Shpilband fired; Boston to host 2014 US Nationals

Shocking news out of Canton, Michigan; Igor Shpilband has been fired by the Arctic Figure Skating Club. The Detroit Free Press has had several articles about the firing. According to the articles, Shpilband and his coaching partner Marina Zoueva have not always seen eye-to-eye.

The June 3rd article also quoted Arctic Edge Ice Rink GM Craig O’Neill as saying, “There was (sic) a lot of issues. This has been going on for a couple of months. He’s not focused with the kids. What it came down to was  the kids didn’t want to skate there (in Canton) anymore with Igor. Either they were leaving or Igor was leaving.”

There was a comment on this same June 3rd article by Jacqui White (presumably Charlie’s mother), essentially saying that the skaters had nothing to do with the firing, but that comment appears to have been taken down as of today. The Freep had an article today stating that Davis/White and Shibutani/Shibutani will stay in Canton under Zoueva’s tutelage; no word yet from Virtue/Moir. Despite overtures from Russian figure skating, Shpilband has said that he wants to remain in Michigan, and will presumably look for another rink. I suspect news about this firing will continue to come out over the next several weeks.

Detroit Free Press links to articles about Igor Shpilband

 

Boston, Massachusetts will be the site of the 2014 US Figure Skating Championships, to be held January 5-12, 2014. Boston was chosen over St. Paul, MN and Greensboro, NC.  2014 is, of course, an Olympic year.

Ice Network press release

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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).

Championship weekend at US Nationals-Day 1

It’s Saturday at the 2012 US Championships already! The week has just flown by.

First of all, we were very happy to be here for the 2012 US Figure Skating Hall of Fame induction ceremony. There was one inductee: the incomparable Michelle Kwan. She is a nine-time US Champion, five-time World Champion, and a two-time Olympic medalist. My friends and I have had the privilege of seeing her entire career, and witnessing many of her once-in-a-lifetime performances (well, most skaters would be lucky to have one extraordinary performance in his or her career, but Michelle has probably had eight or nine by our count). Not only is Michelle one of the greatest skaters in history, she is also unfailingly kind to her fans. She received her Masters’ Degree in International Relations from Tufts University in 2011, and has been active in international diplomacy.

There is an article in the San Francisco Chronicle today (Monday) about Rudy Galindo’s disappointment in not being elected to the Hall of Fame:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/29/SP381MVRGK.DTL

Free Dance

I’m sure it comes as no shock that Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their fourth national championship today. Every time I see their free dance I smile. The choreography to “Die Fliedermaus” is superb. The dance is light and airy, yet packed with technical difficulty. Meryl and Charlie have been partners since they were young, and it really shows in their unison and the closeness of their holds. Charlie was a bit wild on the first twizzle of their twizzle sequence, but otherwise it was stellar. They received a free dance score of 114.65, for a total competition score of 191.54. (For the execution and timing component mark, they received a
perfect 10!)

I have so enjoyed seeing the Shibutanis skate in person. Their skating is the definition of smooth, their blades are whisper-quiet, and they float over the ice with seeming ease. Once again, Marina Zoueva’s choreography was outstanding. The next time you see the Shib’s free dance, watch the way that their steps between the sets of twizzles go exactly with the music  (of course, this isn’t just the choreography, it’s also two very skilled skaters that can execute the precise timing well). They looked kind of puzzled when their score came up, and we found out later that they had received a 1-point deduction for an extended lift. Their free dance to Glenn Miller selections was lovely, but the crowd’s reaction toit he music was a bit tepid. Their free dance score was 106.23, for a total score of 178.84 and the silver medal.

The top two placements were never really in doubt, but there were several teams vying for the bronze, all within a few points of each other after the short dance. The new partnership of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were able to grab the bronze with a steamy free dance that Madison never could have done with her previous sibling partner. They were closely followed by Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt (who along with Armin Mahbanoozadeh and most of the Russians are a typist’s nightmare 😉 ), with the new pairing of Madison Chock and Evan Bates finishing fifth.

The free dance was a well-skated event overall, which unfortunately did not hold true for the ladies’ free skate…

Ladies’ Free Skate

All right, we American figure skating fans were spoiled for many years. Not only did we have the best ladies’ skater in the world, we had one of the premiere skaters in history at the top of our podium in Michelle Kwan. Since Kwan won her final national title in Portland in 2005, no woman has been able to successfully defend her championship. 2012 was no exception to that trend.

Christina Gao was first up in the final flight. She still looks like she needs to grow into her height a bit; she still looks somewhat gawky, although not so much as last year. Her program was okay, but she turned a planned three-jump combo into a double Salchow. She finished fifth.

Next up was Mirai Nagasu. Her long program suffered from the same problem as her short. It has always seemed to me that Mirai’s skating is fueled by passion and enthusiasm. That passion seemed lacking at these championships. She looked as if competing here was a chore. Her free, like her short, lacked even the least bit of the fire that we have seen from her in the past. This seems to have been a problem throughout this season. Perhaps she just had an off year; she is clearly on the “hormonal highway” and dealing with her growing body. Her free skate to “Spartacus” earned her 104.97 points, which was only good enough for eighth in the free skate and seventh overall.

Caroline Zhang was next to skate. She has skated better at this Nationals than she has skated in years. The painful modifications that she has had to make in her jump technique are finally starting to pay dividends. Her triple flip in the free was not as clean as the one she landed in the short, and she continues to flutz and get edge violations, but the high leg kick on her pick-in for the flip and flutz is gone. Her score also suffered in the long because her flying sit spin only received a level 1, but overall, she is definitely moving in the right direction. She had a free skate score of 113.01 and a total score of 173.19 to take fourth place.

Ashley Wagner made a coaching change this year, from Priscilla Hill to John Nicks. She certainly must be happy with the results. I feel that Ashley has suffered in the past from pressing too hard. It seemed as if she wanted it so badly that she was unable to just let things “flow”. Perhaps Mr. Nicks has taught her to do that, because she looked pretty good in San Jose. Despite a clean short, she was third going into the free. With the exception of singling the Salchow, her program to “Black Swan” was polished and well-skated. She won the free, and her total score of 187.02 won her the national championship. (It was pretty amusing when Mr. Nicks gave Ashley some last words before she took her position for the free and then calmly went and sat in the kiss and cry. I guess it’s just another day at the office for him!)

It would seem that the rough competition that Alissa Czisny had at the Grand Prix Final has caused her to lose the confidence she had built up over the last year. I was hoping that she could put the GPF behind her, because she was skating injured there. Before both the short and the free, she looked extremely nervous. Both skates were tentative as well. In the free, she touched a hand down on her first triple Lutz and fell on her second, receiving a downgrade and losing points for not having a combination with the second Lutz. Her total score of 180.00 was good enough for the silver, but I am worried going forward about the fact that she seems to have lost her confidence yet again.

Agnes Zawadzki found herself in first place after the short, but she was unable to capitalize on it. She actually ended up seventh in the free, on a night where there were a lot of mistakes made by other skaters. She fell on both the triple Lutz and the triple Salchow, doubled the loop, and generally did not have a great skate. Her good skate in the short enabled her to hang on for the bronze.

Not the best-skated event I’ve ever seen.

Tidbits

Rudy Galindo was interviewed live and commentated on his 1996 championship performance at San Jose as it ran on the jumbotron. He was last to skate in the competition, and so was backstage for about an hour between the warmup and his skate. He said that he fell asleep backstage!!

Rumor is that 2014 US Nationals will be in Boston.

Todd Eldredge is engaged to be married for the second time, and he and his fiancée are expecting a baby.

My friend Ardyce and I got to briefly meet Caydee Denney and John Coughlin. She is, of course, much tinier close up than she looks on the ice, and he is huge (he’s 6’2″). They could not have been nicer. I complimented them on their split triple twist, and John said that was his favorite element.

US Nationals-Short Dance & Men’s Short

Today we had the short dance and the men’s short. Both events were well-skated.

Short Dance (rhumba)

We are fortunate to have two of the world’s best dance teams right here in the USA. Meryl Davis and Charlie White skated their short dance well, not quite as well as they are capable of, but enough to lead the competition with a score of 76.89. Most of their elements received a level 4, except for one of their rhumba sequences that received a 3 due to one of the skaters not achieving a feature on the Choctaw (we have the benefit in the arena of the earbud radios, where we can listen to technical specialists as the competition progresses. 5-time national dance champion Judy Blumberg and judge Charlie Cyr were our “callers” for the short dance, and they were very informative). Davis and White’s positions are crisp, and their unison is beautiful.

This was my first time seeing Maia and Alex Shibutani skate live, and they impressed me so much. Smooth like buttah! Her positions, like Meryl’s, are absolute precision; no oozing into position changes like some skaters you see. You can really appreciate Davis and White’s technical excellence, but emotionally, I prefer the Shibutani’s short dance. The reigning world bronze medalists received a high score of 72.61. The rest of the field did not break 60 points.

Madison Hubbell and her new partner Zachary Donohue are third, followed closely by Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti- Schmitt and Madison Chock/Evan Bates. Bates’ previous partner, Emily Samuelson, and her new partner Todd Gilles were in the same warm-up group. I’m thinking that must have been a little awkward. The musical chairs that is US pairs and dance continues on.

Men’s Short

Overall, this event was really well- skated and a pleasure to watch. It didn’t start out well, however. Last year’s silver medalist Ricky Dornbush had a disastrous short, falling on his 3 Lz combo, singling the Axel, and singling the flip. He is totally buried in 17th place. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. 

The next skater up was Adam Rippon, and unlike Dornbush, Rippon skated wonderfully. Lovely 3F/3T, no problem with the 3A (although I was surprised he landed it, because he really slows down as he approaches the Axel), gorgeous 3Lz with both arms over the head, and of course artistry is not a problem for him. He is in second place with a big score of 82.94.

The next contender to skate was Ross Miner. He skated a clean program and is in fourth place.

Last year’s junior champion, Max Aaron, did a perfect quad Salchow and 3A, but touched a hand down on the triple Lutz combo and turned out of the toe. He’s in sixth.

Speaking of quads, there were three quad attempts in the men’s short. Max Aaron’s was stellar; Douglas Razzano and Brandon Mroz tried quad toes but fell (Razzano’s was also downgraded to a triple). Razzano is in 8th place. Mroz  has had a rough season. He is in 12th place.

Keegan Messing went clean (although his footwork always looks a bit on the wild side and there’s nothing graceful about him). He is in fifth.

I really like Jason Brown. He is the 2010 junior champion and the 2011 junior world champion. He’s got a lovely back and really nice skating skills, but does not yet have a triple Axel (I would love to know if he’s anywhere near to getting it in practice; we’ve seen some practices and I haven’t seen him try one). He is in 7th place.

Next up was Jeremy Abbott, and he was brilliant. His program to swing music has a huge amount of flair and personality,  and his 3F/3T, 3A and 3Lz were all great. We had really good technical specialists on Skate Radio, David Kirby and David Santee. Kirby said that Jeremy’s footwork is on par with Patrick Chan’s. Jeremy’s score of 90.23 is a new US record, and he has almost an eight-point lead over Adam Rippon.

Armin Mahbahnoozadeh laid down another clean program (there were quite a few in this event), and along with his lyrical style, it was good enough to claim third place with a score of 80.66.

All in all, a great event!

News from Euros

Carolina Kostner leads after the ladies’ short. Kiira Korpi is second, Ksenia Makarova third.

Evgeny Plushenko landed a quad toe and seven triples en route to winning his seventh European title. He will not compete at Worlds because he will be having knee surgery shortly. Artur Gachinski won the silver, finishing about fifteen points behind Plushenko. Florent Amodio took the bronze. Brian Joubert failed to medal for the first time in eleven trips to Euros, finishing eighth.

Skating ticket prices

What is going on with the soaring prices for skating events? I didn’t go to 2009 Worlds in LA because I thought the ticket prices were outrageous (seats about 10 rows back mid-ice were about $900 or so). How quaint that price seems now. Tickets for next year’s worlds in London, Ontario are about $1400. Canadian, and the ticket prices for next year’s Nationals in Omaha are $915., $665., and $525. for the cheap seats.

I can’t pretend to know all the expenses involved in running a competition, but it seems like it would be in the best interests of the USFSA and the ISU to try and keep prices down, given the falling attendance at competitions, less tv exposure, and the like. When a die-hard skating fan like me, who has now been to nine Nationals, begins questioning whether or not she wants to go to events because the ticket prices are exorbitant, that is a problem.

Other musings

I have been attending live skating events long enough now that many skaters whom I have seen compete live are now at the boards coaching the next generation of skaters. This week, I’ve seen Paul Wylie, Todd Eldredge, Jason Dungjen, Liz (Punsalan) Swallow, Damon Allen, Derrick Delmore, Evgenia Shiskova and Vadim Naumov, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, Rudy Galindo, Ryan Jahnke, Rocky Marval, and there are probably more. Time passes quickly!

Watching the free dance now, with the ladies’ free later.