Olympic Ladies Event – A Few New Problems Come to Light

One of biggest problems with the Olympics is that videos get removed from youtube faster than you can say, “Olympics” because of copyright issues. However, the IOC seems to have established their own youtube channel and have uploaded the Olympic performances. After re-watching Sotnikova’s programs, I continue to stand by my opinion that her PCS were inflated.

Firstly, here is a link to an overview of the PCS and its criteria. When we think of the scores, let’s keep in mind the definitions of each number when we say that the PCS is marked from 0 to 10:

9-10 – Outstanding
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – Above average
5- Average
4 – Fair
3 – Weak
2 – Poor
1 – Very poor
<1 – Extremely poor

Adelina received scores mostly in the 8s in her SP and 9s in her LP. Yes, the scores themselves are subjective but each PCS has its own criteria to limit how we define “average.” The following are the criteria of the PCS and my take on it. More

Sochi 2014: Worst Judging I’ve Ever Seen – Ladies Event

You know, I can accept that Russia won the team event. As someone who prefers Tessa and Scott, I can also accept and celebrate Meryl & Charlie’s win at the Olympics. Adelina Sotnikova’s Olympic gold, however, is the one accolade I refuse to accept and this ridiculousness in judging is an insult to anyone who holds the title of “Olympic Champion.” I am so disgusted with this result that I refuse to cover or watch any more competitions in Russia until this bullshit judging has stopped because if this is how things are going to be judged in Russia, then may no figure skating competition be ever held there ever again. So, if you’re wondering why I haven’t made predictions for the Cup of Russia for the next few seasons, here’s why.

sotnikova and judge

I think all commentators were shocked when Sotnikova won. Kurt Browning said that she was not a complete skater, as did Dick Button. Katarina Witt, former Olympic Champion, has also told the media that she thought Yuna Kim should’ve won and she is joined by a whole host of knowledgeable people in the figure skating world.To also put this whole debacle into perspective, consider this: Sotnikova’s season’s best score before the Olympics was 20 points below her Olympic score. Of course, somehow we have the media trying to rationalize what happened by saying that Adelina had a higher Technical Elements Scores (TES) and while that is true, we have to consider that the TES is only half of the story. In fact, what didn’t make sense in Sotnikova’s scores were her Program Components Scores (PCS). So for those who are still scratching their heads at the result, here are my two cents as well as a general recap of the ladies event in Sochi. More

Predictions: Grand Prix Final 2013

mao asada 13 japan open lp2

*insert expletives here*

I didn’t realize that the GPF started… TODAY until people on facebook pointed it out. Luckily, I’m not covering the junior competition so I have 4 hours before the senior competition starts off with the men’s short program. Stop panicking, stop panicking, stop panicking. OK. Predictions, let’s go!

Men

Thank goodness I didn’t make these predictions when I made the roster post two weeks ago since Daisuke Takahashi has pulled out of the competition due to injury. This doesn’t look good for his Olympic bid… Feel better soon, Daisuke!

Patrick Chan broke his own records at TEB this year, and at this point, I’d be very surprised if ANY skater can beat him. I won’t dwell on it since you readers will know I’m not a huge fan of his style but you’ve heard it from me, I think he’s going to win a lot of things this year. Like the Olympics, probably.

With some hometown advantage, I think Yuzuru Hanyu has the potential to medal at the GPF. Without Daisuke on the roster, Yuzu is likely to be the fan favourite in Fukuoka this week and if he skates both programs clean, he has a good shot at silver. Nipping at his heels will be teammate, Nobunari Oda, who is looking to do well at this competition. In fact, the pressure is on for the Japanese men who seek a spot on the Olympic team. A medal at the GPF will definitely bolster their chances if they do well at Nationals later on in the season. Oda has done decently well and has shown that he’s on his game this season. If he can count, of course.

Some of you may be wondering why I’m not really thinking of Tatsuki Machida as a threat to the GP podium since he did win both of his GP events. The explanation is simple: the roster in both his GP assignments (Skate America and the Cup of Russia) were weak save for maybe one strong competitor who has faltered somewhat through the season so far (i.e. Takahashi, Fernandez). Machida is better than most of the B-list skaters and some A-list skaters on a bad day, but I’m not sure if he can compete with A-list skaters who have not faltered or haven’t skated too badly this season.

Predictions:

Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver:
Yuzuru Hanyu
Bronze:
Nobunari Oda

Ladies

The ladies competition is surprising this season: two veterans and four youngins’, all from Russia. The young teenagers may have wispy figures that enable them to jump like frogs, but the veterans may have the advantage for their jump ability as well as their ability to articulate music. I expect veteran and crowd favourite, Mao Asada, to win the competition. Her jump content may not be as difficult as some of the younger ladies but Mao has developed a great sense for the music that we don’t really see in competitors at the beginning of their careers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ashley Wagner did well too. Like Mao, her PCS will be the thing that will put her above the younger Russian ladies.

As for the four Russian ladies, all of them are talented in their own right but there’s a little bit of a conundrum here: the ladies who have won GP assignments did so, again, with weak rosters and skaters who were not on-game while competitors like Elena Radionova have won lesser medals but only to veterans who were on top of their game. Out of the four ladies, Elena Radionova, Julia Lipnitskaia, Anna Pogorilaya and Adelina Sotnikova, I may keep my eye on the former two. Sotnikova to me, seems like the weakest link in the foursome with Pogorilaya a little ways behind her.

Predictions:

Gold: Mao Asada
Silver:
Ashley Wagner
Bronze:
Julia Lipnitskaia

Pairs

Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov will likely win this event and probably the Olympics. Here, I’ve said it. Mother Russia wants her gold back and V/T have been skating flawlessly this season. They’re strong and ready to take back the pairs glory for Russia. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy will try their best to take that away but they haven’t skated with the same amount of consistency as their rivals. As for the bronze, I think that Qing Pang & Jian Tong have shown that they’re back in the game and a head above the rest of the skaters on the roster.

Predictions:

Gold: Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov
Silver:
Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Bronze:
Qing Pang & Jian Tong

Ice Dance

The REAL ice dance competition is here: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Meryl Davis & Charlie White will finally face off for the first time this season. I love both teams and I love this rivalry of Yagudin/Plushenko proportions. (I only wish that fans of either team would stop being hostile towards the rival skaters.) In any case, I think at this point in the season, the competition will go to Meryl & Charlie. Their scores have been higher all season and their programs have run into less issues – all in all, they’ve been more consistent. But then again, figure skating fans know very well that ice is slippery and the skate gods could prove me wrong.

As for the bronze medal (I seriously love how the gold and silver are always accounted for when V/M and D/W are both in the same competition), I have a feeling that Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev will take it here and the Olympics for Mother Russia cannot bear the shame of not getting at least a medal in this event. Getting the GPF bronze sets B/S on a course towards Olympic bronze and with home ice advantage, we all know that these two will do well in Sochi.

Predictions:

Gold: Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Silver:
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Bronze:
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev

What are your predictions for the GPF? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Comments on the Trophée Eric Bompard 2013

This is a little late since I’ve been working on a few personal projects lately but here it is! My comments on TEB 2013~!

Elena Nikita 13 TEB FD

I love this lift by the way. So dramatic and fits well with the program.

General Comments on the Men’s Field

My predictions were pretty much spot on except for my bronze medal predictions. There isn’t much to say in terms of the individual competitors so I’ll boil it down to 3 points:

1. Patrick Chan looks unbeatable right now. His scores are off the charts. Lately, Kurt Browning has been questioning the PCS of Meryl & Charlie and say, Cappellini & Lanotte so I’ll do the same. There are some things that Chan should’ve been marked higher like skating skills and transitions than Yuzuru in the SP (gosh, Chan, those running edges off his jumps… even I have to admit they’re gorgeous) but in terms of choreography and interpretation, I’m not sure why Yuzuru is marked a lot lower. Just sayin’.

2. Yuzuru’s scores in the SP were close to Chan’s (Chan – 98.52, Yuzuru – 95.37) and Yuzu won the silver overall. In terms of the ranking for GP events, which factor into the JFSA’s decision to send skaters to the Olympics we have…

Yuzuru – 2 silversOda – 1 silver, 1 bronze (would’ve been silver if he could count his jumps)
Daisuke – 1 gold, 4th place
Takahiko – bronze, 6th place

Yuzuru hasn’t won gold at the GP so far only because he’s been competing against Chan at every GP assignment, who’s pretty much a lock on gold. In terms of him going to the Olympics, I’d say he’s in a good place but we might have to wait for the Grand Prix Final or even Nationals to get a sense of which 3 men will be going since Tatsuki Machida has yet to compete at the Cup of Russia and like Daisuke he’s also won a gold medal at Skate America. For now, I think that Takahiko might be out of the running for the Olympics.

Predictions on who will go to the Olympics for Japan: Yuzuru Hanyu, Daisuke Takahashi, Nobunari Oda

3. Florent Amodio has officially become a non-entity in the upper ranks. In past seasons, he’s been able to take a few medals during the GP series but this season doesn’t seem to be looking good for him. If I were CBC, I’d be nice and say that he finished 7th at TEB but the harsher reality is that he finished second last overall and last in the LP. The sad thing is that we know he can do better than that but sadly, it doesn’t seem as if he’s been on top of his game this Olympic season. Until he proves me wrong, I’ll have to leave him out of my podium predictions.

The GP series confirms two ladies as THE lady for their respective countries

We all know that it’s important to be at the top of your field nationally. When you’re in that position, you get much more support politicking-wise and up goes the PCS. For a little while, the ladies field for Russia and the U.S. have been in disarray since there hasn’t been a lady that has led consistently throughout the years. In Russia, there were a lot of talented young ladies but no one was sure which ones would survive puberty. In the U.S., there were a lot of talented ladies who were terribly inconsistent.

This season, however, we have seen that Adelina Sotnikova has survived puberty unlike her rival, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, and that Ashley Wagner has continued her consistent skating from last year. Now that these two have emerged at the top of their country, the question remains, can they make a grab for the podium at Sochi?

Duhamel & Radford officially lose their lock on Olympic bronze

pang tong 13 teb lp

The funny thing about pairs skating for the last two seasons is that the field has been quite shallow. We all know that two teams are above the rest in terms of their technical ability and those two are Savchenko & Szolkowy and Volosozhar & Trankov. The bronze in the past few seasons have gone to a team that can’t quite touch the top two teams but are a head above the rest of the field. At last season’s World Championships, that team was Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford and as a result, I was pretty sure that this team was good enough to keep their hold on bronze. Now that Qing Pang & Jian Tong are back, it seems as if D&R will have to fight a little harder to get that bronze. Pang & Tong are seasoned veterans and great at portraying emotion and stories on ice. They are older, which can be a detriment in a sport that’s really hard on the body and dominated by teenagers but maybe like Shen & Zhao, they’ll prove to us that they get better with age. The showdown for bronze at Sochi should be exciting now

Tessa & Scott: One step forward, one step back

For Tessa & Scott, this season is going to be a constant battle against Meryl & Charlie. They can win the gold medal at any event but the real question will always be if their performance will be able to match up against their rivals. For TEB, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that their scores in the SD are very close to Meryl & Charlie’s season’s best. In fact, my favourite comment on their SD came from the ice-dance.com Twitter:

ice-dance com tweet 13 teb sd

I think they put the twizzles in another place in the program and as a result, everything flows a lot better. I think it was the first time I really enjoyed their SDs and didn’t feel that it needed a little extra pizzaz.

Wasn’t that lovely?

The bad news is, they seemed to have done something wrong with their lifts in the FD which resulted in a TES score that was lower than Ilinykh & Katsalapov’s. They’ll definitely need to keep on working but it would be a great comfort to fans if they beat Meryl & Charlie at least once before the Olympics. It would also keep the rivalry more exciting going in…

Dance of the Night: Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov

Ok, I’ll admit it: I enjoyed their Swan Lake FD. When they performed it at the beginning of the season, the program didn’t have as much mileage and the huge pause at the beginning looked awkward. (It also doesn’t help that I hate pauses in programs.) This performance from I & K, however, was dramatic and exciting and the best they’ve skated in their senior career. What was impressive was they they managed to top Pechalat & Bourzat, home ice favourites and a contender for Olympic bronze. This might be a sign that the winds are changing and there may be a new #1 Russian ice dance team soon…

Anyways, that’s it for now. I’ll be a little busy with a few personal projects for the next week or two so the “Skating 101″ posts that a friend had been suggesting might take a little while to churn out. In any case, what are your thoughts on TEB this year? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Predictions: Trophée Eric Bompard 2013

The GP series is gearing up for the Final! This week, we have the Trophée Eric Bompard! Onwards with the predictions!

tessa and scott 13 teb prac

Tessa and Scott are looking as if they’re having so much fun during practice. Gorgeous colour and dress too.

Men

With Patrick Chan on the roster, I have no doubt that he will win gold here. Let’s move on to something more pleasant and interesting to talk about, shall we? Yuzuru Hanyu will have to show that he has what it takes to go to the Olympics as the JFSA seems to put some importance on the results of the GP series. Yuzuru was lucky that Oda still hasn’t passed Counting 101 because if Oda hadn’t violated the zayak rule in his LP (I’m still bitter over that), Yuzu would’ve seen a bronze medal around his neck. In this competition, he might have to look out for young rising star, Han Yan but I think that Yan’s ability to express the choreography and music still needs to develop a little. That’s not to say that Yan won’t snatch the silver away if Yuzuru doesn’t skate well. I wish them both well but there can be one silver medalist…

Predictions:

Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver:
Yuzuru Hanyu
Bronze:
Han Yan

Ladies

I’m quite tempted to name this ladies event as “The Weekend of Mediocrity” because in all honesty, there aren’t that many ladies to scream and shout about on this roster. Most of the young Russian ladies here can jump but none of them really radiate Star Power like Elena Radionova. This seriously has to be the most uninspiring roster I’ve ever seen so far in this GP season. In any case, despite the slew of poorly choreographed jumping beans from Russia with appearances from even less uninspiring B-list skaters, I’d say that the winner of this competition will likely be Ashley Wagner. She may not have won her last GP event like Anna Pogorilaya but Pogorilaya wasn’t competing against a Mao Asada on a comeback (rather, she was competing against Carolina Kostner who wasn’t at all on her A-game). Ashley also scored considerably higher at Skate America compared to Pogorilaya. Furthermore, Pogorilaya will likely face some competition from her fellow teammate, Adelina Sotnikova. Despite being a more seasoned competitor, Sotnikova lost to Pogorilaya by 4 points at the Cup of China. These two will likely fight for silver and bronze.

I can ponder about the scores these two get and rant about how meh I find them but I’ll save my energy for other more pleasant activities. Thinking about this roster makes me cranky.

Predictions:

Gold: Ashley Wagner
Silver:
Anna Pogorilaya
Bronze:
Adelina Sotnikova

Pairs

The ladies roster was so terrible that for once, pairs isn’t the most painful prediction to make. That’s highly unusual.

In any case, the victory here will likely go to Qing Pang & Jian Tong. If they do win at TEB, they will not only assert the strong possibility of them winning a medal at the Olympics. This win is important and Pang & Tong need a strong, decisive victory if they want to lessen the possibility of last year’s Worlds bronze medalists, Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford, to claim the bronze at the Olympics. A decisive victory for the Chinese team might also propel them to a chance at winning something more than bronze, though the gold is probably out of the question. Either way, a victory for either P/T or D/R sends a strong message that they are near the top of the pairs field.

As for the bronze medal at the TEB. Um… Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov seem like a reasonable choice. They do quite well in the GP series and have good technical skills. Let’s hope that Bazarova’s jumps get off the ice.

Predictions:

Gold: Qing Pang & Jian Tong
Silver:
Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford
Bronze:
Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov

Ice Dance

There are precisely 3 teams worth watching in this competition and those three teams will very likely take the medals. Reigning Olympic Champions, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir will likely take the gold. Hopefully they’ve improved since Skate Canada and won’t suffer so much in their Technical Elements Score. In terms of technical ability, Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat have shown to be good technically in the past and will likely improve under coach Igor Shpilband, V/M’s former coach.

The only problem is that P/B often skate to programs whose concepts are too quirky or “avant-garde” (if you want to want to be obnoxious) to be relatable and they don’t quite have the star power like Virtue/Moir or even Cappellini/Lanotte to sell their performances. I’m also surprised that no one called them out for caricaturizing Egyptian culture with that mummy/Pharoah program a few years back. In any case, I have no doubts that gold and silver will belong to the two teams above.

As for bronze, the likely winners are Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, better than the rest of the field but nowhere near the above two teams.

Predictions:

Gold: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Silver:
Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat
Bronze:
Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov

What are your predictions for TEB? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Predictions: Cup of China 2013

Ahhhh! I have 16 hours to make these predictions. Bloody time differences. Ok, lunch first.

Done.

Zijin Li 12 lp

Onwards to the predictions for the Cup of China 2013!

Men

First up, the men!

Ah, come on, really? Am I seriously supposed to make predictions based on this clusterf*** of a roster? So many of the frontrunners are so inconsistent. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

Ok. Problem solving skills. Go.

Some names that pop off right off the bat: Takahiko Kozuka, who had a really rough start at Skate America this year but still has the potential to grab a medal… I think. Denis Ten, last year’s World silver medalist who’s win was a complete surprise because he has the potential but his previous results have always put him in the second group of skaters at GP events. Then, there’s Florent Amodio… WHO GOT NEW COACHES! *opens up some champagne* YES. This kid has potential but those horrific programs with a gazillion pauses were weighing him down. This is great news. Han Yan also has home-ice advantage and a lot of potential. A good candidate to snatch a medal off a veteran’s hand if they don’t skate well.

So now that the initial list is done, I’m really not sure how to rank them. It could honestly go any way. Let’s just throw caution to the wind and randomly come up with a ranking.

Predictions:

Gold: Florent Amodio
Silver:
Denis Ten
Bronze:
Han Yan

Ladies

With a newfound consistency and beautiful performances, Carolina Kostner, will likely win the gold. Adelina Sotnikova‘s terrible programs (and hence, lower PCS) and Kanako Murakami‘s lower TES make them somewhat at the same level and these two will likely duke it out for silver and bronze. If any of them make a mistake, fresh-faced Zijun Li could also grab a medal and hopefully her Coppelia LP will be great since I’ve pegged that as a fantasy program for her in this post.

Predictions:

Gold: Carolina Kostner
Silver:
Kanako Murakami
Bronze:
Adelina Sotnikova

Pairs

Barring some freak accident or injury, former World Champions, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, should be able to take the gold. They might face some strong competition from Qing Pang & Jian Tong, who took a year off last season but are likely still better than the rest of the competition. I’m almost tempted to say that I refuse to pick a bronze medal winner but I’ll just close my eyes and point to a name on the screen. It’s anybody’s game at this point. Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov. Ok, done!

Predictions:

Gold: Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Silver:
Qing Pang & Jian Tong
Bronze:
Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov

Ice Dance

The ice dance competition will likely be a three-way race between Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat and Madison Chock & Evan Bates. I’d give the edge to the first two teams though even when you narrow the gold medal choices down to two, it’ll be interesting to see who prevails. B/S has been beating P/B for a little while now but P/B have switched to Igor Shpilband, which might give them that extra boost they need to regain the top European spot. This will be a tough call.

Predictions:

Gold: Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev
Silver:
Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat
Bronze:
Madison Chock & Evan Bates

What are your predictions for the Cup of China this year? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Thoughts on Programs from the Finlandia Trophy and the Japan Open

More pre-season skating videos have popped up and here are my two cents again! There weren’t that many A-list competitors at Finlandia, so I decided to combine this post with my thoughts on some of the Japan Open programs.

Finlandia Trophy

Tessa and Scott 2013 Finlandia FD

First of all, can I say, I am so thankful that the Yankee Polka is done. Honestly, the next skater(s) who do a cowboy program, I’m just going to walk away from my laptop before I break something. As for this SD, I like the songs but I wonder why Marina never gives Tessa and Scott an SD with music derived from one soundtrack or source like Meryl and Charlie. I find SDs that take their music from one source are a little more coherent and these two work well when they have characters. Overall, there were a few bobbles, especially with the twizzles but I’m not too worried since I know these two can do better than that. I’m not sure if I’m totally sold on the program (I don’t think I’ve been sold on a lot of Marina’s SDs to be honest) but I’m curious to see what will happen to it in the future. So far, it looks like the classic Tessa and Scott elegant dance sort of theme but I wonder if there’s a way to take this program up a notch and make it stand out a little more.

I like Tessa and Scott’s FD a lot better than the SD – it has a clean, elegant vibe that brings out what fans love best about these two: their chemistry, lines, elegance and romance. Luckily for them, Marina didn’t totally succumb to overly-cluttered lift-itis for this program as she did for a lot of her programs in the past two seasons. (I love that first lift especially, if only the camera angle could show it off better.) Overall, I’m glad that this could be their Last Program. It’s a good last hurrah for them as it has echoes of some of their greatest moments (Mahler, Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and it feels like it’s the story of Tessa and Scott in a program. A fitting goodbye if they decide to retire after this season. A few minor changes I wouldn’t mind seeing – changing the lines in that lift where Tessa flips onto Scott. The lines feel a little jarring but maybe that’s just me. Also, this is such a flowing program that it would be really nice if they could stop that momentary pause before going into their dance spins. Actually, it’s a little frustrating that at their level, they’re not transitioning into their dance spins like Meryl and Charlie, which is more difficult and adds to the flow of the program. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing this program again.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates took the silver at Finlandia but their SD was definitely not their best performance, with Evan falling on the twizzles. Also, it is just me or is the music as irritating as f$%&? I also felt that their midline step sequence was soooo slow. Come on, I expect more from a team that trains under Igor – even if it is the pre-season! As for anyone who thinks Meryl and Charlie’s FD was “pose-y,” I’ll reiterate again that I disagree and point to this program as an example of too much posing. At the beginning and in the middle. Let’s hope their FD is a lot better than this.

Chock and Bate’s FD. W.T.F. My brain is having such a hard time processing it that I’m not even typing properly. Let’s make a list to help me work through my confusion:

1. Were they trying to emulate Meryl and Charlie? I mean, I swear Meryl and Charlie have done those exact lifts or something really similar in the past.

2. Was there cheering in their music cuts? Addendum: Isn’t that kind of lame?

3. All those voices… so much going on in the music. The simple movements don’t match. Nor does their on-ice presence. Is Igor trying to shoot these two in the foot?

4. The first set of twizzles were spot on… the other two… not so much.

5. I just don’t understand the chaos that is the music. I just don’t.

One silver lining: that light but pretty transition into the dance spin. That’s something I’d like to see from Tessa and Scott.

This is a lovely program for Akiko – very warm and graceful. She’ll have to work on her jumps but overall, I think she’ll grow into this program quite well.

It makes me really sad to see Akiko messing up her jumps AND skating to the “Phantom of the Opera” after she skated to such a masterpiece like “O” as her LP last year. I really hope that Akiko can sprinkle her magic dust on this program later in the season because this is just painful to watch.

I was curious about Julia Lipnitskaia after learning that she won gold at Finlandia. I can see that she’s beaten Akiko with her jumps but to me, Lipnitskaia looks and feels like a mini and awkward version of Sasha Cohen. Without Sasha’s musicality. She’s still quite young so who knows if that will change in the future.

While watching Julia Lipnitskaia skate this long program to “Schindler’s List,” I couldn’t help but notice how 1. her jumps are a little low and 2. how she comes out of a lot of her jumps with such little speed. She’s 15 now but I’m not sure if those jumps will last. She also seems like another “checklist skater” where her program is a list of things she needs to do. Maybe musicality will come to her with age but this is a good start to her season, she beat Akiko Suzuki at Finlandia to win the gold.

Yuzuru reused his “Parisienne Walkways” SP for this season. I love this program but what makes me angry is that he messed up the 3A – his best jump and the best jump in that program because of that difficult entry. Get it together, Yuzuru!

I was surprised to see Yuzuru skate to Romeo and Juliet again. I prefer the other version better but what can we do, really? Yuzuru did land two quads, which is impressive but let’s hope he doesn’t completely tucker out during the second half of the program. Maybe then we could have a veritable rival for Chan.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva had a rough SP with a popped jump and fall. This girl still has starpower in spades but I’m not sure if her newfound curves will allow her to skate in the top echelons of the sport anymore. On the bright side, she did win bronze in this competition.

Elizaveta’s LP wasn’t as disastrous and was less painful to watch. There were a few bobbles here and there but she reminded us here how she can sell a program so well. Malaguena is an overused piece of music but she made it her own. I’m happy that she’s proven that she’s better than that SP at Finlandia.

Japan Open

Japan Open 2013 Figure Skating

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Daisuke so sloppy and uninspiring. If it weren’t for that final step sequence, I would have totally forgotten why I liked this guy in the first place. It is the beginning of the season and mistakes are aplenty but I have the sad feeling that the his reign as the top Japanese man is decisively at its end with the only consolation that Prince Yuzuru is a worthy successor. Daisuke is as expressive as ever but his jumps seem to have failed him and his final spins were rather sloppy. Furthermore, I actually have more scruples with his program more than anything. I love the Beatles and all but a depressing accordion (or accordion-sounding) version of Beatles songs? And don’t get me started on the numerous pauses throughout the program. I hate pauses in ice dance programs but even that pales in comparison with the long, unnecessary, nonsensical, pose-y pauses in singles skating. I smell Morozov, even though the internet says Lori Nichol choreographed this.

This wasn’t a terrible skate other than the singled triple axel combination jump but why is it that I can’t seem to remember any distinctive aspect of this program? Takahiko Kozuka is talented but we’ve seen the same thing for so many years. In terms of his actual skating, it’s miles ahead of where Daisuke is right now. I think if we combined Daisuke’s flair for drama and emotion on ice with Takahiko’s current skating ability, we’d have a great skater who might be able to beat Yuzuru at Nationals (and a less tough decision as to who to send to the Olympics) but right now, the Japan’s figure skating union seems to have a very interesting conundrum on who to send to Sochi.

Some minor bobbles, but Javier Fernandez is off to a good start. Did I count 3 quads in that program? I think this program will grow on me as the season goes by but it’s quite a charming thing – very Kurt Browning-esque. What I am worried about it that Javier tends to peak early in the season and he tends to lose a little steam after the GP series. However, if his bronze at the last World Champions is any indication, I think he’s getting better at being prepared for some of the more important competitions at the end of the season.

I think this is the best I’ve seen Mao skate in a while. Her triple axel was two-footed and there were a few bobbles and a double rather than a triple-toe tacked on the back of a double axel but there was something in that performance that I haven’t seen in a while from Mao. Also, I can’t help but feel that Mao looks taller, longer and just lean this season. She doesn’t look like the wisp of a thing she was even back in Vancouver and I can’t help but wonder if she had her growth spurt a little later. In any case, this is actually quite a good program for Mao. It’s heavy but not too heavy like her “Bells of Moscow” LP from the last Olympic season and she’s matured to the point where she can be fierce and pretty. I like this new Mao and I hope that she grows stronger and stronger.

Ashley Wagner had the most solid skate of the Japan Open performances which will get her fans very excited. Somehow, though, I’m left feeling nothing. From the katakana text on the video, I believe she was skating to “Romeo and Juliet” but I don’t get that impression, even though she clearly stabs herself at the end and there’s a lot of angsty, angry music. Maybe it was the windmill arms during the first step sequence or that my brain is shouting at me, “She’s acting!” rather than “She’s living the character,” but that’s all a matter of opinion, I suppose. I think her fans will be happy that Ashley’s off to a great start while I will sit here for another five minutes to ponder upon how I felt about this performance. So far, I feel nothing, which confuses me a bit because, as I said, it’s a solid skate.

Watching Adelina Sotnikova skate made me want to pull out my hair. Actually, it would’ve been better if you watch this program on silent because Rondo Capricioso (at least, that’s what the Japanese text said what the music was called) is quite a pretty tune but the costume and the program just screamed tacky. I also didn’t even know what happened to that double axel in the middle of the program. What *kills* me is that Adelina could be so much better if she had better programs. Sigh. I’m not sure if I can digest that program again this season.

You could tell that Kanako wasn’t happy with that performance and I will tell you now, neither was I. Ok, she missed quite a few jumps – I’ll let that slip for now since it’s the beginning of the season and from what I’ve seen so far, there were a lot of uninspiring performances at the Japan Open. What bugged me even more than the missed jumps was the lack of expression. Last season, Kanako impressed me so much with this newfound maturity and musicality. Her “Prayer for Taylor” SP was gorgeous – great choreography, well-skated and with a calmness and quiet passion that went perfectly with the music. Her tango LP became a tough contender for my favourite LP of the season – and this is quite a statement seeing that her competition was Akiko Suzuki’s magnificent “O” program. I’m disappointed because I know that Kanako can do better than checking off a to-do list – which seems to be what she did here. This is “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from Yentl. The song lyrics and melody and the plot of the film is simple enough – a daughter yearns for her dead father. I’m not too fond of the music cuts but the plaintive, sad melody shouldn’t be out of Kanako’s acting range.

So, in short, I expect Kanako to do better next time and I know she will too. I’m looking forward to seeing this program grow and develop though. I think this program has the potential to be heart-wrenching.

What are your thoughts on the figure skating pre-season?

~The Rinkside Cafe

Predictions: European Championships 2013

Wahhhhhh!!! Euros start tomorrow. Or wait, it’s already tomorrow in Europe. AHHHH! Ok, here are some predictions.

plushenko blows a kiss

Plushenko beckons you to read on… More

The State of the Union – Pre-Euros, 4CC and Worlds

Ahhh! Euros are here already? Ok. Start!

In my head (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) the figure skating season (or more precisely, the ISU-sanctioned competitions) is divided into two. First you have all the Grand Prix events culminating in the Grand Prix Final and then we have the major international competitions: the European Championships, Four Continents and Worlds. (The Olympics are sort of an anomaly while the World Team Trophy is a cheesefest for the ISU to earn a little more money and by the looks of the last competition, a way to right a few erroneous results at Worlds, though the title isn’t as prestigious.) I divide the season like this because the two halves sort of run with slightly different rules or at least the placements get shaken up a bit.

The changes in placements don’t quite affect the top echelon of A-list skaters or the B-list and below but it does shake things up with the lower end of the A-list. This is partly because of the way the competitors are stacked up at each half. The Grand Prix events have few A-list skaters and so it’s pretty obvious most of the time who are podium contenders are. Some skaters don’t start out well early in the season and don’t make it into the final but are a force to be reckoned with in the second half. This is especially true if the skater is from a country with a strong figure skating union and has the union’s political support. In the second half, political support has a bit of a stronger effect on the placements. The ultimate cream of the crop  of the top GP contenders will likely get higher scores and/or placements while those who are slightly below may find themselves lacking even more points from their PCS. Sometimes, political support can change the placements between two contenders from the same country.

In any case, to make everything short, it’s a slightly different ball game when it comes to Euros, 4CC, Worlds and to some extent, the Olympics. This year, the World Championships take on another level of significance because the placements this season will determine the number of spots each country gets for the Olympics. So without further ado, here are a few comments on the state of figure skating just before Euros are about to start.

Carolina Kostner 2013 SP

Carolina beckons you in. More

Cup of Russia 2012: Predictions

This week will be busy again so I’m writing these predictions quickly.

Men

Even though Patrick Chan got defeated by Javier Fernandez at Skate Canada (shock!), I still think he has enough skating cred with the judges to muster a win here. Some interesting contenders for the rest of the podium would be the Japanese men, Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka. This competition could be really important for them since it could help the JFSA decide who the #3 Japanese man is. Oh yes, and Johnny Weir will be back and we get to see how he stacks up against some tough international competition here.

Predictions:

Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver: Takahiko Kozuka
Bronze: Nobunari Oda

Ladies

The ladies competition could potentially be the contest of the young’ins. Adelina Sotnikova will have home ice advantage. In Russia. A year before the Olympics. In Russia. Alena Leonova had a really bad showing at her last grand prix but who knows what will happen. In Russia. That aside, Kiira Korpi is the only lady with a mature grace and may be able to medal here though she will face competition from some young ladies such as Kanako Murakami, who gave notice to not completely discounted when she won the bronze at Skate Canada. Gracie Gold is also on the roster but after her performance at Skate America, I’m not sure what to make of her anymore.

Predictions:

Gold: Adelina Sotnikova
Silver: Kanako Murakami
Bronze: Kiira Korpi

Pairs

The two Russian teams have it to take the first two spots on the podium though the gold will undoubtedly go to Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov. If Vera Bazarova manages to get her tiny, tiny frame off the ice and land her jumps, she and Yuri Larionov can take the silver. If this is the case, the bronze should go to Caydee Denney & John Coughlin.

Predictions:

Gold: Tatiana Volsosozhar & Maxim Trankov
Silver: Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov
Bronze: Caydee Denney & John Coughlin

Ice Dance

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir will be back with their sexy Carmen which should propel them into gold. What will be interesting to see is the margin between them and Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov. Rumour has it that Elena’s with Morozov now and we all know what happens when a girl dates Morozov… The Shibutanis will probably fall victim to politicking on the eve of the Sochi Olympics but it’ll be fun to see their polka since I think their bright and happy feel/style should make for a good interpretation in the SD. Their “Memoirs of a Geisha” FD on the other hand, I’m not so thrilled.

Predictions

Gold: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Silver: Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov
Bronze: Maia & Alex Shibutani

What are your predictions for the Cup of Russia?

~The Rinkside Cafe

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