Sad Farewell: Akiko Suzuki

To start off, I thought I’d share this picture from this tweet:

otsukare akiko

The writing on the dessert plate says, “Otsukaresama deshita,” (pronounce it as if it were Spanish) an expression in Japanese said usually after the work day is done. It means something along the lines of, “It’s been a long and tiring day, Thank you for the hard work!” It has been a long career for Akiko Suzuki and I wish she never had to go. She simply gets better with age.

I actually have a bit of a personal story about Akiko, which I’ll include in this farewell. I attended Skate Canada 2009 where she competed and while I was waiting for one of the competitions to start, Akiko was literally two metres in front of me. I had just started paying attention to figure skating and though my friend (and reader), Ay-sa, suggested that I take a picture of her and get her autograph, I shrugged it off, a little shy to use my Japanese and also thinking that she was likely going to be a B-list skater for the season. Akiko didn’t do well at Skate Canada but lo and behold, she won her next Grand Prix assignment in the Cup of China. Once the GPF came around, I finally started to appreciate her West Side Story LP from that season and from then on, I have regretted, to this day, that I didn’t take a picture with her or get her autograph.

Season to season, she has dazzled me with her love of skating and she’s one of those rare skaters who will sell a program even if there are mistakes. I loved seeing her grow and I’m glad that she has a World medal in one of her accolades though we all know that bronze should’ve been a silver. As for the video for this post, I’ll leave you with my absolute favourite Akiko program, wonderfully choreographed and skated with absolute joy.

What will you miss about Akiko? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

 

Short Program on the Chopping Block?

I was on my Facebook when a skating friend of mine sent me an invite to a group called, “Save the Short Program.” I was a little confused because to date, there has been no scruples against the short program in any way, shape or form. In fact, I’d say that prefer the SP at times because it has a certain amount of predictability but what is always pleasant is when skaters and choreographers combine good skating with choreography that is fresh, unusual and well thought out. (To me, this is a fine example of what I’m talking about.) Either that or the SP is easier to swallow in case the competition turns into a total splatfest.

speedy

So, I decided to investigate and according to this article, the rumours are true. And that’s not all. The infamous Octavio Cinquanta (or $peedy as he is known in figure skating circles) wants to…

1. Cut the SP because other sports are not based on two rounds.

Aren’t there several segments of a gymnastics competition? And correct me if I’m wrong but for certain time-based events like the luge, don’t teams get more than 1 run? Then there are events like rowing and other sports where there are heats and final races. In show jumping, there’s a preliminary, final and possible tie-breaker round each with their own jumping courses, designed in varying levels of difficulty and with various time limits. The preliminary round generally separates the front-runners from the rest of the pack, while the final round is generally harder but has a similar time limit. The tie-breaking jump off course is generally short and tests the riders under duress and is used in the event of a tie-breaker (which seems to be often enough when the front-runner ride clean and well).

Similar to show jumping, the segments in figure skating tests the skaters on different things.

The short program is very structured, has very specific jumping passes, spins and step sequences and is meant to test a skater (and choreographer’s) ability to express a coherent theme with very specific elements in a short period of time. The name of the game in the SP is perfection: because of the set number of elements, mistakes are costly. You might not necessarily win a competition with a SP but you can definitely lose one with the SP (as we saw with Mao in Sochi *sob*).

The long program is designed to test the athlete’s stamina and ability to execute all the elements, interwoven in a more complex way. The LP gives skaters a chance to create a more complicated story and show the judges all the big tricks they can do. In singles skating, we can see clearly from the LP which jumps skaters are able to execute. Compared to the SP, the name of the game is doing better than your competitors and not necessarily perfection. If you look at Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan’s performances and results at the Sochi Olympics, you can see what I mean when I say this about both programs.

2. Cinquanta wants to somehow combine both programs together into a super mega ultra uber program?

We’ve heard $peedy tell us that he knows little about figure skating but he seriously can’t be this ignorant… right? (Seriously, we’ve seen this guy at skating competitions, you’d think that by now he’d learn something just by sitting there as a spectator – I mean, does he play Candy Crush on his phone during these things or something?)

Ok, Cinquanta and darling readers, let’s get educated (or at least take a refresher course for those who already know this).

A) The LP equates to a mile of cardiovascular activity.

B) In the LP, skaters can reach up to the maximum heart rate of 209 beats per minute.

C) In some spins, figure skaters can experience the same amount of G-force on their arms as a drag racer or up to 4Gs. In simpler terms, 4g is four times the earth’s gravitational force at sea level pulling at your body. According to this science site, astronauts aboard a space shuttle reach around 3.5Gs.

D) According to this ASAPScience video, a quad requires a skater to reach 350 revolutions per minute in the air while landing with around 7 times their body weight on the ice. Astronauts have been known to pass out in tests in which they spin at 320 revolutions per minute.

E) And let’s just take a moment to remember that especially in pairs and ice dancing, skaters need to do their programs and remain vigilant at all times. They have knives on their feet almost quite literally.

We’ve seen skaters about to keel over on the ice at the end of their programs. I’m not sure if they can handle anything beyond what’s already set out in the LP.

Fellow friend, Ay-sa, doubts that this suggestion would pass by the council within the ISU but it seems as if figure skating fans and specialists are taking a tough stance to this proposed change. Backed by previous champions, a technical specialist and a journalist, this petition is calling on Cinquanta’s resignation. It seems as if the ISU has gone against its constitution to allow Cinquanta to run for president again despite his age ineligibility at the next elections.

What are your thoughts on this petition and $peedy’s proposed SP cut? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside CAfe

 

Dancing with Meryl and Charlie (Weeks 4 to 6)

I was initially going to put up links to videos on one post only but I didn’t like how cluttered that would seem so I’ll put 3 weeks worth of dances per post. This post will be updated as the weeks go by. So, enjoy seeing Meryl & Charlie on Dancing with the Stars! Does anyone watch the show religiously/steadily? What do you think of Meryl & Charlie’s progress? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

Week 4:

There’s more sex in this tango than in all the combined performances of her and Charlie’s 2010/2011 FD but to me, tangos and Meryl don’t seem to go together. I think it’s her leg lines that bother me. Still though, it looks like Meryl is the front runner, even leading Charlie at this point after looking at the DWTS18 wikipedia page.

Week 5:

It’s Disney week and we don’t use a song from a movie where there’s a Disney princess that Meryl looks like? Blasphemy.

Decent dance, though I expected better from Charlie since this style tends to be his and Meryl’s forte, along with the passionate, rushing style.

Week 6:

The interesting thing about Meryl here is seeing the relationship between herself and her partner. Meryl & Charlie didn’t get a show like Tessa and Scott but even in interviews, M&C don’t seem as chummy or cutesy as their arch rivals. This is interesting because Meryl seems to have more chemistry with Maks than she ever did with Charlie. I quite like seeing this side of Meryl.

This dance brought a smile to my face. Still though, Sharna, you have to know that that their arch-rivals have an iconic exhibition to that song.

Click below for links to the post with videos from…

Weeks 1 to 3

Enjoy!

Yuna and South Korea might be breaking the internets right now…

Frozen has been out for a while already but “Let It Go” is still a popular song. Yuna Kim has worshippers in Korea and around the world. Combined, they might have enough power to break the internets. Yuna sings with a children’s choir in her own rendition of the hit Disney song, “Let It Go.” The initial voices are of children but afterwards, it’s Yuna singing.

Enjoy!

~The Rinkside Cafe

P.S. There’s one particular figure skating who looks like Elsa from “Frozen.” Check out this post to find out who!

The Harding/Kerrigan Documentary

Earlier this season, I wrote a post about a documentary that takes another look at the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal from 1994. I found a video of it on youtube so for those of you who are curious, watch it before it gets taken down.

I found that the documentary was fascinating and explored some of the darker corners of the sport including the influence of the judges and the media. I think it also really gives a prime example of the bigger issue of gender, sports and endorsements first mentioned in that Slate article. If you haven’t or don’t have time to read the article the main argument is that for female athletes, their looks are more important than their successes in their respective sport – they have to fit a specific image to be marketable and get endorsements and if they don’t have that image, they have to work harder so that their successes can overshadow their image. This differs from the marketability of male athletes whose image is secondary to their successes in the sport in terms of their marketability

In any case, watch the documentary and tell me what you think in the comments! Were you more sympathetic towards Tonya or do you think she still had a part in the attack?

~The Rinkside Cafe

Highlights from the 2014 World Championships

The 2014 World Championships had some really lovely performances. A lot of the time, the Olympics tire the competitors out and many top contenders don’t even participate. As a result, you get a few “he/she came out of nowhere” World Champions (Remember Kimmie Meissner? Neither do I.) and some tired performances. Not so this year. From the judging and the performances, I might have to say that I think I enjoyed the World Championships a lot more than the Olympics this time. In any case, here are a few of what I thought were the highlights.

For the last two seasons, it’s been really hard for me to take Tatsuki Machida very seriously because of his wacky Firebird program. His arm flapping definitely gave me more than a chuckle or two and despite his good results, I couldn’t quite appreciate his skating. He was consistent most of the time but he was not as compelling to watch as his other teammates, especially when bird-imitations were part of the vehicle to show off his skating prowess. This program and performance, however, changed my opinion of him. I don’t think Machida has skated this compellingly all season and somehow everything clicked in this performance. I was finally noticing some of the edgework and transitions in this program and he was channeling Daisuke Takahashi in this performance. Gorgeous program and wonderful skate – this is what it’s all about.

In terms of program content or choreography, there’s nothing extremely noteworthy about this performance but I don’t think Tomas Verner has done this well for ages. He bombed the LP but hey, forget about that and remember this highlight, Tomas.

That popped jump might have cost him a World title but I admit that Javier was very swoon-worthy in this program.

Ethereal. Perfection. And a World Record score. Enough said.

What a great comeback for Mao. I was tearing up by the time she got to her step sequence at the end. She didn’t get the Olympic gold but 3-time World Champion isn’t too shabby.

Ethereal as always and the PCS were just right. Both Mao and Carolina skated clean and despite the fact that she wasn’t the hometown favourite, Carolina had the highest PCS for this segment of the competition. Sochi judges, take note!

I was never a huge fan of this team but I like how this program builds to a climax ending with that lift that starts out on Dylan’s knee at the end.

I’m not particularly fond of this program but I felt that I needed to mention Savchenko & Szolkowy in this post. They ended their wonderful career on a high note and they will be missed so much. Aliona Savchenko will still be around but who knows if she’ll find a partner as good as Robin.

With Savchenko & Szolkowy gone, these two are my new favourite pairs team. They need to learn how to be more consistent and maybe ramp up their technical content but they remind me so much of Shen & Zhao. Every time I watch this program, I feel as if it was too short.

I wasn’t a fan of this dance at the beginning of the season but it’s really grown on me. This was just a splendid performance to cap off a very creative and wonderful career for Nathalie and Fabian.

I wasn’t a fan of the music choice at the beginning of this season – I thought it was slow and boring – but this program has become my favourite ice dance FD this year. Within the first minute of this performance, I was having chills. I am so happy that these two didn’t get completely screwed over by the judges as they have been all season. They’re good enough to contend for bronze but we all knew that the ISU didn’t want a North American podium sweep. And they wanted a Russian for the bronze position if they couldn’t get gold. (I thought Nathalie & Fabian deserved the Olympic bronze but what can you do?)

This was ADORABLE.

Oh Tomas, always the entertainer.

I think there’s a theme here. I seem to enjoy these quirky, funny exhibitions quite a bit.

Not a new exhibition but I love it all the same. It never fails to bring a smile to my face

Another highlight I wanted to add was the crowd. It was just such a refreshing change from Sochi where people were silent for everyone except for the Russians. It was also adorable that they respected Yuzuru’s wish for silence in the Kiss and Cry because Javier was on the ice and needed to concentrate. I know that Dave Lease says that the Sochi crowd wasn’t as rude as some other competitions but I don’t think that’s an excuse for their cold reception for non-Russians. It was a nice change having a crowd with so much joy and enthusiasm in all the skaters and the fact that they cheered for skaters from all different countries. Thank you for showing us what wonderful skating fans are like.

Anyways, I think I’ve bombarded you guys with enough videos for now. What were your favourite performances at Worlds this year? Tell me in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

A Very Confusing Farewell…

Elena Nikita 13 TEB FD

Yes. I have the right picture.

Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov made a big splash when they won the Junior World Championships in 2010 but they did not emerge as Olympic contenders until… well… Sochi. These two have had tons of ups and downs (Remember their “Ghost” FD? Actually, maybe we shouldn’t.) and I think we all cringed a little when Elena started dating Nikolai Morozov but whatever happened in the past, this year looked like their breakthrough season. With their Olympic bronze medal, it seemed as if Ilinykh & Katsalapov were going to be at the top of the world and if they stayed long enough and improved enough to fend off their competitors, they could be Olympic champions.

However, that is not to be. According to this article, Elena and Nikita are ending their partnership after the World Championships in Saitama this year. Nikita will be will be skating with Viktoria Sinitsina while Elena’s future is currently unknown. What a shock. This will also be good news for Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte. And Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje. And Bobrova & Soloviev.

In any case, I decided to post this video of their 2010 FD when people started buzzing about them and how they were going to be the next big thing in ice dance.

They might not win Olympic gold in the future but they might get the title of World Champions if all goes well for them this week.

Did this split shock you as much as it did me? Tell me in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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