Timothy Goebel's second-place finish at the World Figure Skating Championships was sealed when he hurt his hip last fall. He overcame the injury but couldn't overcome the odd conventions of the sport, no matter that he performed a sparkling long program that brought the crowd of 10,059 at the MCI Center to its feet Thursday in a flag-waving frenzy.
Goebel, who trains in El Segundo, spun an entrancing web with two quadruple jumps, seven clean triple jumps and as much artistry in his "American in Paris" program as he has ever displayed. But Russia's Evgeny Plushenko, who did the same quad twice -- once in combination -- and had several rough landings among his six triples in a flat program, won his second title in three years.
Goebel didn't compete in a full slate of events this season. Plushenko did. It shouldn't matter, but this is figure skating, so it mattered a lot. Takeshi Honda of Japan, who was penalized for repeating a quadruple toe loop and wasn't his usual dynamic self, finished third for the second successive year.
"I think not doing the Grand Prix series was to my detriment," Goebel said. "If I had put out a few performances during the season like this one, I might have fared better....
"A lot of my peers here had a whole season to work out the kinks in their programs. I was thrown into the dog pit. It was a very difficult position to be put into but I pulled through it really well."
Although not the biggest injustice in the sport's checkered history, Plushenko's victory wasn't among the most memorable. He said he skated "normal today. Not the best ... but finally I did a good job. I think so."
The 20-year-old crammed all but one jump into the first 2 minutes 50 seconds of his program to "St. Petersburg 300," a tribute to the 300th anniversary of his Russian hometown. He never recaptured his verve after landing a quad-triple-double combination for his opening jump, but his marks ranged from 5.6 to 5.9 for technical merit and were 5.9s for presentation.
Goebel's marks ranged from 5.7 to 5.9 for technical merit and consisted of 5.7s and 5.8s for presentation.
"It's nicer to win the second time," said Plushenko, who had been troubled by a sore knee the past week. "This is feeling great, actually. Awesome."
Goebel was happy too, given his injury-marred season, his poor performance at the U.S. championships two months ago in Dallas and problems he had with his skate boots and the balance of his blades. "I couldn't be more delighted," said his coach, Frank Carroll. "He did a fabulous job. He was able to get his problems solved and put it together at the end."
That wasn't the case for Michael Weiss of nearby Fairfax, Va., who was fourth after the short program but imploded before a partisan crowd and finished fifth. The other U.S. entrant, Ryan Jahnke, dropped from seventh to 13th in his world championship debut and landed merely one clean jump, his last.
Weiss reduced a planned quad to a triple and two-footed his second planned quad. "It was tough," said Weiss, twice a world bronze medalist. "I don't know what happened.... I'm going to keep swinging and get it right."
Goebel said his medal means "a thousand times more" than last year's because "It's easier to storm the castle than defend it." He added, "I think in this competition I've really proven I'm not just a first-mark [technical] skater any more. In all three programs my artistic marks were parallel to my technical marks and it's nice to see my marks reflect my hard work."
Competing on what they called "enemy ground," defending ice dance champions Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia won the original dance by a 5-4 split over Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz to take the lead with today's free dance left. "Among the 14 judges on the panel there were no Russian judges, and that made us nervous," Averbukh said. Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto of the U.S. are seventh, one place ahead of U.S. champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev.
The women will perform their short programs today, worth 30% of the score. Four-time world champion Michelle Kwan and Fumie Suguri of Japan are the co-leaders.