After all the hoopla, the quadruple jump was not the deciding factor. Good, old clean skating was.
Canada's Elvis Stojko hit his second competitive quad-triple combination with breathtaking confidence to win his third World Figure Skating men's title Thursday. He had no major errors, and that was enough to take the title away from four-time U.S. champion Todd Eldredge.
"I pushed through all the doubts people had, all the negative criticism," said Stojko, the 1994 and '95 world champion, who dropped to fourth in the world last year with a blunder in the short program. "You hear the odd thing: He's not skating well, he's not confident, he's still not artistic as the next guy, he won't come back from that fall, you name it, it was said."
Stojko's performance was powerful and precise, particularly when the music matched his strength. But even the audience fell mute during a more lyrical section where his footwork fell flat, only to explode with him when he changed tempo and landed a triple salchow.
Heading into the free skate in fourth place, Stojko needed not only an error-free performance, which he delivered, but also mistakes from any of the top three skaters.
European champion Alexei Urmanov, the leader after the short program, didn't even skate, withdrawing with a groin injury. Eldredge sprawled on an attempted triple axel. And Ilya Kulik missed his first combination, the first of several jumps he downsized.
The shake-up left Eldredge in second place and gave Urmanov's training partner, Alexei Yagudin, a third-place finish two days after his 17th birthday.
The competition that was supposed to lift the quad from novelty to necessity in men's skating ultimately was decided by skaters' failures to hit elements that had been second nature. Going in, 10 men said they would try the jump. Even Eldredge, who had said a quad was out, penciled one in.
Despite the quad's failure to gain pre-eminence at worlds, a resurgence is likely in time for the Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
Eldredge said he'll be working on one. Stojko said he'll try to increase the difficulty, perhaps to a quad lutz. "I have some ideas," Stojko said. "It's hard to keep the program together with all the jumps and spins."