Comments on the NHK Trophy 2013

I managed to catch the competition on CBC this week for the NHK Trophy and now that the coverage has ended, let the commentary  begin!

Daisuke still has IT

I admit, I didn’t really enjoy Daisuke too much last season. His programs were forgettable and there lacked a spark in his skating that draws you to his performances. With a disappointing 4th place at Skate Canada, I thought we were going to see more uninspiring Daisuke but I’m so glad he proved me wrong. I’m still not a huge fan of his LP but his SP was mesmerizing, just as all Daisuke programs should be.

The program was smooth, his jumps were solid and his performance and expression were beautiful as always. I hope we see more of this Daisuke this season.

Look out for Adam Rippon

I know that most people are looking at Jeremy Abbott right now for unexpectedly winning the bronze at the NHK Trophy but I think the one we should really be keeping an eye out for is Adam Rippon. While Jeremy did win a bronze here, he did finish 6th at Skate Canada when he could’ve finished a few places higher. Despite a 4th place finish, what Adam Rippon has shown is that he has become increasingly consistent by finishing in the top half (and winning a silver at Skate America) in both his GP assignments. Abbott, on the other hand, has shown more of the same old: when he’s good, he’s very good and when he’s bad, he’s very bad.

Super Javi falters

PJ Kwong pegged Javier Fernandez for gold while I pegged him for silver. Either way, both of us expected him to finish on the podium at NHK. For a bit, my prediction seemed to ring true until he tripped up and made a lot of mistakes in his long program which led him to a 5th place finish. Javier was a strong contender for the men’s field going into the Olympic season but now that the Olympic season has started, I wonder if he has the momentum to get on the podium with this relatively poor result for him at NHK. Time will tell, I suppose.

Mao is going up

mao 13 nhk lp

Mao has been having a few rough seasons since the Vancouver Olympics but it looks as if she’s back on track for this season. She might need to up her technical ability in order to beat Yuna but every performance has been a steady improvement for her as the GP series has gone on. I’m very impressed with the expression, grace and maturity she’s shown this season and I look forward to seeing her skate again in the Grand Prix Final. Her two golds have guaranteed a spot there.

Honourable Mention: Akiko Suzuki

Akiko finished lower than expected with a bronze medal at the NHK Trophy but in my eyes, she’s still an amazing skater. I hated her Phantom of the Opera LP at the beginning of this season, partly because I generally don’t like skaters using this overdramatic, overused piece of music (with some exceptions… like this* and this) and partly because I couldn’t quite look past the mistakes and see the choreography and skating. This time however, Akiko managed to sell her program a lot better despite the mistakes and I’ve grown to like it better. I’m so sad she’s going to retire at the end of this season. I mean, look at this, she just gets better at expressing the music with her skating every year, mistakes or no mistakes…

*Note: Even though I do like Davis/White’s Olympic FD, I’d still wish they skated with similar choreography to some other uber dramatic music.

We’re going to miss you, girl.

Rising Star: Elena Radionova

I’m very miffed at myself for not factoring her in my predictions even though she is one of my favourite skaters this season. If my brain had been working, her name would’ve registered and I would’ve probably put her in for bronze rather than Gracie Gold. Well, the deed is done and my predictions would’ve been wrong anyways since she’s won the silver! She’s probably earned a spot in the GPF and I can’t wait to see her there. So much potential and star quality in spades.

She could’ve finished off her movements a little more in this performance but this might be the best she’s skated this program this season.

The way Olympic spots are awarded to each country is total bullsh**

I really hate the way slots are allotted to each country for each Worlds and the Olympics. Please refer to the table on this wikipedia page for more information. What I hate about the way they give spots to each competitor is that they do it by country. If you haven’t read the wikipedia page, the basics of it is that each country has a certain amount of spots at the Olympics according to how well the country’s competitors rank in the World championships in the season prior to the Olympics. This may seem fine at first glance but the problem comes when certain countries have tons of talented skaters but not enough spots. These skaters may be much better than most of the field but they won’t be able to qualify for the Olympics because some of their fellow countrymen are better than they are.

Case 1: Japanese single skaters – In the men’s competition at Japanese nationals this season, Daisuke Takahashi, Yuzuru Hanyu, Takahito Kozuka, Nobunari Oda and Tatsuki Machida are going to duke it out to take 1 of 3 spots at the Olympics. Three out of five of these men have won medals at the World Championships while all of them have had many medals and victories in the GP series. I would honestly rather allow Japan two extra spots and watch two more amazing performances at the Olympics than give two spots to skaters whose careers have been much less illustrious and will likely give out two (at best) mediocre performances.

Case 2 (and why it’s pertinent to the NHK Trophy): China only has 2 spots at the Olympics and this week, Peng & Zhang have skated well while their teammates, Sui & Han have suffered in their scores and rankings since Sui was sick while she was competing. Either way, both teams have shown themselves to be worthy of future medals but only one will make it to the Olympics. What makes me angry is that the teams who have ranked under them consistently this season (*cough* pointing at Swiegers/Lawrence and pretty much all the American pairs teams) might or will likely get a spot because the competition isn’t as stiff in their respective countries. Sigh.

So, let’s be clear on a few things:

1. It is so frustrating to see really talented competitors not make it to the Olympics just because they happen to be in a nation where they might not be at the top but they are on the A-list of competitors anyways.

2. Yes, I know I can be a bitchy figure skating snob. Deal with it.

Shibsibs recover, Ilinykh & Katsalapov still #2 in Russia

maia alex 13 nhk fd

Yes, yes, Meryl & Charlie won (FD here). That’s no surprise anymore. The Shibutanis, however, seem to have recovered and got back on the podium! I was surprised because I thought that Ilinykh & Katsalapov were going to take the bronze but the Shibutani siblings seem to have improved and have captured the bronze.

A bronze for I/K may have been a signal that times were changing and that they were challenging Bobrova & Soloviev, the top Russian team. By being in that top spot nationally, they have a shot a fighting for Olympic bronze but it seems as if I/K need a lot more work, especially since there are so many “empty” spots in their program… usually full of posing.

I’m happy that the Shibutani siblings did well this competition but their FD still confuses me. That slow musical part in the middle of their FD makes it a little incoherent and I’m confused as to what the concept of the FD is.

As for the SDs in ice dance, I have yet to find one I’m totally in love with but I think that’s the nature of the beast. At least, for me.

The Trophee Eric Bompard is next week! (Sorry for the lack of accents.) Are you excited? Let me know why in comments or share your thoughts on the NHK Trophy!

~The Rinkside Cafe


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