The difficult thing about the GP series is that each event comes at you so fast that you hardly get a break. I’ve been in a little bit of a slump lately so in an attempt to get out of that frame of mind, here’s a post with my thoughts on this year’s Skate Canada International.
The Tough Decision Ahead: Japanese Men
Nobody was really expecting Chan to lose at Skate Canada so the big story here is the faceoff between Yuzuru Hanyu and Nobunari Oda. You would think that Japan would be happy with the maximum 3 entries for the men’s competition at the Olympics but it seems as if the talent in this field runs deep. Every Japanese man worthy of the Olympics can’t make a false step during the early season – they need to give it their all but at the same time, not get injured and do well at all of their competitions to make a case for them to go to Sochi.
The competition between Yuzuru and Nobu is interesting at Skate Canada for a few reasons:
1. Yuzuru beat Nobunari but by a really small margin – 1.8 points. This means that at the moment, they’re pretty much evenly matched. I find that the GP series is less influenced by politicking purely because of how the roster is formed; it’s rare to see two rivals (like Mao and Yuna or Virtue & Moir and Davis & White) to be in the same competition together. Since every event only has at most 4 top competitors or teams in each discipline, and each of them likely to be from different countries (unless a competitor for some reason drops in the overall rankings like Oda who missed a season due to injury), there is less need to throw the national figure skating union’s support behind one skater. Until the GP final, that is.
So, in short: without politicking and such, Nobunari and Yuzuru are evenly matched. Except…
2. Oda would’ve beat Yuzuru if he knew how to think on the fly. And possibly count to 2.
No, seriously, Oda managed, yet again, may I add, to VIOLATE THE ZAYAK RULE WITHIN THE FIRST MINUTE OF HIS PROGRAM. You would’ve thought that by now, he would’ve remembered to tack on at least a single toe-loop at the end of that second 3T.
You would think that he’d learn his lesson by now since he’s violated the Zayak rule about fifty times already.
So, if Oda has finally passed Counting 101 and How Not to Violate the Zayak Rule 101, he might have a slight edge over Yuzuru but for now, we’ll have to see how the rest of the GP series goes before we can say anything more definite about the Japanese men’s field.
The American Ladies Medal Hopes Will Fall on the Shoulders of… Ashely Wagner
There might’ve been an epic battle at Nationals this year to see who will be responsible for fueling American hopes for a long-awaited ladies medal (which might not come this Olympics either) but Gracie Gold lost her top spot in the long program and possibly, the chance to assert herself as the top U.S. lady going into the Olympics. Ashley didn’t win Skate America either but she already has last year’s National title under her belt and with her solid skating so far this season, I think she can secure the top spot at Nationals this year as well.
Comment: I Still Refuse to Put My Faith in Lipnitskaia
So, PJ Kwong called this one correctly and 15 year-old Julia Lipnitskaia won the ladies’ competition over veteran Akiko Suzuki (yet again) and rising star, Gracie Gold. The only problem I have with Lipnitskaia is that I think her jumping ability is what is carrying her through to the top. The only problem with that, is that she doesn’t get off the ice very high and you can tell that she can squeak in an extra rotation on some of her triple jumps because of her small size. You see that ability to turn a double into a triple in a lot of junior ladies skaters but once puberty hits, that’s when you can’t squeak that extra rotation anymore. Especially with that really slow exits (which almost stop sometimes) on her jumps, I’m not sure if Julia’s jumps will carry her through in the next few season. At least for this season, though, I’ll peg her higher up in my rankings.
Olympic Bronze Left Wide-Open?
Unless you’re completely deluded, you probably know that the gold and silver medals for the pairs competition at Sochi will likely go to Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov and Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy barring injury or freak accident, with the former having a huge home-ice advantage. These two teams have been at the top since Shen & Zhao retired after their comeback at the last Olympics. The third spot has been open for a bit and last season Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford proved that they had what it takes to take the bronze. Consequently, everyone expected Duhamel & Radford to take the gold easily at Skate Canada as their main competitors Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek and Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (who had missed a season due to injury) are somewhat in the B-list in pairs skating.
What should have been an easy victory turned into a surprise bronze at Skate Canada, which begs the question: has Duhamel & Radford lost their grip on theOlympic bronze? We’ll just have to see as the season progresses.
Hard Reality for a Beautiful Team: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir delivered a gorgeous FD last weekend at Skate Canada. However, these two will have to push themselves a little harder (which I undoubtedly know that they will, being the kind of competitors they are) for a few reasons:
1. There were bobbles, yes. On the quantitative side, we can also note that Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, the #2 Canadian team, got higher TES in BOTH SEGMENTS of the competition.
In the SD, Tessa and Scott also got a level 3 for a Finnstep sequence and a level 2 for their twizzles. (Level 4s for everything else.)
Compare that with:
Meryl and Charlie – level 4s for everything except a level 3 on their no touching midline step sequence.
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte – All level 4s.
Meryl & Charlie also scored higher on their FD at Skate America.
2. In terms of PCS, which is the more subjective score in skating, as well as a sort of reflection of the judges’ taste and preferences, Meryl & Charlie have slightly higher PCS in both segments when you compare their Skate America scores to Tessa & Scott’s Skate Canada scores. Less than a point or two separate the two teams.
In short: the teams are in a virtual tie in terms of their PCS, which Meryl & Charlie having a slight edge over their training-mates.
Despite all of this, do not despair, Tessa & Scott fans. The future doesn’t look that grim for these two, especially knowing their work ethic and determination. I think that we’ll get a nail-biting competition at the Olympics from this rivalry, which will be great.
What did you think of the competition at Skate Canada this year? Let me know in the comments!
~The Rinkside Cafe