Saturday, October 30

Oh Walter Toigo, You Dirrty Boy... Maybe.

Sometimes, I try to be funny.
Italian judge Walter Toigo was on the panel for the mens competition at Skate Canada. If you don't know who he is, you can brush up on his history with this post I made in August.

LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Ladies Long Program, Group 2

Warm-Up: Haruka Imai with a double Axel right away. Amelie Lacoste with a nice double Axel. Alissa Czisny with a double Axel (I see the trend). She looks skinnier than last year, if that's possible. Agnes Zawadzki does a triple Salchow as she goes out of focus. Ina Bauer into a triple toe/double toe/double loop. Cynthia Phaneuf did a jump that I missed. Czisny does a triple flip that looks good. Triples all over the place as the ladies keep going out of the camera view. Ksenia Makarova does a double flip. Phaneuf pops a Lutz. Double Axel/triple toe from Imai. Jump technique looks similar to Asada's.

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LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Ladies Long Program, Group 1

Here we go...

Warm-Up: Sonia Lafuente warms up the Axel. Valentina Marchei does a nice triple toe. Fumie Suguri is in an awfully interesting costume. Myriane Samson does a nice triple flip. Alexe Gilles goes for a flip, picks in wrong and does a single. Lafuente does a triple Salchow. Marchei does a double flip-- she hasn't included the flip in her program for years now. Suguri lands a nice triple flip.. she's been receiving loud cheers the entire warm-up. Samson does a single loop, getting the feeling of the jump. Gilles, in the pan of the entire arena, goes for a triple and slips off the edge and falls. Suguri lands a triple/double/double. Back to Gilles and she does a double Axel/double toe.

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LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Mens Long Program, Group 2

Warm-Up: We are getting the same info as the short program. Alban Preaubert does a crooked (as always) triple Lutz. Javier Fernandez does a triple Salchow in front of him. Patrick Chan gets a huge applause and does a double Axel. Adam Rippon gets a nice applause and lands a triple Axel. Kevin Reynolds does a triple Axel. Nobunari Oda warms up the take-off of his quad toe, which he's going to attempt. Quad toe/triple toe/triple loop as they pan to the entire ice surface. Nice! Preaubert does a triple Axel-- they all seem to be having a decent warm-up.

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LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Mens Long Program, Group 1 In Progress

Here I am. I just caught the end of Jeremy Ten's program. He's currently in 9th place and I saw him land a triple Salchow. He looks thrilled and received a partial standing ovation. Yes, Canadian audiences give standing ovations all the time, but the replays suggest he had a great skate.

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Live Blogging of Skate Canada Day 2

The live blogging will continue with the mens free skate, joined in progress. Unfortunately, no pairs free skate as "real job" duties call :-)

Friday, October 29

Skate Canada: Day 1 Video Highlights

Since posting a bunch of videos on the main page slows down the load speed for some readers, check out some of my favorite programs from day 1 of Skate Canada that are currently available on YouTube, after the break.

Not-So-Live Blog: Skate Canada Short Dance

The PA announcer in the arena thought he'd add something humorous to the typical announcing of names and scores, saying "It doesn't get much closer." Sinead and John Kerr won the short dance by 0.01 over Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier. The Kerrs skated to At Last and Shut Up and Let Me Go-- odd combination, but the second part really engaged the audience. They got through a clean twizzle sequence-- a real rarity, and performed all of their other elements well. Crone and Poirier skated to a Dancing With the Stars-sounding version of Alicia Keys' Fallin', and also performed all of their elements well. However, they kept the same tempo throughout the dance and I was a bit bored by it. French team Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones are third, with a 0.24 lead over Americans Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein. Chock had a problem at the very end of her second set of twizzles, catching her heel.

Love You Patrick, But Really?

I really do like Patrick Chan, even if he seems to be getting himself into predicaments in the press on a somewhat normal basis come competition time. The latest gem is that he questioned why someone like World Champion Daisuke Takahashi (who is now somehow known particularly for his ability to do a quad more than anything else) would not include the jump in his short program. Let's flash back to the days when Chan didn't have a quad in his arsenal. Wasn't he preaching about how it shouldn't be that important?

Now, here's the big tragedy. A fall on the quad toe loop. A fall on the triple Axel. A big fall in the middle of his straight-line step that really disrupted the program. Yep, that's how Patrick's night went in the short program at Skate Canada-- three big missed elements of the seven total in the segment. Still, he managed to pull off fourth-best elements score, and the top overall components scores of the night.

Nobunari Oda of Japan leads the way with 81.37 points. While all three of his jump elements were executed beautifully, he lacked the transitions, performance quality, and interpretation of the music. He scored 38.00 points in components-- second to Chan on all of the five categories aside from Performance/Execution, where he bested the Canadian by a whole .07.

Second is another Canadian, Kevin Reynolds, with 80.09 points.. He successfully landed a quadruple Salchow/triple toe loop combination and a quadruple toe loop out of steps-- the first man to include two quads in the short program. While he's made drastic improvements to his skating in the last two seasons, his components score (34.06) reflected that he is still just a little bit off of the top skaters when it comes to the skating skills and overall presentation and content of the program.

Third place is the real travesty of the scoring, in my opinion. American Adam Rippon delivered a solid performance with the same jumping content as Oda, including both hands extended in the air on his triple Lutz jump. While he still has room to improve in his posture and speed, Adam packed the program with plenty of in-betweens and sold it well, only to finish three points below Chan in the components. This isn't the 80th ranked skater in the World who will never make the World Championships vs. the current World silver medalist-- Adam was 6th at last years Worlds. I do question whether he possibly received a lower level on one of the spins, but that still doesn't explain the components. The particular laughable one is the 7.61 for Chan in Performance/Execution vs. Rippon's 7.50.

If you take all of Chan's mistakes into account, the judges seem to have been willing to give him a score of approximately 8 more points just on the technical mark (and that's assuming he received full credit for the two jumps he fell on, AND assuming that he only would have received 0 GOE's from the judges if he landed them clean). He would also gain 3 points back that he was deducted for the three falls. The performance/execution and interpretation marks would have also most likely gone up greatly, and the three other components probably would have been higher. So what would he have scored? Probably around 87 or 88 points. Yes, he was attempting a quad toe loop. Was he 10 points better than a relatively clean Rippon? Absolutely not. Not to drag scores across competitions, but was he just ever so slightly worse than Jeremy Abbott was last week in NHK, even if Abbott received no credit on a spin? Though I don't particularly care for Jeremy's short program, does that seem right to you? Does it seem right that World Champion Takahashi would be 10 or so points behind Chan if his only mistake in the short program was a hand down on the triple Axel (based on NHK)? No, I didn't think so.

LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Mens Short Program, Group 2

Warm-Up: Kevin Reynolds right away with a triple loop. Artur Gachinski gets a bunch of screams from the crowd. Adam Rippon also warms up a triple loop. Triple flip/triple toe on two feet. Alban Preaubert with steps into a triple flip. Patrick Chan is one of the few skaters that I've seen who actually acknowledges the audience when the camera is on him or his name is announced. Nobunari Oda with a simple triple flip/triple toe. Oda has medaled at every single GP event he has been in, says the PA announcer. Rippon with a double Axel. Oda again with a gorgeous triple Axel. His knee bend and run-out is just absolutely perfect. Reynolds stands at the boards as he is first to go. Gachinski has a pink neck line and pink gloves on. Interesting. Rippon with an effortless triple flip. Chan works on his camel. Oda does another jump and then works on the entry to his Axel.

7 Kevin Reynolds CAN
Alright, a chance to see history here as he plans two quads in the short program alone. Seems like he's been around forever, but he's still just 20 years old! His improvement last year was spectacular-- now commands the ice well. Quad Salchow/triple toe loop with maybe a slight, slight cheat on the Sal. There's one! Triple Axel with a turn-out, it leaned. Quad toe from steps and he pumps the fists. Flying upright spin-- eh. I don't like them. I wish they would just clarify it has to be either a sit or camel. Sit/change/ sit with leg held on the latter. Basic, average speed. Straight-line footwork with a lot of personality and finally gets the crowd going at the end. Camel/sit with high donut/change/ sit/crossfoot. More fist pumping. Need to see both quads in replay, but they looked good. Neil Wilson is part of his coaching team, and I seem to remember him being a great spinner.. Kevin can improve a lot there. Toe loop looked good enough for full credit in replay.

46.03/34.06 = 80.09. Well that's definitely a HUGE score. Better than Takahashi had last week.

8 Artur Gachinski RUS
Sick before the event, seemed to be day-to-day even after he arrived. Good start to the season so far. Money by Pink Floyd yet again. Quad toe loop right away with a big step out, so no combo. He has the arm movements but he looks down rather than to the crowd. The triple Axel was big though, but then to show off he curled the edge rather than letting it extend and flow. Same with the triple loop. Sit/twist/ change/sit. Great Gig In the Sky now. Circular footwork has some nice movements in it but it again looks a bit heavy and there's a lot of arm movements that would come across much better if he'd look up rather than into space/at the ice. Flying camel and then a catchfoot almost donut is centered but on the slow side. Camel/change edge/ sit with variation/change / sit/y spin and thats a strong position. I want to like the Russians, but I feel like all of the skaters that come from Mishin all try to emulate Plushenko and with that comes little as far as the in-betweens and none of them have anywhere near the command Evgeny has, and that's a big part of what makes him successful.

34.14/32.43 = 66.57. Into third. Components too high.

9 Adam Rippon USA
Clean triple Axel.. it looked like it might be a problem in warm-up, so good for him. Took his time on the triple flip/triple toe and it was gorgeous. Flying camel into a nice donut spin. The rule changes haven't affected him, as he already did camels last year. That was very, very nice. Triple Lutz with both hands above the head is clean, too. Good for him. Sit/change/sit with a change edge and just barely held for two rotations. The spin was nice though. This is like the best of Romeo & Juliet-- lots of music changes. Footwork could be more intense and captivating but it's easily done. Camel/sit held leg variation/ change/ sit/crossfoot. Nice spins, good program, great performance. I love his skating. Orser says something about maybe being short-- the sit change sit last variation I'm guessing. Or maybe the Lutz.

41.10/36.43 = 77.53. Into second.

10 Alban Preaubert FRA
Always the character. Triple flip/triple toe-- nice. Not the basics of the others, but the choreography and performance ability to make up for it. Triple Axel is done. Sit/change/sit with a variation at the end that slows him, but the positions were all nice. Steps into a triple loop. Camel/sit with leg grab/change/ sit variation/scratch with arms raised to over the head. Circular footwork-- he's so goofy.. in a good way :-) Footwork however is slow and not done as effortlessly as some others. Another upright spin that looks to start in a flying sit position. Joubert did one at the French Masters, and I question this one too. A picky technical panel is going to call that an unsuccessful flying sit one day, I bet. The program didn't have the spark or energy that he is usually capable of.

35.57/34.14 = 69.71. Third place right now.

11 Patrick Chan CAN
Alright, he's talked the talk about the quad in the short program, now he needs to deliver. Right off the bat you see how he has effortless basics and such speed out of nowhere. And steps with a pause into the quad toe, and he falls. Triple Axel and he falls again. Camel/sit/upright sit/change/crossfoot with strong positions and centering. Steps into the triple flip/triple toe-- good for him to get some points back. Flying sit with a twist variation. Camel/change/ camel-- those are strong positions but the spin could be faster. Straight line footwork and it's fun, but this program doesn't have near the personality, even in Canada, And just as I say that he falls over on the footwork and it really disrupts everything. I like him, but maybe this will get him to quiet down a bit when it comes to sharing his thoughts. His skating, when good, already tells the story well enough. I wouldn't have the performance/execution or interpretation very high. I get the sense that he wasn't into it after the two jumps falls. Reynolds watches backstage and smiles.. he knows he's going to have a big advantage going into the long.

36.73/39.47 -3.00 = 73.20. Ridiculous. They were going to give that 90 points if it was clean, even with one less element than last year. Third.

12 Nobunari Oda JPN
His pants seem to be a little loose and flailing as he gains speed. Ridiculously difficult entry into the triple Axel and he nails it. Triple flip/triple toe again both jumps perfect. Flying camel/variation bent leg and layover into a donut.. slowish. Triple Lutz from steps and he's gotten through the jumps. Camel/sit/Emanuel/ change/ sit/variation. Straight line steps. He's kept a serious face this entire time. He used to be so fun (Mario short program) and now that's gone. Sit with a wild travel/change/ sit. Not too much going on in-between, and not an engaging program. I'd definitely have it behind Rippon, but that means he will probably be scored close to Chan-- which shouldn't be the case. A woman in the crowd is giving all of the skaters stuffed animals. He's back training in Barrie with Robert Tebby.. now he needs to loosen up.

43.37/38.00 = 81.37. Well, into first by a point. Eh.

Oda, Reynolds, Rippon, Chan, Preaubert, and Fernandez are the top six. This should have been one of those competitions that I mock judged.

LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Mens Short Program, Group 1

We are getting the feed of PJ Kwong and David Pelletier talking about the quad, and while it is important, it only takes one second to complete. This leaves 4 minutes and 29 seconds for other skating-- they say that Patrick Chan's in-betweens are the best example (shocker). Also mentioning that Kevin Reynolds will attempt two quad jumps in the short program. Pelletier hopes he won't sacrifice the rest of the program for the jumps. Landed his first quad loop after he missed the team for the Olympic Games. Finally, they discuss Jeremy Ten and his lack of confidence after last season, but recovered well for the long program in NHK. PJ goes with Chan/Rippon/Oda for the podium. David picks Chan/Oda/Rippon.

Vice President of the ISU David Dore is in attendance. Judging panel announced, and I guess we are still getting PJ and David's commentary rather than the no commentary. I don't mind her, so it'll be okay. :-)

WALTER TOIGO is on this panel. If you don't remember why this is significant, do a search on my blog for videos that suggest he copied off judges sitting next to him at a Junior Grand Prix event earlier this season.

Pelletier goes over the required elements. He makes a few mistakes, though. He forgets that a flying upright spin is possible (Joubert, Takahashi), and he thought that a spiral sequence was part of the mens short program until this year. Hmm.

Warm-Up: Jeremy Ten starts off with a triple loop. Paolo Bacchini lands a double just as the camera pans to him. The audience is much more energetic about the men than they were this afternoon. The PA announcer mentions he was off the ice for two months after his injury right before Worlds. Double Lutz. Grant Hochstein is getting loud cheers, and lands a nice triple! Axel. Yasuharu Nanri does a triple Lutz with a lean outside the circle and steps out. Kristoffer Berntsson gets some screams from the audience. He's in dress pants and a silver-ish button down, pretty simple. Javier Fernandez lands a triple Axel with his deep knees.. his costume is a blue tux with green undershirt and a bright pink big bow tie.

1 Jeremy Ten CAN
First to go, was also in Japan last week. Nice, deep edges are shown right from the beginning. Triple Axel was leaning and he did a three-turn and stepped out. Not a disaster. Nice speed into a triple Lutz/triple toe. Run-out wasn't great, but the jumps were high and the Lutz had next to no preparation. Camel nice/change/ camel with layover position. Slower, but strong positions on both. Steps 3/4 of the ice into a single flip on two feet-- picked wrong. Flying sit in a low position into a variation-- fast and well-centered. Music builds into the circular step sequence and the steps go with the music, but they aren't as engaging as they could be. Camel/sit with arms over head/change/ sit/y spin with one hand-- all strong, but basic positions. I like the quality to his skating a lot, but I think his free skate is more packed with in-betweens. He's not happy about the flip mistake-- grabs his head as to say "Why??" Coach Joanne McLeod says, "You were on it, it was there.."

30.39/30.31 = 60.70, seasons best.

2 Paolo Bacchini ITA
I have always liked his performance quality, but I really hated his Axel technique last year. Let's see if that has improved. Double Axel still with a big skid on the take-off, it's even more severe when he goes for a triple. Triple Lutz/triple toe.. the toe loop was huge. Triple flip was all over the place in the air but he landed that, too. Flying camel with a donut variation. Basic position could have been better. Steps right into a sit/change/sit with an ugly position on the latter, holding his free leg out oddly and traveling. Footwork is circular and it shows off the personality I mentioned in the beginning. Everything is a little flat today, though. Camel/layover/sit fast/variation/ change/ sit arms above head/scratch-- that whole spin was really nice. He's happy with that. Coach Grutter is the long-time coach of Lambiel. The Lutz and the flip in replay show how loose he was in the air, but he managed both. The flip may have been on an outside edge, but he does the jump on a curve so it's difficult to tell.

30.21/29.57= 59.78. Second by a point.

3 Grant Hochstein USA
Orange sparkly top with black trim and a deep, deep V. Triple Lutz/double toe with nice steps in, but shaky on the toe loop. Went for the triple Axel and fell, too bad as it was gorgeous in warm-up. Flying sit is nice and fast, even through the variation. Camel/change/camel with catch foot. Eh, the first position was okay, and the second was okay but slow. Basics are gorgeous, though. Just need to be faster. Triple flip is successful. Straight line steps have nice highlights and use of his entire body..  lots of content in that and it fit the music. Very nice. Camel/sit/variation/change/ sit twisted/upright-- another really fast and centered spin with strong positions. He's one that I have my eye on in the future. Lutz was probably a flutz and his Axel looked to be all the way around.

27.80/30.18 -1.00 = 56.98.. third.

4 Yasuharu Nanri JPN
I picked him at the last minute on my fantasy team.. don't let me down. Rondo Capriccioso. He's in purple and black with sequins on the top, and it looks like blue pants. Triple Axel. Slow and not much power from his pushes. Triple flip/double toe. Triple Lutz is alright. Flying camel to an inside edge, that part slows drastically but the positions were alright. Camel hop over/sit/upright-- well that was quite basic and not very good. Footwork has a lot of turning action going on but most of it in his dominant direction. Sit/variation/sit-- nice centering on the spins but nothing spectacular. His ice coverage was far less than the previous three men. Average all around.

31.60/29.40 = 61.00. And just barely into first. I don't know about those components scores.

5 Kristoffer Berntsson SWE
Amelie again this year, but not the Valse that he used the last two years. Triple Axel with no speed and a hand down. The music is Comptine d'un Autre Ete, and it sounds like he's throwing flames as if he's in the middle of a video game every few seconds. Down on the triple flip. I always admire his creativeness. Camel with layover position/change/camel and that wobbles. Both spins were slow and not great. I don't know that I get the concept behind this, but at least it's different... I guess? Triple loop. Flying sit travels to start and then the variation is a mess. Straight line steps are on one foot for the first half. Everything is looking a little rough and heavy today. Camel/sit in an upright position/change/ sit/scratch with the hands by his neck. That traveled a bit too. Eh, it was all a mess unfortunately. He could have added a combination to the loop to salvage some points back-- the jump looked fine so I'm not sure why he didn't.

26.32/32.17 -1.00 = 57.49. Now I don't know about that either. I'd have to score it but I thought many of his elements were messy. In any event, into fourth.

6 Javier Fernandez ESP
Historia d'un Amour. The triple Axel was gorgeous. Triple Lutz/double toe. Not much flow after the first jump so no triple/triple, and no quad. Triple flip is done but not with a long running edge. Flying sit is low and he's doing the same ugly sit position that Jeremy Abbott did last week. Still looks more like a bad upright spin to me. Camel/sit/Emanuel/change sit/hop/sit/crossfoot... slow and nothing spectacular. Music changes into more comical music for the circular step and includes a lot of stopping to sell the choreography. It's not bad, but it's not very effortlessly done, either. Camel/bent leg/change/camel and I doubt that had enough rotations. Fun, but messy. Not much with the skates going on in-between the elements, just silly choreography. However, seriously one of the best triple Axels I have ever seen. Patrick Chan gets shown on the big screen and the audience goes crazy.

34.32/32.42 = 66.74. I really need to go back and look at the protocols. The program was fun, but others had plenty more content. He's first for now.

LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Pairs Short Program, Group 2

Warm-Up: Castelli/Shnapir are another team where he absolutely towers over her. Start with a high double twist. Iliushechkina/Maisuradze take their jackets off and she starts warming up jumps. Kemp/King do a twist, and it's their first time at Skate Canada. His hair is a mess. Dong/Wu, she warms up a double toe. The Russians perform a nice lift while the Americans attempt side-by-side jumps right by them. Mariusz Siudek is a busy man, on the technical panel at NHK and now here with the Brits. The Chinese perform their death spiral, where she's in a split position.

5 Castelli/Shnapir USA
Music is Money by Pink Floyd. Nice side by side triple Salchows, they really went in with attack. Triple twist is nice. Side by side spins stay in unison throughout until the very end, and I'm surprised he has such decent positions with being so tall. Footwork is alright. They look relaxed going into their throw triple Salchow and it flew beautifully-- nice run out by her. Lift goes into the traditional Russian one-hand she in a split position. Well done. Death spiral is a pretty basic one and they are just slightly ahead of the music at the end, but that was very good!

32.96/23.38 = 56.34 they go into 1st by the slightest of margins. Well done.

6 Iliushechkina/Maisuradze RUS
The Marriage of Figaro is the music. Footwork and choreography right into side by side triple toes, well done. Her back is absolutely perfect through everything. Throw triple Salchow is also well done, and they are carrying great speed so far. Nice triple twist. Catchfoot for her into the death spiral with a change of hands. He travels really close to her on the side by side spins and they get a bit messy. The ending is completely off. Footwork is nice and then spirals into a nice lift where he appears to drop her but catches her down low.. I liked this team last year and I'm glad to see that she seems to have gained enough power on the individual jumps to rotate triples cleanly. I noted that they had a chance to really distance themselves in the short in my event preview, and I think they have done just that. Lots of transitions throughout and they kept the speed from start to finish.

34.03/26.69 = 60.72. First by over four points.

7 Kemp/King GBR
String quartet Coldplay. Triple twist might have been a bit underrotated and he caught her somewhat far away from him. Side by side double flips still as their jump of choice, and their basics are still just average. Throw triple loop with her slow to get the free leg out, but it was big and clean. Death spiral with a change of hands that slows down on the change. Mirror footwork is slow and has hip movement at a stand-still in the middle from both of them. He really trips big on a set of spread eagle transitions and then their side by side spins are a bit off and way too far apart. Both last positions come to a crawl. Spread eagles again into a catchfoot lift and he sets her down nicely, but their overall package is still a bit too basic, even in this field.

23.27/20.23 = 43.50. Seventh.

8 Dong/Wu CHN
Side by side triple toes, she steps out. Double twist. Throw triple loop is successful, split death spiral, that was a nice variation although not done very fast. It's been all stroke stroke stroke to this point. Footwork is relatively simple and slow, as well. She stumbles a bit-- a lot of the pairs are tripping on their toe picks. They don't really present themselves very well yet, either.. their faces remain serious and focused. Scratchy on the lift on his part, and the side-by-side spins started alright but then they lost the unison. Nothing remarkable here. Probably sixth place.

22.92/20.61 = 43.53. Welp, seventh and missed out on being last by .03. The two top-ranked ISU teams sit in second to last and last. In this field. Ouch.

Iliushechkina/Maisuradze, Castelli/Shnapir, Lawrence/Swiegers, and Duhamel/Radford are the top four. The difference between second and fifth is just 2.5 points.

LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Pairs Short Program, Group 1

Continuing on... judging panel includes CHN / SUI / AUT / SWE / FIN / GER / RUS / CAN / FRA. Todd Sand is part of the technical panel.

Warm-Up: Before taking the ice, all three Canadian team men have a laugh, and then Nathan Miller gets in on the fun. Duhamel/Radford practice their death spiral. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch have to swerve to avoid a fall in side-by-side jumps by Britney Simpson. Lawrence/Swiegers practice a twist. Simpson/Miller do a throw triple Salchow in which she pitches forward a bit. Moore-Towers stands at the boards and digs her toe picks in as "If We Ever Meet Again Plays". Duhamel tries a triple Lutz and lands low. Laureano Ibarra is here coaching Simpson/Miller.. remember he and partner Tiffany Vise landed a clean throw quad Salchow a few years ago. Duhamel/Radford do a nice overhead lift that covers plenty of distance. He towers over here. Swiegers is also very tall compared to his partner, and they warm up a death spiral.

1 Duhamel/Radford CAN
Serious technical content planned. Remember, she and former partner Ryan Arnold landed side-by-side triple Lutzes and a throw triple Lutz (first ever) in competition. Music is by Saint-Preux. Nice easy double twist to start. He does a triple Lutz while she doubles on the side-by-sides. Nice overhead that goes to one hand and she grabs the blade with a flip out exit. Carry lift into a throw triple Lutz that she does land. Side by side mirror footwork that gets a little bit off in the middle but they recover in nice unison until she trips at the end. Flying camels/sit/upright /change/ sit with low position, they stayed in good unison there but it wasn't particularly fast. Death spiral that starts in a shoot-the-duck sort of position, that was nice. Not horrible, she was shaky throughout the whole thing though.

29.08/25.72 = 54.80. She looks thrilled that they scored that high.

2 Moore-Towers/Moscovitch CAN
Comedic routine to Zorba the Greek, fast paced from the start. Triple twist is crooked and a bit of a collison on the landing. Side by side triple Salchows, I think.. I looked away for a second. Whatever they were, they were clean and in good unison. Crowd is into this program, clapping along. Overhead star lift as she grabs the blade of her higher foot. Short spiral into a throw triple loop that she falls on. Death spiral with her face and body towards the ice. Mirror footwork for them as well as they sell the choreography. He has an ever so slight bobble at the end of it. Side by side spins are FAST and in good unison, but he travels and their distance is a bit too much. They are making great improvements, though, and I liked the program. Kris Wirtz with them in the kiss and cry, and they say hi to Kristy.

29.68/25.00 -1.00 = 53.68. Into second.

3 Lawrence/Swiegers CAN
The first time I saw this team (at Canadians a few seasons ago) they had such a dynamic performance quality. Cute choreography at first when he marches up behind her and kicks her to appear like he is tripping her, but he catches her. Nice triple twist, although not much height. Side by side triple Salchows she falls out and he puts a hand down. Side by side spins get really off towards the end of the first part, but they are back on for the change foot. This whole program has great personality. Their overhead has a nice flip out and she has nice positions, but he is a bit scratchy and slow. Death spiral and right into their footwork which is a lot of hand holds rather than the mirror work that their two country mates have done prior. Throw triple Lutz is BIG and out of nowhere to end the program. That was a lot of fun, but will probably go into third. They mock their ending pose in the kiss and cry which brings laughs from the crowd.

31.74/24.40 = 56.14 and wow, first!

4 Simpson/Miller USA
She's just 14, and as the costumes suggest, they are skating to The Pink Panther. Side by side double Axels, hers not having the best flow but they did them. Split twist, not all the way rotated and a crash on the landing. Throw triple Salchow that she can't hold and steps out. Side by side spins are off in the beginning and get somewhat back on track. Footwork is cute but doesn't have much content besides playing to the crowd. Ends in mirror steps but again, not much there. Basics are below the three other teams. Overhead goes into a star with her in a catchfoot.. good, but slowish. Death spiral in which he changes hands to end. Cute, they still look junior to me though.

23.98/22.41 = 46.39. Fourth.

LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Ladies Short Program, Group 2

Warm-Up: Announcer says, from Russia, Makarova.... Ksenia Makarova. Marchei single Axel, another single Axel. Announcer gives details about the skaters.. that didn't happen in the first group. Suguri does a double flip, reminder of the days when she was 2nd in the World from the announcer. Imai does a single Axel/double toe, another single Axel and camera pans away. Makarova with triple toe/triple toe-- second jump cheated. Czisny with a triple flip, looks decent. Phaneuf gets a huge applause, her hair is getting really long. Marchei with a Lutz and the camera goes to Suguri just as she's about to land. Czisny with a shaky triple Lutz that probably wasn't all the way around. Every time someone goes to jump, the camera goes to another skater-- such a tease.

6 Valentina Marchei ITA Requiem for a Dream/Lord of the Rings
Morozov coaching Valentina at the boards. Sucks in with her cheeks to make an o-typed closed mouth pose at the beginning, and looks around. Requiem. Triple Lutz forwards, hands down and fell out. Nice speed into a crooked triple Salchow.. probably not all the way around. Flying sit with variation is nice. She's very dramatic about this. Double Axel. Sideways/layback spin/catchfoot-- held for a while and it's a good position. Straight line footwork and she goes straight down and a pretty simple step-- that really took her off guard but she gets up and does the rest. Camel/change edge/sit/ change/ sit/y-spin/upright. She's not happy.

22.61/23.96 -1.00 = 45.57. Fourth.

7 Fumie Suguri JPN Adagio
Yeah, she's still skating. I loved her long program at this very event TEN years ago. Nice speed into her Triple Lutz/double toe, but the Lutz was cheated and the toe loop ran out of room and she stepped awkward out. No direct footwork into the triple flip-- also cheated. Flying sit in a low position/variation with leg behind. SLOW. Spiral and some steps into a shaky double Axel. Sideways to layback-- that's a good position but not the difficulty of most of the other girls. Straight line footwork.. she looks so serious and unsure of herself when she used to present her programs quite well. Camel/change edge layover/sit/ change/ sit y-spin again on the slightly slow side. I liked this program more than a lot of her other previous efforts, though. Very tepid applause. Lutz could be downgraded to a double based on the replay. She has to tell her coach that Chika is her sister. Weird.

24.85/23.32 = 48.17. Fourth. Definite downgrades.

8 Haruka Imai JPN Don Quixote 
Nice smile. This Gypsy Dance music is absolutely wonderful and I wish it would be used more. Sokolova used it way back in the day. Triple loop/double toe. Not the strong basics of some of the others, but she skates with good speed. Triple flip with a bit of a delay and not many steps.. she pulled it off decently. Layback/catchfoot/Biellmann that slows, but nice positions. Choreography is good but face is not relating. Double Axel with a slight skid on the landing. Camel/sit/y-spin/change/ low sit/upright-- all of that was VERY fast. Now she's showing some personality in the footwork, which is strong. Flying camel change edge/donut-- really, really nice and up into a catchfoot. The donut was just as good as Nakano's. I liked that.. she now needs to work on smoothing out all of the in between skating and flailing her arms less.

28.18/24.34 = 52.52. Third place.

9 Ksenia Makarova RUS Flamenco
I was bored a bit by her short program last year, but she has the choreography in the beginning that already sets the mood. Triple toe/triple toe and this one, unlike warm-up, is all the way around. Nicely done. Three turns into a nice triple loop, too, and a clean double Axel. Flying sit with a weird bent back but she's trying to get a really low position on it.. traveled in the first part. Crowd gets into the music during the straight line steps. Very minimal turning to the opposite (non spinning side) but there was a lot of content within that. Camel/change edge/sit/ variation/change/ y-spin in an almost split-- she holds that one. I'm really liking this. She's selling it, too. Layback /sideways that slows/catchfoot/Biellmann that regains the speed-- ends well. Well, now I'm a fan. That should be first. Viktor Petrenko at the boards. Eh.. if the judges are picky the triple/triple might get a < on the second jump.. it was close. Or is that Vladimir Petrenko with Ksenia? I think she just said hi to Viktor in the kiss and cry.

31.44/26.46 = 57.90 and into first

10 Alissa Czisny USA Romance
Nice white dress with a sheer skirt. Triple Lutz is crooked and she steps out. That was to be her combination. Triple flip is cheated a bit and she fights the edge to add a double toe to the end. Double Axel is all sorts of crooked but she pulls it off. Flying camel-- strong position, best yet, into a nice donut and catchfoot. I like this program and choreography. Camel/change edge/sit/Emanuel/ change/ sit with arms over head/one foot Sasha spin that she holds. Gorgeous spins. Right into layback/sideways/catchfoot/Biellmann that doesn't lose any speed. Good idea to end with your two strong elements. Well, story of her life is the jumps. Seems to me like no matter what type of different technique she learns, she more or less goes back to the old habits when it's actually time for competition-- at least this wasn't a disaster, though. Lutz probably with < and I don't know about the flip.

28.37/27.58 = 55.95, third.

11 Cynthia Phaneuf CAN
Cute look over the shoulder to start. Double Axel. Spanish music. Triple Lutz/double toe. Spiral of all things has a little wobble-- good thing it doesn't count this year. Footwork into a triple toe. Good for her. Now time to start selling the program. Sideways/layback/catchfoot. She centered it extremely well as the last position is probably hard to balance. Flying low sit with the same leg behind the other variation. She's had soft short programs for years but I like this more dynamic approach. Nice choreography in the straight line steps but the second half doesn't look too difficult. Crowd still loves it. They are really into it. Camel/change/ y-spin/sit-- she's thrilled. My favorite program of the day. I'm going to guess she goes into first, but things between first and fifth are probably going to be extremely close.

29.98/28.26 = 58.24. Into first, and yep-- top five only have three points separating them.

It's Phaneuf, Makarova, Zawadzki, Czisny, and Lacoste.

LIVE BLOG Skate Canada: Ladies Short Program, Group 1

I see that "Suddenly I See" is still the montage video music of choice for the ISU ladies event. Introductions in both English and French. Judging panel SUI / JPN / AUT / FIN / USA / CAN / RUS / GER / ESP. Canadians Samson and Lacoste have a laugh while waiting to take the ice for warm-up. Former American skater Lisa Ervin is on the technical panel, as is Italian Gilberto Viadana.

Warm-Up: Samson does a double loop, she's in pink.. Lafuente warms up a single Axel, and another. Gilles goes for a triple toe and falls straight back. She's also in pink, but a much lighter shade. Zawadzki is... in pink (shock) and does a triple(?) toe/triple toe. Not sure about the first jump, but the second was nice. Samson, does a triple Lutz/double loop. Not much going on when the camera focuses on a particular skater. Samson does an intentional single Lutz. Lafuente works on her step sequence. Lacoste stretches her body as she skates along the boards.

1 Agnes Zawadzki USA Gopher Mambo, Concierto para Bongo
The bright pink dress looks like it's out of Moulin Rouge, but this is a mambo. Speed still remains relatively slow. triple toe/triple toe EASY, triple Lutz also well done. Layback into a catchfoot and then up into a Biellmann, strong positions and fast rotation throughout. Choreography into flying sit in a low position with a donut-ish variation. Footwork is straight line and relatively simple and slow. Nice nuances to the music within it, but nothing special. Ina Bauer into a double Axel with a very brief checking of position. Camel/change edge/layback/ change foot/sit/Sasha spin in a complete split. That was nice! She just needs more speed and better footwork, and she's well on her way. In replay, the triple/triple combo should probably earn high GOE because it was effortless and both jumps were huge.

32.14/24.15 = 56.29

2 Myriane Samson CAN
Trying to start the season right after her short program disaster at Worlds. Triple Lutz/double loop is good. Double Axel doesn't get very high, but it's clean. Music is from Il Postino. Sideways leaning to layback with foot all the way near the nice, to a catchfoot that slows. Three turns into her triple flip that is also successful but maybe on the outside edge, flying sit with a twisted upper body into a donut spin, she's happy about this so far. Circular footwork looks relatively simple in parts but character driven to the music. Camel/catchfoot/ change/low sit/upright. Slow, but not bad. She's excited. She also could have skated a bit faster and had stronger footwork, and the spins could have been a bit faster as well. In replay, the flip is hard to tell but the Lutz looks like it went to the inside edge.

27.88/23.74 = 51.62 for second

3 Sonia Lafuente ESP Les Miserables
This is definitely The Feeling Begins and not Les Mis. And she falls on nothing and takes forever to get up. She's hurt. Something with her right knee cap. She's just skating around rather than going over to the judges. Now she makes her way over and talks to the referee. She's going to start from the 10 seconds or so she completed. Okay, actually she's starting from the beginning. She got too deep on a forward edge and caught her toe pick on the other skate. Lands a triple loop/double toe though just fine! Simple footwork into a triple toe loop, layback with a poor leg position into a catchfoot up to Biellmann-- that was nice. As always with this music, much of the choreography seems to be in sharp arm movements. Double Axel is done but maybe a bit short. Flying camel to inside edge and a donut catchfoot. Right into combo camel/sit held forever/ change/ sit-ish/Y-spin that gets veryyy slow. Serpentine footwork, again not bad but nothing amazing. Well, she recovered well.

22.51/21.25 -1.00 = 42.76. Third.

4 Alexe Gilles USA Aschenbroedel
Tall. Also slow. Triple toe/triple toe-- second jump wasn't all the way around and she fell straight back. VERY minimal steps into a triple Lutz and she goes down on that as well-- also probably not all the way around. camel to catchfoot/change/ sit to a twisted variation sit. Slow and nothing remarkable. Lands the double Axel. flying sit with variation. Again slow. Her crossover pushes really gain her no speed, something that seems to be typical of Zakrajsek's students. Footwork is in a serpentine pattern and slow. Layback /sideways leaning/catchfoot/Biellmann. Once again, shock-- slow. Everything needs more power and speed. Choreography had its cute moments though.

22.35/20.67 -2.00 = 41.02.. into fourth.

5 Amelie Lacoste CAN
Dark Eyes is her listed music. I'm pretty sure she's worked with Jeff Buttle on one or both of her programs this year. Nice big double Axel to start. Triple loop/triple LOOP with a fall out on the end, but a good effort. Triple Lutz! looked slightly short. Flying sit with variation is centered and had speed. I like this choreography quite a bit. Spirals and moves in the field into a layback that has centering problems into a sideways variation and catchfoot.. nice positions. One foot for the first half of her footwork.. she is one that gets strong pushes. Camel with illusions/change/ sit/y-spin with one hand. I actually really really liked that. Her family? shown in the audience. Good for her for trying the loop/loop-- she's gotten full credit for it before. In replay, it looks all the way around. Lutz.. maybe 1/4 short or so.

29.96/25.34 = 55.30 and second. Good for her! Best components scores so far.

Skate Canada: Sarah Meier Withdraws, Bryce Davison's Injury

Unfortunately, Sarah Meier's injury from yesterday has not yet healed enough for her to compete today, and has withdrawn from the competition. Her other Grand Prix assignment is the Cup of Russia, three weeks from now.

Also of news is this article published by CBC Sports. Bryce Davison, who was scheduled to compete with partner Jessica Dube this weekend, injured his knee in a training session last week. He's out "indefinitely", but note that a source suggests that this could even be career-ending. Dube and Davison were also scheduled to compete in the Cup of Russia.

Thursday, October 28

Live Blogging of Tomorrow's Skate Canada

I will be doing live blogging of all of tomorrow's short program/short dance competitions at Skate Canada. See you at 11:30 with the ladies short program :-)

Skate Canada Tidbits: Sarah Meier Injury; Kevin Reynolds Quad Loop

The Injuries Just Keep Coming
Swiss skater Sarah Meier injured her foot on a triple Lutz take-off in todays practice, with just a few minutes left in the session. She was advised to rest and stay off of her feet for the remainder of the day and will decide if she is able to compete in the ladies short program in the morning. The event starts at 11:30, so best wishes to her healing quickly.

Quad Toe, Quad Sal, AND a Quad Loop?
A friend watching the Skatebuzz Skate Canada live practices messaged me to say that Canadian competitor Kevin Reynolds was mentioned as having "fully-rotated" a quad loop in the practice today. The jump has never been ratified in competition.

Updates later if I hear anything additional

Wednesday, October 27

Skate Canada: Event Preview

If you threw pieces of paper into a hat with the names Amelie Lacoste, Cynthia Phaneuf, Myriane Samson, Valentina Marchei, Haruka Imai, Fumie Suguri, Ksenia Makarova, Sonia Lafuente, Sarah Meier, Alissa Czisny, Alexe Gilles, and Agnes Zawadzki, would you have a better chance of predicting the outcome of this field by pulling the pieces of paper out one by one? Seriously, after my Wagner-Asada-Zhang disaster prediction last week, I don't even feel like starting to think about this one!

Then we have the pairs competition. Due to withdrawals of the top athletes, there are eight teams here and none of them have ever medaled at a senior Grand Prix competition. The top ranked team (according to the up-to-date ISU World Standings) is Chinese pair Dong/Wu, who failed to advance from the short program at the 2010 World Championships. Second-ranked coming in are British pair Kemp/King, who realistically are probably going to be fighting for the top six-- even in this field. So who does that leave? Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the bronze medal in their first international event together, Nebelhorn, earlier this year. They have the technical content that could put them in serious contention for the gold (and with that, hopefully an opportunity to skate again later in the series if spots open up). Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch also have a huge opportunity here. They were sixth at the event last year, but when you notice that all five teams above them were either top nine in the Olympic Games or World Championships, it suddenly doesn't seem so bad. Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze of Russia are probably the other "leading" team at this event. She has some absolutely beautiful qualities about her, but the jumps remain their nemesis. However, this team has the potential to possibly give themselves a bit of a cushion after the short program if they can deliver.

While Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have withdrawn from the ice dance event, teammates Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier (7th at Worlds) look to battle for the gold with British siblings Sinead and John Kerr (5th at Worlds). Former World Junior medalists Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam (2nd in 2010), Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov (3rd in 2008), and Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein (champions in 2009) look to battle for the bronze, along with French team Pernelle Carron / Lloyd Jones. Less than six points separate all four teams' personal best free dance scores, so the race to the podium should be exciting here.

The mens field has kept itself together and should once again prove to be the highlight of the event. Patrick Chan, Adam Rippon, and Nobunari Oda lead the way, while Kevin Reynolds, Alban Preaubert,  Artur Gachinski, and Javier Fernandez look to possibly sneak in for a medal. Gachinski has started out his season with two international wins, while Oda looks to redeem himself from his shocking 28th place finish at the World Championships. Rippon was the top scorer at the recent Japan Open team competition, besting both Daisuke Takahashi and Evgeny Plushenko.

I have created polls to the right asking who you think will win the gold in the ladies and pairs competitions. I also added the event schedule and starting orders based on up-to-date ISU World Rankings, which you can find below the polls.

Tuesday, October 26

NHK Trophy Roundup: the Good, the Bad, and the Terrible, Part 2: Ladies, Pairs, and Men

The other three disciplines from the NHK Trophy condensed into one post. Sorry it took a while for this to come up, but I have finally finished watching the videos from the event.

I said in my previews that this event was wide open with plenty of inconsistent skaters, I just didn't plan for most of them to have completely lifeless and watered down performances. Ugh, ladies, you used to be my favorite discipline..

Carolina Kostner won the event without attempting a triple flip or triple Lutz, due to injury. She debuted her new short program to Galicia Flamenca and I have to say that I really liked the dynamic and sharp choreography throughout, and it fit her well. Her free skate was to Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun and I more-or-less liked the potential in this program, as well. I have to say that I think Lori Nichol did a good job of finding music that suits Carolina. What disappointed me about her free skate was that even with the easier content, her last two or three jump elements looked to be cheated, although none were penalized. Great step sequences in both programs, though. I wasn't blown away by her (or any other ladies) skating.

Rachael Flatt finished second here. She had cute choreography in both of her programs (as she always does), but I'm still missing the boat big-time with her. The Lutz still has the back and forth swinging edges entry, but her flip seems to be a little more steady this year. The double Axel/triple toe combination in the free skate looked good. While I wasn't really impressed, none of the American ladies are known for their consistency at this point, so I'm sure she's happy with this early-season performance and finishing as the top of the three US ladies in the field.

Kanako Murakami finished a surprise third place. She has a smile to die for, and she showcased it throughout the short program. After a great skate, she went to grab an item that was thrown from the audience and lost her balance, falling to the ice right in front of where she was to exit. She sat there and laughed it off.. how cute! Being a bit nit-picky, her triple toe/triple toe combination in both programs seemed to me as if the first triple may have been a bit short of rotation. Her free skate to Mask of Zorro also had its share of other problems, including two missed triple flips, and lots of other jumps that also looked borderline not completely rotated. Her lack of polish and solid skating skills really showed up in the free skate.

Kiira Korpi finished in fourth overall. I liked her free skate to Evita, and I thought her dress was really nice. That must mean something, as I usually have no opinions about costuming! She continued the trend of not only landing many of the jumps with almost no run-out, but some triples also seemed to be a bit cheated. Unfortunately, she had three major errors in the middle of the free skate which kept her off the podium, but I see the potential in the program if she delivers. The judges have shown they are more than willing to give her the marks.

Ashley Wagner, my pick to win the event, finished down in fifth. She dumped her new short program to Kashimir and instead skated a re-choreographed version of last years Once Upon a Time in America. I was kinda "eh.." about it last year, and it was the same story this year. Her new free skate is to Malaguena and we have seen the concept and choreography 5000 times before. I've always liked the attack she has not only into her jumps but also towards the programs themselves, but I wish we would have seen something a bit more refreshing from her. Her loop didn't work here, and the flip also seemed to have its issues.

You know this is a disastrous event when Elene Gedevanishvili is able to finish third in the free skate (sixth overall) only attempting Lutzes, Salchows, and toe loops. She doubled her first Lutz, and like every single other lady, most of her jumps seemed cheated on the landings and barely squeaked out. I thought the softer-styled program to Phantom of the Opera worked well for her, though.

Caroline Zhang went through an obvious growth spurt over the summer, and while some aspects of her skating have been fixed (no more major kicks into the Lutz or flip), she's also lost some of the qualities that helped keep her competitive even with the technique flaws, such as the flexibility in her spins. While the spins aren't horrible, they don't have the power or overall impression that they used to. One problem I did see with the flip and Lutz technique is that she STILL picking in with her skates lined up, rather than picking in with the free foot behind her and then drawing back to lift herself in the air. Imagine a skater doing a triple loop more off of the toe pick rather than the flat edge--- that's what it looks like with Caroline. This also causes major pre-rotation issues that a picky technical panel would most likely not ignore. As a positive, she seems much more understanding of her issues this year and I'm sure it's been a difficult journey as she's grown.

Way down in eighth was current World Champion Mao Asada-- can we say absolute meltdown? Not only was her triple Axel non-existant, but she didn't land much of anything else, either. It's obviously a re-working year for her, but I wonder if she imagined it would ever turn out this bad. To her credit, she didn't give up on the performance in the free skate throughout the mistakes.

Jenna McCorkell finished ninth overall, and from what I saw in her re-worked Totentanz short program, it seems that her choreographer has learned that transitions are a part of the components scores :-)

Qing Pang / Jian Tong easily won the pairs competition, and I found myself liking their short program to Nocturne much more than their Liebestraum free skate. The short was strong and I loved the choreography, but it was weird that they chose to end with the side-by-side spins. While the element has greatly improved over the years, it still remains a weak area for them, and in this performance it was way off. The free skate also had sweet choreography, but I thought they looked really slow in both programs (they've never been particularly fast) and about half-way through the long, I kind-of zoned out. She singled an Axel and came out early on her triple toe attempt, but the throw jumps were reliable as always. I'm glad they didn't retire, and maybe I'll warm up to the free skate.

Vera Bazarova / Yuri Larionov finished with the silver medal. I haven't seen their short program, but I did watch their Man in the Iron Mask free skate. She's very tiny and has little power on the side-by-side jumps, which causes the timing between the two to always be off. If I were on the technical panel, I'd probably give her 2Axel/2Axel sequence a full downgrade on both jumps, as she has a HUGE skid off the edge and barely gets into the air. Aside from her jump weaknesses, her extension and position throughout the lifts was, as always, a nice highlight. I wasn't blown away by the program, but it was nice.

Narumi Takahashi / Mervin Tran, already having competed twice on the Junior Grand Prix circuit (and qualifying to that Final), were the surprise bronze medalists here-- which I question. She is also very tiny which leads to questions on whether her side-by-side jumps get all the way around, but I was really impressed by their short program. One of my notes says HIGHLIGHTS!, and I think that really helps set them apart.  However, all four jump elements had issues in the free skate. She fell on both the triple Salchow and double Axel in the side-by-side elements, and always had both hands down on her throw triple Salchow and came down on two feet on the throw triple toe. However, the strength of the lifts and the throw twist helped keep them on the podium. I didn't score the programs myself so I can't say they were completely gifted, but I thought their components scores, particularly in the choreography and interpretation, were a bit generous. They don't really relate to each other, yet, and the program still seemed like it belonged at the junior level.

Caitlyn Yankowskas / John Coughlin climbed up to fourth, just narrowly missing being on the podium. Their free skate to Ave Maria is a tribute to John's mother, and they had a decent performance. She put a hand down on the throw triple loop and fell on the side-by-side triple toe loop. I think the program could have had more intricacy, but I still enjoyed it and they related well.

Caydee Denney / Jeremy Barrett and Mylene Brodeur / John Mattatall both skated to Gershwin in their free skates, and I can't say that I loved either one. Denney/Barrett did, however, show a really nice new short program to soft music that I felt made them take their time rather than flail around all over the place and skate like two singles skaters. Unfortunately, I think those issues creeped in again with the free skate, and I always get the impression that she is like a school girl that has a crush on a boy and can't look him in the face. Brodeur/Mattatall also had a nice short program and even though they finished in sixth, they weren't far off from the bronze medal and can be proud of their efforts for literally being invited to this event last minute.

Special mention to seventh place finishers Maylin Hausch / Daniel Wende of Germany. The placement doesn't indicate how well they did, and I really liked some of the moments in their Prince of Persia free skate.

While the ladies were a disaster and the pairs were just okay, the men completely saved this event from being a total snooze. Thank you, boys... seriously.

World Champion Daisuke Takahashi won the event with very good, but not amazing, skating. I think that his short program was (don't shoot me) a bit gimmicky and while it is cool, I don't think it showcases how good of a skater he is, as last years program did. He had a hand down on the triple Axel but otherwise skated a clean program. I wrote in my impressions of the Japan Open that I wasn't really blown away by his free skate, and I feared that it didn't have the tension or music cuts to really build up and become a masterpiece, but I did enjoy it a bit more here. He landed a nice quad toe loop and two triple Axels, only to fall on the latter half of his triple Lutz/double loop near the end of the program. I guess the disappointing thing for me with both programs is that he obviously is SO creative, but there is nothing that really shows that off. The tango free skate is traditional and clean, but at the same time, it isn't exactly innovative. Oh well, I obviously thought a lot about that because I really like him. :-)

Jeremy Abbott finished second overall. I saw him skate his Viejos Aires short program at a show over the summer, and I worried about how it would develop because the choreography looked so awkward on him. Unfortunately, I saw more of the same here. I think the first half of the program has way too much in terms of arm movements and not much going on with the feet, and I think he still doesn't completely believe in it. For how much stress he was putting on his skate problems before the event, you wouldn't have known it here. I did have some issues with the spins, though. The sit/change/sit featured a position on the latter half that I'd consider more of an upright spin than a sit spin, and his flying camel was alright until he changed the edge and then really lost balance. HOWEVER, the complaining stops there. Life is Beautiful, as I have mentioned previously, is one of the programs I was most looking forward to seeing this year, and I most certainly was not disappointed. He skated with a relaxed quality that he's had next to never before, and it did wonders for the overall impression. Aside from a popped triple Axel and a cheated triple loop, this program was skated well and David Wilson has once again delivered a great program.

Florent Amodio climbed from fourth in the short program to second in the free skate, for the bronze medal overall. I was so curious to see what I'd think of his One Republic/Black Eyed Peas/Michael Jackson free skate when skated this well, as I was pretty harsh on it during the French Masters. Well, surprise surprise.. I actually liked it. I realize that there aren't that many transitions or signs of much choreography besides standing in place and dancing at pretty much every music change, but his interpretation of all of the different music was great, and his performance quality was high. Oh, and by the way, all of his jumps were spot-on besides a silly singling of a double Axel towards the end. I thought his components marks were fair, aside from being a bit too high on transitions.

Yuzuru Hanyu finished fourth overall in a very respectable first senior international outing. I want to really like him, but I can't get over how average his basics are in comparison to most of the other men in this field. His body reminds me of a Gumby figure in the sense that it is probably just a little bit too loose, and it causes him to really be all over the place in his stroking and arm movements. His spins also have some weird wound-up movements in the entrances that are somewhat distracting. I wrote in my short program notes that he probably isn't going to be the challenger in Japan yet that I thought he'd be, but then he went out in the free skate and landed an absolutely gorgeous quad toe loop and two triple Axels. Unfortunately, the program itself was a bit boring for me and I think the crowd helped make it seem better than it was. I'm not a complete hater as I think he has loads of potential, but I also think he has plenty of work to do before he really makes it big as a senior. He's probably thrilled with his fourth placement, though!

Shawn Sawyer reprised his Assassin's Tango for the short program, and skated to Alice in Wonderland for the free skate-- another program I was really looking forward to seeing in the pre-season. Both programs featured a very good attempt at the triple Axel- something he has yet to land cleanly in competition. At 25, it makes me wonder what would and could have been if he would have worked with other coaches besides Annie Barabe & Sophie Richaud before this off-season. As far as the free skate, the program was full of choreography and transitions, and he skated well aside from a fall on a triple flip in the beginning. His components scores were only a point and a half ahead of Hanyu, and lower than those of Amodio, which I think was very questionable.

Takahito Mura landed quad toe loops in both programs and I really enjoyed his free skate. His components were second-to-last highest, but I think he still has tremendous potential. He has a very similar skating style to Daisuke Takahashi in my opinion.

Jialiang Wu has some HUGE jumps-- his triple Axel is so loose in the air that it makes you wonder if it was only a double. It's so ridiculously effortless. His ISU notes mention that he's been working on a quad Lutz in practice, and based on the size and amount of time he had to get out of the triple Lutz in the short program, I don't doubt that he is able to land them. His free skate was a bit of a snooze, though.

Kevin Van der Perren made somewhat of a comeback in the free skate after a poor short program. I have criticized him (like his wife) in the past for lack of choreography and transitions, but I saw a bit of an improvement here. He must be scratching his head as to why the components dip down so low when he actually tries on the second mark, but then at last years Worlds he essentially had an empty free skate and scored pretty well. Oh well, that's judging. Just when people seem to write him off and say he should have retired, he did land a quad toe loop and triple flip/triple toe/triple toe combination in the long program here.

Adrian Schultheiss fell flat with his short program for me, but I saw the potential in his more traditional free skate-- something he isn't really used to. The story of his life, though, is how SLOW he still skates around the ice.

Denis Ten had a poor free skate that dropped him to last overall. Now training with Frank Carroll, I saw unfortunate signs of Evan Lysacek in the arm movements and overall presentation of the long program. Bah.

Sunday, October 24

NHK Trophy Roundup: the Good, the Bad, and the Terrible, Part 1: Ice Dance

As usual, this comes a little late in comparison with the end of the actual competition. My apologies.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White won convincingly here (by nearly 25 points), although I can't say that I was blown away by either program. The short dance had a nice beginning to Musetta's Waltz, but I got bored during the La Traviata second half. The free dance is a mixture of tango selections, but I felt the music didn't build quick enough at the end and they seemed much slower than usual. I understand that last seasons Phantom of the Opera was an absolute marathon of types for the full four minutes (and that led to looking really sloppy at times), so I can appreciate this program allowing them to really finish off moves while still having some sharpness and tension about it. I guess the verdict is still out on this one, although I suppose I can see myself liking it as it gets more mileage.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were the surprise silver medalists. Aside from troubles in the twizzle sequence in the free dance, they skated a solid competition. The only notes that I have for their short dance are that the first lift looked really awkward and that their twizzles in general are so much more listless than most of the other top teams. I suppose that means I somewhat enjoyed the dance itself! As far as the free dance, I patted myself on the back for guessing their music selection (Moulin Rouge) correctly just based on the costumes, but I ended up a bit underwhelmed with the program. While Davis/White looked slow, this team looked like they were crawling at times, and the lift elements at the end (that are not scored for points, luckily) looked sloppy. I probably would have gone a little bit lower on the components in both programs, but I think they really benefited from skating a strong short dance while other teams behind them all had small to severe errors. Maybe I am just being grouchy with them because they chose to end their free dance with the Tango de Roxanne, which I only heard 50 other times during this competition..

Maia and Alex Shibutani were able to climb from fifth place in the short dance to second in the free dance, winning the bronze medal overall. Their short dance featured nice, deep edges, but I wrote that it looked like they were being a bit too careful with everything-- that is, until she was doing the quick shoot-the-duck part of their compulsory pattern and he tripped over her. Her dress had a small piece of fabric dangling down by a string throughout the rest of the program, which was somewhat distracting but obviously not intentional. However, they came back strong in the free dance, with highlights including a near-perfect set of twizzles, a nice dance spin, and a cool rotational lift where she rotated behind his back. They should be very proud of their efforts!

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, the current World Junior Champions, were fourth. He had a slight bobble in one of the Golden Waltz sequences during the short dance, but this team (well, more specifically Elena) has the "it" factor. They skated their free dance to Don Quixote and used the all-to-familiar pieces that have been used by millions before. I think the audience agreed with my own opinion that this was another program that fell a little flat, because their reaction (even by Japanese fan standards) was polite at best. There were issues with the twizzles and she tripped a bit going into the dance spin (which included the Artur Dmitriev-pair spin position), but I wrote that she totally reminded me of Oksana Baiul here not only in the way that Oksana made you watch her back when she first burst onto the scene, but also in the way that Elena holds herself and presents her arms. I think this team is going to be a major contender come Sochi, but not quite yet this year.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte had the disastrous Worlds in their home country last year, and the problems seem to have continued right on into this season. He struggled with the twizzles in the short dance, and she struggled in the free dance, almost repeating the incident from Worlds when she got too close and actually fell because she ran into him. To make things worse, she tripped during part of the choreography just a few seconds after, and then later completely missed a lift after balancing incorrectly. All of the mistakes obviously killed their technical score and any chances they had for the podium. I have a note from the free dance that reads, 'it isn't working', and I think that sums up my feelings for both programs. I really, really like this team and I think it wouldn't be a bad idea if they just completely ditched the free dance.

I saw the rest of the teams and just wanted to feature two of the free dances that stuck out in my mind. Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak finished sixth overall to this extremely bizarre mix of music/concepts.. I don't even know how to share my thoughts about it:

Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland skated their free dance to The Lion King, which I thought was going to be extremely cheesy upon seeing the music listed. However, I really enjoyed their performance, even if their basics and overall content and quality are obviously way behind the top teams. They had some excellent highlight moves that were among my favorites of all the elements in the competition.

Unfortunately, as I try to direct link the video from YouTube, it now says that it is private and there doesn't appear to be any other version posted. If you come across it eventually, definitely watch it!

The ladies, pairs, and men will come tomorrow. I promise. I have three days off and it is the perfect opportunity to check out all of the NHK videos I have yet to see :-)