Belarussian ice dancers compete in borrowed skates
LONDON, Ontario (AP) - Viktoria Kavaliova and Yurii Bieliaiev were on borrowed blades.
The ice dancers from Belarus had to use someone else's skates for Thursday night's short dance after their luggage was lost in transit. And not just any skates, mind you. Bieliaiev was wearing singles skates, something he hasn't done since he was "5 or 6 years old.''
"We are very glad we were able to skate at all,'' Kavaliova said. "We're pleased at how we were able to perform in light of all that happened.''
The dancers had planned to leave their home in Minsk on Sunday, but visa issues pushed their departure back. Then a snowstorm shut down the Frankfurt airport, where they were supposed to connect. They finally arrived in London early Wednesday, only to discover that their luggage hadn't yet left Europe.
When volunteers heard of Kavaliova and Bieliaiev's plight, they quickly pitched in to help. Paul Moir, uncle of Olympic and world dance champion Scott Moir, offered to let Kavaliova use his daughter's skates. Sheri Moir used to be a dancer, and the Canadian maple leaf was clearly visible on Kavaliova's heel as she skated.
Bieliaiev was a little tougher. The 6-foot-4 dancer wears a size 14 skate, not exactly a size most rinks would have extras of stored in the back. Fortunately for him, former Canadian pairs skater Adam Johnson does, and he's a volunteer this week.
It wasn't an ideal solution; singles blades are longer than those used by ice dancers, and they also have a toe pick at the front.
But it was better than the alternative.
"We our very happy we were able to skate,'' Kavaliova said. "That we were able to overcome everything and compete.''
Kavaliova and Bieliaiev finished last and did not qualify for Saturday's free dance.
SWIFT RISE: A year ago, Kaetlyn Osmond was still trying to perfect all of her triple jumps.
Now she's a step away from the podium at the World Figure Skating Championships.
"It is a little shocking,'' the 17-year-old Canadian said after finishing fourth in Thursday's short program. "It's just unbelievable to see how much progress I've made so fast.''
This was no fluke, however.
Osmond won Skate Canada last fall, and her program Thursday was every bit as ambitious as those of the other top women. She landed a monster triple toe loop-triple toe combination with supreme confidence, and her triple flip and double axel were equally impressive. She got the maximum level fours for her footwork and two of her three spins.
And when it came to performance quality, few could match her spunk. Her lively mambo number made the arena feel more like a house party, and her enthusiasm was infectious. A grin spread across her face when she heard the first notes of her music, and it continued to grow during the program.
"I got on the ice and felt so perfect,'' Osmond said. "The less I think, the better it is, so I went into every jump saying, `No brain, no brain.' It's working.''
She also took some inspiration from the other Canadian skaters, who've been hogging the podium so far. Two-time world champion Patrick Chan won the men's short program in commanding fashion while Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were second in the pairs short.
"It gave me so much more confidence,'' Osmond said. "It made me think I want to be a part of that and want to do as well as they did.''
CLAIMING HER SPOT: Gracie Gold knows what she wants.
This is the U.S. runner-up's first trip to worlds, and she can't help but be a bit starstruck at sharing a crowded locker room with Olympic champion Kim Yu-na and Mao Asada.
"I watched them in 2008, 2009 and 2010, leading up to the Olympics,'' the 17-year-old said. "They were kind of idolized, so to be sitting next to them is still a little bit intimidating.''
Kim in particular.
"She was my idol,'' Gold admitted. "I'm kind of waiting to ask for a picture.''
She'll have plenty of chances if she continues to skate like she did Thursday.
The short program has been Gold's downfall at several competitions this year - she finished second at nationals because she'd put herself in such a deep hole - but that wasn't the case this time. Far from it.
She skated with poise and confidence - a rarity for someone making her worlds debut - and the work she's put in even since nationals was evident. Her whole presentation was much improved, and she didn't look as mechanical as she has in the past.
She was penalized for underrotating the second jump in her triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, and got another deduction for using the incorrect edge on the takeoff of her triple flip.
Still, in ninth place, she gives the Americans hope of regaining a third spot for next year's Sochi Olympics. Gold and U.S. champion Ashley Wagner need to finish with a combined placement of 13 or better, and Wagner was fifth.
"I am a little bit relieved,'' Gold said. "I tried to tell myself this is only my first worlds, but I was a little nervous.''
MAO'S DISAPPOINTMENT: The easiest jump gave Mao Asada the most trouble.
The two-time world champion from Japan landed a triple axel Thursday - judges gave it to her even though replays showed it clearly was two-footed - only to pop a triple loop into a single at the end of her program. The error left her in sixth place, almost 10 points behind longtime rival Kim Yu-na.
"I am little sad,'' Asada said through a translator.
The triple axel is the toughest jump being done by female skaters - with a forward takeoff, it's actually 3 1/2 revolutions - and it's become Asada's signature. Though it's largely been absent from her programs since she won the silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics, she brought it back at Four Continents last month with fantastic results. Her score of 74.49 points was the highest for a short program since Kim set the world record (78.50) in Vancouver.
"I wanted to skate the short program today like I did at Four Continents,'' Asada said. "The jumps weren't as good.''
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