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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Trophee Eric Bompard 2012: Predictions

So today, I came across the concept of a regression analysis, which is super interesting because it is essentially what Nate Silver did on fivethirtyeight to correctly predict the electoral college outcomes for 50 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in the most recent U.S. presidential election. My curiosity has led me to ponder whether I should somehow try to create a regression model to predict figure skating results though I’ll definitely need a lot of guidance and help and maybe more information on it in general. Personally, it might be less biased and a lot easier on me if a mathstatsmagician wizard like Nate Silver could come along and create a model because I hold firm on the adage that ice is slippery and that a regression model would probably fail to capture the insane world of figure skating where the location, the proximity of the Olympics, whether or not you’re sleeping with Nikolai Morozov, all sorts of ridiculous things come into play.

In any case, I’ll do my predictions the same old way as I did before but I may try to see if I can come up with a regression model if I manage to have any free time. For TEB, I would actually love to have statistics do all the work for me because the roster is not only kind of boring but the playing field is quite level, which means I’ll have to piddle around with a whole bunch of B-list skaters to figure out the lower rungs of the podium.

A fierce Liza beckons you in… More

Skate America 2012: Predictions

THE GRAND PRIX SERIES HAS BEGUN! HURRAH!

Meryl and Charlie beckons you to read on… More

Daisuke proves that he still has it…

I slept in today because I’ve been so sleep deprived all week and then I realized that I missed the men’s LP! =( I did watch the gala though but my internet connection wasn’t good enough to watch Daisuke’s performance. Darn. At least I got to see a skating Domo-kun.

Anyways, back to Daisuke, who’s LP is the only one I have time to watch right now. (So much to do, so little time!)

This is definitely an improvement from Skate Canada but still a work in progress. Daisuke needs to have more flow and commit to this program just as much as he commits to his SP. If he does that, he’ll be mesmerizing. He’ll also need to work on his quad too if he wants to be competitive with Chan. Other than that, this is a pretty good performance at this point in the season. Let’s hope he can muster some great skates at the final – I’m pretty sure he’s done enough to get there.

Results for the free skate.

Overall results.

In other news, Tomas Verner seems to have completely bombed this competition while Michal Brezina did very well at the Cup of China. Will there be a new Czech national champion this year?

Now, I’m waiting for a video of Daisuke’s exhibition to pop up because I love that program.

What did you think of the men’s podium?

~The Rinkside Cafe

Live blog: Men’s LP

At the moment, the only way I can blog about these events is if I do them live. I apologize for the horribleness of my live blogs.

Brandon Mroz was the first in the 1st in the last group to skate at NHK. The Eurosport commentators (British) were totally excited and hyping the fact that he can do a quad lutz. I wasn’t as optimistic and didn’t really think he could do it but he did, though he didn’t do it in combination as planned. We went deep into the knee for that 3A. For such a fun and jazzy song, I can’t help but feel that this performance is as “white bread” and boring as it can get. I just want to replace this guy with Kurt Browning and what that instead. His combination jump was clean though he doubled the second jump. Has this ended yet? Despite the 4Lz, I was bored. This guy needs to get some personality in that performance. Thank goodness the score reflects this. He’s scored just slightly above the current leader, Constantin Menshov.

Tomas is on the ice. This guy has personality but will he skate clean? A 2-footed quad and hand down to start but a clean 3A afterwards. Uh, what was up with that spin…? Tomas feels really tentative here. He’s barely skating with any attack and with such epic music, that is not acceptable. He’s really not feeling it. A weird fall on his circular step sequence. This entire performance was painful to watch. What is going on? I though he felt defeated from the very beginning. Sigh. We’re seeing headcasee Tomas again. Ouch, currently in 6th place.

Oh Samuel contesti. I still love that 2009 Worlds cowboy LP but I’ve given up hope on him. I hope he won’t implode like Tomas though. Starts out fun. I saw him in person once and he’s just as amusing off the ice. Lovely 3Lz-3T, a little hop at the end though. Stepped out of his 3A but still keeping with the performance, good job, Samuel. Doubled the flip and slowed down on his combination spin. He looks tired and this is just the short program. He ended a bit later than the music. Oh Samuel, keep on improving because even though you might never win a world medal, you’re still tons of fun. He’s above Tomas but if he has this little stamina now, I’m not sure how much he’ll have to offer in the LP.

It’s Taka-chan!!! He starts with a 3F rather than a quad. Lovely 3A, his choreography goes well with the music, it has interesting crescendoes and builds up. Look at the audience, dear, you’ve got to make some sort of contact with them, even if you’re shy. GORGEOUS 3Lz-3T followed by an intricate straight-line step sequence. That was a good performance from Takahikko. He needs to work on connecting with the audience but he has the entire season to work on that. He’s needed to learn that for a long time. I just hope that this season is the one where he actually gets that skill. Now, let’s see if Daisuke can beat Takashiko. I hope that this is enough to beat Brandon Mroz… and it is!!! Good job, Taka! Now, Ganbare, Daisuke!

I love Daisuke’s SP. I hope it’s improved since Skate Canada. He’s mesmerizing from the first second of this program. Gorgeous 3A, great flow. He’s so committed to the program that I can barely register what jumps he’s doing. There’s just such an intensity and drama that he brings in every second of this program. Pure love. I really wish I was watching this live in the rink. Wow. Just wow. That was fantastic and it should be enough to take first place. HOLY CRAP! 90.43, a personal best! That’s actually comparable to some of Patrick’s crazy marks. Congrats, Daisuke!!!

Results

What did you think of the results and performances?

 

NHK Trophy 2011: Predictions

I apologize for the lack of coverage on the Cup of China. My life has gotten super busy lately and there’s just been so many ups and downs that I can scarcely catch my breath. I know that the NHK Trophy is well underway, with the dance, pairs and ladies events halfway done, which gives me a bit of an unfair advantage in predictions but at least I get to predict all of the men’s event! (The best of the lot, though sometimes the one that breaks my heart most when I see Patrick Chan garner up an insane and unfair amount of points.) Anyways, let’s start the sort-of predictions.

Ladies

Videos of the ladies’ SP have yet to surface but I’m rather excited for the event because we’ll see if Mao is up to par again. Right now, I only have this practice clip to go on and it seems that she’s skating to Scheherazade – an old warhorse – with a very Michelle Kwan-Salome costume.

Right now, Mao is in 3rd place and trailing by 8 points behind Akiko Suzuki. Both Akiko Suzuki and Mao are strong long program skaters (though Mao is the stronger LP skater) but even Mao’s star power might not be able to overcome that huge margin. That and Akiko is really skating with a fantastic confidence and fire this season and I’m totally loving it. I can’t wait to see a perfect performance of “Die Fledermaus” because THAT is the “Die Fledermaus” program of the season. In other news, I expect Alena Leonova to be inconsistent and somewhat bomb her LP so I think Mao can make up the 3 points between her and the mediocre Russian lady.

Also, another piece of happy news is that Cynthia Phaneuf has finally gotten to the point where she’s just bombing her ass off. Now CBC can stop hyping her up because watching paint dry is a lot more exciting than watching Cynthia Phaneuf. Unless you’re my 9 year-old cousins who’ve been begging me to show them figure skating videos where the skaters crash onto the ice. Anyways, let’s not waste any more time talking about Phaneuf.

Predictions:

Gold: Akiko Suzuki
Silver: Mao Asada
Bronze: Alena Leonova (though Ashley Wagner can make a comeback if Alena bombs enough, not that I really care about either skater)

Men

So, this is the only event where I can make blind predictions. The gold will be an epic battle between Daisuke Takahashi and Takahiko Kozuka. Takahiko started the season a bit rough while Daisuke wasn’t at 100% at Skate Canada, though he did skate a fantastic SP. This season, I think Daisuke’s skating with a lot more passion and I hope that he’s acquired enough drive to push for gold in his LP. Tomas Verner is a bit of a wildcard because his programs will probably never be as intricate and lovely as either of the Japanese men but I’m always hoping that he’ll surprise me. Tomas has a fantastic personality and talent but his programs last year were just blah. I mean, how do you make “blah” out of MICHAEL JACKSON and SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN!!! Sigh.

Predictions:

Gold: Daisuke Takahashi
Silver: Takahiko Kozuka
Bronze: Tomas Verner

Pairs

Again, having the SP results gives me an unfair advantage but even without them, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Aliona and Robin will win the event. At the moment, the only team with a ghost of a chance of beating them is Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. At the moment, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov are in 5th but the difference between 2nd and 5th place is 2 points, which I think they can make up in the long program. I’m very glad that they’re using their Claire de Lune LP again but I still cringe when I see Yuko’s angular creepy doll movements. She doesn’t seem to be able to go deep into the knee when she lands her jumps (throw and sbs jumps) which just makes everything look strained and difficult. I’m still a bit surprised at how poorly Iliushchekina/Maisuradze are doing so early in the season when they won Skate Canada last year but the strange thing is, I’m kind of hoping for a split between these two so that Iliushchekina can get a better, more expressive partner because right now, she might as well be skating with a mannequin. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin didn’t have a bad start at Skate America and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a little better at this competition.

Predictions:

Gold: Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Silver: Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov
Bronze: Caydee Denney & John Coughlin

Ice Dance

Ok, now I definitely feel like I’m cheating because I was debating as to whether the Shibutanis or Ilinykh & Katsalapov would come out on top. The margins between the top 3 teams are pretty small but I did say last season that Ilinykh & Katsalapov would benefit from a coaching change – in image and in technical skill and lookee what happened. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje are doing pretty well, though they need to wait for Tessa and Scott to retire to flourish completely on the international scene. I’m pretty sure on I/K for gold but the bronze is a bit of a puzzle. Let’s take a chance on it…

Predictions:

Gold: Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov
Silver: Maia and Alex Shibutani
Bronze: Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje

Worlds 2011 Predictions: The Men

So here is part II of my predictions for worlds that will happen in T minus 4 days. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch most of the event.

So the men. With Evan Lysacek, Evgeni Plushenko, Johnny Weir and Stephane Lambiel gone after the Olympics, the men’s field has thinned out a bit compared to last season when there were about 10 different guys who could’ve made it onto that Olympic podium.

The front runners, however, are definitely Daisuke Takahashi and Patrick Chan Score. The gold will probably be a toss-up between the two (although Nobunari Oda may win the short program and then do an extra jump combination in his long that won’t count towards his score and then fall down the standings) and the winner will probably be determined by:

  1. Whether Chan lands his 3 quads and more importantly, his 2 triple axels. Daisuke may attempt his quad flip but he’s never landed it with one foot in competition.
  2. Whoever has more political (and emotional) backing: the Japanese Skating Federation and the sympathy for the Japanese people (not to mention the JSF is probably one of the richest federations and Japan one of the biggest markets for the sport) or Skate Canada and how they’re telling everyone that Chan’s wipeouts on 3As deserve a +3 GOE because he fell so prettily. The winner gets a higher PCS. We all know how Chan has been getting bullshit marks all season (*cough*Skate Canada and Canadian Nationals*cough*) but during the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, ISU president $peedy Ottavio Cinquanta, seemed very eager to appease the JSF. So who knows what will happen!
  3. Whether training has been severely affected by the postponement of Worlds. Chan didn’t go to Four Continents probably because his coach did not want him to peak too early (just look at his 2007/8 results) but the tsunami seems to have thrown a monkey wrench into those plans. I wonder how the change in timing has affected Chan… Daisuke’s training wasn’t severely affected by the events in Japan (unlike the up and coming star, Yuzuru Hanyu) and he also skated at a fundraiser for tsunami victims rather recently. From the news clips, he looked pretty good. (On another note, I absolutely love, love, love Shizuka Arakawa’s dress. She looks wonderful in it.)

There may be a few people who have the potential to change things. One is perennial podium bridesmaid, Nobunari Oda. Nobu will need to skate clean and even though his programs aren’t as entertaining as his Charlie Chaplin LP from last year, he still has great jumping technique. (Those knees!) Also, if Nobu wants to win this, he may need to learn how to count his combos while doing a long program. Maybe he should take lessons from The Count from Sesame Street!

Ok, maybe not.

Another possible medalist is Takahiko Kozuka. He seems to be winding down after his win at Japanese Nationals but I’ve underestimated this guy too much this season to discount him from my predictions. He has the skating skills, he just needs to relate to the audience. One thing to note: Takahiko’s chances of medaling probably depend on how badly Daisuke, Chan and Nobu perform rather than on himself. The international judges have been sparing in his PCS and I think it’s about time this guy lives a little. Get your heart broken, do something crazy, go on a weird adventure, I don’t care – just bring out that angsty, passionate artiste from within because your skating skills are too good to go unnoticed at this point in your career!

On the European side, Brian Joubert, Tomas Verner and Florent Amodio seem to be the strongest contenders for a medal but I’m not sure how they’re going to beat the Japanese and Chan because they either have a) so-so skating skills b) shit and just weak choreography or c) a severe and chronic problem of being a headcase. I won’t be putting too much money on these three but maybe one of them will surprise us (in a good way) like Jeffrey Buttle did in 2008.

Oh yes, and the American men are F*&$%!. Most of them don’t really have experience in major international competitions and I don’t even remember the men’s podium at U.S. Nationals anymore. That’s how sad the men’s team for the U.S. is at the moment. I have no clue what the USFSA was thinking but Jeremy was trailing the bronze medalist by a little bit and I’m pretty sure that none of those guys can do what Jeremy did at Four Continents: beat at least one of the Japanese men. Say goodbye to a spot or two at Worlds next season…

Podium Predictions:

Gold: Daisuke Takahashi (for the love of God and all that is holy!!!)
Silver: Patrick Chan
Bronze: Nobunari Oda (or Joubert, Kozuka… who knows? They’re all equally able to implode.)

This World championships will be exciting and maybe unpredictable because of its postponement and its effects on the skaters. I can’t wait!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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