Highlights from the 2014 World Championships

The 2014 World Championships had some really lovely performances. A lot of the time, the Olympics tire the competitors out and many top contenders don’t even participate. As a result, you get a few “he/she came out of nowhere” World Champions (Remember Kimmie Meissner? Neither do I.) and some tired performances. Not so this year. From the judging and the performances, I might have to say that I think I enjoyed the World Championships a lot more than the Olympics this time. In any case, here are a few of what I thought were the highlights.

For the last two seasons, it’s been really hard for me to take Tatsuki Machida very seriously because of his wacky Firebird program. His arm flapping definitely gave me more than a chuckle or two and despite his good results, I couldn’t quite appreciate his skating. He was consistent most of the time but he was not as compelling to watch as his other teammates, especially when bird-imitations were part of the vehicle to show off his skating prowess. This program and performance, however, changed my opinion of him. I don’t think Machida has skated this compellingly all season and somehow everything clicked in this performance. I was finally noticing some of the edgework and transitions in this program and he was channeling Daisuke Takahashi in this performance. Gorgeous program and wonderful skate – this is what it’s all about.

In terms of program content or choreography, there’s nothing extremely noteworthy about this performance but I don’t think Tomas Verner has done this well for ages. He bombed the LP but hey, forget about that and remember this highlight, Tomas.

That popped jump might have cost him a World title but I admit that Javier was very swoon-worthy in this program.

Ethereal. Perfection. And a World Record score. Enough said.

What a great comeback for Mao. I was tearing up by the time she got to her step sequence at the end. She didn’t get the Olympic gold but 3-time World Champion isn’t too shabby.

Ethereal as always and the PCS were just right. Both Mao and Carolina skated clean and despite the fact that she wasn’t the hometown favourite, Carolina had the highest PCS for this segment of the competition. Sochi judges, take note!

I was never a huge fan of this team but I like how this program builds to a climax ending with that lift that starts out on Dylan’s knee at the end.

I’m not particularly fond of this program but I felt that I needed to mention Savchenko & Szolkowy in this post. They ended their wonderful career on a high note and they will be missed so much. Aliona Savchenko will still be around but who knows if she’ll find a partner as good as Robin.

With Savchenko & Szolkowy gone, these two are my new favourite pairs team. They need to learn how to be more consistent and maybe ramp up their technical content but they remind me so much of Shen & Zhao. Every time I watch this program, I feel as if it was too short.

I wasn’t a fan of this dance at the beginning of the season but it’s really grown on me. This was just a splendid performance to cap off a very creative and wonderful career for Nathalie and Fabian.

I wasn’t a fan of the music choice at the beginning of this season – I thought it was slow and boring – but this program has become my favourite ice dance FD this year. Within the first minute of this performance, I was having chills. I am so happy that these two didn’t get completely screwed over by the judges as they have been all season. They’re good enough to contend for bronze but we all knew that the ISU didn’t want a North American podium sweep. And they wanted a Russian for the bronze position if they couldn’t get gold. (I thought Nathalie & Fabian deserved the Olympic bronze but what can you do?)

This was ADORABLE.

Oh Tomas, always the entertainer.

I think there’s a theme here. I seem to enjoy these quirky, funny exhibitions quite a bit.

Not a new exhibition but I love it all the same. It never fails to bring a smile to my face

Another highlight I wanted to add was the crowd. It was just such a refreshing change from Sochi where people were silent for everyone except for the Russians. It was also adorable that they respected Yuzuru’s wish for silence in the Kiss and Cry because Javier was on the ice and needed to concentrate. I know that Dave Lease says that the Sochi crowd wasn’t as rude as some other competitions but I don’t think that’s an excuse for their cold reception for non-Russians. It was a nice change having a crowd with so much joy and enthusiasm in all the skaters and the fact that they cheered for skaters from all different countries. Thank you for showing us what wonderful skating fans are like.

Anyways, I think I’ve bombarded you guys with enough videos for now. What were your favourite performances at Worlds this year? Tell me in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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Predictions: 2014 World Figure Skating Championships

So, welcome to the predictions for the 2014 World Championships. For anyone who follows skating closely, you know that this event will be somewhat… less exciting to put it lightly because so many skaters opt out of the competition after an exhausting Olympic season.

Men

As expected, many of the top contenders have opted out of the World Championships this year, leaving the door wide open for reigning Olympic Champion, Yuzuru Hanyu, to strike gold on home ice. Yuzuru will be looking to improve on the Olympic performance of his LP, which was flawed but nevertheless was enough to win him the gold. Another competitor to look out for is Javier Fernandez who was skilled enough to win the Olympic medal but was kept off because he violated the zayak rule. Hopefully, he will have learned his lesson and will come out strong here.

Other contenders to look out for: Tatsuki Machida who’s had a strong season so far and also has home ice advantage. Maxim Kovtun, the windmill guy who beat Plushenko at Russian Nationals but didn’t go to the Olympics, therefore he’ll be more rested than the others and Han Yan, a young and talented newcomer. Jeremy Abbott may somehow prove that he can survive under pressure while Takahiko Kozuka, who is also well-rested may show us why he was once the World silver medalist.

Predictions:

Gold – Yuzuru Hanyu
Silver – Javier Fernandez
Bronze – Maxim Kovtun

Ladies

There has been quite a big buzz over the fact that Sotnikova isn’t going to Worlds and that the South Korean Olympic committee has filed an official complaint over the judging of the ladies competition. The big story then, is one of redemption by Mao Asada, who did not get the result we expected her to in Sochi. I hope that we’ll see her strong and that we can see her finish her career with a smile. Going against her is the young Russian phenom, Julia Lipnitskaia, who hopefully, has had less disturbing media attention since the Olympics and the Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner. I have no doubt again that the judges will lowball Carolina’s PCS even if she’s the best performer with the best choreography this season.

A few other contenders to look out for: the rising star, Gracie Gold, who may actually be the Next American Ice Princess, Akiko Suzuki, who will undoubtedly be lowballed in PCS as always and Anna Pogorilaya, a Russian youngin who did well earlier in the season and will be well-rested for not going to Sochi.

Predictions:

Gold – Mao Asada
Silver – Julia Lipnitskaia
Bronze – Carolina Kostner

Pairs

The pairs competition will be a race for gold between Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy and Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov. The latter pair surprised us all but pitching in 3 solid performances in Sochi. S&S, I think, still has what it takes to win it but they’ll have to skate clean. As for the bronze medal, there are a few teams that have the technique, choreography and steadiness of mind and character that can take them to the podium and I think those teams are: Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang, Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek, Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford and Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch. The bronze is going to be a tough call. As will be the gold. So here goes…

Predictions:

Gold – Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Silver – Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov
Bronze – Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford

I expect these predictions to be completely and totally wrong.

Ice Dance

The ice dance competition will be less exciting without the Davis & White and Virtue & Moir rivalry but this competition may end up  being the most revealing of them all. With them two dominating team gone, this competition may give us an idea of how the ice dance field will look like next season and for the next Olympic cycle.

Although I think that Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat should’ve won the bronze at Sochi (I knew they wouldn’t because they’re not Russian), they may see themselves on the podium, just not at the top. That spot will probably belong to Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov who will likely be the top Russian team for the next cycle. Whether they can maintain this top position is a completely different question – not all the competitions are held in Russia, you know. We may see two Russia teams on the podium if Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev are well received in Saitama. However, we still need to keep an eye out for Igor Shpilband’s top team: Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte who have been skating strong all season. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje will no longer be in the shadow of Virtue & Moir but they will likely be lowballed as they have been all season. However, I wanted to make this comment because Maria de Buenos Aires is a lovely FD and I want you to watch it.

Predictions:

Gold – Elena Illinykh & Nikita Katsalapov
Silver – Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte
Bronze – Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat

I’m somewhat unused to this roster and so I’m guessing that these predictions will be laughably wrong. What are your predictions? Share them with me 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

 

Predictions: Trophée Eric Bompard 2013

The GP series is gearing up for the Final! This week, we have the Trophée Eric Bompard! Onwards with the predictions!

tessa and scott 13 teb prac

Tessa and Scott are looking as if they’re having so much fun during practice. Gorgeous colour and dress too.

Men

With Patrick Chan on the roster, I have no doubt that he will win gold here. Let’s move on to something more pleasant and interesting to talk about, shall we? Yuzuru Hanyu will have to show that he has what it takes to go to the Olympics as the JFSA seems to put some importance on the results of the GP series. Yuzuru was lucky that Oda still hasn’t passed Counting 101 because if Oda hadn’t violated the zayak rule in his LP (I’m still bitter over that), Yuzu would’ve seen a bronze medal around his neck. In this competition, he might have to look out for young rising star, Han Yan but I think that Yan’s ability to express the choreography and music still needs to develop a little. That’s not to say that Yan won’t snatch the silver away if Yuzuru doesn’t skate well. I wish them both well but there can be one silver medalist…

Predictions:

Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver:
Yuzuru Hanyu
Bronze:
Han Yan

Ladies

I’m quite tempted to name this ladies event as “The Weekend of Mediocrity” because in all honesty, there aren’t that many ladies to scream and shout about on this roster. Most of the young Russian ladies here can jump but none of them really radiate Star Power like Elena Radionova. This seriously has to be the most uninspiring roster I’ve ever seen so far in this GP season. In any case, despite the slew of poorly choreographed jumping beans from Russia with appearances from even less uninspiring B-list skaters, I’d say that the winner of this competition will likely be Ashley Wagner. She may not have won her last GP event like Anna Pogorilaya but Pogorilaya wasn’t competing against a Mao Asada on a comeback (rather, she was competing against Carolina Kostner who wasn’t at all on her A-game). Ashley also scored considerably higher at Skate America compared to Pogorilaya. Furthermore, Pogorilaya will likely face some competition from her fellow teammate, Adelina Sotnikova. Despite being a more seasoned competitor, Sotnikova lost to Pogorilaya by 4 points at the Cup of China. These two will likely fight for silver and bronze.

I can ponder about the scores these two get and rant about how meh I find them but I’ll save my energy for other more pleasant activities. Thinking about this roster makes me cranky.

Predictions:

Gold: Ashley Wagner
Silver:
Anna Pogorilaya
Bronze:
Adelina Sotnikova

Pairs

The ladies roster was so terrible that for once, pairs isn’t the most painful prediction to make. That’s highly unusual.

In any case, the victory here will likely go to Qing Pang & Jian Tong. If they do win at TEB, they will not only assert the strong possibility of them winning a medal at the Olympics. This win is important and Pang & Tong need a strong, decisive victory if they want to lessen the possibility of last year’s Worlds bronze medalists, Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford, to claim the bronze at the Olympics. A decisive victory for the Chinese team might also propel them to a chance at winning something more than bronze, though the gold is probably out of the question. Either way, a victory for either P/T or D/R sends a strong message that they are near the top of the pairs field.

As for the bronze medal at the TEB. Um… Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov seem like a reasonable choice. They do quite well in the GP series and have good technical skills. Let’s hope that Bazarova’s jumps get off the ice.

Predictions:

Gold: Qing Pang & Jian Tong
Silver:
Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford
Bronze:
Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov

Ice Dance

There are precisely 3 teams worth watching in this competition and those three teams will very likely take the medals. Reigning Olympic Champions, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir will likely take the gold. Hopefully they’ve improved since Skate Canada and won’t suffer so much in their Technical Elements Score. In terms of technical ability, Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat have shown to be good technically in the past and will likely improve under coach Igor Shpilband, V/M’s former coach.

The only problem is that P/B often skate to programs whose concepts are too quirky or “avant-garde” (if you want to want to be obnoxious) to be relatable and they don’t quite have the star power like Virtue/Moir or even Cappellini/Lanotte to sell their performances. I’m also surprised that no one called them out for caricaturizing Egyptian culture with that mummy/Pharoah program a few years back. In any case, I have no doubts that gold and silver will belong to the two teams above.

As for bronze, the likely winners are Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, better than the rest of the field but nowhere near the above two teams.

Predictions:

Gold: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Silver:
Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat
Bronze:
Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov

What are your predictions for TEB? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Predictions: Cup of China 2013

Ahhhh! I have 16 hours to make these predictions. Bloody time differences. Ok, lunch first.

Done.

Zijin Li 12 lp

Onwards to the predictions for the Cup of China 2013!

Men

First up, the men!

Ah, come on, really? Am I seriously supposed to make predictions based on this clusterf*** of a roster? So many of the frontrunners are so inconsistent. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

Ok. Problem solving skills. Go.

Some names that pop off right off the bat: Takahiko Kozuka, who had a really rough start at Skate America this year but still has the potential to grab a medal… I think. Denis Ten, last year’s World silver medalist who’s win was a complete surprise because he has the potential but his previous results have always put him in the second group of skaters at GP events. Then, there’s Florent Amodio… WHO GOT NEW COACHES! *opens up some champagne* YES. This kid has potential but those horrific programs with a gazillion pauses were weighing him down. This is great news. Han Yan also has home-ice advantage and a lot of potential. A good candidate to snatch a medal off a veteran’s hand if they don’t skate well.

So now that the initial list is done, I’m really not sure how to rank them. It could honestly go any way. Let’s just throw caution to the wind and randomly come up with a ranking.

Predictions:

Gold: Florent Amodio
Silver:
Denis Ten
Bronze:
Han Yan

Ladies

With a newfound consistency and beautiful performances, Carolina Kostner, will likely win the gold. Adelina Sotnikova‘s terrible programs (and hence, lower PCS) and Kanako Murakami‘s lower TES make them somewhat at the same level and these two will likely duke it out for silver and bronze. If any of them make a mistake, fresh-faced Zijun Li could also grab a medal and hopefully her Coppelia LP will be great since I’ve pegged that as a fantasy program for her in this post.

Predictions:

Gold: Carolina Kostner
Silver:
Kanako Murakami
Bronze:
Adelina Sotnikova

Pairs

Barring some freak accident or injury, former World Champions, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, should be able to take the gold. They might face some strong competition from Qing Pang & Jian Tong, who took a year off last season but are likely still better than the rest of the competition. I’m almost tempted to say that I refuse to pick a bronze medal winner but I’ll just close my eyes and point to a name on the screen. It’s anybody’s game at this point. Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov. Ok, done!

Predictions:

Gold: Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Silver:
Qing Pang & Jian Tong
Bronze:
Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov

Ice Dance

The ice dance competition will likely be a three-way race between Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat and Madison Chock & Evan Bates. I’d give the edge to the first two teams though even when you narrow the gold medal choices down to two, it’ll be interesting to see who prevails. B/S has been beating P/B for a little while now but P/B have switched to Igor Shpilband, which might give them that extra boost they need to regain the top European spot. This will be a tough call.

Predictions:

Gold: Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev
Silver:
Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat
Bronze:
Madison Chock & Evan Bates

What are your predictions for the Cup of China this year? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Predictions: World Championships 2013

Ahhhhhhh!!! It’s been a crazy week for me so far. I’ve been away from home and didn’t have time to write predictions. That and it’s been so crazy that I didn’t realize Worlds started yesterday until I woke up saw a few messages on facebook. I know the men and pairs SP have already passed and the ladies SP is starting now but I’ll make these quick predictions anyways. Without looking at the results so far. So it’s like I made predictions, right?

mao asada swan lake

Mao beckons you to read on… More

Grand Prix Final 2012: Predictions

It’s the GPF! Aka the competition that’s really worth watching in the GP series. This year’s roster will provide ample drama on the ice and Kurt Browning has taken some time on this blog post to talk a little about each competitor. I agree with him on the most part and I’ll include a few highlights here:

On Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir’s FD:”The long program of Carmen on paper did not ring as such a good idea, but I love being wrong about something that turns out so right.”

On Takahiko Kozuka:”He is still my pick as best ‘skater’. Patrick has amazing feet and builds speed with ease, almost magical actually, but for blade magic it’s still Taka for me.”
So for those Chan-stans, even Kurt Browning thinks that there are others who surpass Chan in skating skills.

“My pick for a winner is….the audience. Get used to it, I’m not picking winners.”Only someone as congenial and magical as Kurt Browning can do this. That and he’s the most reasonable CBC commentator.

“A big part of me wishes that I still competed[…]” As someone who started watching figure skating when you were still competing, I wish you could still compete too.

In any case, onto the predictions!

Yuzuru Hanyu and Winnie the Pooh

Yuzuru and his Winnie the Pooh tissue box beckons you to read on… More

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