Sad Farewell: Tatsuki Machida

It’s midway through the season and it seems as if I have to bid another sad adieu to a skater who was growing on me. After finishing 4th at the Japanese Nationals, 2014 World silver medalist, Tatsuki Machida announced his retirement from competitive figure skating to focus on his studies. (See this article and this article for details.)

Tatsuki Machida

For the longest time, I couldn’t quite take Machida seriously thanks to his Firebird program. The flapping bird-like motions were perhaps part of his interpretation of the music but it was also so cheesy. And cringeworthy. I was almost suffering from secondhand embarrassment from watching it.

However, I really began to respect Machida and what he was trying to do when I fell in love with his East of Eden program. The choreography was lovely and although the interpretation was a little overwrought, at least he was trying and being true to himself. In the end, I kind of accepted Machida’s attempts at being an artiste. He was like that kid in drama class who overacted and couldn’t naturally create a character that blended seamlessly into a story but at least he tried and kept trying to improve himself. And for that, I have to give him a ton of respect for putting himself out there.

Good luck in your studies, Machida-san. I’ll miss your exuberance and artistry on ice.

~The Rinkside Cafe

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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

Highlights and Recap: TEB 2014

Trophee Eric Bompard ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Day Two

Last weekend, we were finally treated to a competition where the skating wasn’t actually that bad. Since I’m a little short on time and I’m rushing to get the predictions for the NHK trophy out, I’ll try to keep my thoughts short and sweet.

On a completely random note, I was 3/3 for podium predictions for TEB for the ladies, pairs and ice dance!

More

Predictions: Trophee Eric Bompard

The Grand Prix series is nearing its end and for some reason, I’m really thankful. I’m looking forward to seeing the dust settle on this new generation of skaters and hopefully, see some good skating as everyone starts to get comfortable with their programs.

papadakis cizeron 14 coc fd

The roster for this event is somewhat decent so… let’s begin! More

Skate America 2014 – Highlight and Commentary

Last weekend was Skate America, the first senior Grand Prix event and somehow an event that made me regret the spectacular Olympics that was Vancouver 2010.

Why do I mention Vancouver 2010 now, do you ask? Well, Vancouver was an exceptional Olympics, figure skating curses were broken and a whole lot of talent competed. Some triumphed while others were left hungry and hungry enough to stay for another 4 years. However, once that next cycle was over, all of those talented, hungry skaters left, leaving a huge void that clearly showed last weekend.

kavaguti smirnov sa 2014 lp

I’ll tell it to you straight: I was bored during 98% of Skate America. So be warned, I’m not going to have a lot of nice things to say here. More

Predictions: 2014 Skate America

gracie gold sochi

The skating season is upon us already! Time for predictions! This season is definitely going to be a huge surprise as a bunch of veterans have left and the newbies have come to play in hopes of being the next big thing in figure skating. Establishing a role as the new figure skating world leaders seems to be the theme at this year’s Skate America and the predictions for the bottom of the podium will definitely be difficult. With that, let’s begin!

Men

Tatsuki Machida and Dennis Ten look to be the stronger competitors at this competition so far. Machida has shown himself in the past season to be a serious contender for the top 5 in men’s skating and his consistency is helping him in that goal. Since last season, Machida has skated with a fire that allowed him to place 5th at the Olympics (and he was a serious contender for bronze) and 2nd at Worlds. If he skates well, he can take away the gold here. Ten, on the other hand has been known to be inconsistent, especially at the beginning of the season.

Home ice advantage goes to Jason Brown after a strong debut in the senior ranks with a LP that went viral last season. I am of the unpopular camp who didn’t find anything particularly remarkable about the Riverdance LP but he’s poised to be America’s next male skating sweetheart and we all know how popularity affects one’s skating career around here.

Predictions:

Gold: Tatsuki Machida
Silver:
Jason BrownBronze: Dennis Ten

Ladies

Gold is the name of the game here and with a perfect last name, media darling status and with a nation that is obsessed with finding America’s Next Top Ice Princess, Gracie Gold should be looking to secure herself as the top American lady. With home ice advantage and a relatively weak competition, she should be able to take gold, if maybe purely by PCS. One lady who could knock her off the top spot is Elena Radionova, a talented young Russian lady with star quality and acting ability like no other. Elena’s jumps looked a little shaky and low in the Russian test skates and I seriously hope that puberty has not affected her skating ability.

As for the bronze medal, I would keep my eye out for the two other American ladies, Samantha Cesario and Mirai Nagasu. I’ve never found anything remarkable about Cesario, though other bloggers would beg to differ, but she has produced some pretty decent mid-rank results in past GP events. With a weak field, she could boost her rankings up a few places. Nagasu, on the other hand, has worked pretty hard in the past few years to stubbornly show that she is not irrelevant and there have been times where she has proven us just that. The pick for bronze will be a tough one and I may result to either just pure gut feelings or a coin toss.

Predictions:

Gold: Gracie Gold
Silver:
Elena Radionova
Bronze: Samantha Cesario

Pairs

The pairs competition will be a battle between a relatively new couple and an old one. Veterans Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov who had faded into the background in pairs skating in general will likely have a showdown with Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang for the gold. The latter team have been together for only two seasons but in those 2 short years, they went from barely being able to touch each other to one of the most dazzling pairs teams on ice. If a year can allow them to improve leaps and bounds, I wonder what another year will do for this new team.

As for the bronze, Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier and Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim are teams I haven’t really heard of but their results in international competitions look rather similar. I might just leave the bronze prediction up to a coin toss here. Any thoughts to sway me towards one of two teams or another team altogether?

Predictions:

Gold: Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang
Silver:
Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov
Bronze: Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim

Ice Dance

Madison Chock & Evan Bates will be looking to fill the void left by Davis & White as the top American ice dance team. The Shibutanis haven’t quite gotten the support from Marina Zueva since their debut in the senior ranks and I would not be surprised if this continued. Still, the Shib sibs should be good enough to get the silver while the bronze is again, a mystery to me. I believe Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin were Junior GPF champions so I’ll put them in for bronze though honestly, it could go any way at the moment.

Predictions:

Gold: Madison Chock & Evan Bates
Silver:
Maia & Alex Shibutani
Bronze: Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin

Well, I have no clue if any of these predictions are going to be any good. What are your thoughts and predictions? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Highlights from the 2014 World Championships

The 2014 World Championships had some really lovely performances. A lot of the time, the Olympics tire the competitors out and many top contenders don’t even participate. As a result, you get a few “he/she came out of nowhere” World Champions (Remember Kimmie Meissner? Neither do I.) and some tired performances. Not so this year. From the judging and the performances, I might have to say that I think I enjoyed the World Championships a lot more than the Olympics this time. In any case, here are a few of what I thought were the highlights.

For the last two seasons, it’s been really hard for me to take Tatsuki Machida very seriously because of his wacky Firebird program. His arm flapping definitely gave me more than a chuckle or two and despite his good results, I couldn’t quite appreciate his skating. He was consistent most of the time but he was not as compelling to watch as his other teammates, especially when bird-imitations were part of the vehicle to show off his skating prowess. This program and performance, however, changed my opinion of him. I don’t think Machida has skated this compellingly all season and somehow everything clicked in this performance. I was finally noticing some of the edgework and transitions in this program and he was channeling Daisuke Takahashi in this performance. Gorgeous program and wonderful skate – this is what it’s all about.

In terms of program content or choreography, there’s nothing extremely noteworthy about this performance but I don’t think Tomas Verner has done this well for ages. He bombed the LP but hey, forget about that and remember this highlight, Tomas.

That popped jump might have cost him a World title but I admit that Javier was very swoon-worthy in this program.

Ethereal. Perfection. And a World Record score. Enough said.

What a great comeback for Mao. I was tearing up by the time she got to her step sequence at the end. She didn’t get the Olympic gold but 3-time World Champion isn’t too shabby.

Ethereal as always and the PCS were just right. Both Mao and Carolina skated clean and despite the fact that she wasn’t the hometown favourite, Carolina had the highest PCS for this segment of the competition. Sochi judges, take note!

I was never a huge fan of this team but I like how this program builds to a climax ending with that lift that starts out on Dylan’s knee at the end.

I’m not particularly fond of this program but I felt that I needed to mention Savchenko & Szolkowy in this post. They ended their wonderful career on a high note and they will be missed so much. Aliona Savchenko will still be around but who knows if she’ll find a partner as good as Robin.

With Savchenko & Szolkowy gone, these two are my new favourite pairs team. They need to learn how to be more consistent and maybe ramp up their technical content but they remind me so much of Shen & Zhao. Every time I watch this program, I feel as if it was too short.

I wasn’t a fan of this dance at the beginning of the season but it’s really grown on me. This was just a splendid performance to cap off a very creative and wonderful career for Nathalie and Fabian.

I wasn’t a fan of the music choice at the beginning of this season – I thought it was slow and boring – but this program has become my favourite ice dance FD this year. Within the first minute of this performance, I was having chills. I am so happy that these two didn’t get completely screwed over by the judges as they have been all season. They’re good enough to contend for bronze but we all knew that the ISU didn’t want a North American podium sweep. And they wanted a Russian for the bronze position if they couldn’t get gold. (I thought Nathalie & Fabian deserved the Olympic bronze but what can you do?)

This was ADORABLE.

Oh Tomas, always the entertainer.

I think there’s a theme here. I seem to enjoy these quirky, funny exhibitions quite a bit.

Not a new exhibition but I love it all the same. It never fails to bring a smile to my face

Another highlight I wanted to add was the crowd. It was just such a refreshing change from Sochi where people were silent for everyone except for the Russians. It was also adorable that they respected Yuzuru’s wish for silence in the Kiss and Cry because Javier was on the ice and needed to concentrate. I know that Dave Lease says that the Sochi crowd wasn’t as rude as some other competitions but I don’t think that’s an excuse for their cold reception for non-Russians. It was a nice change having a crowd with so much joy and enthusiasm in all the skaters and the fact that they cheered for skaters from all different countries. Thank you for showing us what wonderful skating fans are like.

Anyways, I think I’ve bombarded you guys with enough videos for now. What were your favourite performances at Worlds this year? Tell me in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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