Predictions: The Grand Prix Final 2014

The Grand Prix Finals is upon us!

javier fernandez black betty
I always find the GPF to be a defining moment in the season. The GPF is often the first time all the heavyweights come to compete after a series of seeded competitions where they can win or at least medal easily. Even without some of the top contenders on the list, the GPF can help or hinder skaters – they can either prove that they have what it takes to be on top in a tough field or they can fall into the wayside of irrelevancy. There are definitely some match-ups to watch this weekend, which will make for a good competition. Let’s just hope that actual good skating gets thrown into the mix here as well. More

Mid-Season Favourites

I won’t bother typing a post for the roster for the GPF because there’s a wikipedia page for that. It has a pretty table and a more effective and succinct way of showing you all you need to know. Instead, I’ll write a post on my favourite programs of the season this far since the majority of skaters have shown us what vehicles they want to use to propel them to the top.

kavaguti smirnov sa 2014 lp

Men

Yuzuru has yet to perform this program clean in competition but I loved this program since I saw it in exhibition form so I will put this as my favourite SP of the season so far. I adore the use of spread eagles and just the slow and graceful pace of the choreography. Yuzuru and Jeff Buttle are just magic together.

I’m not a huge fan of when coaches try to get skaters to skate like others but I find this combination of Kazakh pride with Patrick Chan-esque intricate transitions compelling. Although memorable is a double-edged word (certain terrible things can be just as memorable and good things), I think that this program has the potential to be memorable in a pleasant sense.

Ladies

I like this program mostly since I do think that it does well to combine the natural personality of the skater with the music and the choreography, despite the mistakes. I do hope that Zijun skates this to its full potential and doesn’t give up midway through after a huge mistake. There are a lot of beautiful soft moments in this program that I think she can perform very well so I will wait until that time comes.

Without a doubt, my favourite long program of the season is Satoko Miyahara’s Miss Saigon LP. Just watch it.

Pairs

I like the mystery and introverted quality of this program and I think that this team has what it takes to do it justice. It may not be the most stunning thing ever but it’s definitely a lot more interesting than most of the programs out there.

The angst. The drama. The stomping. The throw quad salchow. This program is so epic. Tamara Moskvina is a genius.

Ice Dance

I’ve been less than impressed with a lot of the flamenco SDs this season and I’m not sure why. Most of them have been underwhelming or the costumes are too distracting or that nothing really shines through. Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz have an SD that gives a good flamenco flavour without it being too cheesy, which is why it makes this list.

I try not to pick the same skater or team for my favourites list but this is hands down my favourite FD of the season so far. This dance can so easily get cheesy but somehow this love theme and the choreography works, flowing smoothly from one type of love to the next. I really love how this team pushes the boundaries every season with really creative programs.

What have been your favourite programs this season so far? Let me know in the comments!

NHK Trophy 2014: Highlights and Recap

xiaoyu yu yang jin 14 nhk

The NHK Trophy this year was a good ending before the Finals, not because the skating was superb – in fact, I think I would have been okay with myself had I not watched this competition but because it confirmed a lot of my conjectures that I had about this season going into the GPF.

Men

It seems that Olympic Champion, Yuzuru Hanyu, is faltering a little at the beginning of the season after that disastrous crash at the Cup of China. Hanyu skated weak programs throughout the competition and it was his PCS that salvaged him a good enough result to go into the finals. Personally, I would rather see Hanyu take a little rest, recalibrate and then come back strong rather than skate 2 mediocre programs with inflated PCS. I have too much affection for his good skating to see it get undeservedly rewarded for sloppy skates.

Furthermore, the previously lower-ranked Japanese men decided to make another statement at this competition that they’re no longer willing to sit in the shadows. Fellow countrymen, Daisuke Murakami and Takahito Mura skated strong to finish above Hanyu on the podium. In terms of my comments for these two, I find that Mura has solid jump technique but I would really like to see him express his personality in non-warhorse programs. I think this guy can do better than that and for now, he isn’t going to stand out that much in my memory unless he steps it out next season and define to me who he is on the ice. Daisuke on the other hand, feels like a bit of a washed out version of Daisuke Takahashi. Although the hair and jump technique are similar, Murakami lacks Takahashi’s musicality and skates with a minimum acknowledgement of the music. He’s not a very expressive skater, which makes his programs a little less palatable. I hope to see these two men improve nonetheless as Japan still has an exciting future in men’s figure skating.

As for silver medalist Sergei Voronov, well, he skated. He reminded me of a less exciting version of Brian Joubert in his LP but I’m not sure if that’s really a compliment since only BJou can pull off his own strange programs and make you like it despite yourself. In  his short, he looked like he was channeling Evan Lysacek, costume, windmill arms and all. Again, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment even though I must reluctantly acknowledge that Lysacek is an Olympic Champion.

Ladies

I was sorely disappointed that Satoko Miyahara‘s LP performance was not as solid as her Skate Canada skate but I’m glad that she did finish on the podium. Gracie Gold, on the other hand, deliver two solid albeit boring skates to end up with the gold. What I did like about her performances here is that there was an improvement in her ability to express the music. It wasn’t huge but you could see her being a little more comfortable with the programs and the characters in each of them. Although I would still like to see Gracie’s personality on the ice at some point, I suppose that working on her projection, performance and character this season would be a good goal to aim for, especially since her programs are so dry and boring.

Note: Gracie will not be competing in the GPF due to injury. Rika Hongo is taking her place. The plot thickens…

Pairs

I think Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford is setting a new bar in pairs skating. They’ve gained good momentum from last season, which is good for their PCS but what is setting them apart is their strong technical scores, which may give the judges no chance to deny them the gold at Worlds this year if they skate clean. The showdown between this team and Stolbova & Klimov at the GPF will be a decisive battle in who will have the upper hand when Worlds comes around. I’m still not a fan of either of their programs but I think these two have found a solid recipe to be at the top of the pairs skating world going forward in this Olympic cycle. I also hope that other teams try to up the ante as well to make for a more exciting competition.

Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov still have the most epic program this season but this competition demonstrated that they still aren’t as consistent as we’d like them to be, especially when it comes to their long program. Had they skated solidly, they would’ve been in a better position to compete for the top spot at Russian Nationals but I fear that the window has closed. That LP is still amazing though.

I would like to give a shoutout to the bronze medal team of Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin (again). I really love watching this team grow. For some odd reason, they don’t seem to have the big tricks and throw jumps like most of the other Chinese teams but their lines and unison are gorgeous to watch. I think under Bin Yao and Hongbo Zhao, this team has the potential to become the dream team – to have the grace and precision of the Russian pairs teams combined with the huge awe-inspiring tricks of the Chinese teams. Add oil, you two!

Ice Dance

This competition was Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje‘s to lose but these two skated solidly to get the gold with a comfortable margin of 17 points between themselves and the silver medal team. With Cappellini & Lanotte gone, these two are the front-runners going into the finals. Nonetheless, I hope that they still consider changing their programs a little bit since they aren’t as compelling as some of their other work in the past. What has been admirable about this team is how they explore so many different themes with really wonderful programs no matter what their ranking is.

Although the Russian team of Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin won the silver with very admirable edges but slow skating at times, I think the Russian team that shocked everyone here was Viktoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov. I thought that this team was going to be a lot better than they are since they are under Marina Zueva’s tutelage but this team lacks unison, doesn’t have the right timing when they move together and have no chemistry or presence on the ice. They were also very sloppy and fell 3 times in their FD to end up in last place in that portion of the competition. After this competition, I’m not sure if this partnership will last, let alone flourish but then again, Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang proved me wrong with their performances last season so anything can happen.

What do you think of Sinitsina & Katsalapov? What about the NHK Trophy? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Predictions: NHK Trophy 2014

yuzuru 14 coc sp

The last GP event before the Grand Prix Final is upon us! I’m not sure if I should cheer for the fact that the roster is half decent or if I should down some shots because there will be a lot of Phantom of the Opera programs this weekend. In any case, onwards as I attempt to predict the podium for each event for the NHK Trophy! More

Cup of China 2014: Highlights and Recap

I apologize for the delay for this post. I was busy all weekend with friends out of town so it’s taken a while to get some time for myself and write this post.

xiaoyu yu yang jin 14 coc lp

First of all, I think I should say that I did take a look at the results over the weekend and when I did, I was in utter shock. There are times when I don’t mind being wrong with my predictions but for the most part, I’m a little miffed that my predictions are wrong, mostly because the results and the skating last weekend was a complete clusterf*** with very few highlights. Expect another cranky post though I tried really hard to be less cranky this time. More

Predictions: Cup of China 2014

Zijin Li 12 lp

The Grand Prix season is well underway and with the huge time different and personal commitments this weekend, I’m afraid livestreaming will not be possible. I will, however, do my best to catch up to all the competitions as fast as I can so that I can give you a recap/highlight post early next week. However, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves and make the predictions first. More

Yuzuru’s New SP

I apologize for the lack of posts, it’s been a bit busy lately as my life has, yet again, changed (for the better). I thank my readers again for their patience and support and I hope that you will continue reading!

In any case, I was wandering Twitter today for pictures of World Pride 2014 (I took my own pictures but I wanted to see if I missed anything) and while I was wandering Twitter, I found a video of Yuzuru Hanyu’s new short program.

EDIT: Old video got taken down. New video found. The program is relatively clean. I hate the meandering emptiness when he sets up the quad though.

Yuzuru is skating to one of my favourite piano pieces, Chopin’s Ballade no. 1. (Mao did a wonderful exhibition to it years ago as well.) From a little googling and lurking on figure skating forums, it seems that the choreographer is Jeffrey Buttle. I really love watching Jeff’s choreography. It’s such a breath of fresh air. However, this time around, this program gave me a bout of nostalgia. It has a very 90s 6.0 feel with touches of Ilia Kulik here and there. Overall, Yuzuru seems to have made an interesting decision in that he’s trying to show versatility and maturity coming off his Olympic season. The program looks shaky overall right now but I sincerely hope that Yuzuru can pull it off. I have a feeling that this program can be something magical when it’s skated to perfection.

Anyways, it’s late and I really shouldn’t be awake at this time so I’ll post the link to GP assignments tomorrow. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, let me know what you think of Yuzuru’s new SP in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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