Thoughts on some programs from the Nebelhorn Trophy

Elena Radionova 13 Nebelhorn SP

New videos from the Nebelhorn Trophy popped up on my youtube homepage today so I decided to watch them and give my two cents to the people of the internets. Just as a warning, I didn’t watch all the videos but the ones with skaters who might make a splash on the podium for events this season. Here goes…

Oda proves that he’s still got It…

Nobunari Oda won the men’s competition easily and he’s off to a good start. Oda’s not an actor like Daisuke or Yuzuru but he’s shown that his knees are still in good shape to be able to land those jumps smooth as butter. The choreography isn’t all that special but those jumps are solid. I have a feeling that Oda and Takahiko Kozuka will be fighting for that last spot at the Olympics this year. And maybe, Oda will be able to put up a pretty good fight this year. Someone should set up two bets: one to see which three Japanese men make it to the Olympics and the second to see if Oda loses his spot because he broke the zayak rule. Again.

So many surprises this season and the season hasn’t even started yet! Even better, the surprises are good ones! I have never seen Oda skate a program with so many transitions! This time both his jumps and skating were as smooth as butter! He has a long way to go before he gets to Jeff Buttle’s level but I like this change in Oda. Keep up the good work! Also, dude, the upper leg on your skating leg is NOT parallel to the ice on some of your sit spins. Come on, Oda, you have something good going on! No more junior mistakes! And please learn to count so you don’t violate the zayak rule anymore!

Two-Time World Champion Miki Ando gets Beaten by 14 year-old Elena Radionova

I haven’t enjoyed Miki Ando’s programs in a while. (One of her coaches may have had something to do with that…) I also didn’t expect her to come back to figure skating but I guess with Mao’s inconsistency, Miki does stand a chance in the hunt for gold. Or maybe not since she placed second in this competition after a little creature who I will rave about later. In any case, this program isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread but it’s elegant and clean. Miki looks a little rough around the edges in some of her spins and especially in the footwork but it’s still early in the season so I’ll be forgiving.

The long program gave me the painful reminder that Miki is better at the short program and it’s clear that she needs a little more work before she can really compete with the big guns this season. The second half of the program was a little hard to watch as she lumbered through that step sequence and fumbled a few of the jumps. The program itself is a little bland and in the end, I’m not really surprised that she won silver after seeing what the gold medalist put out.

Elena Radionova. My goodness. This little wisp of a thing blew my mind away… WITHIN THE FIRST TWENTY SECONDS OF HER PROGRAM. Those edges are what I’d expect from ice dancers. I watched Elena right after I watched Miki Ando do her SP and boy, did she make Miki’s step sequence look juvenile in comparison. This was a fabulous program – intricate but not cluttered, complex and well-skated. A pleasant surprise and a breath of fresh air. As for her long…

Wow. I did not expect a 14 year-old do be able to pull of a program like that. I decided to watch her programs from the Junior Worlds last year where she won gold but honestly, she wasn’t nearly this good last year. However… I’ll concede that I’ve taken note of her talent before in this post. Sad that she fell on the double axel but this girl is brilliant. I would grant her the title of the future of figure skating as I did with Yuzuru Hanyu but with girls, it’s so much harder to gain that title on this humble blog because of all the things that puberty can do. Still, I will keep an eye out for this one in the future.

Mixed Feelings about Mother Russia’s Top Team in Pairs

When I first saw that they were skating to “Masquerade Waltz,” I was very afraid. I actually really like this piece of music and it ranks as one of my favourite pieces of classical music ever. I could just imagine these two infusing the cheesy angst and drama that I’ve seen from them the past two seasons *cough* Evanescence *cough* so I had my doubts. Luckily though, my bar has been set so low in terms of choreography (not skating) for these two that I actually deem this program to be decent. It’s not a work of art like Shen & Zhao’s “Turandot” or anything by G&G or “Out of Africa” by their main rivals, Savchenko & Szolkowy but Volosozhar & Trankov have skated to worse programs and this is really not that bad for them. Also, were they trying to make it seem as if Max was trying to choke Tatiana in one of the pairs spins?

And this, ladies and gentlemen, will likely be the program that will win the gold. Please do not miss the sarcasm in that previous sentence. The skating was fine but the program… I’m at a loss for words because I’m just confused. Seriously. Just think what you will. I give up when it comes to these two.

This season is really starting to look good. I look forward to seeing the skaters improve on the road to Sochi.

What I’m seeing on my Twitter feed lately…

Lately on my Twitter, I’ve been bombarded by all these sad tweets and then inspirational retweets on love, life and whatnot. The culprit? Miki Ando. Here are some examples.


I’m not exactly a fan of bits of inspiration floating about the internets unless there’s some sort of humour involved. I’m a sucker for cutesy stuff but these tweets are vomit inducing for several reasons. The main one being that Miki’s angst may be because of her broken relationship with the infamous Russian Gino, Nikolai Morozov.

Keep on tweeting these quotes if you like, but here are my two cents: chin up girl, you’re way too good for him. Pretty, talented and with an admirable sparky personality – you’ve got it all.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Japan Open – Part I: Ladies Commentary

I started writing a blog post on notepad about the Japan Open and I was halfway done when I realized that the post was going to be a tad long. So I’m going to divide my thoughts on the Japan Open into 2 or 3 thoughts and hopefully, I’ll find time in my busy schedule to finally finish it all. So, here’s part I of my blog posts of the cheesefest competition.

The Japan Open came and went and I was absolutely shocked at the results. World Champions and Olympic medalists completely bombing their programs? Then again, there’s nothing to lose in this competition seeing that it’s not an ISU event. The Japan Open is clearly a cheesefest for money and entertainment and skaters will probably take it easy so that they don’t get injured for the beginning of the season or for their future skating shows. At the same time, the competition can also serve as a test run, where skaters can exhibit their new programs to an audience in a competitive and yet low pressure environment. Still, this extent of bomb-age is quite incomprehensible. More

The Japan Open

The Japan Open is often a pleasant prelude to the figure skating season for me but I’m never extremely excited about it. In the past two years, the competition hasn’t been that exciting as there were only a few skaters to be excited about. This year, however, that seems to have changed. The lineup is as follows:

Team Japan: Miki Ando, Akiko Suzuki, Daisuke Takahashi, Takahiko Kozuka

Team North America (pretty much Team Canada): Joannie Rochette, Alissa Czisny, Patrick Chan, Jeff Buttle

Team Europe (pretty much Team Russia) : Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Alena Leonova, Artur Gachinski, Florent Amodio

It looks like Team Europe may be at a disadvantage since most skaters in that team fall short when compared to competitors in the other two teams. (I can’t help but be slightly excited over Elizaveta though.) However, Team North America have two retired or semi-retired athletes who may not have the heavy arsenal of jumps that that other competitors may have. Then again, who knows who may surprise us. If all of Team Japan is consistent, then they could very well take the title very handily. If they fall short, Team North America can very well snatch the victory from right under their noses.

Worlds 2011: Dethronement – Part I

I apologize for the lack of posts during the World competition, I’ve been horrendously busy in the past few days of my life with long overdue appointments with friends. I’m going to have to do some vigorous catching up and I’ll write a bit more later on.

So the most recent developments in the World scene include dethronements of two Olympic champions (well, three actually since one is a team of two): Yuna Kim and Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. One dethronement was a little unexpected than the other. I’m pretty sure you can guess which is which. So let’s start with the ladies. I’m going to write about ice dance in another post.

After the SP, Yuna Kim was leading Miki Ando by a margin of 0.33 – all from the PCS mark. Here were their programs:

As much as I have a lot of issues with Morozov’s choreography I admit that Miki’s program was well skated and might have deserved a higher mark for interpretation. Sadly enough, I found Yuna’s “Giselle” program a bit boring compared to her other programs so I would’ve put her choreography and interpretation marks a tad lower. And a lower score for performance and execution, she did miss her first combination jump after all. Feel free to disagree but I thought Miki deserved to be the leader after the SP.

Speaking of leaders, Chairman Mao underrotated and two-footed her triple axel. I’m a bit surprised at her PCS though, her skating skills and transitions are as good as ever but she was still 7th after the SP.

The surprise skater in 3rd place was Ksenia Makarova. The girl was on… and being Russian didn’t hurt her either.

Before I end the bit about the SP, I’ll give a special mention to my favourite of the season Kanako Murakami. She didn’t skate with the same cuteness and energy at the beginning of the season but that smile on her face at the end of the program said it all. 8th place overall at her first Worlds is not shabby at all and she should be proud of herself. Although she doesn’t exude as much cuteness, I would hope that this marks the beginning of Kanako as a more mature and polished skater. I can’t wait to see her next season!

You can find the full results of the SP here. And for the LP results, click here.

So the LP came and went and that was when the dethroning happened.

Yuna singled her toeloop after her first salchow and did the worst thing you could do under the new scoring system: she popped a jump – her flip, which she was having issues with at the beginning of the season last year. I actually liked the music for this program and overall, it was a lot more pleasant to watch than her short. I hope that she uses it again next season should she decide to compete.

Miki brought it in the long and skated it with only 1 mistake – a step out on a double toe combination. I think despite her lack of musicality and icky choreography, this World championship win should be considered the best moment of her career. She hadn’t been top Japanese lady for a while (and even when she won Nationals this year, people still picked Mao over Miki to win. She stuck with harsh and undeserved attacks from the media after her disastrous results at Torino, didn’t make it to the podium in Vancouver but stuck it out and won.

We should also mention that Miki has improved quite a bit in terms of presentation (her sit spin is actually a sit spin!), consistency and extension since her 2007 World championship win.

I’m sure there are people out there who aren’t great fans of Miki but I feel that she deserves quite a bit of admiration for her tenacity and the speed and strength that she exudes on the ice. Her stroking at Worlds was, admittedly, a thing of beauty.

I think I’ll end here on a high note. There’s a lot more catching up to do before I can make more comments on what transpired at Worlds so I thank you for your patience.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Worlds 2011: Predictions – Ladies

Ok. This post was wayyy overdue and it would have been even more overdue if I didn’t have writer’s block for something else I should be writing at the moment. Ok. Worlds is in 5 days (wahhhh!!!) and the end of the figure skating season is near. I remember starting this blog at the beginning of this season. It’s been such an interesting experience so far. I hope that I’ll be able to continuing blogging next season, although there may be huge changes coming into my life very soon. In any case, ze ladiezzz.

Yuna Kim will be back in time for Worlds and despite not competing at all this season, she looks like the top contender. It looks like her extension has improved (she actually turns out her foot and points her toes!) and if her jumps are the same, I don’t see anything that could stop her from getting her World title back from Mao.

As for Mao, she’s gotten a bit more training time to get her jumps right but her season and her performances have been far from perfect. She did relatively well at Four Continents but I think Mao is looking towards long-term improvement and her jump technique will take a little while longer to perfect. If she loses to Yuna this season, I don’t think that Mao should see this as a loss, but rather another stone on the road of her career. Compared to Sochi (and her formidable Russian rivals that may come with it), this season really isn’t all that important. I’ll be looking forward to Mao next season and I pray that she’ll try some Shae-Lynn Bourne choreography. Or Marina Zoueva… her LP for Takahiko Kozuka this year is absolutely stunning.

Because of Mao’s rough season, though, Miki Ando looks to be a good contender for silver… or gold if Yuna messes up. As usual, Miki’s choreography leaves a lot to be desired but she’s been having a good and steady season after grabbing the Japanese national title and the Four Continents crown away from Mao. The big question at the moment is whether or not the postponement of Worlds has affected her conditioning and training. I feel that Yuna isn’t as affected by the change in schedule because she hasn’t competed all season anyway and Mao got some extra time to train. Miki, on the other hand had a steady season leading up to Worlds. Who knows how this change in schedule has changed her readiness for the World championships.

Another lady to consider would be Carolina Kostner, headcase extraordinaire. Pretty decent Grand Prix results and then she loses to a total nobody at Euros. Carolina has taken out many of the toe jumps in her long program, which is really frustrating (her triple flip, triple toe is one of the most impressive – the height, the distance!) and puzzling when you look at her marks this season. If the ISU or the judges feel the need to put a European skater on the podium, Carolina’s the girl, with or without her triple lutzes and flips. In order for that to happen, however, the Asians mentioned above will have to bomb their asses off for her to slip into the top three.

Also up for consideration is Alissa Czisny, who got a huge endorsement with Chrysler. She’s so sweet.

Alissa was a dark horse and surprise winner of the GPF this season and after a disappointing finish last year at U.S. Nationals, she grabbed her title back from Rachael Flatt. (Good riddance for that.) Alissa was one of the favourites going into 4CC when something absolutely puzzling happened: she finished behind both her teammates (Flatt and Mirai Nagasu who won bronze). Whaaa? So the question of the moment for Alissa is: did she peak too early? Like Carolina, however, at least one of the three Asians above will have to screw up if she wants to be in the top three, however, a top 5 finish is within her grasp if she can prove that she is no longer a headcase.

And before I end, I think I’d like to mention Kanako Murakami as a skater who might surprise us. Kanako is still young and up and coming but she’s shown us that she’s capable of great things… like snatching gold from right under Rachael Flatt and Carolina Kostner’s nose at Skate America this season. I’m hoping for a great top 10 finish for her at Worlds, which she can improve on in the next couple of seasons leading into Sochi. She definitely needs polish (and I hope she nails her double axel in her SP) but I can’t help but be excited for her future.

Podium predictions:

Gold: Yuna Kim
Silver: Miki Ando (though my gut could be very wrong)
Bronze: Mao Asada

What are your predictions for the ladies? I’ll be posting more predictions soon.

~The Rinkside Cafe

A Few Thoughts on Four Continents: Men and Ladies

Ok, this is way overdue and someone reminded me that Worlds is 10 days away, so I really should finish this post so I can get on with Worlds predictions in a day or two. So… Four Continents, some thoughts:


Daisuke Takahashi has proven that he’s still pretty important in the international scene despite his defeat at Nationals. Some attribute his poor performance at the GPF and Nationals to injury caused by his collision with Kozuka but as a veteran figure skater, I don’t know if one should cut Daisuke some slack seeing that he should be able to skate through the pain if he were well trained.  *Points to Yuko Kavaguti at the GPF where she dislocated her shoulder, Xue Shen (2003 Worlds), Evan Lysacek (skated 2009 Worlds with an injury on his toe)* In any case, Daisuke has now regained his footing and he should be a veritable threat to P-huge ego-Chan for World gold. Though you never know, Chan could fall on his triple axel but still get rewarded points because he falls so prettily.

Yuzuru Hanyu was definitely a surprise winner for silver. With Daisuke’s imminent retirement, Oda’s role as a perennial bridesmaid for a World medal and Kozuka’s lack of popularity with the international judges, I’d say that this kid is beginning his senior career with a bang and with some polish, he may be a veritable threat to the Sochi podium. He’s like a little Daisuke and I look forward to watching his future performances.

Jeremy Abbott rallied his efforts and managed a bronze, thus preventing a Japanese podium sweep. Jeremy hopes to begin his season a lot better because he started his season with old boots and apparently he’s felt off for the entire season as a result. His loss at Nationals hit him hard but his exclusion from the World team is simply a foolish decision. I don’t see either of the no-name American men going to Worlds capable of doing what Jeremy did in this competition, which is to beat at least one Japanese man. Who knows, maybe the USFSA will come to their senses and send him to compete at the World Team Trophy.

One confuzzling result was Takahiko Kozuka‘s 4th place finish. Kozuka has been strong all season but I don’t think we should completely disregard him as a threat to the World podium. He was 2nd in the LP and would’ve won a medal if he didn’t screw up his SP.


Asian sweep! It’s almost a Japanese sweep, except Mirai is Japanese-American.

Miki Ando won the competition over her fellow teammate, Mao Asada. It seems that she might be Yuna Kim’s main challenger at Worlds but overall, I think that Mao will benefit in the long run from reworking her technique. She produced a clean triple axel in her SP and she’s been steadily improving throughout the season. Personally, I feel that’s more important than defending her title. If she gets through this season with a positive mindset, I think we’ll see a more confident and better Mao next season.

One surprising development was that Alissa Czisny, winner of the GPF, came out at the bottom of all three American ladies at 4CC, overall and in both portions of the competition. Alissa may have peaked too early and I fear that she won’t be much of a contender at Worlds. Mirai Nagasu on the other hand, rallied her strength to kick Rachael Flatt’s flabby ass off the podium. Amen. Her exclusion from the World team may have been a good motivator and I hope to see a better Mirai in the future.

Also, if anyone cared, Akiko Suzuki is basically officially dumped in the international scene as well despite her successes last year. *sadface*

Anyways, I need to eat and run. I will ramble about ice dance and pairs in my next post.

What did you think about the results of Four Continents? I’d love to hear your opinion!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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