she bother doing a basic [ front heel Wheeling on 20 cones ], and why does she stubbornly and irreparably goes back to [ toe shift ] even when she has managed one already ?
The final moment has come. The finalists are called to the judges’ table in order to choose in which order they are going to run. After a couple of jokes from the junior Chinese, the order is set. The outcome of the final is not written in advance as any of them four could be the winner and the new World Champion of Battle. We have here the four highest ranked in Classic: the senior and junior champions and vice-champions!
Su Fei Qian is finally the winner of the round and keeps the title she won last year. The decision was tough and the three judges had a hard time making a common decision: Su Fei Qian is consecrated World Champion at the expense of Guan Yu Xiang. Indeed, the latter is far better in sevens and sitting tricks, she is impressively powerful (see her [ toe wipers ] and how she pushes on her [ back and forth sevens ]) but she has an Achilles heel – perfectly fitting the context: a shy [ 6-cone heel shift ] is all she has on heel… Su Fei Qian is better at shifts and shows more heel-toe variety, which is going to be the deciding point. Feng Hui had a good start with her two first runs, but she fails and repeats herself quite a lot on her third run and she misses her last trick, the toe Christie which she yet managed perfectly on all the previous rounds… That loss of steam relegates her at the 3rd place. The 4th place goes then to Daria Kuznetsova who has less crazy combos and is slower. However, she did not prove herself unworthy of her presence in the final at all.
Results of the Women’s Battle
- Su Fei Qian (CHN)
- Guan Yu Xiang (CHN)
- Feng Hui (CHN)
- Daria Kuznetsova (RUS)
- Klaudia Hartmanis (POL)
- Zoé Granjon (FRA)
- Wang Ding Yu Xin (CHN)
- Chen Chen (CHN)
Men’s Quarter Finals
QF#1 – Just as for the women, most of the men’s quarter final groups are close. The first group stages two fights: that of the qualified skaters, Romain Lebois and Zhang Hao (but in which order?) and that of the non-qualified Roman Gordin and Lan Wang Heng (but in which order too?). Compared to Gordin, Wang Heng does not have any combo except a [ heel stop’n go reverse shift ] and repeats himself in doing 3 [ heel sevens ] whereas they only have two runs… On the other hand, Gordin shows complicated combos, which are not always very clean, but meticulously does them, once on the toe and once on the heel. However his combos are not big enough and he lacks sitting tricks to rival with the first 2! Between Zhang Hao and Romain Lebois, it is decided to encourage the Chinese who took the time to show some freestyle and who was particularly fast: with equivalent technical levels, these details can make the difference.
QF#2 – The second group is quite tight too: The 4 skaters have the potential to go through and nothing is set in advance. Unfortunately for him, Pan Yu Shuo fails a lot, going out of line or not completing his tricks, and (consequently) his overall performance lacks linking. He ends up 4th. Lee Choong Goon shows very long toe and heel shifts and a few sevens, but his panel of tricks is quite small. He ends up 3rd. The last two remaining are certain to go through but they still need to be ranked. Guo Fang finally wins the group with a wide performance in front of Michal Sulinowski who is hot on his heels, with (amongst others) his combo on the 50s [ toe wiper + sewing-machine + stop’n go alternating sewing-machine and back toe wheeling on the line back ].
QF#3 –The third group is the only group with no Chinese skater in it: the other three have all 2 Chinese out of the 4 skaters. It is made of 3 Europeans and 1 Korean, and just like in the two previous groups they all have the technical level to go through. However, it is Alexandre Claris who stands out in two runs close to perfection, with long and varied combos smoothly achieved. Let’s note his [ toe footgun ] on the whole 120s and his [ 11-cone toe shift + 20-cone toe seven on the line back ]. He takes the first place with merits. On the other hand, Carlos Nelson has too many misplays and kicks too many cones for him to have enough interesting tricks to compete, although the panel of tricks he had planned to show was promising. He takes the 4th place. As for the second place, it is not hard to decide between Yu Jin Seong and Martin Sloboda: they show more or less the same tricks, but the Korean’s last almost twice as long… and he qualifies in 2nd position for the semi-finals.
QF#4 – The fourth group has its share of losses… and this one is pretty unexpected. Without surprise, Ye Hao Qin takes the lead, with a [ 8-cone toe Christie ] and a [ 20-cone toe seven starting from standing and ending with a spin ] amongst other tricks. Igor Cheremetieff knew that he was technically one step under and enjoyed his last runs with powerful freestyle. There is only one place left for the next round… and the two remaining skaters, Li Yu Chen and Kim Sung Jin, are worthy of it. They both have their qualities and their flaws, the Chinese lacking toe Wheeling and the Korean lacking sitting tricks for example, so that in order to decide, the judges ask for a best trick! A coin is tossed to know which one will go first. Li Yu Chen starts with a [ toe shift ]. He stops after only 6 cones, the time is not up yet and he can have a second try: almost two lines and a half managing [ toe shift ] is his final answer (20+20+12 cones and a couple kicked). Kim Sung Jin decides to take up the challenge with the same trick on the heel. He skates smoothly along the line, 20 cones, he is now coming back, good beginning… and he taps and stop after 7 cones! The verdict is announced: Li Yu Chen goes through at the expense of Kim Sung Jin.
By the end of the quarter finals, a good bunch of great skaters, including 3 of the Top-10 are already out : Kim Sung Jin (KOR, #2), Lee Choong Goon (KOR, #7) and Martin Sloboda (GER, #8)… but also Igor Cheremetieff (FRA, #14), Roman Gordin (RUS, #17), Lan Wang Heng (CHN, #18), Carlos Nelson (SPA, #25) and Pan Yu Shuo (CHN, #33). The overall level is becoming so tight that the slightest mistake or misplay can be fatal. Today, pure technique is not enough: a good strategy is vital too!
Men’s Semi Finals
SF#1 – Zhang Hao dominates the group with complex combos made of shifts and flips, with surprises inserted here and there (stall to stop’n go, inside chicken leg etc.) The other 3 skaters are closer. Li Yu Chen is out of the race because he did not show that many tricks or tricks different from the ‘compulsory’ shifts, flips and sevens of the competition. Guo Fang and Yu Jin Seong are so close that they are treated to a best trick… which does not help the judges much to decide: a [ toe footgun on 7 cones (-1) ] for Guo Fang v. a [ 9-cone heel shift ] for Yu Jin Seong. The decision is a 2 v. 1 choice in favor of Guo Fang. And I am the one who voted against, because according to me a shift implies multiple changes of direction (more unbalancing) and thus is theoretically harder than a toe footgun.
SF#2 – The outcome of the second group is more obvious, although quite close. Ye Hao Qin and Romain Lebois take hold of the two qualifying places for the final: Romain manages a [ 20-cone toe footgun on the 80s ], YHQ answers back with a [ 10-cone toe Christie ], and Romain counters with a [ 6-cone back toe footgun ]. YHQ quickly takes the advantage with huge tricks that are less popular during the battle than Romain’s, like [ toe wiper on 11 cones ] or [ big sewing-machine on 15 cones ], and he’s starting to unveil the tricks he had on standby for the hardest levels and emergency situations: an [ eight on toe wheeling alternating back, front, inside and outside curves ] (see video Semi-Final #2 at 4’37). Romain Lebois is less creative and lacks sevens but his steadiness pays off: He leaves Alexandre Claris and Michal Sulinowski at the threshold of the final.
Men’s Consolation Final
The consolation final is made of Europeans Alexandre Claris and Michal Sulinowski, and of Asians Yu Jin Seong and Li Yu Chen. It is a fight of freestyle cultures. And time is short as they only have two runs and one last trick! Li Yu Chen kicks lots of cones and has a couple of misplays, but he manages a big last trick with a [ toe shift ] covering the 120s and twice the 80s (14+20+20). Yu Jin Seong is quite the opposite: he makes a very good start with an effective combo during his first run [ 20-cone heel shift + transfer on the 50s for a 16-cone back heel wheeling ], does quite a varied second run… and repeats himself in his last trick with a shift marathon… this lack of inspiration relegates him to the 4th place (8th at the final ranking) while Li Yu Chen takes the 3rd place. The two Europeans are in the lead. Alexandre Claris manages to take the advantage with a 30-sec combo on his first run [ toe shift back and forth on a dozen cones + 15-cone toe seven ] and keeps it, thanks to a varied second run (toe footgun, heel tricks, freestyle footwork) and an original last trick: a [ double seven on the 120s ]. Michal Sulinowski’s technical performance is roughly of the same level as Alexandre’s but he is quite shaky. He takes the 2nd place of the Consolation Final.
RUN#1 – The final is very clean with all the skaters managing their runs with success. Romain Lebois opens the ball with a 100% success run and sets the tone with a [ 20-cone toe footgun on the 80s ] and a clean [ toe wheeling combo with sewing-machines on the 50s ]. But Ye Hao Qin sets the bar even higher with an insane [ toe christie + toe shift ]: he manages to get up from his Christie without tapping, change lines and complete the whole 80s with shift. He finishes his run with a visit on the 50s where he shows his speed and his footwork skills – as well as his capacity to make up for uncompleted tricks: his toe wiper or his sewing-machine do not last as long as expected? He fills up with clever freestyle. Skating after that alien is hard for Guo Fang whose run – although far from being ridiculous – leaves a poor impression compared to what just preceded, despite his [ toe shift + toe seven combo ] and his [ toe footgun ]. His tricks and combos do not last long enough… a feeling reinforced with the run of the next finalist, Zhang Hao, who answers back to the other competitors with a 30-sec combo [ toe footgun + toe shift + toe flip ]: his footgun is not very low in order to be able to get up from it… and he completes the 80s twice, once with shift, and once with flip.
Ye Hao Qin and Zhang Hao take the lead after that first run thanks to their combos after their sitting tricks. Guo Fang is behind because his tricks are shorter than those of his opponents.
RUN#2 – French Romain Lebois is not letting things get him down and takes up challenges: to Zhang Hao, he shows that he can ‘flip’ too with a [ 10/10 toe reverse shift + flip ] and to Ye Hao Qin, he dedicates an attempt at [ toe Christie ]. The latter strikes back with a 30-sec display of mastery: On the toe, he alternates turns on each cone, outside front, outside back, inside front, inside back, etc. (see semi-final #2) Guo Fang, sandwiched between Ye Hao Qin and Zhang Hao, tries to catch up: energetic footwork, 10-cone toe wiper, 20-cone toe flip… But his ardour is immediately cooled down by Zhang Hao who not only challenges Romain in managing a [ 4-cone toe Christie ] but also challenges Ye Hao Qin in innovating too, with a toe trick conveying the feeling of a Barrel roll on one foot that moves forward on the line, cone by cone. That trick is part of a combo and is launched with a [ stop’n go from a toe stall, after a toe reverse shift ]!
On that second run, Ye Hao Qin and Zhang Hao outdistance their rivals with their mastery and their creativity, confirming the tendency of the first run. Guo Fang is left behind, while Romain Lebois holds on with impressively clean performances and a good feeling of gambling and reply.
RUN#3 – The advantage of taking the first place to go is that it gives you a great means of pressure. But the drawback is that you have no opportunity left to reply to your opponents’ attacks of the third run… With hindsight, the third run here was ‘seven time’… a trick that Romain Lebois hardly thought about doing: a small [ 2-cone back heel seven ] is obviously not enough. (NB: Let’s note that the French is the only finalist bothering with trying to show a little heel wheeling!) His rivals have a blast: a [ 15-cone toe seven ] for Ye Hao Qin and [ 17 for Zhang Hao (yet with a couple of cones down and a good misplay in the end) ] , and a [ full-speed 7-cone toe seven finishing with a spin ] for Guo Fang.
No reversal of situation for the third run, the four finalists keep their positions.
LAST TRICK – After a small fright on a failed first try, Romain Lebois manages a great last trick on the 50s with almost 4 lines completed: [ 20 back toe wheeling to stop’n go + 10/10 back to front toe wheeling + 10/10 back to sewing-machine + 15-cone back toe wheeling ]. Ye Hao Qin explodes the applause meter with a [ 14-cone BACK toe Christie (!!) ], which is a pretty nice answer to Romain Lebois’s [ back toe footgun ] of the third run. Guo Fang goes for a classic [ toe shift on 1 line 1/2 ], while Zhang Hao goes further completing more than 2 lines with that same trick.
A very impressive final with replies and challenges taken up by all the opponents, leading to an escalation of technique. Toe wheeling is widely preferred to heel wheeling, and heel wheeling may be the key to make the difference in the future. Wheeling combos are becoming impressively long and mastered, which is getting more digest to watch.
Out of the first 8 skaters, three of them are European. The Chinese still rule over the world this year, but new challengers are rising and may reverse the order one day…
Results of the Men’s Battle
- Ye Hao Qin (CHN)
- Zhang Hao (CHN)
- Romain Lebois (FRA)
- Guo Fang (CHN)
- Alexandre Claris (FRA)
- Michal Sulinowski (POL)
- Li Yu Chen (CHN)
- Yu Jin Seong (KOR)
These 2012 World Freestyle Skating Championships end up only 3-hour late, which is a feat in itself. We were stronger than rain! After the final award ceremony, we were all invited to jump on our respected buses and were driven to the VIP hotel where a buffet was waiting for us. While eating, we could enjoy another special reward ceremony, thanking various skaters, coaches and organizers for diverse reasons and performances over the 2011 Season.
As for the Country medal ranking, China is far above, in a galaxy far far away… with a total of 20 medals reaped, including 8 gold:
- Classic junior men (Zhang Hao) and women (Feng Hui) as well as senior women (Su Fei Qian)
- Speed junior women (Lu Qian Qian) and senior men (Guo Fang)
- Slides men (Dong Lei)
- Battle men (Ye Hao Qin) and women (Su Fei Qian)
- Korea and Russia are ‘just behind’ with 4 medals, including 2 gold for Korea: Classic men (Kim Sing Jin) and Classic Pair (Kim Sung Jin & Lee Choong Goon), and 1 gold for Russia with the women’s slide (Olga Fokina).
Chinese Taipei, Italy and France go back home with 3 medals each, Taipei and Italy with Speed Slalom gold medals: Speed junior men thanks to Wu Dong-Jiun for Taipei, and senior women thanks to Cristina Rotunno for Italy.
Iran and Poland have to content themselves with Bronze (just like France). Which is still pretty good as, out of the 24 countries taking part in the Championships, only these 8 mentioned countries collected medals.
The organization is trying to implement an alternation every year for the location of the World Championships. 2012 was in Asia, so we can hope that next year will be in Europe…
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