Worlds Rewind: Vancouver 2001

As we head into the home stretch to the ISU World Figure Skating Championships® 2020 in Montreal, Quebec, we continue to look back at previous world championships staged in Canada. Part 8 of the ten-part series reflects on the 2001 world championships in Vancouver.

As the skating world converged on Vancouver for the 2001 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, there were several intriguing storylines to follow at General Motors Place.

Three-time defending world champion Alexei Yagudin of Russia seemed headed for an inevitable showdown with compatriot Evgeny Plushenko, the heir apparent in men’s figure skating. Michelle Kwan saw a pair of imposing obstacles – namely Russia’s Irina Slutskaya and fellow American Sarah Hughes – standing in her way of a fourth world title. And Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, the darlings of Canadian pair skating, were looking to win gold on Canadian soil.

The men’s battle didn’t materialize as expected.

Yagudin, the three-time defending world champion, suffered a foot injury while training a few days before the competition. He had a forgettable qualifying round, falling twice and landing just three of his seven planned triple jumps to plummet to fifth spot, a fourth consecutive world title clearly in jeopardy.

If there was even a glimmer of hope for Yagudin and the rest of the field, Plushenko made sure it was short-lived with a dominating performance in Vancouver.

With a rousing long program that saw him land eight triple jumps and his signature quad-triple-double combination, Plushenko electrified the crowd with a powerful, adrenaline-filled program on the way to his first of three world titles.

“I’m so happy,” Plushenko told reporters after his long program. “I did everything clean. I am not yet conscious of winning. Maybe in a week or five days, I will realize I won this title. That I did it. I am world champion.”

Yagudin rallied to take the silver medal, while American Todd Eldredge won bronze, a full ten years after winning his first world championship.

At 29 years of age, Eldredge became the oldest men’s skater to win a medal at the world championships since Roger Turner, who was also 29, won silver in 1931.

In the ladies’ event, Kwan trailed Russia’s Slutskaya after the short program but bounced back with a near-flawless long program, including landing her triple toe-triple toe combination – a jump that had given Kwan problems throughout her career.

Canada’s greatest medal hope rested on the shoulders of the pairs tandem of Salé and Pelletier, and the two-time national championships did not disappoint on home soil. In just their third season together, Salé and Pelletier put the finishing touches on an incredible season in which they finished atop the podium in all but one event.

Skating their long program to “Tristan and Isolde,” the duo mesmerized the Vancouver crowd, bringing them to their feet before the music had stopped. At the end of their program, Salé, overcome with emotion and with her arms wrapped around Pelletier, exclaimed, “Oh my God, Oh my God.” Minutes later, as their marks were read, Canada had its first gold medal at the world championships since Elvis Stojko won the men’s title in 1997.

“It was absolutely awesome,” Salé said afterwards. “I was calm, and I enjoyed each moment because it can be overwhelming.”

“This is the best day of my life,” added Pelletier.

Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio claimed gold in ice dance. France’s Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat won silver and Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh took bronze.

The ISU World Figure Skating Championships would return to Canada in 2006 when Calgary hosted figure skating’s flagship event.

Day tickets for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020 are on sale now and can be purchased online at montreal2020.com, by phone at 1-855-310-2525 or in person at the Centre Bell Box Office.

2001 WORLD FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS MEDALLISTS

DISCIPLINE GOLDSILVERBRONZE
MenEvgeni Plushenko (RUS)Alexei Yagudin (RUS)Todd Eldredge (USA)
LadiesMichelle Kwan (USA)Irina Slutskaya (RUS)Sarah Hughes (USA)
PairsJamie Salé / David Pelletier (CAN)Elena Berezhnaya / Anton Sikharulidze (RUS)Shen Xue / Zhao Hongbo (CHN)
Ice DanceBarbara Fusar-Poli / Maurizio Margaglio (ITA)Marina Anissina / Gwendal Peizerat (FRA)Irina Lobacheva / Ilia Averbukh (RUS)