Weaver/Poje will be Canada’s future ice dance silver medalists…

…if they stay together that is. Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier have decided to split to pursue other careers. (See this article for more details.) Maybe Paul will meet up with the energetic coach of the University of Toronto’s figure skating team and turn the club’s skaters to a powerhouse. That would be very cool. Not to mention that I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul does meet up with the aforementioned coach if he decides to participate in more extracurricular activities within his college at U of T.

In any case, I hope that Kaitlyn and Andrew will do their best to challenge and improve themselves each season even though they don’t quite have archrivals any more. (I don’t see them as a challenge to Tessa and Scott… ever.) As much as I didn’t like seeing Crone and Poirier skate, I admit that Kaitlyn and Andrew probably would not have pushed themselves as hard as they did if it weren’t for Vanessa and Paul. The fight for the second spot to the Olympics was epic and did liven up the competition at Canadian Nationals that year. Continued rapid improvement from Kaitlyn and Andrew would place themselves securely as successors to Tessa and Scott should they choose to keep skating after the Olympic champions retire. And if that happens, they may get a silver or a bronze somewhere down the road… sort of like what might have happened the Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat if they hadn’t randomly fallen in their FD this year at Worlds.

Anyways, to end, I’ll post this: the only program I found palatable from Crone and Poirier, mostly because I love the choice of music. (Rare considering their dubious musical selections…)

Thoughts on this new breakup? I’d love to hear them!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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Worlds 2011: Dethronement – Part II

So as I said yesterday, there was another dethronement at Worlds this year, this time a bit more expected. In ice dance, Meryl Davis and Charlie White made history as the first American team to win the ice dance event. Although PJ Kwong has been going on about how missing an entire season only hurts teams¬†not because they haven’t showcased their programs for critique but because they won’t gain as much maturity and experience (and Tessa and Scott are apparently immune to that because they have plenty of both). With that being said, I would care to (strongly) disagree with Kwong.

Neither Tessa & Scott and Meryl & Charlie’s programs this season were as spectacular as their Olympic programs but that is a bit of an understatement. I’m not sure what’s going on with Marina and Igor but Meryl and Charlie had to scrap their Amelie program at the USFSA skating camp at the beginning of the season AND their tango had to undergo a lot of changes. Compare:

Tessa and Scott led by a small margin in the SD purely by their skating skills (they were held up by the TES). Before the World championships even started, I said that Tessa and Scott could win IF they skated cleanly and their program was more spectacular than Meryl and Charlie’s sexless tango. As much as I love Tessa and Scott (and Marina and Igor), I must say that this FD has the worst choreography I’ve ever seen them skate.

The beginning that we saw at 4CC was exciting and the first set of twizzles were really innovative but it just went downhill after that. I have never seen a program so lacking and empty from a World champion team. The entire middle section of the routine did not showcase their skating skills and was simply one lift and some stroking to get the speed and momentum for the second lift. The lifts may have gotten the crowd going but it was not the way to display their speed, power, ability to execute complex choreography and skating skills. The choreography was disjointed and full of posing. I’m glad that the SD next year is the rhumba so they can’t use this program again.

In any case, the point is, if they had the time to showcase this program throughout the season, they could’ve gotten the critique just as Meryl and Charlie did to modify the program for the better. Since Tessa was injured, that was impossible and I feel that silver was the best that they can get and I do agree with their placement after Meryl and Charlie, even despite my love for T&S.

So congrats to Meryl and Charlie for their well-deserved gold medal! And congrats to Tessa and Scott for beating their own world record in the SD!

Now that that is out of the way, I would really like to give a few *honourable mentions* because I think the best parts of the competition came from these two up and coming teams:

A freak fall from Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat in one of the required elements – the circular step sequence – opened some doors of opportunity to some teams that were just a smidgeon behind them. I feel a bit bad for the young French team because they might have to wait a while before they’re this close to the World podium again…

In any case, the first honourable mention goes to Alex and Maia Shibutani who took advantage of Nathalie and Fabian’s fall and snatched the bronze – a fantastic debut at the senior level (I mean, Tessa and Scott were 6th at their first senior Worlds!). These two have such elegance and maturity – to think that everyone was worried about Maia’s height a year ago! Their win also meant… a team Canton podium sweep! The reign of Queen Marina and King Igor is alive and thriving!

The second honourable mention goes to Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje who have grown leaps and bounds. Their SD was the best of the season, hands down. The honourable mention is given because they’ve beaten their Canadian archrivals, Crone and Poirier. I hope Skate Canada takes this result into consideration going into next season. Weaver and Poje are clearly more expressive and fun to watch and they’ve been improving technically with each competition. So my point to drive home to Skate Canada: Kaitlyn and Andrew have star quality, Crone and Poirier do not. I mean, just look at this!

Wasn’t that lovely?

What did you think of the results at Worlds? Posts on the men and pairs competition coming soon!

~The Rinkside Cafe

2011 Worlds Predictions: Ice Dance

I’ve decided to save my favourite discipline for last for my predictions post. So, off we go!

The podium for ice dance, like pairs seems to be set – the order on the other hand, not quite. For the ice dance podium, the expected medal winners are: Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat.

The battle for gold will be exciting as Meryl and Charlie battle their teammates and archrivals, Tessa and Scott. As much as I love Tessa and Scott with all my heart (they brought me back to figure skating in the first place), I will have to say that Meryl and Charlie have a definite advantage over the Olympic champions (even though they got a month extra to train because of the tsunami) just because Meryl and Charlie have been undefeated all season and they’ve had so much time to tweak their programs and get feedback from international judges. Not to mention that the Americans are injury-free. Whatever happens, I will be super excited to see the rest of Tessa and Scott’s FD. It’s a pity that they had to change the lift to reduce the torque on Tessa’s back though, it was a really pretty lift… In any case, both teams have to skate their best to get the gold, there is no room for mistake here. (*Sending psychic reminders to Tessa and Scott to get their twizzles right and hoping they receive this message*) If both teams skate their best, the results will depend on:

1. How much weight the Olympic champion title carries over into the next season.

2. How much politicking Skate Canada has done for Tessa and Scott. Because the USFSA doesn’t really give a shit about ice dance.

As for Nathalie and Fabian, it’s obvious that they’re the strongest European team and they’ve been doing well all season. Sadly, for these two Frenchmen, they’re kind of in a “Joannie Rochette” position – meaning that they’re not quite as good as the top competitors but they’re a head above the rest of the pack. Sadly though, I don’t see this team going too far as the Russians will probably take back the European crown in preparation for Sochi.

Speaking of Russians, keep an eye out for the two young Russian teams: Bobrova & Sloviev and Ilinykh & Katsalapov. With many of the top teams retiring, these youngins are moving up the ranks quickly. Although I expect a lower placement for I/K, I would not be surprised if last year’s junior world champions move up quickly – there’s been quite a lot of hype about them and they may be the Russian ice dance team to watch for Sochi.

As for other teams to look out for – the Shibutanis. Their Four Continents silver medal was undoubtedly unexpected because they beat out two senior teams (Crone & Poirier and Weaver & Poje) that have been in the senior circuit a lot longer than they have. The Shibutani siblings have such a beautiful and lyrical quality with them and their programs this year are a joy to watch. They need to work on their speed and polish but I expect that it’ll come with some time. They still have a long career ahead of them if they choose to continue with their skating.

Since I mentioned Crone & Poirier¬† above, I guess I’ll put in a word for them. C/P (and W/P) probably won’t occupy the lower spaces on the podium until Tessa and Scott retire but their placements this season suggest that Canada will get three spots next year at Worlds. Unless some freak accident happens, that is. I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S.A. and Russia got 3 spots either, actually. We’ll just have to see. In any case, I don’t care very much for C/P, I much prefer Weaver and Poje’s style which is a lot more polished and fun to watch. Watching C/P reminds me of watching awkward gawky teenagers. Not fun. Let’s hope Weaver/Poje work on their speed, power and edges a lot more.

Podium predictions:

Gold: Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Silver: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (I’ll be cheering for them and hoping they’ll win gold though…)
Bronze: Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat

Opinions? Come share!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Four Continents: Pairs and Ice Dance

Ok, home stretch for my 4cc blurb. If anyone cares.

Pairs

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Four Continents: Predictions

I apologize for the lack of posts last week. Things are happening and I’m really stressed out and going through weird ups and downs. Thank you for all of my faithful readers who motivate me to write whenever I feel mixed up and crazy, even if I’m just writing about figure skating. In any case, my last post included podium predictions for the men and now, I should do predictions for all the other disciplines before this crazy competition starts.

Ladies

The ladies competition will be a definitive time for a lady to establish herself as the favourite going into Worlds. Seeing that a basic nobody won Europeans with Kiira Korpi and Carolina Kostner’s consistency in question… again, the Japanese and Americans are the ones to be looking at when the World championships roll along. Now the question is who will be the one wearing the gold medal at the end of the day and challenge Queen Sondok Yuna. (I’m sorry Yuna, even though you’re a great figure skater, you aren’t as epic and cool as Queen Sondok… if the stories about her from the Samsuk Sagi are true.) Alissa Czisny delivered steady performances at Nationals which solidified her position as a threat to the World podium after winning the Grand Prix Final. Unfortunately, not all the skaters were up to par while others (*cough*Carolina Kostner*cough*) had scores that were a bit questionable though it seems as if those scores may soon disappear with the reappearance of inconsistency in that particular skater.

Everyone will probably be holding their breath for Mao Asada, the current World champion. Mao has been reworking her jumps this season, which lead to a really rocky start. She lost her National title to Miki Ando, meaning that she still had ways to go back in January. Let’s hope that she regains her mental strength and consistency enough to put up a good fight. She is the only one who has consistently beaten Yuna Kim and perhaps the only one who can put up a good fight against the Olympic champion if she is back in form despite not doing any competitions this season. Ando, on the other hand, still has choreography that leaves much to be desired. However, she has big jumps and her consistency is decent unless she’s injured. I don’t think her programs are good enough vehicles to take her to another World title against Yuna, but who knows. Sleeping with Nikolai Morozov has its advantages I guess.

Akiko Suzuki will hopefully give out lovely performances as usual, which will be sadly undermarked. It’s tough being weighed down by being the #4 Japanese lady when you can easily be the #1 Canadian lady. Or even European champion. I say she should give up her Japanese citizenship. She’d save Canada a lot of embarrassment at Worlds if she did.

Podium prediction – A combination of any of the ladies mentioned above.

Pairs

Pang and Tong should win this thing pretty easily. Pairs is one of the disciplines with major European contenders aka, being European pairs champion actually means something. A few people who could actually medal are Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch, whose interesting scores have propelled them into what may look like the top 10 at Worlds this year. Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran have shown that they are capable, even as new senior skaters by getting a spot in the GPF, although Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin with their touching/well-sold/packaged LP may be a good challenge for the bronze.

Predictions

Gold: Pang & Tong
Silver: Moore-Towers & Moscovitch
Bronze: Yankowskas & Coughlin

Ice Dance

Four Continents marks the return of our darling Olympic champions, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. Winning this competition will immediately place them in good contention for gold at Worlds, although the fact that they had less training time and program-tweaking time (I mean, Meryl and Charlie had to improve their programs throughout the season this year) may be a disadvantage. However, who knows, maybe Skate Canada will pull something weird out of their bag and we may see questionable gold medals on their necks. (Not that I don’t believe in them but I would rather have them beat Marlie fair and square rather than see them win by politicking.) Meryl Davis & Charlie White will be the ones to beat since they’ve been undefeated all season without Tessa and Scott in their way. Their tango FD has improved but they still lack the sex – sex that their rivals exude – that is required to pull off a great tango. Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje and to a lesser extent, Maia and Alex Shibutani, should be embroiled in a bitter battle for bronze. The two Canadian teams have been at it with Crone and Poirier getting the edge but the good news is, they’re getting really close. C/P won only by 1.03 points, which can be a lot in ice dance, but I guess it can be worse. Weaver and Poje, I believe, has worked on their FD. I sincerely hope to see them triumph over C/P one day. Sooner rather than later would be nice. Being the I-refuse-to-be-nationalistic figure skating fan, I will once again, incur the ire of the people who share the same citizenship as I do and say that I would like it best if the little American brother-sister team won. Maia and Alex have lovely lines, posture and musicality. They glide around the ice with what seems like no effort and Alex is a wonderful lead and partner who reminds me a lot of Scott Moir. Their FD this year is gorgeous as well.

Predictions

Gold/Silver: Toss of between Tessa & Scott and Meryl & Charlie (it depends on 1. who skates better 2. has better programs and whether or not the judges have drunk Skate Canada cool-aid) – I can’t decide between a toss off between the two without seeing how Tessa and Scott are doing at the moment and what their programs are like. I may have to give the edge to Meryl and Charlie just for their exposure though.
Bronze: Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier =(

I’d love to upload pictures but there is so much to do and never enough time. But I’d still love to hear your thoughts/opinions/predictions!

~The Rinkside Cafe

 

If Only…

These two were skating at the Canadian championships this weekend. Unfortunately, I really dislike Crone and Poirier who will probably win the title (at least they’re not on my blacklist) so Tessa and Scott’s absence will be very painful indeed. If only Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje could be a lot better technically. They have more star quality than Crone and Poirier anyways. Sigh. This should be the winning SD (although I will admit that Kaitlyn and Andrew have my favourite SD of the season so far) at Canadian Nationals:

Now, if you excuse me, I’ll have to find some chocolate to drown my sorrows in.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Skate America: Predictions

I have a small break before I have to work myself to a state of collapse. In any case, let’s just look forward to what seems to be an exciting weekend this week at Skate America! The stakes are getting high as we enter into the second half of the grand prix series since being on the podium might now be a guarantee for a spot at the finals. In any case, here are the predictions…

Men

This week we’ll see a clash of the Japanese men with Nobunari Oda vs. Daisuke Takahashi. Oda’s programs don’t quite have the flair this season and Daisuke, being awesome and World champion should win this handily unless he goes insane and falls a whole bunch of times during his programs. Somehow he doesn’t have the power of the Patrick Chan score so if he does fall *knock on wood* he won’t have P-stupid-Chiddy’s overinflated scores. In any case, I wish Daisuke well. Adam Rippon should also be in hunt for a medal. I’ll be rather excited to see his programs again.

Ladies

I looked at this list and got really, really scared. Carolina Kostner has to be consistent or else Rachael Flatt will end being the front runner for gold. Despite her consistency, Rachael is useful for bathroom or food breaks… ‘Nuff said. Kanako Murakami will be skating again and I wish she had the jumps and the political force behind her to beat the entire competition but alas, that has yet to come. Sigh. In any case, I’m still a bit scared of putting too much faith in Carolina because it’s heartbreaking when a favourite lets you down. I had given up on her for awhile and then she shocks me. I hope she can shock me again so I can get rid of my cynical opinions on her skating.

Pairs

My baby Chinese pair is competing again! It’s only been a week since their silver medal from the Cup of China but I want them on that podium again. Because they are good enough, throw quad salchow or not. The gold however, will probably belong to Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. They had a rough season last year with the return of Shen and Zhao but I don’t blame them. Who wouldn’t be nervous? Shen and Zhao’s “Turandot” LP from 2003 Worlds still makes me emotional and I bawl my eyes out almost every time I watch it. In any case, Savchenko and Szolkowy want Olympic gold and they want to stick around to get it. As a result, they have to maintain their A-game and winning this competition in a field with relatively weak competitors is crucial to getting their confidence back up. These two are a fabulous team and they have to start believing in it. Their “Out of Africa” LP is actually one of my all-time favourites. I hope that their programs this year can live up to it…

Ice Dance

Meryl and Charlie will probably win even if… well… Meryl and Charlie will only lose if they get injured and have to withdraw is the way I see it. There will be an interesting match-up between the #2 and #3 Canadian ice dance teams of Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje and Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier. Weaver/Poje are so much more fun to watch and these two have become pretty evenly matched. I wonder what dress Kaitlyn will wear for the SD this time… The Shibutanis will also make another run for the podium and I’m awfully curious as to what will happen. It will be a tight race for silver and gold. I hope the Shibushibus and Weaver/Poje triumph over the mediocre, face contorting, juniorish pair.

The Cafe’s Picks:

Men: Daisuke Takahashi
Ladies: Carolina Kostner (For the love of God and all that is holy!!! Unless Kanako can miraculously take the gold.)
Pairs: Savchenko & Szolkowy
Ice Dance: Davis & White

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