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Joubert, Chan square off in war of words

Spins and steps are fine, but Frenchman still says quads should rule

Brian Joubert was very vocal about the quad and the new judging system after men's practice on Monday in Los Angeles.
Brian Joubert was very vocal about the quad and the new judging system after men's practice on Monday in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/24/2009) - Last season, Brian Joubert shrugged off Jeffrey Buttle, saying there were only a few skaters capable of winning the world title and the quad-less Buttle wasn't among them.

The Frenchman made a lot of noise off the ice, but the soft-spoken Canadian took home gold, defeating Joubert by nearly 14 points after his rival took a tumble in the short program.

Buttle is retired from competition, but his successor, two-time Canadian champion Patrick Chan, has taken up the cause.

"If you're going to say, 'Let's all do quads,' then [Joubert] had better have three quads in a program and nail them good or else he has nothing to say," the 18-year-old Chan, who does not yet include a quad in his programs, told gathered media on Monday.

"He just says that because he wants to have an excuse. It's the total package, the spins, the footwork. And obviously he needs to be focused on things other than just the jumps. I think he can do better in his performance, his footwork, his spins. It just really frustrates me when he constantly says that."

Au contraire, Joubert responded later that day after his evening practice.

"I can understand it's not only the quad and [other] jumps; it's everything, choreography, spins, footwork. But for the audience and judges, it's great to see some skaters try the quad jump.

"If [Chan] does a quad next season, he will see how much more difficult his program will be mentally and physically. It is difficult to do. Even one quad makes it completely different."

Joubert, who is hitting quad toe loops and Salchows in his practices here, said executing the four-revolution jump requires far more energy than, say, a triple-triple combination.

"You have to be very focused, and under the new judging system, it is even more difficult than before," he asserted. "If you fall, it's a big mistake."

At age 24, Joubert is fast becoming one of the elder statesmen of his sport. He came of age in the higher-flying days of Alexei Yagudin, Evgeni Plushenko and Timothy Goebel, all of whom routinely included multiple quads in their free programs.

"I learned to do a quad [under] the old judging system, which was [more forgiving] of mistakes. For younger skaters, maybe it is very difficult to start doing a quad in the new judging system," he allowed, adding that recapturing that skill will require action from the International Skating Union.

"I think we have to make a change [to the judging system] after the Olympics. [The men's event] is boring for the audience, less interesting. The new judging system is not so bad, we've improved our spins and footwork, but I think the quad toe must be [worth] maybe 12 points [instead of the current nine]."

Chan didn't limit his comments to talk of the quad. The Canadian also said the 2007 world champion's criticism of Buttle showed he was a bit of a poor sport, a charge the forthright Joubert doesn't deny.

"Yeah, because I was very disappointed [last season]. I did a big mistake in the short program, I fell on my [triple] Lutz. But I was still disappointed to see a world champion without a quad.

"I remember my first world championships in 2002. [Top skaters] did quads in both the short program and free skate. The competition was completely different. It was more fun, more exciting."

Quads and Chan aside, the Frenchman said he is ready to regain his world laurels.

"I want to win this competition. I just want to do my programs, do my job and see how it goes. But next season is most important.

"When I was 10 years old, I said I wanted to be European, world and Olympic champion. I've been European and world champion, but not Olympic. That's my main goal. I know I can do it. In 2006, I was not ready. I have more experience now."

Bitter experience has tempered his Gallic swagger. Last year, he proclaimed only he, Stéphane Lambiel and Daisuke Takahashi were capable of winning the title. With Lambiel retired and Takahashi out due to injury, Joubert would seem to have a clear field, but he said that isn't the case.

"A lot of skaters can be world champion. Some Japanese skaters, some North Americans, [six-time Czech champion] Tomas Verner, and me. I think it's going to be interesting because nobody can know who it will be."