More Details on the Ilinykh/Katsalapov Split

So sometime before Worlds this season, the shocking news that Olympic bronze medalists, Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov were going to split. (I mentioned this in this post.) There were some whispers that these might have been rumours (I’ve even heard that it was a rumour perpetuated by Marina Zueva for some strange reason) but months have passed and it seems that the split is official. Nikita is going to skate with Victoria Sinitsina while Elena seems to be training with Ruslan Zhiganshin, Victoria’s former partner.

elena ruslan

More photos of Ilinykh/Zhiganshin in practice can be found here.

So far, media reports (such as this one here) have quoted Elena saying that Nikita was responsible for initiating the split while she was against the idea. Apparently, Nikolai Morozov is not coaching either of the new teams but it is rumoured that Sinitsina and Katsalapov’s test skate with Marina Zueva has gone well and she will be their new coach. (When definite sources emerge, I will post links.) From the photos, it seems as if Yelena Kustarova is Ilinykh/Zhiganshin’s new coach.

Things are bound to clear up in the future so stay tuned to this new skating drama!

What do you think of these new partnerships and the split? Do you have more info or sources you can enlighten us with? If so, tell us in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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New coaches for two Japanese men: Daisuke and Yuzuru

This is old news by now but I needed time to mull over things and form my opinion. In any case, we all know now that Daisuke Takahashi is going back to Nikolai Morozov who will be his assistant coach/advisor. (Thanks, Rino!) I’m weeping in my heart, just a little because first Lori and now the Morozombie. Aunt Joyce has expressed his opinion in this post and is not too concerned about the move because of these programs:

I, on the other hand, reasons that those programs are 4 years old and Morozov may have burnt out completely by now. When I think of Morozov, all I can think of is this fuckery:

I think I lose brain cells every time I look at that costume, let alone watch the entire program.

I really don’t have much else to say. Anyone else have comments?

Moving on to Yuzuru, it’s also really old news that he’s now training with Brian Orser and David Wilson. This new combination took a little more time to really settle into my brain. On one hand, Yuzuru’s relationship with his former coach, Nanami Abe was super sweet. I love how she always held his Pooh Bear tissue box and how he would put his medals around her neck. The Romeo and Juliet LP she choreographed this season was quite extraordinary and suited him perfectly – his age, his flair for drama and his ability to emote. Absolutely glorious.

On the other hand, Yuzuru needs his quads steady and his stamina built up if he wants to be a contender for the Olympics. At his age, he can go to two but at the same time, with a World bronze medal on his neck, he has the potential to go far at Sochi. I’m not too worried about Brian Orser’s commitments to Yuzuru despite the fact that Orser is also in charge of Javier. The difference between Javier and Yuzuru is that little Yuzuru has a skating federation with money and who cares a little more despite the fact that Yuzuru’s only the #3 man in Japan. I don’t doubt that he’ll rise further up in the ranks very soon despite Oda coming back and Takahiko working on a comeback. He already seems to be getting more fans than Takahiko and Oda probably still hasn’t passed Counting 101.  I’m also pleased with the fact that Yuzuru will probably be working with David Wilson for choreography and I love how Wilson makes programs that play up each skater’s strengths while downplaying their weaknesses.

Case and point? Yuna and her terrible extension. (Face it Yunabots, she’s not totally perfect – just like any other skater – and she really only improved this aspect of her skating after she left Orser.) Wilson made several programs that made that weakness a moot point while emphasizing her ability to be dramatic or flirty.

Nonetheless, my issue with Yuzuru’s coaching situation is mainly, Brian Orser. At this point, I’m doubting his abilities as a coach. Yes, there was Yuna Kim but here are some of his other “big name” students: Christina Gao who, like Yuna has poor extension and turnout, lacks confidence and star power and has gotten accepted at Harvard. The last point is not a detriment to her character but a potential reason for retirement, of course. There’s also Adam Rippon who does the most gorgeous Rippon Lutzes, was touted to be the next star in American men’s figure skating but barely has a quad or a triple axel at this point in his career. That is something that he should be very worried about if he wants to be competitive in the World stage right now. He seems to be worried since he left Orser. The latest pupil, Javier Fernandez had a promising start this season – two silvers in his GP events and then a bronze in the final but then something fell loose – 6th at the European Championships and then 9th at Worlds. He was good enough to win bronze but did not even break the top 5. Maybe my expectations were too high but the way this guy started his season was a breath of fresh air. Oh well, time will tell.

In any case, I will not forgive Orser if he turns Yuzuru into a “has been” skater. Yuna, her unexpected success and her popularity was what made Orser into the superstar coach he is now. Yes, Yuna was good and Orser made her better but she was also from South Korea, a place where competitive figure skating is unusual and a country that embraces their celebrities very ardently. If Yuna were from France, where there is a decent history of competitive figure skating and a strong union to back up their skaters, she would not have the underdog story which will make her even more famous that she was for winning things and beating the Japanese and she would not have opened up a new market to figure skating for the ISU. Part of Yuna’s superstardom, I may argue derives from her country of origin but the main point is that Orser also became a superstar with Yuna’s success. In some ways, I feel that Yuna made Orser into a larger than life coach than he actually was and his more recent students, I feel that there is validity in my worries over Yuzuru’s skating career. Then again, like everything else, time will tell.

Opinions? Please share!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Worlds 2012: Pairs LP

I never seem to be able to catch a break these days. Just when things were calming down, I find myself with a gazillion things to do again. So much for a vacation. In any case, I’ll try to finish up the Worlds posts. All I have left to write about is the ladies’ competition. But before that, let’s take a look at the results of the pairs LP.

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Boggles the mind: Morozov Choreography

How is it that the man who choreographed this masterpiece:

 

And this piece of perfection:

 

can choreograph a monstrosity like this?

 

And then try to make up for his mistake by creating this instead?

 

No seriously, WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS FUCKERY??? Sure it’s a lot better than the fuckery that was that weird tiger-thing program but the music makes no sense whatsoever. It goes from elevator music so samba to calm quiet piano piece to pastoral music to more Latin music to WTF MOROZOV ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE MY BRAIN EXPLODE WITH NONSENSICAL MUSIC CUTS!?!?!????? And who are those French commentators kidding when they say, “C’est magnifique ça.” No, it’s not magnifique, it’s just FUCKED UP, that’s what it is. They’re clapping because Florent cued them to do it. Oh Florent, so young, so talented. All going to waste. You may have won bronze at Euros this year but unless you leave the Russian Gino, I’m giving up on you and your figure skating future forever.

What do you think of Florent’s new LP?

~The Rinkside Cafe

 

The French Federation squashes rumours of a Morozov-Amodio split

The French Federation released this press release yesterday stating that “MOROZOV will prepare the choreography of Florent AMODIO’s both programs for the next season in New York starting June 10th.” They also explicitly said that the press release was meant to “close the rumors speaking about the end of their cooperation.” With Morozov being a special coach to the skaters of Mother Russia, it seems that his non-Russian skaters will have to give their coaching appointment a bit of thought, seeing that Morozov has relocated to, I believe, Moscow and will put his focus on the Russian skaters.

The problem at the moment for Florent is not the rumours of a coaching change but whether or not Morozov has anything to offer him. At the moment, I feel as if Florent has done all he can do with Morozov. Sure, he’s European champion now, but that doesn’t mean very much when the men he wants to take down are from Japan and Canada. Artur Gachinski’s bronze was the result of a competition riddled with horrendous or stupid mistakes and perhaps a good dose of hometown (a la Mother Russia) advantage. (In other words, his achievement did not come from his own hands – and feet – but from the hands of others. Not a competitor you want to be, even if it does mean winning something.) At the same time, Florent can definitely do a lot better than Morozov choreography. Sure, his LP this season was entertaining…

…but it’s clearly front-loaded with tons of random posing. Florent is super talented and I would like to see him push himself even further. I don’t usually recommend Brian Orser but the Orser/Wilson pair may do well for him in order to polish up his technical skating AND unleash his creativity with clever and well-constructed programs. As well, Orser no longer has a star male pupil to concentrate on, so whichever goes to him now has a chance to be his priority (which comes with a fair amount of politicking, I suspect). Furthermore, Florent deserves this kind of political and technical support. He may not have Brian Joubert’s high cheekbones but he’s an adorable personality with a touching backstory that can sell. The French Federation has yet to throw all of their support behind Florent but a coaching change followed by improvement and good results could solidify his position as the #1 French man.

Then again, we don’t quite know the reasoning behind the decision and my opinions are after all, my opinions. Who knows what the future will bring.

What are your thoughts about Florent and his non-coaching change?

~The Rinkside Cafe

Just for Fun: Top 5 Coaches

I was inspired by this post by From the Boards and thought that I’d compile my own list of top 5 coaches (and I’ll do  a second part with choreographers later) ’cause it’s fun! I’ll try and make my list a little dissimilar to spice things up! So without further ado…

The Rinkside Cafe’s picks for Top 5 Coaches

1. Tatiana Tarasova

Tati may not have been able to focus her attentions on Mao because she had to take care of her sick mother (and if you can sympathize with Joannie Rochette, I think you can also sympathize with Tati), but Mao’s choice for her as coach was not illogical at all: Tati has coached more skaters to World Championhood and Olympic Gold more than anyone else. Some of her past students include Alexei Yagudin, Katia Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, Shizuka Arakawa and Illia Kulik. At the moment, I think she’s only “advising teams” (although her mother passed away in the summer) but all in all, Tati, with her diva fur coats and hair, is undoubtedly, a force to be reckoned with.

2. Frank Carroll

Frank Carroll is a legend thanks to Michelle Kwan. He and Lori Nichol used to be a dream team. It’s just a pity that the student that would finally give him Olympic Gold is the epileptic arm-waving, giant bad Vera Wang-clad contorting spider called Evan Lysacek. Carroll is known to make his skaters do full run throughs which makes them improve very, very fast. Right now, his star students at the senior level (Mirai Nagasu and Denis Ten) are known headcases but I’m hoping that he could work some magic on them.

3. Igor Shpilband

Team Shpilband and Zueva have worked miracles and have taken teams with potential and worked with them until they meet that potential. Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had trouble with lifts, speed and power during their teenage year and look at them now! Under their tutelage (and Igor paired them up), Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto began to give notice to the world that North America is capable of producing good ice dancers in a European-dominated sport. In fact, thanks to team Shpilband/Zueva, North America has emerged as a powerhouse for ice dancing in recent years, therefore  beginning the campaign to rid the world of what Aunt Joyce likes to call “Eurotrash” programs, which is definitely a good thing. Also, Katia Shpilband, Igor’s daughter has become a competent figure skater at the intermediate junior level. Videos of her skating have yet to emerge on the internet but I must say, I’m excited.

4. Alexei Mishin

Although several current children’s books hail the Weir-Lysacek rivalry as the most epic rivalry in history, I care to disagree. Actually, any good figure skating fan would know that the most epic rivalry was between Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko. Unlike Weir and Lysacek who only really competed with each other on the national level (with a lot of trash talking), Yagudin and Plushenko were competing with each other for The Top Spot in EVERY competition they were in together. For about eight years, if your last name was not Yagudin or Plushenko, you would not win gold or silver at Worlds. Bronze would have been a great achievement back then. In any case, these two and their talent and fierce and epic rivalry was created or fostered by Papa Mishin. You may criticize him for choreography with excessive arm-waving but his mind games and toughness has produced two legends of figure skating. Although Plushenko’s performance at the Olympics (and every competition during the 2009/2010 season) left much to be desired, it’s a pity that this legend had to be beaten by someone whose “artistry” involves re-enacting a seizure on ice. In any case, another star by Mishin is on the horizon by the name of Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. If she survives her growth spurt, watch out for her at Sochi.

5. A tie between…

Brian Orser

I was going to exclude Orser from the top 5 not because he’s not a great coach, but because he’s only coached 1 superstar and 1 upcoming star. Although Yuna Kim is a super-duperstar at the moment, Orser does not have the coaching record as some of the other coaches on this list. At the moment, he has 1 Olympic gold medal, 1 World gold and 2 World bronze. A fair achievement, by 1 skater but compared to people like Tati and Igor, he has a way to go with his coaching career. Still, Kim’s achievements have been great but we’ll have to wait and see how Orser fares with his other skaters. At the moment, Christina Gao is being buried by the Russian girls and Adam Rippon still has consistency issues. His reputation amongst Korean fans has gone down since the crazy drama with the Kim-Orser split. And he doesn’t have a South Park theme song. In any case, we’ll have to wait and see what else Brian has in store for us, although if anything, CBC will still be a huge fan of his.

Nikolai Morozov

Morozov is a badass Russian Gino who can do voodoo and somehow get gorgeous girls despite his gino-ness. I admit, some of his programs are some of the worst crap I’ve ever seen (aka Morozombie programs). Miki’s Ando’s programs are clear proof of that, however some of his other programs are pure, pure gold. Like this one, which is a collaboration with Tatiana Tarasova:

Despite his choreography with tons of pauses, weird arm movements, a lack of personality and jump-laden in the second half programs, Morozov’s legacy and coaching prowess stems from the fact that he produces consistent skaters with correct, huge and powerful jumps. Just look at Miki Ando and Nobunari Oda.

Anyways, what is your list of top 5 coaches?

~The Rinkside Cafe

Live blog of the SD – NHK trophy

Don’t expect live blogs all the time. I just happen to have a bit more free time than usual today. The pictures in this post are from practice by the way. (Photo credits go to the wonderful photographers at ice-dance.com)

Dora Turoczi and Balazs Major

Hmm… excuse me while I take a food break. Decent lines. Nothing too interesting.

Xiaoyang YU and Chen Wang

This program is horrendously tacked together. A bit sloppy at the end.

Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland

I remember this team. They have glimmers of brilliance. They need to mature a bit but I guess this is part of the process. Lovely waltz section, good lines. Need more speed. Bit choppy on the last lift. I thought their scores should be a bit higher than the Chinese team.

Chris and Cathy Reed

I like the Adams family theme of this routine – for a second, I thought Chris was supposed to be Morozov aka the Russian Gino. (You can do better than him, Miki!) The first lift is awkward but it fits with the theme. These two feel really slow during the waltz section. Screwy twizzles, fall from Chris. Midline step sequence faster and more watchable.

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov

Finally, a team to be excited about. I see these two making a splash this year. Prove me right? Bit far apart oon the first set of twizzles. I’m glad the choreography doesn’t start with the waltz sequence right away like all the other routines. The music is a bit jarring but they’re a lot faster than the previous teams. Very smooth lift. Stumble on the mid-line step sequence. A bit sloppy at the end but a pretty good performance overall. Their superior skills are reflected in their scores.

Weaver and Poje picture to mark the beginning of the warm-up!

(Meryl and Charlie are officially my favourites for this competition but I love Kaitlyn’s dresses!)
FINALLY! Warm-up group 2! *Is super excited for Weaver/Poje, Davis/White and the Shibushibus.*

Lucie Mysliveckove and Matej Novak

Lucie looks as if she slept with in those curls. Oh em gee. No. These two remind me of the tacky team aka Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno. No, stop with that =O face. I’m starting to get a headache. Stop it with the stupid facial expression, Lucie! Elena and Nikita were a lot better. The 2nd part of their music reminds me of a theme song to a really tacky sit-com TV show. Twizzles really out of sync. Ughhh… this team just spews tackiness and I thought I had seen the last of the super awkward tacky hick style when Hann-McCurdy and Coreno retired. Excuse me while I go wash my eyes out. I was so distracted by their tackiness, I didn’t note to much about their skating. Woot for replays. Their footwork is a bit sloppy. They don’t seem to know where the other’s feet are. I fear they may injure each other if they don’t work that out. Ok, those twizzles were out of control. I think the guy left out one rotation on the first set. Would’ve marked them lower.

Maia and Alex Shibutani


Yay!!! It’s the Shibushibus~! These two remind me of Tessa and Scott without the romance. Love Maia’s dress. They’re adorable, I want to pinch their cheeks. They both have such lovely lines. Fast twizzles. They may have less experience, but Meryl, take note of Maia’s lines. Wonderful unison on the mid-line step sequence. And Marina Zoueva is a goddess for seamlessly putting the waltz into the program. Whoa. Freak fall from Alex. Costuming problem for Maia, but at least the little bit of cloth is hanging on a thread. No deductions if it stays on. Not a good start for them. Very smooth transitions during the lifts. Hopefully they’ll be placed 2nd after the Russians despite the fall. Yep.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje

Can I steal Kaitlyn’s dress? You can totally wear that to a nice night out. No tacky costumes here. So excited to see how these two have grown.I hope to see them as Tessa and Scott’s successors for the Canadian National title one day.  Love the music choice. They’ve gained some speed since last season. .  Beautiful chemistry.  Still love their music choice on the 2nd part of the routine. Wow, they got  some audience support… for a second or so. Good unison in the step sequence. Favourite SD so far.  Simple and elegant. Love. Woot! They’ve beaten the Russians!

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte

Lovely couple. The bottom of the dress is a bit strange… Love the song! Que sera, sera! Slowed down on the last part of the waltz… They’re nice and close on the mid-line step sequence. . Nice interpretation of the music on the 2nd half. Twizzles a out of sync but difficult. Adorable! 3rd after Kaitlyn and Andrew and Elena and Nikita.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White

Even when you watch them during the warm-up, you can tell they’re so much better than the rest of the competition. It’s Marlie!!! *squeal* Fast twizzles, in unison, definitely the best of the night. Meryl has improved her line and extension slightly. So much faster and smoother than the other teams.  Is it just me, or Meryl a bit stiff? They aren’t skating with the attack that I know they’re capable of. Meryl has a smile practically plastered onto her face. Lovely new lift, very intricate.  For some reason, I can see Tessa and Scott skating this more than these two… Overwhelming lead. No need to panic about winning this thing, they can fall 3 times and still win.

Top 3:

1. Davis/White – 66.97
2. Weaver/Poje – 58.69
3. Ilinykh/Katsalapov – 56.89

General comments:

Meryl and Charlie are very obviously going to win this thing. There might be a bit of a tussle for 2nd place but Kaitlyn and Andrew’s strongest segment is the FD, so I hope to see a silver medal around their necks at the end of this competition. The little Russians whose names I cannot pronounce for the life of me are doing rather well, as expected. I look forward to their Don Quixote FD. Capellini/Lanotte are only 1.2 points behind Elena and Nikita but I don’t see the Italians surpassing them. The Shibushibus will probably remain in 5th as well… I think they would’ve had a chance at 4th place if they didn’t fall. Pity their season had to start like that. Hopefully they’ll get better as the season progresses.

Results/scores can be found here.

I think I’ll go to bed rather than watch the pairs. There aren’t very many exciting teams. I’ll wake up and hopefully there will be no madness and Pang and Tong will be in the lead.

‘Nighty night!

~The Rinkside Cafe