Friday, April 16

Pro Scene Revitalized?

Word on the street is that Scott Hamilton and co. are looking to re-create the pro competition circuit that really soared in the mid-1990's, with a possible six competitions taking place in the winter of the 2011 season.

Well, isn't that exciting!? I'm not a huge fan of show and professional skating because I find most of it so cheesy, but with skaters like Shizuka Arakawa, Jeffrey Buttle, and Stephane Lambiel still keeping their skills up, I think this could be amazing!

More as I hear it.

Thursday, April 15

Costume Drama in the 80's

Vanessa Riley is an international judge from Great Britain, and she always seems to be in disagreement with the rest of the judges about her marks. In this particular instance, at the 1989 European Championships, Soviet skater Alexandr Fadeev skated the long program of his life, and received some 6.0 scores for artistic impression. Riley, on the other hand, deducted 0.2 for his see-through "lower half" and gave him a 5.6. She speaks her mind about enforcing the rules, and how she generally has a wide range of marks. Also included is her fuss about Surya Bonaly's tights in the compulsory figures competition, and Maia Usova's rhumba dress. And these days, the only fluff we seem to get is of a skate and how to tell if a jump is downgraded... sigh.

The Stars are on Ice in Japan

Some highlights from the Japanese tour..

I absolutely love this program for Joannie, and I wish she'd be able to let loose and skate with the same abandonment in her competitive programs. She really moves effortlessly and it looks beautiful, all while having so much power. I'm taking it Shae-Lynn Bourne choreographed the program based on the last move of the program-- the only part I didn't particularly like.

Shizuka Arakawa hasn't lost much since her Olympic win, and she continues to present great programs. An interesting mix of music-- O Fortuna and Ave Maria.. but I still love watching her skate.

Shen and Zhao brought back a different take on their 2002 and 2003 free skate to Turandot. Check out the cool "lift" at 1:21 and 2:50. I remember watching the Grand Prix in 2001 and seeing this team work on the choreography for the program in a fluff and it was the first year they attempted to really listen to the music and present themselves as artists. Look how far they've come!

Wednesday, April 14

What are your thoughts on Kiri Baga?

She's alright. I think she has decent posture and great flexibility (although I don't feel like she really showcases that in her spinning), and I like that she has a variety of transitions throughout her programs. However, I think she has a long way to go as far as the performance and interpretation go. She has very "absolute" choreography, and while she hits all the nuances, it's not done with any feeling or understanding of the music, at least that's how I see it. Also, I know she's still growing, but all of her triples really are muscled through and she has a scary technique when she tries the flip. But, she was a junior skater this year and you can't ask for everything right away. If she manages well through puberty and gains strength to learn the other triples, she could have a great future.

Ask me a question about figure skating!

Do you think Davis & White will continue to be slotted behind Virtue & Moir next season?

Depends on what each team comes up with. However, I really wouldn't be surprised if Virtue and Moir call it quits. They are young, they've already accomplished the top feats of the sport, and they have plenty of time to explore other opportunities or careers if they so choose. I know that I personally wouldn't have the motivation to stick around even another year after I won an Olympic gold medal-- because you know that the minute they finish 2nd, there could be a bunch of outcry about how they didn't deserve the Vancouver gold or bla bla bla... whatever skating fans come up with ;-)

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are you planning to go to any competitions next year?

Haven't decided yet. US Nationals are very fairly priced, although I'm not as excited by American skating as I should be. Canadian Nationals location hasn't been announced yet. Definitely not traveling to Asia for the major internationals!

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Any hope of a U.S. pairs team being competitive with the top teams this quad?

Probably not. Denney/Barrett are exciting but sloppy still. It'll probably be Savchenko/Szolkowy, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Bazarova/Larionov if she can gain more power, the Zhangs (who will probably be really pushed up now as the top Chinese team, or I guess continue to be overscored on the components), and then Volosozhar/Trankov when they are able to compete. I also think Berton/Hotarek from Italy have the potential to really move up the standings. McLaughlin/Brubaker have a shot to be thrown into the mix, but only if they start coming out with solid performances each time.

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What do you think of all the hype surrounding the Russian junior ladies? In particular, Sotnikova and Tuktamysheva have gotten the most notice... you think they'll survive puberty?

Well, Russia sure has plenty of ladies coming up the ranks. You can never guess about how puberty is going to effect them, but I think they will manage. I also like Shelepen but my personal favorite right now is probably Polina Agafonova, the girl who won bronze at this years World Juniors. She's a tiny skater but still has a lot of power and she pays attention to the choreography. One that I wasn't impressed with at all (and who probably has already gone through puberty) is Anna Ovcharova. I saw a lot of the typical Russian stroking and sloppiness in her, and I have a feeling this was her one year to make it internationally, and then she will be passed by all of the others. To her credit, though, she does a lot of the elements with very good execution, and it reflects in her marks. I just think her components (at least at Junior Worlds) were a bit generous.

I also like Tuktamysheva a lot, and Sotnikova is good but a bit slow. It'll be exciting again finally the next few years in Russia!

Ask me a question about figure skating!

Can you explain how a Biellmann is allowed as a feature for the layback spin? I don't understand how this is allowed as part of the layback in the SP.

The Biellmann position is a feature to increase the level. I think it is considered as part of the layback because you are pulling your skate from almost touching the ice to over your head, and keeping the balance centered. It's not still a layback position, but eh.. whatever the ISU thinks ;-)

That's part of my problem with ladies skating now, though. It used to be by far my favorite and now I feel like so many of them look the same. The flexible girls are all doing the same exact spins and spirals, and now that the footwork takes so long to complete in order for the high levels, it doesn't give the skaters, especially in the short program, much time for anything else besides going from element to element.

Ask me a question about figure skating!

Do you think we will ever see a quad loop or axel in the future, or are these jumps just not possible between skating equipment and gravity?

Kevin Van der Perren was doing clean quad loops in practice many, many years ago. Chris Mabee, a former Canadian skater, had some nice attempts and I saw a video of one that was half cheated, but still, not bad. I think Roman Serov has also landed quad loops in practice, but fell? when he attempted it at a Skate America years ago. So the potential to do them is definitely there.

Quad Axel.. I really don't know. Maybe from someone like Michal Brezina but that is one I definitely don't see happening any time soon, or maybe ever.

Ask me a question about figure skating!

What is your take on the 2002 World's Ice Dance scandal? I'm a dance expert but thus always puzzles me. I mean, the judges didn't like the Lithuanians, but they sure didn't like the Israelis eaither. And the petition (mostly) everyone signed?

I didn't know much about ice dance back then, but I really loved the Lithuanians, especially that free dance. At the time, I really thought they were robbed and just couldn't understand it, although oddly enough Drobiazko had that big error on the side-by-side footwork in the original dance and they were 3rd there. I do remember their free dance patterns being a lot of circles around mid-ice though, and sometimes her posture and finish wasn't always the best.

I think the judges liked the Israelis but once they won their medal they kind of just dumped them. I remember how much the fans loved them at the 2000 Skate Canada, especially in the original dance. The message boards seemed to be full of people thinking they deserved to beat Anissina/Peizerat that night (and how I remember little stuff like that, I have no idea..)

I have 200-some tapes sitting at my moms house right now from almost every event aired on American television between 1999 and 2004; I need to go get them and start writing up my (new) thoughts about everything. Watching skating on Youtube or the internet just isn't the same!

Ask me a question about figure skating!

Tuesday, April 13

More about yours truly

I get a lot of similar Formspring questions asking what my history is in skating and even simply asking for more information about myself. It's the off-season, I really don't have much to write about besides the submitted Formspring questions about skating, so I thought it would be a good day to do a little self-promotion..


Just kidding :-) .. but I'm pretty simple. I'm 23 now, and I work at a bar in Columbus, Ohio. I've done some promotion work in major cities around the United States in the last few months for a new website that was created by the owners of the bar. When I'm not working, I like keeping in shape-- running around the city or working out. I also have a thing for TV on DVD and I own far too large of a collection. My favorite shows are criminal-type series, such as CSI, Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, and plenty of others. I literally like all kinds of music but some of my all-time favorites are The Smashing Pumpkins, The Arcade Fire, The All-American Rejects, Pink, and Fleetwood Mac. I took piano lessons for many years as a kid, and I still love to sit down and try to play some of the current hits by ear whenever I go visit my family.

I have senior-credit status at The Ohio State University, but took a break from school to work on some other projects. My major is criminology and I'll probably finish a minor in psychology, which was my first major. I also have some high-level credit in French, but I never really get the opportunity to speak the language so I've lost plenty of knowledge since my last class.

As far as figure skating, I've already replied in some of my Formspring answers; but, in case you didn't read them-- I've been a fan of the sport since I first saw it during the 1993 World Championships. I started following it very closely between 1996 and 2005, or so, especially between 1998 and 2004, but then I got a little sidetracked with school and the whole college "life". I've somewhat (note the not completely!) grown out of that and found my passion again at the beginning of the 2009/2010 Olympic season. As far as my own skating, I took serious lessons for about 9 months and was landing some double jumps a pretty consistent basis. Spins and crossovers-- not as gifted!

That's all. I know you were very intrigued by all of this. :-)

Do you think emotionless and soulless person could represent our sport well?

I don't know who you are referring to, but I'm going to reply to this one and all the other Formspring questions that I've deleted that are ridiculous. My blog was meant to be about figure skating basics and pertinent news stories and the occasional news items that I, myself, can contribute. I don't really have interest in whether people love or hate this or that skater, and like I've said on a few other responses, I'm not going to change my opinion on the skaters based on what other people have to say.

Ask me anything Armin's tribute to Mao. It's lovely.

I've seen it, and it's very nice. He recently did a tribute to Laura Lepisto as well.

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what is your favorite Mao Asada program?

Her Chopin Nocturne short program from the 2007 season. I wish she'd go back in that direction..

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Monday, April 12

what is your favorite kim yuna program?

Tango de Roxanne.

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What do you think of all these Mao ubers flooding Formspring with "Is Mao the BEST EVER???"-type questions?

It's natural for a fan to ask such questions and get a response that benefits their skater. As I have said before, when it comes to that whole Mao vs. Yu-Na mess, I like both of them just about equally so there's no sense in trying to get me to like one more over the other :-)

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Do you read Aunt Joyce's formspring?

No, I don't.

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You said JR is your favorite. Do you think JR is more artistic than Mao? JR's lacking of flexiblity doesn't bother you at all?

Yes, I think Rochette is more artistic than Mao. And Joannie isn't particularly NOT flexible, she just grew up in a generation where it wasn't common to do a Biellmann variation on every other spin, or to do a complete-split change edge spiral like some of the ladies are doing now with the IJS. I've seen much, much less flexible, so no, it doesn't bother me :-)

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What do you like about Mao? Do you think she is one of the great artist of all time?

I like the passion that she has when she skates, and that she has the determination to add the triple Axel, even to the all-important short program. I think the last few years she's lost a lot of her spark because of the program choices and maybe pressure she'd had on herself, but she looked 1000 times more relaxed at Worlds (without Tarasova) and since she's getting a new coach for next year, I hope she really starts to have fun again.

As far as one of the great artists- no, not yet. The potential is there though.

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The Chinese skaters did well at 4CC, but didn't have any skaters at Worlds. What do you think of them and how long until they have a couple spots?

They had three pairs and then one skater in each discipline otherwise. Yan Liu looked to be on her way up at the 2006 Olympic Games, but then really hasn't progressed as far as her basic skating or speed or choreography goes since then. And she used to always land all of her triples, something she's had a lot of trouble with the last few seasons. She's getting up there in age, but I don't see anyone else really pushing to take her spot if she does retire, so we may see her for another four years, and probably in that same 15-24 range. I'd say they stay at the one spot for a while.

There are a few men coming up the ranks that have potential. I think the problem there was that Jialang Wu was given many chances as the Chinese sole entry to the big events, but really bombed several of those outings. He had a great short program at his first Worlds but I'm pretty sure fell on three Axel jumps in his free skate, and then at his second Worlds he didn't make the free skate, that was in 2009- the Olympic qualifying Worlds. Then he finished 19th at Nebelhorn and wasn't even close to qualifying one of the six final spots for Vancouver.. Jinlin Guan is a very artistic skater but if he doesn't get a triple Axel, he's not going to be near the top 10 either. Nan Song is the World Junior silver medalist and had the best result of he Wu, and Guan at Four Continents this year. He's probably the one to watch for.

The third Chinese pair at Worlds (that didn't qualify for the free skate) was at Worlds a few years ago and finished something like 12th or 13th, so they've probably stagnated or regressed as well. But I think China wants their future to be in the World Junior Champions as well as Zhang/Zhang for the next Olympic cycle. However, the question mark with Sui/Han is going to be how they grow in the next few years.

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