Lyrics in Singles and Pairs….

So by now skate fans know that lyrics are now allowed in the singles and pairs disciplines (they’ve been allowed in Ice Dance since the 1997-98 season). What is YOUR opinion of the use of lyrics in all of the disciplines?

I was originally against the use of lyrics in singles and pairs, and two competitions into the Grand Prix skating season, I can’t say that my opinion has changed very much. Watching skating for many years I have heard all kinds of music butchery, as well as skating warhorses being beaten to death (“Carmen”, anyone?) I wasn’t afraid of lyrics per se, but of lyrics being done poorly. Also, it is going to take a long time for me to stop thinking “exhibition” when I hear lyrics. Since I much prefer competition skating to exhibition skating, this is not a good portent for me.

Using lyrics can have its advantages if done well, though. Javier Fernandez‘s SP this year is “Black Betty”, and he’s now able to use the version that most of us are familiar with. However, during Skate America, I heard yet another musak version of the Beatles, and thought “Why would you not have Sir Paul singing instead of the elevator version of “Eleanor Rigby??”

I’ve seen a few cases so far when lyrics have been used to good effect. This season, Madeline Aaron/Max Settlage (USA) are skating their free to “The King and I”, and making sparing but effective use of lyrics:

In Aaron/Settlage’s case, the lyrics are not overwhelming nor terribly distracting.

But let’s look at Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford‘s SP. “C’est bon”? Someone caterwauling in French is not my idea of good!!

Their skating is quite wonderful, but it was really hard  to pay attention to it with my hands over my ears. In this case, the lyrics totally overwhelm the skating.

With lyrics allowed, one would think that skaters would be choosing a greater variety of music, but we’ve certainly seen our share of Carmens (thankfully sans lyrics), Malaguena (with lyrics, ick, ick), and Argentine tangos. I like Samantha Cesario‘s “Carmen”, but she has the fierceness to pull it off. Skaters, when your coach suggests one of the tired old nuggets, unless you are a skater with the chops to bring something new to a piece that’s been beaten within an inch of its life,  JUST…SAY….NO.

 

 

Russia makes it official: Plushy is their man

The Russian Skating Federation has made it official: After skating in a closed-door test skate, Evgeny Plushenko will be the man representing them in the men’s event at the Sochi Olympics. As my friend T has said, “If he can walk, they will send him”. The also-rans didn’t help their cases any at Euros. Maxim Kovtun, fresh off of his besting Plushy at Russian Nationals, could only manage fifth place. Sergei Voronov took the silver at Euros, but was a long shot anyway. Konstantin Menshov had a great free skate to take the bronze after being in 11th place after the short (!), but he was never really under consideration. I for one have seen enough Mishin-inspired arm flailing for two lifetimes, but certainly think that Plushy is the Russians’ best shot if his injury-wracked self holds up. Since Russia only qualified one man to the Olympics, this means that Plushenko would have to skate the entire team event plus the men’s event. Countries are allowed to have different skaters skate the short and free in the team event, but the skater has to have qualified to the Olympic team in his/her/their individual event first. I think this may preclude Plushenko’s competing in the team event and then pulling out with an “injury”, with one of the alternates (Kovtun or Voronov) replacing him in the men’s event. However, if there is a way to do it, Russia may find it….

And while on the topic of Euros, I have to say that the artistry (lack of artistry would be a better term) exhibited in the top flight of the men’s event was alarming after seeing Jeremy Abbott, Jason Brown, and Joshua Farris in Boston. IJS programs all the way at Euros (sigh).

The rest of the Russian Olympic team is no surprise. 2014 European Champion Julia Lipnitskaya and European silver medalist Adelina Sotnikova will skate in the ladies’ event (Alena Leonova is the alternate). Volosozhar/Trankov, Baranova/Larionov and Stolbova/Klimov (who won gold, bronze, and silver, respectively, at Euros) will be the pairs, and Bobrova/Soloviyev, Ilinykh/Katsalapov, and Sinitsina/Zhiganshin the dance teams.

Recent skating tidbits!

Here we are in the off-season. Those of you who have followed skating for a long time know that lots can happen at this time of year: pairs/dance/coach-skater partnerships break up and reform; skaters work on their new programs for next season, with next season having just that much more import since it’s an Olympic year (yay!); and talk inevitably turns to the current sad state of figure skating (in the US, anyway).

Here are some notable skating happenings since Worlds:

1) The USA won the World Team Trophy in Japan. Patrick Chan expressed his indifference to this post-Worlds competition, and says that he favors skaters’ forming a union to prevent exploitation:

Patrick Chan favors figure skaters’ union

While I often think that Chan has skate-in-mouth disease, he raises some valid points.

I would ask: why did Chan feel that he was forced to compete in the WTT while Davis/White and Virtue/Moir were not (perhaps D/W is not a valid comparison, since they are under a different federation’s sway)? Does the WTT have greater import now that the Team event has been added to the Winter Olympics?

2) John Nicks has decided he no longer wants to travel, thereby leaving Ashley Wagner without a coach to travel with going into an Olympic year. She and her choreographer (Philip Mills) have parted ways as well. What’s going on here??

3) Skate America will be held in Detroit this fall (October 18-20). Boston will have the US’ bid to host Worlds in 2016. I am definitely rooting for Boston to get Worlds, since any time I can take Amtrak instead of flying is a good time 🙂 !!

4) New US pairs teams: Lindsay Davis (formerly of Davis/Ladwig) has teamed up with Rockne Brubaker; Becky Bereswell and Joshua Reagan (who just ended a partnership with Caitlin Yankowskas) have teamed up under the coaching of Jason Dungjen and Yuka Sato. I wish Caitlin could find a partner; she’s too good to waste on the sidelines. Like Reagan’s former partner Ashley Cain, Becky Bereswell is on the tall side for a skater (5’6″). Reagan is about six feet tall.

According to Reagan:

“Caitlin (Yankowskas) and I skated together for a year, and certain things worked, certain things didn’t,” Reagan said. “Johnny (Johns) kind of sat us down and said he didn’t think we were the right match for each other, and that was kind of it. It wasn’t a particular element, it was more overall training; we just weren’t right for each other.”

Yankowskas had no comment.
Ice Network article

 

IJS makes me sad. The PCS rules need to change.

After piecing together pieces of Worlds from YouTube in several different languages (including an Italian feed with a biscotti advertisement in the lower-left corner), I am left with such a feeling of sadness. Once again, the IJS has resulted in suspect results. I have to admit, I was one of the people who had been saying that the Performance/Execution component of the Patrick Chan System, er, the Program Component Scores should be docked for a skater who has a hot mess of a program like Patrick Chan did in his long at this year’s Worlds after the quads. Well, here is what the rules say the judges should take into account when judging Performance/Execution:

Performance is the involvement of the skater/couple/teams physically, emotionally and intellectually as they translate the intent of the music and choreography. Execution is the quality of movement and precision in delivery. This includes harmony of movement in pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating.

  • Physical, emotional and intellectual involvement
  • Carriage (and body alignment – synchronized)
  • Style and individuality/personality
  • Clarity of movement
  • Variety and contrast
  • Projection
  • Unison and “oneness” (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
  • Balance in performance (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
  • Spatial awareness between partners – management of the distance between partners and management of changes of hold (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)”

Basically, there is nothing concrete there that states that a judge should penalize a mistake-ridden program. Essentially, the five parts of the PCS (the other four are Skating Skills, Transitions, Choreography, and Interpretation) are not going to change that much from competition to competition, unless (a) a skater chucks his/her program and goes with a different one or (b) a skater is like Surya Bonaly or Christopher Bowman and does choreography on the fly.

I think the PCS rules need to change. Yes, I understand that falls, step-outs, stumbles, etc. are already assessed lower marks in the TES (Technical Element Scores), but I don’t have to tell any of you who are reading this that multiple mistakes effect the flow and emotion of a program. That’s just the way it is. The PCS rules as written now theoretically provide a given skater with a relatively fixed mark from performance to performance, which I think is a mistake. (We won’t talk about the US National judges giving Max Aaron vastly different PCS’s at Nationals than at any other competition he skated this season).

On the technical side, I am no math guru like Tony Wheeler, but I agree with his contention about rewarding/penalizing wrong-edge jumps. (It’s rather math-heavy, but his contention is that skaters who flutz or flitz essentially are rewarded for doing the same jump too many times. I agree.):

http://www.flutzingaround.com/2013/03/edge-calls-and-points-skaters-earn.html

Also, as long as we’re talking math, why not have some kind of score standardization between disciplines? One of the audience-killing aspects of the IJS is that the score a skater receives has no context for the spectators.  Everyone knew under the old system that the closer you got to a 6.0, the better. Now the numbers are different from discipline to discipline. Why not have benchmark scores for the short program/short dance and free skate/free dance? Either take the average of every skater in a given discipline at Worlds since the IJS came into effect, or take the highest score, and make that, say, a 50 in the short program/short dance and a 100 in the free skate/free dance. That way, when the score is posted, everyone would quickly know if that performance was great, good, or poor, regardless of whether it’s men’s, ladies, pairs, or ice dancing. I don’t think we should go back to having a “perfect score” like 6.0, because that to my mind was one of the most egregious flaws of the old system, resulting in judges getting boxed in, scores having to be reserved for later skaters, etc. (Ordinals were the other egregious flaw in the old system, in my opinion. I think it’s much better now that a skater can be rewarded for skating a much better short than his/her competitors vs. being virtually tied going into the long if the short programs were close).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this whole thing. Jennifer Kirk and David Lease said in their Worlds Men’s review podcast that they hoped that skating has now hit bottom. I unfortunately fear that is not the case.

PS> The version of Bolero that Savchenko/Szolkowy used for their free skate was hideous and should be banned. What was that vocal caterwauling about midway through the program????

The US team heading to Worlds, and a US TV coverage rant…

The World Figure Skating Championships are underway this week in London, Ontario, and I am a bit concerned about how the US team will fare there. Of course, our ice dance team is world-class and the envy of any country, but it is hard for me to remember another World Team that has as many question marks as this year’s team aside from ice dance.

Both of our pairs, Castelli/Shnapir and Scimeca/Knierim, are making their very first Worlds appearances. Castelli/Shnapir have a fair amount of international experience, but going into your first Worlds as a first-time national champion is a lot of pressure. Scimeca/Knierim do not have much international experience at all, and have been together less than a year.

New national champion Max Aaron has the quads to compete technically with the world contenders, but the judges overinflating his component scores at Nationals did not do him any favors. His PCSs at Four Continents were more in line with where his skating is at the present time, and he will have to land everything and hope for some mistakes by the more artistic skaters to finish highly. I don’t think that Ross Miner has the technical arsenal to compete with the top guys. It’s not totally impossible that we could regain three men’s spots, but unfortunately it’s probably not going to happen. And let’s not forget what happened to Alissa Czisny last year; hopefully none of our skaters will finish so low that there is a chance of losing the second spot in pairs, men’s, or ladies.

Ashley Wagner had a great fall season, but mounted a less-than-stellar defense of her national title in Omaha. She also does not consistently compete or land a triple-triple–with Queen Yu-Na back, and a resurgent Mao Asada, you’ve got to have it. Gracie Gold is already getting a reputation for inconsistency in the skating world, which I think is a bit premature; after all, she just moved up to seniors this year. Let’s give her a chance. Again, I think our chances are slim to get back three spots, although I would love nothing more than being proven wrong on this point.

Silly me. I thought that since NBC broadcast some of the Grand Prix, and US Nationals, that they surely would broadcast Worlds less than a year out from Sochi. How naive. (I don’t consider a recap show broadcasting the event). Yes, I know, I should have just ponied up for IceNetwork in the fall, but I’m one of the last three people in the United States who does not like watching things that should be on TV on my computer. And our cable system has not had Universal Sports for over a year now. I am grumpy that Worlds are in Canada and (a) I’m not there and (b) I can’t really watch them on TV. As my daughter would say, first-world problems….

USFSA announces World and 4CC teams

For a full list of the USFSA World Assignments: USFSA Press Release

WORLD TEAM

The USFSA announced its selections for the 2013 World Team today. The only variation from the podium placements at Nationals was in pairs, where 2012 National Champions Caydee Denney/John Coughlin received a medical bye to the upcoming World Championships. Coughlin underwent hip surgery in early December, and he is now back on the ice based on his recovery being ahead of schedule. I assume the USFSA will have some kind of observation/tryout to verify he’s in competitive shape, but given the weak state of the US Pairs, D/C can only be a positive addition to the team. Denney/Coughlin’s being on the team will help take some of the pressure off of Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir, who are going to Worlds for the first time. It’s a huge amount of pressure to be going to your first Worlds as US Champions.

Worlds will take place in London, Ontario from March 10-17.

FOUR CONTINENTS (Osaka, Japan, February 6-11)

Pairs:

Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir
Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim
Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay

Alternate 1 – Lindsay Davis/Mark Ladwig
Alternate 2 – Gretchen Donlan/Andrew Speroff
Alternate 3 – Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier

Men:

Max Aaron
Ross Miner
Adam Rippon

Alternate 1 – Richard Dornbush
Alternate 2 – Brandon Mroz
Alternate 3 – Stephen Carriere

Dance:

Madison Chock/Evan Bates
Meryl Davis/Charlie White
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani

Alternate 1 – Madison Hubbell/Zach Donohue
Alternate 2 – Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt
Alternate 3 – Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus

Ladies:

Christina Gao
Gracie Gold
Agnes Zawadzki

Alternate 1 – Mirai Nagasu
Alternate 2 – Caroline Zhang
Alternate 3 – Ashley Cain

IN OTHER NEWS: Two-time US Champion Alissa Czisny underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in her left hip on January 25th. This is the same hip that she had operated on last June. Given her age (25) and her physical problems, one wonders if this might be the end of her competitive career.

2013 US Nationals

This year’s nationals are in the books, and some young skaters with big jumps made news. 17-year-old Gracie Gold, who blew away the field to win last year’s Junior title, skated a technically-packed free skate and stormed to the silver medal. She was in ninth place after the short program, having fallen on her combo and singled her Axel. Had she finished higher in the short, she would have relegated defending champion Ashley Wagner to the silver medal position. Many female American skaters have trouble with their jumps getting downgraded due to underrotation; not Gracie. She finishes her rotation well above the ice and lands straight backwards. This girl makes her triple Lutz/triple toe combination look like a walk in the park. She needs better choreography and more maturity in her presentation, but hopefully she’ll get there.

On the men’s side, 20-year-0ld Max Aaron landed two beautiful quad Salchows (one with a double toe) on the way to winning his first national title. His only error was a turn-out between the jumps of his triple Axel combination, but even with that small error, he scored a whopping 96.39 for his executed elements score, getting positive GOEs for all of his elements besides the 3A combo. I remember seeing him live last year in San Jose, and the height on his jumps had the crowd oohing and aahing in practice. He needs more work on interpretation, musicality, and presentation, but boy, this kid can JUMP (and he’s certainly far from artistically hopeless, thankfully).

I’m sure that Ashley Wagner was not thrilled with her free skate, but it was enough to retain her title. She is the first American woman to defend successfully since Michelle Kwan did it in 2005. Wagner fell on both her 3Lz and 3Lo in the free, and did not have a triple-triple combo, but to be fair, she had food poisoning the week before Nationals and was probably not back to full strength. She’s going to need a triple-triple to contend at Worlds.

The women’s event overall (at least the part that they televised on NBC, more on that later) was actually quite a well-skated event until we got to the top three skaters, who were the last three to compete. Agnes Zawadzki had several mistakes including a fall on her 3Lz, Ashley Wagner had two falls, and Mirai Nagasu was not fully recovered from a respiratory virus and suffered many jump downgrades. Given the fact that downgrades are a problem for her at the best of times, the fact that she was slower than usual and probably got less pop off of the ice did not help here. The thing about Gracie Gold vs. earlier wunderkinds like Nagasu and Caroline Zhang is that Gold is 17 and already has had at least some of her growth spurt. Nagasu and Zhang had success on the national stage at such young ages that they had not yet hit the hormonal highway. Now they are beautiful young women, but neither has been able to reproduce the success they had at a young age, at least not so far.

Three-time national champion Jeremy Abbott had too many errors in his free skate to retain his title. Of more significance was the fact that by finishing third he will not even get to go to Worlds. Abbott was short of rotation and fell on his 4T attempt, and he doubled the loop in one of his combos and doubled the Salchow as well. Ross Miner took the silver this year after being bronze medalist twice. His free skate to Captain Blood was well-skated, with a successful quad Salchow, but he singled his second Axel. With the huge technical scores put up by Aaron, Miner had no room for mistakes.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White, to no one’s surprise, won their fifth consecutive national title in Omaha with a marvelous free dance to Notre Dame de Paris. The American judges gave them level 4s for all of their elements, and they received perfect 10s for four of the five component categories. World judges tend to not be as generous, but we’ll see how it goes. Madison Chock and Evan Bates won the silver; Maia and Alex Shibutani won the bronze. All three teams will compete at Worlds.

The pairs event was a chance for lesser-known teams to shine, given the fact that defending champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were unable to compete due to Coughlin’s hip surgery. Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir won their first title with a flawed free skate; Castelli turned out of the SBS 3T, and Shnapir missed their side-by-side spins altogether. Their almost ten-point lead in the short program stood them in good stead. Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim have been together less than a year, but they skated well enough in their first Nationals together to take the silver. Their split triple twist was huge (they have the same coach as  Denney/Coughlin, who also have a fab twist). Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, coached by Jim Peterson and former US pairs medalist Amanda Evora, took the bronze.

I understand that a color commentator may not know as much about a given sport as the so-called play-by-play commentators, but NBC seems to specialize in finding color commentators for figure skating that know little or nothing about the sport (yeah, Tom Hammond, I’m talking about you). This latest iteration, Mike Emrick, is a well-known hockey announcer, and has the additional trait of sounding a bit like newscaster Brian Williams (I kept waiting to hear, “This is his first year at the senior rank, and in other news, Washington is still deadlocked over the budget.”) I miss the days of Unca Dick and, yes, Terry Gannon–who is a basketball player but at least tried to do his homework regarding figure skating.

I saw my first commercial for Sochi during the skating broadcasts!! Can’t wait…

The attendance in Omaha did not look great. Someone I know that was there said attendance was pretty abysmal during the week, okay on Saturday. It looked like there were a lot of empty seats for the men’s final. Oh, the State of the Skate is not too good, unfortunately.

Next up: Four Continents, February 6-11, Osaka, Japan.

 

2013 Euros and Canadians

Interesting developments in the Men’s event at Euros: after falling in his short program and aggravating a back injury, Evgeny Plushenko withdrew from the event (or, he withdrew because he was in sixth place, hard to tell <sigh>). One has to wonder what this means for Worlds in six weeks. I think that one of the reasons Plushenko is even making a run at Sochi is because the men’s field in Russia is currently weak. I’m sure the Russian Federation was hoping that Plushenko’s skating at Worlds this year would be enough to qualify two Russian men for Sochi. Given that Voronov and Gachinski finished 17th and 18th at 2012 Worlds, the Russian men’s prospects for London could be bleak if Plushenko can’t compete at this year’s Worlds. I would bet we would see him in London unless he can’t walk….

Results from the European Championships in Zagreb, Croatia:

PAIRS:

Pl Name Nation Points SP FS
1 Tatiana VOLOSOZHAR / Maxim TRANKOV RUS 212.45 1 1
2 Aliona SAVCHENKO / Robin SZOLKOWY GER 205.24 2 2
3 Stefania BERTON / Ondrej HOTAREK ITA 187.45 3 3
4 Vanessa JAMES / Morgan CIPRES FRA 178.81 4 4
5 Yuko KAVAGUTI / Alexander SMIRNOV RUS 175.48 5 5
6 Ksenia STOLBOVA / Fedor KLIMOV RUS 167.23 8 6

Volosozhar/Trankov successfully defend the title they won last year in the absence of Savchenko/Szolkowy. Berton/Hotarek’s bronze is the first-ever pairs medal for Italy. Russia’s Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov withdrew prior to the event due to Larionov’s hand injury; they missed Russian Nationals as well.

MEN:

1 Javier FERNANDEZ ESP 274.87 2 1
2 Florent AMODIO FRA 250.53 1 3
3 Michal BREZINA CZE 243.52 4 2
4 Brian JOUBERT FRA 232.47 3 5
5 Maxim KOVTUN RUS 226.57 7 4
6 Alexander MAJOROV SWE 211.88 8 6
7 Sergei VORONOV RUS 210.18 5 7
8 Viktor PFEIFER AUT 194.77 10 9
9 Chafik BESSEGHIER FRA 189.67 11 10
10 Peter LIEBERS GER 187.96 17 8

Javier Fernandez becomes Spain’s first European champion.

DANCE:

1 Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV RUS 169.25 1 2
2 Elena ILINYKH / Nikita KATSALAPOV RUS 169.14 2 1
3 Anna CAPPELLINI / Luca LANOTTE ITA 165.80 3 3
4 Ekaterina RIAZANOVA / Ilia TKACHENKO RUS 157.77 4 4
5 Penny COOMES / Nicholas BUCKLAND GBR 152.95 6 5
6 Nelli ZHIGANSHINA / Alexander GAZSI GER 147.28 7 6
7 Julia ZLOBINA / Alexei SITNIKOV AZE 144.83 5 10
8 Tanja KOLBE / Stefano CARUSO GER 142.54 9 7
9 Charlene GUIGNARD / Marco FABBRI ITA 142.48 8 8
10 Pernelle CARRON / Lloyd JONES FRA 140.00 10 9

Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat withdrew prior to the event; Bourzat has a groin injury.

LADIES:

1 Carolina KOSTNER ITA 194.71 2 2
2 Adelina SOTNIKOVA RUS 193.99 1 3
3 Elizaveta TUKTAMYSHEVA RUS 188.85 4 1
4 Valentina MARCHEI ITA 171.06 3 4
5 Viktoria HELGESSON SWE 155.72 6 7
6 Nikol GOSVIANI RUS 154.41 12 5
7 Sonia LAFUENTE ESP 152.29 11 6
8 Joshi HELGESSON SWE 150.40 5 9
9 Nathalie WEINZIERL GER 147.52 8 10
10 Mae Berenice MEITE FRA 147.14 13 8

Carolina Kostner just barely edged out Adelina Sotnikova, whose  3+ point lead after the short was not enough to win the overall event. This is the fifth European title for Kostner. Last year’s silver medalist Kiira Korpi withdrew with an Achilles injury prior to the event.

CANADIAN NATIONALS–January 13-20, Mississauga, Ontario:

PAIRS:

Rank Name Section Total points SP FS
1 Meagan Duhamel / Eric Radford QC 206.63 1 1
2 Kirsten Moore-Towers / Dylan Moscovitch WO 204.54 2 2
3 Paige Lawrence / Rudi Swiegers SK 171.13 3 3

MEN:

Rank Name Section Total points SP FS
1 Patrick Chan CO 273.75 1 1
2 Kevin Reynolds BC/YT 261.26 2 2
3 Andrei Rogozine CO 207.85 4 3

DANCE:

Rank Name Section Total points SD FD
1 Tessa Virtue / Scott Moir WO 187.23 1 1
2 Piper Gilles / Paul Poirier CO 170.81 2 2
3 Nicole Orford / Thomas Williams BC/YT 152.56 4 3

LADIES:

Rank Name Section Total points SP FS
1 Kaetlyn Osmond AB/NT/NU 201.34 1 1
2 Gabrielle Daleman CO 163.90 5 2
3 Alaine Chartrand EO 157.22 6 3

Looking ahead to Omaha

US Nationals start tomorrow in Omaha. I wish I were there!

Pairs:

What a mess. Let’s look at last year’s podium. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin will not be defending their title due to John’s having hip surgery in December. Both the silver and bronze medal teams from 2012 have split. Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker’s split happened so late that Brubaker did not have time to get a new partner and compete this season (Marley has retired). Amanda Evora also retired; Mark Ladwig is competing with Lindsay Davis this season. They were seventh at Skate Canada and sixth at NHK.

This could be a big opportunity for Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir and Gretchen Donlan/Andrew Speroff (2012 pewter medalists).  Former National Champion Caitlin Yankowskas will be competing with Joshua Reagan, who skated pairs last season with Ashley Cain. My goodness, is it possible for a US team to be together more than a few seasons?!

Men:

If only Jeremy Abbott could skate internationally like he skates at US Nationals. I have seen two of his three championship free skates live, and when he is on, he is mesmerizing–and can compete with the best in the world. With the exception of winning the 2008 Grand Prix Final, his international results have been fairly disappointing. Nevertheless, he is the favorite to win in Omaha. Neither Johnny Weir nor Evan Lysacek will be competing, even though that was their plan earlier in the season. Both of them have suffered injuries this year. Ross Miner landed his first quad in competition this season, so he could factor in to the medals as well.

Dance:

Obviously, Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the prohibitive favorites to take their fifth national crown. Maia and Alex Shibutani will probably take silver, although the gap between them and Davis/White is enormous.

Ladies:

When was the last time that the US had a real favorite to win Nationals? That probably has not happened since Michelle Kwan took her last national championship in 2006. Ashley Wagner won her first national title last year, and followed that with a stellar season, winning her two Grand Prix events and taking the silver at the Grand Prix Final. Two-time champion Alyssa Czisny will not skate in Omaha; she had hip surgery in June and recently dislocated that same hip. One wonders if, at age 25, her competitive career is over. Mirai Nagasu has been quite inconsistent (and has grown quite a lot physically) since winning the national title in 2008.

TV Coverage:

There is good news and bad news on the TV front for US fans: NBC will be broadcasting some of Nationals, but no short programs (I would so much rather see shorts than the exhibition!!):

2013 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships 
NBC Broadcast Schedule (all times Eastern, subject to change, check local listing)

BROADCAST DATE

EVENT

TIME (ET)

Saturday, Jan. 26

LIVE pairs free skate and free dance

3-6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 26

LIVE Ladies free skate

8-11 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 27

LIVE Men’s free skate

3-5 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 2

Smucker’s Skating Spectacular

1-3 p.m.

2013 Russian Nationals

PAIRS (or Vapor (??), according to Google Translator):

1 Tatiana Volosozhar / Maxim Trankov MSK 228.92 1 1
2 Yuko Kavaguti / Alexander Smirnov SPB 207.37 2 2
3 Ksenia Stolbova / Fedor Klimov SPB 195.46 3 3

Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov did not skate; their coach claims that Larionov is having boot problems and could not endanger his partner, according to Wikipedia.

MEN:

1 Evgeny Plushenko SPB 265.94 1 1
2 Sergei Voronov MSK 254.06 2 2
3 Konstantin Menshov SPB 228.88 6 3

Artur Gachinski was fourth.

This is the tenth national title for Plushenko, who is now 30 years old.
According to GoldenSkate:
“I am very happy with my performance, but I had to fight for it,” admitted the 2006 Olympic Champion. “Yesterday, I said that the long program would be much harder and the prediction turned out to be true. My back ached and I had to skate through this pain.”

Golden Skate article

DANCE:

FPl. Name Nation Points SD FD
1 Ekaterina Bobrova / Dmitri Soloviev MSK 174.72 1 1
2 Elena Ilina / Nikita Katsalapov MSK 171.67 2 2
3 Catherine Ryazanov / Ilia Tkachenko MOB 163.87 5 3

That’s the third consecutive national title for Bobrova/Soloviev.

LADIES:

FPl. Name Nation Points CP PP
1 Elizaveta Tuktamysheva SPG 196.57 1 1
2 Elena Radionova MSK 191.26 3 2
3 Adelina Sotnikova MSK 190.75 2 3

Alena Leonova was seventh; Ksenia Makarova eighth.

Tuktamysheva skated to her first national title in spite of being under the weather. Silver medalist Radionova is only 13, so will not be skating at Europeans. Bronze medalist Sotnikova is a three-time Russian champion, and she and Tuktamysheva are finally old enough to skate at Europeans. Serafima Sakhanovich finished fourth, but she is only 12, so I’m not sure who the third Russian skater at Europeans will be. Julia Lipnitskaia did not skate at Russian Nationals because she is continuing to recover from a concussion that she sustained prior to the Grand Prix final.