Debrief: Grand Prix Final – Part II

stolbova klimov 15 gpf lp

Alright! It’s time for part II of the Grand Prix Final debrief with the pairs and ice dance competition! I apologize for the lateness but better late than never? These posts remind me why I usually do a “State of the Union” post after the GPF but it seems this season, my tardiness has some benefits. I believe some of the results at Nationals may be a little more telling than what transpired at the GPF so… I will do a 4CC predictions post but all my thoughts on the outcomes of Euros and 4CC and some of the national competitions will be summed up in a State of the Union post.

As for Worlds… well, I have a bit of a surprise which I think I will reveal a little later in the season. But first, GPF debrief! Let’s go!

Highlights

Still one of the most compelling SDs this season.

This free dance gets better and better each time.

Pairs

  • Biggest surprise of the competition: Duhamel & Radford’s win streak finally broke thanks to Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov. I’m not sure how the Russian Federation will deal with this major development as well as the return of Volosozhar & Trankov.
  • I’m also pretty sure that Ksenia willed themselves to victory. That look of cold concentration on her face throughout both programs says it all. They skated flawlessly with that razor sharp precision I’ve known them for but I’ll admit, without a redeeming element like that surprise throw 3S at the end of their long program, their performances are a little soulless for me this season.
  • Duhamel & Radford and Kavaguti & Smirnov’s SPs have both given me an epiphany. There are a lot of good songs with lyrics out there but some of them are not meant for skating – not because they’re bad songs, have bad lyrics or because they’re badly sung (a huge pet peeve of mine) but because when played out in a giant skating rink, they have a tinny timbre and they end up sounding like elevator music or they take that bad quality tone that comes with music that is played when you’re being put on hold while calling your least favourite company because of a billing dispute.
  • As for Duhamel & Radford, they showed some weakness, especially in their SP at the GPF and they were having trouble with their 3Lz, both the SBS and throw versions in both programs. Both Russian teams outpaced them in the PCS and without a flawless performance, the judges are finding it easier to deny them the gold. As much as a few friends mourned D&R World Championship status last year, I know that I was right not to as the outcomes that I’m seeing are beginning to come into fruition. Other teams have really started upping their game, adding more difficult elements into their programs and although either Russian team on the podium aren’t known for a great style or flair in their skating, they’ve proven that D&R aren’t infallible and the doors to the World gold medal have opened once again to all teams willing to combine even higher levels of athleticism into their art.
  • Kavaguti and Smirnov’s LP was interesting as always but major falls in the SBS jumps definitely cost them the silver. But any of you reading this blog would know that I adore that LP so enough of that. Let’s talk about their short. That SP makes me feel as if I’m being put on hold because my internet isn’t working. Just like how their chemistry isn’t working in this program. The two and a half minutes of this SP are complete and total agony. Seriously, we know that their coaching team can do better than that.
  • OMG JULIANNE SEGUIN, PLEASE POINT YOUR TOES. Seguin & Bilodeau is one of those teams that make you forget it’s a competition. It’s so clear that they skate with so much joy that you can’t help but smile. But once you notice that Seguin doesn’t point her toes, it’s the only thing you notice. She doesn’t have the long limbs that allows for long graceful lines but there are moments where it’s clear that she lacks extension and those little details that would make her look taller and longer. Overall, I’d like to see this team work on their skating skills, polish and adding more transitions into their program but they should still be very proud of a 4th place finish at the GPF.
  • When I watch Yu & Jin, I have vague memories of the best of Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov – the lines, their presence. I’ve said this before, but Yu & Jin carries themselves like a Classical Russian team. They move beautifully across the ice when they’re on but they’re struggling with their big tricks. I’m glad that they’re trying riskier elements this season because if this is their off season, I’ll be excited to see what they look like when they’re on top of their game.
  • Confession: I’m not really sold on Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim’s style. However, they’re more palatable in my opinion than Duhamel & Radford and I appreciate what they’re trying to do. They skate with attack and they’re an American team that are able to consistently execute difficult elements like the quad twist. It was a pity that they didn’t skate a good LP but being an American team in the GPF is quite the feat.
  • I’m probably in the unpopular camp where I actually like Peng & Zhang. Yes, there is a huge age difference but they’ve come really far, especially Peng and I love watching her grow into a more confident skater each season. However, a few things are really hampering them this season. Namely 1) their programs are a little bit of a snooze-fest 2) their chemistry has gone a little flat and they need to find a way to improve that 3) they’ve upped their game technically but have yet to attain perfect execution of their elements, especially when Peng loses all confidence after a mistake. All in all, I don’t think this is their season to shine. They’ll need the freshness of the new season – with new programs, packaging and more experience – to really establish themselves as a top skating team, which I think is possible but will require a lot of work.

Ice Dance

  • Whenever I watch Weaver & Poje’s FD, all I can think is: What kind of f**ery is this??? Honestly, this FD conjures up images of an art student’s “avant garde” black and white film of a montage of a dead leaf on the ground, followed by a shot of a window looking out to a stormy prairie (with a few shaky static bits to make it look vintage, of course), then cut to an old woman sleeping while rocking herself in a rocking chair, followed by shots of inanimate objects in gloomy lighting. Actually, why don’t I make this video and put it in Nuit Blanche. It can’t be as bad as some of the things that’s been there before. Either way, I’ll admit that Weaver & Poje have improved technically since last season. They’re starting to gain some of that much need polish by completing their movements, they skate closer together and their unison has improved as well. I’m just disappointed in their programs. They used to be artsy and unique but in the best way possible and the thought of having them win Worlds with this program is depressing. Just like their FD.
  • Cappellini & Lanotte were back on track to be European championships here at the GPF. Technically, I think they’ve gone back to the level where they were when they won Worlds but for now, I feel as if their hold on the European title is tenuous at beat. Their coaching team looks like they’re trying to re-create that magic of their World Championship year but I’m not sure if it’s completely successful. Their SD feels like sensory overload – it’s so cluttered with movement (at times sloppily executed complete with reckless arm waving) and the upbeat music with the cymbals contribute to that. Their FD is fun but compared to the Shibutani’s programs, there’s an unnatural quality about them, that’s partly fueled by the vapid smiles throughout the program. Maybe it’s just me but the joy they express in their skating just doesn’t feel organic, which is distracting.
  • I have discovered a way to make Chock & Bates more palatable to me: just watch their feet. When you do, all you notice are their lovely edges and their smooth skating. Once your eyes wander upwards, however, you just get absorbed into an awkward and cheesy performance that you inwardly cringe at. Technically, I think this team are at the top of their game, what they’re missing is their voice. They have yet to find a style that really clicks with them and makes them likeable to the audience. Seriously, I am not sure how they made some epic music so boring at times. They may have also noticed that they didn’t get standing ovations the way the Shibutanis did. It’s a pity because they do have a few great moments in their programs like the way they timed the first lift in their FD to the music. There were some well-executed and smart choreographic choices. Too bad you forget all of them when you get a bit brain numb from watching them.
  • The Shibutanis didn’t medal or defeat Chock & Bates here but there were already signs that C&B’s reign was tenuous at best. In the free dance, the Shibutanis scored only 0.10 below their teammates (probably since Madison messed up one of the twizzle sequences) and their PCS scores were pretty close. The Shibsibs had some timing issues in their SD but had they done better in that regard, I wouldn’t be surprised if the difference between them and their main rivals at Nationals would’ve been closer. The biggest victory for them here, though, was their ability to win over the crowd. I think it’s really hard to deny the joy you feel when you watch skaters just put out a performance that they genuinely enjoy and the crowd responded to that. Now that we know the results of U.S. Nationals, I’ll make a confession: I really want them to be the World Champions this year. Being on home ice won’t hurt their chances either.
  • I suppose it was a feat that Bobrova & Soloviev managed to get to the GPF after sitting out a season due to injury. Now that I think of it, it was a miracle that they managed to be anything but last place considering their slapdash skating. There were times where Bobrova looked as if she was being tossed around like a sack of potatoes and not only in the lifts. The team was able to skate fast and furiously but it looked obvious that they were cutting a lot of corners in their presentation, polish and transitions. The dramatic programs helped a little to hide their flaws but drama can only do so much when your posture is terrible and your skating is sloppy.
  • Despite their ranking here, I want Hubbell & Donohue to feel proud of themselves. Under Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon, I think they’ve found a style that really suits them and they’re starting to be a very compelling team now that they’ve found their voice. That fall in the FD really hurt their scores but let’s hope they move on. I’d like to see them skate with more speed and get deep into their knees for those deep edges and have them skate a little closer together in their closed holds. Overall, I think they’re on the right track.

Anyways, what did you think of the pairs and ice dance competition at the GPF? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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