Throwback Thursday: Johnny Weir

It’s 6 weeks until Sochi begins so I decided that as a bit of a countdown, I will do a Throwback Thursday post every week until February 6th. Each Throwback Thursday post will feature the wonderful programs from the Vancouver 2010 season even if the video isn’t from the Olympics.

The first Throwback Thursday post goes to Johnny Weir and his “I Love You, I Hate You” short program.

I personally love this program because of how well it suits Johnny’s sassy attitude and at the same time shows off his athleticism. I’ll also admit that I adore the corset with the hot pink ribbons.

Stay fabulous, Johnny!

What did you think of Johnny’s program during the last Olympics? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Japanese Olympic Team Announced!

FSAKTE-JPN-OLY-2014

The Japanese Figure Skating Championships are one of the few more exciting National Championships out there because the entire competition isn’t just a one pony race. In the singles events, the field is tough and the sad thing is – if some of the lower ranked competitors were from some other country, they’d be going to Sochi right now. In any case, here is the video announcing the Japanese team for Sochi 2014.

In case you can’t quite pick out the names in the flurry of Japanese, they are: More

Look-Alikes: Piper Gilles

Recently, my Twitter was all abuzz with the fact that Piper Gilles became a Canadian citizen. Here’s a Tweet of what I assume is her after her citizenship ceremony:

Piper citizenshipAfter seeing this picture, I was struck by Piper’s resemblance to Blake Lively, who I adored in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies.

Paul Poirier with Piper Gilles:

Gillles_and_Poirier

Blake Lively:

Blake Lively

But when I was searching for pictures of Piper, I found this particular photo:

Piper Gilles

And immediately, I thought that the look she has in this picture was so Quinn Fabray/Dianna Agron:

Dianna AgronDo you guys see the resemblance? Let me know in the comments~!

Also, if you find any other look-alikes, let me know and I’ll feature them in a post! Of course, I’ll give credit where it’s due. I’ll also be happy link readers to your site/blog/channel/other social media site if you put it in with your comments!

Happy Holidays~!

~The Rinkside Cafe

P.S. I swear I’ll get started on those Skating 101 posts soon. I have an idea of where to start but I have a feeling the post will be tedious to write.

COUNTDOWN: 50 DAYS LEFT

50 days remain until the XXII (22nd) Olympic Winter Games~! Are you excited?

sochi medals

That’s all. I’ll have a few posts coming soon!

~The Rinkside Cafe

GPF 2013: Figure Skating Politics

Aliona and Robin GPF 2013 LP

When I was watching the Grand Prix Final, this article from Figure Skating Lessons kept popping up on my mind as the competitions played themselves out. More precisely, point no. 1 really hit home as some really surprising results came  in. Like Haymitch’s sponsor gifts from the widely popular Hunger Games series, scores and placements in figure skating can send a message to skaters and there were a few messages that were pretty clear at this competition.

Before I elaborate, I’ll just underscore the importance of the GPF as a competition. Many of the world’s finest skaters have competed at the final and it will likely be the biggest international showdown before the Olympics. This competition gives a rough idea of what the standings may look like in Sochi and there isn’t going to be a competition where a lot of the big names meet until then. A lot of A-list skaters tend to skip the European Championships or Four Continents in order to be at their peak and ready for the Olympics.

In any case, here were some “messages” I feel like were being expounded by the judges at the GPF.

1. Bad skates cannot be rewarded.

Patrick Chan. Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov. Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev. The former two skater/teams were supposed to be a lock on gold while the last team was supposed to be a lock on bronze. I made my predictions for the GPF with full confidence that their PCS would be able to buoy their scores in case anything went wrong but that wasn’t the case.

 

Chan two-footed his 3A really awkwardly and doubled his lutz in the short.

Tatiana fell in two jumping passes in the LP.

Soloviev fell in the FD.

Normally, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these transgressions were forgiven, especially for Chan and V/T, and their grasp for the gold medal maintained by their PCS. (I mean, we still remember Chan being booed at the 2012 World Championships in Nice for a reason.) However, that forgiveness from the PCS didn’t happen and those with locks on certain medals ended up a tad lower than I expected. Wow. I seriously didn’t think that would happen.

But then again, this is the Olympic year and it’s nearly been 12 years since the Salt Lake City figure skating scandal. Despite being a decade-old scandal, the empty or emptier arenas and the end of the golden age of figure skating keeps the scandal fresh in the minds of fans. This is an interesting message to send to skaters and fans alike that bad skating will be duly noted in the scores but whether or not PCS inflation for specific skaters will happen at the Olympics is another matter. We’ll just have to wait and see.

2. Meryl Davis & Charlie White will likely get the ice dance crown in Sochi.

Tessa & Scott and Meryl & Charlie faced off against each other for the first time this season at the GPF and wow, am I impressed. Both teams delivered two great performances and this is what I’ve been looking for from all skaters this season.  Bravo!

In any case, I think we know who the judges prefer this season and overall, I’m not surprised. Meryl & Charlie won both the SD and FD by very small increments. In the SD, V/M scored higher on the TES but only trailed their rivals by 0.7 overall. In the FD, a level 3 diagonal step sequence proved to be costly for V/M and with a slightly lower PCS, D/W won that portion of the competition as well. In the past few seasons, Tessa & Scott have been having trouble beating their rivals and training mates but I think V/M have finally gotten on track and are giving their rivals a run for their money.

However, the lower PCS for V/M should be a point of concern if they want to win the Olympics. Now that they’re back at where they need to be technically, I fear that politics have come into play. This season, Canada has the ability to win two gold medals in figure skating in the men’s and ice dance competition. The only difference is that Canada has already won the ice dance Olympic gold in Vancouver but they’ve never managed the men’s gold even with brilliant stars like Kurt Browning and Jeffrey Buttle. It will be difficult to back two gold medal contenders at the Olympics and I think Chan is the household name that Skate Canada wants to sell this season, which may not bode well with V/M. The PCS score allows judges to diversify the figure skating podium along nationality, lowballing skaters who may not be ranked #1 in their country or lowballing certain skaters in one discipline to allow another to triumph in another discipline.

I think I’ve reached a zen state about politicking and I know that it will always be a part of this sport which I love dearly. Judging art will always be affected by the political or social climate of the time and is therefore, subjective – I find Bach a little dull at times but I love the elegance and “shiny” quality of Mozart but for one of my best friends, she shares the opposite opinion. Right now, I’m really tired of the negativity and hate from both sides of the V/M and D/W fanbase. What I see here is the triumph of ice dance where two teams have been pushed to create and skate in ways that are far superior to what we’ve seen before. Personally, I don’t really care what medals they win, they both deserve gold for what they’ve done to the sport and they both triumph if they’ve delivered a beautiful program.

What were your thoughts on the politics of the GPF? Let me know in the comments!

Also, thank you all so much for the support I’ve been given during the GPF. Your comments and views motivate me to write and I’m so happy that you enjoy my random ramblings!

~The Rinkside Cafe

GPF 2013: What just happened?

I’m still catching up with the GPF performances but I just have to comment on this:

isu gpf2013 mens lp

I woke up to this and I wondered if I was reading this right.

Yuzuru’s had asthma since childhood and it’s not unusual to see Yuzuru hunched over or lying on the ice after his long program, in which he is weaker at. I expected Yuzuru to not only make mistakes to not win the short program and I thought than Chanflation with a good skate would be enough to push Chan back into gold medal position – because we all know that Chan’s been given ridiculous scores for mediocre performances in the past. However, all of my assumptions proved to be wrong. Chan skated well and his score is deserved but then, it seems that Yuzuru delivered as well…

He had a fall on his quad salchow and possibly a slightly clumsy spin at the very end but there was Yuzuru in attack mode again, expressing the music well and throwing down the gauntlet with every element. I especially loved that spread eagle into the triple axel-double tano double-toe.

I think we all thought that Patrick Chan was unbeatable this season and I’m so happy that Yuzuru managed to prove us wrong. Ganbare, Yuzuru-kun~! おめでとうございます! Congratulations on a well-deserved gold medal!

What a great way to celebrate one’s 19th birthday! Happy birthday, Yuzuru! お誕生日おめでとう!

gpf 13 mens podium

Were you as surprised as I was? Let me know what you thought of the men’s competition in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Yuzuru Hanyu leads after the SP in the GPF + Yuna News

My morning started with great news: I checked my facebook and lo and behold, I saw this:

PJ tweet dec 5 2013

In my half-awake daze, my brain could barely process this news.

yuzuru hanyu 13 gpf sp

Yuzuru Hanyu is leading?

As in, he beat the unbeatable Patrick Chan in the short program?

AND Yuzu beat Chan’s world record score that was set two weeks ago at TEB?

Tell me I’m not dreaming…

Image taken from the ISU GPF page

isu gpf2013 mens sp

NOPE! I WASN’T DREAMING!?!?!?!

Not only was it a world record but Yuzu’s got a 12-point lead??? What on earth happened???

Well, first this happened:

Chan did a clean quad toe-triple toe (slightly awkward landing on the former), a severely two-footed triple axel with a hand down and a… double lutz with a shaky landing? He hasn’t skated like this so far this season. This competition should’ve been a piece of cake for him seeing the crazy high scores he’s been getting this season but I guess he cracked a bit in the SP.

Anyways, enough about Chan, here’s the real star of the night:

Flawless except for a slight bobble on his final jump but Yuzuru skated that program with ATTACK. Maybe that sense of attack added to the edginess of the program or maybe he decided that he’s just going to go for it and try to beat Chan but wow. I’m not sure what prompted this decision but it paid off. I don’t expect him to skate that well in the long given Yuzuru’s record of tiring easily in the second half of his long program but I wish him the best and I hope he proves me wrong. I have never regretted my decision to peg him as the future of figure skating at the beginning of this Olympic cycle. Ganbare, Yuzuru-kun!

In other news, the Korean media seems to have recorded Yuna skating run-throughs of her SP and LP for the Golden Spin of Zagreb:

As anyone can see, Yuna still has great jumps. The only thing I feel somewhat iffy about is what I feel to be the lack of growth. Sure, Yuna is great and all but no skater is perfect just as no artist will ever achieve perfection. Before I start receiving a torrent of hatred for saying this, let me iterate that perfection is an endpoint you steer towards but never reach because if you ever reach perfection, you stop because there’s no goal anymore. I think anyone who does any art for fun or for job-related matters can understand.

In any case, it’s been an entire Olympic cycle and yet, I still feel as if I’m watching Yuna circa 2010. She still doesn’t turn out her feet and her posture and lines still need polish. You can say they’re small things but they add up and really make a program shine so much more. I mean, remember Michelle Kwan when her hands reached out to you when she did her iconic arabesque spiral? I still tear up occasionally. Or when Midori Ito did those huge jumps with a giant smile on her face? I smiled with her? Or those absolutely gorgeous spirals and layback spins in the most exquisite position from Sasha Cohen? Shivers.

At her ability now, Yuna’s good enough to win the Olympics but she’s already won that. I think she needs to think along the lines of the top two ice dance teams of the moment: to push the sport to a level where it’s never been before. Try doing something interesting with the choreography, push yourself to express a song/theme/story that you’ve never skated before. Yuna’s done a tango before as well as a program to flowing music and as a figure skating fan, I want more.

Anyways, I’m off! I may put up a comments post after the GPF is over and I’m thinking about the Skating 101 series for fans that have recently joined us for the Olympic season.

As always, thanks for reading!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Predictions: Grand Prix Final 2013

mao asada 13 japan open lp2

*insert expletives here*

I didn’t realize that the GPF started… TODAY until people on facebook pointed it out. Luckily, I’m not covering the junior competition so I have 4 hours before the senior competition starts off with the men’s short program. Stop panicking, stop panicking, stop panicking. OK. Predictions, let’s go!

Men

Thank goodness I didn’t make these predictions when I made the roster post two weeks ago since Daisuke Takahashi has pulled out of the competition due to injury. This doesn’t look good for his Olympic bid… Feel better soon, Daisuke!

Patrick Chan broke his own records at TEB this year, and at this point, I’d be very surprised if ANY skater can beat him. I won’t dwell on it since you readers will know I’m not a huge fan of his style but you’ve heard it from me, I think he’s going to win a lot of things this year. Like the Olympics, probably.

With some hometown advantage, I think Yuzuru Hanyu has the potential to medal at the GPF. Without Daisuke on the roster, Yuzu is likely to be the fan favourite in Fukuoka this week and if he skates both programs clean, he has a good shot at silver. Nipping at his heels will be teammate, Nobunari Oda, who is looking to do well at this competition. In fact, the pressure is on for the Japanese men who seek a spot on the Olympic team. A medal at the GPF will definitely bolster their chances if they do well at Nationals later on in the season. Oda has done decently well and has shown that he’s on his game this season. If he can count, of course.

Some of you may be wondering why I’m not really thinking of Tatsuki Machida as a threat to the GP podium since he did win both of his GP events. The explanation is simple: the roster in both his GP assignments (Skate America and the Cup of Russia) were weak save for maybe one strong competitor who has faltered somewhat through the season so far (i.e. Takahashi, Fernandez). Machida is better than most of the B-list skaters and some A-list skaters on a bad day, but I’m not sure if he can compete with A-list skaters who have not faltered or haven’t skated too badly this season.

Predictions:

Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver:
Yuzuru Hanyu
Bronze:
Nobunari Oda

Ladies

The ladies competition is surprising this season: two veterans and four youngins’, all from Russia. The young teenagers may have wispy figures that enable them to jump like frogs, but the veterans may have the advantage for their jump ability as well as their ability to articulate music. I expect veteran and crowd favourite, Mao Asada, to win the competition. Her jump content may not be as difficult as some of the younger ladies but Mao has developed a great sense for the music that we don’t really see in competitors at the beginning of their careers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ashley Wagner did well too. Like Mao, her PCS will be the thing that will put her above the younger Russian ladies.

As for the four Russian ladies, all of them are talented in their own right but there’s a little bit of a conundrum here: the ladies who have won GP assignments did so, again, with weak rosters and skaters who were not on-game while competitors like Elena Radionova have won lesser medals but only to veterans who were on top of their game. Out of the four ladies, Elena Radionova, Julia Lipnitskaia, Anna Pogorilaya and Adelina Sotnikova, I may keep my eye on the former two. Sotnikova to me, seems like the weakest link in the foursome with Pogorilaya a little ways behind her.

Predictions:

Gold: Mao Asada
Silver:
Ashley Wagner
Bronze:
Julia Lipnitskaia

Pairs

Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov will likely win this event and probably the Olympics. Here, I’ve said it. Mother Russia wants her gold back and V/T have been skating flawlessly this season. They’re strong and ready to take back the pairs glory for Russia. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy will try their best to take that away but they haven’t skated with the same amount of consistency as their rivals. As for the bronze, I think that Qing Pang & Jian Tong have shown that they’re back in the game and a head above the rest of the skaters on the roster.

Predictions:

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

Ice Dance

The REAL ice dance competition is here: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Meryl Davis & Charlie White will finally face off for the first time this season. I love both teams and I love this rivalry of Yagudin/Plushenko proportions. (I only wish that fans of either team would stop being hostile towards the rival skaters.) In any case, I think at this point in the season, the competition will go to Meryl & Charlie. Their scores have been higher all season and their programs have run into less issues – all in all, they’ve been more consistent. But then again, figure skating fans know very well that ice is slippery and the skate gods could prove me wrong.

As for the bronze medal (I seriously love how the gold and silver are always accounted for when V/M and D/W are both in the same competition), I have a feeling that Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev will take it here and the Olympics for Mother Russia cannot bear the shame of not getting at least a medal in this event. Getting the GPF bronze sets B/S on a course towards Olympic bronze and with home ice advantage, we all know that these two will do well in Sochi.

Predictions:

Gold: Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Silver:
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Bronze:
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev

What are your predictions for the GPF? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Favourite Programs of the 2013/2014 Season

It’s that time again! The Grand Prix events are over save the final and that means that we’ve seen most of the programs for this season! I have to say, I’m very impressed with the programs this season as the skaters have stepped it up to bring their A-game to the Olympics.

I’ll start off the post with a special mention since there’s usually a picture after this introduction blurb. The special mention goes to Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi for their programs – both the SD and FD. In terms of choreography, they’re nothing remarkable but there’s something unique about taking the storyline of the SD and continuing in the FD. I think this team knew they probably weren’t going to win a lot of important events but I’m glad they took this creative risk. Kudos for that!

zhiganshina gazsi 2013 sdfd

Now, onto my favourite programs of this season by event…

Men’s Short Program: Daisuke Takahashi, Sonatina for Violin in C-sharp Minor

This program does feel a little front-heavy but this clean performance and Daisuke’s commitment to the program shines through and by the time he does his step sequence, I forget all about that. After a year of disappointing programs and performances by Daisuke, this was a breath of fresh air and I’m glad this program shows off what he does best: his musicality and expression. That crisp quad toe and triple axel definitely helped the flow of this program as well.

Men’s Long Program: Han Yan, Gourmet Valse Tartare & The Blue Danube

None of the men’s programs really stood out for me in terms of choreography but I did like the light and airy quality of this program and how Yan was able to carry it out.

Special mention: Han Yan’s short program. I didn’t know that he was capable of such edginess. I swear his movements and expression were almost Daisuke-esque.

Ladies Short Program: Elena Radionova, Anna Karenina soundtrack & Two Steps from Hell

I can’t tell you how impressed I was with this program and this young lady when I first saw her skate this at the Nebelhorn Trophy. Just, wow. You can see just how much power and edge control she has within the first minute and it’s hard to believe that a 14 year-old can carry this music right until the end. You can’t take your eyes off her and this isn’t easy music to skate to. Subdued, quiet and yet very elegant, Elena skates to this music with a quiet strength that belies her age. What I love about this program is how the elements are woven in seamlessly and you forget you’re watching a program choreographed to gain points from judges. I seriously watched and re-watched this program after I found it and I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

Ladies Long Program: Mao Asada, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2

Mao hasn’t skated this program perfectly this season but I love this program because it shows off the best of Mao: the talent and the growth. The elements flow well into each other and there are all these complicated transitions that Mao does as if they were child’s play – the pseudo-spin into the camel spin, the footwork into the 3F at the beginning… Mao skates them as smooth as butter. There’s a strength and athleticism from her that we haven’t seen as much before and you can just see that her crossovers and strokes carry her faster and farther. Mao’s also shown that her musicality has improved- that upper body movement in the first three seconds and the darker tone of the music are expressed a lot better and without any awkwardness like in her “Bells of Moscow” LP in Vancouver. Mao’s journey has been one of growth and improvement and I wish her the very best this season.

Pairs Short Program: Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang, The Eternal Vow (From the Soundtrack of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

The thing about this program is that if you break it down into its elements, you can see that “checklist” of required elements. There aren’t that many transitions between the elements and quite a bit of forward two-foot skating. However, this program is unusual in that a lot of elements (i.e. the death spiral, pairs spin) aren’t left to the end as they usually are and for a relatively new team, the music was one of those more subdued pieces and therefore, more difficult to pull off without losing the audience’s attention. What really makes this program shine is the connection that exists the two partners despite the vast age difference and the long flowing lines in the choreography that fits the music very well. For a team that has yet to reach the highest level of skating, this simpler program dazzles with the chemistry between the two partners, very well-executed elements and well thought-out choreography that suits the music and the skaters.

Pairs Long Program: Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang, Yellow River Piano Concerto

I tried, really, I did, to find another pairs LP I liked better but I couldn’t. I think the reason I like this team and their choreography is because they remind me of pairs skating at its best: elegance, chemistry and big tricks. Here we have another program skated to subdued music but you’re mesmerized by their flow and carriage across the ice. That quad twist was just amazing as well. I seriously hope these two can somehow get to the Olympics.

Ice Dance Short Dance: Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron, Cool Cat in Town, Burlesque soundtrack

These two are a non-entity in the top echelons of the skating world but I really enjoyed this jazzy, energetic Finnstep SD done without using irritating music – a sin that a lot of teams seem to be committing this season. (I fully admit that I HATE the song, “Big Spender” and “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” purely on the subject matter and lyrics of the song. The tunes are pretty annoying as well.)

Ice Dance Free Dance: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, Petit Adagio, Waltz in Concerto No. 2, Allegro Moderato

Tessa & Scott have yet to skate this perfectly but I like the concept of this program in that it combines difficult choreography with the story of their career. The details, the elegance and the “clean” feeling of this program makes it breathtaking. It was really difficult choosing between this program and Meryl & Charlie’s Scheherazade program (I love the tension and crescendo) but I think there’s more of a storyline here even though D/W have the pre-written story of One Thousand and One Nights. I will do this though…

Special Mention: Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Scheherazade

Ice Dance Special Mention: Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, Swan Lake

Yes, I’ll admit to liking this. Even if the music is overused. And there’s a few pauses in the choreography. And even if Morozov probably choreographed it. Now excuse me while I wallow in shame.

What were your favourite programs from this season? Let me know!

Also, I’ll be coming up with a favourite costumes post soon as well!

~The Rinkside Cafe