Four Continents 2015: Highlights and Recap

Ok! This is super late and I’m down to the wire in terms of my personal deadline for this post but hey, better late than never, right? For my lovely readers, thank you so much for your patience and support – it really does mean a lot to me! As for the recap and highlights – let’s get right to them!

Men

Denis Ten delivered two solid programs and while he did make a few bobbles in his LP, I found that I enjoyed that performance a lot more as it felt more unique to him rather than skating to a Patrick Chan knock-off program. Ten is still not as adept as Chan with his edgework (and admittedly, there are very few skaters who have that level of control over their blades), which shows when he skates to Chan-esque programs but I think these programs are challenging and will prepare him quite nicely for the stiffer competition for seasons to come.

Joshua Farris was a surprise podium finisher and I admit that he is talented. His skating reminds me of Jeremy Abbott at his best – smooth, intricate and elegant. However, I do feel that his SP does him a disservice as the music does not bring out the intricacies of the movements and makes the entire program look cheap.

Perhaps this is a bias that I have but then again, I think it’s a legitimate bias to consider but using popular music (and I’m using this in a “you will hear it on the radio” sense) as skating music could come as a disadvantage for the first few seasons as we have yet to dissociate this kind of music from the cheap thrills/sleepy programs in exhibition skates where skaters don’t really bring out any difficult elements or high quality skating. In any case, Joshua used a more classic warhorse – Schindler’s List – for his LP and while there were some lovely moments, as a whole the program felt like a meandering journey that went no where. Not my cup of tea, but I’m sure there were some who enjoyed it.

Han Yan has some of the loveliest jumps in the business and some wonderful step sequences but character programs are a huge weakness. He tries but I think Yan needs a dose of Kurt Browning’s charm to really make his programs work for him this season. Despite all of this and the mistakes, I did enjoy his “Fly Me to the Moon” LP, which is why I’ve marked it as the highlight for this competition.

Shoma Uno was my prediction for gold – mostly since I took a wild guess – and although he didn’t take the podium, I do see sparks of talent in his skating. Uno’s crossovers are strong and his jumps land deep in the knee, giving him a lovely long running edge when he lands. Overall, his technique reminds me a bit of Patrick Chan as well but he is expressive like Daisuke Takahashi, which I find to be a nice combination. I look forward to seeing this skater find himself in his skating.

Ladies

I think a lot of people – myself included – expected an American lady to win 4CC this year. However, it seems as if we all got the particular American lady wrong.

Gracie Gold was second after the SP despite singling her axel but similar mistakes in the LP hurt her score greatly despite having the highest PCS. The sad thing about Gracie’s skating this year is that mistakes or none, she is dreadfully boring to watch. There is nothing inherently wrong with the construction of her programs and Gracie looks as if she is committing to the best of her ability to performing these programs but there is a definite lack of sparkle quality in Gold’s performances this season and that is something her coaches need to take note of. Gracie’s packaging this season seems to be working to her disadvantage and going forward, that is something to avoid as the Olympic cycle gets more intense.

Taking advantage of the weak ladies field as well as Gracie Gold’s mistakes was Polina Edmunds. I’m still not quite sure what to make of Edmunds. This result has proven that going forward, she is a competitor to be considered in a budding field of ladies but all in all, there are a few things about her skating that makes me put a question mark over her future career. First of all is her jump technique – Edmunds telegraphs some of her jumps and her edges of on her flips are not always correct. Her rotation in the air is fast but I wonder if it will last once puberty sets in. My second issue with Edmunds has to do with her packaging – it’s not her fault but someone needs to make use of her long limbs. Her current programs don’t take into account her long lines and as a result, a lot of her arm movements look superfluous and frantic.

In terms of long limbs, Rika Hongo, despite other issues in her skating, shows some knowledge as to how to carry herself with long arms. Although Hongo’s posture is terrible, there are moments where she uses her arms to give a very grand effect as she transitions between elements. Overall, I found Hongo’s performances to be forgettable, especially since she used old musical warhorses for both programs. Neither of them were spectacular in any way choreography-wise and I think that Hongo, like Gold, needs to find her persona on ice.

Satoko Miyahara also has a bit of a “packaging” problem with her SP. The pouffes on her dress and the music make her look and feel junior-ish. This is a shame considering we know that she can skate with the maturity of a senior skater with her lovely program to Miss Saigon, which was, unfortunately not skated to perfection this time around. Miyahara looked tired and even fell on a 3Lz, giving perhaps the weakest performance of this program. Still, it was probably still the best piece of choreography of the night.

Pairs

By the power of sheer TES, Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford won this competition handily. Although Pang & Tong had comparable or higher PCS, the technical firepower of Duhamel & Radford may be too much for any team this season to beat. Nonetheless, I am still not a fan of their programs and no, they still have not and likely will not ever grow on me.

The performances from the Chinese team were wonderfully interesting in that I think we got a glimpse of the old guard of Chinese pairs skating and the future. Qing Pang & Jian Tong are still beautiful to watch. Technically, they may already be lagging behind some of the new teams but being the veterans, their performance quality, connection to each other and the music is breathtaking.

As for the younger teams, Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang defeated the veterans for the silver and I’m genuinely happy that they’ve found their stride once again after having a difficult season overall. It’s always wonderful to see Peng gain more and more confidence as she gets more mileage out of her partnership with Zhang – her ability to express the music is becoming more apparently after each competition. Overall, I find this team, as well as Wenjing Sui & Han Cong to be the teams representing the evolution from Pang & Tong. Both of these teams have started to tackle many of the weaknesses of former Chinese teams, namely, the lack of polish in the movements and the lack of unison in the SBS jumps and spins. I found that many of the Chinese teams in the past Olympic cycles relied heavily on getting the big “wow” elements – the throw jumps and the twist – to get ahead of the competition but these two young teams are showing a progression to a more complete package in pairs skating. The scores between 2nd and 4th were close and I think all of the Chinese teams skated decently well this competition.

Ice Dance

A few issues with their Paso Doble patterns threatened Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje‘s undefeated streak at 4CC but luckily, a solid performance of their Four Seasons FD led them to victory. I admit that I’m still not overly fond of this program, partly because the music is florid at times and Weaver & Poje don’t have the technical capability to express its speed and intricacy but all in all, I think this program has grown on me a little bit since the beginning of the season.

Comparatively, one team that continually fails to grow on me are silver medalists, Madison Chock & Evan Bates. I actually thought their SD was sharp and perhaps the best things they’ve skated to in a while. (Though their choreographer really needs to stop using music with cheering in it – it’s tacky and looks desperate.) Their FD, on the other hand was a bit bland and there’s only so much I can enjoy Madison’s acting before I get bored. Overall, I think this team has the technical ability to be at the top of the World podium, what they need, however, are programs that are engaging. Both partners have shown commitment to their programs for the last few seasons and although I can appreciate that, I think they have yet to find their style, somewhat like how Meryl and Charlie took a few seasons to find their fast, furious and dramatic style.

As for the Shibutani siblings, who won bronze here, I can’t help but feel as if these two are getting unfairly shafted in favour of other teams. These two have polish, unison and charm in spades and somehow, I haven’t seen much of an improvement technically or in terms of choreography in the last few seasons. Personally, I think that a change in coaches or choreographers may be good for these two, even if it’s just to avoid skating to another waltz. Being a sibling skating team is hard because you can’t rely on the romantic theme for your choreography but I think it’s a great opportunity to be creative, somewhat like Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz. Despite not being at the top echelons of ice dance at the moment, I think that the Spanish team has taken the lack of pressure on them as an advantage to produce unusual and memorable programs for the audience to enjoy while also developing their technical skills. At this point, I think that the Shibutanis should consider this route if they want to stay at the top of the ice dance world.

What were your highlights for Four Continents? And what do you think the Shibutani siblings should do? Or what do you think of Duhamel & Radford’s technical arsenal? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. burdens
    Mar 23, 2015 @ 00:40:37

    I think Shoma will never be like Patrick Chan. It’s not because he is not talented, but it’s a matter of physical body. Patrick developed his SS very early and he skates with weight, when you see Patrick live you can see and hear how his blade growl aggressively on the ice. Patrick can shift his weight on the blade to get the speed he wants. This means if you don’t have the same body (height/weight/muscle/power) as Patrick, it’s impossible to have the same level of skating skill. Patrick is Patrick, the best in SS and I don’t think there will be anyone soon who can touch his level.
    Shoma, on the other hand, has good edge but his tiny body is a huge disadvantage. He is fast but his ice coverage is not as good as some taller/younger skater like Sota Yamamoto. His jumps are small and landing not good, and air position is not pretty.

    Reply

    • rinksidecafe
      Mar 23, 2015 @ 19:14:44

      Agreed, I don’t think Uno will be another Patrick Chan but stylistically, his movements remind me of Chan, perhaps due to the way he interprets his choreography or just the choreography itself, somewhat like how Denis Ten has been packaged with Chan-esque programs (mostly likely due to Lori Nicholl) this season.

      Reply

  2. burdens
    Mar 23, 2015 @ 22:19:03

    I think Nathan Chen reminds me of Patrick more. He is kind of reversed. But Nathan is often injured, not to mention he pushes himself too hard at such young age.
    Uno reminds me of Daisuke (but he’s better than Dai at the same age). I am not warm up to Uno mostly because of his jumps, tiny and below average but still get good GOE which in my opinion is undeserved.

    Reply

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