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 beckons you in.
- The main competitors right now for the World title and possibly for gold in Sochi are Patrick Chan, Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu. Patrick and Daisuke are likely to be the ones fighting for gold at Worlds this year but Yuzuru’s gold at Japanese Nationals almost feel like a signal that the winds of policking are changing in Japan. Daisuke is unfortunately an older competitor who is nearing the end of his career with quite a few bobbles and issues with injuries. Yuzuru presents an interesting challenge since he is a fresh young face who is quite popular and is naturally a successor to Daisuke with his flair and drama. I think Worlds and the GP series next year will be pivotal for Daisuke and Yuzuru because that battle may be the Japanese man to shoot for gold next season.
- In terms of politicking by Brian Orser, I’d say that he’s got Yuzuru’s back. Poor Javier. If only he had a stronger figure skating union. That and more consistency.
- The judges seem to have sent out a message to Patrick Chan with his scores in the GP series. He was properly penalized for his mistakes and actually lost the GPF title that everyone expected to win. This is probably a reaction to the reaction of his win at Worlds last year but who knows if the judges resolve for fairer judging will follow through when Patrick is competing on home ice at Worlds this year.
- Evgeni Plushenko is back and you can shit on his choreography all you want but I will give him kudos for pulling out quads at the age of 30. I expect him to win the European title this week though that shouldn’t be too hard seeing that all the serious contenders in men’s figure skating are from non-European countries. As for his prospects for Sochi… hmm… good time for bullshit Russian politicked judging, I’d say.
- There have been rumours of Evan Lysacek‘s return to competition but his absence this season makes me think that he’ll continue to be absent. With the state of American men’s figure skating, I’d say that Lysacek can win U.S. Nationals next year. Or at least qualify for the Olympics. Without a quad and a consistently good triple axel though, I’d say he’d be a long shot for any sort of medal.
- Throwing Yuna Kim back into the mix shakes things up quite considerably. Her programs this season aren’t very compelling but you can’t deny that she does her flips and lutzes with the right edges. Consistently. At times with a triple toe tacked to the back of them. The good thing for her is that her placement at Worlds this season will be in her hands. Whether she gets gold or any other medal depends on her skating. One thing that does worry me is that I don’t think she’s competing at 4CC and I do think that she needs more feedback for her programs. They need it.
- With Akiko’s splat at Japanese Nationals (and the JFSA’s perennial and unreasonable dislike of her) and Kanako Murakami still inconsistent, the JFSA will probably, as always, back Mao Asada at Worlds this season. Mao has been a lot more consistent this season though her triple axel is conspicuously missing. Whether it will ever appear in her competitive arsenal again is unknown. Still, the girl should get a good confidence boost from winning the GPF this season though part of that had to do with Ashley Wagner unexpectedly screwing up.
- Speaking of Ashley Wagner, I admit that she’s proved to be a compelling competitor this season. Note the use of the word competitor and not skater. It’s doubtful that I’ll ever completely warm up to Wagner’s style but she is a contender to look out for. She needs to lay it out at 4CC or else the perception of her as a strong medal contender from the judges at Worlds will be completely marred.
- Carolina Kostner started her season late and did not compete in the GP series but her performances at Italian Nationals are compelling. Her LP skate at Nationals reminded me of Chen Lu at 1996 Worlds, skating to Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no. 2. Calm, composed and performing with all her energy. I wouldn’t mind seeing this girl as Olympic Champion next year but that remains to be seen. I’m not sure how she stacks up against Yuna but one thing’s for sure, if she beats Yuna, Caro will have a barrage of Korean haters against her.
- The Russian phenoms of Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Adelina Sotnikova have turned out to be a little disappointing the year before the Olympics. Neither of them have dazzled this season though it looks like Liza is firmly pulling slightly ahead of Adelina this season. Then again, with the Olympics being in Russia, who knows what sort of bullshit will transpire with these two’s scores next year.
Seriously, I have an aversion to writing this section for any post nowadays. I’m going to try and keep this short.
- The competition in Sochi will likely be a clash between Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov and Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy. Aliona and Robin are currently injured, which isn’t looking good for them and Mother Russia just called them too. They want their pairs gold medal back and I’ve got a feeling Mother Russia will get what she wants.
- If Mother Russia is extremely audacious, she might try for two medals on the pairs podium (they’ll probably kick off a Chinese team if they do) at the Olympics seeing that it’s unlikely they’ll get a dance or ladies gold medal. If they could, I’m sure they would try for a podium sweep but I think that possibility would require way more vodka than it’s legal (in a figurative sense).
- Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Meryl Davis & Charlie White will continue their rivalry. I think these teams would be more evenly matched if Meryl and Charlie left Marina for Igor though other factors will definitely come into play. Tessa and Scott are definitely having technical issues this season but knowing them, they’ll fix it. This will be another exciting matchup and I can’t wait to see it.
- The Russians will probably bid for a medal. If either Bobrova & Sloviev or Ilinykh & Katsalapov (with Elena dating Morozov) beat Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat next season, the Russians will likely get their medal and P&B will get screwed over.
- Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte are gaining political influence with Igor as their coach but it may take them a few more years before they reach the Worlds podium. They need a few teams (namely V&M and D&W) to retire before they can reach that goal. In the meantime, expect a European bronze medal this week. Or at least I think that’s what will happen but more on that later.
Phew. That was long. Now I have to work on a Euros prediction post.
What comments can you make on the state of figure skating right now? I’d love to know!
~The Rinkside Cafe