Predictions: Skate America 2016

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Yes, I know, competition has started. And I haven’t written about Worlds at all. At school, they never teach you that adulting is hard. So many demands for my time so I will keep this short. I should try to correct my rambling writing style anyways.

Men

  • Shoma Uno will be hungry to redeem himself at Worlds. He was crying at the kiss and cry (it was so heartbreaking). I think we all knew that he could’ve been the World bronze medalist.
  • Strange. I thought Boyang Jin was supposed to have gone to Frank Carroll for coaching but I don’t see that on his ISU bio. Wonder what happened. Either way, I hope he’s worked on his skating skills during the off season.
  • Dear Skating Gods – I’m not asking for much. I’ll take boring programs over the secondhand embarrassment I felt watching Maxim Kovtun’s programs from last year.
  • I also hope that Jorik Hendrickx doesn’t put the entire speaking track of a movie in his music this year. Actually, maybe for entertainment value, he should. I had a good laugh over it though my seat neighbours in Boston probably thought I was being creepy.
  • Home ice advantage should favour Jason Brown. Unless he bombs and Adam Rippon does well. Who knows, who needs skating skills and fully rotated jumps when home ice advantage can win you a silver medal? (I’ll admit that I’ve leveled that barb unfairly at the men – both Brown and Rippon have good skating skills.)

Gold: Shoma Uno
Silver:
Boyang Jin
Bronze:
Jason Brown

Ladies

  • I feel as if I will have to lower my expectations for Mao as she tries to find her step again, as Carolina did after two disastrous Olympic cycles. Ganbare, Mao-san!
  • You should probably be able to discern my feelings on Ashley Wagner’s World silver medal. Regardless of how I feel, the home ice advantage comment should apply here too.
  • Someone give Gracie Gold programs she actually likes. Firebird was frankly worse live and she looked miserable skating to it. The field is pretty thin here so I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to give 2 medals to the American ladies here.
  • I admit I wached Mai Mihara’s SP for the competition. She lacks musicality, which is to be expected of someone so young but she skates with so much speed and she lands her jumps really smoothly. I’m impressed.

Gold: Ashley Wagner
Silver:
Mai Mihara
Bronze:
Gracie Gold

Pairs

  • Huh. I feel like I should just pick out 3 teams whose names seem familiar and make that my prediction. The field is really, really thin at Skate America this year.

Gold: Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov
Silver:
Julianne Seguin & Charlie Bilodeau
Bronze:
Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres

Ice Dance

  • The ice dance competition should look like USA vs. Russia with two sets of teams for each country.
  • The Shibutanis should be able to win this with the home ice advantage. I hope they continue in the same vein as last year – as in they have programs really suit them.
  • I would like to see what progress Hubbell & Donohue have made, though I feel as if I have a fondness for this team because of Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon (who I hope will be the new rulers of ice dance – I am ready for the end of the reign of Queen Marina).
  • I really hope that Ruslan Zhiganshin has really stepped up his game this season. It would be a pity for Elena Ilinykh’s talent to go to waste. She alone is better than Bobrova & Soloviev but unfortunately, ice dance doesn’t work that way.

Gold: Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani
Silver:
Elena Ilinykh & Ruslan Zhiganshin
Bronze:
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue

What are your predictions for Skate America 2016? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Debrief: Cup of China 2015

boyang jin

Well… most of my predictions went out the window last weekend. But what can I say? Ice is slippery and besides, at least we got a lot of great skating from it! Here are some highlights and some random comments here and there on the Cup of China. Feel free to jump in and add your own thoughts in the comments! More

Predictions: Cup of China 2015

xiaoyu yu yang jin 14 coc lp

Wow! I had seriously forgotten how fast-paced the GP series is! With the time difference, I hope that this post makes it in time before the competition starts. Either way, this was written before the competition starts so onward we go with predictions! May they be just as good as they were last week. Though now I think I’ve jinxed myself. More

World Championships 2015: Ice Dance

papadakis cizeron 15 fdI apologize for the lateness of this post. I realize it’s been about a month and a half since the World Championships but hey, better late than never, right? Let’s get to it, shall we? More

European Championships 2015: Highlights and Recap

kavaguti smirnov euros 2015 spThe World Championships are looming ahead and I finally have time to sit down and catch up. First up: Euros. Let’s get right down to business, shall we? More

Predictions: Cup of China 2014

Zijin Li 12 lp

The Grand Prix season is well underway and with the huge time different and personal commitments this weekend, I’m afraid livestreaming will not be possible. I will, however, do my best to catch up to all the competitions as fast as I can so that I can give you a recap/highlight post early next week. However, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves and make the predictions first. More

More Details on the Ilinykh/Katsalapov Split

So sometime before Worlds this season, the shocking news that Olympic bronze medalists, Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov were going to split. (I mentioned this in this post.) There were some whispers that these might have been rumours (I’ve even heard that it was a rumour perpetuated by Marina Zueva for some strange reason) but months have passed and it seems that the split is official. Nikita is going to skate with Victoria Sinitsina while Elena seems to be training with Ruslan Zhiganshin, Victoria’s former partner.

elena ruslan

More photos of Ilinykh/Zhiganshin in practice can be found here.

So far, media reports (such as this one here) have quoted Elena saying that Nikita was responsible for initiating the split while she was against the idea. Apparently, Nikolai Morozov is not coaching either of the new teams but it is rumoured that Sinitsina and Katsalapov’s test skate with Marina Zueva has gone well and she will be their new coach. (When definite sources emerge, I will post links.) From the photos, it seems as if Yelena Kustarova is Ilinykh/Zhiganshin’s new coach.

Things are bound to clear up in the future so stay tuned to this new skating drama!

What do you think of these new partnerships and the split? Do you have more info or sources you can enlighten us with? If so, tell us 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

Favourite Programs of the 2013/2014 Season

It’s that time again! The Grand Prix events are over save the final and that means that we’ve seen most of the programs for this season! I have to say, I’m very impressed with the programs this season as the skaters have stepped it up to bring their A-game to the Olympics.

I’ll start off the post with a special mention since there’s usually a picture after this introduction blurb. The special mention goes to Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi for their programs – both the SD and FD. In terms of choreography, they’re nothing remarkable but there’s something unique about taking the storyline of the SD and continuing in the FD. I think this team knew they probably weren’t going to win a lot of important events but I’m glad they took this creative risk. Kudos for that!

zhiganshina gazsi 2013 sdfd

Now, onto my favourite programs of this season by event…

Men’s Short Program: Daisuke Takahashi, Sonatina for Violin in C-sharp Minor

This program does feel a little front-heavy but this clean performance and Daisuke’s commitment to the program shines through and by the time he does his step sequence, I forget all about that. After a year of disappointing programs and performances by Daisuke, this was a breath of fresh air and I’m glad this program shows off what he does best: his musicality and expression. That crisp quad toe and triple axel definitely helped the flow of this program as well.

Men’s Long Program: Han Yan, Gourmet Valse Tartare & The Blue Danube

None of the men’s programs really stood out for me in terms of choreography but I did like the light and airy quality of this program and how Yan was able to carry it out.

Special mention: Han Yan’s short program. I didn’t know that he was capable of such edginess. I swear his movements and expression were almost Daisuke-esque.

Ladies Short Program: Elena Radionova, Anna Karenina soundtrack & Two Steps from Hell

I can’t tell you how impressed I was with this program and this young lady when I first saw her skate this at the Nebelhorn Trophy. Just, wow. You can see just how much power and edge control she has within the first minute and it’s hard to believe that a 14 year-old can carry this music right until the end. You can’t take your eyes off her and this isn’t easy music to skate to. Subdued, quiet and yet very elegant, Elena skates to this music with a quiet strength that belies her age. What I love about this program is how the elements are woven in seamlessly and you forget you’re watching a program choreographed to gain points from judges. I seriously watched and re-watched this program after I found it and I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

Ladies Long Program: Mao Asada, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2

Mao hasn’t skated this program perfectly this season but I love this program because it shows off the best of Mao: the talent and the growth. The elements flow well into each other and there are all these complicated transitions that Mao does as if they were child’s play – the pseudo-spin into the camel spin, the footwork into the 3F at the beginning… Mao skates them as smooth as butter. There’s a strength and athleticism from her that we haven’t seen as much before and you can just see that her crossovers and strokes carry her faster and farther. Mao’s also shown that her musicality has improved- that upper body movement in the first three seconds and the darker tone of the music are expressed a lot better and without any awkwardness like in her “Bells of Moscow” LP in Vancouver. Mao’s journey has been one of growth and improvement and I wish her the very best this season.

Pairs Short Program: Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang, The Eternal Vow (From the Soundtrack of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

The thing about this program is that if you break it down into its elements, you can see that “checklist” of required elements. There aren’t that many transitions between the elements and quite a bit of forward two-foot skating. However, this program is unusual in that a lot of elements (i.e. the death spiral, pairs spin) aren’t left to the end as they usually are and for a relatively new team, the music was one of those more subdued pieces and therefore, more difficult to pull off without losing the audience’s attention. What really makes this program shine is the connection that exists the two partners despite the vast age difference and the long flowing lines in the choreography that fits the music very well. For a team that has yet to reach the highest level of skating, this simpler program dazzles with the chemistry between the two partners, very well-executed elements and well thought-out choreography that suits the music and the skaters.

Pairs Long Program: Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang, Yellow River Piano Concerto

I tried, really, I did, to find another pairs LP I liked better but I couldn’t. I think the reason I like this team and their choreography is because they remind me of pairs skating at its best: elegance, chemistry and big tricks. Here we have another program skated to subdued music but you’re mesmerized by their flow and carriage across the ice. That quad twist was just amazing as well. I seriously hope these two can somehow get to the Olympics.

Ice Dance Short Dance: Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron, Cool Cat in Town, Burlesque soundtrack

These two are a non-entity in the top echelons of the skating world but I really enjoyed this jazzy, energetic Finnstep SD done without using irritating music – a sin that a lot of teams seem to be committing this season. (I fully admit that I HATE the song, “Big Spender” and “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” purely on the subject matter and lyrics of the song. The tunes are pretty annoying as well.)

Ice Dance Free Dance: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, Petit Adagio, Waltz in Concerto No. 2, Allegro Moderato

Tessa & Scott have yet to skate this perfectly but I like the concept of this program in that it combines difficult choreography with the story of their career. The details, the elegance and the “clean” feeling of this program makes it breathtaking. It was really difficult choosing between this program and Meryl & Charlie’s Scheherazade program (I love the tension and crescendo) but I think there’s more of a storyline here even though D/W have the pre-written story of One Thousand and One Nights. I will do this though…

Special Mention: Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Scheherazade

Ice Dance Special Mention: Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, Swan Lake

Yes, I’ll admit to liking this. Even if the music is overused. And there’s a few pauses in the choreography. And even if Morozov probably choreographed it. Now excuse me while I wallow in shame.

What were your favourite programs from this season? Let me know!

Also, I’ll be coming up with a favourite costumes post soon as well!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Comments on the Trophée Eric Bompard 2013

This is a little late since I’ve been working on a few personal projects lately but here it is! My comments on TEB 2013~!

Elena Nikita 13 TEB FD

I love this lift by the way. So dramatic and fits well with the program.

General Comments on the Men’s Field

My predictions were pretty much spot on except for my bronze medal predictions. There isn’t much to say in terms of the individual competitors so I’ll boil it down to 3 points:

1. Patrick Chan looks unbeatable right now. His scores are off the charts. Lately, Kurt Browning has been questioning the PCS of Meryl & Charlie and say, Cappellini & Lanotte so I’ll do the same. There are some things that Chan should’ve been marked higher like skating skills and transitions than Yuzuru in the SP (gosh, Chan, those running edges off his jumps… even I have to admit they’re gorgeous) but in terms of choreography and interpretation, I’m not sure why Yuzuru is marked a lot lower. Just sayin’.

2. Yuzuru’s scores in the SP were close to Chan’s (Chan – 98.52, Yuzuru – 95.37) and Yuzu won the silver overall. In terms of the ranking for GP events, which factor into the JFSA’s decision to send skaters to the Olympics we have…

Yuzuru – 2 silversOda – 1 silver, 1 bronze (would’ve been silver if he could count his jumps)
Daisuke – 1 gold, 4th place
Takahiko – bronze, 6th place

Yuzuru hasn’t won gold at the GP so far only because he’s been competing against Chan at every GP assignment, who’s pretty much a lock on gold. In terms of him going to the Olympics, I’d say he’s in a good place but we might have to wait for the Grand Prix Final or even Nationals to get a sense of which 3 men will be going since Tatsuki Machida has yet to compete at the Cup of Russia and like Daisuke he’s also won a gold medal at Skate America. For now, I think that Takahiko might be out of the running for the Olympics.

Predictions on who will go to the Olympics for Japan: Yuzuru Hanyu, Daisuke Takahashi, Nobunari Oda

3. Florent Amodio has officially become a non-entity in the upper ranks. In past seasons, he’s been able to take a few medals during the GP series but this season doesn’t seem to be looking good for him. If I were CBC, I’d be nice and say that he finished 7th at TEB but the harsher reality is that he finished second last overall and last in the LP. The sad thing is that we know he can do better than that but sadly, it doesn’t seem as if he’s been on top of his game this Olympic season. Until he proves me wrong, I’ll have to leave him out of my podium predictions.

The GP series confirms two ladies as THE lady for their respective countries

We all know that it’s important to be at the top of your field nationally. When you’re in that position, you get much more support politicking-wise and up goes the PCS. For a little while, the ladies field for Russia and the U.S. have been in disarray since there hasn’t been a lady that has led consistently throughout the years. In Russia, there were a lot of talented young ladies but no one was sure which ones would survive puberty. In the U.S., there were a lot of talented ladies who were terribly inconsistent.

This season, however, we have seen that Adelina Sotnikova has survived puberty unlike her rival, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, and that Ashley Wagner has continued her consistent skating from last year. Now that these two have emerged at the top of their country, the question remains, can they make a grab for the podium at Sochi?

Duhamel & Radford officially lose their lock on Olympic bronze

pang tong 13 teb lp

The funny thing about pairs skating for the last two seasons is that the field has been quite shallow. We all know that two teams are above the rest in terms of their technical ability and those two are Savchenko & Szolkowy and Volosozhar & Trankov. The bronze in the past few seasons have gone to a team that can’t quite touch the top two teams but are a head above the rest of the field. At last season’s World Championships, that team was Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford and as a result, I was pretty sure that this team was good enough to keep their hold on bronze. Now that Qing Pang & Jian Tong are back, it seems as if D&R will have to fight a little harder to get that bronze. Pang & Tong are seasoned veterans and great at portraying emotion and stories on ice. They are older, which can be a detriment in a sport that’s really hard on the body and dominated by teenagers but maybe like Shen & Zhao, they’ll prove to us that they get better with age. The showdown for bronze at Sochi should be exciting now

Tessa & Scott: One step forward, one step back

For Tessa & Scott, this season is going to be a constant battle against Meryl & Charlie. They can win the gold medal at any event but the real question will always be if their performance will be able to match up against their rivals. For TEB, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that their scores in the SD are very close to Meryl & Charlie’s season’s best. In fact, my favourite comment on their SD came from the ice-dance.com Twitter:

ice-dance com tweet 13 teb sd

I think they put the twizzles in another place in the program and as a result, everything flows a lot better. I think it was the first time I really enjoyed their SDs and didn’t feel that it needed a little extra pizzaz.

Wasn’t that lovely?

The bad news is, they seemed to have done something wrong with their lifts in the FD which resulted in a TES score that was lower than Ilinykh & Katsalapov’s. They’ll definitely need to keep on working but it would be a great comfort to fans if they beat Meryl & Charlie at least once before the Olympics. It would also keep the rivalry more exciting going in…

Dance of the Night: Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov

Ok, I’ll admit it: I enjoyed their Swan Lake FD. When they performed it at the beginning of the season, the program didn’t have as much mileage and the huge pause at the beginning looked awkward. (It also doesn’t help that I hate pauses in programs.) This performance from I & K, however, was dramatic and exciting and the best they’ve skated in their senior career. What was impressive was they they managed to top Pechalat & Bourzat, home ice favourites and a contender for Olympic bronze. This might be a sign that the winds are changing and there may be a new #1 Russian ice dance team soon…

Anyways, that’s it for now. I’ll be a little busy with a few personal projects for the next week or two so the “Skating 101” posts that a friend had been suggesting might take a little while to churn out. In any case, what are your thoughts on TEB this year? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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