Graceful Cohen wins short program
Belbin and Agosto take bronze in ice dancing
CALGARY, Alberta -- Sasha Cohen used a weak performance as the spark for yet another brilliant short program, giving her the lead at the World Figure Skating Championships.
Cohen's ''Dark Eyes" brightened her chances for her first world title yesterday. The US champion won the short program with a grace and energy missing from her qualifying effort earlier this week.
Although she two-footed her triple lutz in a combination jump, the two-time world silver medalist surged past Canada's Joannie Rochette, Japan's Fumie Suguri, and fellow American Kimmie Meissner.
Bulgaria's Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski won their nation's first world gold by taking the ice dancing championship last night. Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto added bronze to their Olympic silver medal, finishing behind Canadians Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.
Denkova and Staviski's melodramatic routine to ''Adagio" featured several innovative lifts, and it was just enough to give them the overall edge after winning compulsories and original dance. They were third in the free dance.
''It is important for our country for the development of our sport," Denkova said. ''Tonight everybody is celebrating in Bulgaria."
The Canadians didn't get a chance to show off their classy, intricate free dance to ''Somewhere in Time" at the Olympics. She fell hard after losing her grip on his arms in the original dance, forcing them to withdraw.
But they were mesmerizing before their countrymen hoping for one gold medal out of these championships.
''The way we skated tonight was memorable," Dubreuil said. ''This program, for us, was the masterpiece of our career."
Belbin and Agosto blew their chance to win the first US ice dancing gold in a world championships when they were only fourth in the original dance. They recovered well enough with their fiery flamenco free dance to get the bronze after winning silver in last year's worlds.
''I felt like I allowed myself to enjoy this free dance," Belbin said. ''All season long I have been dreading this free dance because I was so nervous."
Olympic silver medalist Cohen felt a shock when she finished third in her qualifying group.
''I think Wednesday shook me up a little bit," she said. ''It's not where I wanted to be. Qualifying round was different than it usually is, so that will keep me on my toes [for today's free skate]. I just have to believe and conquer."
Exactly what coach John Nicks has been telling her, well, forever.
''She just has to skate to her potential," Nicks said. ''If she skates to her potential, she will win, everybody knows that. However . . ."
However, indeed. Cohen has made a career out of coming up just short in major events, most recently in Turin, where she won the short program, then was surpassed by Japan's Shizuka Arakawa in the free skate. Cohen also dropped from third after the short to fourth at the 2002 Olympics, and has never beaten Michelle Kwan at nationals.
Cohen's short program wasn't as dynamic as her Olympic performance. But with Arakawa and defending world champion Irina Slutskaya absent, Cohen moved on top by 3.62 points over Suguri. The 16-year-old Meissner was third, 5.58 points back.
Cohen's trademark spirals were long and elegant, and her footwork was so lively the crowd nearly drowned out the music with its clapping.
Suguri, who won her qualifying group ahead of Meissner and Cohen, is a two-time world bronze medalist who was fourth in Turin. She scored a personal best of 62.12 in the short program.
Meissner also got a personal best, 60.17, and was thrilled with her marks for footwork.
''Even though I didn't do my triple-triple, the spins got higher levels and the footwork was level 3," Meissner said. ''It has taken me the whole year to do that, so I am glad I finished on a high note."
Emily Hughes fell on her triple lutz, didn't do the required combination, and slipped to eighth.