A Tribute to Perfect Spirals

Aunt Joyce posted a blog entry on Yuna news recently, which has started a sort of debate on the importance of pointing your toes and turning out your foot in the comments section. There have been many comments on dismissing the importance of pointing your toes (and turning out your feet) IN BALLET which makes me want to smack someone. The Yunabots have been coming out of the woodwork after a wonderful hiatus (although sadly, it was the result of Yuna’s break from competition) and their comments prove to be cringe-worthy.

To make a point, I’ve decided to post a tribute to spirals. I don’t care if your edges are steady, you can get as many L4s for them but if they’re fugly, they’re fugly. You need to point your toes and turn out your feet for lovely spirals like these:

See the extension? See the gorgeous line?

Alissa may be inconsistent but she has good lines.

Caroline Zhang had ugly mule kicks and jump problems but there are many people who will watch her just for the sake of her gorgeous spins and spirals.

Joannie’s not as flexible as the ladies above but she also manages to point her toes and turn out her foot!

Look! Even the legendary Katia and Sergei are pointing their toes!

And Meryl Davis, who usually has pretty horrible extension…

So, my final point is: POINTING YOUR TOES IS VERY IMPORTANT.

As for ballet. Can you imagine what this would look like if Natalia Osipova didn’t point her toes? She’d lose her job.

The video didn’t have figure skating spirals but it was pretty close to perfection. ❤

Dear Mao and Yuna…

Dear Mao and Yuna,

How have you guys been doing? I hope that both of you are in the best of health and that training has been going well. I’m writing this letter because I’m very very concerned about the state of ladies figure skating at the moment. You see, Kiira Korpi won the Trophée Eric Bompard last weekend. Oh yes, I forgot, you were there, Mao-chan. I’m very concerned about this because, well… it’s just plain sad. Without you in top form, Mao-chan, we have a not so spectacular skater winning a Grand Prix event. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I suspect that Miki Ando may win the final and as much as I’m endeared to Miki’s spunky personality, her choreography is just atrocious although I admit that she’s improved presentation-wise since she won the World title in 2007. What bothers me even more is that at the moment, the ladies competition is not exciting anymore now that you two are gone in your own ways. As a result, boring Rachael Flatt could find herself on the World podium with her boring consistency at this point! (Please save us from that!) Kanako Murakami seems to be the only beacon of light in this discipline this season but it’s unlikely that she’ll win anything big, not to mention she has a lot of maturing to do.

In any case, I hope that you get your consistency back, Mao. You’re much to good to be beaten by the likes of Cynthia Phaneuf and Rachael Flatt. As for you Yuna, please turn out your foot and point your toes so you don’t massacre the spirals and layback spins in your programs; they happen to be my favourite element and spin. As for the rest of your elements, I’m sure that you’ll be fine in competition anyways.

Anyways, I’m wishing you the best of luck and I’m sending tons of love so that there will be more exciting ladies competitions in the future.

Sincerely,

The Rinkside Cafe

Trophée Eric Bompard: Sheer Perfection

I’m starting to go through a few TEB videos and of course, I have to start with the men’s programs since it was probably the most exciting competition of the lot.

I really have to apologize to Takahiko for my lack of faith in him but this program is an absolute masterpiece. I have never watched a program with so many unexpected jumps. The program was clean, beautifully executed and just sheer perfection. I think I have to watch that again. *goes to watch it* P-arrogant-Chiddy’s transitions often involve dramatic high kicks and bombastic step sequences but Takahiko’s transitions are just as difficult but understated and therefore unnoticeable to the average viewer. That spread eagle into that triple loop… that mini-spiral into a triple flip… all right to the music. It was perfection. A very well-deserved gold medal for Takahiko Kozuka. I’ve resolved to take this kid a lot more seriously now because he deserves the credit.

In other news, I venerate Marina Zueva even more now that I’ve learned that she choreographed Takahiko’s LP with her son, Fedor Andreev.

Florent Amodio hands down has the most entertaining long program of the season. Even if you’ve seen it already, it never fails to make you laugh or smile. This guy has personality and is just precious. I want to pinch his cheeks. The criticisms I can provide for this LP has mostly to do with the choreography rather than his performance or execution. All of Florent’s more difficult jumps are at the beginning and then there’s a huge gap for when he waits until the 2nd half of the program to execute a whole bunch of the less difficult jumps. At the same time, there are just an inordinate number of pauses like in Miki Ando’s programs. Just as an opinion (you can disagree with me), I personally think that once Florent has consistent jumps, he should move on to a coach and choreographer than can capitalize on his personality and skills. I don’t want this guy become a Morozombie. He’s too good for that.

Brandon Mroz ends up with the bronze. Unlike Takahiko Kozuka, this kid has yet to prove to me that he has the personality or superb technique to stand out from the rest of the deep men’s field. At the moment, I neither greatly like or dislike this skater, although at times, I kind of want to put a motor on his skates to make him spin faster. Taking him away from Tom Z would be good as well. Tom Z is in my bad books at the moment because he coaches the boring monstrosity that is Rachael Flatt. He will remain on that list unless he produces a skater that is somewhat interesting.

Brian Joubert withdrew because of health issues. Poor BJou. He’s going to get buried in the rankings.

Anyways, I must be off! Hopefully, there will be more TEB posts soon…

~The Rinkside Cafe

Just for Fun: Relaxing Weekend

This weekend has been pretty busy for me so far but in a good way. After weeks and weeks where I had to go to bed at 6AM, being able to relax a bit and have a bit of free time is good. For those who need a spot of relaxation in their weekends, here it is:

I wish they could’ve given 2 gold medals at Worlds that year.

Enjoy~!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Entries for the Grand Prix Final

I haven’t gotten around to watching the rest of the events but I promise that there will be at least one more TEB post. For now, here are your competitors for the Grand Prix Final

Men

Takahiko Kozuka
Daisuke Takahashi
Patrick Chan Score
Tomas Verner
Nobunari Oda
Florent Amodio

Alternates:

Jeremy Abbott
Brandon Mroz
Adam Rippon

Ladies

Miki Ando
Alissa Czisny
Carolina Kostner
Kanako Murakami
Akiko Suzuki
Rachael Flatt

Alternates:

Kiira Korpi
Mirai Nagasu
Ashley Wagner

Pairs

Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Qing Pang & Jian Tong
Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov
Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch
Lubov Iliushchekina & Nodari Maisuradze
Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (Yay!)

Alternates:

Narumi Takahashi & Melvin Tran
Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin
Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers

Ice Dance

Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Natalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat
Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Sloviev
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje
Nora Hoffman & Maxim Zazovin

Alternates:

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani
Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlin
Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko

A few comments on the new season:

The ladies competition is a hot mess. I neither greatly like or dislike Miki Ando but it seems that she’s the top lady at the moment now that she’s consistent. Without Yuna and Mao as the cream of the crop (and Joannie Rochette sitting between Yuna+Mao and the rest), the ladies competition has become something of a free for all with Miki Ando in the lead. Hopefully Mao will regain some of her consistency and make the ladies competition for the rest of the season a bit more worth watching.

Speaking of the Japanese, it’s very clear that they have a very, very strong singles field. Even as a Canadian, I’d totally be willing to give up 2 of our spots in men and ladies at Worlds to the Japanese. It would make the competition (especially for the ladies) a lot more fun to watch. I would watch Kanako Murakami or Haruka Imai over Diane Smizett and Cynthia Phaneuf any day of the week. If Joannie Rochette doesn’t go to Worlds this year, then the Canadian ladies team will be a pitiable one. As for the men, I could also say the same for Yuzuru Hanyu. He’s so much more fun to watch compared to Kevin Reynolds, who Aunt Joyce has dubbed “Rachael Flatt’s brother”, which amuses me greatly.

While we’re on the subject of countries, it’s pretty obvious that Russia is voraciously sending an onslaught of talented young skaters in preparation for Sochi. They have 2 young pairs teams in the making, as well as Volozohar & Trankov, who look to be a pair to keep an eye out for. In ice dance, it seems that Bobrova & Sloviev are going to be Russian champions and a new threat in the top 10 at Worlds. Ilinykh & Katsalapov, whom we had great expectations are still in the works. The Shibutanis (who finished 4th at junior worlds while the baby Russians won) have handily defeated them in terms of score and rank since Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband are still the Queen and King of ice dance. In terms of singles, Russia has still yet to produce podium threats, although Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Adelina Sotnikova are on the horizon. The men’s field is extremely tough and talented at the moment and Russia’s top men in the senior or junior ranks probably don’t quite have any competitive edge here.

Also, this season has marked the rise of many skaters from the junior ranks. Kanako Murakami has definitely made a splash with a gold and a bronze at both of her senior grand prix events. We’ll have to wait for the final to see what the Japanese federation will do with her. The ladies field is tough in Japan and with Miki Ando and Mao Asada as locks for gold (Mao’s spot in the world might be up in the air at the moment although there have been rumours that she has to skate this season – rather than take a year off to relearn her jumps – because of a sponsor, which means that the Japanese federation might have to cave to the sponsor’s demands and make her skate at Worlds as well) and Akiko Suzuki is a consistent skater who’s pretty much at the same level as Kanako.

Many junior pairs teams have also made a mark, namely World junior champions, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (aka my baby Chinese pair), silver medalists, Narumi Takahashi and Melvin Tran and 4th place at junior Worlds, Lubov Iliushchekina and Nodari Maisuradze. Then again, seeing that the pairs field has been pretty weak in the last few years, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Sui and Han might drop out of the senior GPF to skate in the junior GPF where they’re guaranteed a win and it would be better for their ranking. The same could be said for Takahashi and Tran who are first alternates.

In ice dance, now that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are sidelined by injury, Crone & Poirier are the leading Canadian team at the moment, which is a pity because Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are so much more fun to watch. At the same time, Tessa and Scott’s absence means that Meryl and Charlie are skating to not lose since they’re basically dominating right now. At the same time, rather than having Crone & Poirier take Tessa and Scott’s spot on the World podium (and they’ll only do that over my dead body), the vacuum for 2nd and 3rd place, if Tessa and Scott don’t compete at Worlds, will probably be filled by European teams, namely the top French and Russians. Many people are hoping for Tessa and Scott’s return by Nationals but it seems that they’re taking it easy this year. I hope that Tessa will feel better for Nationals because the thought of Crone & Poirier winning anything (even something in a weak competition like Canadian Nationals) makes me want to cringe. Trust me, I was not happy when the Kerrs let me down at Skate Canada.

Anyways, that’s enough rambling for now.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Trophée Eric Bompard: BJou is not quite dumped… yet

The men’s event at TEB was quite a good show. I didn’t watch the entire event but I did watch the top 5 perform their short programs.Takahiko Kozuka is in the lead after posting a clean skate (he did land a bit forward on the blade of his 3A though) with a score of 77.64. Kozuka has been reportedly working on his PCS because he’s been losing a lot of marks on it and he’s not P-overinflated-Chan so he doesn’t get crazy marks for randomly kicking and occasionally flashing an angsty face.

I think part of Takahiko’s problem with PCS is not that he’s completely expressionless; in fact, the lovely fans at ontd_skating have dedicated a post to him that’s full of pictures of his angsty faces. What he lacks are programs with a purpose, emotion or story to tell. I mean, take a look at his short program this year: it’s a soul medley but seriously, what’s that supposed to mean? The music itself is a bit confusing because I don’t quite hear the “soul”… actually his music reminds me of elevator music or the tunes they play for you when you’re on hold because you’re waiting for a customer service representative to take your call. Secondly, what on earth is he trying to express? The boredom and apathy you feel because this is the 5th time you’ve had to call your internet service provider because of your slow internet connection? His LP has the same flaw although it falls back on a more classical, lyrical style so he can sort of get away with not showing too much expression.

Florent Amodio is second at the moment and is currently having a pretty good season so far, compared to his French teammate, Brian Joubert. Florent is talented and can go far once he gets consistency and harder jumps into his program but at the moment, he’s really gaining international popularity with his charm and personality. However, even with Amodio as a star in the making, the French Federation doesn’t seem to have completely abandoned Joubert. He stepped out of 2 of his jumps and singled his triple toe that was the 2nd part of a combination and those errors were costly.  His PCS are a bit suspicious (although not as suspicious as those of a Canadian we love to hate) considering that he lacks any form of expression without his hip thrusts and crotch grabs, although is flamenco SP is admittedly well choreographed and the performance part of it has been well executed so far this season.

I would’ve given him really lower PCS in his LP at the Cup of China because it was just about the most awkward thing I’ve ever watched. I think by the end of that program, you were just as confused as Brian was with his LP. He’s admitted that he doesn’t quite get his LP and doesn’t connect very well with it and it’s painfully obvious. Still, without his jumps in hand, he’s going to have trouble this season with strange PCS or not. At the moment, we’ll just have to wait for the French Championships and Euros to see what the French federation wants to do with its top 2 French men. One is a rising star while the other one is getting old… At least he’s still kinda cute though.

Brandon Mroz rounds out the top 3, thanks to his quad-toe, triple toe, although he had this weird trip coming out of his triple axel but did a clean triple lutz. His TES ended up being higher than Kozuka’s but his PCS killed his score. It’s a bit of a pity because the guy does have lovely lines and hands although the choreography doesn’t seem to take full advantage of that. And I still take issue with his slow spins. Mroz seems to be on the rise this season now that Evan and Johnny are gone but we’ll have to wait and see how he fares against Jeremy Abbott and the rising American men’s star, Adam Rippon.

In 4th place is Chafik Besseghier who was a huge surprise for me. Although Besseghier only did a double axel, this guy is the epitome of what Evan Lysacek should’ve done with his long limbs. There was some frantic waving but this guy showed some connection with the music as he tried to time his arm movements with the music rather than wave them for no rhyme or reason. I’m slightly endeared to this guy for some reason, I hope for his future success. He might want to avoid shiny fabric for pants in the future though.

Anyways, the detailed results are here.

I’ll try and blog about the rest of the competition tomorrow.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Trophée Eric Bompard: Predictions

It’s time for the last grand prix event before the final!!! Trophée Eric Bompard will hopefully be an exciting event. Let’s take a look at some of the top contenders in each field.

Men

TEB will feature a rematch between Brian Joubert and the young, but talented Takahiko Kozuka who won the Cup of China. I’m not quite sure what the French Federation’s stance on Joubert at the moment. He has the jumps but I feel as if Florent Amodio (who’s also in this competition) is on the rise and may soon replace Joubert as the top French man. If he can be consistent that is. As for any other podium possibilities… Brandon Mroz won silver in his last competition but he’s very s….l…o…w… in all his elements although he has lovely jumps.

Ladies

Mao is back and with a practice sans jumps, we have no clue how she’s going to do. If Alissa Czisny has seriously gotten consistency, she can take the gold if Mao bombs her ass off as she did at NHK. She’s had quite a bit of time to work on her jumps and all I can hope is that she can recover from that devastating event. Mirai Nagasu may be a podium contender but she has a lot of consistency issues as well. At this point, the ladies podium depends on Mao and Alissa but if they’re inconsistent, it’s a bit of a free for all.

Pairs

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szalkowy are pretty much locked for gold unless they get injured or something. There’s really no competition for them although Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov will be fair contenders for silver. These two seem to be on the rise for Sochi.

Ice Dance

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat are the lock for gold in ice dance. The competition in this discipline at this point is sad. Just plain sad. Chock and Zuerlin will probably make it to the final just because they had really little competition in their GP events. And then they’ll get crushed in the final. Sigh. I hope that  the Shibutanis can somehow end up in the final. I think that even with Samuelson & Bates’ return next year, the Shibushibus will hold onto the #2 spot for U.S. ice dance.

The Cafe’s Picks

Men: Takahiko Kozuka
Ladies: Mao Asada (crosses fingers for her)
Pairs: Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Ice Dance: Natalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat

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