Sad Farewell: Nobunari Oda

The Japanese single skaters have made their mark in the last two Olympic cycles. The depth in single skating in Japan is so impressive that we knew that the world will be deprived of 1 or 2 great skaters from both the men and ladies discipline when they made their Olympic team. Even with the maximum 3 berths for the men and the ladies, it was not enough to contain all of the talent in those disciplines from this country.

One skater who retired from the scene quietly before the Olympics was Nobunari Oda – the direct descendant of a famous Japanese warlord who initiated the initiation of the unification of Japan in the Warring States period. In his career, Oda wasn’t a charismatic performer like his fellow teammate, Daisuke Takahashi but Oda’s strengths came in his jumps and his knees. He landed jumps smooth as butter with a gorgeous running back outside edge.

I think my favourite program for Oda is still his Charlie Chaplin LP from the 2009/2010 season. It was a program that showed off his strengths and allowed his fun personality to shine.

I want to limit each of these farewell posts to one video each but I think I have to share this bonus with everyone. I mean, it’s Mario. And figure skating. Done well.

I’m sad to see you go, Nobu.

Which programs did you enjoy from Nobunari Oda? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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Predictions: Grand Prix Final 2013

mao asada 13 japan open lp2

*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

Predictions: NHK Trophy 2013

I’m still sorting out my thoughts on the Cup of China this year so there may be a combination CoC and NHK thoughts post in the future but for now, a predictions post is due.

daisuke 13 sa

Let’s hope these predictions will go a little better this time…

Men

There are three Japanese men skating at NHK this week and somehow, I can only see one man skating well. Usually, I’d name Daisuke Takahashi to that charge but Daisuke hasn’t been skating to the standard I expect from him lately. Instead, I’ll pin my hopes for two solid skates on Nobunari Oda, who’s done well this season and would’ve won silver at Skate Canada if he hadn’t violated the zayak rule within the first minute of his long program. (Yes, I’m still miffed about that.)

However, another person to watch would be Javier Fernandez who took the bronze at Worlds this year. I expect him and Oda to be duking it out for gold. It’ll be a tough call as to who will win.

Adam Rippon may be another skater to watch since he’s seems to have matured and done rather well at Skate America. I’m not sure if he’s still at that stage where the audience has no clue which Adam will show up (the angel or the headcase) but I guess this is a test. If he skates well here, I may have to peg him as a serious competitor in all my predictions this season.

Predictions:

Gold: Nobunari Oda
Silver:
Javier Fernandez
Bronze:
Daisuke Takahashi

Ladies

I cannot tell you how happy I was to see Mao Asada skating well again. This season, Mao just looks longer, leaner and skating with a maturity and strength that I’ve never seen before. Yes, her programs have not been perfect but her win at Skate America might give her some good momentum for the Olympics this season. As for this competition, I think she can grab the gold if she skates well. She’ll have tough competition from her fellow countryman, Akiko Suzuki, who won silver at Skate Canada.

I think that the podium will be rounded off by Gracie Gold, who’s shown that she’s something of an entity in the Grand Prix circuit but will need to skate more consistently and give us more if she’s to become the top U.S. lady.

Predictions:

Gold: Mao Asada
Silver:
Akiko Suzuki
Bronze:
Gracie Gold

Pairs

There is no doubt in my mind that the winners of this event will be Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the gold was theirs every time their name pops up. Looking at the competitors, I’m sure they could fall once or twice and still win.

Two Chinese teams showed that they still had it this season and I expect them to round out the podium as well. I’m talking about Wenjing Sui & Cong Han and Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang. The former won silver at Skate Canada while the latter won bronze, to my utmost surprise last week at the Cup of China. Stylistically, there’s an elegance reminiscent of Shen & Zhao that I see in Peng & Zhang but I think Sui & Han might have the advantage this season at least for their big tricks. We’ll see how these these two teams do. I’m so sad that China only has two slots for pairs at the Olympics and one of these teams will likely not go.

Predictions:

Gold: Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov
Silver:
Wenjing Sui & Cong Han
Bronze:
Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang

Ice Dance

I’m pretty sure that the number 1 and 2 slot will be filled in quite handily by Meryl Davis & Charlie White and Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, respectively. It’s the bronze that might be a bit of a tough call. The fight for bronze will likely be a showdown between Maia & Alex Shibutani and Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov. We have yet to see I/K’s programs but I can’t quite seem to connect with the Shibsibs’ MJ/whatever free dance. It’s a strange choice for the Olympics since it’s not at all anything that we’ve seen from them and the concept of it is unclear to me. I think for that I’ll give the edge to I/K. Who will hopefully give us something better than that terribly tacky Ghost FD from last year.

Predictions:

Gold: Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Silver:
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte
Bronze:
Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov

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

~The Rinkside Cafe

Predictions: Skate Canada 2013

Skate Canada is upon us! Onwards with the predictions! I apologize for any typos, by the way. My house is really cold and my fingers aren’t cooperating with me at the moment.

weaver poje 13 usic ex

Men

Patrick Chan is competing. In Canada. If you still don’t get it, I’ll put it in an equation for you:

Chan + skating in Chanada = instant gold. Sigh.

As for silver and bronze, expect a tough battle between the young prince, Yuzuru Hanyu, and his older teammate, Nobunari Oda. This is going to be a tough call.

Predictions:

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

Ladies

The ladies competition is another tough call. Little youngin’, Julia Lipnitskaia recently beat veteran, Akiko Suzuki, at the Finlandia Trophy. However, Akiko starts out the season a little rough and improves throughout the GP series. (After the GP series, she gets undermarked in the PCS and drops in the rankings at competitions…) As for Lipnitskaia, I really do wonder about her skating career. She may be winning the medals now but puberty is acoming and her jumps are frightfully low and she doesn’t come out of them with a lot of speed or flow. That’s a very bad sign for things to come when the ice and gravity is less forgiving once puberty sets in.

Katelyn Osmond has home ice advantage (and I swear I see her Olympics feature ad more often than any other skater on CBC for some reason) and she’s the defending champion but according to PJ Kwong’s CBC article, she’s been struggling with injuries lately. That and I attribute her win last year more to the mistakes of her competitors than her own skating. Gracie Gold may be the one to snatch a medal away from Katelyn if the latter’s skating is abysmal enough. Though it will be a tough call with the home ice advantage that Katelyn has…

Predictions:

Gold: Akiko Suzuki (please, Akiko, don’t let me down!)
Silver:
Julia Lipnitskaia
Bronze:
Gracie Gold

Pairs

I hate doing pairs predictions. Or pairs competitions in general. They’re just not as exciting or beautiful as they used to be.

In any case, Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford are in a position not unlike Joannie Rochette 4 seasons ago: they’ll never touch the top two teams – S&S and V&T – just as Joannie couldn’t really touch Mao or Yuna but they’re better than the rest of the field, which is why their improvement in the rankings and skating ability is so exciting: they’re poised to take Olympic bronze. At Skate Canada though, they’ll probably take the gold. As for the rest of the medals, lets just say that these predictions won’t be pretty.

Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek let me down at Skate America by not getting bronze but I know they have it in them to get on the podium at GP events. I’m not a fan of their programs but they are lovely to watch. There was also a time where I absolutely adored Wenjing Sui & Cong Han but after missing a season, I’m not sure where they stand amongst their competitors, especially after a 12th place finish at Worlds. Another team to keep an eye out for: Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers. I was quite impressed with Paige’s drive and competitiveness in the CBC documentary, “Ice, Sweat and Tears,” but I hope that it will translate into the team’s skating. Home-ice advantage will also give their scores a boost which might help them in their quest to medal. In all honesty, I’m not confident about these predictions beyond the gold.

Predictions:

Gold: Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford
Silver:
Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek
Bronze:
Wenjing Sui & Cong Han

Ice Dance

Just like their rivals, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir will take the gold quite handily unless they withdraw. *hopes that that doesn’t happen* Their teammates, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, seems to have overcome their injury from last season and are skating strong as they have in the past few seasons. I expect them to get the silver. The bronze medal seems to be the tough call since there aren’t that many standout teams in this competition. If I were to hazard a guess at the bronze medal team, I’d say that it could go to Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko, who medaled at two GP events last season (both bronze), which makes them a head above the rest of the list after the two Canadian teams.

Predictions:

Gold: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Silver:
Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje
Bronze:
Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko

What are your predictions for Skate Canada 2013? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Cup of Russia 2012: Predictions

This week will be busy again so I’m writing these predictions quickly.

Men

Even though Patrick Chan got defeated by Javier Fernandez at Skate Canada (shock!), I still think he has enough skating cred with the judges to muster a win here. Some interesting contenders for the rest of the podium would be the Japanese men, Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka. This competition could be really important for them since it could help the JFSA decide who the #3 Japanese man is. Oh yes, and Johnny Weir will be back and we get to see how he stacks up against some tough international competition here.

Predictions:

Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver: Takahiko Kozuka
Bronze: Nobunari Oda

Ladies

The ladies competition could potentially be the contest of the young’ins. Adelina Sotnikova will have home ice advantage. In Russia. A year before the Olympics. In Russia. Alena Leonova had a really bad showing at her last grand prix but who knows what will happen. In Russia. That aside, Kiira Korpi is the only lady with a mature grace and may be able to medal here though she will face competition from some young ladies such as Kanako Murakami, who gave notice to not completely discounted when she won the bronze at Skate Canada. Gracie Gold is also on the roster but after her performance at Skate America, I’m not sure what to make of her anymore.

Predictions:

Gold: Adelina Sotnikova
Silver: Kanako Murakami
Bronze: Kiira Korpi

Pairs

The two Russian teams have it to take the first two spots on the podium though the gold will undoubtedly go to Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov. If Vera Bazarova manages to get her tiny, tiny frame off the ice and land her jumps, she and Yuri Larionov can take the silver. If this is the case, the bronze should go to Caydee Denney & John Coughlin.

Predictions:

Gold: Tatiana Volsosozhar & Maxim Trankov
Silver: Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov
Bronze: Caydee Denney & John Coughlin

Ice Dance

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir will be back with their sexy Carmen which should propel them into gold. What will be interesting to see is the margin between them and Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov. Rumour has it that Elena’s with Morozov now and we all know what happens when a girl dates Morozov… The Shibutanis will probably fall victim to politicking on the eve of the Sochi Olympics but it’ll be fun to see their polka since I think their bright and happy feel/style should make for a good interpretation in the SD. Their “Memoirs of a Geisha” FD on the other hand, I’m not so thrilled.

Predictions

Gold: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Silver: Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov
Bronze: Maia & Alex Shibutani

What are your predictions for the Cup of Russia?

~The Rinkside Cafe

Skate Canada International 2012: Predictions

Ok. I totally should be doing something else right now but I suppose I do need to do these predictions before the competition starts tomorrow as well. I also have a few comments on Tessa and Scott’s Carmen FD but those will have to wait until the weekend.

Prediction time! A picture of Tessa and Scott in practice beckons you in…

More

Trophee Eric Bompard 2011: Predictions

My life is still filled with forms to fill out and stuff to write and a;iehf;adkfsakdfja;sdkfasdjkfla. Again, I can’t promise posts on all the competitions but I’ll do my best and I’ll make sure to do a predictions post every week. Normally, I would do predictions on who would make it into the final but with this 3 competition rule, everything gets thrown out of whack because I have no clue who’s in 3 competitions and I don’t have the time to check. I might just do the list blind and come up with a list of 6 skaters/teams for each discipline.  For now, here are my predictions for TEB 2011.

Men

Patrick Chan will undoubted win this competition, even if he does fall on his ass a few times. As much as I love figure skating, I don’t know if I can watch this discipline and have faith in the new judging system. As for silver, Nobunari Oda can very well take it… if he’s finally learned all the lessons from counting 101 that is. If not, then Michal Brezina seems to be on the rise and he could snatch silver from under his nose. If Oda can count, then I think he has the ability to steal bronze from heavyhitters like former European and World champion, Brian Joubert and current European champion, Florent Amodio. Brian Joubert has been a bit washed out in the past two seasons while Florent’s new LP is just WTF. The kid needs to leave Morozov, the Russian Gino is not doing him any favours.

Edit: Joubert has pulled out of TEB. (Source) That won’t affect my predictions though.

Predictions:

Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver: Nobunari Oda
Bronze: Michal Brezina

Ladies

TEB is going to interesting here. We’re going to have a rematch of Carolina Kostner vs. Alissa Czisny and then we’re going to throw Skate Canada winner, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva into the mix. Her arch-rival, Adelina Sotnikova couldn’t win against the likes of Carolina and headcase, Mirai Nagasu and I’ve got a feeling that with tougher competition, Liza will not be able to so easily clinch the gold. As much as I admire Czisny’s elegance, I find her performances and personality very forgettable. Czisny’s programs have better choreography but it’s just more exciting to watch Carolina. Both ladies have gained a great amount of consistency so this will be another tough call. Czisny won last time but can Carolina beat her this time?

Predictions:

Gold: Carolina Kostner
Silver: Alissa Czisny
Bronze: Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (though I’d love it if she beat Czisny)

Pairs

Barring major disaster – actually – even if they fell a couple of times, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov should have this competition in the bag. There are no real threats for gold other than them even though their SP this yes is just not pretty. Really, Tanya and Max, we’re no longer wannabe emo teens. Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov may have enough to muster silver while bronze is a bit of a toss of between two headcase North American teams: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig. I’ll just go flip a coin and decide who to put in that 3rd position.

Predictions:

Gold: Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov
Silver: Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov
Bronze: Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford

Ice Dance

The ice dance lineup isn’t that bad, there are quite a few interesting competitors. The gold should easily go to Olympic Champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. I really hope they’ve improved since Skate Canada (I’m sure they have) and more importantly, I hope they’ve made some changes to their programs. They’re really going to have to step it up if they want to be competitive with Meryl and Charlie. Davis and White’s FD this year showcases their athleticism and if Tessa and Scott don’t change their pause-ful Funny Face FD, they might find themselves in 2nd place this year. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat should have the support of the home crowd and possibly the silver medal but bronze will be an interesting matchup with the emerging young Italians – Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte and the rising young Russians – Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov. We may see how much Mother Russia is actually pushing for these two…

Predictions:

Gold: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Silver: Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat
Bronze: Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov

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