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 🙂 !!

    Brian Boitano has come out publicly.

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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????

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

2012 Grand Prix season in the books; looking ahead to many national championships

Well, the 2012 Grand Prix season is in the books, with some surprises, some notable absences, some not-so-successful comebacks:

  1. Patrick Chan is no longer invincible: Last year, pretty much everything Patrick Chan touched turned to gold, and he seemed to be blowing away the rest of the men’s field. This year, he finished second at Skate Canada to Javier Fernandez of Spain, and took the bronze in the Grand Prix Final behind Daisuke Takahashi (one of my favorite skaters…) and Yuzuru Hanyu. Fernandez actually won the long program on the strength of three quads, but was fifth in the short; a stronger short would have put him on the podium, since Chan just beat him for the bronze by fractions of a point. The men’s competition at Worlds is shaping up to be a good one!
  2. Notable absences: Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir were both attempting comebacks this year. Lysacek had sports hernia surgery in late November and will almost certainly miss Nationals in Omaha (although he and Weir are still on the qualified entrants’ list): Senior entrants for 2013 US Nationals. This is the second season in a row that Lysacek has wanted to return to competition and has been unsuccessful (last year, it was some amorphous financial dispute with the USFSA; this year, injury). Weir has already announced that he will not compete in Omaha either. His reasons are less clear than Lysacek’s; I have read that Weir was somewhat surprised by the higher technical level of competition since he last skated (really??) 2010 Olympic champion Kim Yu-Na sat out the GP season, but won the NRW Trophy in Dortmund to qualify for 2013 Worlds. She posted the highest total score of any woman this season (201.61). Carolina Kostner was thought to be considering retirement, but decided to just sit out the GP season instead. She did recently win the Golden Spin competition and is next due to skate at Italian Nationals this week. Aliana Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy missed their second Grand Prix assignment due to Savchenko’s severe sinus infection; they had already won their first GP outing at Skate Canada.

In other skating news:

  1. Denney and Coughlin to miss US Nationals: Reigning US Pairs Champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin will not be able to defend their title in Omaha. John underwent hip surgery to repair a torn labrum on December 4th.
  2. Takahashi and Tran split: 2012 World Pairs bronze medalists Narumi Takahashi and Mervyn Tran have split, just days before Japanese Nationals are due to start. They missed the GP season due to Takahashi’s shoulder surgery, and Tran’s getting Japanese citizenship in time for Sochi was always a dicey proposition (he is a Canadian national, and Japan has very strict requirements).
  3. Weaver/Poje will not compete at Canadians: 2012 Canadian Ice Dancing silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje will not be competing at Canadian Nationals in Mississauga, Ontario from January 13-20. Weaver sustained an ankle injury in practice.
  4. Julia Lipnitskaia still recovering: 2012 Russian Ladies’ silver medalist Julia Lipnitskaia is still recovering from a concussion she sustained prior to the GP Final, necessitating her withdrawal from that event. She will miss Russian Nationals next week, but hopes to skate in Junior Worlds later this season.
  5. US National sites announced: 2015 US Nationals have been awarded to Greensboro, NC, site of the 2011 Championships. 2016 US Nationals will be in St. Paul, MN.

Many national championships are taking place in the next few weeks; Japan’s are this week, Russia’s next week.

(Late) comments on Worlds, and post-Worlds news

I guess I was isolated from the marginalization of figure skating on American television, since up until January 1st of this year, my cable company carried Universal Sports. Comcast no longer carries that channel, so I had to pony up to watch coverage of Worlds on Ice Network. Call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer watching TV to watching my computer screen. At any rate, here are some rather late comments on the World podiums:

PAIRS
Gold – Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy, GER
Silver – Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov, RUS
Bronze – Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran, JPN

The gold and silver medalists come as no great shock, although V/T had to pull up from eighth place after the short after a failed death spiral. (Did anyone else think that Maxim Trankov looked a little deranged??) I can’t say I loved either of S/S’ programs this year; their free to music from “Pina” had way too many music cuts for my taste, but you can never argue with their technical prowess and commitment to their material. The bronze medalists T/T are a total shock, with such other teams in the field as Kavaguti/Smirnov, Pang/Tong, and Bazarova/Larionov. I find Takahashi/Tran kind of generic, with the exception of their quasi-Detroiter-split lift, but consistency and going mostly clean paid off when other teams made mistakes, and their reaction in the kiss & cry when they found out they had medalled was priceless!

Pang/Tong were disappointed in their finish off of the podium, although this was their first major competition of the season. Here is an article that talks about them going forward: One more dance (at least), from Chinadaily.com

I was disappointed that Kavaguti/Smirnov did not skate better, because their lovely free skate to “Clare de Lune” was my favorite pairs free program of the season. It seems that the training time missed with Smirnov’s leg injury was too much to overcome.

Good on the two American teams, Denney/Coughlin (8) and Marley/Brubaker (10), for having top-ten finishes in their first trip to Worlds (as teams, anyway; of the four skaters, only Marley has not been to Worlds before with a former partner. And that, my friends, is American pairs skating in a nutshell…sigh).

I was not sure why Duhamel/Radford were as high as they were after the short?? Dube/Wolfe continue to struggle as a partnership.

MEN
Gold – Patrick Chan, CAN
Silver – Daisuke Takahashi, JPN
Bronze – Yuzuru Hanyu, JPN

As much as I think Chan has been overmarked many times in the past several years, he did deserve to win Worlds. When you combine high PCSs (which someone on FSUniverse called “Points for Canuck Skaters”; I laugh ruefully) with two quads, you are going to distance yourself from the field even with a Waxel and a splat. Looking at the judges’ protocols for the free skate, Takahashi actually got higher component scores than Chan, which I think is correct. As I’ve said before, there’s no question that Chan is a wonderful skater: deep edges, difficult footwork, smooth and polished, usually nice runout on his jump landings (an area where Takahashi could improve). However, in my opinion, Takahashi is Chan’s equal or better in footwork, and he draws the audience into his performances like few skaters can. Also, Takahashi’s free program this year is to “Blues for Klook”, which is a difficult piece to skate to given its lack of tempo changes. It’s not easy to sustain interest with this piece, but Daisuke pulls it off as usual. I don’t know how accurate the NBC commentary was, but Tracy Wilson and Tom Hammond (don’t get me started on TH, who seems to have learned nothing about skating after commentating on it for a million years) said that Takahashi wanted to end his competitive career after Japan’s Worlds last year, but of course Worlds were not held there due to the earthquake and tsunami. Will Daisuke stay in and push to Sochi, especially given his bad knee?

Chan has parted ways with coach Christy Krall; interesting that she resigned. He will continue to train in Colorado Springs with his other coach, Kathy Johnson: Chan says split with Krall part of an “evolution”, from the Washington Post

Yuzuru Hanyu is 17, Nice Worlds were his first senior Worlds, and he is the bronze medalist. His free skate to “Romeo + Juliet” was a bit rough around the edges, but this kid has huge potential. A great jumper and far from artistically hopeless. Another superstar coming out of Japan…Takahashi and Hanru both on the podium marks the first time two Japanese men have been on the Worlds podium. Remember the days when Japan would have one decent men’s skater and one decent ladies’ skater at any given time? Those days are long gone!

I was sad to see Jeremy Abbott once again fail to carry over a brilliant performance at Nationals to Worlds. Both of his programs this year were wonderfully choreographed and positively mesmerizing, but jump mistakes cost him once again, especially in the short.

In addition to wondering if Takahashi will stay until Sochi, will Joubert? His skating hasn’t advanced at all in years–he skates on two feet way too much–but he just missed the podium in Nice.

DANCE
Gold – Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir, CAN
Silver – Meryl Davis/Charlie White, USA
Bronze – Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat, FRA

I don’t know why, but I felt like the handwriting was on the wall for Davis/White after Virtue/Moir defeated them at the Four Continents Championship. Personally, I much preferred D/W’s “Der Fliedermaus” to V/M’s “Funny Face”; I felt like “Fliedermaus” was the ideal combination of technical prowess and exuberance/showmanship. I don’t know the intricacies of dance judging, but D/W received Level 3’s on a few of their elements while V/M had all Level 4’s, and V/M got higher component marks as well. Hmm. No denying that V/M’s unison is scarily good, but if there’s any dance judging experts out there, can they explain?

Disappointing finish for the Shibutanis (8) after medalling last year; great finish for Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who finish in the top ten in their first trip to Worlds.

I loved Weaver/Poje’s free dance this year, and did not flip for the mummy thing of Pechalat/Bourzat, but perhaps it’s somewhat of a lifetime achievement award for P/B, who have flirted with the podium on more than one occasion.

LADIES
Gold – Carolina Kostner, ITA
Silver – Alena Leonova, RUS
Bronze – Akiko Suzuki, JPN

First of all, Kostner absolutely deserved to win these Worlds. But what does it say about the ladies’ field that the World Champion can win without a triple Lutz? I would be curious to know when was the last time that the ladies’ champion didn’t do the Lutz, like sometime in the 1980’s?? At any rate, Kostner has had a roller coaster of a career, and I was happy for her even so. Her musical interpretation is heartfelt and genuine.

The silver must be a vindication of sorts for Leonova, who is being beseiged by all sorts of teenage wunderkinds at home. And how wonderful for Akiko Suzuki, to win a world medal at the age of 27 after her career was derailed by anorexia? I think this Worlds has one of the happiest cohorts of bronze medalists of any Worlds in recent memory.

Thank goodness that Ashley Wagner rallied from her eighth-place short program to pull up to fourth overall with a strong free skate (had it not been for that doubled loop in the short, she may have won the bronze, as Suzuki’s free beat Wagner’s by less than a point). Given Czisny’s complete disaster and 22nd-place finish, if Wagner had finished lower than sixth, the US would have had only one ladies’ spot for next year’s Worlds. Yikes. Czisny claims she is not deterred by her poor Worlds performance: Alissa Czisny on rebound, has no plans to retire…from Detroit Free Press

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).

2012 Canadian Nationals results

2012 Canadian Nationals have just finished in Moncton, New Brunswick. Patrick Chan won his fifth national title and set an all-time scoring record in the process, with a combined score for the short program and free skate of 302.14 points. He has become the first skater to break 300 points, and defeated silver medalist Kevin Reynolds by almost 63 points. Jeremy Ten took the bronze.

I did not see any Canadian coverage, but according to Canada’s National Post, Chan’s long program was “flawless”.

As expected, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won their fourth national ice dance title. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje took the silver, with the new team of Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer taking the bronze.

In pairs, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won their first national title. The new partnership of Jessica Dube and Sebastien Wolfe won silver, while Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers took the bronze. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch had three fall deductions (two for Moore-Towers and one for Moscovitch) that left them off of the podium in fourth place.

A new champion was crowned in the ladies’ event as well.  23-year-old Amelie Lacoste finished second in the free skate and first overall. Cynthia Phaneuf was second, and Kaetlyn Osmond was third. Canada has only one ladies’ slot at the upcoming World Championships, and Skate Canada has said their entry will be chosen after seeing the results of the Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs in February.

According to the National Post, there have been hundreds of empty seats at the 3,000-seat Moncton arena this week, rather uncharacteristic for Canadian figure skating.

 

Grand Prix Final–December 8-11, 2011–Quebec City, Quebec, Canada–Ladies

LADIES

First of all, condolences to Mao Asada, whose mother recently passed away at age 48. Mao was to have skated in the Grand Prix Final, but returned to Japan on Thursday upon learning that her mother was in critical condition.

Pl Name Nation Points SP FS
1 Carolina KOSTNER ITA 187.48 1 1
2 Akiko SUZUKI JPN 179.76 2 3
3 Alena LEONOVA RUS 176.42 3 4
4 Elizaveta TUKTAMISHEVA RUS 174.51 5 2
5 Alissa CZISNY USA 156.97 4 5
Withdrawn
Mao ASADA JPN

For some reason, the ladies have not been terribly impressive to me in recent years. Everyone talks about how lyrical and graceful Carolina Kostner is, but she still looks a bit like a colt who has yet to grow into its legs for me (not as much as she did when she was younger, but still..) Also, it speaks to the relative weakness of the ladies’ field when a skater that still doesn’t do all of the triples can win a competition against the best in the world. Actually, not doing all the triples has done wonders for Kostner, but that’s not the point. She had some errors (a hand down on the 3F and a singled Axel), but still won quite handily.I don’t mean to be “Kostner bashing”, but her music makes me sleepy as well. I do love how Akiko Suzuki looks like she loves skating whenever she’s on the ice; it makes me want to be out there with her. Alena Leonova tried something a bit different than most of her previous programs with her long program to “Adagio for Strings/Requiem for a Dream”. I really like the program. It builds to a nice climax with her straight-line footwork sequence. She’s had a pretty good season.

We are starting to see some of Russia’s very young and very talented skaters come on to the senior international scene. Even though Elizaveta Tuktamisheva had a rough short program, she obviously shows great potential. It will be very interesting over the next couple of years to see her, Adelina Sotnikova, and some of the other young up-and-comers mature. Will they be derailed on the hormonal highway? Tuktamisheva reportedly can do a triple Axel. But was anyone else who watched the GPF uncomfortable seeing her revealing free skate costume? I know it’s flesh-colored fabric, not real flesh, but still, she’s only 14!! We won’t be seeing either Tuktamisheva or Sotnikova at Worlds this year; they’re both still too young. (BTW, is Elizaveta Tuktamisheva Johnny Weir’s younger sister? They look so much alike in the face!!)

Alissa Czisny suffered a left ankle injury in GPF practice, and she probably should have pulled out of the event. Every time she went up for a jump, I cringed. Picking in or landing on that leg was quite obviously painful for her, but she skated anyway. I don’t remember if she landed one fully-rotated, clean jump in the free skate. With US Nationals only about six weeks away, I hope she can recover in time. Even if she does, she will surely lose practice time, not good for a skater who has had major confidence problems in the past. She is probably the only ladies’ skater who can match Kostner’s composition marks, so the US needs her on the world team. We’ll see what happens…

Grand Prix Final–December 8-11, 2011–Quebec City, Quebec, Canada–Ice dancing

ICE DANCING

Pl Name Nation Points SD FD
1 Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE USA 188.55 1 1
2 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN 183.34 2 2
3 Nathalie PECHALAT / Fabian BOURZAT FRA 169.69 3 3
4 Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE CAN 166.07 4 4
5 Maia SHIBUTANI / Alex SHIBUTANI USA 160.55 5 5
6 Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV RUS 157.30 6 6

Well, this final was billed as the Battle of the Titans, with the current world champs Davis/White going head-to-head with the reigning Olympic champions Virtue/Moir for the first time this season. I really wanted to see who the judges would put on top if both teams skated well. Both teams did skate pretty well, but Scott Moir’s fall in the short dance meant that we will have to wait for Worlds to see who comes out on top if both teams go clean. The commentators on Universal Sports here in the US (Terry Gannon and Tanith Belbin) said it over and over, and it’s true–comparing Davis/White’s free dance to “Die Fliedermaus” and Virtue/Moir’s Audrey Hepburn/Fred Astaire number really is like comparing apples and oranges. Both free dances show off the best characteristics of their skaters. Davis and White’s free is technically packed and builds to a fast pace that they have the strong technique to handle seemingly with ease (although we all know it’s not as easy as they make it look). The Mozart also shows off Charlie’s natural exuberance. While I appreciated the technical difficulty of their tango free last year, I find this year’s free dance much more accessible. Virtue/Moir’s free shows off their great unison and chemistry, as well as Scott Moir’s wonderful back posture, which I think is the best in all of skating. I have a slight personal preference for Davis/White’s free, because it always leaves me smiling (how’s that for a scientific reason ;)?) Can’t wait to see them go at it again at Worlds. I know Marina Anissina was recently quoted as lamenting the “Americanization” of ice dance (see http://www.championat.com/other/_skating/news-977455.html for a Russian version), but if that means clean costume lines, lack of sturm and drang, and not needing pamphlets to explain the deep meaning of your programs, I’m all for it. Four of the six teams in the GPF this year were North American; it still seems unbelievable to me after so many years of Russian/former Soviet dominance. I found Nathalie Pechelat’s free dance costume mildly distracting and Ekaterina Bobrova’s extremely distracting, but in Bobrova’s case, it may be trying to distract observers from noticing how much she and her partner break at the waist when they skate (watch them; it’s unbelievable how much they both do it. Thank you for pointing that out, Tanith). I think Weaver/Poje’s free shows a great connection between them, and the Shibutanis are scary good for their age (and SO smooth).