Anyone still not convinced--even so many years after World War II--that the world's balance of power had shifted outside of its former nest in Europe needs only to look at the ladies' and men's disciplines in figure skating to dispel any remaining delusions.
Realistically, both Sarah Meier and Florent Amodio, the newly-minted European champions, would be flattened if someone from say, North America or Japan showed up in Bern this weekend....but in the swirl of feel-good emotions that this competition seemed ridiculously chock-full of, who cares? The surprise, the fluffiness and the sheer utter elation expressed by the winners is so sincere that all reserve is instantly forgotten. The critic tosses the notebook of critical comments aside and accepts the invitation to gush.
OK, not exactly.
But there is much to be positive about Ms. Meier's shocker of a victory here. Watching this video--especially Ms. Meier's reaction at the end--made my stomach flip. Or perhaps it was my heart that fluttered. Anyways, something moved in the vicinity of my internal organs, whatever organ that is in charge of such horribly warm and fuzzy emotions. Perhaps the German commentators summed up Ms. Meier's performance most succinctly: "Mein gott!" It ill behooves any critic with a heart to be overly critical with Ms. Meier's performances this weekend. This, after all, is the stuff the child's narrative of sports heroism is made of.
Mr. Amodio, as noted before, won the European men's title. Yes, it is possible to grouse about his technical content or the amount of crowd-pandering posing in his program. But I've previously made my thoughts on Mr. Amodio's long program this season clear, and let's be realistic here--it's not like anyone else in the competition put together two decent programs this weekend. Anyways, it's obvious what Nikolai Morozov's strategy for Mr. Amodio is this season: skate consistently with less risk, take advantage when others make mistakes and by doing so establish oneself as a competitior. From the hardware Mr. Amodio's been pulling in this season, the strategy looks like it's working. The more complex choreography and perhaps the quad should come next season or so.
It is still a bit disconcerting to see Brian Joubert--he of Matrix-themed posturing and techno fit for the deepest bowels of hell (i.e. the dances found in suburban American high school gyms)--skate to Beethoven's Ninth, but it is not entirely unpleasant to watch him skate to Beethoven, as blasphemous as that may sound. There's something about Mr. Joubert's he-man macho style that rather suits the strength and sweep of Beethoven's Ninth when he is skating with confidence and the mistakes are minimal. Not bad.
Michal Brezina laid a bit of an egg in the long program after a very good short, but despite the disastrous performance, Mr. Brezina's skating nonetheless looks to have improved. The jumps cover jaw-dropping amounts of height and distance as usual, but more importantly (at least from what I can tell on Youtube), there seems to be an improvement in his overall skating skills, a certain smoothness that was not quite there last season. If Mr. Brezina can work on his nerves and get some better choreography (he can, however, keep the pink sweater), he may be able to establish himself as a true contender against the Japanese and North American skaters.
Let us end this post with a rousing performance from the Supreme Being of the Universe himself, Stephane Lambiel, during the gala: