State of the Union 2014/15

After watching Obama’s interesting speech yesterday, I decided to write this post as my GPF recap post while also commenting on how I feel the season will go now that we’ve reached the mid-way point. The GPF was quite a telling competition and already, certain pieces are starting to fall into place as the Olympic cycle is slowly picking up.

elena radionova 14 gpf lp

Here are my thoughts on the GPF and what the competition is like as we go into the second half of the figure skating season. More

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Predictions: NHK Trophy 2014

yuzuru 14 coc sp

The last GP event before the Grand Prix Final is upon us! I’m not sure if I should cheer for the fact that the roster is half decent or if I should down some shots because there will be a lot of Phantom of the Opera programs this weekend. In any case, onwards as I attempt to predict the podium for each event for the NHK Trophy! 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

 

 

On the Street: Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of these “We Are Winter” ads on the street and it turns out it’s an ad campaign by the Canadian Olympic committee to get people excited about Sochi. Since I don’t believe in nationalism or particularly care about other sports, I don’t recognize most of the athletes but I did come across an ad with people I did recognize…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

A very understated but regal looking ad and pair. I’m surprised that I came across Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford’s ad before, let’s say, Patrick Chan or Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir’s ad.

What do you think of these ads? Let me know in the comments!

Also, if you see a “We Are Winter” or other ads featuring figure skaters, either link me to the picture in the comments or tweet them to me (@LanternBell). I’ll put the ad in a new post or add it to this post!

~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

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

Thoughts on Skate Canada 2013

The difficult thing about the GP series is that each event comes at you so fast that you hardly get a break. I’ve been in a little bit of a slump lately so in an attempt to get out of that frame of mind, here’s a post with my thoughts on this year’s Skate Canada International.

The Tough Decision Ahead: Japanese Men

oda yuzuru

Nobody was really expecting Chan to lose at Skate Canada so the big story here is the faceoff between Yuzuru Hanyu and Nobunari Oda. You would think that Japan would be happy with the maximum 3 entries for the men’s competition at the Olympics but it seems as if the talent in this field runs deep. Every Japanese man worthy of the Olympics can’t make a false step during the early season – they need to give it their all but at the same time, not get injured and do well at all of their competitions to make a case for them to go to  Sochi.

The competition between Yuzuru and Nobu is interesting at Skate Canada for a few reasons:

1. Yuzuru beat Nobunari but by a really small margin – 1.8 points. This means that at the moment, they’re pretty much evenly matched. I find that the GP series is less influenced by politicking purely because of how the roster is formed; it’s rare to see two rivals (like Mao and Yuna or Virtue & Moir and Davis & White) to be in the same competition together. Since every event only has at most 4 top competitors or teams in each discipline, and each of them likely to be from different countries (unless a competitor for some reason drops in the overall rankings like Oda who missed a season due to injury), there is less need to throw the national figure skating union’s support behind one skater. Until the GP final, that is.

So, in short: without politicking and such, Nobunari and Yuzuru are evenly matched. Except…

2. Oda would’ve beat Yuzuru if he knew how to think on the fly. And possibly count to 2.

No, seriously, Oda managed, yet again, may I add, to VIOLATE THE ZAYAK RULE WITHIN THE FIRST MINUTE OF HIS PROGRAM. You would’ve thought that by now, he would’ve remembered to tack on at least a single toe-loop at the end of that second 3T.

You would think that he’d learn his lesson by now since he’s violated the Zayak rule about fifty times already.

So, if Oda has finally passed Counting 101 and How Not to Violate the Zayak Rule 101, he might have a slight edge over Yuzuru but for now, we’ll have to see how the rest of the GP series goes before we can say anything more definite about the Japanese men’s field.

The American Ladies Medal Hopes Will Fall on the Shoulders of… Ashely Wagner

There might’ve been an epic battle at Nationals this year to see who will be responsible for fueling American hopes for a long-awaited ladies medal (which might not come this Olympics either) but Gracie Gold lost her top spot in the long program and possibly, the chance to assert herself as the top U.S. lady going into the Olympics. Ashley didn’t win Skate America either but she already has last year’s National title under her belt and with her solid skating so far this season, I think she can secure the top spot at Nationals this year as well.

Comment: I Still Refuse to Put My Faith in Lipnitskaia

julia lipnitskaia 13 sci llp

So, PJ Kwong called this one correctly and 15 year-old Julia Lipnitskaia won the ladies’ competition over veteran Akiko Suzuki (yet again) and rising star, Gracie Gold. The only problem I have with Lipnitskaia is that I think her jumping ability is what is carrying her through to the top. The only problem with that, is that she doesn’t get off the ice very high and you can tell that she can squeak in an extra rotation on some of her triple jumps because of her small size. You see that ability to turn a double into a triple in a lot of junior ladies skaters but once puberty hits, that’s when you can’t squeak that extra rotation anymore. Especially with that really slow exits (which almost stop sometimes) on her jumps, I’m not sure if Julia’s jumps will carry her through in the next few season. At least for this season, though, I’ll peg her higher up in my rankings.

Olympic Bronze Left Wide-Open?

Unless you’re completely deluded, you probably know that the gold and silver medals for the pairs competition at Sochi will likely go to Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov and Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy barring injury or freak accident, with the former having a huge home-ice advantage. These two teams have been at the top since Shen & Zhao retired after their comeback at the last Olympics. The third spot has been open for a bit and last season Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford proved that they had what it takes to take the bronze. Consequently, everyone expected Duhamel & Radford to take the gold easily at Skate Canada as their main competitors Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek and Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (who had missed a season due to injury) are somewhat in the B-list in pairs skating.

What should have been an easy victory turned into a surprise bronze at Skate Canada, which begs the question: has Duhamel & Radford lost their grip on theOlympic bronze? We’ll just have to see as the season progresses.

Hard Reality for a Beautiful Team: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

tessa and scott 13 sci fd

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir delivered a gorgeous FD last weekend at Skate Canada. However, these two will have to push themselves a little harder (which I undoubtedly know that they will, being the kind of competitors they are) for a few reasons:

1. There were bobbles, yes. On the quantitative side, we can also note that Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, the #2 Canadian team, got higher TES in BOTH SEGMENTS of the competition.

In the SD, Tessa and Scott also got a level 3 for a Finnstep sequence and a level 2 for their twizzles. (Level 4s for everything else.)

Compare that with:

Meryl and Charlie – level 4s for everything except a level 3 on their no touching midline step sequence.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte – All level 4s.

Meryl & Charlie also scored higher on their FD at Skate America.

2. In terms of PCS, which is the more subjective score in skating, as well as a sort of reflection of the judges’ taste and preferences, Meryl & Charlie have slightly higher PCS in both segments when you compare their Skate America scores to Tessa & Scott’s Skate Canada scores. Less than a point or two separate the two teams.

In short: the teams are in a virtual tie in terms of their PCS, which Meryl & Charlie having a slight edge over their training-mates.

Despite all of this, do not despair, Tessa & Scott fans. The future doesn’t look that grim for these two, especially knowing their work ethic and determination. I think that we’ll get a nail-biting competition at the Olympics from this rivalry, which will be great.

What did you think of the competition at Skate Canada this year? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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