Brian Joubert said everything he needed to on the ice.
The Frenchman botched his quad combination yet still won the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday night because of polished spins, crisp footwork and choreography that was so perfectly matched to his techno pop music he could give any club kid a challenge. The 2007 champion finished with 84.40 points, putting him 1.7 ahead of Evan Lysacek going into Thursday night's free skate.
Patrick Chan, Canada's up-and-comer, is third. Brandon Mroz showed his second-place finish at his first senior U.S. championships was no fluke, finishing eighth with a solid, clean skate. U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, however, ran into a few problems and is in 10th place.
The pairs final is later Wednesday, with reigning champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany in the lead.
"I want to focus myself on speed, footwork, skating and confidence," Joubert said. "I don't want to do only jumps. The score is good today."
Especially after the dustup with Chan earlier this week.
Joubert has said repeatedly he believes the quad should be a staple of men's skating, and he made no secret of his disappointment that last year's champion, Canada's Jeff Buttle, won the world's biggest title without even trying the four-revolution jump. The new judging system has made the quad a huge risk; land it cleanly, and you get big bonus points. Mess it up, and you take a hit that can cost you a title.
Only four men even tried quads Wednesday. A few years ago, there would have been at least twice that number.
Chan called out Joubert earlier this week, saying _ among other things _ that he thought the criticism was poor sportsmanship, and that it's the overall quality of a program that should matter most.
Turns out, they were both right.
A painstakingly slow entry into his quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination forced Joubert to put his right hand all the way down on the ice to save the landing. That made for a crooked takeoff on the second jump, and another ugly landing.
But because Joubert had done the quad toe, he could do a triple lutz as his required solo jump. Lysacek had done a triple lutz as the opening jump in his required combination, so he had to do a triple flip for his solo jump. Throw in style points, and Joubert's lutz ended up being worth two points more.
As Chan pointed out, however, it's the whole program that gets it done and Joubert had it with a playful, entertaining number that was just the right fit for Hollywood. Skating to "Rise," a techno-pop number, he could have fit right in at any LA nightclub _ right down to his spandex outfit.
His step sequences were delightful _ he positioned himself mere inches from the front row and ran in place on one, and finished another with a wink and a smile at the judges. Even his spins, not usually a strength, were solid.
"We have to compete on the ice, not outside with the journalists," Joubert said, a smiling Chan sitting beside him. "I think a lot of Canadian people are disappointed about what I said last season after the world championships. But I will not talk about it today. Patrick is a very dangerous skater for me. He can beat me _ he beat me in the Grand Prix series. We will fight on the ice."
Added Chan, "We've moved on. We're both friends."
Lysacek, meanwhile, sat back enjoying the show. He knows plenty about rivalries, having spent the last few years as half of the "Evan and Johnny Show." But he's pretty good as a solo act, too, putting on a dazzling performance Wednesday in his adopted hometown.
"I am an adopted Angelino myself," he said. "I was pretty nervous actually to be honest because a lot of my friends have never seen me skate live and it was really cool for me that they could be part of this experience with me. ... I wanted to represent my country well first and foremost leading up to the Olympics, but I also wanted to represent my city."
He did just fine.
The two-time U.S. champion was devastated after a subdued performance at nationals dropped him to third place. But he looked like a completely different skater Wednesday, doing a powerful program that oozed emotion from the time he took the ice until he triumphantly slid across the ice on one knee after his music ended.
His jumps were big and he made them look effortless, landing on his spaghetti-thin blade with ease. His footwork was dramatic and he worked every bit of it, using his facial expressions and hands to make it more theatrical. His spins were quick and tight, and he was pumping his left fist as the final one finished.
He shook both of his fists, screamed "Yeah!" and covered his face with both hands. He skated to center ice and then went down on one knee, delighting the cheering crowd as he slid forward.
"I saw part of Brian's skate, he's a wonderful skater," said Frank Carroll, Lysacek's longtime coach. I know he has a lot of dynamic and fast movement. He did the quad and he's a world champion, so I'm not surprised (that he's ahead of Lysacek). His program marks were just barely above Evan."
Just 18, Chan has kept Canada in medal contention despite Buttle's surprise retirement over the summer. He skates with a lightness and grace not often found these days, and exudes a confidence usually found in far more experienced skaters. The audience booed when it saw his marks, thinking he deserved better.
Chan shrugged and, when the boos continued, smiled and put his finger to his lips.
"It was realistic," Chan said. "It doesn't matter, I was happy with the performance. It's not the points. It's getting off the ice with a smile on my face."
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