Worlds 2011: Dethronement – Part I

I apologize for the lack of posts during the World competition, I’ve been horrendously busy in the past few days of my life with long overdue appointments with friends. I’m going to have to do some vigorous catching up and I’ll write a bit more later on.

So the most recent developments in the World scene include dethronements of two Olympic champions (well, three actually since one is a team of two): Yuna Kim and Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. One dethronement was a little unexpected than the other. I’m pretty sure you can guess which is which. So let’s start with the ladies. I’m going to write about ice dance in another post.

After the SP, Yuna Kim was leading Miki Ando by a margin of 0.33 – all from the PCS mark. Here were their programs:

As much as I have a lot of issues with Morozov’s choreography I admit that Miki’s program was well skated and might have deserved a higher mark for interpretation. Sadly enough, I found Yuna’s “Giselle” program a bit boring compared to her other programs so I would’ve put her choreography and interpretation marks a tad lower. And a lower score for performance and execution, she did miss her first combination jump after all. Feel free to disagree but I thought Miki deserved to be the leader after the SP.

Speaking of leaders, Chairman Mao underrotated and two-footed her triple axel. I’m a bit surprised at her PCS though, her skating skills and transitions are as good as ever but she was still 7th after the SP.

The surprise skater in 3rd place was Ksenia Makarova. The girl was on… and being Russian didn’t hurt her either.

Before I end the bit about the SP, I’ll give a special mention to my favourite of the season Kanako Murakami. She didn’t skate with the same cuteness and energy at the beginning of the season but that smile on her face at the end of the program said it all. 8th place overall at her first Worlds is not shabby at all and she should be proud of herself. Although she doesn’t exude as much cuteness, I would hope that this marks the beginning of Kanako as a more mature and polished skater. I can’t wait to see her next season!

You can find the full results of the SP here. And for the LP results, click here.

So the LP came and went and that was when the dethroning happened.

Yuna singled her toeloop after her first salchow and did the worst thing you could do under the new scoring system: she popped a jump – her flip, which she was having issues with at the beginning of the season last year. I actually liked the music for this program and overall, it was a lot more pleasant to watch than her short. I hope that she uses it again next season should she decide to compete.

Miki brought it in the long and skated it with only 1 mistake – a step out on a double toe combination. I think despite her lack of musicality and icky choreography, this World championship win should be considered the best moment of her career. She hadn’t been top Japanese lady for a while (and even when she won Nationals this year, people still picked Mao over Miki to win. She stuck with harsh and undeserved attacks from the media after her disastrous results at Torino, didn’t make it to the podium in Vancouver but stuck it out and won.

We should also mention that Miki has improved quite a bit in terms of presentation (her sit spin is actually a sit spin!), consistency and extension since her 2007 World championship win.

I’m sure there are people out there who aren’t great fans of Miki but I feel that she deserves quite a bit of admiration for her tenacity and the speed and strength that she exudes on the ice. Her stroking at Worlds was, admittedly, a thing of beauty.

I think I’ll end here on a high note. There’s a lot more catching up to do before I can make more comments on what transpired at Worlds so I thank you for your patience.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Yuna’s lookin’ good!

If you had trouble viewing the Universal Sports version of this video, a Yuna fan has uploaded the practice skate of her short program on youtube. A pretty decent program, I prefer Danse Macabre and Tango de Roxanne a lot better but that gold medal is still within her grasp, that’s for sure.

Now, if only someone can upload videos of Tessa and Scott’s practice… There’s a photo of them with the press after their practice though!

Enjoy!

~The Rinkside Cafe

2011 Worlds Predictions: Ice Dance

I’ve decided to save my favourite discipline for last for my predictions post. So, off we go!

The podium for ice dance, like pairs seems to be set – the order on the other hand, not quite. For the ice dance podium, the expected medal winners are: Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat.

The battle for gold will be exciting as Meryl and Charlie battle their teammates and archrivals, Tessa and Scott. As much as I love Tessa and Scott with all my heart (they brought me back to figure skating in the first place), I will have to say that Meryl and Charlie have a definite advantage over the Olympic champions (even though they got a month extra to train because of the tsunami) just because Meryl and Charlie have been undefeated all season and they’ve had so much time to tweak their programs and get feedback from international judges. Not to mention that the Americans are injury-free. Whatever happens, I will be super excited to see the rest of Tessa and Scott’s FD. It’s a pity that they had to change the lift to reduce the torque on Tessa’s back though, it was a really pretty lift… In any case, both teams have to skate their best to get the gold, there is no room for mistake here. (*Sending psychic reminders to Tessa and Scott to get their twizzles right and hoping they receive this message*) If both teams skate their best, the results will depend on:

1. How much weight the Olympic champion title carries over into the next season.

2. How much politicking Skate Canada has done for Tessa and Scott. Because the USFSA doesn’t really give a shit about ice dance.

As for Nathalie and Fabian, it’s obvious that they’re the strongest European team and they’ve been doing well all season. Sadly, for these two Frenchmen, they’re kind of in a “Joannie Rochette” position – meaning that they’re not quite as good as the top competitors but they’re a head above the rest of the pack. Sadly though, I don’t see this team going too far as the Russians will probably take back the European crown in preparation for Sochi.

Speaking of Russians, keep an eye out for the two young Russian teams: Bobrova & Sloviev and Ilinykh & Katsalapov. With many of the top teams retiring, these youngins are moving up the ranks quickly. Although I expect a lower placement for I/K, I would not be surprised if last year’s junior world champions move up quickly – there’s been quite a lot of hype about them and they may be the Russian ice dance team to watch for Sochi.

As for other teams to look out for – the Shibutanis. Their Four Continents silver medal was undoubtedly unexpected because they beat out two senior teams (Crone & Poirier and Weaver & Poje) that have been in the senior circuit a lot longer than they have. The Shibutani siblings have such a beautiful and lyrical quality with them and their programs this year are a joy to watch. They need to work on their speed and polish but I expect that it’ll come with some time. They still have a long career ahead of them if they choose to continue with their skating.

Since I mentioned Crone & Poirier  above, I guess I’ll put in a word for them. C/P (and W/P) probably won’t occupy the lower spaces on the podium until Tessa and Scott retire but their placements this season suggest that Canada will get three spots next year at Worlds. Unless some freak accident happens, that is. I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S.A. and Russia got 3 spots either, actually. We’ll just have to see. In any case, I don’t care very much for C/P, I much prefer Weaver and Poje’s style which is a lot more polished and fun to watch. Watching C/P reminds me of watching awkward gawky teenagers. Not fun. Let’s hope Weaver/Poje work on their speed, power and edges a lot more.

Podium predictions:

Gold: Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Silver: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (I’ll be cheering for them and hoping they’ll win gold though…)
Bronze: Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat

Opinions? Come share!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Worlds 2011: Predictions for Pairs

I remember when Aunt Joyce announced that Worlds will be held in Mother Russia, he said something along the lines of, “Welcome to Moscow, get ready for some bullshit judging.” And if any discipline is going to be subjected to Russian bs judging, it’ll be pairs, which will be exciting to watch only because of the new Russian team that is making its first appearance at a major international competition.

Personally, I don’t think Russia needs bullshit judging in this discipline since there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the pairs podium at Moscow will likely be composed of Savchenko & Szalkowy, Volosozhar & Trankov and Pang & Tong. Maybe in that order. S/S have been really strong all season and their programs are technically more difficult that the others. Admittedly, the pink panther costumes are a bit painful to the eyes but the judges aren’t the fashion police. The only question is whether S/S can perform the way they have been doing all season at Worlds despite the change in schedule. If they can, gold will be theirs handily. If they screw up horrendously, then Mother Russia can pull a win here.

V/T are a very new team but they skate a lot better than some teams that have been together for years and years. I have them placed in front of P/T because the Chinese pair have been consistently having problems all season and their wins are based on the simple fault that there just aren’t that many *great* pairs teams out there at the moment. The pairs competition seem to have stagnated after the change in the scoring system while innovations in ice dance has grown leaps and bounds. I’m not sure what’s going on with P/T this year but I don’t think they can defend their World title. Or even snatch the silver. Especially when the Russians have been looking really strong in their various practices and minor competitions AND they have home ice advantage. And when it’s the Russians that are involved, expect inflation of Skate Canada proportions.

It’s a pity that Sui & Han and Iliushchekina & Maisuradze aren’t skating at Worlds. It would be nice to see how they stack up in the pairs field on route to Sochi. Oh well. I hope the Chinese Communist Party is hard at work at faking more papers for Sui, who might *actually* be 12 or something of the like. I’m sure they can do it.

Anyways, in case you weren’t reading any of the above:

Podium Predictions

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

Worlds 2011 Predictions: The Men

So here is part II of my predictions for worlds that will happen in T minus 4 days. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch most of the event.

So the men. With Evan Lysacek, Evgeni Plushenko, Johnny Weir and Stephane Lambiel gone after the Olympics, the men’s field has thinned out a bit compared to last season when there were about 10 different guys who could’ve made it onto that Olympic podium.

The front runners, however, are definitely Daisuke Takahashi and Patrick Chan Score. The gold will probably be a toss-up between the two (although Nobunari Oda may win the short program and then do an extra jump combination in his long that won’t count towards his score and then fall down the standings) and the winner will probably be determined by:

  1. Whether Chan lands his 3 quads and more importantly, his 2 triple axels. Daisuke may attempt his quad flip but he’s never landed it with one foot in competition.
  2. Whoever has more political (and emotional) backing: the Japanese Skating Federation and the sympathy for the Japanese people (not to mention the JSF is probably one of the richest federations and Japan one of the biggest markets for the sport) or Skate Canada and how they’re telling everyone that Chan’s wipeouts on 3As deserve a +3 GOE because he fell so prettily. The winner gets a higher PCS. We all know how Chan has been getting bullshit marks all season (*cough*Skate Canada and Canadian Nationals*cough*) but during the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, ISU president $peedy Ottavio Cinquanta, seemed very eager to appease the JSF. So who knows what will happen!
  3. Whether training has been severely affected by the postponement of Worlds. Chan didn’t go to Four Continents probably because his coach did not want him to peak too early (just look at his 2007/8 results) but the tsunami seems to have thrown a monkey wrench into those plans. I wonder how the change in timing has affected Chan… Daisuke’s training wasn’t severely affected by the events in Japan (unlike the up and coming star, Yuzuru Hanyu) and he also skated at a fundraiser for tsunami victims rather recently. From the news clips, he looked pretty good. (On another note, I absolutely love, love, love Shizuka Arakawa’s dress. She looks wonderful in it.)

There may be a few people who have the potential to change things. One is perennial podium bridesmaid, Nobunari Oda. Nobu will need to skate clean and even though his programs aren’t as entertaining as his Charlie Chaplin LP from last year, he still has great jumping technique. (Those knees!) Also, if Nobu wants to win this, he may need to learn how to count his combos while doing a long program. Maybe he should take lessons from The Count from Sesame Street!

Ok, maybe not.

Another possible medalist is Takahiko Kozuka. He seems to be winding down after his win at Japanese Nationals but I’ve underestimated this guy too much this season to discount him from my predictions. He has the skating skills, he just needs to relate to the audience. One thing to note: Takahiko’s chances of medaling probably depend on how badly Daisuke, Chan and Nobu perform rather than on himself. The international judges have been sparing in his PCS and I think it’s about time this guy lives a little. Get your heart broken, do something crazy, go on a weird adventure, I don’t care – just bring out that angsty, passionate artiste from within because your skating skills are too good to go unnoticed at this point in your career!

On the European side, Brian Joubert, Tomas Verner and Florent Amodio seem to be the strongest contenders for a medal but I’m not sure how they’re going to beat the Japanese and Chan because they either have a) so-so skating skills b) shit and just weak choreography or c) a severe and chronic problem of being a headcase. I won’t be putting too much money on these three but maybe one of them will surprise us (in a good way) like Jeffrey Buttle did in 2008.

Oh yes, and the American men are F*&$%!. Most of them don’t really have experience in major international competitions and I don’t even remember the men’s podium at U.S. Nationals anymore. That’s how sad the men’s team for the U.S. is at the moment. I have no clue what the USFSA was thinking but Jeremy was trailing the bronze medalist by a little bit and I’m pretty sure that none of those guys can do what Jeremy did at Four Continents: beat at least one of the Japanese men. Say goodbye to a spot or two at Worlds next season…

Podium Predictions:

Gold: Daisuke Takahashi (for the love of God and all that is holy!!!)
Silver: Patrick Chan
Bronze: Nobunari Oda (or Joubert, Kozuka… who knows? They’re all equally able to implode.)

This World championships will be exciting and maybe unpredictable because of its postponement and its effects on the skaters. I can’t wait!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Worlds 2011: Predictions – Ladies

Ok. This post was wayyy overdue and it would have been even more overdue if I didn’t have writer’s block for something else I should be writing at the moment. Ok. Worlds is in 5 days (wahhhh!!!) and the end of the figure skating season is near. I remember starting this blog at the beginning of this season. It’s been such an interesting experience so far. I hope that I’ll be able to continuing blogging next season, although there may be huge changes coming into my life very soon. In any case, ze ladiezzz.

Yuna Kim will be back in time for Worlds and despite not competing at all this season, she looks like the top contender. It looks like her extension has improved (she actually turns out her foot and points her toes!) and if her jumps are the same, I don’t see anything that could stop her from getting her World title back from Mao.

As for Mao, she’s gotten a bit more training time to get her jumps right but her season and her performances have been far from perfect. She did relatively well at Four Continents but I think Mao is looking towards long-term improvement and her jump technique will take a little while longer to perfect. If she loses to Yuna this season, I don’t think that Mao should see this as a loss, but rather another stone on the road of her career. Compared to Sochi (and her formidable Russian rivals that may come with it), this season really isn’t all that important. I’ll be looking forward to Mao next season and I pray that she’ll try some Shae-Lynn Bourne choreography. Or Marina Zoueva… her LP for Takahiko Kozuka this year is absolutely stunning.

Because of Mao’s rough season, though, Miki Ando looks to be a good contender for silver… or gold if Yuna messes up. As usual, Miki’s choreography leaves a lot to be desired but she’s been having a good and steady season after grabbing the Japanese national title and the Four Continents crown away from Mao. The big question at the moment is whether or not the postponement of Worlds has affected her conditioning and training. I feel that Yuna isn’t as affected by the change in schedule because she hasn’t competed all season anyway and Mao got some extra time to train. Miki, on the other hand had a steady season leading up to Worlds. Who knows how this change in schedule has changed her readiness for the World championships.

Another lady to consider would be Carolina Kostner, headcase extraordinaire. Pretty decent Grand Prix results and then she loses to a total nobody at Euros. Carolina has taken out many of the toe jumps in her long program, which is really frustrating (her triple flip, triple toe is one of the most impressive – the height, the distance!) and puzzling when you look at her marks this season. If the ISU or the judges feel the need to put a European skater on the podium, Carolina’s the girl, with or without her triple lutzes and flips. In order for that to happen, however, the Asians mentioned above will have to bomb their asses off for her to slip into the top three.

Also up for consideration is Alissa Czisny, who got a huge endorsement with Chrysler. She’s so sweet.

Alissa was a dark horse and surprise winner of the GPF this season and after a disappointing finish last year at U.S. Nationals, she grabbed her title back from Rachael Flatt. (Good riddance for that.) Alissa was one of the favourites going into 4CC when something absolutely puzzling happened: she finished behind both her teammates (Flatt and Mirai Nagasu who won bronze). Whaaa? So the question of the moment for Alissa is: did she peak too early? Like Carolina, however, at least one of the three Asians above will have to screw up if she wants to be in the top three, however, a top 5 finish is within her grasp if she can prove that she is no longer a headcase.

And before I end, I think I’d like to mention Kanako Murakami as a skater who might surprise us. Kanako is still young and up and coming but she’s shown us that she’s capable of great things… like snatching gold from right under Rachael Flatt and Carolina Kostner’s nose at Skate America this season. I’m hoping for a great top 10 finish for her at Worlds, which she can improve on in the next couple of seasons leading into Sochi. She definitely needs polish (and I hope she nails her double axel in her SP) but I can’t help but be excited for her future.

Podium predictions:

Gold: Yuna Kim
Silver: Miki Ando (though my gut could be very wrong)
Bronze: Mao Asada

What are your predictions for the ladies? I’ll be posting more predictions soon.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Somewhere Over the Rainbow~

I love this new song by Matthew Morrison and Gwyneth Paltrow. (Yes, I am a Gleek.)

And it reminded me of this adorable little exhibition with Mao and her cute little dog:

Which then reminded me of this fluff piece (in French) on Brian Joubert and his bulldog, Blade. Awww…

Dreaming of life over the rainbow…

~The Rinkside Cafe

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