Friday, July 2

Latest News Around the Rink

Canadian National Team News

When Vaughn Chipeur wasn't assigned to any Grand Prix events, many people guessed that he had decided to retire after having his "moment" (or lack thereof-- finishing 23rd) at the 2010 Olympics. He's been removed from the 2010/2011 National Team and seems that he's content doing shows around Canada from now on. He also qualified for the 2009 World Championships and finished an impressive 12th. One skater that isn't retiring after years of being a fixture near the top of the national standings is Shawn Sawyer. Known for his flexibility and show-stopping performances in exhibition skating, Shawn has been, to this point, unable to land a clean triple Axel in competition. In a recent odd article posted by his webmaster, Shawn talks about some of the changes he's made throughout the off-season, including the decision to work with other coaches besides his long-time team of Annie Barabe and Sophie Richaud. He also has a new free skate to the music of Alice in Wonderland. Shawn choreographed the program himself and he will portray the Mad Hatter. Sawyer had moments of greatness the last few seasons, finishing 2nd behind Olympic Champion Evan Lysacek at last years' Skate America. He was also the winner of the free skate at the 2008 Skate Canada, although he finished just 5th overall.

Also missing from the 2010/2011 National Team are pairs skaters Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay, the 2008 National Champions and 2010 Olympic Team members. Langlois has retired from the sport while Hay plans to continue if he can find a new partner. Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin, two-time World team members, have also been removed. Duhamel is now skating with Eric Radford while Buntin has yet to release an official statement about his retirement.

Ice dancers Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno have also retired, finishing their careers on a high note with the silver medal at the 2010 Four Continents Championships.

Joannie Rochette remains on the National Team, but her withdrawal from the Grand Prix series and endless list of commitments this summer seems to suggest she will also retire from amateur skating. Amelie Lacoste, former National bronze medalist, has been working with 2008 World Champion Jeffrey Buttle on choreography for next season. Buttle has been touring this off-season, impressing audiences with his Glenn Gould and "Sympathy for the Devil" routines.

Karma and Country Switching in France

It seems the partnership of Vanessa James and Maximin Coia really is already finished. I guess "what goes around, comes around" does actually happen sometimes. Maybe Vanessa will look for yet another country to represent? Then again, she definitely has the backing of Federation President Didier Gailhaguet.

Here's a thought about Yannick Ponsero. Yes, he was left off the 2010/2011 Grand Prix roster, and yes, we all know the story of him skipping the test skate set up to determine which one of he, Brian Joubert, and Alban Preabuert would go to the World Championships. I have reported that he might just be taking this season off to focus on school, but something about that struck me today. May he be taking the Samuel Contesti route and sitting out for a while so that he is able to represent a different country sooner than later? From the sounds of it, the French Federation isn't really happy with the way Ponsero "conducts himself" during competitions (whatever that means) and I'm sure he doesn't feel any real backing from them with Joubert still competing and Florent Amodio coming up the ranks. Might Italy be "receiving" another top level mens skater compliments of France, or is my while idea ridiculous?  We shall see.

Italy's Princess Back in Oberstdorf?

Word from one of my European skating friends is that Carolina Kostner is back training with long-time coach Michael Huth. Always the model of consistency under his tutelage (sarcasm), it sounds like Kostner had a nightmare of sorts trying to train under American Frank Carroll for part of last season. It's been noted by commentators in the past that Carolina doesn't always run through her entire programs in practice, and I wonder if that didn't sit well with the former coach of Michelle Kwan and current coach of Mirai Nagasu and Evan Lysacek, among others. Drama.

More Drama, Compliments of Israel

It has become nothing short of a war of the words between Israeli ice dancers Sasha and Roman Zaretsky (well more specifically, their father), and Federation President Boris Chait. If you don't remember that name, watch the following clip-- the accusation had everything to do with Chait. The report starts around the 2:10 mark.

Anyways, here are the original comments made by Igor Zaretsky and his children (in Hebrew-- Google Chrome browser automatically translates), and then the follow-up letter posted by the Israeli Federation. Obviously two very different stories. I spoke to someone who is very close to the situation and has no obligations to either side. The source suggests that the truth is within the comments made by the Federation, and that the Zaretskys were not always 100% committed to the training regulations asked of them, even though they were receiving a fair amount of financial support. The team finished 6th at the 2010 World Championships. Their retirement opens up spots at the Grand Prix NHK Trophy and Skate America competitions.

The Short Dance

The ISU has posted a video of American dancers Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles performing the new short dance, which now takes place as the first segment of the ice dance competition instead of the compulsory and original dances. Both have been removed from senior and junior-level events.

Two Skaters Nominated for ESPY Awards

Olympian Joannie Rochette has been nominated for "Best Moment" of the year for her memorable skating to a bronze medal in Vancouver just days after the death of her mother. Nominated for "Best Male US Olympic Athlete" is Olympic Champion Evan Lysacek. No registration is required to vote on the ESPY Award website. The award show will take place July 14th at 9PM, naturally-- on ESPN.

Happy Birthday, Johnny Weir!

Johnny turns 26 today. I'm sure he will have a fabulous day :-)

Formspring Roundup

Have you watched BGJW 109?

Nope, I haven't seen any of the episodes!

Do you remember the name of a male skater who choreographed his own competitive program(s) in the 1990s? I think he represented a European country (or Russia, or Ukraina? I'm not sure, sorry).

Dmitri Dmitrenko possibly? I know he has composed some of his own music to skate to, but I'm not sure if he actually choreographed the programs as well. He was European Champion in 1993 and then won a bronze medal in 2000.

Do you think either Adam Rippon or Patrick Chan will really be putting quads in their programs next season as they claim they will?

I was more surprised by Rippon's claim, because he has relatively tiny jumps. But if he says he's going to, he must be landing them. I don't doubt that Chan is probably doing the quad now. We shall see.. he's always talked a big game :-)

Good that you are back! I have been reading about Rippon doing a quad next season? What do you think of that? Do you think he can do one? Chan as well. I mean Everyone talks about Brezina adding a quad because he is a good jumper but Chan and Rippon?

See the question above this one! :)

Tony, iyo, doesn't Adam Rippon deserve a better choreo and less overused music in the upcoming season? The guy's so talented and yet his skating is SO boring. And he isn't that young anymore.

He picked the music for his programs. While some of the die-hard figure skating fans get annoyed about the same music choices being used season to season, I don't think the judges seem to care at all about returning to the "classics". Most of the judging panel are older and they would probably like to hear Tchaikovsky any day of the week over some of the more modern selections.

As far as the choreographer, I think that David Wilson is actually great. It's true, I wasn't as moved by Rippon's programs last year as I was by his future potential, but if the music means as much to him as he says, then the emotion might overcome the bore.

What's your opinion on Lori Nichol as a choreographer?

I like her, and I think she constantly produces some memorable programs. She mastered the 6.0 system and now she knows exactly what she is doing with IJS. I know some people don't like that Lori seems to resort to the same music often, but it's not like she's the only one who does so.

I'd always thought that [falls] got an automatic -1 deduction. Now the new rules tell me it's a majority call of the tech panel. This got me thinking, what are the specifics that define a [fall]? Bum on the ice? Both hands? Knees? Where is it explained?

This is from the 2008 Rules & Regulations:

a fall is defined as loss of control by a Skater with the result that the majority of his/her own body weight is on the ice supported by any other part of the body other than the blades e.g. hand(s), knee(s), back, buttock(s) or any part of the arm.

Romain Gazave New CD

My friend Romain Gazave has just released a new CD with twelve piano arrangements of classics from the likes of Amelie, Cinema Paradiso, The Truman Show, and many others-- including two live performances. Gazave is a former figure skater that has worked with many European skaters and skating shows. Here is his press release, as well as a link to listen to clips of each song and purchase the album!

Romain Gazave started playing piano and ice-skating at the age of 6. Putting music aside for a while in order to pursue a competitive ice skating career (France junior National vice-Champion, Medallist in International competition), he finally decided to stop competing in order to devote himself entirely to music. He then studied at the prestigious Ecole Normale de Musique “Cortot School” in Paris and intense advanced piano technique with the well know Master “Jean Fassina” for 4 years.
Later on, he started skating again as a professional this time by presenting a unique Special Act combining Piano and Skating in the same number! He also played live piano in some shows for skating champions such as: Albena Denkova & Maxim Stavisky, Sarah Meier, Brian Orser, Tatiana Totmianina & Maxim Marinin… and did some duo numbers with well known singers and artists from Cirque du Soleil…
After being part of many famous shows: Stars On Ice, Art On Ice, and Champions On Ice… Romain just released a CD Album that includes most of the piano songs he played “live” as well as some personal piano arrangements and 2 bonus tracks with a singer who used to be an international competitive skater as well.
“Personal Thoughts” is now available and can be ordered on his official website (which includes some tracks extract to be listened). Here is the link of it:

Wednesday, June 30

Dreams on Ice Thoughts

Daisuke Takahashi - Amelie Movie Score

Obviously, this was the big program from the exhibition and I have received several Formspring questions asking me to share my thoughts. So what do I think? I definitely like it, and he was able to relax much more in this performance and skate with a lightness rather than the tension he usually holds throughout his arms. We did see a lot of Stephane Lambiel-esque movements, especially throughout his head (some headless-looking turning, etc.) and shoulders. The question I have is whether Stephane also gave Daisuke a short program that is very similar to what Lambiel would have skated, or if he rather built a program around Takahashi's own style. He is the current World Champion, and his style has definitely worked and been appreciated to the point that I hope he doesn't drift away from that. Final verdict? Very nice, yes; masterpiece, eh.. not really. However, I think this shows that Lambiel definitely knows what he is doing and is going to be quite successful as a choreographer.

I'll search around Youtube for other performances later. It seems like many of the original clips have been taken down due to copyright issues.

Formspring Roundup

Some questions that were asked this weekend all in one post.

What do you think about the future prospects of Miki and Mao with the new rule changes in effect? I would think that we will be seeing lots of Triple Lutz/Flip-Triple Loop, Triple Axels, and Quad Salchows.

Triple/triples, definitely. Mao will continue with the triple Axel, yes, but I doubt that Miki will try to bring back the quad Salchow. She's gone for it in practices over the last few years at certain events, but then in the actual competition it doesn't look like she was ever planning on putting it into her programs. For Miki, I'd rather see her work on the other areas of her skating (stronger choreography and transitions, more attention to details, etc) than stalk one jump for the first minute a la Asada last season.

Are only ice dancers allowed to use lyrics in their competitive program music? I know singles can't, but what about pairs?

Yes, only ice dancers can use vocal music in their programs. Singles skaters and ice dancers may use music with voices, as long as the voices are only being used as an instrument. Here's an example of that:

Did Daisuke Takahashi deserve the Olympic bronze medal?

Absolutely. I don't think it should have been as close as it was between Takahashi and Lambiel, and I think Daisuke should have won the short program in Vancouver.

What level of difficulty would Yagudin's footwork be getting if it were scored by IJS? And how does it compare with the best of the footwork by the current crop of skaters?

I am guessing you mean his footwork from his competitive days since the prior question has to do with the 2002 Olympics. Level 1 probably. It was somewhat innovative and showed that you can really highlight the element rather than just spending 5 seconds to rush through it, but with all of the additions to needing varieties turns and steps, all of the toe pick action wouldn't cut it these days.

Which skaters do you think have the most to be nervous about if Johnny does reveal who he slept with in his book?

Well as of right now, wouldn't those skaters be ladies? Or is Johnny going to come out in his book, as well?

what is your opinion of Priscilla Hill?

I don't have an opinion one way or the other. I do question how she trained Johnny because of the incident at 2003 Nationals when he fell doing a back crossover at the beginning of his free skate and then seemed completely disoriented about where he was at in the program. There were other instances in the following years where a mistake seemed to completely throw him off to where it looked like he wasn't even trying anymore or improvising throughout the program.

However, now she has Viktor Pfeifer from Austria and it seems like his basic skating has improved day and night from what it once was. Maybe I just never noticed, or maybe she is to thank in part

According to Johnny, Galina made him take out most of the choreography from David Wilson´s programs, cnaging an ass swivel to a shoulder swivel etc. What do you think about Galina in general. Was she actually a good choice for Johnny? I start to doubt it

I think that Galina might have sacrificed a lot of the choreography (or whatever it was) in order to make sure Johnny could get through a long program and put all of the focus on the jumps, which were becoming inconsistent. But my thing about the whole "Johnny was robbed" comes down to this exact situation-- if he was taking choreography out of the program, then how could they have expected to receive components marks comparable to the other top skaters? It just makes no sense.

Do you believe McLaughlin looked more filled out this weekend than she had at Nationals? Maybe it was just a lack of serious training recently. If they knew they were planning to call it quits, they may not have been training/conditioning at 100%.

She looked more filled out but not in a gained weight/out of shape way.. she's just grown up. It definitely was nice that they stuck around for Skate for Hope, though, even if they haven't been practicing at 100%.

Everything That I Missed

I am back from New York and spent all day yesterday catching up on the sleep I missed. Now it's back to a normal-ish schedule if there ever was such a thing, and here is all the big news that happened while I was gone.

Decisions from the ISU Council: Serbia and Plushenko Ineligible

First, we start off with additional decisions from the ISU Council. The Association of Skating Sports of Serbia has been suspended from the ISU for failing to maintain minimum requirements for membership. Mila Petrovic (World Junior) and Marina Seeh (European and World) were the only competitors from Serbia at the ISU Championships last season.

A Formspring question was asked of me just days before my trip to New York, in regards to whether Evgeny Plushenko's threat of being suspended from the ISU was serious. I suggested that it probably wasn't... oh, how I was wrong. Plushenko is now declared ineligible from competing in ISU events because of exhibitions he was part of during the World Championships, which he withdrew from due to "injury". He didn't have permission from the FSFR, and breaking those rules results in an ineligible status. The decision can be appealed within 21 days, and I'm guessing that Evgeny will only fight it if he thinks that he's coming back in the 2013/2014 season. Otherwise, I'm sure he couldn't really care less. He will be 31 during the 2014 Sochi Games.

Dreams on Ice Exhibition

The Dreams on Ice shows took place in Japan over the weekend, and the big story was obviously one of the new programs choreographed for Daisuke Takahashi by two-time World Champion Stephane Lambiel. He showed his exhibition piece, to music from the "Amelie" soundtrack-- the music that I mentioned to be one of my favorites. Broadcasted skaters were Akiko Suzuki, skating her new short program to "Jalousie", and exhibitions by Miki Ando, Mao Asada, Kanako Murakami, Stephane Lambiel, Laura Lepisto, Evgeny Plushenko, Kanako Murakami, and Takahashi/Tran. I'll highlight all of my thoughts on these programs in another post following this one.

French Federation Elections

Well, the decision was pretty clear-cut. Didier Gailhaguet has been re-elected president with 88% of the vote. Marie-Reine Le Gougne of 2002 Salt Lake City fame only received 5%.

More later!