Predictions: Skate Canada International 2016

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Tessa & Scott from Skate Canada International 2009.

I am so unbelievably excited for this weekend. I hesitated for the longest time to buy tickets but when I saw that Yuzuru and Tessa & Scott were on the roster, I was sold. Unlike Skate America last week, the roster here seems to be more focused on creating a pretty decent field with a seeded event. (Though right now, I’m good with the U.S. winning all the medals. Seriously, darling southern neighbours, you guys are already great. K? Hugs.) Now, onwards to predictions!

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Debrief: NHK Trophy 2015

yuzuru 15 nhk lp

What a great ending to the seeded events in the Grand Prix Series. The final is shaping up to be fantastic. I apologize for the lateness of this post so let’s not tarry. More

Predictions: Four Continents 2015

Italy Figure Skating Worlds

See? I said I would put this up on time! The Four Continents Championships are upon us and it’s time to make some predictions! Like the European Championships, there will be a few interesting match-ups amidst the relatively weak roster including, the return of Pang & Tong!

As for my Euros recap post, I’m working on it so please bear with me. More

Predictions: The Grand Prix Final 2014

The Grand Prix Finals is upon us!

javier fernandez black betty
I always find the GPF to be a defining moment in the season. The GPF is often the first time all the heavyweights come to compete after a series of seeded competitions where they can win or at least medal easily. Even without some of the top contenders on the list, the GPF can help or hinder skaters – they can either prove that they have what it takes to be on top in a tough field or they can fall into the wayside of irrelevancy. There are definitely some match-ups to watch this weekend, which will make for a good competition. Let’s just hope that actual good skating gets thrown into the mix here as well. More

NHK Trophy 2014: Highlights and Recap

xiaoyu yu yang jin 14 nhk

The NHK Trophy this year was a good ending before the Finals, not because the skating was superb – in fact, I think I would have been okay with myself had I not watched this competition but because it confirmed a lot of my conjectures that I had about this season going into the GPF.

Men

It seems that Olympic Champion, Yuzuru Hanyu, is faltering a little at the beginning of the season after that disastrous crash at the Cup of China. Hanyu skated weak programs throughout the competition and it was his PCS that salvaged him a good enough result to go into the finals. Personally, I would rather see Hanyu take a little rest, recalibrate and then come back strong rather than skate 2 mediocre programs with inflated PCS. I have too much affection for his good skating to see it get undeservedly rewarded for sloppy skates.

Furthermore, the previously lower-ranked Japanese men decided to make another statement at this competition that they’re no longer willing to sit in the shadows. Fellow countrymen, Daisuke Murakami and Takahito Mura skated strong to finish above Hanyu on the podium. In terms of my comments for these two, I find that Mura has solid jump technique but I would really like to see him express his personality in non-warhorse programs. I think this guy can do better than that and for now, he isn’t going to stand out that much in my memory unless he steps it out next season and define to me who he is on the ice. Daisuke on the other hand, feels like a bit of a washed out version of Daisuke Takahashi. Although the hair and jump technique are similar, Murakami lacks Takahashi’s musicality and skates with a minimum acknowledgement of the music. He’s not a very expressive skater, which makes his programs a little less palatable. I hope to see these two men improve nonetheless as Japan still has an exciting future in men’s figure skating.

As for silver medalist Sergei Voronov, well, he skated. He reminded me of a less exciting version of Brian Joubert in his LP but I’m not sure if that’s really a compliment since only BJou can pull off his own strange programs and make you like it despite yourself. In  his short, he looked like he was channeling Evan Lysacek, costume, windmill arms and all. Again, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment even though I must reluctantly acknowledge that Lysacek is an Olympic Champion.

Ladies

I was sorely disappointed that Satoko Miyahara‘s LP performance was not as solid as her Skate Canada skate but I’m glad that she did finish on the podium. Gracie Gold, on the other hand, deliver two solid albeit boring skates to end up with the gold. What I did like about her performances here is that there was an improvement in her ability to express the music. It wasn’t huge but you could see her being a little more comfortable with the programs and the characters in each of them. Although I would still like to see Gracie’s personality on the ice at some point, I suppose that working on her projection, performance and character this season would be a good goal to aim for, especially since her programs are so dry and boring.

Note: Gracie will not be competing in the GPF due to injury. Rika Hongo is taking her place. The plot thickens…

Pairs

I think Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford is setting a new bar in pairs skating. They’ve gained good momentum from last season, which is good for their PCS but what is setting them apart is their strong technical scores, which may give the judges no chance to deny them the gold at Worlds this year if they skate clean. The showdown between this team and Stolbova & Klimov at the GPF will be a decisive battle in who will have the upper hand when Worlds comes around. I’m still not a fan of either of their programs but I think these two have found a solid recipe to be at the top of the pairs skating world going forward in this Olympic cycle. I also hope that other teams try to up the ante as well to make for a more exciting competition.

Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov still have the most epic program this season but this competition demonstrated that they still aren’t as consistent as we’d like them to be, especially when it comes to their long program. Had they skated solidly, they would’ve been in a better position to compete for the top spot at Russian Nationals but I fear that the window has closed. That LP is still amazing though.

I would like to give a shoutout to the bronze medal team of Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin (again). I really love watching this team grow. For some odd reason, they don’t seem to have the big tricks and throw jumps like most of the other Chinese teams but their lines and unison are gorgeous to watch. I think under Bin Yao and Hongbo Zhao, this team has the potential to become the dream team – to have the grace and precision of the Russian pairs teams combined with the huge awe-inspiring tricks of the Chinese teams. Add oil, you two!

Ice Dance

This competition was Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje‘s to lose but these two skated solidly to get the gold with a comfortable margin of 17 points between themselves and the silver medal team. With Cappellini & Lanotte gone, these two are the front-runners going into the finals. Nonetheless, I hope that they still consider changing their programs a little bit since they aren’t as compelling as some of their other work in the past. What has been admirable about this team is how they explore so many different themes with really wonderful programs no matter what their ranking is.

Although the Russian team of Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin won the silver with very admirable edges but slow skating at times, I think the Russian team that shocked everyone here was Viktoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov. I thought that this team was going to be a lot better than they are since they are under Marina Zueva’s tutelage but this team lacks unison, doesn’t have the right timing when they move together and have no chemistry or presence on the ice. They were also very sloppy and fell 3 times in their FD to end up in last place in that portion of the competition. After this competition, I’m not sure if this partnership will last, let alone flourish but then again, Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang proved me wrong with their performances last season so anything can happen.

What do you think of Sinitsina & Katsalapov? What about the NHK Trophy? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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

Skate Canada International 2014: Highlights and Commentary

satoko miyahara 14 sc lp

I was away Saturday evening, meaning I missed some of the competitions that happened in the evening but I have caught up and I’m ready to blog! I will not be silenced! Skate Canada was slightly better than Skate America in that there was more than one highlight. Otherwise, there was still a lot of mindless choreography, strange music cuts and random lyrics that brought nothing to the program.

Men

The story last weekend for the men was a continuation of what happened in Skate America: without Daisuke’s starpower to overshadow them, the lower ranked Japanese man of seasons past – Takahito Mura – brought his A-game, threw down the gauntlet and showed everyone that he was a force to be reckoned with by winning gold. Sadly, Mura did skate to the Phantom of the Opera with haphazard music cuts. Mura does have lovely jump technique but I’d like to see him skate to a non-warhorse. But, in any case, here’s another Japanese man I can’t underestimate in my predictions for the rest of the season.

Javier Fernandez, who was leading after the short skated a frantic and mistake-filled long. Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” is a beautiful and energetic opera (and I am so excited to see it live in Spring of 2015) but his choreographer seemed to create very frenetic moments in the program that prevent Javier from showcasing his skating ability and charming personality. His SP is slightly better though it does feel a little like Yuzuru’s record breaking SP. Javier brings a lot of charm and smoulder to this program to make it his but there’s a niggling feeling inside me that tells me that Javier could do better than this.

As for bronze medalist, Max Aaron, well, he skated. I was not enthused about his Gladiator LP. Neither were a few of my Twitter followers. ‘Nuff said.

Ladies

Anna Pogorilya, successfully defended her Skate Canada title against Ashley Wagner. Pogorilaya’s technical elements score was a key factor in her victory and understandably so. Her flat interpretation (complete with a lack of facial expressions) of her Firebird LP felt frenetic and rushed and the music and the music cuts didn’t quite help. Wagner on the other hand, sold her programs… as Michelle Kwan. From the opening double axel to the flat fingered arm movements, everything Wagner did on ice was reminiscent of the Kween in terms of choreography. That might sound good on paper but let’s remember this from last season:

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Ashley was an internet meme for her no bullshit personality and even though I’m not partial to her skating, this is what I like best about Ashley Wagner. She has a personality. It’s a strong one that not everyone might like (though that’s true for everyone) and she’s not an ice princess but she’s her. While Gracie Gold was being neatly packaged in preparation for the next Olympic cycle in Sochi, Ashley decided to skate programs that fit her – she was not a blushing Juliet but a powerful Delilah. That is what I like about her – that’s not Michelle Kwan but herself through and through. In fact, in this sense, I feel as if she’s more likeable than Gracie Gold, who I don’t really know anything about. Who is she beyond that neatly manicured image of her? We’re certainly not going to know with the way that she’s packaged this season.

Moving on, I think the highlight of the ladies competition for me was Satoko Miyahara. I’m not fond of her SP, especially the costume but her LP was interesting. In terms of choreography, it’s not amazing but she sells this program so well that it doesn’t even feel like she’s selling you anything. The bonus? Her speed and how I am so fascinated by her jumps. They don’t gain much height but they’re generally solid and she lands them with a beautiful running edge. Of course, I don’t doubt that she has issues with under-rotation but her landings are a thing of beauty.

Pairs

I know that I’m already not that popular with Canadian readers, probably because I’m Canadian and refuse to drink the CBC pro-Canadian cool-aid but I fear that what I have to say will make me even less popular. I am trying to like Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford, I really am. I really like how they’re trying to push pairs skating into trying more difficult elements like side by side triple lutzes and quad throw salchows but beyond these big tricks, I don’t really feel anything when I watch this team. (I’m not even sure if that’s better or worse than the exasperation and dread I feel when I watch Volosozhar & Trankov skate to Evanescence/other emo music.) Maybe it’s the choice of music (I’m really not fond of their song for the SP) or maybe it’s just that they’re more skaters and less performers but they’re missing that magical spark. Maybe it’s just me and I have no soul but beyond the fact that they’re throwing out huge tricks, I’m not really as fascinated with these two as the rest of Canada.

I’ll mention Evgnia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov before I talk about the highlight of the pairs competition, who I thought had lovely classic Russian lines. I’m not completely taken with them but I’m curious to see how they develop. These two emote well on the ice and their skating is decently solid that I would earmark them as a team with potential. Another team with potential I’d like to point out is Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage – although Madeline skates with a lot more polish than her partner (she finishes her movements, has better lines and general skating skills), I really love the energy these two bring on the ice.

As for my highlight for the pairs competition, that honour goes to Wenjing Sui & Cong Han. Honestly, I had to a degree, written these two off after their rough season last year, which is why I predicted they’d win the bronze rather than the silver. However, it seems as if Sui & Han really took their loss of a trip to the Olympics to heart and revamped their skating technique. Since last season, they seem more together, their movements look more controlled and they look as if they’ve gained a little more consistency than before. Sui & Han feel like Takahashi & Tran during their peak but with a little more maturity and I am so excited to watch them skate their LP again. There’s a subtle drama to it and I think it’s a wonderful vehicle for them to showcase how they’ve grown.

Ice Dance

paul rubens hippopotamus hunt

I’m still waiting for an ice dance team to really shine this season but again, the season has just started. But still… there has to be one memorable Paso Doble SD and I’m still struggling to think of one I actually remember. As for the teams, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje won easily though their FD may need to be reworked. If you know anything about art history in the Baroque period, you’d know that this period in art was known to be florid and ornate in order to produce art that was very dramatic and grand. (See above, Peter Paul Rubens’ Hippopotamus Hunt.)

Vivaldi’s music, including The Four Seasons was born during this art period. Though beloved by many, The Four Seasons is a piece of music with a lot of details, which might not be easily paired with ice skating, a sport based on long gliding movements. Skaters such as Alexei Yagudin have used parts of this music successfully in the past but they seemed to have limited themselves to one season. Weaver & Poje’s ambitious program seeks to cut music from all four seasons together and from what I’ve seen, I’m not sure if it works. The program overall looks rushed and the movements don’t feel coherently tied together. Overall, this program is a little like their statue program from a few seasons back, a little rough in its first iteration though this time, I’m not very fond of its first iteration as I was with Humanity in Motion.

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier surprised me with a charming FD. I quite like that rotational lift with Piper in a standing position and overall, they’re already miles ahead of what Vanessa Crone & Paul used to be.

Anyways, I’m finished writing. What about you? What did you think of Skate Canada? Let me hear your opinions in the comments!

~Rinkside Cafe

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