Saturday, September 4

Irina Slutskaya: Do We All Remember This?

I found my way onto the figure skating website/message board world at a very young age, and I can still remember the amazement of most people over Irina Slutskaya during the 1999 Keri Lotion Figure Skating Classic-- a team competition that featured top skaters from the USA and Russia. Many were looking forward to the final head-to-head match-up of Michelle Kwan vs. then-World Champion Maria Butyrskaya, but that turned out to be a snooze as Butyrskaya crashed hard on her very first jump.

On the other hand, I don't think much was expected out of Slutskaya, as she had gone from the 1998 World silver medalist to not even making the World team in 1999. She skated to a Saint-Preux piece entitled Adagio pour Piano and showed, quite possibly for the first time, that she really could listen to the music and present herself as an artist. Irina became the talk of the event, and I have to say that this is probably my favorite program that she has done. Enjoy!

By the way, this is the first of a million times during the season that Dick Button would bring up the cheek pinching story.

Friday, September 3

Lysacek Reveals a Shocker; Grand Prix Assignments Updates; And in Other News..

Photo courtesy
Evan Lysacek revealed a huge shocker yesterday. Now, don't get too excited...

He's not competing the rest of the 2010 calendar year. I'm pretty sure that most of us figured that out on June 13th, the day that the fall Grand Prix assignments were listed by the ISU; Lysacek was absent from the list. What he does go on to add? Evan says that he's not ruling out the US National Championships in January yet, but will probably wait until late December to determine his readiness. It is the beginning of September.. is Lysacek done with his tour of off-ice activities and ready to start training seriously again? As much as he says he really misses competing and he doesn't feel like it is time to retire yet, I'd be really surprised to see him competing in Greensboro.

Something that might help Lysacek ease into a return to the ice would be to bring back his Espana Cani short program that he used for four consecutive seasons. That should be long enough to rely on muscle memory, no? :-)

Speaking of the Grand Prix, host-nation Federations are filling in the final slots for skaters competing in the series. A new tactic seemed to be used this season where the top skaters (ex. Florent Amodio) weren't automatically assigned to their home-country competition right away. Rather, they were only given one assignment in hopes that amongst withdrawals, they would be replaced at another one of the six events. This would leave more options for lesser-known or unranked skaters to receive at least one event and gain international experience.

A full listing of host-nation competitor additions:
Japan: Takahahi/Tran, Reed/Reed
Canada: Jeremy Ten, Amelie Lacoste, Myriane Samson, Duhamel/Radford
China: Peitong Chen, Jialiang Wu, Bingwa Geng, Qiuying Zhu, Yu/Wang
USA: Armin Mahbanoozadeh, Alexe Gilles, Castelli/Shnapir, Kriengkrairut/Giulietti-Schmitt
Russia: Konstantin Menshov, Sofya Biryukova, Gerboldt/Enbert
France: Florent Amodio

There are also a few more spots throughout the series that are available. Yu-Na Kim's previous spot in Russia has yet to be replaced; France still has two ladies TBA's, one pair TBA (two actually, as James/Coia are listed when their partnership lasted five minutes), and one dance TBA; USA and China each have a TBA in pairs. The first event, NHK Trophy, begins seven weeks from today.

I was most impressed with Mahbanoozadeh's short program at the Liberty Open competition in July, so I'm glad to see he received Skate America. Watch how effortless the triple Axel looks, especially when you consider the steps leading into the jump!

Finally, I e-mailed the ISU via their "Contact" page several days ago, hoping to get a comment on both the Walter Toigo judging drama and the Evgeny Plushenko status while competing in the Japan Open confusion, but I, of course, have received no reply. Has anyone had luck contacting the ISU and receiving some kind of response? Please do share your secrets with me!

Wednesday, September 1

Program Memories: Schwarz/Muller

1998 was the first year that I started recording figure skating to VHS tape, and I very much remember being in love with the free skate of the German team Peggy Schwarz and Mirko Muller. Set to a piece from the movie The Last Dance, I was so upset with myself that I had two opportunities to record their bronze-medal winning program from the World Championships but missed both chances. Still, the program stuck in my head for a long time after and I remember being very excited to find it on Youtube a few years ago.

They may not have skated great, but there is still a subtle beauty about the program that I could watch all day long. I especially love the choreography into the pairs spin starting around 3:15, and they always had such perfection and unison in their side-by-side spins.

Florent Amodio's New Coach

Photo courtesy
After writing my post about Amodio yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a video interview (in French) that Florent gave on August 20th. He talks about his season last year, including winning the Masters, finishing 12th at the Olympics, and getting to compete on the senior Grand Prix. In the second part of the interview, Florent states that he has a new coach: Nikolai Morozov, who choreographed Amodio's competitive programs for the 2011 season.

You can find the interview here:
Note, upon re-watching the clip, I had to reload it a few times as it decided to keep pausing before completion.

The Japan Open and Evgeny Plushenko: Sealing His Fate?

Photo courtesy
A Formspring question about Evgeny Plushenko competing at the Japan Open pro-am in October got me thinking about something.

First, this ISU communication from August 23rd says that Plushenko did not file any appeal against the decision to declare him ineligible for ISU competition, so "members are obliged to take note". Plushenko and coach Alexei Mishin have done recent interviews where they both talk competing in the 2014 Sochi Games, even expressing this after the ISU banning.

So now we flash forward to October 2nd. The Japan Open is the only pro-am competition left on the skating schedule, and Plushenko is entered as part of team Europe (along with Laura Lepisto, Sarah Meier, and Michal Brezina). If the ISU is saying that he is no longer an amateur, he would be entering this competition as a professional. Competing here means there is absolutely no way he will end up in Sochi, courts or not (unless for some weird reason the ISU allows reinstatements as they did in 1994 and 1996-- not likely).

If Plushenko and his camp truly are set on Sochi and he believes he can keep up for another 3+ years, don't be surprised to see him withdraw from the Japan Open in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, August 31

JGP Courchevel Wrap-Up

Every time I think we are done getting videos of the Courchevel competition, Youtube user Frozenspirit99 decides to spoil us and add even more performances! For an up-to-date listing of all videos, remember to check out the link section I created on the right side of the blog.

Anyways, I started to type comments about the skating to share with everyone, but I previewed the page and realized, like usual, that I started to ramble to the point that none of it sounded very interesting. If there is anyone in particular that you'd like to hear about, feel free to send me a Formspring question or reply to this post. I can tell you that many of the ladies impressed me with Shelepen being the huge exception, and the two American men also caught my attention in a good way. I haven't watched any of the ice dancing, yet.

That's all as far as Courchevel goes. We will see if the ISU makes any comments regarding the Walter Toigo situation, but I don't think it is very likely.

There is a week break on the ISU schedule, as the second stop on the Junior Grand Prix (Romania) begins September 8th. After that, it's non-stop action leading up to Christmas!

Someone Who Isn't Afraid to Express Himself

No, not Johnny Weir.. :-)
Photos courtesy

If you're in the States or probably anywhere else in the world aside from France, you were most likely introduced to Florent Amodio sometime during the 2010 season. I was amazed with a few things regarding his skating: the complete difference in style between his classical short program and modern fun free skate, yet he made both fit him beautifully; his solid basics and big jumps; and especially his amazing presence on the ice and great personality.

Amodio skated an exhibition consisting of an instrumental version of "Apologize" by One Republic, "Imma Be" by The Black Eyed Peas, and Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" during the JGP Courchevel, and I once again find myself loving his skating! Portions of the program were very competitive free skate-looking to me (without the lyrics on the latter two songs, obviously), so I'm excited to see if this really is what he has planned for the season. He's quite the dancer, as you shall see! Also of note-- at the very beginning, it almost looks like he is going for a triple flip/half loop/triple flip sequence, but he had step-outs on both doubles and it looked like he had some kind of costume problem that was quickly fixed. I hope you enjoy this program as much as I did!

Wandering Eyes in Courchevel: What Happens Now? Others Weigh In..

I had the chance today to follow up on the possible wandering eyes of Italian judge Walter Toigo during the Junior Grand Prix Courchevel. Toigo was on the panel for both the ladies and mens competitions, and video was captured by a fan during the mens free skate that appears as if Toigo waited to enter his marks until the judge next to him, Wendy Enzmann, entered her own.

Walter Toigo, center. Photo from Facebook.
First, some history on Walter Toigo. He's hardly new to the international judging scene. I found through a quick Google search that among his prior events include the 2004 Cup of Russia, 2005 JGP Croatia, 2006 JGP The Hague, 2007 NHK Trophy, 2008 Karl Schafer Memorial, 2009 World Team Trophy, 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy, even the 2010 European Championships! So why in the world would someone who has been judging senior internationals (majors included) since at least 2004 feel the need to check another judges' scores NOW?

I had the chance to talk to a journalist that was in Courchevel, as well as both a current ISU judge and former referee about the situation. They will remain anonymous due to respecting privacy. I first asked the journalist if anyone had noticed Toigo's eyes wandering towards other computer screens. "Yes, he was in front of me during the ladies free skating. He systematically copied during both the ladies and mens competitions. Several people saw." 

I then asked to what extent Toigo was seen copying scores. "Each element, for all of the skaters, I don't have any doubt. Same for the components after the skate. During the men, he copied off the American [Wendy Enzmann], and during the ladies, he copied off [the judges on] both the left and right." Those judges would be Haya Leenards of the Netherlands and Andrea Derby of Canada.

So, what does the journalist think this behavior stems from? "I think he cannot judge.. he's completely incompetent. His behavior was not at all discreet."

I then asked a current ISU judge to watch the videos, and asked if it was likely there would be a punishment, as well as guesses to what the punishment would be. The judge responded via e-mail:
I think that [this case] will be sent to the Disciplinary Commission as potentially violating the Code of Ethics, which we all have to sign. However, I think he will get away with a warning, at most. Honestly, I see it in the same league as the [toe] tapping incident of 1999.
If you missed the toe-tapping, it involved two judges caught on camera by Canadian television. Shen and Zhao skated their free skate, and one judge signaled to the other with two toe taps up against the boards-- probably suggesting that he was going to put them into 2nd place. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a clip on Youtube at this time, although I know there has been in the past.

What does the former referee have to say about why it happened?
To me, it's just one of those incompetent judges who's double checking (maybe even copying some marks) to cover up that in fact he doesn't know anything about GOE's. I haven't seen the program, but the music tells me that the skater was performing the new step sequence with a fixed value, where the judges can increase the value with their +GOE's (at 2:44). Since this is a new element for this season, I think he was just double checking to see if he was right in his mind or not. Sitting beside an American judge helps a lot because most of them really know what they are talking about! This is something every judge does at least once in his or her career. However, it appears here that he's doing this for every GOE and afterwards for every component and that means INCOMPETENCE, and incompetence is a way of cheating!
Neither the ISU or Toigo were available for comment about the situation. However, do we really expect a reply from either?

Monday, August 30

Italian Judge During Courchevel Mens Competition: Suspicious?

I was doing a search to see if I could add any more videos from the JGP Courchevel to the links list, and came across these interesting videos by Youtube member MrBadSpin69 which show the Italian judge, Walter Toigo, during the mens competition. The first video shows him almost seeming to check what the judge to his right (Wendy Enzmann of the USA) entered for GOE after pretty much every element. I think the most obvious point was at the 2:44 mark.

The second video is a little more difficult to tell if anything suspicious was going on because we can't see the faces of any of the other judges. Again, the judge to Toigo's right seems to enter most of her components scores for a skater while the he seems to be looking on. You can also see the judge to his left entering scores during this time. Finally, after Enzmann seems to be nearly done with her scores, the Toigo starts to enter his own.

What do you think about this?

New Linkage

I added a new section today that you can find at the top right column of the blog. Included are links to all of the performances from the Junior Grand Prix Courchevel that are currently on Youtube. I know that embedding tons of videos within my blog really slows the page down for some users, so I hope you all like how I set it up. I'll be updating as videos are added. I've also been taking some brief notes on the programs I've seen and in my true fashion, I'll probably post the thoughts either later tonight or tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29

JGP Courchevel Videos Starting to Surface

For now, just the programs from two of the French ladies competitors: Anais Ventard, and Yretha Silete, as well as the free skate of American Jason Brown.

Anais Ventard Short Program

Anais Ventard Long Program

Yretha Silete Short Program

Yretha Silete Long Program

All previous videos posted by Youtube member Frozenspirit99. There seem to be more videos on the way, so keep checking that page for additional skaters!

Jason Brown Long Program

Posted by Youtube member Joshgurian.