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

Predictions: 2014 World Figure Skating Championships

So, welcome to the predictions for the 2014 World Championships. For anyone who follows skating closely, you know that this event will be somewhat… less exciting to put it lightly because so many skaters opt out of the competition after an exhausting Olympic season.

Men

As expected, many of the top contenders have opted out of the World Championships this year, leaving the door wide open for reigning Olympic Champion, Yuzuru Hanyu, to strike gold on home ice. Yuzuru will be looking to improve on the Olympic performance of his LP, which was flawed but nevertheless was enough to win him the gold. Another competitor to look out for is Javier Fernandez who was skilled enough to win the Olympic medal but was kept off because he violated the zayak rule. Hopefully, he will have learned his lesson and will come out strong here.

Other contenders to look out for: Tatsuki Machida who’s had a strong season so far and also has home ice advantage. Maxim Kovtun, the windmill guy who beat Plushenko at Russian Nationals but didn’t go to the Olympics, therefore he’ll be more rested than the others and Han Yan, a young and talented newcomer. Jeremy Abbott may somehow prove that he can survive under pressure while Takahiko Kozuka, who is also well-rested may show us why he was once the World silver medalist.

Predictions:

Gold – Yuzuru Hanyu
Silver – Javier Fernandez
Bronze - Maxim Kovtun

Ladies

There has been quite a big buzz over the fact that Sotnikova isn’t going to Worlds and that the South Korean Olympic committee has filed an official complaint over the judging of the ladies competition. The big story then, is one of redemption by Mao Asada, who did not get the result we expected her to in Sochi. I hope that we’ll see her strong and that we can see her finish her career with a smile. Going against her is the young Russian phenom, Julia Lipnitskaia, who hopefully, has had less disturbing media attention since the Olympics and the Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner. I have no doubt again that the judges will lowball Carolina’s PCS even if she’s the best performer with the best choreography this season.

A few other contenders to look out for: the rising star, Gracie Gold, who may actually be the Next American Ice Princess, Akiko Suzuki, who will undoubtedly be lowballed in PCS as always and Anna Pogorilaya, a Russian youngin who did well earlier in the season and will be well-rested for not going to Sochi.

Predictions:

Gold – Mao Asada
Silver – Julia Lipnitskaia
Bronze – Carolina Kostner

Pairs

The pairs competition will be a race for gold between Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy and Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov. The latter pair surprised us all but pitching in 3 solid performances in Sochi. S&S, I think, still has what it takes to win it but they’ll have to skate clean. As for the bronze medal, there are a few teams that have the technique, choreography and steadiness of mind and character that can take them to the podium and I think those teams are: Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang, Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek, Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford and Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch. The bronze is going to be a tough call. As will be the gold. So here goes…

Predictions:

Gold – Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Silver – Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov
Bronze - Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford

I expect these predictions to be completely and totally wrong.

Ice Dance

The ice dance competition will be less exciting without the Davis & White and Virtue & Moir rivalry but this competition may end up  being the most revealing of them all. With them two dominating team gone, this competition may give us an idea of how the ice dance field will look like next season and for the next Olympic cycle.

Although I think that Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat should’ve won the bronze at Sochi (I knew they wouldn’t because they’re not Russian), they may see themselves on the podium, just not at the top. That spot will probably belong to Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov who will likely be the top Russian team for the next cycle. Whether they can maintain this top position is a completely different question – not all the competitions are held in Russia, you know. We may see two Russia teams on the podium if Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev are well received in Saitama. However, we still need to keep an eye out for Igor Shpilband’s top team: Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte who have been skating strong all season. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje will no longer be in the shadow of Virtue & Moir but they will likely be lowballed as they have been all season. However, I wanted to make this comment because Maria de Buenos Aires is a lovely FD and I want you to watch it.

Predictions:

Gold – Elena Illinykh & Nikita Katsalapov
Silver – Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte
Bronze – Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat

I’m somewhat unused to this roster and so I’m guessing that these predictions will be laughably wrong. What are your predictions? Share them with me in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

 

 

Re: Yuzuru’s Gold – Paradigm Shift or the End of an Era?

So as you may know, I wrote a post with something of a recap of the men’s event along with a lot of commentary about the Chan vs. Hanyu race for gold and how the International Judging System (IJS) came into play. Other than the limits of the PCS and whatnot, I think the IJS may also have something to do with what come commentators think is a shift in the world of figure skating.

plushy and yuzu

With Yuzuru’s historic victory as not only the first Japanese but Asian man to win figure skating gold, some articles (here and here) have noted that Yuzuru’s win represent a paradigm shift from East Asian countries learning from the traditional (and Western) figure skating powers of Russia, Canada and the U.S. to the other way around. In one of the articles, Udo Doensdorf, a German sports director, talks about money and how Japanese skaters are well-supported financially, given the interest in the sport in the country. While this is true, I think that we also need to consider is a small coincidence in timing with the one event that changed figure skating forever. That one event, of course, is the 2002 Salt Lake City figure skating scandal. (For a summary of what happened, refer to my Skating 101 post here.)

For Japan (or even other East Asian countries), figure skating medalists at Worlds or the Olympics like Chen Lu and Midori Ito were rare but their very existence and their achievements point to some degree of interest in figure skating back when the Canada, Russia and the U.S. were still dominating the sport. However, around the 2000s, we start seeing quite a few East Asian skaters on the podium with Japan taking medals in singles skating and China for pairs, followed by the one-woman South Korean dynasty that is Yuna Kim. I don’t know the precise details of the history of figure skating in each country but we do know this:

  • Bin Yao, pairs coach extraordinaire, skated in the 1980s and was one of the first pairs teams in China. Despite his own personal failures as a competitive figure skater, he began to develop an excellent pairs training program which budded near the turn of the millennium and really bloomed in Vancouver of 2010.
  • As for Japan, this country is usually touted as a success story and proof of modernization theory – in other words, Japan developed a capitalist economy, modernized and westernized a lot earlier than its other East Asian neighbours, which may explain why Emi Watanabi and Minoru Sano won medals in the ladies and men’s events at the World Championships as early as the 1970s. Japan had a medal drought until the 1980s/90s with Midori Ito and Yuka Sato but then Japanese skaters really took off near the 2000s.
  • Yuna Kim is a bit of an outlier in this argument seeing that she basically started the interest in figure skating in her country single-handedly in the 2000s.

In any case, what we see with China and Japan are two nations who had some interest in figure skating relatively late in the game compared to the Big Three (U.S., Russia and Canada). Interest in figure skating began to gain some momentum in the late 80s/90s and then took off in the 2000s. This could be an indication that the development of figure skating training programs in these countries began in 80s/90s and began to really make a name of itself near the turn of the millennium. While this may seem like a fun fact, it also means that these countries had less experience at the elite level under the 6.0 judging system.

For China and Japan, this late-comer status may have given them a small advantage which they have capitalized on in the past two and present Olympic cycle, which is that they probably had less attachment to the 6.0 judging system which allowed them to adapt to the IJS much faster than the Big Three. As a result, we have coaches from Japan and China train young skaters in a way that would help them succeed under the new system, resulting in a generation that are slightly better prepared for the idiosyncrasies and challenges of skating under the IJS. If you look at the success stories coming from Asia, many of them are teenagers or in their early 20s, meaning that they most likely entered their junior competitive career skating – where things start getting a little serious – solely under the IJS. Many of these skaters moved to North America or Europe to train eventually but their careers began in their home country.

For the Big Three, the transition may not have been as smooth as we see older skaters trying to adapt to this new system. For a while, it seems as if their transition was successful. The young teenagers still had to wait a little bit to dethrone the big names but by the beginning of the Olympic cycle going into Vancouver in 2006, we start seeing these teenagers come into the scene with their youth and their experience under the IJS and taking the skating world by storm.

With 2014 comes the 10 year anniversary of the implementation of the IJS in international figure skating. When this Olympic cycle ends, we will likely see the complete end of an era with the last of the 6.0 skaters retiring. Skaters like Brian Joubert and Evgeni Plushenko are probably the last of the 6.0 skaters in the field and by the next Olympic cycle, we will likely see only youngin’s who have grown up with the new judging system. That is not to say that 6.0 skaters weren’t successful in the new system but with their age and an older skating style (heavy focus on jumps, less transitions and sometimes very personality-based), 6.0 skaters either had to adapt quickly or lose relevance and momentum in their career.

So perhaps we will see the Big Three look towards Japan for best practices in figure skating but this might just be part of an overall process of getting over the growing pains of getting rid of the influence of a skating style from a bygone era to adopting a new one. Although Canada is a bit of an exception to the decline of the big three under the IJS, we are starting to see skaters from these countries flourish again but with younger skaters who have never been touched by the 6.0 judging system.

Do you think that Yuzuru’s win marks a shift in the way countries are improving their figure skating programs or are we just seeing the vestiges of the 6.0 system finally cast off? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

The Future is Here! All Hail Yuzuru Hanyu – Olympic Champion!

Yuzuru Hanyu 2014 OWG LP

The men’s competition in Sochi was packed full of surprises for better and worse. The result is still a little bit of a shock but somewhere deep down, I think I was expecting it. Or maybe, a lot of us just managed to see what a talent this guy was back at the beginning of the Olympic cycle and he certainly proved us right. Thanks, Yuzuru!

Also, the men’s figure skating Olympic curse seems to be in full effect after taking a small break in Vancouver. (For those of you who don’t know, the “curse” is that the man who was World Champion from the previous year/season will not win Olympic gold. All the figure skating “curses” were broken in Vancouver but so far, they seems to be in full effect.) Anyway, let’s start this brief recap of the men’s figure skating competition with one of the biggest game changers… More

Japanese Olympic Team Announced!

FSAKTE-JPN-OLY-2014

The Japanese Figure Skating Championships are one of the few more exciting National Championships out there because the entire competition isn’t just a one pony race. In the singles events, the field is tough and the sad thing is – if some of the lower ranked competitors were from some other country, they’d be going to Sochi right now. In any case, here is the video announcing the Japanese team for Sochi 2014.

In case you can’t quite pick out the names in the flurry of Japanese, they are: More

GPF 2013: What just happened?

I’m still catching up with the GPF performances but I just have to comment on this:

isu gpf2013 mens lp

I woke up to this and I wondered if I was reading this right.

Yuzuru’s had asthma since childhood and it’s not unusual to see Yuzuru hunched over or lying on the ice after his long program, in which he is weaker at. I expected Yuzuru to not only make mistakes to not win the short program and I thought than Chanflation with a good skate would be enough to push Chan back into gold medal position – because we all know that Chan’s been given ridiculous scores for mediocre performances in the past. However, all of my assumptions proved to be wrong. Chan skated well and his score is deserved but then, it seems that Yuzuru delivered as well…

He had a fall on his quad salchow and possibly a slightly clumsy spin at the very end but there was Yuzuru in attack mode again, expressing the music well and throwing down the gauntlet with every element. I especially loved that spread eagle into the triple axel-double tano double-toe.

I think we all thought that Patrick Chan was unbeatable this season and I’m so happy that Yuzuru managed to prove us wrong. Ganbare, Yuzuru-kun~! おめでとうございます! Congratulations on a well-deserved gold medal!

What a great way to celebrate one’s 19th birthday! Happy birthday, Yuzuru! お誕生日おめでとう!

gpf 13 mens podium

Were you as surprised as I was? Let me know what you thought of the men’s competition in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Yuzuru Hanyu leads after the SP in the GPF + Yuna News

My morning started with great news: I checked my facebook and lo and behold, I saw this:

PJ tweet dec 5 2013

In my half-awake daze, my brain could barely process this news.

yuzuru hanyu 13 gpf sp

Yuzuru Hanyu is leading?

As in, he beat the unbeatable Patrick Chan in the short program?

AND Yuzu beat Chan’s world record score that was set two weeks ago at TEB?

Tell me I’m not dreaming…

Image taken from the ISU GPF page

isu gpf2013 mens sp

NOPE! I WASN’T DREAMING!?!?!?!

Not only was it a world record but Yuzu’s got a 12-point lead??? What on earth happened???

Well, first this happened:

Chan did a clean quad toe-triple toe (slightly awkward landing on the former), a severely two-footed triple axel with a hand down and a… double lutz with a shaky landing? He hasn’t skated like this so far this season. This competition should’ve been a piece of cake for him seeing the crazy high scores he’s been getting this season but I guess he cracked a bit in the SP.

Anyways, enough about Chan, here’s the real star of the night:

Flawless except for a slight bobble on his final jump but Yuzuru skated that program with ATTACK. Maybe that sense of attack added to the edginess of the program or maybe he decided that he’s just going to go for it and try to beat Chan but wow. I’m not sure what prompted this decision but it paid off. I don’t expect him to skate that well in the long given Yuzuru’s record of tiring easily in the second half of his long program but I wish him the best and I hope he proves me wrong. I have never regretted my decision to peg him as the future of figure skating at the beginning of this Olympic cycle. Ganbare, Yuzuru-kun!

In other news, the Korean media seems to have recorded Yuna skating run-throughs of her SP and LP for the Golden Spin of Zagreb:

As anyone can see, Yuna still has great jumps. The only thing I feel somewhat iffy about is what I feel to be the lack of growth. Sure, Yuna is great and all but no skater is perfect just as no artist will ever achieve perfection. Before I start receiving a torrent of hatred for saying this, let me iterate that perfection is an endpoint you steer towards but never reach because if you ever reach perfection, you stop because there’s no goal anymore. I think anyone who does any art for fun or for job-related matters can understand.

In any case, it’s been an entire Olympic cycle and yet, I still feel as if I’m watching Yuna circa 2010. She still doesn’t turn out her feet and her posture and lines still need polish. You can say they’re small things but they add up and really make a program shine so much more. I mean, remember Michelle Kwan when her hands reached out to you when she did her iconic arabesque spiral? I still tear up occasionally. Or when Midori Ito did those huge jumps with a giant smile on her face? I smiled with her? Or those absolutely gorgeous spirals and layback spins in the most exquisite position from Sasha Cohen? Shivers.

At her ability now, Yuna’s good enough to win the Olympics but she’s already won that. I think she needs to think along the lines of the top two ice dance teams of the moment: to push the sport to a level where it’s never been before. Try doing something interesting with the choreography, push yourself to express a song/theme/story that you’ve never skated before. Yuna’s done a tango before as well as a program to flowing music and as a figure skating fan, I want more.

Anyways, I’m off! I may put up a comments post after the GPF is over and I’m thinking about the Skating 101 series for fans that have recently joined us for the Olympic season.

As always, thanks for reading!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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