Monday, October 4

The Japan Open: The Men

Better late than never, I suppose :-)

Jeffrey Buttle of team North America started off the mens competition, skating to a medley of pieces by Glenn Gould. He completed a triple flip/triple toe loop with a step-out in between, a nice double Axel, a triple Lutz/double toe loop/double loop, double loop, a triple Lutz with a slight cheat, a triple Salchow that leaned and he stepped out, a second double Axel, and finally a triple loop that was landed forwards and had a hand down. I noticed that Jeff must be keeping up with the changes within the scoring system, because he (like many of the other men) has opted to add difficult variations at the end of some of his spins that really kill the speed and overall beauty.

As always, it is obvious that he really listens to the music as soon as the performance begins. He's one of the several skaters in this competition whose skating is really all about classic, clean lines and making everything appear simple. His second footwork sequence was done to very slow music towards the end, and it was absolutely gorgeous. There were plenty of transitions throughout the program and into some of the jump elements, and overall I really enjoyed the program. His speed could have been a little bit better, but he's never been a fast skater.

Michal Brezina started off team Europe's efforts, reprising his An American in Paris free skate from last season. He began with a nice triple Axel and huge, delayed triple flip, and he also gave a good effort on a quadruple Salchow attempt, but stepped out. It's amazing to me how much height and power he gets into his jumps when you look at the lack of speed that he has going into them. In the second half of the program, he had some trouble, doing a second triple Axel with a hand down and combined it with a single toe loop, another triple flip that had a fall-out and combined with another single toe loop, a single loop, a double Lutz, and a triple Salchow/single toe loop. Obviously, the combinations weren't working to his favor on this day. To his credit, it looks like he has worked on his spins over the summer, and all of them looked improved to the point where they shouldn't receive negative grades of execution anymore. As far as the program goes, he really killed the energy in the second half when he started making mistakes, and this is a case where I really wish he would have come up with a new free skate for this year. I think the choreography, while not horrible, still looks a bit junior.

Takahiko Kozuka of team Japan attempted a quadruple toe loop that he landed but then slipped off the edge and fell, popped a triple Axel, and then pulled it back together, completing a triple Lutz/double toe loop, a triple Axel/double toe loop/double loop, a back spiral into a triple flip, a beautiful triple Lutz/triple toe loop, a spread eagle into a great triple loop, and a triple Salchow. His spins were well-done, and his footwork showed off the effortless edge quality and control he has in his basic skating.

This is tough, because Takahiko is my favorite up-and-coming skater. I think that the music (aside from the aforementioned footwork sequences) didn't really help showcase just how good he is, and his problem remains that he is a very internal skater. If the program and music don't help tell the story, then everything becomes a little flat. Anyways, there is still some nice choreography and plenty of transitions spread throughout, so I have some hope that he will gain the ability to sell it! 150.71.

Adam Rippon of team North America chose to skate to Rachmaninov for his long program this season. What's the first note I have about his skating? Gentle. Very much like Buttle, everything he does is so subtle and he makes all of the difficult stuff look so easy. As far as the jumps go, he did a triple Axel/double toe loop (the latter looking a little bit toe-Axeled to me), spread eagles directly into an easy double Axel, a triple Lutz with both hands over his head, another good triple Axel, a triple flip/triple toe loop that was absolutely perfect, a triple Lutz/double toe loop/double loop with one hand over his head for all three jumps, a triple loop, and an easy triple Salchow. I've heard (and reported here) that he has an absolute beauty of a quadruple toe loop in practice, so I'm guessing the early double Axel will be replaced by that later in the season. Adam also did some great spins, including a flying camel that went into a donut spin-- he's one of the few that actually does it well.

This program is exactly the type of vehicle Adam needs, as he is very similar to Kozuka in the sense that everything is internal. You can see throughout the choreography that he always has his eyes down rather than looking at the crowd. However, when the skating tells the story, as this did, none of that matters anymore. I will make the quick mentioning of his crossovers though.. he needs to work on smoothing them out rather than being so bouncy. Huge score of 166.63. He's going to be a serious contender for World Champion this year I bet.

Evgeny Plushenko of team Europe reprises his Tribute to Nijinski free skate that he used in during the 2004 season. Crossovers around a circle to start into a triple Axel that leaned in the air but landed just fine. Some more set-up for another triple Axel/double toe loop. He also completed a triple flip, a triple Salchow, a surprising catch-foot spiral into a triple Lutz/triple toe loop that was nice, a triple loop, a planned triple Lutz which he doubled, and a double Axel. He added a lot of catch-foot/half-Biellmann positions in his spins, and I'm sure I sound like a broken record now, but most of these attempts from the skaters absolutely kill the speed and the overall look of the spins. The footwork, surprisingly for me, didn't really stand out or engage me like it usually does.

There isn't much to say here. I respect Evgeny and what he's been able to do so far in his career, but when you have the likes of Buttle, Kozuka, and especially Rippon skating right before him, you can really see all of his weaknesses loud and clear. Much of the choreography in the beginning involved arm flailing while either standing in place or doing simple pushes, and while the catch-foot into the triple/triple combination was nice, it really was one of the only difficult transitions throughout the whole program. He usually has this ability to draw me in and really pay attention, but I ended up a little bit bored. 151.00.

Daisuke Takahashi of team Japan closed the mens competition, debuting his free skate to Invierno Porteno and Primavera Portena by Tango Siempre. He did an absolutely gorgeous quadruple toe loop to start the program, but singled an Axel attempt a few seconds later. He also completed a triple loop, a triple flip/triple toe loop with a big step-out, a triple Axel with another fall-out, a triple Lutz, a triple Salchow, and another triple Lutz in combination with a double toe loop. He featured a unique flying upright-turned-layback spin that he centered well, and had decent spins overall aside from his camel positions that could still use plenty of work. His footwork sequences, as always, were done well and included his typical flair.

So, I don't love it and I don't hate it. I question whether Daisuke completely believes in the concept yet, because everything ended up just a little bit flat in my opinion, even if his basics just seem so effortless. I'm worried that even with a strong performance that the music doesn't really build up enough (or quick enough) to really get the crowd going, because even here at home, there was a very polite applause rather than people losing it over seeing the current World Champion deliver a decent performance. I know the Japanese are usually somewhat reserved compared to North American fans, but still... :-) 159.19.


Anonymous said...

Nice review!
Daisuke was my favourie, despite the errors and the overused music!
Rippon is a Jeff Buttle reloaded, absolutely predictable with boring tricks and cheap and overused choreography, simulating the involvement into the program, Kozuka as always talented but without any notable result, Plushenko bored and boring skated worse than in a lot of his shows.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your review. It is quite refreshing to have an independent view on these performances. I have just one minor correction for your article: Jeffrey Buttle's first jump was a flip, not a lutz.

Anonymous said...

Plushenko was brilliant. Just brilliant as always. Can't stop watching him!

Tony said...

Sorry about that! I have a triple flip written in my original notes, so I have no clue why I wrote Lutz for Buttle's first jump. I will correct it now. Thanks!

Tony said...

And one thing about Plushenko. I can admit when he has that captivating quality, but I thought he looked bored and unmotivated here, honestly.

embassy_richard said...

Thank you for the review! It was interesting to read. I'm also glad you were a little bit more candid than usual. Please don't try to be too nice to the skaters you really don't care for.

I'd appreciate it if you post something about the French Masters too. Have you seen Brian's new free program yet? I kind of like it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I loved Plushenko's program - Nijinsky is my favourite of his. But each to their own... :)

Have you seen any of Joubert's new programs? I'm dying to see his flamenco especially, but haven't seen any video of it so far... only a news clip, but what I could see of it there, it looked great.


Anonymous said...

Yes,Plushenko was unmotivated and uninspired, besides I believe he is tired after so many shows. He definitely lacks serious training, but in fact his skating was good considering that he skated to an old program which wasn´t adapted to the rules, just to please his fans. He didin´t take this competition too seriously.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review!!! I totally loved Adam program. It was much better than I expected. If he adds the 4toe while keeping the other jumps as good as usual he's a serious contender.
I hope he doesn't put too much pressure over his shoulders, because this is going to be his 2nd 100% senior season, I'll be very happy if he gets into the Grand Prix Final

Anonymous said...

Plush was amazing. He didn't take this event too seriously but anyway with this old program he looked so great. I want him to come back!

And congrats to Rippon! Good program, really!

Anonymous said...

I agree pretty much with everything you said about Takahashi, Tony. I don't know what exactly I expected, but I don't think he's made the best possible music choices this season.

That tango can become annoying toward the end of the season. I don't love it and I don't hate it, either. Have to wait for a clean skate though.

Rippon's skate was impressive, technically. Well done! But there's so little emotion going on in the program, and the music is SO overused... there's still a chance Adam will become a decent performer one day. Or not.

Yes, Takahiko's free skate music is a snoozefest. Which makes me sad. Because Takahiko can be absolutely captivating, with a right program, as we've seen in the past.

Evgeny's skating at this stage and level isn't even worth discussing, IMO.

Anonymous said...

I think Daisuke's program has big potential. It's still too raw and he doesn't feel the music yet. I hope he will improve it. This tango is not a masterpiece like La Strada but good enough. But I'm also a little but surprised at his music choices for this season.

I like Takahiko's FP much more than his SP. He also didn't do the best music choice but the choreography is good and step sequences are amazing!

Rippon also has a nice program. I really like his jumps with one hand over his head, it's something unique, his own style. But I'm afraid he is next quadless skater.

I LOVE Brezina's jumps. They are gorgeous - high, powerful. But there is no emotion in his performance.

Plushenko's skating was really bad. And I can't understand why he is trying to do that half-biellmann position in his spin. It looks really tortured because he doesn't have enough flexibilety.

highaims said...

Obviously watching the programs live at the arena vs thru youtube give differing opinions. Technically, your reviews are, as always, pretty much spot on. But there at the arena, Adam's program brought the first spontaneous standing ovation of the day, and really captivated th sudience.

Plushenko, well, to each their own, but IMO I just can't ever see past his ungraceful stiffness and lack of finesse. But as always, his feverish fans were out there givng the 'king' his due.

Is Brezina really competing this season with this old FS ??? Im getting bored with his costume lol !

Anonymous said...

How did you manage to see Kozuka's program? It's not on YouTube yet, or at least as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said...

Man! Takahashi can dance! This guy amazes me. He definitely knows how to dance with 'passion', a required ingredient for a tango. His unparalleled ability to feel the subtle nuances of the rhythm of the music and translate them into his movements has again captivated me. The speed and fluidity of his skating entering into 4T was beautiful as well. So, do I like his tango?---most definitely 'yes', (except his 'tribute to Beethoven' hair, that is). There were some interesting moves particularly in the slow part and that was another thing I enjoyed very much. Although the last 1/3 of the program needs much improvement (music get too loud and repetitious and program does not end with a convincing climax), I still have to say that I love this program already and I am looking forward to seeing how it develops into a better form. Remember, fans, this particular performance at the Japan Open was, according to Takahashi's own words in the interview, "30-50%" of its potential.

Anonymous said...

you have decided that whatever plushenko does with his arms is flailing and that I think that is total BS nonsense. Your close minded biased hatred of everything about him is so tiring. It's no worth stop reading over because I like your analysis on lots of skaters but when it comes to Plushenko it is so tiring and also frustrating. That is the issue. Like everyone who has ever skated is better than him? That is what I get from your opinions.

Tony said...

What exactly did he do in his program with his arms that really had any logic behind it? He did most of those movements while standing in place, and it didn't engage or intrigue me... so yes, I'd say it was flailing in that case.

I like Evgeny and respect his longevity, but I think he and many of the other Russians (especially the up-and-comers who probably idolize him) use their arms as the basis of 'choreography' and while it may have worked once upon a time, there are other requirements now to earn the points.

I've posted before about how Brian Joubert's 2010 Worlds short program was one of my favorite performances of the year. Was that a choreographic masterpiece full of transitions? Hardly. But his passion came out and the intensity level was amazing. If Evgeny gave me that same feeling while lacking in some areas of components, I would give him that same respect.

Anonymous said...

I feel like Kozuka is trying to mature his programs - his former ones were very boy-ish. I feel like once he really understands this free skate, he'll nail it and give absolutely amazing performances. In addition, it's only the beginning of the season and he has already scored only three points below his personal best - and that is with him making mistakes on two jumps. It'll only get better.

Anonymous said...

To 9:29 PM Anonymous, here is Kozuka's FS in JO of 2010.

Anonymous said...

Just I´ve said, I didn´t like Plushenko´s performance but it´s true I´m bored to read the same cliches and unfortunately Tony sometimes you use them too and it´s a pity because your reviews about other skaters are very interesting.
Just look at Highaims he/she says he doesn´t like Plushenko´s ungraceful stiffness and lack of finesse but he is praising Rippon who is just a lame Jeff Buttle 2without personality. Thanks God we have such experts!

Anonymous said...

I don't think your statement about Rippon is correct. It is obvious he is next quadless overscored skater who did his first 3A when he was 19 and it's pity, but Adam has jis own style. He is lyrical, flexible, he feels the music and has beautiful moves.
Maybe some years ago Plushenko really was "king of the ice" but he's not anymore. In the last few years figure skating has changed. Now is not enough to be just a great jumper. To be really amazing skater nowadays you have to combine two qualities: to be a good jumper and great performer. Skaters like this are Lambiel, Takahashi, Kozuka, Verner, Abbott, IMO.
PLushenko's "emotions" and expression on his face are too artificial, unnatural.
And all Plusjenko's fans are talking he is the skater who push the figure skating forward. But does he? I don't think so. JOubert is the first who did two different quads in his FP - 4T and 4S. Kevin Reynolds did it again in Torino. Takahashi is the first who made an attempt at 4F.

Anonymous said...

I watched JO in a seat very near from the link.
During the 6m practice, Takahashi looked standing out from other skaters as if he were in a different dimension.
He captivated audiences completely in my view.
What was stunning is that everybody found that he recovered his extrawdinary sharpness of the body as well as energy, which was still more clear when we saw the latin number performed in the ex.
The tango music-I love it so much.
It seems to have made Takahashi's performance much more sophisticated than last season with his ability of catching the sound.
About Manbo music - I dont like it.

Anonymous said...

Actually I like Adam and I don´t care about quads, but watching him at Japan Open I´ve seen just another Jeff Buttle and I was sad.
Figure skating was never about jumps,just because we stop jumping quads doesn´t mean that we are better performers,that´s a mere illusion. Anyway if I were you I won´t make the mistake to say Plushenko vs great performers without taking a better look at his PCS (any competition you want)LOL!!! About pushing the FS forward now it´s Reynold´s and Takahashi´s time to do it, Plushenko did it when he was young and fresh!LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

"PLushenko's "emotions" and expression on his face are too artificial, unnatural."----
Just look at Rippon's face expression LOL
"And all Plusjenko's fans are talking he is the skater who push the figure skating forward. But does he? I don't think so."----
He was the first to perform 4-3-2 and 4-3-3 combos.

Anonymous said...

Takahashi is the skater of he future,his program will get a mileage, he is effotless and fast, and those edges, to die for. Kozuka comes second, lovely program, he should not have gotten so low pcs in Vancouver. He is among the best in skating skills. Rippon overhyped, like Lysacek. The Kim Yuna Wilson choreography is obvious. He is not that spectacular, his basics are not up to the rest. And he should have gotten something appropriate for his age. Brezina has the highest jumps I have ever seen, but the program is juniorish, he deserves better. His feet fly though when he is on.

Buttle skated like in a show, Pluschenko also, athough Pluschenko came 3rd and beated skaters 10 years younger than him who compete in GP next weeks. Give the guy some pros. He has competed and being on top in 4 generations, since Elvis and Todd, was the wonderkid when he burst into the scene and was never declared the just the jumper up to 2006. Who denies this boy is a performer?? He probably has the biggest fandom among all the men since all these years and headlines all arenas when he skates, Reynolds and Joubert maybe be pushing the quads but at the end of the day do just that, have not earned an Olympic Medal, have they? Don't expect Pluschenko to push now more, he is 28 years old! I don't know any other skater so much decorated than Michelle Kwan. Give the dude some respect, he is a legendary skater, I remember when he skated with Michael Collins touring Usa he was the crowd favorite. If we disregard him, is like disregarding 12 years of figure skating.

Kozuka Ex was a beauty, I agree.

mm said...

Tony, I am surprised that you did not pick up what seems to me the biggest difference between Takahashi's this season's programme and the last season's... TRANSITIONS! Just watch the way he skates from the exit of FLSp to the Lutz. This is a technically and physically more demanding programme than La Strada. I am impressed.

Anonymous said...

Love the way the mens' performances are picking up more comments than the ladies' lol!! It could merely be because of the who actually participated in the event, but it could also be indicative of how much more the mens singles will be worth watching this season than the ladies.

Tony said...

Quick thought on the latest reply and then I'll go back and reply to some of the prior messages..

I used to be a HUGE fan of ladies skating, but the last few years have been extremely boring for me (and I'd assume many other fans). I have always enjoyed the men, but they are definitely my favorite now-- so many unique personalities and different approaches to the programs, even with the 'restrictive' IJS system.

DaisukeFan said...

Hi. I was there at Japan Open watching the show at the premium seat. Daisuke himself was saying at the interview that 'I couldn't input my feeling to the skate at all'. That is the reason why it might have looked a bit blunt but I believe there is a big potential that this Tango program will evolve quickly and nicely. His 4T was amazingly high, high and clean enough!! I am crossing my finger for Daisuke for the season.

Anonymous said...

That´s funny because I´ve always liked to watch men competition and now I can´t stand them, I watch girls! I have a lot of friends who adore FS and they all gave up men skating! I´am happy to see that someone switched to poor boys!LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

i was so happy to see daisuke's beautiful 4 toe again finally! loved "la strada" too much, so whatever program he has i KNEW it's difficult for me to enjoy as much. i enjoyed rippon's performance more than i expected. i thought it was fair enough that crowds' reaction for him was even bigger than daisuke. i'm sure they enjoyed daisuke's new program, but rippon had more intensity towards the end. btw they didn't show rippon's ex on tv. stupid tv tokyo! oh, and just wanted to see mao's new program at olympics.