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

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

 

 

The Future is Here! All Hail Yuzuru Hanyu – Olympic Champion!

Yuzuru Hanyu 2014 OWG LP

The men’s competition in Sochi was packed full of surprises for better and worse. The result is still a little bit of a shock but somewhere deep down, I think I was expecting it. Or maybe, a lot of us just managed to see what a talent this guy was back at the beginning of the Olympic cycle and he certainly proved us right. Thanks, Yuzuru!

Also, the men’s figure skating Olympic curse seems to be in full effect after taking a small break in Vancouver. (For those of you who don’t know, the “curse” is that the man who was World Champion from the previous year/season will not win Olympic gold. All the figure skating “curses” were broken in Vancouver but so far, they seems to be in full effect.) Anyway, let’s start this brief recap of the men’s figure skating competition with one of the biggest game changers… More

Comments on the NHK Trophy 2013

I managed to catch the competition on CBC this week for the NHK Trophy and now that the coverage has ended, let the commentary  begin!

Daisuke still has IT

I admit, I didn’t really enjoy Daisuke too much last season. His programs were forgettable and there lacked a spark in his skating that draws you to his performances. With a disappointing 4th place at Skate Canada, I thought we were going to see more uninspiring Daisuke but I’m so glad he proved me wrong. I’m still not a huge fan of his LP but his SP was mesmerizing, just as all Daisuke programs should be.

The program was smooth, his jumps were solid and his performance and expression were beautiful as always. I hope we see more of this Daisuke this season.

Look out for Adam Rippon

I know that most people are looking at Jeremy Abbott right now for unexpectedly winning the bronze at the NHK Trophy but I think the one we should really be keeping an eye out for is Adam Rippon. While Jeremy did win a bronze here, he did finish 6th at Skate Canada when he could’ve finished a few places higher. Despite a 4th place finish, what Adam Rippon has shown is that he has become increasingly consistent by finishing in the top half (and winning a silver at Skate America) in both his GP assignments. Abbott, on the other hand, has shown more of the same old: when he’s good, he’s very good and when he’s bad, he’s very bad.

Super Javi falters

PJ Kwong pegged Javier Fernandez for gold while I pegged him for silver. Either way, both of us expected him to finish on the podium at NHK. For a bit, my prediction seemed to ring true until he tripped up and made a lot of mistakes in his long program which led him to a 5th place finish. Javier was a strong contender for the men’s field going into the Olympic season but now that the Olympic season has started, I wonder if he has the momentum to get on the podium with this relatively poor result for him at NHK. Time will tell, I suppose.

Mao is going up

mao 13 nhk lp

Mao has been having a few rough seasons since the Vancouver Olympics but it looks as if she’s back on track for this season. She might need to up her technical ability in order to beat Yuna but every performance has been a steady improvement for her as the GP series has gone on. I’m very impressed with the expression, grace and maturity she’s shown this season and I look forward to seeing her skate again in the Grand Prix Final. Her two golds have guaranteed a spot there.

Honourable Mention: Akiko Suzuki

Akiko finished lower than expected with a bronze medal at the NHK Trophy but in my eyes, she’s still an amazing skater. I hated her Phantom of the Opera LP at the beginning of this season, partly because I generally don’t like skaters using this overdramatic, overused piece of music (with some exceptions… like this* and this) and partly because I couldn’t quite look past the mistakes and see the choreography and skating. This time however, Akiko managed to sell her program a lot better despite the mistakes and I’ve grown to like it better. I’m so sad she’s going to retire at the end of this season. I mean, look at this, she just gets better at expressing the music with her skating every year, mistakes or no mistakes…

*Note: Even though I do like Davis/White’s Olympic FD, I’d still wish they skated with similar choreography to some other uber dramatic music.

We’re going to miss you, girl.

Rising Star: Elena Radionova

I’m very miffed at myself for not factoring her in my predictions even though she is one of my favourite skaters this season. If my brain had been working, her name would’ve registered and I would’ve probably put her in for bronze rather than Gracie Gold. Well, the deed is done and my predictions would’ve been wrong anyways since she’s won the silver! She’s probably earned a spot in the GPF and I can’t wait to see her there. So much potential and star quality in spades.

She could’ve finished off her movements a little more in this performance but this might be the best she’s skated this program this season.

The way Olympic spots are awarded to each country is total bullsh**

I really hate the way slots are allotted to each country for each Worlds and the Olympics. Please refer to the table on this wikipedia page for more information. What I hate about the way they give spots to each competitor is that they do it by country. If you haven’t read the wikipedia page, the basics of it is that each country has a certain amount of spots at the Olympics according to how well the country’s competitors rank in the World championships in the season prior to the Olympics. This may seem fine at first glance but the problem comes when certain countries have tons of talented skaters but not enough spots. These skaters may be much better than most of the field but they won’t be able to qualify for the Olympics because some of their fellow countrymen are better than they are.

Case 1: Japanese single skaters – In the men’s competition at Japanese nationals this season, Daisuke Takahashi, Yuzuru Hanyu, Takahito Kozuka, Nobunari Oda and Tatsuki Machida are going to duke it out to take 1 of 3 spots at the Olympics. Three out of five of these men have won medals at the World Championships while all of them have had many medals and victories in the GP series. I would honestly rather allow Japan two extra spots and watch two more amazing performances at the Olympics than give two spots to skaters whose careers have been much less illustrious and will likely give out two (at best) mediocre performances.

Case 2 (and why it’s pertinent to the NHK Trophy): China only has 2 spots at the Olympics and this week, Peng & Zhang have skated well while their teammates, Sui & Han have suffered in their scores and rankings since Sui was sick while she was competing. Either way, both teams have shown themselves to be worthy of future medals but only one will make it to the Olympics. What makes me angry is that the teams who have ranked under them consistently this season (*cough* pointing at Swiegers/Lawrence and pretty much all the American pairs teams) might or will likely get a spot because the competition isn’t as stiff in their respective countries. Sigh.

So, let’s be clear on a few things:

1. It is so frustrating to see really talented competitors not make it to the Olympics just because they happen to be in a nation where they might not be at the top but they are on the A-list of competitors anyways.

2. Yes, I know I can be a bitchy figure skating snob. Deal with it.

Shibsibs recover, Ilinykh & Katsalapov still #2 in Russia

maia alex 13 nhk fd

Yes, yes, Meryl & Charlie won (FD here). That’s no surprise anymore. The Shibutanis, however, seem to have recovered and got back on the podium! I was surprised because I thought that Ilinykh & Katsalapov were going to take the bronze but the Shibutani siblings seem to have improved and have captured the bronze.

A bronze for I/K may have been a signal that times were changing and that they were challenging Bobrova & Soloviev, the top Russian team. By being in that top spot nationally, they have a shot a fighting for Olympic bronze but it seems as if I/K need a lot more work, especially since there are so many “empty” spots in their program… usually full of posing.

I’m happy that the Shibutani siblings did well this competition but their FD still confuses me. That slow musical part in the middle of their FD makes it a little incoherent and I’m confused as to what the concept of the FD is.

As for the SDs in ice dance, I have yet to find one I’m totally in love with but I think that’s the nature of the beast. At least, for me.

The Trophee Eric Bompard is next week! (Sorry for the lack of accents.) Are you excited? Let me know why in comments or share your thoughts on the NHK Trophy!

~The Rinkside Cafe

 

Trophee Eric Bompard 2012: Predictions

So today, I came across the concept of a regression analysis, which is super interesting because it is essentially what Nate Silver did on fivethirtyeight to correctly predict the electoral college outcomes for 50 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in the most recent U.S. presidential election. My curiosity has led me to ponder whether I should somehow try to create a regression model to predict figure skating results though I’ll definitely need a lot of guidance and help and maybe more information on it in general. Personally, it might be less biased and a lot easier on me if a mathstatsmagician wizard like Nate Silver could come along and create a model because I hold firm on the adage that ice is slippery and that a regression model would probably fail to capture the insane world of figure skating where the location, the proximity of the Olympics, whether or not you’re sleeping with Nikolai Morozov, all sorts of ridiculous things come into play.

In any case, I’ll do my predictions the same old way as I did before but I may try to see if I can come up with a regression model if I manage to have any free time. For TEB, I would actually love to have statistics do all the work for me because the roster is not only kind of boring but the playing field is quite level, which means I’ll have to piddle around with a whole bunch of B-list skaters to figure out the lower rungs of the podium.

A fierce Liza beckons you in… More

Skate America 2012: Predictions

THE GRAND PRIX SERIES HAS BEGUN! HURRAH!

Meryl and Charlie beckons you to read on… More

3 Programs I’d Like to See Next Year

 

A program is usually meant to last for a season but a reused program is often one that has not attained perfection either because the choreography is lacking or the skater has yet to skate it to a certain level of perfection. Here are 3 programs I feel deserve another chance next season:

Jeremy Abbott, Exogenesis

 

Oh Jeremy, so much talent… if only you can hold it together. Exogenesis is a lovely intricate program that deserves a perfect skate. It showcases Abbott’s skating skills – it’s a difficult program to execute but on a good day, Jeremy’s able to weave gorgeous transitional elements between the jumps and when that happens, it’s pure gold. In general, a good break from Morozov programs.

Akiko Suzuki, Die Fledermaus

 

The JSF can be reluctant to back Akiko but at 27, she’s a fighter and now, a deserving World medalist. However, Akiko’s best quality is really her love and passion for skating that shines through at every performance and her ability to bounce back and sell her programs despite any mistakes she makes. Die Fledermaus could do with some tweaks in the choreography – maybe be a little better timed to the music and have a few more transitions – but it was a great program for highlighting Akiko’s new confidence and poise that was evident from the very beginning of the season. I doubt that she’ll use this program again but I know I’ll be looking forward to her skate no matter what she skates to next season.

Ashley Wagner, Black Swan

 

Although I did say that I’m not a huge fan of Ashley Wagner in another post, I admit that I adore the cheesy choreography in her spiral sequence in Black Swan. Although this program has carried Wagner to several victories and medals, I feel that the choreography can be improved. The beginning of the program is quite empty and it feels as if most of the music is taken up by Wagner skating around to prepare for jumps.

Which programs do you want to see again next season?

~The Rinkside Cafe

Previous Older Entries