Saturday, April 24

Sometimes We Get Lost in All of the Numbers...

Short story. Or I'll try to make it that way. When I am driving, I always plug my Ipod in as the source of music, and it goes through a big list of all of the songs that I have given high ratings. Today, "Rise" by Safri Duo came on and it reminded me of Brian Joubert's short program performance from the World Championships a little bit over a month ago. Even though he finished third there, he had a clean skate with a quad combination and really redeemed himself from the disaster of Vancouver. More than anything, though, was how he skated not only to make up for his disappointment, but also for the crowd. You can see how much he enjoys their participation and how he engages with them throughout the program. With all of the counting of spin revolutions and watching closely for every single take-off edge and landing position these days because of the new judging system, I know that I personally forget that skating really can be fun, too! I am definitely reasonable enough to see where he loses points versus some other top competitors, but for pure enjoyment value-- this was probably the best of the year.

With the recent news that Johnny Weir is not only writing a book but also recording an album, in addition to Evan Lysacek's 'Dancing With the Stars', I was curious if you felt skaters (not just those two) should just stick to competing until they retire?

Definitely not. If you get the opportunities to do something, cash in on them now. Figure skating isn't a huge sport by any means, especially now in the United States (compared to what it used to be 10, 15 years ago). There are some skaters that just keep competing until they are overtaken and forced out of the sport due to the younger generation, and by that time they have no popularity anymore and they haven't gone to school or anything else in terms of planning for after their careers are over.

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Friday, April 23

Kristoffer Berntsson

The talk in the Grand Prix assignment guesses post got me remembering some of the great programs Sweden's Kristoffer Berntsson has had over the years. For some reason, I thought he was retiring at the end of the 2010 season, but Adrian Schultheiss finished in the top 10 at Worlds and now the country has two entries next year-- maybe he will stay in and try to qualify for a spot and end on a better note. His season was pretty much a disaster, but his free skate included a string quartet version of "Sweet Dreams". As usual with Kristoffer, the program wasn't lacking in the least as far as creativity goes. Here's his performance from the 2009 NHK Trophy.



Also while you're at it, check out his Saturday Night Fever free skate from the 2007 World Championships, when he climbed into the top 10 for the first and only time in his career. The second triple Axel was absolutely perfect, as the commetator says ;-)

I Definitely Jumped on the Bandwagon..

If you read my scoring of the World Championships, you know that I thought Luxembourg's Fleur Maxwell was really undermarked on some of the program components scores. I actually would have had her in the top 24 in the short program; the judges had her 33rd. Her program wasn't on YouTube to share with everyone, but a see that a video went up yesterday. Trust me, if you watched the first half of the ladies short programs, this program was a big breath of fresh air, even with the fall on the double Axel.

Wednesday, April 21

2011 Grand Prix Series: Who Gets the Spots? - Men

I posted my thoughts about the ladies last night, and here are my guesses for the men. This is very difficult to predict as there are many skaters who are questionable as to whether they will compete next season; among them: Evan Lysacek, Evgeny Plushenko, Johnny Weir, Samuel Contesti, Alban Preaubert, Ryan Bradley, and Shawn Sawyer. Until I have a high level of confidence that any of them WON'T be back next year (Weir, Plushenko), I'll include them in my predictions for spots. Kevin Van der Perren said the 2010 Worlds would be his last competition, so I didn't include him. Stephane Lambiel has obviously already retired and skated professionally, and Stefan Lindemann and Kristoffer Berntsson have also retired. 

All top 12 men from the World Championships automatically earn two events, taking up 22 of the 72 spots, as Van der Perren has retired. Those men are the following:
Daisuke Takahashi 
Patrick Chan
Brian Joubert
Michal Brezina
Jeremy Abbott
Adam Rippon
Samuel Contesti
Adrian Schultheiss
Takahiko Kozuka
Kevin Reynolds
Javier Fernandez

The rest of the men in the ISU top 24 World Rankings and top 24 Seasons Best list are guaranteed one event, most of them probably ending up with two.
Evan Lysacek - obviously two events if he chooses to compete. He's number one on the World Standings, oh and he has this thing called the Olympic title
Tomas Verner - two events. He had a terrible season this year, but he's still 3rd on the World Standings thanks to all of the internationals in which he competes. I'd think he's coming back..
Nobunari Oda - two events. Disaster World Championships is an understatement, but 5th in the World Standings and strong finish at the Olympics
Alban Preaubert - two events. Strong World Standing and good placement at Europeans; also a host nation skater. All of this, of course, if he decides to keep skating
Yannick Ponsero - two events. Same as Preaubert, except in his case, I'm pretty certain he's not anywhere near retiring
Johnny Weir - I'm guessing he's moved on to other endeavors
Sergei Voronov - two events. Weak showing at Europeans and the Russian federation dumped him from the big events, but he's still one of the best from the country, and still ranked high in the World Standings
Nan Song - two events. World Junior silver medalist and showed he could compete with the senior guys with a strong showing at Four Continents. The highest Chinese man there, and probably leading the way for the next four years
Denis Ten - two events, even though all-around he probably wasn't thrilled with his season. Still 18th in the World Standings
Yuzuru Hanyu - two events. Won everything possible on the junior circuit this season, and should definitely be ready to move up and start challenging
Artur Gachinski - two events. Even though I think he has a lot of work to do, he made the Junior Grand Prix Final the last two seasons and was on the podium at Junior Worlds this year. Not much more he can do on that scene..
Brandon Mroz - two events. Not as impressive in 2010 as the prior season, but still within the top 24 in the World Standings, and had a good showing at Four Continents. 
Alexander Majorov - I'm going to guess two events. You're probably thinking, "Who?", but he's in the top 24 in the World Standings, and with all the question marks as far as some of the top skaters and whether they will compete, he should receive two
Evgeny Plushenko - I'm guessing he will disappear until the 2013 Grand Prix series
Tatsuki Machida - two events. Surprise silver medalist at Four Continents and comfortably in the top 24 Seasons Best scores 

World Junior and Junior Grand Prix Final medalists not already qualified by World Ranking or Seasons Best lists are assured one event if they move up.
Ross Miner - two events if he moves up. He was on the podium at the Junior Grand Prix Final, so I'm guessing he will

If you're keeping track, that's only 50 of the 72 spots available for Grand Prix events.

The other men that I'll predict to fill out the rosters.
Ryan Bradley - apparently 2010 was it for him
Artem Borodulin - two events. Skated extremely well at the Olympics but had the misfortune of breaking his blade at Worlds
Florent Amodio - two events. Beat out the higher-ranked Ponsero and Preaubert to go to the Olympics and Worlds, and had respectable showings in both for his first time out
Shawn Sawyer - two events. He's another question mark for me whether he will continue, but he's from a host nation and the third-highest Canadian in the World Standings
Richard Dornbush - two events. Ages out of the juniors and qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final the last two seasons
Grant Hochstein - two events. I have a feeling his strong finish at US Nationals will get him a Skate America invite, and he should probably be assigned another
Yasuharu Nanri - possibly retired after the 2010 season
Jialiang Wu - one event. Decent at Four Continents but a lot of blown opportunities in the past for him
Keegan Messing - I'll guess he stays junior
Jinlin Guan - two events. An artistic Chinese skater?! Respectable showings at Four Continents and Worlds, but won't move up much without gaining a triple Axel
Stephen Carriere - one event. Still decent on the World Standings and Seasons Best, but disappointing at Nationals

That's 64 of 72. The rest is just a guess, but I'll go for most of the following with one event each:
Anton Kovalevski
Armin Mahbanoozadeh
Paolo Bacchini
Jeremy Ten
Viktor Pfeifer
Vaughn Chipeur
Joey Russell
Jamal Othman
Peter Liebers

Thoughts?

What a Fun Program

Ana Cecilia Cantu of Mexico has been around for a while, but never made the cut for the free skate at the World Championships until 2009. She skated early in the day, but landed a clean triple flip and triple Salchow/double loop combination to end up 24th and have just enough points to skate the long program. While she wasn't completely clean (singled double Axel), her short programs in particular are always very engaging. This one, to Beetlejuice, is no different. Check out the awesome shoot-the-duck type spin she does around the 1:10 mark, too. The judges need to start rewarding early-group skaters much more on their actual performances. Many of them may struggle to rotate triples or barely pay attention to any choreography or the music, it doesn't mean that is true for all of them. See this program as an example of that!

Tuesday, April 20

2011 Grand Prix Series: Who Gets the Spots? - Ladies

I love making pointless charts of things that will soon enough be confirmed or officially announced, and the Grand Prix entrants for next season are no exception. While it's difficult without knowing who is retiring and/or skipping the series, I think that the ladies fields are more or less pretty easy to predict, and here's what I came up with:

All top 12 ladies from the World Championships automatically earn two events, taking up 24 of the 72 spots.
Mao Asada
Yu-Na Kim
Laura Lepisto
Miki Ando
Cynthia Phaneuf
Carolina Kostner
Mirai Nagasu
Ksenia Makarova
Rachael Flatt
Viktoria Helgesson
Akiko Suzuki
Sarah Hecken

The rest of the ladies in the ISU top 24 World Rankings and top 24 Seasons Best list are guaranteed one event, most of them probably ending up with two.
Joannie Rochette - definitely two events if she chooses to compete next season
Alena Leonova - definitely two events, Grand Prix Final qualifier in 2010 and top 10 in Vancouver
Kanako Murakami - definitely two events. World Junior Champion and Junior Grand Prix Final Champion
Caroline Zhang - probably two events. Four Continents medalist and strong World Ranking
Kiira Korpi - probably two events. High European Championships finish and strong World Ranking
Elene Gedevanishvili - probably two events. European medalist
Alissa Czisny - maybe just one event. There's plenty of other US ladies making their way up and Czisny doesn't have the results from the last four years to keep giving her chances
Ashley Wagner - probably two events. Grand Prix Final qualifier
Joshi Helgesson - maybe just one event. Strong World Ranking still but weaker results than last year
Jenna McCorkell - maybe two events. Strong World Championships ranking but it might be tough to get two invites as a non-host nation skater.
Elena Glebova - maybe two events. Same boat as McCorkell but she is top 10 in Europe
Haruka Imai - probably two events. Strong Four Continents finish and a host nation skater
Polina Shelepen - probably two events. Junior Grand Prix Final medalist and on the Seasons Best list
Amanda Dobbs - probably two events. Strong Four Continents finish and on the Seasons Best list
Sarah Meier - probably two events, if she continues. Just makes the Seasons Best list and had a strong showing at Europeans


Prediction? All of the ladies in this grouping will get two events initially except for Czisny. Others that might not be assigned two right away are Helgesson, McCorkell, and Glebova, but I still think all three will get them.

World Junior and Junior Grand Prix Final medalists not already qualified by World Ranking or Seasons Best lists are assured one event if they move up.
Agnes Zawadzki - probably two events. I think she'll move up and definitely get a push from the USFS
Polina Agafonova - I think she'll stay junior, at least for the Grand Prix series
Christina Gao - probably two events. I think Orser and the USFS will push her up into seniors, as she's already been on the Junior Grand Prix podium and was 5th in Senior Nationals


The other ladies that will fill out the rosters.

Alexe Gilles - I'll guess two events
Angela Maxwell - I'll guess one event, max-ing out the US ladies with three entries in each event
Amelie Lacoste - I'll guess two events. Next highest Canadian lady in the World Standings and Seasons Best, and was the highest finisher at Four Continents
Valentina Marchei - I'll guess one event. Top ten at Europeans but nothing much else to show from last year
Ivana Reitmayerova - Disastrous results in 2010 versus the previous season, but I bet she'll move up to the Senior Grand Prix and get an event
Diane Szmiett - I'll guess one event
Min-Jung Kwak - I'll guess two events. Top 12 in Vancouver, and she now has Orser to push for her to get invites
Myriane Samson - Canadian bronze medalist and World representative but didn't make it out of the short program. I think she'll get just one event because her World Ranking is not that great
Cheltzie Lee - I'll guess one event. Gained quite a following during the Olympics and Worlds in North America, and will probably be invited to one of the two events there
Tugba Karademir - Same idea as with Lee. I think she'll get one event
Yan Liu - I'll guess two events. Best skater from a host nation and qualified to the free skate in both the Olympics and Worlds, even if her World Ranking and Seasons Best scores aren't strong


That makes 72 out of 72 spots. If Fumie Suguri sticks around (crazy, I know..), I think she'll end up with one event over one of the previously listed skaters. And it might be the only international experience she gets next year. You never know, though. She could surprise and come back strong yet again.

Other things to keep in mind are that China and France technically earn three entries for both of their events as host nations. The only French girl that might have a shot is Candice Didier if she comes back at all, and whether she's healthy. Gwendoline Didier had an absolutely terrible short program at Worlds and it looked like she didn't even try once she made her first mistake, so I don't see her getting anything. Lena Marrocco finished 11th at World Juniors but she is 14 and I have a feeling she will stay on the Junior Grand Prix. As far as China goes, Binshu Xu didn't make it out of the short program at Four Continents and the representative at Junior Worlds, Quiying Zhu, was only 19th. So China might only use the one spot in their event (if Liu even continues!). Russia could invite one or two ladies to compete at Rostelcom Cup that aren't high on the Seasons Best or World Rankings, and the same for Japan at NHK. But I don't think that is likely.

Keep in mind that we don't know what skaters like Yu-Na Kim, Joannie Rochette, Alissa Czisny, Sarah Meier, Tugba Karademir, and Yan Liu are officially doing next year. Their withdrawals obviously open up even more spots.

Thoughts?

hey tony...i know it says to ask you about figure skating, but i was curious....did you see the comment about your hair and if you could keep it down for further videos?? it is in the ontdskating forum. sorry if you dont want those types of question.

Haha, I don't really answer silly questions since they end up directly linked to my blog and people are there to read about skating, but I just have to answer this one because I think it is so funny!

I was linked (on Facebook of all places) to the post and I was going to address it but I had a good laugh of it with a few friends and then that was that. But since you asked, I'll explain- my hair has many cowlicks, especially at the very front. It goes outwards instead of down, no matter how much work you put into it. Hence why I let it grow and then just put it all up. I've been doing my hair that way for so long that it really only takes a minute to do. The only other thing I could do would be to buzz it all off, but I don't think that would look too great :-) I usually only get compliments about it but then again, you can't please everyone every time. Now you know that whole saga.

By the way- if you want to pass along my reply, feel free!

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It Just Blows My Mind..

..that Oksana Baiul was 16 years old and already presenting herself the way she did. She might have two-footed her jumps often in competition and traveled severely on her spins, but she really had a spark all to her own back in the day. Here's an exhibition that she and Viktor Petrenko used in the 1994 season, this time from the Olympic Games. Off on the side-by-side triple toes, but who cares?! Look at her really get into it! And yes, she whips her scrunchee off in the middle of the spin towards the end :)




..And then three short years later, she shows up to the World Professional Championships out of shape and obviously not completely prepared for the competition. She didn't have a total disaster of a skate, but check out how classy she is at the end when NBC's Elfie Schlegel tried to interview her. What a train wreck.


Weir Speaks at Gay Rights Fundraiser

As much as I didn't care for all of the press around Johnny for things having to do with everything BUT his skating the last few years, I actually think he's relaxed himself and has become really well-spoken (I personally thought he did extremely well as a commentator at the World Championships). He believes in what he says without having to always overdo it anymore. I think that the "once every four years" fans didn't help his situation against the non-fans (or haters) when he delivered two strong performances in Vancouver and they all cried scandal, but that isn't his fault. Anyways.. this post isn't about his skating and we will move on from that mess :-)

A friend who moved to California (that has nothing to do with figure skating) took part in the states Gay Rights Fundraiser in which Johnny was a guest speaker, and he posted a link on Facebook to Weir's speech. Check it out.



A Star in the Making Way Back When..

Here's 16-year old Stephane Lambiel competing in his home country at the 2002 European Championships, in which he placed 4th overall with no triple Axel or quadruple jump at that time. This performance might remind you of Florent Amodio, not only because of the music but because of the way Lambiel obviously just "got" how to sell a program and believe in it from a very young age. I always loved the tight-rope walking segment at 2:00.. too bad (again) the new judging system doesn't really give much time or reward for little to no difficulty in choreography, even if it has a big impact on the program as a whole. By the way, the first piece Lambiel uses is Abracadabra by La Trabant and Sebastian Libolt. I know many people have asked about it in the past.

What's a recent example of a program with great choreography but lackluster music? And a program with great music but lackluster choreography?

Great question! Give me some time, and I think I'll turn this into a feature on the site with links to the performances. :)

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Robbed? I Sure Thought So in 2002

Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas skated their hearts out in Salt Lake City, but ended up in 5th place behind two teams who had major errors in their free dances. Watch their program as well as the free dances of Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, and Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz. Were the Lithuanians robbed? I definitely thought so. If you're newer to skating, make sure you remember this was the 6.0 system and not the IJS.

I can see where each of the three programs had their problems-- I didn't care for the concept of the Canadians' or Italians' dances at all, and I do recognize the pattern issues with the Lithuanians' dance. Drobiazko didn't always carry the best posture, but it definitely wasn't as bad as that of Margaglio-- he always seemed like he was being dragged for the ride and was praying for dear life that he'd stay on his feet. Anyways, what do you think?





Sunday, April 18

When's the Last Time ABC Broadcasted a 2.5 Score-Earning Performance?

Probably the first and last time, pre-new judging system. Fedor Andreev from Canada, skating in the short program at the 2001 Skate America competition. ABC and ESPN had a habit of showing plenty of Andreev back in those days (even if he finished near or at the bottom, as he did here-- by far) and Terry Gannon loved to bring up his Abercrombie & Fitch modeling gig as often as he could. Awkward. But here's this masterpiece, on the heels of hearing he may now be getting into ice dance with Jana Khoklova after his failed attempts the last few years to skate for Azerbaijan as a singles skater. ...Who knows.

The Swiss Miss of the Last Decade

I hope Sarah Meier sticks around for at least one more season. She earned two berths for Switzerland in the 2011 European Championships, which take place in Bern. She's been one of my favorites since I first saw her skate at the 2000 World Junior Championships, and I'd absolutely love to see her turn this Amelie exhibition into a competitive program. Check out the beautiful circular footwork she does starting at the one minute mark.



While you're at it, check out that performance at the 2000 World Junior Championships. She was hoping for a top eight finish but earned the bronze medal behind Americans Jenny Kirk and Deanna Stellato. Sarah was somewhat overshadowed by that battle for gold, and by fourth-place finisher Tamara Dorofejev of Hungary who was third in the free skate. Also in this competition? Sixth place finisher Sasha Cohen, coming off her silver medal at the US National Championships as a senior. Todd Eldredge of all people and everyones favorite Andrea Joyce are the commentators.

Something I'd Never Seen..

Maria Butyrskaya's 2002 Worlds qualifying skate. She withdrew after this portion put her in a tie for 11th place and then retired from amateur skating. The middle of the program really fell apart after she switched things up, in part, because of falling out of a triple toe that she usually combined with a triple Salchow. She threw in a triple loop where she was usually doing transitions and then did a half loop/double Salchow- the first time I think she tried that jump on its own since her 1999 free skate. That whole part of the program was completely improvised and it looked more like a training session than competitive program- let alone from a former World Champion.

By the way- she skated first in this qualifying group and you'll note that she didn't stick around to see the marks after the performance, which dropped into the 4's. She probably was preparing her plane ticket back to Moscow already.

are you going to watch the fiesta on ice?

Sorry- I forgot about this question and then just saw it. As I have mentioned before, I don't particularly care for the exhibition skating nearly as much as competitive skating.. but I'll watch some YouTube clips and if I find anything I really like maybe I'll feature it :-)

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To what extent do you see Mirai Nagasu and Frank Carroll fully remedying her under-rotation issues? Certainly, she's improved, but under pressure, she she still reverts to old habits.

I think he can work it out. I thought she really did work it out between Nationals and the Olympics, but you are right-- I think that under pressure, she just goes back to her "sure" technique as we saw at Worlds. But then again, the time between Nationals and the Olympics was only a month-- maybe with a whole spring and summer of training the bigger and fully-rotated jumps constantly, she will be able to ditch that bad habit by the time that the fall competitions come around.

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What are your thoughts of Morosov's coaching and his return to Russia? I'm not convinced he's the greatest coach, but maybe he could be just the thing for Russia?

I think he has (or had?) a lot of power and for a long time his name was associated with "revolutionary" or "great" choreography. I don't think so. I think that he came up with some good footwork sequences for Yagudin back in the day, but now everyone is doing stuff similar, and his choreography is usually very empty or not the best for the skater it is given to. Perfect example is the difference between Takeshi Honda in his 2002 Concierto de Aranjuez and then his 2003 Riverdance. He went from absolutely amazing choreography in the former (by Lori Nichol) to a completely empty and boring program by Morozov.

Every once in a while, to his credit, Nikolai comes up with something very good (Fernandez long program last year), but more often than not I don't see anything special. It's like he overdid himself so much in the beginning because everyone wanted to work with him, that his few ideas ran out quickly and now he just picks music and generic choreography without much thought to it. Well, that's just my own opinion..

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I've been hearing rumors that proposals for limiting the 2As in the ladies FP from 3 times to 2 are in the works. Have you heard about it at all? So far, I've seen arguments both for and against it. What is your honest opinion, assuming that it's true?

I think that it is fine. The difference in points between a double Axel and a triple toe loop is less than what it is between a double Axel and double Lutz (the Axel is almost double!). I wouldn't even mind seeing the double Axel be thrown in with the triples as far as the rule about only repeating a maximum of two, and they have to be in combination or sequence if you do them a second time. It really makes the ladies strive to learn ALL the triples rather than going out and doing two triple toes, two triple Sals, and three double Axels as their seven jump passes. That gets boring!

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What do you think about Adrian Schultheiss opportunities in future?

I think he has plenty coming. I've really enjoyed him the last few years, and he's already made a huge name for himself in Europe and his home country. Remember he was invited to the Japan Open one year?! He definitely has a big following. Now, he just needs to work on keeping his stamina throughout his programs and increasing the speed and difficulty of his footwork, and he can move even higher. His quad toe loop is an absolute beauty and he likes being different-- it's refreshing :)

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Which of the up-and-coming men's crop do you think will do the best: Brezina, D10, Kozuka, Fernandez, Rippon, Amodio, etc.?

That's so tough! I think that all of them have great potential, but Brezina will definitely get the push now. I wish he'd just really go back and work on his spins all summer. After that, I'd say Kozuka (my personal favorite) but probably not until Takahashi is out of the picture. Denis Ten really needs some consistency before the judges really take him seriously, and Rippon just needs to make his skating "bigger" and faster as a whole, as well as landing the triple Axel more often. Fernandez has made great strides in the last few years, but I don't think he's going to get much further than hovering around 10th place unless he changes coaches; that, or he needs Morozov to come up with some kind of masterpiece. I love Amodio and think he was underscored at Worlds but he's also already shown moments of absolute brilliance and then the complete opposite in the very next program or competition. In comparison with my scorecard, I think the judges hold him way too low on skating skills and interpretation in particular.

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