Sad Farewell: Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy

I fear that I haven’t quite finished my goodbyes that began last season so here is another. Although Aliona is still planning to compete, this partnership is sadly over and to me, it’s a sad loss for the skating world.

savchenko szolkowy 2009I also have a personal story about Savchenko & Szolkowy from 2009. Back then, I was a humble student, living at home and doing my best to save money to ensure that I had a nest egg when I was out in the world alone and working my way up. The 2009/10 season was the Olympic year, however, and I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to watch some of my favourite skaters when they were competing in a town an hour away from where I was and I could get free lodging from a friend who was attending a university in the area. Nonetheless, I had to buy tickets and when the time came, I had to choose events that would maximize my experience at Skate Canada 2009 and yet not spend exorbitant amounts of money on them.

However, a misunderstanding came up and a friend ended up buying a ticket to events that I didn’t have tickets for – the dance OD and pairs LP. I didn’t want that friend to go alone so fellow friend and reader, Ay-sa (who came with me to that competition) and I decided to purchase one more ticket. I would go to the OD since I adore Tessa & Scott and she would go to the pairs competition since she was more partial to that event. It was nearing crunch time so both Ay-sa and I brought our homework so I could do a reading while the pairs event was happening. Alas, that was not meant to be since there was a TV in the lounge of the arena and I eventually got distracted as the last group came on the ice.

Up until the moment when Savchenko & Szolkowy took the ice, I was satisfied. As most of you would know, I am a Canadian with opinions that are rather unpopular with Canadians – Maria Murkhortova & Maxim Trankov had just trumped home-ice favourites, Jessica Dube & Bryce Davison and had that been the story at Skate Canada that year, I would’ve been satisfied with that particular competition. I was not a fan of Dube and Davison and Murkhortova & Trankov produced enough solid skating to warrant their victory… had they won. When Aliona & Robin took the ice with their new “Out of Africa” LP, it felt as if time stopped and something magical had unfolded in front of our eyes. A group of people were mesmerized in front of the television – so much so that Samuel Contesti, who had just come in crouched down to try and sneak past us without interrupting our reverie.

Savchenko & Szolkowy brought something that was beyond anything that had happened before them. I was more than satisfied with this competition, I was floored with them and that program. To this day, this remains one of my favourite pairs programs ever and in history, this was the first time a judge gave the 10.0 score in PCS.

I’m going to miss these two. They pushed the creative and technical envelope and I enjoyed watching them every season.

~The Rinkside Cafe

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Sad Farewell: Tatsuki Machida

It’s midway through the season and it seems as if I have to bid another sad adieu to a skater who was growing on me. After finishing 4th at the Japanese Nationals, 2014 World silver medalist, Tatsuki Machida announced his retirement from competitive figure skating to focus on his studies. (See this article and this article for details.)

Tatsuki Machida

For the longest time, I couldn’t quite take Machida seriously thanks to his Firebird program. The flapping bird-like motions were perhaps part of his interpretation of the music but it was also so cheesy. And cringeworthy. I was almost suffering from secondhand embarrassment from watching it.

However, I really began to respect Machida and what he was trying to do when I fell in love with his East of Eden program. The choreography was lovely and although the interpretation was a little overwrought, at least he was trying and being true to himself. In the end, I kind of accepted Machida’s attempts at being an artiste. He was like that kid in drama class who overacted and couldn’t naturally create a character that blended seamlessly into a story but at least he tried and kept trying to improve himself. And for that, I have to give him a ton of respect for putting himself out there.

Good luck in your studies, Machida-san. I’ll miss your exuberance and artistry on ice.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Sad Farewell: Brian Joubert

With the season over, I continue to bid sad farewells to some of the talented skaters who decided to retire after this season.

To me, Brian Joubert appeals to my girly side in that I don’t really find this skating or choreography appealing by itself (he had good jumps in his heyday) but his attractiveness does make the copious pelvic thrusts and smouldering looks in his programs somewhat acceptable in my books.

Brian Joubert

To me, Brian Joubert is something of a sentimental favourite. Even though I don’t like or understand the logic of the 6.0 judging system, Joubert back in his heyday reminds me of the skating men I admired back in my childhood: Yagudin, Plushenko and Browning. I’m not sure what it is about Joubert that brings back this nostalgia but it could be the focus on jumps and personality. Nowadays, many top skaters tend to take a self-effacing stance towards the media, which focuses on their hard-work and presents a generally “white-bread, down-to-earth good guy/girl” image. But not Joubert. Some of us interested in the skating world remember the Chan/Joubert spat that was overblown a few years ago and his programs for this past season, which were unapologetically easy in IJS standards but were full of his trademark crotch-grabbing sexiness. A nice farewell on his terms, I suppose.

No sex on ice here but it’s a quintessential “macho man” Joubert program. Enjoy!

What did you think of Brian Joubert and his skating or personality? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Sad Farewell: Akiko Suzuki

To start off, I thought I’d share this picture from this tweet:

otsukare akiko

The writing on the dessert plate says, “Otsukaresama deshita,” (pronounce it as if it were Spanish) an expression in Japanese said usually after the work day is done. It means something along the lines of, “It’s been a long and tiring day, Thank you for the hard work!” It has been a long career for Akiko Suzuki and I wish she never had to go. She simply gets better with age.

I actually have a bit of a personal story about Akiko, which I’ll include in this farewell. I attended Skate Canada 2009 where she competed and while I was waiting for one of the competitions to start, Akiko was literally two metres in front of me. I had just started paying attention to figure skating and though my friend (and reader), Ay-sa, suggested that I take a picture of her and get her autograph, I shrugged it off, a little shy to use my Japanese and also thinking that she was likely going to be a B-list skater for the season. Akiko didn’t do well at Skate Canada but lo and behold, she won her next Grand Prix assignment in the Cup of China. Once the GPF came around, I finally started to appreciate her West Side Story LP from that season and from then on, I have regretted, to this day, that I didn’t take a picture with her or get her autograph.

Season to season, she has dazzled me with her love of skating and she’s one of those rare skaters who will sell a program even if there are mistakes. I loved seeing her grow and I’m glad that she has a World medal in one of her accolades though we all know that bronze should’ve been a silver. As for the video for this post, I’ll leave you with my absolute favourite Akiko program, wonderfully choreographed and skated with absolute joy.

What will you miss about Akiko? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

 

A Very Confusing Farewell…

Elena Nikita 13 TEB FD

Yes. I have the right picture.

Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov made a big splash when they won the Junior World Championships in 2010 but they did not emerge as Olympic contenders until… well… Sochi. These two have had tons of ups and downs (Remember their “Ghost” FD? Actually, maybe we shouldn’t.) and I think we all cringed a little when Elena started dating Nikolai Morozov but whatever happened in the past, this year looked like their breakthrough season. With their Olympic bronze medal, it seemed as if Ilinykh & Katsalapov were going to be at the top of the world and if they stayed long enough and improved enough to fend off their competitors, they could be Olympic champions.

However, that is not to be. According to this article, Elena and Nikita are ending their partnership after the World Championships in Saitama this year. Nikita will be will be skating with Viktoria Sinitsina while Elena’s future is currently unknown. What a shock. This will also be good news for Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte. And Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje. And Bobrova & Soloviev.

In any case, I decided to post this video of their 2010 FD when people started buzzing about them and how they were going to be the next big thing in ice dance.

They might not win Olympic gold in the future but they might get the title of World Champions if all goes well for them this week.

Did this split shock you as much as it did me? Tell me in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Sad Farewell: Nobunari Oda

The Japanese single skaters have made their mark in the last two Olympic cycles. The depth in single skating in Japan is so impressive that we knew that the world will be deprived of 1 or 2 great skaters from both the men and ladies discipline when they made their Olympic team. Even with the maximum 3 berths for the men and the ladies, it was not enough to contain all of the talent in those disciplines from this country.

One skater who retired from the scene quietly before the Olympics was Nobunari Oda – the direct descendant of a famous Japanese warlord who initiated the initiation of the unification of Japan in the Warring States period. In his career, Oda wasn’t a charismatic performer like his fellow teammate, Daisuke Takahashi but Oda’s strengths came in his jumps and his knees. He landed jumps smooth as butter with a gorgeous running back outside edge.

I think my favourite program for Oda is still his Charlie Chaplin LP from the 2009/2010 season. It was a program that showed off his strengths and allowed his fun personality to shine.

I want to limit each of these farewell posts to one video each but I think I have to share this bonus with everyone. I mean, it’s Mario. And figure skating. Done well.

I’m sad to see you go, Nobu.

Which programs did you enjoy from Nobunari Oda? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Sad Farewell: Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat

As each Olympic cycle ends, the exodus of skaters begins as many competitors announce their retirement from competitive figure skating. As a result, I decided to create this series of posts bidding teams and skaters farewell. Each post will feature what I think was the best program of their career and maybe a few anecdotes on them. In the comments below, I highly recommend fans to input a nice farewell message. (I’ll tweet the post to them if they there are any messages!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My first memory of Nathalie & Fabian was back in 2009 when I started to get back into figure skating after watching Tessa & Scott’s “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” FD. My first impression of them weren’t that favourable: I stumbled upon their FD which started with the theme from “Life is Beautiful” which then became a circus. I was so confused. The same feelings came to me when I saw their Alice in Wonderland/Requiem for a Dream FD. It took me a while but I realized that these two were really creative and tried to push the envelope in their choreography. Their programs were unique and memorable, though I guess I’m not avant garde enough to appreciate all of them. I also met them briefly in 2009 and found that they were really nice to fans. I offered my pen to Nathalie for an autograph without realizing she was going into a room to see the media. When she came back out from the press conference, she came up to me and she and Fabian signed my little notebook.

As for my favourite program of theirs, I’d have to say that I really enjoyed their “Le Petit Prince et sa Rose” program. I think this program packaged the team well – it was unique and creative (no overused music here) with so many emotions as we went along with them on their interstellar journey.

Personally, I would’ve given them the Olympic bronze medal but alas, the Olympics were in Russia.

Nathalie and Fabian, we’re going to miss the creativity you brought to the competition.

~The Rinkside Cafe