Cain and Reagan split

16-year-old Ashley Cain and 22-year old Joshua Reagan have announced the end of their pairs partnership. They recently finished sixth in Senior Pairs at 2012 US Nationals after being Junior champions in 2011 and Novice champions in 2010. Both skaters say they intend to continue skating pairs, although when I first heard the news, I assumed it was because Ashley had decided to concentrate on singles; she placed second in US Junior Ladies in San Jose. Let’s just say it would not be a huge surprise if she did not seek another partner.

Cain and Reagan were a stunning on-ice couple. Cain is almost 5’6″ and Reagan is almost 6’2″. I enjoyed watching them skate in San Jose; they will be missed.

Ice Network article about Cain and Reagan’s breakup

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Phil Hersch on Czisny’s Four Continents “snub”

I had heard some rumors about Alissa Czisny’s reaction to being left off of the US Four Continents team. Phil Hersch has information on this from Czisny herself:

Phil Hersch: “How U.S. Figure Skating snubbed Czisny”

Czisny’s being left off of the team was not the only USFSA Four Continents’ decision in question; why did Richard Dornbush, who sadly totally bombed his short at Nationals and finished 13th there, get to go to 4C in Jeremy Abbott’s place? By the way, Dornbush finished, you guessed it, 13th at 4C.

There is a complicated rule for choosing 4C skaters; the operative phrase here is “extenuating circumstances”, I guess:

“The team will be selected from those athletes who are ISU senior age eligible.  Selection to the U.S. Four Continents Team will be based upon the results of the two most recent U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the most recent World Championship, the most recent Four Continents Championship and all other international events; however, the International Committee may consider extenuating circumstances.”

By this rule, Czisny had it all over both Caroline Zhang and Agnes Zawadzki, but was the USFSA looking for youth here over experience (by “experience”, I mean being 24 years old, which is considered by some to be ancient in ladies’ singles)? Hmmm…

And, while I’m asking questions, why is the competition called Four Continents? Shouldn’t it be called Five Continents? There were competitors at the 2012 4C from North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Just sayin’.

Four Continents results

Still stewing over Comcast dropping Universal Sports, on which I could have watched Four Continents…there are several YouTube video clips here, so you can see some of the top performances.

PAIRS

FP Name Country Points SP FS
1 Wenjing SUI / Cong HAN CHN 201.83 1 1
2 Caydee DENNEY / John COUGHLIN USA 185.42 2 2
3 Mary Beth MARLEY / Rockne BRUBAKER USA 178.89 3 3
4 Meagan DUHAMEL / Eric RADFORD CAN 171.76 8 4
5 Narumi TAKAHASHI / Mervin TRAN JPN 171.11 4 5
6 Amanda EVORA / Mark LADWIG USA 167.99 5 6
7 Paige LAWRENCE / Rudi SWIEGERS CAN 158.66 6 7
8 Jessica DUBE / Sebastien WOLFE CAN 154.79 7 8
9 Yue ZHANG / Lei WANG CHN 140.24 10 9
10 Huibo DONG / Yiming WU CHN 137.91 9 10

Sui and Han are scary good for their age. They have a huge throw quad Sal (two-footed) and a quad twist! They still skate kind of “young”, but she sells the program well, and how good are they going to be with more maturity??

MEN

FPl. Name Nation Points SP FS
1 Patrick CHAN CAN 273.94 1 1
2 Daisuke TAKAHASHI JPN 244.33 3 2
3 Ross MINER USA 223.23 6 4
4 Adam RIPPON USA 221.55 7 3
5 Takahito MURA JPN 217.16 2 6
6 Denis TEN KAZ 210.03 5 7
7 Tatsuki MACHIDA JPN 208.04 4 10
8 Kevin REYNOLDS CAN 203.26 9 5
9 Misha GE UZB 196.53 11 8
10 Jinlin GUAN CHN 196.53 10 9
11 Nan SONG CHN 190.51 8 11
12 Christopher CALUZA PHI 172.60 14 12
13 Richard DORNBUSH USA 164.29 13 14
14 Jeremy TEN CAN 159.22 12 18
15 Min-Seok KIM KOR 157.14 21 13
16 Jialiang WU CHN 156.62 15 17
17 Alex Kang Chan KAM KOR 154.07 16 15
18 Abzal RAKIMGALIEV KAZ 153.63 17 16
19 Brendan KERRY AUS 144.26 23 19
20 Mark WEBSTER AUS 138.87 18 20
21 Jordan JU TPE 134.97 20 22
22 Luiz MANELLA BRA 133.07 19 24
23 Kevin ALVES BRA 132.94 22 23
24 Nicholas FERNANDEZ AUS 131.76 24 21
25 Harry Hau Yin LEE HKG FNR 25
26 Maverick EGUIA PHI FNR 26
27 Wun-Chang SHIH TPE FNR 27
28 Hwan-Jin KIM KOR FNR 28

Here’s a video of Chan’s winning free; he skated really well. To me, however, Chan’s skating lacks something. He is obviously a terrific skater, with wonderful edges, and knows the judging system inside and out (or at least his choreographer does). In my mind, though, he lacks a true feeling for the music, and he is not the natural dancer that, say, Takahashi is. Remember Michelle Kwan, how when she skated it was often like the music was flowing through her? I’ve never had that feeling watching Chan.

And here’s Takahashi’s free as well, to “Blues for Klook”. I love the way that this program builds. Let’s face it, I’ve loved watching Daisuke since I first saw him at Skate America in 2005. In this skate, he popped his first triple Axel, and he two-footed his quad, but I love his movement on the ice so much that the jumps are secondary….


DANCE

FPl. Name Nation Points SD FD
1 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN 182.84 2 1
2 Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE USA 179.40 1 2
3 Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE CAN 163.26 3 3
4 Maia SHIBUTANI / Alex SHIBUTANI USA 158.29 4 4
5 Madison HUBBELL / Zachary DONOHUE USA 129.20 5 5
6 Alexandra PAUL / Mitchell ISLAM CAN 117.97 6 7
7 Xiaoyang YU / Chen WANG CHN 115.05 7 6
8 Anna NAGORNYUK / Viktor KOVALENKO UZB 107.61 9 8
9 Danielle OBRIEN / Gregory MERRIMAN AUS 105.91 8 9
10 Corenne BRUHNS / Ryan VAN NATTEN MEX 91.57 10 10
11 Cortney MANSOUR / Daryn ZHUNUSSOV KAZ 78.66 11 11

Virtue and Moir beat Davis and White. It’s all about levels here; V/M received level 4’s for six of their seven leveled elements, while D/W had level 4’s on only four of their eight leveled elements. With the two teams so close in ability, D/W need to up their levels for Nice if they hope to defend their World Championship.


LADIES

FPl. Name Nation Points SP FS
1 Ashley WAGNER USA 192.41 2 1
2 Mao ASADA JPN 188.62 1 2
3 Caroline ZHANG USA 176.18 4 3
4 Kanako MURAKAMI JPN 169.32 3 5
5 Kexin ZHANG CHN 162.59 5 4
6 Agnes ZAWADZKI USA 157.23 6 6
7 Amelie LACOSTE CAN 147.65 7 8
8 Cynthia PHANEUF CAN 147.47 8 7
9 Haruka IMAI JPN 134.49 11 9
10 Min-Jeong KWAK KOR 130.52 9 10
11 Bingwa GENG CHN 127.89 10 11
12 Victoria MUNIZ PUR 117.83 12 13
13 Alexandra NAJARRO CAN 117.11 14 12
14 Melinda WANG TPE 103.69 18 15
15 Sandra KHOPON THA 103.15 17 16
16 Qiuying ZHU CHN 102.77 16 17
17 Chantelle KERRY AUS 102.49 20 14
18 Mimi Tanasorn CHINDASOOK THA 97.19 13 22
19 Yea-Ji YUN KOR 96.85 19 19
20 Melanie SWANG THA 96.16 22 18
21 Chae-Yeon SUHR KOR 94.95 15 23
22 Lejeanne MARAIS RSA 94.34 21 21
23 Crystal KIANG TPE 93.79 23 20
24 Zhaira COSTINIANO PHI 87.26 24 24
25 Reyna HAMUI MEX FNR 25
26 Chaochih LIU TPE FNR 26
27 Mericien VENZON PHI FNR 27
28 Brittany LAU SIN FNR 28
29 Zara PASFIELD AUS FNR 29
30 Jaimee NOBBS AUS FNR 30

What a nice result for Ashley Wagner. She seems to have taken her new National Championship and run with it. This really positions her nicely for Worlds. What an uptick for Caroline Zhang as well…she skates better at Nationals than she has in years, and tops off her year with a clean skate and a bronze at FC!

Skate Canada has to send Lacoste to Worlds now, don’t they? She beat Phaneuf at Nationals, and now Four Continents (although it was hardly a resounding victory, with Lacoste 7th and Phaneuf 8th).

Four Continents news: Abbott withdraws

Jeremy Abbott has withdrawn from Four Continents, which starts February 9th. His place in the US contingent will be taken by Richard Dornbush. There is a lot of discussion on FS Universe about Armin Mahbahnoozadeh not getting the spot after finishing so far ahead of Dornbush at US Nationals.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Abbott has had back spasms which have affected his right hip. His coach, Yuka Sato, says he should be fine for Worlds (but what else would she say)? He will be undergoing treatment in Colorado Springs while Four Continents is going on there.

Detroit Free Press article

An article about the field expected for Four Continents:

USFSA article

Here’s hoping that Jeremy’s injury is minor. He has had a long season, and has also had to deal with his stepfather’s health issues since Nationals. I was in San Jose watching Jeremy skate live and only recently returned home. I watched his skate on TV today and could see the spectators turning around to see what the commotion was in the stands when Jeremy’s stepfather collapsed. It’s a good thing Jeremy was in the zone and not distracted by the spectators turning around, because it certainly was noticeable on television. As far as I can determine via the Internet, Mr. Scott is okay.

Last day at 2012 US Nationals

Unbelievable that this is the last day of competition; I guess time flies when you’re having fun!

The USFSA did something very strange with this year’s schedule. The first two (lowest) flights of the senior pairs’ free skate skated Saturday night, while the top two skated Sunday between two similarly-divided segments of the men’s free skate. When I asked why via Skate Radio, the technical specialist said it was “strictly because of TV”. I guess it’s not all that different to have the two middle flights of men separated by a few hours, but having the two segments of pairs on different days somehow doesn’t quite seem fair. I know the same judging panel judged both days, but it seemed very odd.

Pairs’ Free Skate

I would bet that Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were probably tired of being referred to as “national champions with their previous partners”. Now they can just be called “national champions”! They had a very strong free skate to “Nessun Dorma” that included their spectacular triple twist, a throw triple loop and a throw triple flip, and a terrific carry lift near the end of the program. They received a standing ovation and 128.82 points to win the free and make up for their third-place finish in the short, when Caydee fell on the throw 3F. Their total score of 189.70 gave them the gold medal by 3+ points, which was obviously a thrill for the pair, since they have been together less than a year.

Mary Beth Marley would easily win “most improved pairs athlete” at these championships. Last year at Nationals, she and Rockne Brubaker had only been together a few months, she had not skated pairs before, and it showed. This year, she was strong and confident (but really tiny–even smaller than her coach Jenni Meno, even when Marley is in skates!!) In fact, Mary Beth was rock-solid in the free skate; Rockne had problems on both of the SBS jump elements, falling on the 3T and turning out of the 2A. They also had a slight problem on the throw triple Sal. He was previously National Champion twice with Keauna McLaughlin, so you would not think leading after the short would put additional pressure on him. With Denney and Coughlin going clean, they were unable to hang on to their first place position after the short, but their total score of 186.07 was good enough for silver.

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig had a rough skate. Evora’s well-documented jump problems continued; she fell on the triple toe of their planned SBS combination, turned out of the double Axel, and also stepped out of the landing of their throw triple Lutz. Both of her SBS jumps were downgraded for underrotation as well. Their total score of 178.98 was enough to take the bronze, but not enough to claim one of the US’ two World Team pairs slots. Amanda is 27, Mark is 31. One has to wonder whether they are willing to compete two more seasons to try to make the Olympic team in 2014 given that they did not make the World team this year, or whether Amanda is ready to move on with her fiancé Jeremy Barrett and Mark would like to spend more time with his wife and young son. Stay tuned. (Hot off the press: one of my friends just told me that Amanda and Jeremy’s engagement is off, and his Facebook status is single. She must have had a lot on her mind at Nats…)

The young pair of Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff have spectacular throws. The distance and height she flies is amazing. Her lift positions are clean and sharp. If they can avoid the curse of the rotating pairs partners, I think they show a lot of promise. They finished fourth.

The pair that came in sixth this week is also one to watch, if they manage to stay together. Ashley Cain also competed in junior ladies and took the silver medal behind Gracie Gold. She is quite striking on the ice, blonde and statuesque. With her partner Joshua Reagan, who is so physically well-matched with Ashley that they could be siblings, the pair stands out. It’s evident that, if she continues to improve, she will soon have to choose between singles and pairs. She’s good at both, but we have more ladies in the pipeline than pairs, so I think I would like to see her choose pairs.

Men’s Free Skate

I was quite impressed with the men’s event overall. No, we do not have a lot of men in this country that can consistently land quads, and that is a problem on the international stage, but there were so many clean skates and so much nice presentation that both the short and the long were pleasures to watch.

I am actually going to go through the last two groups of men, because there’s something to say about almost all of them. Grant Hochtein skated first in the second segment of the competition (which is to say first in the third of four flights) and was quite pleased with his skate. He had some relatively minor jump problems, but finished twelfth overall.

Jonathan Cassar was up next. If you love spread eagles, he’s your man. They are stunning. I confess that I do not recall much about his jumps (I think he had some minor difficulties) because I was waiting for the SE’s! He finished eleventh.

Scott Dyer skated in the earlier segment (“Championship Men’s Free Skate 1”) because he was 13th after the short. He skated a pretty good free to pull him up to tenth place overall. I’m sure that spectators in the arena who don’t know much about skating were puzzled when the first couple of skaters skated, yet ended up behind a skater who just appeared up on the leaderboard like magic…

I really, really like Jason Brown’s skating. He is extremely smooth and quiet on the blade, is very musical, and by all accounts is a nice kid. He’s 17 years old, the 2011 Junior Grand Prix final champion, and the 2010 US junior champion. The only “problem”? He does not yet have the triple Axel. I don’t know how close he is to getting it in practice at home. I cannot claim to have gone to every practice in San Jose, but he didn’t try a 3A in any practice that I saw. If he gets the 3A and even a quad, he will be formidable because he has good component scores for his age. I hope he continues to mature because his skating is lovely. Not really crazy about the ponytail, though….

Douglas Razzano had a good skate to tango music, which in my opinion should be banned for (1) overuse and (2) the fact that no one should have to tango alone 😉 . He popped his planned quad toe into a double, but otherwise received positive GOEs on all of his elements to finish fifth overall.

Stephen Carriere has been looking to repeat past glory without success ever since he won the bronze medal in 2008. His free skate went fine in the beginning, but a fall on the triple Axel and some other jump issues were a problem. He finished sixth.

The final flight of these championships was led off by 2011 US Junior Champion Max Aaron. He landed a beauty of a quad Sal in the short, but fell on it in the long. He had difficulties with his triple Axel and triple Lutz as well, and the lack of positive GOEs made him fall to eighth place overall, but I think he, like Jason Brown, is one to watch.

Ross Miner came out of nowhere last year to claim the bronze, but he defended the position well to win the bronze again this year. He does not have a quad, and he fell on his second triple Axel, but he is a clean, sharp skater who is pleasant to watch.

Ah, Keegan Messing. His skating always looks like he’s just on the edge of wildness (and, as someone sitting near me pointed out, he “always skates to music that involves fighting someone or something” ;)). If I look at his planned elements, I am puzzled. He has two 3 Lz combos planned. Now, I am not exactly sure of the rule: if you repeat a triple, do you have to do one of them as a stand-alone jump? It would seem from looking at the protocol sheets that you do, because Messing’s second 3Lz combo is tagged +SEQ, which is the technical specialist’s way of flagging a repeated jump for deduction (I would think it is also the designation for a true jump sequence too, so that’s why I’m not sure). If planning two Lutz combos does indeed only get you 80% of what the jump or combo is normally worth, one would think the Messing camp would have realized this well before Nationals, no? At any rate, he did not do his second triple Axel in combination, so he definitely received the repeated jumps deduction there (again, it’s hard to tell with him since he doesn’t always follow his planned elements, but his first triple Axel was, I think, a substitute for a planned quad combo, and that may have led to the repeated jump?)  Minor problems on the loop and flip and doubling the Sal did not help his score. He is an entertaining skater to watch, but is not at all graceful or lyrical. He finished 12th in the free, and 7th overall.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh had a terrific short. His free wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t enough to maintain his third place after the short. He underrotated and fell on his quad toe attempt, stepped out of his second triple Axel, and had a minor problem on the Lutz, but he did land a three-jump combo and several other good-quality jumps. However, he received no credit for the required choreographed step sequence; I’m not sure why. He had a pretty good competition and finished fourth.

Adam Rippon had a fine Nationals. I have always liked his skating, and seeing him finally land decent triple Axels was great. Interesting how program strategy works; Rippon and/or his coaches Jason Dungjen and Yuka Sato must have decided not to go for the quad Lutz, so he did a double Salchow (!?). Why would he not just do a triple Lutz instead? Well, as my friend pointed out, the Lutz is his best jump, and he does the Rippon variation with both arms over his head on his solo triple Lutz, so he didn’t want to “waste” the solo Lutz.  He had a few downgrades and underrotations that he needs to fix, but two of his three spins were level 4, and his lyrical, musical style to Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” earned good component marks. He finished second in both the short and free to take the silver handily and make the world team.

We definitely saved the best for last. Jeremy Abbott was sublime in San Jose. If he is finally able to translate his usually great skating at Nationals to the World stage, he will medal. With the exception of underrotation on his triple loop and doubling the Sal, which truthfully did not mar his mesmerizing skate, his free program to “Exogenesis” by Muze was awesome. All of his elements with the exception of the loop received positive GOEs, and some of them were big GOEs–his innovative step sequences, his gorgeous quad toe, and his second triple Axel all had 2+ GOEs. During his skate, there was a commotion in the stands close to where we were sitting.  It turns out that Jeremy’s stepfather Allen Scott had blacked out in the stands, and he was rushed to a nearby hospital (he had lots of tests, which were negative, and last I heard was doing fine).  Jeremy rightly received huge component scores, and his total competition score of  273.58 set a new American record. Chan received over 300 points at Canadians, but Plushenko only got 261.23 in winning Euros, which shows how big Jeremy’s score was. He obviously was not told about his stepfather until after the medal ceremony, because he was joking, laughing, and smiling throughout.

News from Euros

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat won the Ice Dancing gold over Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia took the bronze.

Carolina Kostner of Italy took the Ladies’ gold medal by almost twenty points over Finn Kiira Korpi. Georgia’s Elene Gedevanishvili won the bronze.