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. More

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Mid-Season Favourites

I won’t bother typing a post for the roster for the GPF because there’s a wikipedia page for that. It has a pretty table and a more effective and succinct way of showing you all you need to know. Instead, I’ll write a post on my favourite programs of the season this far since the majority of skaters have shown us what vehicles they want to use to propel them to the top.

kavaguti smirnov sa 2014 lp

Men

Yuzuru has yet to perform this program clean in competition but I loved this program since I saw it in exhibition form so I will put this as my favourite SP of the season so far. I adore the use of spread eagles and just the slow and graceful pace of the choreography. Yuzuru and Jeff Buttle are just magic together.

I’m not a huge fan of when coaches try to get skaters to skate like others but I find this combination of Kazakh pride with Patrick Chan-esque intricate transitions compelling. Although memorable is a double-edged word (certain terrible things can be just as memorable and good things), I think that this program has the potential to be memorable in a pleasant sense.

Ladies

I like this program mostly since I do think that it does well to combine the natural personality of the skater with the music and the choreography, despite the mistakes. I do hope that Zijun skates this to its full potential and doesn’t give up midway through after a huge mistake. There are a lot of beautiful soft moments in this program that I think she can perform very well so I will wait until that time comes.

Without a doubt, my favourite long program of the season is Satoko Miyahara’s Miss Saigon LP. Just watch it.

Pairs

I like the mystery and introverted quality of this program and I think that this team has what it takes to do it justice. It may not be the most stunning thing ever but it’s definitely a lot more interesting than most of the programs out there.

The angst. The drama. The stomping. The throw quad salchow. This program is so epic. Tamara Moskvina is a genius.

Ice Dance

I’ve been less than impressed with a lot of the flamenco SDs this season and I’m not sure why. Most of them have been underwhelming or the costumes are too distracting or that nothing really shines through. Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz have an SD that gives a good flamenco flavour without it being too cheesy, which is why it makes this list.

I try not to pick the same skater or team for my favourites list but this is hands down my favourite FD of the season so far. This dance can so easily get cheesy but somehow this love theme and the choreography works, flowing smoothly from one type of love to the next. I really love how this team pushes the boundaries every season with really creative programs.

What have been your favourite programs this season so far? Let me know in the comments!

Cup of China 2014: Highlights and Recap

I apologize for the delay for this post. I was busy all weekend with friends out of town so it’s taken a while to get some time for myself and write this post.

xiaoyu yu yang jin 14 coc lp

First of all, I think I should say that I did take a look at the results over the weekend and when I did, I was in utter shock. There are times when I don’t mind being wrong with my predictions but for the most part, I’m a little miffed that my predictions are wrong, mostly because the results and the skating last weekend was a complete clusterf*** with very few highlights. Expect another cranky post though I tried really hard to be less cranky this time. More

Skate Canada International 2014: Highlights and Commentary

satoko miyahara 14 sc lp

I was away Saturday evening, meaning I missed some of the competitions that happened in the evening but I have caught up and I’m ready to blog! I will not be silenced! Skate Canada was slightly better than Skate America in that there was more than one highlight. Otherwise, there was still a lot of mindless choreography, strange music cuts and random lyrics that brought nothing to the program.

Men

The story last weekend for the men was a continuation of what happened in Skate America: without Daisuke’s starpower to overshadow them, the lower ranked Japanese man of seasons past – Takahito Mura – brought his A-game, threw down the gauntlet and showed everyone that he was a force to be reckoned with by winning gold. Sadly, Mura did skate to the Phantom of the Opera with haphazard music cuts. Mura does have lovely jump technique but I’d like to see him skate to a non-warhorse. But, in any case, here’s another Japanese man I can’t underestimate in my predictions for the rest of the season.

Javier Fernandez, who was leading after the short skated a frantic and mistake-filled long. Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” is a beautiful and energetic opera (and I am so excited to see it live in Spring of 2015) but his choreographer seemed to create very frenetic moments in the program that prevent Javier from showcasing his skating ability and charming personality. His SP is slightly better though it does feel a little like Yuzuru’s record breaking SP. Javier brings a lot of charm and smoulder to this program to make it his but there’s a niggling feeling inside me that tells me that Javier could do better than this.

As for bronze medalist, Max Aaron, well, he skated. I was not enthused about his Gladiator LP. Neither were a few of my Twitter followers. ‘Nuff said.

Ladies

Anna Pogorilya, successfully defended her Skate Canada title against Ashley Wagner. Pogorilaya’s technical elements score was a key factor in her victory and understandably so. Her flat interpretation (complete with a lack of facial expressions) of her Firebird LP felt frenetic and rushed and the music and the music cuts didn’t quite help. Wagner on the other hand, sold her programs… as Michelle Kwan. From the opening double axel to the flat fingered arm movements, everything Wagner did on ice was reminiscent of the Kween in terms of choreography. That might sound good on paper but let’s remember this from last season:

ashley-wagner meme face
Ashley was an internet meme for her no bullshit personality and even though I’m not partial to her skating, this is what I like best about Ashley Wagner. She has a personality. It’s a strong one that not everyone might like (though that’s true for everyone) and she’s not an ice princess but she’s her. While Gracie Gold was being neatly packaged in preparation for the next Olympic cycle in Sochi, Ashley decided to skate programs that fit her – she was not a blushing Juliet but a powerful Delilah. That is what I like about her – that’s not Michelle Kwan but herself through and through. In fact, in this sense, I feel as if she’s more likeable than Gracie Gold, who I don’t really know anything about. Who is she beyond that neatly manicured image of her? We’re certainly not going to know with the way that she’s packaged this season.

Moving on, I think the highlight of the ladies competition for me was Satoko Miyahara. I’m not fond of her SP, especially the costume but her LP was interesting. In terms of choreography, it’s not amazing but she sells this program so well that it doesn’t even feel like she’s selling you anything. The bonus? Her speed and how I am so fascinated by her jumps. They don’t gain much height but they’re generally solid and she lands them with a beautiful running edge. Of course, I don’t doubt that she has issues with under-rotation but her landings are a thing of beauty.

Pairs

I know that I’m already not that popular with Canadian readers, probably because I’m Canadian and refuse to drink the CBC pro-Canadian cool-aid but I fear that what I have to say will make me even less popular. I am trying to like Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford, I really am. I really like how they’re trying to push pairs skating into trying more difficult elements like side by side triple lutzes and quad throw salchows but beyond these big tricks, I don’t really feel anything when I watch this team. (I’m not even sure if that’s better or worse than the exasperation and dread I feel when I watch Volosozhar & Trankov skate to Evanescence/other emo music.) Maybe it’s the choice of music (I’m really not fond of their song for the SP) or maybe it’s just that they’re more skaters and less performers but they’re missing that magical spark. Maybe it’s just me and I have no soul but beyond the fact that they’re throwing out huge tricks, I’m not really as fascinated with these two as the rest of Canada.

I’ll mention Evgnia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov before I talk about the highlight of the pairs competition, who I thought had lovely classic Russian lines. I’m not completely taken with them but I’m curious to see how they develop. These two emote well on the ice and their skating is decently solid that I would earmark them as a team with potential. Another team with potential I’d like to point out is Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage – although Madeline skates with a lot more polish than her partner (she finishes her movements, has better lines and general skating skills), I really love the energy these two bring on the ice.

As for my highlight for the pairs competition, that honour goes to Wenjing Sui & Cong Han. Honestly, I had to a degree, written these two off after their rough season last year, which is why I predicted they’d win the bronze rather than the silver. However, it seems as if Sui & Han really took their loss of a trip to the Olympics to heart and revamped their skating technique. Since last season, they seem more together, their movements look more controlled and they look as if they’ve gained a little more consistency than before. Sui & Han feel like Takahashi & Tran during their peak but with a little more maturity and I am so excited to watch them skate their LP again. There’s a subtle drama to it and I think it’s a wonderful vehicle for them to showcase how they’ve grown.

Ice Dance

paul rubens hippopotamus hunt

I’m still waiting for an ice dance team to really shine this season but again, the season has just started. But still… there has to be one memorable Paso Doble SD and I’m still struggling to think of one I actually remember. As for the teams, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje won easily though their FD may need to be reworked. If you know anything about art history in the Baroque period, you’d know that this period in art was known to be florid and ornate in order to produce art that was very dramatic and grand. (See above, Peter Paul Rubens’ Hippopotamus Hunt.)

Vivaldi’s music, including The Four Seasons¬†was born during this art period. Though beloved by many, The Four Seasons is a piece of music with a lot of details, which might not be easily paired with ice skating, a sport based on long gliding movements. Skaters such as Alexei Yagudin have used parts of this music successfully in the past but they seemed to have limited themselves to one season. Weaver & Poje’s ambitious program seeks to cut music from all four seasons together and from what I’ve seen, I’m not sure if it works. The program overall looks rushed and the movements don’t feel coherently tied together. Overall, this program is a little like their statue program from a few seasons back, a little rough in its first iteration though this time, I’m not very fond of its first iteration as I was with Humanity in Motion.

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier surprised me with a charming FD. I quite like that rotational lift with Piper in a standing position and overall, they’re already miles ahead of what Vanessa Crone & Paul used to be.

Anyways, I’m finished writing. What about you? What did you think of Skate Canada? Let me hear your opinions in the comments!

~Rinkside Cafe

Skate America 2014 – Highlight and Commentary

Last weekend was Skate America, the first senior Grand Prix event and somehow an event that made me regret the spectacular Olympics that was Vancouver 2010.

Why do I mention Vancouver 2010 now, do you ask? Well, Vancouver was an exceptional Olympics, figure skating curses were broken and a whole lot of talent competed. Some triumphed while others were left hungry and hungry enough to stay for another 4 years. However, once that next cycle was over, all of those talented, hungry skaters left, leaving a huge void that clearly showed last weekend.

kavaguti smirnov sa 2014 lp

I’ll tell it to you straight: I was bored during 98% of Skate America. So be warned, I’m not going to have a lot of nice things to say here. More

The Dark Side of Figure Skating Fandom

I’m actually trying to start another post on the issues of the ladies Olympic event but I feel that before I fuel the discussion even further, I should put out this post because there are truly some alarming things going on in figure skating fandom since the Olympics.

I think what makes this sport really special is how skaters can inspire such great feelings in their fans. Their programs give us a glimpse of their acting ability or their personality and because of that, we love them. We’ve seen Daisuke Takahashi fans coordinate their efforts around the world so that a green and white “Go Daisuke!” banner follows him and supports him wherever he goes. We’ve seen fans send messages of love and support when competitors go through hard times and we ourselves may have gone to a competition or show to see our favourite skaters, only to be rendered speechless and shaking when we hand them a pen and shyly ask for their autograph. The dedication of the figure skating community is truly a lovely thing to behold and I think we need to remember these positive feelings that the skaters give us and we give in return.

However, as we all know, love and hate are two sides of the same coin and when great rivalries arise in figure skating, the passion for the skater and the venomous loathing for their rivals comes out of the woodwork as well. Of course, we all have certain styles and skaters we dislike but I think we need to make sure that we criticize the skating or the judging with well-reasoned arguments and productive discussion. I hope that I have done this in the past and I will have this in mind as I continue to write for this blog.

Skating is an inexact science – they’ve tried to control subjectivity with the IJS but sometimes, the judges do abuse the system to inflate marks or sometimes, it really comes down to the subjective issues of the kind of art you prefer. HOWEVER…

Hating on a competitor just because you like their rival shows that you’re a fan. When you’re a fan, it automatically means that you have a bias towards your favourite. However, if you have good reasons supported by evidence on why your favourite is better, you’ve shown an understanding of the rules, the sport as well as the progress and limits of your favourites. At the same time, it allows for a discussion and invokes the art of persuasion and when done respectfully, I think it shows some of the best of the human spirit – logic, reasoning, eloquent writing or speech and intellect.

Pure hatred towards competitors on the other hand, is toxic and is just hurtful to competitors who have worked very hard for results that have been given to them by judges. Let me repeat that again: their scores were given to them by the judges. They had to deliver a product (aka their programs) and their scores are at the mercy of technical specialists who may or may not decide to reward them for their elements and judges who may or may not like their artistic styles.

So when you disagree with a result, there is no need to hate on the skaters themselves because they have done nothing wrong. They simply went out there to give it their best.

With that being said, let me be clear:

  • It is NOT APPROPRIATE at all to send death threats to competitors on social media because you dislike the results. (And yes, unfortunately, this has happened during this Olympic cycle. Also, it’s not appropriate to send people death threats ever. I mean, did I seriously need to spell that out?)
  • If you think the judging was unfair, it is crucial that you¬†provide reasons and evidence on why and how the judging was unfair.
  • More than likely, you don’t know these people all that well and even if you did, personal attacks on their appearance or personality are hurtful and has nothing to do with their skating.
  • Just saying that someone is better or worse without giving a reason is unhelpful. No one knows if your answer is fueled by nationalism, fandom or knowledge of the sport.
  • When you spew all this negativity on behalf of a skater, you’re in the process of making a bad name for the fans for that competitor. Anyone who’s been a fan of skating in the last two Olympic cycles know about Yunabots and Maobots. They bring drama and negativity that discourages people from declaring that they’re fans in fear of being associated with them and we want people to love the sport and its competitors, not the opposite.

So everyone, let’s be positive and smart figure skating fans. When we talk about results, we want to sound smart to show that we know their own rules and how those rules were not followed by the judges. That way, the ISU can’t brush off our opinions as being nationalistic or fandom-fuelled.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Rick Mercer Spoofs the World of Figure Skating

I enjoy following politics and sometimes, you can only digest what’s going on in the government with the help of people like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and in Canada, Rick Mercer. Mr. Mercer has a great youtube channel where he uploads entire segments of his show and this week, this showed up in my subscriptions page:

In the video, Rick Mercer’s skit touches on a few facets of figure skating that puzzles Olympic viewers and devoted figure skating fans alike. Consequently, I thought I’d go back into a Skating 101 mode and talk about a few of the things that he mentions in the video. For hard-core figure skating fans, you probably know this and if you have anything to add, please share your insights in the comments. For those who aren’t as familiar with these ideas, please read and share! More

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