State of the Union 2014/15

After watching Obama’s interesting speech yesterday, I decided to write this post as my GPF recap post while also commenting on how I feel the season will go now that we’ve reached the mid-way point. The GPF was quite a telling competition and already, certain pieces are starting to fall into place as the Olympic cycle is slowly picking up.

elena radionova 14 gpf lp

Here are my thoughts on the GPF and what the competition is like as we go into the second half of the figure skating season.

Men

After a disappointing 4th place finish at the NHK Trophy, Yuzuru Hanyu came out decently strong at the GPF, delivering two solid though not perfect skaters. Hanyu was also able to repeat his results at the GPF at Japanese Nationals, guaranteeing him the spot of the top Japanese man, which from past experience, is crucial to reaching the podium at Worlds later on in the season. Sadly though, around the time of Japanese Nationals, Yuzuru was diagnosed with a bladder problem and must unfortunately stay off the ice after surgery. Hanyu has suffered from stamina problems in the past and a lack of training can really affect him later on in the season. I hope for a speedy recovery and that he does his best afterwards.

Also, I have a confession to make. I kind of enjoy his Phantom of the Opera program. The music is kitchy, badly sung and the costume a little too showy for my taste but David Wilson Shae-Lynn Bourne (thanks, Burdens!) has got timing of some of the jumps and elements to the music down pat and I find myself kind of enjoying it despite myself. I’m not sure whether to be annoyed or happy.

Moving on, Javier Fernandez was probably looking to win in front a home crowd in Barcelona but had a rough skate in the short, full of stumbles and falls but recovered well enough in the long program to salvage the silver medal. Although Javier delivered a decent skate in the LP, I couldn’t help but wish that he gave more of a damn. I get the feeling that Fernandez does not really care for this program but unfortunately, it is his job to sell this vehicle to us. By the end of the LP at the GPF, it felt as if the music was eating him up – Rossini’s music is gorgeous and lively and by the time the overture started to play, I forgot to pay attention to the skating. (For those who haven’t heard the entirety of the overture to the Barber of Seville, I highly recommend you listen to it. The music itself just feels like a huge treat.)

 

Nonetheless, I’m not sure if Fernandez will really be threatened at least at the European Championships if he can pull out decent skates because I’ll make a second confession: in my head, I can’t really recall or tell the difference between Maxim Kovtun and Sergei Voronov. I just watched their programs and other than the windmill arms and uninspired skating, I can’t really remember much else.

Overall, I think the men at the GPF are likely to be the ones competing for a medal at Worlds later on this year. For those who are lower ranked (aka not Hanyu), they may want to capitalize on Hanyu’s lack of on ice time this season and really gear up for Worlds – they have a chance to win if our Olympic Champion doesn’t recover on time. If that is the case, then let’s pray that sad windmills do not a gold medal make.

Ladies

First off, I think the GPF has finally shown that Julia Lipnitskaia is not the girl that she was last year. It was strange because she started out strong in the SP. To me, it looked as if her jumps had improved since her last GP event – they looked higher, had more solid landings and the SP was perhaps the best I’ve seen her skate it so far.

Yet, Julia fell apart completely in the second half of her LP, leading her to place last in that portion of the competition. She fared worse at Russian Nationals where she later placed 9th overall. This season is over for Julia, which may be a good thing. I think the time will allow her to continue working on her jumps and maybe recover for next season.

Meanwhile, Lipnitskaia’s teammate, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was the surprise winner of the GPF. You know, I used to adore Tuktamysheva. When she started out, she had so much star power that she could get away with front-loaded programs or programs that lacked transitions. But then again, when her senior career started, I had hoped that she would slowly improve and use her star power to show all sorts of different emotions and gradually increase the complexity of her programs. Four years later, Liza is pretty much the same. She has recovered her jumps but she has the same angled lines used in the same contorted and not so pretty spin positions, same themes in her music, programs still empty. It’s a little hard to believe that a slightly washed out version of her junior-ish style is what we can consider some of the best skating today.

Still, Tuktamysheva faces some tough competition from Elena Radionova, who is in the same place that Liza was 4 years ago. A promising young skater with the “it” factor in spades. I hope that Elena develops as a skater and I hope that puberty treats her well. Elena had some major bobbles in her SP at the GPF but skated a lovely LP. Had she skated a clean SP, the results may have been different. Despite her silver at the GPF to Tuktamysheva, Radionova’s chances at the World gold have not diminished – Radionova indeed beat Tuktamysheva at Russian Nationals recently and the major showdown to see who is the top Russian lady going into Worlds will likely happen at Euros.

Aside from these two titans, another tough competitor vying for the title of World Champion this year was not at the GPF – in other words, Gracie Gold. Although Ashley Wagner managed to pull together a decent LP and snatch the bronze away, I would not be surprised if the USFSA shuns Wagner in favour of Gold at U.S. Nationals this year if Gracie is well enough to compete.

Pairs

This competition was very telling in that the ISU seems to have decided that technical ability will trump style this season. With their difficult programs, Duhamel & Radford won the competition with a decently sized margin between themselves and Stolbova & Klimov. I’m not sure if this sentiment will stay for Worlds but I like how Duhamel and Radford have set the technical bar high for pairs skating. I wonder if the field will attempt to catch up with them over the course of this Olympic cycle.

The GPF seems to also have re-established Sui & Han as the top Chinese pair, as they beat their teammates Peng & Zhang who took their Olympic spot last year. Perhaps that loss was a blessing in disguise as Sui & Han have come back stronger and more polished than before. Previously, the pair had been stagnating as their elements got sloppier and their style stayed juniorish. This year, we’re seeing a more mature and interesting team.

Overall, I think the GPF gives us a good idea that there are 2 top teams – if Volosozhar & Trankov come back in time for Worlds, that would definitely shake things up but it will be interesting to see who the World Champions will be this year in pairs. Although I’m not a fan of their style, I’m kind of rooting for Duhamel & Radford just so I can see figure skaters push the envelope on how difficult pairs skating can be.

Ice Dance

Without Cappellini & Lanotte, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje won with a sizable difference of 14 points between themselves and the silver medalists. My thoughts on this team are the same as they were throughout the season. Their programs, though not tacky are a little uninspiring this season compared to their previous work. As much as I love these two, I’m not sure how I’ll feel if they win with their Four Seasons FD.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates continue to bore me but their silver medal is an indication that North America is still considered to be an ice dance force even with the vacuum left by Virtue & Moir and Davis & White.

Perhaps the most interesting story here is the steady rise of Papadakis & Cizeron. This couple has lovely lines but I don’t see the precision or edge quality that I’m used to seeing at the top. The European Championships will definitely be an interesting competition. Cappellini & Lanotte must trump this new French team lest they get sidelined at the podium at Worlds this year. P&C look to be a rising force and right now, they have a good momentum going.

Overall, the top spot at the World Championships in ice dance may be a duel between the winners of the Four Continents and Euros.

What are your thoughts on the GPF or the state of this season’s figure skaters? Let me know in the comments?

~The Rinkside Cafe

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. themediocrityproject
    Jan 21, 2015 @ 22:57:21

    I’m loving the progress Weaver and Poje have made over the last couple seasons, especially in terms of the costumes and choreo. While I’m slightly underwhelmed by their programs this season, I think it’s still a good vehicle for them this season.

    Reply

  2. ay-sa
    Jan 22, 2015 @ 08:02:27

    I think Liza has improved in some aspects since four years ago! Her ice coverage for instance looks better (though it’s still not great) and she’s no longer skating tango programs anymore 😀

    Reply

  3. burdens
    Jan 22, 2015 @ 11:37:11

    Yuzuru’s LP this season was not choreographed by David Wilson. It was choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne.

    Reply

  4. Fuchsia G
    Jan 23, 2015 @ 02:15:42

    I agree on a lot of points with you:

    For the men I’m so glad Hanyu was able to give this kind of performances at the GPF although he wasn’t fully recovered yet. His SP took my breath away despite the fall. The FS was a very nice surprise (yes that 4S was sublime!) and very impressive on the technical side, although I’m sure the artistic side of the programme could be improved (it’s too bad he’s having such a difficult season and I’m not sure we will be able to see the full potential of both of his programmes at Worlds).
    Javier’s Barber kind of bugs me somehow because just like you I’m not sure he’s really ‘feeling’ it. I have the feeling he is going for something similar to his Chaplin’s FS but it’s just not working this time. He’s doing all the difficult transitions and going through the motions but it’s definitely not a FS to remember. I much prefer his one from last year actually.
    And Voronov is cute and entertaining but his programmes feel so bland and empty when compared to the two other medallists…

    For the Ladies I kind of really like Tuktamycheva’s SP but really don’t like her FS. I don’t know it just feels too mechanical. I much prefer Radionova and I’m really glad she won the Nationals. She really has something Tuktamycheva doesn’t have and with more polish she’ll definitely become someone to remember.

    I have no emotions whatsoever when I’m looking at Duhamel / Radford skate although I’m objectively quite impressed by their technical prowess. But to me skating is not only that.

    Finally I’m completely in love with Weavers and Poje’s both programmes and I’m really rooting for them at Worlds (I’ve never been such a great fan of Capellini / Lanotte anyway).
    I’ve had the chance to see the French pair live at the Bompard and they really have something that enchants the spectators right away. They need more work and polish that’s for sure but they could be a serious threat by the next Olympics.
    And yeah, Evan and Bates bore me to death too ^^

    Reply

  5. SuzyQ
    Jan 23, 2015 @ 11:12:56

    Actually, the part of surgery Yuzuru took was urinary remnant not bladder. It is reported that he left the hospital some days ago and has a strong intention to participate in the Worlds at the end of March. Fans are worried but we know at the same time that he will do as he wants considering his character.
    Please also check Japanese new stars; Shoma Uno, Sota Yamamoto and Wakaba Higuchi at JGPF. Thank you !

    Reply

    • rinksidecafe
      Jan 25, 2015 @ 22:38:24

      I was impressed with Shoma Uno a few years back and it looks like he’s steadily improving. Thanks for the heads up on some of the other up and coming skaters, I’m looking forward to seeing them skate!

      Reply

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