Predictions: Cup of China 2013

Ahhhh! I have 16 hours to make these predictions. Bloody time differences. Ok, lunch first.


Zijin Li 12 lp

Onwards to the predictions for the Cup of China 2013!


First up, the men!

Ah, come on, really? Am I seriously supposed to make predictions based on this clusterf*** of a roster? So many of the frontrunners are so inconsistent. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

Ok. Problem solving skills. Go.

Some names that pop off right off the bat: Takahiko Kozuka, who had a really rough start at Skate America this year but still has the potential to grab a medal… I think. Denis Ten, last year’s World silver medalist who’s win was a complete surprise because he has the potential but his previous results have always put him in the second group of skaters at GP events. Then, there’s Florent Amodio… WHO GOT NEW COACHES! *opens up some champagne* YES. This kid has potential but those horrific programs with a gazillion pauses were weighing him down. This is great news. Han Yan also has home-ice advantage and a lot of potential. A good candidate to snatch a medal off a veteran’s hand if they don’t skate well.

So now that the initial list is done, I’m really not sure how to rank them. It could honestly go any way. Let’s just throw caution to the wind and randomly come up with a ranking.


Gold: Florent Amodio
Denis Ten
Han Yan


With a newfound consistency and beautiful performances, Carolina Kostner, will likely win the gold. Adelina Sotnikova‘s terrible programs (and hence, lower PCS) and Kanako Murakami‘s lower TES make them somewhat at the same level and these two will likely duke it out for silver and bronze. If any of them make a mistake, fresh-faced Zijun Li could also grab a medal and hopefully her Coppelia LP will be great since I’ve pegged that as a fantasy program for her in this post.


Gold: Carolina Kostner
Kanako Murakami
Adelina Sotnikova


Barring some freak accident or injury, former World Champions, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, should be able to take the gold. They might face some strong competition from Qing Pang & Jian Tong, who took a year off last season but are likely still better than the rest of the competition. I’m almost tempted to say that I refuse to pick a bronze medal winner but I’ll just close my eyes and point to a name on the screen. It’s anybody’s game at this point. Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov. Ok, done!


Gold: Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Qing Pang & Jian Tong
Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov

Ice Dance

The ice dance competition will likely be a three-way race between Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat and Madison Chock & Evan Bates. I’d give the edge to the first two teams though even when you narrow the gold medal choices down to two, it’ll be interesting to see who prevails. B/S has been beating P/B for a little while now but P/B have switched to Igor Shpilband, which might give them that extra boost they need to regain the top European spot. This will be a tough call.


Gold: Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev
Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat
Madison Chock & Evan Bates

What are your predictions for the Cup of China this year? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Thoughts on Skate Canada 2013

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

oda yuzuru

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

julia lipnitskaia 13 sci llp

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 and scott 13 sci fd

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

Countdown to Sochi: 100 Days Left

In 100 Days, the 22nd Winter Olympics, held in Sochi, Russia, will begin!

sochi mascots

That’s all.

Predictions: Skate Canada 2013

Skate Canada is upon us! Onwards with the predictions! I apologize for any typos, by the way. My house is really cold and my fingers aren’t cooperating with me at the moment.

weaver poje 13 usic ex


Patrick Chan is competing. In Canada. If you still don’t get it, I’ll put it in an equation for you:

Chan + skating in Chanada = instant gold. Sigh.

As for silver and bronze, expect a tough battle between the young prince, Yuzuru Hanyu, and his older teammate, Nobunari Oda. This is going to be a tough call.


Gold: Patrick Chan
Yuzuru Hanyu
Nobunari Oda


The ladies competition is another tough call. Little youngin’, Julia Lipnitskaia recently beat veteran, Akiko Suzuki, at the Finlandia Trophy. However, Akiko starts out the season a little rough and improves throughout the GP series. (After the GP series, she gets undermarked in the PCS and drops in the rankings at competitions…) As for Lipnitskaia, I really do wonder about her skating career. She may be winning the medals now but puberty is acoming and her jumps are frightfully low and she doesn’t come out of them with a lot of speed or flow. That’s a very bad sign for things to come when the ice and gravity is less forgiving once puberty sets in.

Katelyn Osmond has home ice advantage (and I swear I see her Olympics feature ad more often than any other skater on CBC for some reason) and she’s the defending champion but according to PJ Kwong’s CBC article, she’s been struggling with injuries lately. That and I attribute her win last year more to the mistakes of her competitors than her own skating. Gracie Gold may be the one to snatch a medal away from Katelyn if the latter’s skating is abysmal enough. Though it will be a tough call with the home ice advantage that Katelyn has…


Gold: Akiko Suzuki (please, Akiko, don’t let me down!)
Julia Lipnitskaia
Gracie Gold


I hate doing pairs predictions. Or pairs competitions in general. They’re just not as exciting or beautiful as they used to be.

In any case, Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford are in a position not unlike Joannie Rochette 4 seasons ago: they’ll never touch the top two teams – S&S and V&T – just as Joannie couldn’t really touch Mao or Yuna but they’re better than the rest of the field, which is why their improvement in the rankings and skating ability is so exciting: they’re poised to take Olympic bronze. At Skate Canada though, they’ll probably take the gold. As for the rest of the medals, lets just say that these predictions won’t be pretty.

Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek let me down at Skate America by not getting bronze but I know they have it in them to get on the podium at GP events. I’m not a fan of their programs but they are lovely to watch. There was also a time where I absolutely adored Wenjing Sui & Cong Han but after missing a season, I’m not sure where they stand amongst their competitors, especially after a 12th place finish at Worlds. Another team to keep an eye out for: Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers. I was quite impressed with Paige’s drive and competitiveness in the CBC documentary, “Ice, Sweat and Tears,” but I hope that it will translate into the team’s skating. Home-ice advantage will also give their scores a boost which might help them in their quest to medal. In all honesty, I’m not confident about these predictions beyond the gold.


Gold: Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford
Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek
Wenjing Sui & Cong Han

Ice Dance

Just like their rivals, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir will take the gold quite handily unless they withdraw. *hopes that that doesn’t happen* Their teammates, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, seems to have overcome their injury from last season and are skating strong as they have in the past few seasons. I expect them to get the silver. The bronze medal seems to be the tough call since there aren’t that many standout teams in this competition. If I were to hazard a guess at the bronze medal team, I’d say that it could go to Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko, who medaled at two GP events last season (both bronze), which makes them a head above the rest of the list after the two Canadian teams.


Gold: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje
Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko

What are your predictions for Skate Canada 2013? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Highlights from Skate America 2013: Day 2, Part II and Day 3

elene g 13 sa lp

To finish up the highlights post for Day 2 of Skate America 2013, here are the highlights of the Men’s LP and Dance FD competitions…

It’s good to see Adam Rippon back on track. Other than the huge fall at the beginning, I think we’re starting to see a more matured Adam.

The rest of the men’s event was a bit of a clusterfuck for me, hence why I’m not including any more videos. Bloody hell, I was subjected to a riverdance program. I think that speaks for itself.

The performance of the night, though, belonged to Meryl & Charlie. This program has improved so much since the last time they performed it in competition. They looked a little shaky on the lift where Meryl is upside-down and vertical but this is classic D/W and a solid step in the right direction for Sochi.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte delivered another solid performance with a very joyful program to the Barber of Seville. I could swear that two of the lifts at the end came from Meryl & Charlie and Tessa & Scott programs, which is a pity because this team is starting to establish a signature joyful style that they can use to enhance their programs. Now, we just have to see if Igor can realize this so he can stop copying the top two teams.

Compared to a lot of pairs programs at this competition, this one was tolerable and mildly entertaining (unlike another program done by World Champions) and was not skated as if the team was half dead and afraid to win (*cough* Moore-Towers & Moscovitch *cough*). In any case, I’d like to move on from the pairs competition…

This wasn’t a perfect performance but Mao is right on track with her comeback on the road to Sochi. This program shows her off quite well – it contrasts with her more twinkly and light SP, it highlights her flow and it allows her to show that she has a sense of maturity that wasn’t there in Vancouver.

Liza didn’t do very well in the SP but came back and showed us that she still had it in the LP. Her Malaguena program is nothing to boast about but her jumps are gorgeous here – especially the two lutzes at the beginning.

Highlights from Skate America 2013: Day 1 and 2

I wasn’t able to find a livestream for Day 1 of Skate America which made me really sad and an appointment with my awesome friends lead me away from the livestream for the ladies and pairs SP today. I’m catching up with the competition events as I’m writing this post while also waiting anxiously for the men’s LP event. In any case, here are what I think to be the highlights of Skate America 2013, Day 1 and the first half of Day 2.

Mao 13 SA SP

Day 1 Highlights

I thought the men’s SP competition was just ughhh. Either the programs were unmemorable or memorable in the worst ways (Jason Brown looked as if he was having a seizure on ice) and it was just not the best night of skating. The only silver lining I’ll admit to is this quad lutz from Adam Rippon. I found the rest of the program rather paltry.

I’m starting to warm up to this SD even though I’m, in general, not a fan of Marina’s SDs. I think this program will get better as the season goes on – I expect Meryl and Charlie to be faster and skating with more flow and I hope that their toe-pick moments in the Finnstep can be a little sharper. Good start to the season overall.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte had an adorable SD. I’m not completely sold on the program but it’s one of those programs that’s fun to watch. What’s notable is that these two had a higher TES than Meryl and Charlie because of their step sequence (D/W got a level 3 vs. C/L who got a level 4). I’d like to see a little more speed in the Finnstep sequence but in general, I like the look of their Finnstep best out of any competitors this season so far. When I first saw the Finnstep, I really liked the crisp, clean feel of the pattern and the toe-pick season and I think these two have captured it well.

I feel as if I’ve seen this program many times before from the Shibutani siblings but I’ve included this program on the list purely because I love that midline step sequence in their program. Otherwise, I’m slightly disappointed that their movements weren’t as clean and polished because this type of program is right up their alley.

Day 2 Highlights (Part I)

Mao Asada leads the ladies after the SP and right now, I am so happy that my predictions are slightly off. THIS is the Mao I’ve been looking for for the past 4 seasons. I think I still prefer her 2006 Nocturne program but I am so happy to see her skating a lot better than she did in the past couple of seasons. I think she’s finally grown into her body, found decent vehicles/programs to carry her through at the Olympics and her bravery will always be there, ever constant, always unwavering. THIS is the Mao I wanted to see for the Olympic season and I’m glad that she’s starting out the season pretty well!

Ashley Wagner had a good skate and that’s all I can really say. Figure skating is definitely subjective in its scoring and for me, I acknowledge that Wagner skates solidly but I’m just not taken with her style. She just doesn’t have that sparkle quality that I find in Midori Ito or Michelle Kwan or even Mao and Yuna. I think it’s because I find her a little clunky and that she tries a little to hard for my taste. Again, this is just a subjective thing so feel free to disagree.

My little favourite baby Russian, Elena Radionova had the second highest TES of the night! This is a great start to her senior career! There were moments where I wish she would finish her movements but overall, this is a good beginning to what I hope will be a long and successful career.

Pairs skating has become extremely depressing now that Shen & Zhao aren’t making a comeback, Takahashi & Tran are gone and the likely winners of the Olympic gold will win with a tacky-tastic program set to the music of Jesus Christ Superstar. In any case, there was only one silver lining in the pairs competition at Skate America.

The choreography is nothing to gush about but I do have to say that this program was skating impeccably by Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov. (And I love the Masquerade Waltz.) I’m sure that once the Olympics come along, the masses who haven’t paid attention to figure skating during the non-Olympic season and have no clue what makes a good program (or great skating) will lap it up, which works to their advantage. The program’s not bad but after seeing so many programs of horror (*cough* Evanescence *cough*), anything that’s not hideously tacky is a good program for them.

I’d post the programs that came in second and third in the pairs SP but none of these programs were really highlights. Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch skated a sad program and I mean sad as in droopy plant – it was lifeless and not interesting even though the music was quite charming. As for Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov – the music was unexpectedly boring for a flamenco piece and was performed in such a slightly boring way. Two solidly skated programs, both oh so dry to watch. As for Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek… I’m so disappointed that they ended up skating to elevator music which was supposedly the soundtrack to “The Mask.” Ughhhh…

What did you think were the highlights of Skate America so far?


Predictions: Skate America 2013

I am heartbroken right now. I was supposed to go to Skate America or Skate Canada but things fell through and alas, I will be stuck watching this at home. Sigh. Well, here are my predictions, whether or not I’m in Detroit.



As predicted in this post of mine written last month, I said, ” [Evan] Lysacek is assigned to Skate America and the roster is often compiled to give the home favourites an easy win so I’m guessing he may get on the podium at the very least at Skate America just to prove he still “has it” OR he’ll conveniently get an injury and not compete at all.” It seems that the latter has come true, according to this article. Lysacek has a hip injury that will conveniently take him out of competition until some B-list events like the NRW Trophy that Yuna Kim competed in last year. I kind of like the snarky reference to the sponsor issue in the Chicago Tribune article and honestly, I call bullshit to some degree about sponsors not factoring into his decision. Skating is an expensive sport and sponsors are important. I suppose I should cut him some slack since most people would say that money is not an issue to look less… mercenary (using a word from Pride and Prejudice). Evan Lysacek aside…

Takahiko Kozuka looked in good shape at the Japan Open this year, after a disappointing season last year, as he handily beat fellow countryman, Daisuke Takahashi, who will also be competing at Skate America. I’m not sure if Daisuke’s expressivity will be able to trump Takahiko’s clean(er) program and solid skating skills. Daisuke’s jumps and spins looked terrible at the Japan Open and he’s also the type of competitor who’s a little weak at the beginning of the season. In any case, I just hope that Daisuke can at least get on the podium but his level of skating leaves the door quite open for other skaters.

A wildcard that can surprise a whole lot of people here is Denis Ten who was a surprise spoiler for silver at the World Championships last year. The only problem with Denis is that he is completely unpredictable. His sudden rise at Worlds was completely unexpected because he’s a known headcase but let’s hope that things go well for him. Good skating is always appreciated. UPDATE: Denis Ten will not be competing due to illness. More info in this article.

Max Aaron also has a chance to take a medal on home ice. After all, he did win U.S. Nationals last year and his results at other competitions haven’t been terribly atrocious. As well, home ice does tend to favour their own people.

This will be a difficult prediction to make…


Gold: Takahiko Kozuka
Max Aaron
Daisuke Takahashi (please don’t let me down, Daisuke)


The contest for gold I think will come down to two ladies here at Skate America: Mao Asada and Ashley Wagner. Mao’s looking more solid than she’s been in the last two seasons and she seems to have grown into longer and leaner body. However, with a home ice advantage and a solid skate at the Japan Open a while back, I think the gold will go to Wagner. Whether she can stay near the top for the rest of the season is altogether another debate.

As for the bronze medal, I’m hoping that the little phenom, Elena Radionova, will dazzle us all. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva might be able to squeak a win but she’s grown inconsistent of late. I’m sure there will be fans arguing on behalf of Caroline Zhang, who has improved in the last few seasons and Samantha Cesario, who seems to have quite a few fans but I’ve never quite understood the hype about this girl.


Gold: Ashley Wagner
Mao Asada
Elena Radionova


Without a doubt, Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov will win this competition. They are a head and shoulders above the rest. As for the harder predictions to make, the silver and bronze – well, let’s just say I’m really unenthusiastic about making these predictions because the pairs field is once again, really lame. I’d say the silver will go to Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch. They’re not a bad pair but they’ve been tumbling down the ranks in international competitions because *The* new Canadian pairs team, Duhamel & Radford. As for bronze, I’m hoping for a victory for Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek since I like their classic pairs style of skating but they’ll face competition with Caydee Denney & John Coughlin on home ice and of course, another Russian team, Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov.


Gold: Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov
Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch
Caydee Denney & John Coughlin

Ice Dance

Without looking at the roster, I know already that the winners here will be Meryl Davis & Charlie White. I just hope that they’ve improved since their last competition. At Skate America, Meryl & Charlie just need to concentrate on improving themselves, the rest of the competition don’t really matter. Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte will likely place second after finishing strongly in 4th at Worlds last season. This means that they’ll likely beat siblings, Maia & Alex Shibutani. Who knows, I’m hoping for surprises here.


Gold: Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte
Alex & Maia Shibutani

Thoughts on Programs from the Finlandia Trophy and the Japan Open

More pre-season skating videos have popped up and here are my two cents again! There weren’t that many A-list competitors at Finlandia, so I decided to combine this post with my thoughts on some of the Japan Open programs.

Finlandia Trophy

Tessa and Scott 2013 Finlandia FD

First of all, can I say, I am so thankful that the Yankee Polka is done. Honestly, the next skater(s) who do a cowboy program, I’m just going to walk away from my laptop before I break something. As for this SD, I like the songs but I wonder why Marina never gives Tessa and Scott an SD with music derived from one soundtrack or source like Meryl and Charlie. I find SDs that take their music from one source are a little more coherent and these two work well when they have characters. Overall, there were a few bobbles, especially with the twizzles but I’m not too worried since I know these two can do better than that. I’m not sure if I’m totally sold on the program (I don’t think I’ve been sold on a lot of Marina’s SDs to be honest) but I’m curious to see what will happen to it in the future. So far, it looks like the classic Tessa and Scott elegant dance sort of theme but I wonder if there’s a way to take this program up a notch and make it stand out a little more.

I like Tessa and Scott’s FD a lot better than the SD – it has a clean, elegant vibe that brings out what fans love best about these two: their chemistry, lines, elegance and romance. Luckily for them, Marina didn’t totally succumb to overly-cluttered lift-itis for this program as she did for a lot of her programs in the past two seasons. (I love that first lift especially, if only the camera angle could show it off better.) Overall, I’m glad that this could be their Last Program. It’s a good last hurrah for them as it has echoes of some of their greatest moments (Mahler, Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and it feels like it’s the story of Tessa and Scott in a program. A fitting goodbye if they decide to retire after this season. A few minor changes I wouldn’t mind seeing – changing the lines in that lift where Tessa flips onto Scott. The lines feel a little jarring but maybe that’s just me. Also, this is such a flowing program that it would be really nice if they could stop that momentary pause before going into their dance spins. Actually, it’s a little frustrating that at their level, they’re not transitioning into their dance spins like Meryl and Charlie, which is more difficult and adds to the flow of the program. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing this program again.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates took the silver at Finlandia but their SD was definitely not their best performance, with Evan falling on the twizzles. Also, it is just me or is the music as irritating as f$%&? I also felt that their midline step sequence was soooo slow. Come on, I expect more from a team that trains under Igor – even if it is the pre-season! As for anyone who thinks Meryl and Charlie’s FD was “pose-y,” I’ll reiterate again that I disagree and point to this program as an example of too much posing. At the beginning and in the middle. Let’s hope their FD is a lot better than this.

Chock and Bate’s FD. W.T.F. My brain is having such a hard time processing it that I’m not even typing properly. Let’s make a list to help me work through my confusion:

1. Were they trying to emulate Meryl and Charlie? I mean, I swear Meryl and Charlie have done those exact lifts or something really similar in the past.

2. Was there cheering in their music cuts? Addendum: Isn’t that kind of lame?

3. All those voices… so much going on in the music. The simple movements don’t match. Nor does their on-ice presence. Is Igor trying to shoot these two in the foot?

4. The first set of twizzles were spot on… the other two… not so much.

5. I just don’t understand the chaos that is the music. I just don’t.

One silver lining: that light but pretty transition into the dance spin. That’s something I’d like to see from Tessa and Scott.

This is a lovely program for Akiko – very warm and graceful. She’ll have to work on her jumps but overall, I think she’ll grow into this program quite well.

It makes me really sad to see Akiko messing up her jumps AND skating to the “Phantom of the Opera” after she skated to such a masterpiece like “O” as her LP last year. I really hope that Akiko can sprinkle her magic dust on this program later in the season because this is just painful to watch.

I was curious about Julia Lipnitskaia after learning that she won gold at Finlandia. I can see that she’s beaten Akiko with her jumps but to me, Lipnitskaia looks and feels like a mini and awkward version of Sasha Cohen. Without Sasha’s musicality. She’s still quite young so who knows if that will change in the future.

While watching Julia Lipnitskaia skate this long program to “Schindler’s List,” I couldn’t help but notice how 1. her jumps are a little low and 2. how she comes out of a lot of her jumps with such little speed. She’s 15 now but I’m not sure if those jumps will last. She also seems like another “checklist skater” where her program is a list of things she needs to do. Maybe musicality will come to her with age but this is a good start to her season, she beat Akiko Suzuki at Finlandia to win the gold.

Yuzuru reused his “Parisienne Walkways” SP for this season. I love this program but what makes me angry is that he messed up the 3A – his best jump and the best jump in that program because of that difficult entry. Get it together, Yuzuru!

I was surprised to see Yuzuru skate to Romeo and Juliet again. I prefer the other version better but what can we do, really? Yuzuru did land two quads, which is impressive but let’s hope he doesn’t completely tucker out during the second half of the program. Maybe then we could have a veritable rival for Chan.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva had a rough SP with a popped jump and fall. This girl still has starpower in spades but I’m not sure if her newfound curves will allow her to skate in the top echelons of the sport anymore. On the bright side, she did win bronze in this competition.

Elizaveta’s LP wasn’t as disastrous and was less painful to watch. There were a few bobbles here and there but she reminded us here how she can sell a program so well. Malaguena is an overused piece of music but she made it her own. I’m happy that she’s proven that she’s better than that SP at Finlandia.

Japan Open

Japan Open 2013 Figure Skating

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Daisuke so sloppy and uninspiring. If it weren’t for that final step sequence, I would have totally forgotten why I liked this guy in the first place. It is the beginning of the season and mistakes are aplenty but I have the sad feeling that the his reign as the top Japanese man is decisively at its end with the only consolation that Prince Yuzuru is a worthy successor. Daisuke is as expressive as ever but his jumps seem to have failed him and his final spins were rather sloppy. Furthermore, I actually have more scruples with his program more than anything. I love the Beatles and all but a depressing accordion (or accordion-sounding) version of Beatles songs? And don’t get me started on the numerous pauses throughout the program. I hate pauses in ice dance programs but even that pales in comparison with the long, unnecessary, nonsensical, pose-y pauses in singles skating. I smell Morozov, even though the internet says Lori Nichol choreographed this.

This wasn’t a terrible skate other than the singled triple axel combination jump but why is it that I can’t seem to remember any distinctive aspect of this program? Takahiko Kozuka is talented but we’ve seen the same thing for so many years. In terms of his actual skating, it’s miles ahead of where Daisuke is right now. I think if we combined Daisuke’s flair for drama and emotion on ice with Takahiko’s current skating ability, we’d have a great skater who might be able to beat Yuzuru at Nationals (and a less tough decision as to who to send to the Olympics) but right now, the Japan’s figure skating union seems to have a very interesting conundrum on who to send to Sochi.

Some minor bobbles, but Javier Fernandez is off to a good start. Did I count 3 quads in that program? I think this program will grow on me as the season goes by but it’s quite a charming thing – very Kurt Browning-esque. What I am worried about it that Javier tends to peak early in the season and he tends to lose a little steam after the GP series. However, if his bronze at the last World Champions is any indication, I think he’s getting better at being prepared for some of the more important competitions at the end of the season.

I think this is the best I’ve seen Mao skate in a while. Her triple axel was two-footed and there were a few bobbles and a double rather than a triple-toe tacked on the back of a double axel but there was something in that performance that I haven’t seen in a while from Mao. Also, I can’t help but feel that Mao looks taller, longer and just lean this season. She doesn’t look like the wisp of a thing she was even back in Vancouver and I can’t help but wonder if she had her growth spurt a little later. In any case, this is actually quite a good program for Mao. It’s heavy but not too heavy like her “Bells of Moscow” LP from the last Olympic season and she’s matured to the point where she can be fierce and pretty. I like this new Mao and I hope that she grows stronger and stronger.

Ashley Wagner had the most solid skate of the Japan Open performances which will get her fans very excited. Somehow, though, I’m left feeling nothing. From the katakana text on the video, I believe she was skating to “Romeo and Juliet” but I don’t get that impression, even though she clearly stabs herself at the end and there’s a lot of angsty, angry music. Maybe it was the windmill arms during the first step sequence or that my brain is shouting at me, “She’s acting!” rather than “She’s living the character,” but that’s all a matter of opinion, I suppose. I think her fans will be happy that Ashley’s off to a great start while I will sit here for another five minutes to ponder upon how I felt about this performance. So far, I feel nothing, which confuses me a bit because, as I said, it’s a solid skate.

Watching Adelina Sotnikova skate made me want to pull out my hair. Actually, it would’ve been better if you watch this program on silent because Rondo Capricioso (at least, that’s what the Japanese text said what the music was called) is quite a pretty tune but the costume and the program just screamed tacky. I also didn’t even know what happened to that double axel in the middle of the program. What *kills* me is that Adelina could be so much better if she had better programs. Sigh. I’m not sure if I can digest that program again this season.

You could tell that Kanako wasn’t happy with that performance and I will tell you now, neither was I. Ok, she missed quite a few jumps – I’ll let that slip for now since it’s the beginning of the season and from what I’ve seen so far, there were a lot of uninspiring performances at the Japan Open. What bugged me even more than the missed jumps was the lack of expression. Last season, Kanako impressed me so much with this newfound maturity and musicality. Her “Prayer for Taylor” SP was gorgeous – great choreography, well-skated and with a calmness and quiet passion that went perfectly with the music. Her tango LP became a tough contender for my favourite LP of the season – and this is quite a statement seeing that her competition was Akiko Suzuki’s magnificent “O” program. I’m disappointed because I know that Kanako can do better than checking off a to-do list – which seems to be what she did here. This is “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from Yentl. The song lyrics and melody and the plot of the film is simple enough – a daughter yearns for her dead father. I’m not too fond of the music cuts but the plaintive, sad melody shouldn’t be out of Kanako’s acting range.

So, in short, I expect Kanako to do better next time and I know she will too. I’m looking forward to seeing this program grow and develop though. I think this program has the potential to be heart-wrenching.

What are your thoughts on the figure skating pre-season?

~The Rinkside Cafe