The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - May 6

Shibutanis shine in senior worlds debut

The Shibutanis had a stellar worlds debut, bringing home the bronze medal.
The Shibutanis had a stellar worlds debut, bringing home the bronze medal. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(05/06/2011) - We were glued to the live stream of the world championships on for all four days last week. Among many exciting moments, the bronze medal won by Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani ranks high on the list of thrills. We talked to Alex last night and heard about what went down the night of the free dance.

After they finished skating last Saturday, the siblings hugged each other and Alex gazed up into the stands, soaking in the moment.

"Maia and I were so proud of each other and all the work we put into our programs. It was a challenging week, and to be standing there on the ice, it was such a feeling of accomplishment and pride. I was just really basking in that moment," he said.

The Shibutanis didn't know what had happened with the two previous teams, including the unfortunate fall by medal favorites Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. As they sat in the kiss and cry waiting for their scores, Alex said he felt dazed.

"When we saw the number '1' go up it was definitely a surprise," he said. "Making worlds was our goal; we didn't really have a placement goal. To see that we were currently in first with just two teams to go -- Maia noticed it a little before me and obviously we were speechless. Igor [Shpilband] said, 'You just won a medal at worlds,' and then he said, 'Don't have a heart attack!'

"We got whisked off to the media zone, and we were in complete awe, both looking at each other, kind of speechless and also very happy. We know how hard we all work so we were pulling for Tessa [Virtue] and Scott [Moir] and Meryl [Davis] and Charlie [White]. After we had time to understand what we had accomplished, we were backstage and Scott went up to us and said 'You're not supposed to grab a medal the first year!' Standing on the podium with them was a dream come true on so many levels. We couldn't have imagined that at the beginning of the year."

On the way home from Moscow, the Shibutanis took an unplanned detour to Paris. Their flight out of Moscow was delayed by six hours, and the other U.S. team members got the only remaining seats to New York. Rather than spend many hours waiting at the airport in Moscow, Maia and Alex decided to use some points on a flight to Paris, where they spent the night.

"We walked around the city in the morning," said Alex. "We had been there a few years ago, and we went to a bakery, and walked around the same places we saw when we were there for the Courchevel Junior Grand Prix."

Despite the long season and long trip home, there was no rest in Detroit. Maia and Alex were on the ice the next day, although it was admittedly a rather light training day.

"We're eager to begin next season," Alex said. "We're hungry for more and excited for the coming year. We were back on the ice yesterday. We're going to take a couple weeks off later in the summer. It was a long year!"

Of course the skating was thrilling, but as usual, we were busy checking out the costumes as well! We can't really do a full best-dressed list, but we want to give a shout-out to some favorites.

Pairs -- We liked Qing Pang and Jian Tong's long program costumes, like a bouquet of different varieties of fuchsia. Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran wore elegant black and white in the short program.

Ladies -- Early on in the short program, we made note of Bingwa "Ice Baby" Geng's soft lavender dress with clear crystals. Ksenia Makarova's black lace dress was diva-licious, which was perfect for her diva short program. Elene Gedevanishvili had a gorgeous long program dress in deep purple and violet with dark crystals. Queen Yu-Na Kim was regal in both her new costumes, and we adored her black long program dress with the crystal wave pattern.

Men -- We liked Patrick Chan's "Phantom" costume last year, but his new one was even better and suited the new world champion perfectly.

Dance -- Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsapalov's "Don Quixote" costumes were elegant and perfect. And Meryl Davis and Charlie White showed off gorgeous costumes at every event this year, getting better with each undefeated competition.

Team award -- there's going to be a new team event in Sochi, so we'd like to give a team award to the Canadian ice dancers for their short program costumes. They skated one after another and showed off one gorgeous outfit after the other.

Props to those who really wore costumes, dressing up as the characters they were portraying, including Gedevanishvili's red "Cell Block Tango" bustier with a black fringed skirt; Richard Dornbush's Sherlock Holmes, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy's Pink Panther and Elena Leonova's go-for-broke circus-clown costume, right up to her red curly hair.

We were horrified to see injuries in at least three disciplines. Eric Radford and Brian Joubert really bled for their sport this year. Let no macho sportswriters doubt that figure skaters are tough athletes.

We didn't observe any costume malfunctions this year, although there was at least one hair malfunction, when Kaitlyn Weaver's braid came down during her short dance with Andrew Poje.

There didn't seem to be any of the music malfunctions so common at competitions, when skaters' music doesn't start correctly. However, ill-timed boisterous cheering from the partisan crowd caused Katsalapov to miss the opening of his "Don Quixote" free dance with Ilinykh. Florent Amodio's puzzling decision to use a vocal version of his free skate music, risking a deduction, was deliberate, according to a post-event interview.

Elf ears
In the midst of all the worlds drama, the second annual Nations Cup, a Theater on Ice international event in Hyannis, Massachusetts, slid by somewhat under the radar last month.

The Imagica team, which won the adult division, has been in existence for 14 years. The team's 30 members range from 23 to 60 years old. Their "Leprechaun's Dream" program tells the story of some hunters who find themselves in the middle of an enchanted forest surrounded by magical bugs, flowers, fairies and elves.

"One of our elves, the tallest member of the team, forgot his ears," team member Carolyn Evert told us. "We needed to find a quick fix. The men's elf ears are much larger than female ears, but for a last minute switcharoo, we had one of the fairies give her ears to the smallest male elf so he could give his ears to our largest elf. However, the bumblebee on our team wanted to check out a local joke store, and stumbled across pointy ears. Who would have thought on a strip of high-end boutique and trendy beach stores there would be a joke store!"

All ears in place, the team skated well, but they had competition from a new Russian team, some of whose members were doing double jumps in practice.

"The Russians skated beautifully," said Evert. "When the scores were read for our long program, I looked around and saw some people smiling, while others were biting their nails, wondering if the Russian team would take home first place. When it was announced that Imagica won, tears streamed down so many faces. In my four years of skating with the team I've never seen so much excitement, joy and nerves when it came to hearing the scores."

On to the "off-season,"

Sarah and Drew
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