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Lysacek impresses Joubert

French skater, who leads men at worlds after short program, says American was brave to attempt quadruple jump despite struggles.

March 22, 2007|Philip Hersh | Special to The Times

TOKYO — When he finished his Tuesday afternoon practice, France's Brian Joubert hung around the rink to watch the next training group, which included the three U.S. men.

A day later, Joubert winced when recalling one of the things he had seen, the leg-splaying, back-wrenching fall U.S. champion Evan Lysacek took during an attempt at a quadruple toe jump.

That made Joubert even more impressed that Lysacek tried the jump during Wednesday's short program in the World Figure Skating Championships at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

"Wow, he is strong," Joubert said.

A flawed result on his short program quad cost Lysacek a lot of points, leaving him fifth entering today's free-skate final. But it earned him the respect of Joubert, who dominated the worlds short program as he has the figure skating world all season.

"I'm disappointed so few skaters tried a quad, and I'm happy for Lysacek because he did," Joubert said. "This is good for him."

That is what Lysacek had in mind when he put the jump in a short program for the first time in his career.

"I wasn't going to win without a quad in the short program," Lysacek said.

Even with the quad, it would have been impossible for him to win if Joubert's free skate is as good as his short program.

But this wasn't about today and tomorrow for Lysacek, who lives in Hollywood. It was about taking a long view, about doing what he thinks is necessary to win a world championship or an Olympic title in the future even if that meant losing a world championship medal in the present.

After all, Lysacek has cleanly landed only two quads in free skates, both in the last two months.

"I can't do quads boom-boom-boom, like nothing, but I wasn't going to hold back just so I can maybe get a medal," said Lysacek, world bronze medalist the last two years.

Joubert was the only man to land a clean quad, doing it as part of a quad-triple combination. Only four of the 42 men tried one, and two were also-rans in the short program.

Lysacek's quad was to be part of a quad toe-triple toe combination, but that went awry when he needed to put a hand on the ice to stay upright while landing the opening jump.

Lysacek took several steps to steady himself before trying the second jump (and reduced it to a double), so it did not count as a combination.

"It was a huge risk," Lysacek said. "It could have gone a lot better, and it could have gone way worse.

"My goal this season was to win the national championship, which I did, and then build for the future at worlds. Playing it safe was not the way to take the next step toward being Olympic champion."

Joubert's successful quad-triple was worth 13.86 of his 83.64 points. Lysacek's imperfect attempt earned him only six points.

An easier, triple-triple combination would have been enough to put Lysacek (73.49) third behind Joubert and Canada's Jeffery Buttle (79.90).

Lysacek trailed third-place Daisuke Takahashi of Japan (74.51) by barely a point. Three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir, finishing what he called "a crummy season," is fourth (74.26) after a lifeless performance.

In the pairs competition, China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo were not only deserving champions but the only pair deserving notice in a Wednesday free skate where ineptitude battled lassitude for supremacy. Their third world title -- but first since 2003 -- was a virtual walkover, with a 15-point margin over silver medalists Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China.

U.S. pair Rena Inoue and John Baldwin of Santa Monica struggled and wound up eighth. She fell twice on throws and stepped out of the landing of one jump. He stepped out of the first jump of a combination, leaving her to do the second by herself.

U.S. champions Brooke Castile, who battled flu, and Ben Okolski were 12th.

*

Philip Hersh covers the Olympics for The Times and the Chicago Tribune.

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