Predictions: Worlds 2016

Gracie Gold 2016

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter long weekend! Once my precious days off were over, I realized that Worlds was starting very soon and I had to get my act together and do a Worlds predictions post. My last few predictions have been off the mark but hey, it happens and it won’t deter me from making more. So here goes!

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State of the Union: 2015/16 Season

shibsibs sci15 fd

I usually write my State of the Union posts in January so that it coincides with the actual American SOTU address but things kept coming around and I find myself writing this now. Which in hindsight, isn’t actually that bad because some monumental things have happened at National-level competitions, which change the tone of the figure skating world going into the World Championships.

This season, I’ll change it up a little. This post used to be a long rambling of all the bits and pieces and I figure I’d try a new format and focus on four main themes, one for each discipline.

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Debrief: Trophée Eric Bompard 2015

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Shocked. Heartbroken. Devastated. Words cannot describe my sadness over the events of last Friday in Paris, and as many have noted, the violence that is going on all around the world. I don’t know if there’s much I can say to help or improve the situation at all but I’ll share a quote from the late Jack Layton, a famous Canadian politician and just an all-around decent guy.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

In the wake of the tragedy, I’ll spare a bit of space here to say, don’t just pray for Paris, think. Use your head to light the dark corners of ignorance and sweep away the webs of misunderstanding that divide us. Use your heart to feel the pain of all those affected – Parisians, Lebanese, refugees – and remember that at the end of the day, we’re all just people trying to find happiness in the life that we’re dealt.

Moving onto the debrief on TEB, I guess I should start with the news that, as far as I know and from news articles, it seems that the ISU is still in the midst of making a decision on how to treat the results of TEB in terms of whether or not skaters qualify for the Grand Prix Final. Day 2 of TEB was cancelled in the wake of the attacks as France began a three day period of mourning. There were quite a few surprises in the short program and if the results of the SP become the final rankings then my predictions were completely and utterly wrong. Nonetheless, whatever they decide, let’s take a look at what went on last weekend. More

Predictions: Trophée Eric Bompard 2015

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The competition looks pretty stacked for TEB 2015 so let’s get to it! My predictions last week were way off their mark and I have a feeling with so many wildcards about, it will be the same here. So onwards! More

Mother Russia Gets Her Pairs Gold Back

The individual pairs competition was a grand victory for Russia as she reclaimed the gold after Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao abruptly stopped the 50 years of Russian pairs domination in Vancouver. The picture below says it all as we go through the stories of those on the podium.

2014 Pairs Olympic Podium

Volosozhar & Trankov win Olympic Gold

To skating fans who have followed this team in the last Olympic cycle, none of us were really surprised that Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov won the pairs gold and perhaps, starting another era of Russian pairs domination. V & T had a 5 point lead after the short program and even as their main rivals, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy took the ice in the LP, it was hard to imagine that there was anything they could do to get the gold. V & T have been mostly solid technically all season and the choreography of their programs is well… palatable compared to anything else they’ve skated to in the past. (For the love of god, they skated to Evanescence a few years ago.) They were a little stiff in the LP but all in all, it was a well deserved gold medal.

Stolbova & Klimov – Spoilers for Silver

I think the most sensational story of the pairs event goes to Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov. For the past Olympic cycle, this team has only occupied the lower rungs of the Grand Prix podium if not at all and they have also yet to compete at the World Championships. Before the Olympics, I vaguely remembered this team as one that has often let me down when I peg them for the bronze medal position in Grand Prix events. Somehow, this team has magically blossomed overnight and has demonstrated that they have the technical skills and consistency to be at the top. Even though the figure skating events haven’t finished yet, I would say that their silver medal is probably one of the most unexpected of the sport this season. Kudos, guys.

A Disappointing End for Savchenko & Szolkowy

Things weren’t looking good for Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy after the SP when they were trailed V&T by 5 points after the SP. S&S brought back and shortened their acclaimed Pink Panther long program but unfortunately, even as a fan of theirs, I have to admit that there were too many pauses in the middle of the program and the choreography didn’t bring out the fun characters as much. According to the commentators at CBC, S&S’ motto was “Gold or nothing,” and I really wish that they had thought about it a little more when they went into their long program. Robin missed a jump and after a perfect and strong skates from both Russian teams, mistakes were extremely costly. S&S could have either executed a throw triple axel or an easier throw triple salchow for their last element and went with the former in hopes of gaining huge points. Unfortunately, Aliona fell on the attempt and the team got a bronze medal. I can’t help but think that they could’ve maybe squeaked by with a silver if they had done a clean salchow but what has happened has happened. What makes me sad is that these two are going down in history as a team with 2 Olympic bronzes despite having 4 World titles. These two are better than that but they couldn’t prove it in Sochi.

What did you think of the pairs event at the Olympics? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

GPF 2013: Figure Skating Politics

Aliona and Robin GPF 2013 LP

When I was watching the Grand Prix Final, this article from Figure Skating Lessons kept popping up on my mind as the competitions played themselves out. More precisely, point no. 1 really hit home as some really surprising results came  in. Like Haymitch’s sponsor gifts from the widely popular Hunger Games series, scores and placements in figure skating can send a message to skaters and there were a few messages that were pretty clear at this competition.

Before I elaborate, I’ll just underscore the importance of the GPF as a competition. Many of the world’s finest skaters have competed at the final and it will likely be the biggest international showdown before the Olympics. This competition gives a rough idea of what the standings may look like in Sochi and there isn’t going to be a competition where a lot of the big names meet until then. A lot of A-list skaters tend to skip the European Championships or Four Continents in order to be at their peak and ready for the Olympics.

In any case, here were some “messages” I feel like were being expounded by the judges at the GPF.

1. Bad skates cannot be rewarded.

Patrick Chan. Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov. Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev. The former two skater/teams were supposed to be a lock on gold while the last team was supposed to be a lock on bronze. I made my predictions for the GPF with full confidence that their PCS would be able to buoy their scores in case anything went wrong but that wasn’t the case.

 

Chan two-footed his 3A really awkwardly and doubled his lutz in the short.

Tatiana fell in two jumping passes in the LP.

Soloviev fell in the FD.

Normally, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these transgressions were forgiven, especially for Chan and V/T, and their grasp for the gold medal maintained by their PCS. (I mean, we still remember Chan being booed at the 2012 World Championships in Nice for a reason.) However, that forgiveness from the PCS didn’t happen and those with locks on certain medals ended up a tad lower than I expected. Wow. I seriously didn’t think that would happen.

But then again, this is the Olympic year and it’s nearly been 12 years since the Salt Lake City figure skating scandal. Despite being a decade-old scandal, the empty or emptier arenas and the end of the golden age of figure skating keeps the scandal fresh in the minds of fans. This is an interesting message to send to skaters and fans alike that bad skating will be duly noted in the scores but whether or not PCS inflation for specific skaters will happen at the Olympics is another matter. We’ll just have to wait and see.

2. Meryl Davis & Charlie White will likely get the ice dance crown in Sochi.

Tessa & Scott and Meryl & Charlie faced off against each other for the first time this season at the GPF and wow, am I impressed. Both teams delivered two great performances and this is what I’ve been looking for from all skaters this season.  Bravo!

In any case, I think we know who the judges prefer this season and overall, I’m not surprised. Meryl & Charlie won both the SD and FD by very small increments. In the SD, V/M scored higher on the TES but only trailed their rivals by 0.7 overall. In the FD, a level 3 diagonal step sequence proved to be costly for V/M and with a slightly lower PCS, D/W won that portion of the competition as well. In the past few seasons, Tessa & Scott have been having trouble beating their rivals and training mates but I think V/M have finally gotten on track and are giving their rivals a run for their money.

However, the lower PCS for V/M should be a point of concern if they want to win the Olympics. Now that they’re back at where they need to be technically, I fear that politics have come into play. This season, Canada has the ability to win two gold medals in figure skating in the men’s and ice dance competition. The only difference is that Canada has already won the ice dance Olympic gold in Vancouver but they’ve never managed the men’s gold even with brilliant stars like Kurt Browning and Jeffrey Buttle. It will be difficult to back two gold medal contenders at the Olympics and I think Chan is the household name that Skate Canada wants to sell this season, which may not bode well with V/M. The PCS score allows judges to diversify the figure skating podium along nationality, lowballing skaters who may not be ranked #1 in their country or lowballing certain skaters in one discipline to allow another to triumph in another discipline.

I think I’ve reached a zen state about politicking and I know that it will always be a part of this sport which I love dearly. Judging art will always be affected by the political or social climate of the time and is therefore, subjective – I find Bach a little dull at times but I love the elegance and “shiny” quality of Mozart but for one of my best friends, she shares the opposite opinion. Right now, I’m really tired of the negativity and hate from both sides of the V/M and D/W fanbase. What I see here is the triumph of ice dance where two teams have been pushed to create and skate in ways that are far superior to what we’ve seen before. Personally, I don’t really care what medals they win, they both deserve gold for what they’ve done to the sport and they both triumph if they’ve delivered a beautiful program.

What were your thoughts on the politics of the GPF? Let me know in the comments!

Also, thank you all so much for the support I’ve been given during the GPF. Your comments and views motivate me to write and I’m so happy that you enjoy my random ramblings!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Predictions: Grand Prix Final 2013

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*insert expletives here*

I didn’t realize that the GPF started… TODAY until people on facebook pointed it out. Luckily, I’m not covering the junior competition so I have 4 hours before the senior competition starts off with the men’s short program. Stop panicking, stop panicking, stop panicking. OK. Predictions, let’s go!

Men

Thank goodness I didn’t make these predictions when I made the roster post two weeks ago since Daisuke Takahashi has pulled out of the competition due to injury. This doesn’t look good for his Olympic bid… Feel better soon, Daisuke!

Patrick Chan broke his own records at TEB this year, and at this point, I’d be very surprised if ANY skater can beat him. I won’t dwell on it since you readers will know I’m not a huge fan of his style but you’ve heard it from me, I think he’s going to win a lot of things this year. Like the Olympics, probably.

With some hometown advantage, I think Yuzuru Hanyu has the potential to medal at the GPF. Without Daisuke on the roster, Yuzu is likely to be the fan favourite in Fukuoka this week and if he skates both programs clean, he has a good shot at silver. Nipping at his heels will be teammate, Nobunari Oda, who is looking to do well at this competition. In fact, the pressure is on for the Japanese men who seek a spot on the Olympic team. A medal at the GPF will definitely bolster their chances if they do well at Nationals later on in the season. Oda has done decently well and has shown that he’s on his game this season. If he can count, of course.

Some of you may be wondering why I’m not really thinking of Tatsuki Machida as a threat to the GP podium since he did win both of his GP events. The explanation is simple: the roster in both his GP assignments (Skate America and the Cup of Russia) were weak save for maybe one strong competitor who has faltered somewhat through the season so far (i.e. Takahashi, Fernandez). Machida is better than most of the B-list skaters and some A-list skaters on a bad day, but I’m not sure if he can compete with A-list skaters who have not faltered or haven’t skated too badly this season.

Predictions:

Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver:
Yuzuru Hanyu
Bronze:
Nobunari Oda

Ladies

The ladies competition is surprising this season: two veterans and four youngins’, all from Russia. The young teenagers may have wispy figures that enable them to jump like frogs, but the veterans may have the advantage for their jump ability as well as their ability to articulate music. I expect veteran and crowd favourite, Mao Asada, to win the competition. Her jump content may not be as difficult as some of the younger ladies but Mao has developed a great sense for the music that we don’t really see in competitors at the beginning of their careers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ashley Wagner did well too. Like Mao, her PCS will be the thing that will put her above the younger Russian ladies.

As for the four Russian ladies, all of them are talented in their own right but there’s a little bit of a conundrum here: the ladies who have won GP assignments did so, again, with weak rosters and skaters who were not on-game while competitors like Elena Radionova have won lesser medals but only to veterans who were on top of their game. Out of the four ladies, Elena Radionova, Julia Lipnitskaia, Anna Pogorilaya and Adelina Sotnikova, I may keep my eye on the former two. Sotnikova to me, seems like the weakest link in the foursome with Pogorilaya a little ways behind her.

Predictions:

Gold: Mao Asada
Silver:
Ashley Wagner
Bronze:
Julia Lipnitskaia

Pairs

Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov will likely win this event and probably the Olympics. Here, I’ve said it. Mother Russia wants her gold back and V/T have been skating flawlessly this season. They’re strong and ready to take back the pairs glory for Russia. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy will try their best to take that away but they haven’t skated with the same amount of consistency as their rivals. As for the bronze, I think that Qing Pang & Jian Tong have shown that they’re back in the game and a head above the rest of the skaters on the roster.

Predictions:

Gold: Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov
Silver:
Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Bronze:
Qing Pang & Jian Tong

Ice Dance

The REAL ice dance competition is here: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Meryl Davis & Charlie White will finally face off for the first time this season. I love both teams and I love this rivalry of Yagudin/Plushenko proportions. (I only wish that fans of either team would stop being hostile towards the rival skaters.) In any case, I think at this point in the season, the competition will go to Meryl & Charlie. Their scores have been higher all season and their programs have run into less issues – all in all, they’ve been more consistent. But then again, figure skating fans know very well that ice is slippery and the skate gods could prove me wrong.

As for the bronze medal (I seriously love how the gold and silver are always accounted for when V/M and D/W are both in the same competition), I have a feeling that Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev will take it here and the Olympics for Mother Russia cannot bear the shame of not getting at least a medal in this event. Getting the GPF bronze sets B/S on a course towards Olympic bronze and with home ice advantage, we all know that these two will do well in Sochi.

Predictions:

Gold: Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Silver:
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Bronze:
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev

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

~The Rinkside Cafe

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