Random thoughts about the Olympic skating season so far….

Apologies for not posting for a while; health issues (sigh). Let’s just say I won’t be sorry to see 2013 in the rear view mirror!! Lots has happened in the skating world, as I’m sure most of you know.

The 2013 Grand Prix season is in the books. I love that there is a competition each week from a spectator standpoint, but that has to be so hard on the skaters to do all of that travel and competition in such a short time. Also, sometimes the competitors’ list from one GP event to the next can be very inconsistent; you can have several top skaters facing off one week, and a relatively weak field the next…

Mao Asada has come back with a vengeance this season. She struggled through some rough times while tearing down and rebuilding her jump technique, and she is now reaping the benefits. The fact that she is the only woman to be doing the triple Axel right now doesn’t hurt either. She is clearly the favorite going into Sochi. Yes, I know, Yu-Na Kim will be competing too, but Zagreb aside, she’s hardly competed in the last few seasons. Asada and Kim will in all likelihood be competing for gold and silver, but there are several contenders for the bronze medal: a bevy of Baby Russians (Lipnitskaya, Sotnikova, et.al.), Kostner, Wagner, Suzuki….

Speaking of the Baby Russians, some of the early candidates are getting older now (of course, “older” is a relative term!!) Elizaveta Tuktamysheva just turned 17, and we’ve seen her struggle this year with the hormonal highway; she’s grown a lot and her jumps have suffered. She is certainly young enough to make a run at 2018 if she adjusts to her body changes, but she is going to have a rough time even making the Russian Olympic team with all of the young talent behind her.

Russian Ladies’ Nationals are going to be tough, but the world’s toughest ticket is probably a spot on the Japanese men’s team. It’s no accident that half of the competitors at the GP Final were Japanese, and Nobunari Oda replaced Daisuke Takahashi, who withdrew due to a right knee bone bruise. The fact that Yuzuru Hanyubeat Patrick Chan at the GP Final was very interesting. We all know about Chan’s sometimes “untouchable-ness” in the eyes of the judges; despite talking a good game, I’m sure Chan was a little shaken by the GP Final result. It certainly makes the Sochi men’s competition more intriguing!!

Max Aaron is obviously trying to show his artistic growth by choosing to skate to Carmen this year, a skating chestnut if ever there was one. Am I the only one thinking that this choice shows a real lack of originality?

At least NBC at least mentioned pairs in some of their Grand Prix broadcasts, but showed virtually none–BOO. Just because it’s the weakest of the American disciplines doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching in the USA.

Other tidbits:

    Evan Lysacek will not be competing at US Nationals, which is not a huge surprise given his injury problems in the last few seasons.

    NBCSN will be broadcasting many Olympic events live, which means (a) set your DVRs or (b) get up in the middle of the night to watch ūüôā !!

    Brian Boitano has come out publicly.

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2013 Liberty Summer Competition

I have the good fortune to live about twenty miles from IceWorks, the beautiful 4-rink complex owned by Uschi Keszler. IceWorks hosts the Liberty Summer Competition each year. There’s nowhere better to be in 100-degree weather than an ice rink!! The East Coast heat wave caused some problems at Liberty, though–it was so hot that it was a full-time job keeping the ice sheets frozen. Some events were moved from their originally assigned rink to other rinks in the complex because the ice was too wet. This caused some scheduling difficulties, especially early in the competition when all of the different event levels were going on.

I met some really nice people and enjoyed seeing some early-season skating…

I’m not going to rehash all of the results. The full protocols for the event can be found at the IceWorks site.

THE LADIES

The Senior Ladies’ field was HUGE. There were 41 competitors registered, and most of them competed. I’m still chuckling over a comment that a woman behind me made; when the door opened yet again to let yet another warmup group of ladies on the ice, she said “It’s like a clown car!” Now, any of you who know me know how much I love skating, but sitting through almost 40 short programs can be numbing to both the mind and the behind (even though both the short and long were split into two segments bracketing the senior men). Since Liberty competes the short program and long program as separate events, that meant that virtually all of the girls/women that competed in the short competed the long as well. I must confess, I wasn’t feeling great on Saturday, so I left after the senior men’s long program and missed the second half of the ladies’.

Samantha Cesario was the star of the ladies’ short. She did a 3Lo+3Lo in both her short and long; according to the protocols, she was short of rotation on the second loop in the SP and both jumps in the FS. ¬†In her short, she also had a 3F and a 2A. She gave a mature, sexy performance to “Fever”.

Skate Canada sent a large contingent of pretty good ladies to this event. Remember the days when Canadian ladies couldn’t buy a triple? Well, there were lots of ladies at Liberty who had plenty of them–there weren’t a lot of Lutzes in the event, but I was impressed by the overall quality of the Canadian skaters. Canadian Veronik Mallet was second in both the short and free, and American Yasmin Siraj was third in both segments as well.

Ashley Cain had a rough go in the short program and finished fourth, but she skated a strong early-season free skate to win the event with 102.78. She landed a 3Lz+2T, turned out between jumps in her 3F+2T combo, and landed solo 3F and 3Lo among other elements. She skated in white to “Ave Maria”. She is tall for a female skater and quite statuesque, and takes advantage of her height with good positions and stretch.

Samantha Cesario and Ashley Cain swapped first and fourth places from the short to the free. Cesario’s opening combo in the free was good (although the protocol shows she was docked for underrotation on both jumps), but she had trouble from there. Her music was “Titanic”, which I have always thought is beautiful music. But I wonder if it’s a good choice for a figure skating program, since it involves a large object colliding with ¬†ice and sinking ūüôā . My new friend A., who has been attending skating competitions for a long time, said she thought that Cesario was laying it all out there in an effort to snag one of the at-large Grand Prix assignments still out there.

THE MEN

There were ten men in the senior men’s event. Keegan Messing and Stephen Carriere were the US National competitors scheduled to compete, but Carriere withdrew. Messing is keeping last year’s short program to “Sing, Sing, Sing”, and has a new free skate to “Mask of Zorro”. Boy, does he bomb around the ice faster than almost any other skater I’ve seen. He finished second in both the short and free to Luiz Manela, who skates for Brazil. In the short program, Manela landed his 3A, while Messing popped his into a single (which meant no credit for the Axel element, since the requirement is for at least a double). Evidently Keegan was having boot problems last season, which are hopefully now resolved but may have led to a loss of confidence in that forward outside edge takeoff. Messing’s spins are also noteworthy–really fast and well-centered, a pleasure to watch for this fan of spins!

Manela skated his free skate to “Gladiator”. He fell on his 3A, and the rest of his skate was far from perfect, but Messing doubled too many of his jumps to overtake the Brazilian skater. Keegan did land a 4T+2T, but popped the Axel and doubled the toe, loop, and Lutz. Alex Zahradnicek (who skates for France) was third in both the SP and FS. Emmanuel Savery skated well in the FP to take fourth in that segment (he has no 3A, though).

THE PAIRS

Disappointingly, there were only two pairs in the field; I believe both may be new pairings? Natalja Zabijako / Aleksandr Zaboev of Estonia won both segments of the competition, with Israel’s (well, skating for Israel anyway ūüôā )
Anya Davidovich / Evgeni Krasnopolsky taking second. I love pairs, and it was disappointing that this year’s and last year’s fields were so small. In 2011, Dalilah Sappenfield brought several of her pairs to compete as Caydee Denney / John Coughlin made their debut. Rumor has it that a lot of the pairs are competing at Skate Detroit.

There were a number of skaters at Liberty who were skating for the Israeli Skating Federation, which I hear tell is run by Galit Chait (she who collided with Renee Roca at a 1994 US Nationals practice, resulting in Roca’s breaking her arm) and her father. Clearly these skaters had not flown all the way from Israel for Liberty! My quote of the week, from David Lease of The Skating Lesson, who by the way was very nice when I spoke with him: (About the Israeli Skating Federation) “I believe that the headquarters are somewhere between North Jersey, DC, and Philadelphia. And if you are a skater who is Jewish with an overly ambitious parent… and you have a cheated double Axel and a
double Lutz, you will one day skate for Israel.” (from Jennifer Kirk and David Lease’s “This and That 7/21”)

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 ūüôā !!

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….

Jennifer Kirk’s podcasts with famous skaters

My skating friends C. and T. told me about Jennifer Kirk’s new podcasts, where she and her interviewing partner Dave conduct in-depth interviews with well-known skaters like Tai Babilonia, Tim Goebel, Rudy Galindo, and Dan Hollander. So far, the interviews with Tim and Rudy have been my favorites, and this week’s interview is with Debi Thomas. So if you’d like to know why Tim likens skating at Nationals to death by a thousand cuts, why Rudy didn’t get a new pairs partner after his split with Kristi, or what Tai would like to tell America’s current pairs skaters, check out the podcasts here:¬†Jennifer Kirk’s podcasts. They can also be downloaded on iTunes.

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.