WSSA World Slalom Championship
Dec. 12-13-14, 2008
French version available HERE
And here we are on the third day of competition. After two days spent at Chong Pang on the big concrete slab for the Classics (slide, speed-slalom, individual, and jam), we move to a more urban place in the heart of Singapore for the ultimate category: Battle.
Situated just in front of the main entrance of Novena Square Shopping Mall, the battleground was not as big as the slab of the two previous days, but this permitted to create an overcrowding effect with the public gathered behind the barriers delimiting the battleground, on which the skaters were showing their skills. Not forgetting the MC orchestrating the whole event with “uh-uh yeahh”s!
The organisation was a little disturbed by weather conditions beyond our control: Rain! However reaction was quick, and when the competitors arrived on the spot, a tent had already been set to cover the battleground and some people were soaking up the ground with towels.
A major consequence: the surface of the battleground was limited to that of the tent. Nevertheless, we were treated to four lines of cones (a 50s with 20 cones, a 80s with 10 and another with 16, and a 120s with 10 cones.)
We took possession of a whole alley of the shopping mall and recycled it into a warm-up area.
The Battle lasted the whole day, alternating between mens and womens categories (mens qualifications to the quarter finals, womens category, resuming of the mens).
A few skaters and chosen moments:
Figures: 38 participants, coming from 15 different countries (China, Taipei, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Belgium, the USA, Russia, and Mauritius) dispatched up into 12 qualification groups.
As for the skaters, they were the same as those of the previous days, including Igor Cheremetieff (FRA, #1), Rudy Op’t Velt (GER, #2), Guo Fang and Lan Wang Heng (CHN, #3 and #5), Yu Jin Sung (KOR, #6), Tiziano Ferrari (ITA, #7), Xuan Le (FRA, #8), Clarence and Terence Cheung (SIN, #17 and #19), Kim Tae Bin and Kim Sung Jin (#23 and #25)… and this is only the top of the WSSA World Ranking.
There are other competitors present, whose names (I mean… whose levels, actually) are dangerously moving up… most of them started to get clear of the pack at the beginning of the season, and now they are challenging the top-skaters at the battle world championship.
To sum up, there was some level, some figures and characters, some suspense, and somehigh points.
The Freestyle Team, coached by Naomi Grigg. Not so long ago their level was not so bad, but this year they doubled up their efforts: a recognisable style and a technical level that is peaking up. A good surprise then, for Tim Schraepen (BEL) and Jon Bell (UK) who manage to get out while the going is good and respectively reach the eighths and the quarter-finals.
John Bae (SIN), 3rd at the Singapore national championship behind the Cheung brothers last August, is knocked out by Kim Tae Bin (KOR) and Lan Wang Heng (CHN) during the eighth-finals – bad luck in the distribution of the groups.
Lee Jon Suk (KOR), the winner of the Battle at the World Leisure Games in ChunCheon (Kor) last September (see the Chuncheon report) is knocked out – together with Clarence Cheug – during the quarter-finals facing Igor Cheremetieff (FRA) and Kim Tae Bin (KOR); Terence Cheug also stops at the quarter-finals, knocked out by Rudy Op’t Veld (GER) and Liao Jie (CHN).
Now Liao Jie… I had already spotted him at the Beijing Slalom Open last May (the little guy who could afford to play with his cap while doing sevens, and to do 5.4 jumps at the end of his lines…): he is quick and precise, his technical level is above the rest, he can make the tricks his own thanks to a lot of creativity and originality, and last but not least he’s dynamic and powerful – which are very rare abilities in Asia. He easily reaches the semi-finals… but at that point the competition is indescribably harsh. In his semi-final group, he’s got to face Kim Tae Bin (KOR), Wang Heng (CHN), and Guo Fang (CHN). Not easy to decide between Guo Fang and Liao Jie for the second qualifying place to go to the finals… and finally it is Guo Fang who goes through together with Wang Heng (1st of the group).
The other semi-final was quite delicate too: the group was made of two European titans Igor Cheremetieff (FRA) and Rudy Op’t Veld (GER) and two Korean titans Kim Sung Jin and Yu Jin Sung. The two skaters to be qualified for the finals are Igor Cheremetieff and Kim Sung Jin.
Both of the semi-finals were high points with suspense (who is going to go through to the finals?)… And it was all the more intense as it was impossible to make forecasts!
Another high point which also stroke the minds of the people there… but in quite a different way: the group 2 of the quarter finals gathering Tiziano Ferrari (ITA), Xuan Le (FRA), Kim Sung Jin (KOR), and Wang Heng (CHN). No real suspense here, as the two Europeans knew in advance they could not compete in pure technique against the two Asians; but there was such a complicity between them that they went to the slaughter determined and serene (nothing to lose… so let’s just have fun), and the show we witnessed remains one of the most memorable moments of the competition. A video will give you a better idea of the thing:
Till now I’ve mostly been talking about the unfolding, but I made no comments about the content (that is to say the tricks etc…)
The tricks… turning stuffs (preferably fast and lasting): sevens in each and every possible way (internal, external, frontward, backward, to-and-fro, toe, heel): special one foot, in each and every way too (normal, opposite, heel toe); wheelings, still in every way (heel and toe combos, front-to-back and back-to-front, …) Nothing’s impossible!; and all of this pure technique is punctuated by moments of style to link the big tricks altogether.
To conclude, not that much variety in the executed tricks… but this follows some kind of logics: to be the best, you have to show the biggest tricks as often as you can. This explains the profusion of wheeling tricks (including sevens and special one foot – in fashion).
The order to go was decided by the finalists as following:
1-Igor Cheremetieff (FRA, #1)
2-Lan Wang Heng (CHN)
3-Kim Sung Jin (KOR)
4-Guo Fang (CHN)
A somehow febrile first run for Igor Cheremetieff (FRA), which is mostly due to the fact that he didn’t save himself for the finals: to get to this stage the competition was not easy, and the World number #1 prefered to play it safe and make sure he went through for each group. Despite a few hitches, he manages a two-cone back heel seven, and a nice combo – a bit muddled, but still done – with a Mario slide (Igor’s style) to toe seven (two cones and back on two cones).
On the other hand Wang Heng did save himself, and starts the finals with a very stylish and fast first run in which there were some impressive technical peaks: a 3-cone back heel seven (and spinning three times around the 3rd cone) ending with a heel spin, and a heel wheeling back-to-front (he can even afford to catch his free leg doing the frontward wheeling).
As for Kim Sung Jin, he seems more composed – or less vindictive? – and apart from a 4-cone toe special one foot, and a back-to-front wheeling which he manages only at the second try but with a certain lack of motivation, he’s not really convincing.
Guo Fang is much more convincing: he challenges Wang Heng on the execution speed; manages 6 cones doing an amazing toe wiper at the end of the 50s (he would have gone on if he’d had more cones); does a toe seven, gets off the line – but makes it up with a spin; and manages a back kasatchock interestingly launched with a kind of non-jumped footspin move – and history has it that he ends up in the crowdbarriers…
Igor Cheremetieff pulls himself together on his second run where powerful tricks restlessly follow one another: he starts with a 3-cone flat external seven, goes on with a toe special one foot managing 4 cones in answer to Kim Sung Jin, two low back cross compasses, and a combo of sitting tricks on the 120s (footgun, kasatchok, kasakspin) in answer to Guo Fang.
Wang Heng too shows some sitting tricks with a combo of kasatchok to back footgun, and manages a big heel seven doing 5 cones (slightly off the line) which he finishes with a spin – ending in the crowdbarriers (…in answer to Guo Fang?!)
It’s Kim Sung Jin’s turn to rival on the sevens with a 3-cone heel seven ending with a spin; a nice combo of wheelings on the 50s in this second run, made of a back heel wheeling launched with a toe wiper, to front wheeling (Yeah, it is complicated).
As for Guo Fang’s second run, it is quite impressive… especially the moment when he manages nearly 5 cones doing seven (nothing ‘impressive’ till then) linked with the same thing… but on the opposite foot! (now it becomes impressive); he does also a toe special one foot managing 4 cones (5 had he not kicked the last one); and a very neat spinning déboulé along the 80s.
The third runs go on with the display of more and more complex tricks:
Igor Cheremetieff starts on the 50s doing toe wheeling, makes a U-turn and goes back doing back wheeling (but doesn’t manage more than 2 cones going back); tries a combo on the 80s, with heel wheeling to heel seven – the other wheels touch the ground for a fraction of second during the transition – anyway he manages 4 cones doing heel seven… and spins four times around the 4th cone.
Wang Hang finds some kind inspiration on the 50s with a combo of wheelings (back-front-back); tries to do heel seven to-and-fro (but doesn’t manage to go back); and managed 2 cones doing back external heel chicken leg.
Kim Sung Jin somehow missed his run: he tries to do a toe special one foot but finishes off the line, tries to challenge Wang Heng doing wheelings on the 50s but manages only back to front wheeling.
Guo Fang also takes up the challenge with a series of wheelings on the 50s (toe back-front-back)… and he ends up his run doing a 4-cone toe special one foot and a 5-cone toe seven.
1-Igor Cheremetieff tries to do a series of wheelings on the 50s but fails to finish on both tries.
2-Wang Heng does a combo made of heel wheeling front-back to special one foot (impressive).
3-Kim Sung Jin tries to do –probably(?)– toe seven (hardly definable).
4-Guo Fang manages 10 cones doing toe seven (slightly off the line).
The big winner of the Battle category, which resumes the 2008 WSSA World Slalom Championship is Lan Wang Heng (CHN) – not very surprising given the neatness with which he managed his highly technical tricks.
Guo Fang, double-world champion in both speed-slalom and freestyle individual categories, isn’t far from making it a hat trick and ends up second in Battle.
Igor Cheremetieff, the only European to have gone through all the qualifiers, gets the third place.
At last, Kim Sung Jin ends up 4th of this high level final.
Wang Heng (CHN) - 1
Guo Fang (CHN) - 2
Igor Cheremetieff (FRA) - 3
Kim Sung Jin (KOR) - 4
Liao Jie (CHN) - 5
The same competitors as for the last two days were present. Here is a recap of the top-skaters: Chen Chen (CHN, #1), Chloé Seyrès (FRA, #2), Polina Semenova (RUS, #3), Naomi Grigg (UK, #4), Fanny Violeau (FRA, #11), Jung Jae Won (KOR, #16), Ye Run Shi (CHN, #19), Su Fei Qian (CHN, #142)…
There were a big dozen women, dispatched up into four qualification groups. They were from China, Taipei, Singapore, Thailand, France, Russia, the USA, the UK, and Holland.
The technical level was, as usual, globally lower than that of the mens, but style and originality were the order of the day.
Less suspense than for the mens too, given that the general level was uneven.
The girls of the Freestyle Team, Naomi Grig (IK), Carmen Plate (NED), and Megan McIntosh (USA) don’t go through the qualifications. Naomi Grigg is knocked out, together with Hsiao Wan Ju (TPE), by Fanny Violeau (FRA) and the little prodigy Shu Fei Qian (CHN) – the 2nd place of the group was played out between N.Grigg and F.Violeau.
Chen Chen (CHN), Shu Fei Qian (CHN), Polina Semenova (RUS), and Chloé Seyrès (FRA) all end up first of their groups and reach the semi-finals together with the seconds Mabel Ang (SIN), Fanny Violeau (FRA), Ye Runshi (CHN) the speed-slalom skater, and Lin Chia Chi (TPE).
No surprises in semi-finals, and it’s the Top-4 skaters of the World Slalom Series who qualify for the final – at the expense of Ye Runshi, Lin Chia Chi, Fanny Violeau and Mabel Ang.
Here was the order to go:
1-Chloé Seyrès (FRA, #2 WSSA)
2-Shu Fei Qian (CHN, #142)
3-Chen Chen (CHN, #1)
4-Polina Semenova (RUS, #3)
The final is somehow destabilising: the Europeans take part in the game in building up tactical strategies – but the two Chinese seem to miss this parameter and show quite rambling pieces of runs…
On her first run, Chloé Seyrès concentrates on sitting tricks and does combos based on kasatchoks (front-turning-back) and kasakspins. She also does heel-toe back cross compass managing 2 cones, as well as heel wheeling managing 8 cones. On her second run, she mainly does tricks on the 50s – amongst them a 3-cone sewing-machine, turning wipers, and heel-toe compass; and she finishes her run having a quick go at the 80s with a heel wheeling. And on her last run, she does pink floyd to spin (catching the free leg), and heel chicken leg managing two spins.
Shu Fei Qian, the prodigy in technique seems at loss without her set combos and she struggles to organize herself. Her runs are quite empty and finally she does but too few tricks: a freestyle on the 50s ending with a shy front-to-back wheeling, an amazing toe chicken leg managing 4 spins (but she kicks the cone at the beginning of the second spin), a 4-cone back christie on the 120s, an attempt of kasatchok – but her legs aren’t powerful enough yet, and a 4-cone heel special one foot.
Chen Chen seems less at loss but doesn’t make the most of her 30 secs.
All in all, she did a 3-cone toe seven, two 2-cone heel seven, a 8-cone butterfly on the 120s, two heel specials one foot (managing 4 and 5 cones), and a 4-cone sewing-machine on the 50s.
As for Polina Semenova, she mainly based her runs on her lucky type of tricks: Compasses – in every possible way… punctuated by sitting tricks and stylish sweeping moves.
Concerning the sitting tricks she did a 8-cone back kasatchok on the 120s, a 2-cone free christie on the 80s, and a back footgun; as for the compasses: compasses to-and-fro on the 10 cones of the 80s, two heel-toe cross snakes managing 7 cones each, …; and for the wheelings: a little bit of everything but only managing 2-3 cones each.
1-Chloé Seyrès does a toe wheeling combo.
2-Shu Fei Qian does butterfly managing all the lines – but there’s a hitch after her first line and the rest from that point is not taken heed of.
3-Chen Chen does heel special one foot managing 6 cones (but kicks one off).
4-Polina Semenova does compasses to-and-fro on the 80s
Finally, it’s Chloé Seyrès who wins this Final, and the World title, thanks to a great quantity and variety of tricks. Follow the two Chinese Chen Chen and Shu Fei Qian who, despite an impressive pure technique missed the tactical part, and their performances – technical but too poor – were not enough to take over the first two places. Polina Semenova ends up 4th: she was very clean but she was reproached for lack of variety.
Chloé Seyrès (FRA) - 1
Chen Chen (CHN) - 2
Shu Fei Qian (CHN) - 3
Polina Semenova (RUS) - 4
Fanny Violeau (FRA) - 5
Ye Runshi (CHN) - 6
The competition ended up with a general buffet on the sea-side, during which a trophy ceremony took place – to reward the 2008 World Top-4 skaters of each category:
Freestyle men and women
Speed slalom men and women
Slide men and women
And to end with a flourish, most of the skaters found themselves at the Saint James (a big Singaporean night-club) to dance all night long!
Close Yr E’s
Jan. 23, 2009