HAPPY YEAR OF THE HORSE~!

Hello everyone! This is just a short post since I plan on relaxing today to wish everyone a prosperous and happy lunar new year! This year is the year of the horse!

HorseA popular expression in Chinese for the New Year is long ma jing sheng or may you have the energy and vitality of the horse and the dragon! Since this is a skating blog, here are two skaters who have given their discipline a great vitality through their rivalry. And they were born in the year of the horse!

Let’s hope they both skate well and give us a heck of a competition in Sochi!

If you were wondering about your fortunes for the year of the horse…

(This is just for fun, so don’t take these too seriously!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR~!!!

~The Rinkside Cafe

 

Throwback Thursday: Joannie Rochette

It’s Throwback Thursday time! Each Thursday until the Sochi Olympics, I will feature a skater or a program from the last Olympic season. This is the 5th and second last post. Wah! The Olympic games start in a week!

This week’s Throwback Thursday features Joannie Rochette, who has one of the most touching and poignant stories from the last Olympics. For those who may not have paid attention to the last Olympics or forgot, Joannie’s mother passed away days before Joannie competed in Vancouver. However, despite the pain, Joannie found the courage to skate and win the bronze medal in the ladies event. In the hearts of many Canadians and fans though, the true colour of Joannie’s medal was gold for finding the strength to skate so well after her tragic loss.

Truth be told, I wasn’t a huge fan of Joannie’s more clunky, athletic skating style – I tend to prefer skaters with graceful lines, flexibility and extension. However, this performance blew me away – her jumps were textbook and she had a musicality and expression that fit perfectly with her tango program and music. That and I think anyone with a soul wanted to give the girl a hug in the kiss and cry.

Anyways, that’s all for this week’s Throwback Thursday. Next week will be the last Throwback Thursday post until the next Olympics in Pyeongchang, 2018.

~The Rinkside Cafe

On the Street: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (Again!)

Ok, seriously, with all the hype and overscoring that follows Patrick Chan, you’d think that you’d be seeing him everywhere. In fact, I’m surprised that he’s not the one getting his own TV show. In any case, I actually haven’t seen any ads, for Chan, on TV or on billboards at all this season, which I find infinitely strange. (As you may know, I’ve already done a “On the Street” post for Tessa and Scott – link here.)

However, I was getting a coffee before going to the symphony at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto when I saw this ad on I think, Wellington Street.

Tessa and Scott RBC ad

An interesting coincidence is that I was going to watch a performance of the Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila (my favourite piece of classical music) that night – a piece used in Meryl Davis & Charlie White’s breakthrough program. Dun dun dun. Oh well, I love the bacchanale and I don’t really care who skates to it. That and there were other pieces of great music that night, including an orchestral version of Claire de Lune and Wagner’s overture to Rienzi. So much beautiful music…

Have you seen any ads for figure skaters in your country? Link me to a picture in the comments or via Twitter (@LanternBell) and I’ll feature it on a post! (I’ll give you credit, of course!)

~The Rinkside Cafe

Countdown and Schedule for Sochi 2014: 10 Days Left

Hello Darling Readers!

This is to let you know that there are 10 days left until the Sochi Olympics officially begin! In 10 days, all our athletes will be competing for this:

Russia Sochi Medals

While we’re waiting, here are some dates that us figure skating fans will want to mark in our calendars. All times are in local time in Sochi. If you want to figure out what this is in your time, consult this link here. Also, check your local TV station for broadcast schedules.

February 6th, 2014

19:30 – Team Event, Men’s SP
21:10 – Team Event, Pairs SP

February 8th, 2014

18:30 – Team Event, Ice Dance SD
20:10 – Team Event, Ladies SP
22:05 – Team Event, Pairs LP

February 9th, 2014

19:00 – Team Event, Men’s LP
20:05 – Team Event, Ladies LP
21:10 – Team Event, Ice Dance FD

February 11th, 2014

19:00 – Individual Event, Pairs SP

February 12th, 2014

19:45 – Individual Event, Pairs LP

February 13th, 2014

19:00 – Individual Event, Men’s SP

February 14th, 2014

19:00 – Individual Event, Men’s LP

February 16th, 2014

19:00 – Individual Event, Ice Dance SD

February 17th, 2014

19:00 – Individual Event, Ice Dance FD

February 19th, 2014

19:00 – Individual Event, Ladies SP

February 20th, 2014

19:00 – Individual Event, Ladies LP

For more information about the Olympic competition schedule, click here.

~The Rinkside Cafe

 

Look-Alikes: Frozen Edition

Look out, Meryl Davis, you’re not the only Disney princess gliding about in the skating world! So far at The Rinkside Cafe, I’ve already done a post on Disney Princesses (who look like Meryl Davis) and a post on the elegant Kiira Korpi. However, while listening to some songs from Disney’s new movie,¬†Frozen, a thought came to me…

Some pictures have been flipped so that faces were facing the same way.

Here is Elsa, one of the main characters in Frozen:

elsa

Kiira Korpi looks a little like Elsa with her hair in a bun but the resemblance is most striking when you see this picture:

kiira korpi elsa

Someone needs to Photoshop a braid into this picture. Or see if Kiira is willing to cosplay as Elsa for us.

But then, I thought, Frozen is a sisters movie and it would be nice if we could have an Anna as well as an Elsa look-alike. I couldn’t quite find a perfect look-alike as I’ve never met or seen anyone with Anna’s face shape. Well, maybe Lily Cole but she’s not a figure skater so in the end, I thought the closest Anna look-alike I could find is Ashley Wagner with the streaks in her hair.

Anna:

anna

Ashley Wagner:

ashley wagner anna

Well, I tried.

Do you have any look-alike suggestions for Anna? (And did you like Frozen?) Or just in general? Let me know in the comments~!

EDIT: Reader Wendy Doeh mentioned that Kiira’s sister Petra, who inspired Kiira to skate, looks like Anna.

kiira and petra

OMG. Real life sisters who look like *the* Disney sister duo. Sorry, Meryl Davis, but you’re not the only Disney Princess.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Olympic Teams: Russia and China

With the European Championships over and the Four Continents competition pretty much over, more Olympic teams are being announced. So far, I’ve done a post on the Olympic teams for Japan, Canada and the U.S. With Russia and China, I’d say that we’ve pretty much named all the heavy hitters in figure skating. Team Russia has recently named their Olympic team with one huge (though maybe not totally unexpected surprise) while Team China seems to have been named ages ago but it’s hard to find an official source. My Chinese isn’t the best and it takes a long time for me to decipher a paragraph but a few readers and reliable friends have chipped in with some info and their names match up with each other so I’ll take it that they are correct unless someone tells me otherwise with a reliable source.

Without further ado, here are the figure skaters representing Russia at the Olympics…

Platinum King

Men

Evgeni Plushenko

A surprise nomination as most people thought that Maxim Kovtun was going to Sochi. Some thought that he may compete only in the team event but that isn’t allowed. (Some friends have sarcastically noted that he might mysteriously get “injured” after the team event, thus letting Kovtun take his place in the individual event. Either way, there will be an abundance of windmill arms.) Plushy is old for a figure skater and he did lose to Kovtun at Nationals, however he is a legend and I have to give him props for competing at age 31. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled out a quad or two in Sochi.

Ladies

Adelina Sotnikova
Julia Lipnitskaia

With a 1-2 finish at Euros this year, they were the obvious choice despite the depth in ladies skating in Russia right now.

Pairs

Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov
Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov
Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov

Ice Dance

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev
Elena Ilinykh & Nikita KatsalapovViktoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhiganshin

I found the list of skaters from this article here.

Moving on, here are the skaters representing China at this year’s Winter Olympics…

peng zhang 13 coc sp

Men

Han Yan

Ladies

Kexin Zhang
Zijun Li

I think Li’s nomination wasn’t a surefire thing for a while since her slot was supposed to be tba. Li did not compete at Nationals due to injury and supposedly puberty is not treating her well. However, with her bronze at 4CC, I think her placement in the Olympic team is quite secure.

Pairs

Qing Pang & Jian Tong
Peng Cheng & Hao Zhang

I feel a little sad for Wenjing Sui & Han Cong who were battling for the second spot with Cheng & Zhang. Sui & Han aren’t terribly polished but they have big tricks which make them fun to watch. Still, I’m so happy for Cheng & Zhang. They’ve come a long way since last season and for a relatively new pair, they’re so well put together and they have such great choreography this season.

Ice Dance

Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng

And that is it for Olympic team announcements! What do you think of the teams? Was there a skater you thought should’ve been chosen? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Skating 101: Pairs Skating Elements

Pairs skating is an exciting discipline with its tall lifts, huge tricks and blazing chemistry between partners. In terms of the skating, there are a lot of elements in pairs skating that we don’t see anywhere else. For this Skating 101 post, we’ll be talking about these moves that take our breath away.

Pang Qing, Tong Jian

In my Skating 101 post on jumps, I featured a video that helped viewers figure out how to tell all the jumps apart. What I might not have mentioned is that in figure skating, partners are required to do side by side jumps¬†in which partners have to jump, as you guessed it, side by side. Partners are expected to be in perfect unison throughout the entire jump. In pairs skating, we also see throw jumps (also mentioned in the Skating 101 jump post) where the man assists the lady in a jump by throwing her in the air. The lady is expected to land the jump smoothly despite being thrown a pretty big distance off the ice. There’s nothing else I can really say about this but here is a great interactive page on throw jumps by ESPN featuring Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir.

In my Skating 101 spins post, I talked about Side by Side Spins and Pairs Spins already so check out the post (links at the end of this post) in case you don’t remember what they are.

Now, onto some new elements only seen in pairs skating!

Death Spirals

A death spiral is when the man swings his partner in a circle while acting as a pivot. Death spirals differ by their entries (whether the lady is facing forward or backwards) and the edges (inside or outside). The video above shows the four different types of death spiral. Look carefully at whether the lady is rotating forward or backwards and the edge of her skate that’s on the ice.

In a death spiral, the team should enter smoothly into their respective positions and not lose speed throughout the entire element.

Pairs Lifts

Aliona Savchenko Robin Szolkowy SA 2011 LP

In both pairs and ice dancing, there are lifts but the lifts of each discipline differ on one fundamental aspect: pairs lifts are usually done overhead while it is illegal to do overhead lifts in ice dance. There are many different positions for pairs lifts as well as their own variations. Here is a link to a page describing the various different lift positions in pairs skating.

Ideally, lifts should be done effortlessly and any transitions between positions should be done smoothly. The man should not lose speed as he glides on the ice with his partner. At the same time, partners can make the lift even more difficult by having many changes of positions or a complicated entry or exit from the lift.

Twist Lifts

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov

The twist lift is a very difficult lift in which the man throws his partner up in the air in a horizontal position. The lady then does a specific number of rotations in the air before she is caught by her partner, still up in the air. Often, we hear announcers say that such team has done a triple twist, which means that the lady rotated three times in the air. Triple twists are standard in the upper echelons of pairs skating nowadays though some young skaters (especially the Chinese), are attempting quadruple twists. Ideally, twists should be high and the rotations should be fully completed before the lady comes back to her partner. All of this must be done while looking effortless. Pairs can make the twist even more difficult by having the lady put her arm over her head.

For the science or physics of figure skating and twists, here is a video. Twists are mentioned at the very end of the short video. Who knew that all that work on parabolas in calculus class could apply to figure skating?

Pairs Spiral Sequence

Han and Cong Worlds 2010 LP

In ladies skating, one of the most iconic elements is the spiral where the lady glides on one foot with her free leg above waist level. (Michelle Kwan’s arabesque spiral always makes me a little teary these days.) In pairs, both partners must be in spiral positions, though the positions need not to be the same. Often, partners are attached to each other while doing the spiral sequence.

Mirror Pairs

This isn’t a pairs element but rather, it’s a name for a special kind of pairs team. Similar to left and right-handedness, some skaters rotate clockwise while others rotate counter-clockwise in their spins and jumps. (Most skaters rotate counter-clockwise.) For most pairs teams, partners rotate in the same direction but for some teams, like Kristi Yamaguchi before she became a singles skater and Rudy Galindo, partners rotate in opposite directions. As a result, the goal for mirror pairs is to do their jumping and spinning elements in unison to look like mirror images of one another.

If you have any other questions or comments about pairs skating, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you! As well, feel free to suggest any future topics for Skating 101!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Other Skating 101 Posts:

History of the 6.0 and Code of Points Judging System

The Basics of the Code of Points Judging System

Olympic Berths and Teams: How We Decided Who and How Many Go to the Olympics

Figure Skating Jumps

Figure Skating Spins

Pairs Skating Elements

Ice Dance

Throwback Thursday: The Compulsory and Original Dances

It’s another Thursday, and Sochi hasn’t arrived yet so it means that… it’s Throwback Thursday time! Each Thursday before the beginning of the Sochi Olympics, I will feature a program/skater/team from the last Olympics just for fun.

This week is a little unusual because I’m not showcasing a particular program or skater(s) per se, but I’m commemorating segments in the ice dance competition that don’t exist anymore. There used to be three segments in ice dance and starting in the 2010/2011 season, that number was reduced to 2. Two segments of the dance competition, the Compulsory Dance (CD) and the Original Dance (OD) were eliminated and in a way combined to make the Short Dance (SD) we see today.

I’m not completely surprised they eliminated the CD considering that every skater had to skate the exact same thing. Each year, the ISU would choose a two CDs for skaters to perform at international competitions. It was the most boring to watch of all the competitions because of it but the CD was a segment that allowed skaters to clearly show the judges their technical ability. With everyone skating the same thing, the judges could see clearly who was skating faster, with deeper edges, with more power, etc; Still, it gets a little exhausting watching good and bad teams skate the same program so… they got rid of it. The Tango Romantica is now officially the last compulsory pattern skated at an Olympic games. Here were the performances by the podium finishers:

I wasn’t a fan of this team at all in Vancouver but I agree with the judges that they had the best Tango Romantica of the night. Domnina’s long limbs and regal presence gave it that extra touch even though the other two teams featured below got tips from the dancers who created this pattern.

Were you happy that this part of the competition was gone?

The other dance that was eliminated was the original dance. In the original dance, skaters must perform a program to a rhythm set by the ISU every year. For the 2009/2010 and consequently the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, the rhythm was folk or country. While competitors can chose their own music but within a certain tempo range. (I’m a little sad that the ISU decided to get rid of the OD since the 2010/2011 rhythm was supposed to be rhythms and dances from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Disco Fever!) In any case, here were the ODs from the podium finishers except for Domnina & Shabalin because I can’t find their Olympic OD on youtube. You’re not missing much… their OD cause quite an uproar because it was supposed to be an Australian aboriginal dance but the pair didn’t do their research well and the program offended a lot of aboriginal groups.

I love that Indian/Bollywood OD. That was a great program choreographed by Marina Zueva.

Do you guys miss the CDs and ODs? Or do you prefer the new short dances? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Opinion: Ashley Wagner Deserves to be on the U.S. Olympic Team

us nationals ladies podium 2014 2

From my post on the announcement on the American Olympic team, you would know that the U.S. Figure Skating Association made a very unusual decision to name Ashley Wagner, who placed 4th at Nationals, to the Olympic team in lieu of Mirai Nagasu who placed 3rd. In this Slate article on the Harding/Kerrigan incident and the marketability of athletes, the author suspects that this decision might have something to do with how Wagner’s been played up in the media lately. Others, on the other hand, suspect that race might be the issue.

Personally, I find this talk of of the Wagner/Nagasu controversy a little frustrating partly because 1) the USFSA has somewhat set themselves up for it by the way they construct their Olympic/World Championship teams and partly because 2) the people who wrote these articles probably didn’t pay attention to the 2012/2013 season OR the events earlier this season, namely the Grand Prix events.

To elaborate, if you’ve read my Skating 101 post on Olympic berths and how we decide how many spots and which skaters to send to the Olympics, you’ll know that each country’s figure skating federation gets the final say on which skaters to send to the Olympics and the World Championships. Each country has their own criteria and for the U.S., the decision is often solely based on the results of their National Championships. Other countries, like Japan, take the Grand Prix series, which happens earlier in the season, into account while others, like Russia or Italy may choose to send their highest ranking competitors at Nationals and have them duke it out in the European Championships for a spot. What is most striking about the way Japan, Russia or Italy (and many other countries) chooses their Olympic team is that other competitions have some influence over the final decision, lowering the stakes of the National competition.

Overall, the National competition is, in my opinion, the least important competition of the season. The National competition is not an ISU-sanctioned event, and therefore the scores and results there don’t count towards the points that skaters gather over the season to determine their world rankings. (This system is separate from the results of the World Championships and is basically a way to rank the competitors based on the points they garner through various international competitions throughout the season.) Furthermore, any scores, even world record-setting scores, at National competitions don’t count when determining world records, partly because the scores for top skaters are rather inflated at Nationals. In other words, scores at Nationals are kind of weird at the top. Finally, the biggest reason why the National competition is one of the least important of the year: chances are, the competition at Nationals is really watered down. Very few countries have multiple exciting and A-list competitors in one discipline. Right now, Japan is an exception to that with their singles disciplines but that may change next season when a huge list of veterans begin their retirement.

In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. upped the stakes for their national competition to make the event more exciting to watch. A high stakes competition is a good way to get skaters to skate as well as they can and generate enough interest and revenue from ticket sales. There’s also the historical factor of how the U.S. used to have a huge list of amazing ladies skaters (and how obsessive the USFSA is of finding The Next American Ladies Champion), which would warrant this type of competition but frankly, the U.S. seems to have a good arsenal of ice dancers nowadays while the competition in other disciplines seems a little watered down. Sure, the struggle for gold at Nationals might seem exciting but as of now, the only figure skating medal that the U.S. can really bet on in Sochi is the ice dance. Gold, in fact. Medals from the men or pairs event are unlikely but as for the ladies…

Well, in the international arena, the ladies competition at the Olympics will be quite interesting. I’m pretty sure Yuna Kim will be part of the podium and I wouldn’t be surprised if she got the gold medal. Mao Asada had a little trouble at Nationals (bronze) but her season so far has been a story of gradual improvement. As for the bronze, I would have said last year that Carolina Kostner would be a good contender but with her bronze at the European Championships (rather than the gold), I’d say that the Olympic bronze (and possibly silver) are fair game. If I had to say who the top contenders are at the moment, I’d name the two young Russian ladies, Julia Lipnitskaia and Adelina Sotnikova, possibly Gracie Gold and… Ashley Wagner.

Ashley Wagner 2012 SA LP

If any of these journalists or viewers who are making this huge fuss about Wagner’s appointment to the Olympic team had paid any attention to the beginning of the 2013/2014 season, you’d see that out of all the U.S. ladies, Wagner was the most successful in the senior Grand Prix circuit.

Exhibit A: Wagner was the only American lady who qualified for the senior Grand Prix Final event. (See my roster post for the GPF)

Gracie Gold, the National Champion was 3rd alternate, Mirai Nagasu did not qualify at all while the silver medalist, Polina Edmunds only competed in junior Grand Prix events, meaning she has yet to compete with the veterans and the people who will actually go to Sochi.

Wagner qualified for the GPF because she was in the top 6 of best rankings in her Grand Prix assignments.

Ashley Wagner: 1st at TEB, 2nd in Skate America
Gracie Gold: 3rd in Skate Canada, 4th in the NHK Trophy
Mirai Nagasu: 3rd at the Cup of Russia, 8th in the NHK Trophy

Polina Edmunds: 1st in both the Junior Grand Prix events in Belarus and Mexico.

Exhibit B: In terms of her skating, Wagner has been skating relatively clean during the GP series. Someone at The Skating Lesson has offered a reason for Wagner’s lower scores for her clean/almost clean skates (read the post here). I haven’t been paying to much attention to Wagner’s programs this season but I hope she resolves the issue in time for Sochi.

Edit: According to this article, Wagner is changing her long program by skating to Samson and Delilah (her LP from last year) with hybrid choreography derived from her Romeo and Juliet and Samson and Delilah programs.

Exhibit C: Not quite proof but the big flaw in the high stakes national competition – just like at any high stakes standardized test, its greatest flaw in measuring achievement is that it can only measure the test taker’s ability on that particular day. It’s just like if you had a terrible day and you took the SATs and got a bad score because things just kept going wrong and you couldn’t focus on the test. Maybe Ashley just had a bad weekend during Nationals. Who knows. But that shouldn’t eclipse her success just weeks ago at the Grand Prix Final.

I’m not a huge fan of Ashley Wagner but by looking at what she’s done so far in the season, I think the U.S. Figure Skating Association would be foolish if they didn’t send her to Sochi. And let this be a lesson to them for setting such high stakes at their Nationals competition: it stirs up controversy over Olympic selection and the outrage is generally from people who don’t follow the sport closely. In the end, I hope that Wagner and all Olympic figure skaters deliver so that we have an exciting competition in Sochi.

What are your thoughts on the Wagner/Nagasu controversy? Who did you think should have been on the U.S. Olympic team? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

On the Street: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

photo(3)

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have been in the spotlight this year for their new reality show. (If you haven’t tuned in and are wondering what the show is like, Dave Lease aka Aunt Joyce has a fabulous article on the first episode.) The advertising for this show has been quite intense; I’ve been bombarded by ads for this show many times while wandering around youtube. Although talk about intense, this is one giant billboard across from Dundas Square in Toronto (sort of like Times Square but not as cool for those of you who don’t now). What’s even more ridiculous is that if you look to the left of the picture, the bright screen was showing an ad for the show. I wasn’t able to take a picture, but across the street from this billboard and screen is another electronic billboard on top of the Hard Rock Cafe. And yes, there were ads for Tessa and Scott’s show there too.

Seen any ads with figure skaters in your country? Link me in the comments or tweet me (@LanternBell) and let me know if I can make a post about it. (I will give credit to you on the post, of course.)

~The Rinkside Cafe

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