- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Even in Evan Lysacek’s back yard _ or at least a pond out back _ the men’s short program at the World Figure Skating Championships belonged to France’s Brian Joubert.

The 2007 winner was far from perfect, struggling with his quad combination Wednesday. The rest of his routine, from the sharp footwork to a techno beat, precise spins and challenging choreography, lifted Joubert 1.7 points ahead of Lysacek, who lives near the Staples Center.

“I have a good score even with a big mistake on the beginning, so it’s not bad,” said Joubert, whose painstakingly slow entry into his quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination forced him to put his right hand all the way down on the ice to save the landing. That made for a crooked takeoff on the second jump, and another ugly landing.

“I need to feel the pressure, but I’m not a robot, so sometimes I can be very nervous and sometimes I can be relaxed. After the mistake, I didn’t care about it.”

The judges didn’t care too much, either, after Joubert surged through the rest of his program. Because Joubert had done the quad toe, he could do a triple lutz as his required solo jump. Lysacek had done a triple lutz as the opening jump in his required combination, so he had to do a triple flip for his solo jump. Add in style points, and Joubert’s lutz ended up being worth 2.1 points more.

Which made the difference heading into Thursday night’s free skate.

“He’s such an amazing athlete, and he’s an athlete that I’ve looked up to in my own career for some years now,” said Lysacek, a two-time U.S. champion who finished just third at nationals this year. “As a skater, I don’t expect that I’m going to go out and win because that’s completely out of my control. I try to do my job, which is tick, tick, tick all my elements away.”

Lysacek pretty much did that to edge Canada’s Patrick Chan for second.

Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won their second pairs world crown in a rout Wednesday night. A repeat performance at next year’s Vancouver Games, and Olympic gold will be theirs, too.

They finished with 203.48 points, almost 17 points ahead of Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao of China.

“It’s hard to describe,” Szolkowy said. “Last year, of course, it was the first time for us to be world champions. The last season was hard again, we had to defend the European championships, the title, and now this title. Both things are hard, winning the first time and defending it. You cannot really compare these two things.”

In the afternoon, Lysacek didn’t compare to the skater who nearly stumbled his way off the world team at nationals. Indeed, while Brandon Mroz showed his second-place finish at his first senior U.S. championships was no fluke, finishing eighth with a solid, clean skate, U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott was a disappointing 10th.

So Lysacek, a two-time world bronze winner, is the only American medals contender thanks to a powerful program that oozed emotion from the time he took the ice until he triumphantly slid across it on one knee after his music ended.

He shook both fists, screamed “Yeah!” and covered his face with both hands. He skated to center ice and then went down on one knee, delighting the cheering crowd as he slid forward.

“I am an adopted Angelino myself,” Lysacek said. “I was pretty nervous actually to be honest, because a lot of my friends have never seen me skate live and it’s really cool for me that they could be part of this experience with me.”

Chan called out Joubert earlier this week about the quad not being the end-all, with the overall quality of a program mattering most. So Joubert put on a playful, entertaining routine to “Rise,” a techno-pop number, that was just the right fit for Hollywood.

“We have to compete on the ice, not outside with the journalists,” Joubert said, a smiling Chan sitting beside him.

“Patrick is a very dangerous skater for me. He can beat me _ he beat me in the Grand Prix series. We will fight on the ice.”

Added Chan, “We’ve moved on. We’re both friends.”

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