Saturday, November 13

2010 Skate America Live Blogging

The "not-so-live" blogging for the mens and pairs free skates, as well as thoughts from the short dance, will be posted at the conclusion of the events. While the real-time blogging is fun, it just involves too much non-stop writing to really absorb the programs and give full impressions on them. Plus, seeing me write the exact same combination spin elements for each competitor probably gets a little boring ;-) I promise that my thoughts following tonights events will be much better!

2010 Skate America Live Blogging: Ladies Short Program

Starting at 5:00 PM EST! Right now, the IceNetwork links to the live video actually are forwarded to a Cup of China article. Hopefully they get that sorted out..

Alright. Now we are good!

Introduction of the judges-- ALL nine are ladies!

Meite (FRA) does a double Axel. I see she's lost the long ponytail that resembled Bonaly circa early-90's. Kwak (KOR) does a double Axel as well. Double Salchow. Gilles (USA) lands a triple Lutz-- alluded her at Skate Canada. Helgesson (SWE) lands a triple flip/double toe. Lacoste (CAN) talks to her coaches and then doesn't do much while the camera is on her. McCorkell (GBR) prepares the Lutz but doesn't jump, and then prepares for the jump again as the camera goes to the whole ice. Back to Lacoste who does a double loop and back to talk to her coaches. The camera likes her, staying on her for a while-- triple loop/double loop is nice and she smiles.

Mae Bernice Meite
Music is from Forrest Gump. Triple Lutz/double toe loop is well done, nice power to her skating. Triple loop is also done but NO steps into it. Flying camel change edge and a donut variation up to a catchfoot Biellmann. The end was wobbly but the donut position was beautiful and well-stretched. Fan spiral into a double Axel-- fights to make a solid running edge but no problems with the jump. One-foot circular footwork to start and it's matching the piano music. A little slow and shallow, but also not bad. Camel/sit/y-spin/ change/ broken leg sit-- average speed and well centered. Arms are kind of lost in some of the positions though. Sideways leaning to catchfoot layback-- strong position there and up to a Biellmann that she also holds-- good stretch but not much speed. She's pleasant! The next step would be increasing the speed and covering more of the ice surface. The arms were somewhat oddly placed not only in the spins but throughout her stroking, but I definitely enjoyed her. Silly to not have any steps into the loop...

48.27. Her components average just below a 5.00. Personal best.

Min-Jeong Kwak
Triple Lutz-- looked all the way around and fell again just as in China. I saw this program at Kim's show in the summer and liked it a lot more than her programs last season. Triple Salchow/double toe is nice. Flying sit with a pancake position that slows down, centering alright. Footwork is a straight line and looks a little bit slow and average in content and flow. Fan spiral into her double Axel as well. Layback in a traditional position and then legs the leg drop, up to catchfoot and Biellmann- very well done. Camel/Sasha-spin/ change/sit cannonball.. nice centering, good speed. Same issues here as with Meite. She's so tiny and she has very little power, so her ice coverage isn't great. Her basics look improved from last year and she has nice arms in particular. Last year I thought she was way over-hyped but I like her this season. Lutz doesn't seem to be there yet. In the replay, it came down about 1/2 rotation should so it should be downgraded.

44.41. She laughs about it and goes into second.

Alexe Gilles
Had a disaster short program at Skate Canada with two falls-- let's hope for much better here. I don't really like the beginning choreography where she glides and comes to a stop right away. It's like a false start in a sense, although I suppose it's "pretty". Triple toe/triple toe-- more or less there. I think the second one was just a bit short. Triple Lutz again with a fall here and probably a downgrade. Camel/donut/ change/sit/twist/upright-- nice center, decent speed and strong positions. Nice double Axel. Flying sit with the blade held on the variation-- average. Cute choreography throughout the straight line (serpentine really) footwork and some nice content, into a layback with the arms held to her back and then a catchfoot-- good. I think her shoulders are shrugged a lot of the time but she didn't look as slow here as I usually find her to be (although the previous two were slow, which might have helped). I'd have her choreography and interpretation marks a bit higher than her skating skills. Transitions were decent. Toe/toe should get full credit... Zakrajsek says it was "close" in terms of rotation. The Lutz wasn't, though.

44.86. Looks like they are being tough on the jump calls (Well, Amano usually is. No surprise.)

Viktoria Helgesson
I really like this girl. I don't really love the Jeff Beck rendition of Turandot in this program, though. Well I take it back. She got rid of the Turandot program! Triple flip a bit forward/double toe-- real fight on the landing there and a struggle to get the free leg back. Triple loop-- bad lean and she fell forwards. Layback average to dropped leg that travels moderately. Not too much lay there. This is her last seasons short. Nice double Axel with little preparation. Straight line footwork-- I actually think she's consistently one of the stronger ladies with this element.. she flows extremely well. Kwiatkowski mentions the use of the upper body. Flying sit with the blade grab variation.. that really slowed down.. right into catchfoot/sit/y-spin/change/ sit that is average. She finished before the music did and just held the ending pose as the music finished-- I wonder why they can't just add a step or two to the end to make it look like it was planned, but I guess it's hard to think that quickly and avoid going over the time and a deduction. Much better idea to go back to this program in my opinion. Marks are taking a while.

41.91. Ouch.. only 19 points on the technical score, but on top as far as the components go so far. Into fourth.

Amelie Lacoste
If you read my Skate Canada reviews-- you know I really like her and her newer dynamic look this season. Dark Eyes tango-ish music. Huge double Axel with great flow out of it.. she really makes fists and flies up into the air. Triple loop/double loop-- a little wrapped in between the jumps so no triple/triple attempt. Double Lutz-- toe pick went in all wrong and she's lucky she got a double out of it. Flying sit with a twist variation isn't as fast as I'm used to seeing from her. Nice traditional spiral and in betweens leading into a traditional layback to sideways spin and catchfoot.. not strong on the last position but the first two were very good. Straight line step with the first part on one foot.. beginning looks a bit empty (still) but she packs the content in towards the end when she goes back to two feet. Camel with illusions/change/ sit/y-spin. Eh. This and the flying sit looked much slower than previously. Not as much impact here as in Canada but a decent effort. Nice choreography and strong transitions throughout, and she really attacks everything. Her basics are solid, too.

50.55. Best on the components by two points and she's into first. She's going to be a huge scorer if she skates clean.

Jenna McCorkell
Again with the Totentanz music this season. Double Axel to start. Grabbed leg into a double Lutz that she steps out of.. seems like she thought she was closer to the boards than she was. Break in steps before the triple flip that she pitches forward on but hangs on. Flying sit with a twist into a pancake position-- decent. Camel change edge--poor/change/ broken leg sit/upright that is poor and nothing special. Straight line step is average-- lots of arm movement. Layback travelling drops the leg and then up into a catchfoot that isn't particularly great. The variations on the spins kill the overall polish of them. I respect that she's went back and added some transitions to the program this year, because it was pretty bare bones in between all of the elements last season, but I wish she would have come up with something new. She's also kept her free skate.

Rachael Flatt and Carolina Kostner have a laugh at the boards as Carolina says something about being cold.

42.87.. fifth after the first group.

Okay now all of the ladies are having a laugh. Gedevanishvili is talking about something and they are all smiling-- how cute.

Group two warm-up:
Helgesson (SWE) right away with a double Axel. Murakami (JPN) with a single flip and she didn't like that-- but it's still the first minute of this warm-up. Goes right back into it and lands a triple. Zhang (USA) winds up on the triple loop-- looks a bit pre-rotated and muscled out to me. Gedevanishvili (GEO) with three turns into a single loop to get the feel of the ice. Back spiral into her double Axel. Flatt (USA) Triple flip that really digs deep on the landing to save it. I still don't care for her entry into the jump but I thought it looked improved at NHK. Kostner (ITA) does a double toe loop after avoiding a bunch of traffic down the width of the ice. Murakami does a triple toe/triple toe and then a single Axel.. back up for a clean double.

Joshi Helgesson
I thought she looked awkward last season, but I enjoyed her at Cup of China-- much smoother. Nice triple Lutz/double toe-- not much flow out, but the Lutz was big. Triple toe is done but no real steps and a big pause after the minimal step she did do. Flying camel into a catchfoot that changes edge.. alright. Layback doesn't have a deep lay, into a catchfoot and Biellmann-- better on the second two positions. She's covering the ice well. Nice double Axel. Music picks up for the footwork with Maksim's Sarabande and she has some nice content right at the beginning. One thing I do notice is that she has a lot of arm movements, not necessarily too many, but it seems like some of them throw her balance off just a bit. Camel/fly over/sit variation/upright-- quick positions on the end but she's happy with that. Much, much better than last year but again I'd expect some negative GOE's for the triple toe. Respect to her for skating "clean" after being in China last week, too!

51.17.. seasons best and she's in first

Kanako Murakami
Her smile should be enough to make you want her to do well! Nice power right off the start and triple toe/triple toe covered a huge amount of ice, well done. Triple flip out of steps is also well done. Sideways to layback spin with the leg down and then catchfoot/Biellmann-- kept the speed up throughout and centered it well. Single Axel-- just like in warm-up and again with the mouth wide open on the landing-- silly. She's still selling this program. Flying sit with a low position and then a variation.. good positions, average speed. Straight line footwork shows off some more of the personality.. she's most certainly not giving up on this. Camel/Sasha-spin strong/change/ variation sit and again all the positions were strong. She looks over at her coach and gives a "What was that?" giggle after the silly mistake. Still really enjoyable to watch..

54.75.. good enough for first at the moment.

Caroline Zhang
Triple flip/double toe-- looked good to me this week. Back spiral/Charlotte into a triple loop where she fights for the landing-- again I don't know about that take-off, it looks SEVERELY pre-rotated and this panel is picky. Flying sit with a low tuck into variation.. good. Still moves relatively slow throughout the program. Double Axel again with a skid on the take-off.. Layback/sideways/catchfoot/Biellmann-- still not the speed she once had but all of the positions were excellent. Straight line footwork and she opts to do the one foot edgework towards the end-- slightly on the slow side but not bad. Catchfoot into her combi spin camel/change edge/catchfoot change edge/change / I-spin-- spins are looking better than at NHK. Still not the spark to her skating that was once there, but I like that she's working hard on improving the skating. I really wonder about the pre-rotation of both the loop and Axel, though. A little history-- Amano (Japan) is one that consistently called Asada's Axel cheated last year. Flip even takes off more towards the side than picking straight back and drawing herself up.

50.66. She moves into third.

Elene Gedevanishvili
Still just 20 years old.. Cell Block Tango. Triple Lutz with the difficult one foot step into the entry and she falls. Double Salchow-- extremely tentative on the take-off. Flying camel change edge with a bent leg into a donut-- beautiful. Her short programs are always so character driven and full of energy. Straight line step also looks a bit on the tentative and heavy side-- checking some of her edges rather than flowing effortlessly but good amount of difficulty. Back spiral held into a nice double Axel, she got that one. Camel/sit/change/ sit/I-spin and she holds that one.. comes out a bit awkwardly. Layback with the leg down and the speed is amazing. up into a catchfoot. Nice. Eh.. she's going to lose a ton of points for those two jump elements. I like this program, but my favorite short of hers is still probably her Cabaret program from a few seasons ago.

45.27 and it's good enough for her seasons best.. she's 6th, and says she wants to go home.

Rachael Flatt
Her hair looking all fluffy today. Kwiatkowski says it has nice flow on the ice. Ha. Double Lutz/triple toe-- second jump looked short and the first had that annoying swinging entry that I hate so much. Nice triple flip, though. Much more solid than in the warm-up. Layback traditional position but not much lay in it, into a catch-foot.. alright. Flying camel with a layover into a catchfoot with a change edge.. the catch-foot wasn't the strongest position but there was nice centering. Double Axel. Nice footwork with most of the content coming towards the end. I don't know, I want to like her so much because she seems to have a great personality but I wish she'd get out of these jazzy cheesy programs. Camel/low sit/change/ y-spin that she holds.. that one was nice. Fun, but I want her to skate to something more modern or mature. Triple toe should for sure be downgraded to a double.

51.02. She's third. Joshi Helgesson will be in the top three after the short. Good for her! There's not even a point between the current second through fifth- exciting.

Carolina Kostner
Galicia Flamenca. Triple toe/double toe-- simple, but nicely done. The double toe was big. Nice double Axel with good flow out. Flying camel with very little fly into a change edge and catchfoot.. the change edge position wasn't particularly great, but as a whole the spin was alright. Triple loop with a pause in the steps.. looks like it landed on the flat a bit but landed. Layback into a poor and slow catchfoot. Everything is looking a little labored here. Circular steps and this is her best element so far. Nice content, nice choreography throughout and nice use of her upper body. Camel again not a great position/change/ sit broken leg that's traveling and upright that just barely got the two rotations. Hmm. The speed wasn't there, I know she's still injured and doesn't have the jump content, but none of her spins were that great either. I think this will be a great program when she's completely healthy, but it was flat here.

60.28. Eh.. whatever. Too high for weak spins and easy jump content. She has the strongest program here, but she didn't really showcase exceptional skating skills or a high performance quality this time around.

Now I Give Adrian Schultheiss All the Credit in the World

Coach Evgeni Lutkov in the kiss and cry
Last night during the mens short program, I probably went a little over-the-top with my dislike of Sweden's Adrian Schultheiss' performance. It seemed uninspired and honestly he looked like he didn't want to be there. To make matters worse, Adrian sat by himself in the kiss and cry afterwards and paced around and shrugged to the crowd as if to say "Oh well". He finds himself in seventh place after the short, and his only mistake was a hand down on the triple Axel-- so it wasn't by any means a bad performance.

This morning I logged on to Facebook and was reading all of the "Top News" posts, when I came across the following from Adrian:
Sorry if i acted weird today, my coach never showed up to the competition and i didn't know what had happened to him.. i just thought to myself whatever happened he wanted me to skate... we found him after the competition and now he is in the hospital... i could just not get my mind together...
Wow. It's one thing to have to go to a competition knowing that your coach won't be able to make the trip, but I can't even imagine having to try to prepare yourself without even knowing what is going on. Absolute best wishes to coach Evgeni Lutkov and to Adrian in the free skate tonight.

Friday, November 12

2010 Skate America Live Blogging: Mens Short Program

Oh my God, weren't the pairs so much fun? Eh, maybe I'm just grumpy. Now we are getting Terry Gannon in a lovely little purple v-neck underneath his suit. Oh, and Peter Carruthers. Too bad we can't hear what they are saying.. well, I suppose those with Universal Sports can.

So, some thoughts about the pairs. I feel like Moore-Towers/Moscovitch are definitely getting the push from the judges now that Dube/Davison are out for at least the season.. maybe for good. The components were a bit on the high side for all the teams two through four for me, but I certainly would have had the Chinese highest among that group on transitions and probably even choreography. Okay, enough about the pairs. Now on the hopefully MUCH more exciting men-- which, if you don't ever read my blog and don't know-- are by far my new favorite discipline.

Viktor Pfeifer looks tired as they show some of the skaters waiting at the boards. He lives in the same time zone as I do-- its almost midnight and probably past his bedtime. Introduction of the officials and judges.. no one that noteworthy. Denis Ten's participation got a KAZ judge on the panel though-- good for him. Oh Ann Musing from Belgium is on this panel. I take it back, I'm sure Van der Perren will now have components scores in the 8s from one judge-- just calling it before it happens to avoid the mystery. Carriere and Armin have a laugh. Or maybe it was Stephen and Viktor. Not sure.

Okay, I've been watching What the Buck videos today and I feel like his snark is rubbing off on my writing starting at the beginning of this post-- you've been warned here. I'm still a nice guy.

Murakami (JPN) warms up a triple loop. Mahbanoozadeh (USA) does a double loop. I'll call him Armin the rest of the time. Too much to type in real-time! Now hes going through the motions of a toe loop. Pfeifer (AUT) does a double Lutz. and an Axel. Carriere (USA) does a double Axel. He started skating after the Harding/Kerrigan 94 drama-- I mean, who didn't? Sawyer (CAN) is one of my favorites. His hair is extra fluffy today. Maybe his product got lost in the luggage. He was going into an Axel as they cut away from him. Song (CHN) lands a triple Axel as he's being introduced. Mike Mancuso and Tonia Kwiatkowski are the commentators that I couldn't figure out before. Seems like we are going to get their commentary the entire time. Tonia goes over the rule changes and changes in required elements-- holler to her. My home town is about 10 minutes from hers. Shawn warms up his flying camel on both edges. Carriere does another double Axel at the last second-- he has a tremendous skid on the take-off.

Daisuke Murakami
Mention of how he skated for the USA until 2007/2008. He has the lowest ranking of any of the non-host country selections in the mens field on the Grand Prix this year, as I mentioned in the preview. Toccata and Fugue-- of course, the Vanessa-Mae version. Big smile as he gets into his opening pose. Thunder-sounding remix effects in the music. Triple Lutz/triple toe.. both jumps had nice height and distance. He really used the toe pick to vault himself well. Triple Axel landed a bit on the inside edge and fought to get a nice run out. Triple flip.. okay, jump jump jump. Not sure about the take-off edge there. Sit spin that travels a mile and then a change pancake/cannonball/whatever spin that also travels slightly. Camel/cannonball/change sit/y-spin.. average and as the commentators mention, slowed down. Footwork starts out on one foot and the rest is completed with good flow and ease. Flying camel with a layover and then catchfoot with a change edge... difficult and one of the better flying camels I have seen from the men this year. He's happy about it. He had a disaster result at Japanese Nationals last year, but he probably can finish in the top 5. There's so much talent in the country- Takahashi, Oda, Kozuka, Hanyu, Mura, Nanri, whoever else wants to break out this year.

67.01. That's not bad at all. Components average just over a 6.00.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh
Mancuso says he's 19, the image on the screen at the same time says he's 20. I liked this program at the Liberty Open much earlier in the season. Triple Axel that pitched forward and he quickly put a hand down-- he got rid of the difficult entry into that, disappointing. Triple flip/triple toe-- not too much run out on the end but both jumps done. Flying camel change edge/catchfoot. The change edge was really shaky but the catchfoot was strong. Now he gets into it. Nice posture and the speed is picking up. Triple Lutz is done. Sit spin with a variation change sit.. strong positions and centering. Footwork matches the music well and he's moving well. The crowd gets into the end of the sequence- lots of empty chairs. Camel/GREAT variation/change/sit low and centered again/scratch. I absolutely love that variation where he has a bent leg and arms and faces the ice. He looks so young! The first part looked cautious but he let loose after the triple/triple. Could have a little more content in between the elements.

67.61.. and by .60 he goes into first. Spins were stronger and the program itself had a much better impression, so I'm fine with that.

Viktor Pfeifer
Music from The Mask. Last season I started to notice how solid his stroking and carriage is. Skid into the double Axel... it was tiny even by his standards. Triple Lutz/triple toe-- Lutz may have been ever so short on rotation but the triple toe was nice. Doubled the flip. Camel that fights to go on the change edge into a change camel where he holds the leg in a bent spiral position. Pulls the vest out to reveal a green and yellow vest underneath. Footwork like the others is done on one foot for the first 2/3 or so.. the sequence as a whole was fine, but didn't seem as effortless as the previous two performed it. Flying sit travels and he goes into a cannonball variation. A few steps into a camel/sit twisted variation.. that was cool/change sit in another variation and then the same upright he's always done where he grabs the blade and holds it to the side at hip level. This frustrates me.. I remember he had the most perfect one foot Lutz entry and position in the air with his arm over his head in his 2006 short program.. seriously +3 worthy.. and now everything is pretty much listless. That final position in the combo spin always kills the flow, too, even if it is unique. The Moonlight Sonata short from last year showed off his basics much better than this.

55.01. Twelve points behind the others.

Stephen Carriere
Withdrew from US Nationals.. He has some random scruff on his face going on, with some big patches of no hair. So he lost his razor and Sawyer lost his hair product. I see. Triple Axel WAY leaning as soon as it went up and a big fall. Back kick into a triple Lutz/double toe. Got a little stuck in between the jumps and could only do a double. Fun program, though. Nice triple loop-- back on track. Flying camel is traveling and not the greatest position.. catchfoot makes it a little better. One foot footwork-- what, you're surprised? This is moving nicely though and in both directions. I liked that. Flying sit is fast/hop up/sit/change variation with the leg wrapped and blade held.. back part of that was slow and listless. Camel/sit travels/hop/sit/change forward sit/Emanuel spin that I think they actually call an A-frame spin. Good to know. Nice fast positions there. I like that he sold the program throughout the entire performance, not just AFTER the jumps were done. But a triple/double, fall on the triple Axel, and an issue with two of the spins-- pretty messy overall. The Axel might be downgraded if you include the skid into it with the landing. I think he's making fun of one of the judges looking so serious and stern at him-- at least he sees the humor in it.

59.14. Third place. Best components on the night and rightfully so. Strong program and great quality to his skating.

Shawn Sawyer
Assassin's Tango for the second year. Alright triple Axel was close at NHK-- let's see how it goes here. Blah. Underrotated and he fell. It should definitely be called a double. Triple flip/double toe. Oh hey Stephen Carriere jump content. Nice cantilever with his hands on the ice. Double Lutz-- what is going on Shawn? Camel change edge in beautiful positions/change/camel in a nice catchfoot/donut and another change edge-- nice center, and good speed. Great spin. Flying sit travels in the beginning to a variation. Maybe a slight stumble right after the beginning of his footwork but if it was he covered it well to look like choreography. Nice dynamics and content in the footwork itself. Camel/sit that he holds forever/change/ split upright spin... never gets old. He has a runny nose. Maybe he has a cold. Maybe I want to make excuses for him because I want him to do well always. Eh.. very little in terms of the jumps but the components scores should be quite a bit ahead of the rest of the field so far. Flip, in replay, looked like it really pre-rotated off the toe pick.

56.94. No favors on the technical mark, and his components are just a point ahead of Carriere.

Nan Song
Requiem for a Dream.. has still not woken up. Basics right away are below average. Triple flip with a big step-out. The posture and arms really all over the place. Bent spread eagle into a triple Axel and he lands that one. Flying camel change edge into a bent knee variation... not terrible, not good. Triple Lutz is nice-- should have added the combo there. Flying sit spin/change sit with a little twist variation-- again average. Very reserved in his presentation and not a lot going on with the actual program, but the footwork moves well and he tries to sell the end with some dramatic arms. Camel/sit traveling/change sit with a kinda a-frame variation and upright. Messy. I don't know why so many people want to skate to this music. It's perfect to drive to in the middle of rush hour when other drivers insist on not going to speed limit, but you can only be so dramatic with it on the ice. On top of that, he's not a particularly expressive skater to begin with. I'd go down into the 4's for some of his components, but I think the judges will be nice and keep him above the 5's.

The next group shown watching at the boards.

62.21. Into THIRD. What? 6.54 on the skating skills mark. These judges are crazy. Had he done the triple toe on the end of the Lutz, he would have been right near the top. His interpretation mark is higher than Armin's... etc. So many problems here.

Second warm-up: Denis Ten (KAZ) three turns into a double flip. Sorry, I'm not really watching the warm-up because I'm too busy being baffled by Song's components scores. Back for Van der Perren (BEL), and they switch to Takahashi (JPN) as he's about to jump. Nice simple red (well sparkly) top with a deep V neck. Oda (JPN) does a triple flip that's just a bit too big and has no run out. Still comparing Song's components to the others and being annoyed.

I see Scott and Sandra here commentating. Oh yay. Just kidding. I usually like what Sandra has to say but I'm just not as easily excited over things as Scott.

Denis Ten
With choreography by Stephane Lambiel for this short program. I didn't have an opinion either way at NHK, let's see this time around. Triple Axel way outside the circle and a fall. Triple Lutz/triple toe with a turn in between.. he was off balance so lucky that he could get the toe loop off. Triple flip with the three turns entry and a hand down. Camel change edge gorgeous/quick sit/upright/change sit --- well centered and all good positions. Really nice camel. Sit with his upper body twisted change sit with a low back and he holds the free leg-- again nice speed. Kwiatkowski says he's not connecting to the music and I agree-- the first half he really just skated right through it and there wasn't much choreography. Straight line footwork is good and a flying camel with a bent leg into a donut/catchfoot position-- that slowed down but again the positions were good. Little bit better than NHK even with his mistakes here, but I'm still not blown away. He's too reserved for the Lambiel choreography to really get the crowd engaged in my opinion. It might come with time.

Frank always just stares at his skaters and smiles, as if he sometimes has to bite his tongue really hard. Didn't he say he had to do that with Mirai in China? I definitely see it.

64.50.. third for now.

Adrian Schultheiss
Still going with the longer hair and a bit of scruff. Didn't love this program or music at NHK, but I still like that he goes for stuff so unique. Triple Lutz/triple toe with a pause in between the two jumps but it ended up fine. Triple Axel pitched forward and a hand down. Flying camel with an ugly change edge and the catchfoot is all over the place-- I don't know if he will get more than level one for that. Sit twisted variation change sit back down and leg held.. better. Footwork with a slight pause into the triple flip. Combination spin with a cool variation that I don't even know how to describe.. good centering throughout that. This music is sooo repetitive. Circular footwork shows off his biggest problem in my opinion-- he moves slowly and not as easily as most other elite skaters, and it only gets magnified during that element. The program just kind of ends after that, too. I don't know, he always has a story behind his programs and I'd like to hear about this one. It just doesn't really work for me. He doesn't have a coach here apparently? I know he's been training in LA the last few weeks but I assumed someone would join him here. I really feel bad for him sitting there-- he got up like he wasn't going to wait for the marks and then started talking to himself and sat back down. The wait for the marks is taking forever, too.

63.71. He seriously looks like a lost little boy standing there. Poor thing. But he's in fourth-- not that big of a disaster.

Adam Rippon
Speaking of looking like a little boy.. there's Adam. That pumping on the crossovers has got to go-- it's the only thing I don't like about his skating. Fall out on the triple Axel that seemed to me like it also had a big skid take-off-- everyone seems to be doing it tonight. Triple flip/triple toe is nice. Flying camel with a beautiful fast donut position-- the best of all the men. Triple Lutz with both arms over his head is so effortless, I don't know how. Sit change sit went by quickly-- nice center and speed. The footwork is good too but I am not overly moved by this short program. There are a lot of music cuts are all over the place and I don't think there's a real idea behind it. I much prefer the free skate. He ends with a nice fast combination spin. Blah.. I don't know what to say. The performance just didn't do much for me tonight.

He says he's happy with everything else as he talks to coach Brian Orser.

73.94. Into first, basically right in line with how he was scored at Skate Canada (where he was clean).

Kevin Van der Perren
Art of War. He promised upon getting off the ice from his short program at NHK that he would never skate "that bad", or something along those lines, ever again.. hopefully he was right. Triple Axel is nice-- always with those bounces up and down on the back edge leading into the jump. Triple Lutz/triple toe.. long preparation for it and the Lutz was kind of bent but he made the toe look easy. Double flip... seriously? Always something. Flying sit with a twist variation. Interesting here.. it looked like his free skate hit the ice on the landing and I think that means he would get no points.. IF I saw right. Camel change camel is right up against the boards and both spins are poor.. adds a catchfoot to the end of the latter. I love this music but the footwork has no dynamics or relevance to the music really.. it could be so much more effective. He's moving alright but not with an effortless flow. Camel again right by the boards/upright/change into a sit/variation. I hate the set-up of this program-- below average spin positions right up against the boards, stalking the jumps, etc. Pretty empty in terms of content, too. Axel was a beauty, though. These components scores better be right in comparison to some of the earlier skaters.. but I'm sure they won't be.

62.22. Too high on the components, even if he is down in sixth.

Daisuke Takahashi
He already has the crowd going in the first five seconds, and already showing the amazing flow he carries over the ice, gaining speed easily. Triple flip/triple toe-- good, not great.. he never really holds that landing edge for very long. Triple Axel that he basically landed but then had problems on the landing edge and somewhat flipped out. Flying layback spin-- difficult but not really a great position. I guess it's good for a guy. :-) Music picks up and he steps out of the triple flip from steps. Sit change sit with a variation. None of the spins are really standing out tonight. Footwork has the music really picking up and he makes it look simple-- nice control and use of the upper body throughout that. Camel change edge/change sit/upright headless. That one was alright. He laughs and hits his head at the end. It was fun, but I'm definitely not going to like it as much as I liked last years short program or his Swan Lake from a few seasons ago. I've been so grumpy this entire group. Almost bed time!

78.12.. seasons best. Hmm. Don't know how I feel yet. Story of my life!

Nobunari Oda
Okay Mancuso, he didn't compete at NHK. He was at Skate Canada. Check your stats. This is a program I went back and liked much more the second time around. RIDICULOUS triple Axel entry and he lands so deep with steps right out. Great. Triple flip/triple toe-- God, he snapped right up into that flip. Flying camel with a change edge layover in a deep position and catchfoot.. BEAUTIFUL triple Lutz jump. All three jumps top quality. Flying sit a frame spin/change sit twist variation. Second half was alright, first was very good. He's still not really selling this. Footwork has energy but not in his face. RIGHT up against the board at the end of the sequence. Sit spin/change sit and his spins looked much better in terms of centering here than they did in Canada. Everything is just so "another day at the office" for him during the performance-- I wish he'd lighten up. And look at that-- as soon as he's done, he has a huge smile on his face. I guess there's no happy medium with him just yet.

I wouldn't be surprised if he's working on a quad flip. He has the best triple in the world. For what it's worth, I'd have him first. Mancuso notes he was at Skate Canada now.

79.28. He's first, barely. He won the technical mark but was about three points behind Takahashi on the components mark. I'd have their transitions a bit closer together, but the rest of the scores look alright to me.

So it's Oda Takahashi Rippon surprise Mahbanoozadeh second surprise Murakami and Ten in the top six, with coachless Schultheiss Van der Perren Song Carriere Sawyer and Pfeifer rounding out the field.

2010 Skate America Live Blogging

My own thoughts and analysis of the pairs and mens short programs from Portland begins tonight at 10:00 PM EST! This post will be continually updated throughout the pairs competition.

The referee of the event is Vanessa Riley-- for more on her history, check out one of my favorite YouTube videos of all-time. Among the judging panel is Alla Shekhovtsova, who was a part of the controversy surrounding the 2002 Olympic Games. Russian Figure Skating Federation President-turned-General Director Valentin Piseev is (was?) her husband.

First, the seven required elements for the senior pairs in the 2010/2011 season:
A lasso lift take-off (hand to hand)
A twist lift-- either double or triple
A throw jump-- either double or triple
A solo side-by-side jump-- either double or triple
A solo side-by-side combination spin with only one change of foot and at least one change of position
A death spiral on a back inside edge
A step sequence that is either straight line, circular, or serpentine

In the first warm-up group:
Zhang/Toth (USA)-- she lands a triple toe loop perfectly
Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN)-- she in a catch-foot spiral into their throw triple loop
Stolbova/Klimov (RUS)-- she does a double toe
Castelli/Shnapir (USA)-- split triple twist with a nice delay

None of the teams were introduced by name except for Castelli/Shnapir. Weird. Zhang/Toth do a throw double Salchow then go over to the boards to speak with their coach. The Canadians work on their lift while the Russians practice their throw and she falls out. Anyone with IceNetwork coverage have VERY choppy video feeds right now? I can hear one of the commentators going over the required elements for the short program, and then I believe I hear David Pelletier setting up the competition.

Zhang/Toth
Music is Clair de Lune. This choppy feed is going to drive me insane. Set up for the split triple twist-- not all the way around, not much height, and a big collision on the landing. I think they both did the triple toes in the side-by-side, but she jumped before he did. Lift went up scratchy but when it gets going, it actually is nice. They could do it with more speed, though. Throw triple Salchow that she lands solidly. Side by side camels/sit/upright / change/ sit variation that is off and she comes out first and wobbles a bit. Right into straight line footwork that fits the music but isn't particularly challenging. Catchfoot into the death spiral and that's a nice position. So what to work on? The music was slow but they still could have had more speed. Their edges seemed pretty scratchy and the lift seemed like it was a bit of a struggle to get into the air. The twist wasn't close and will probably be downgraded. But it was a pleasant performance and honestly better than I was expecting. Twist on replay looked alright as far as the rotations, but there was definitely a bit collision. At least I got part of it right.

48.13. Components average a little over 5.00.

Moore-Towers/Moscovitch
Whoever the commentators are, you can hear everything they are saying on this feed. Zorba the Greek. Right away you can tell this team isn't at all refined, but at least they have an excitement about them. Triple twist again with a slight crash here, little preparation into the side-by-side triple toes and she puts a hand down. Music slows for some choreography. Lift again looked a little sloppy to me in the beginning but it had good speed. She could have been stretched just a bit more. Spiral by her into the throw triple loop, she lands that one. Death spiral, he in a catchfoot at the entrance. Variation where her front side faces the ice. Mirror footwork gets the crowd involved and they pick up the energy. Side by side spins flying camel/sit/y-spin/ change/ sit/grab leg/upright. In unison, but her very first position traveled severely, leaving a moderate distance between the two. They got off a bit on the change-foot but were quickly back together.

61.64.. Components average 6.50. They really are getting good PCS.. I'm not sure I'd go that high just yet. Into first, that's high!

Stolbova/Klimov
First senior Grand Prix, also competed on the Junior Grand Prix this season. Nice high split double twist with her arms over her head. The feed paused on their throw, which I think was a triple flip. Side by side triple toes also completed. Sound goes out now. Mirror footwork for them but I can tell you they had been skating with little relation to the music up to this point anyways. Besti squat by her with a kick over her head from him into their lift. Both legs bent so the feet are over the head and then she grabs one of the blades. Now they have some intensity-- flying camel/sit/yspin/upright/ change/ sit with blade held/upright-- some positions held just long enough to count. The sound has gone out three times now. Hydroblade moves right into her death spiral-- right out of Bourne/Kraatzes book, but that was a nice little variation. Nothing to make them stand out (and no music), but all of the elements were clean. They have decent carriage, but I felt like they were a little slow. On the throw flip, she was just slightly forward but there was a nice running edge out of it.

53.73. Into second, just below their seasons best. Not bad. They look like they don't have any expectations here.

Castelli/Shnapir
He absolutely towers over her. Odds are I probably said that in my Skate Canada live blog, too. Music starts with Pink Floyd's Money-- their starting pose reminds me of Ina/Zimmermans Pink Floyd short program. Nice speed already and into side by side triple Salchows-- he has a big crash falling out forwards. Split triple twist was a good one. Side by side flying camels/sit/upright/change/ sit tuck position and out.. a mess in unison, centering on the change, and the timing of changing the positions. Straight line footwork falls a little flat. Change of music now. Throw triple Salchow, she overrotates it and also falls forwards out of it. Lasso lift with one hand right away and then she into a split position as he still holds on with one hand-- that change of position also seemed a little rough. Death spiral to end. I think they tried to get back into that in the last minute, but the audience wasn't feeling it. What a difference from the Skate Canada short program, when they finished second. The twist was great, but everything else seemed a little sloppy to me.

Sui and Han look on waiting to take the ice for their warm-up.

47.24 for the Americans, and they go into last. Two deductions for the two falls.

Second warm-up group:
Kemp/King (GBR)-- Their costumes look like they should be skating to the musical Chess, but it's actually Coldplay.
Sui/Han (CHN)-- Camera pans to them and she lands a twist and then a throw single to get the feeling-- she's all smiles.
Denney/Barrett (USA)-- Her costume is.. interesting. Black with illusion fabric and then a white sleeve and skirt. It's worse than my lame description makes it sound, that's for sure.
Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)-- Cameras aren't matching the PA announcer, so I didn't see much from them in their introduction.
The Chinese warm up their side by side jumps, and then the Americans warm up double toes. Camera stays on them for a long while. Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman shown watching their warm up now. Savchenko does an easy triple toe. Han and Denney just got really close to each other two times in five seconds. Sui is practicing her footwork sequence. Mention of Sui's big fall yesterday in practice.. hit her head on a throw quad attempt. Commentators think this is their senior debut-- guess they printed the protocols last week before Cup of China was over.

Kemp/King
Oh, so she's the one responsible for the Chess costumes. As I mentioned, Clocks by Coldplay string quartet-ized.. Split triple twist and she gets far away from him. Side by side double flips... still as their jump of choice, but done. Throw triple loop she lands nicely. shoot the duck position into her death spiral, not bad. Mirror side by side straight line footwork.. this is slow and he always looks a bit off. Wiggle choreography right in the middle is ahead of the music, or at least a good few seconds ahead of where it was in Canada. Flying camel and he lost it from the beginning and is just doing whatever he wants while she continues the entire spin. Lasso lift goes to one hand and she grabs the blade, he sets her down with one hand. As their coach is Siudek, that obviously was their best element. Spin was a mess, he looked off in the footwork too.. even the double flips look like they have to be so muscled out. The overall quality of their skating just isn't there, but at least the program wasn't completely empty in between the elements. She has a wrap on the throw loop. His hair looks a lot better here than the long mess it was in Canada, but who is really paying attention? :-)

42.00. Into last now. A point and a half below their Skate Canada.

Sui/Han
Stop saying this is their senior debut, whoever these commentators are. This program has the potential to rock the house. What I respect about their skating is the amount of content they absolutely pack in to the program. Double Axels with nice edgework into them. Crazy footwork into the split triple twist-- excellent. Huge throw triple flip-- she's all over the place in the air but knows how to come down just right. Straight line mirror work and then some fun choreography in the middle. It's not getting the audience reaction I thought it would but they are selling it. Now the audience gets clapping. Flying camel/catchfoot/upright/ change/sit-- a little off in the middle but not too bad. Centered well. Lasso lift that again goes into her in a full split while he holds on with one hand. The first position looked like it got a little "stuck" before it went all the way up. She into a shoot the duck before her death spiral and he lassoes the rope as he holds her arm. I have all the respect in the world for how they are able to include SO MUCH content leading right into every single element, as I said in the beginning. They fly through the elements like they are nothing. Obviously they are young and not yet finished or brilliant technicians, but they have unbelievable potential if they manage the growth spurts.

57.53. Second by four points. I'm curious as to where the Canadians earned all of their technical points, but I bet the Chinese lost some points on the lift.

Denney/Barrett
Love Theme from the Cousins. Sounds weird, no? Okay no more trying to be funny. Nice gentle choreography to set the mood. Split triple twist ever so slightly short, but it didn't affect the run out. Side by side triple toes in great unison. They are SCRATCHY. Throw triple Lutz was effortless-- she rotated so quick. Catchfoot into their death spiral and she again opting for her front side facing the ice. Side by side flying camels nice extension/upright/ change/ y-spin-- great unison and centering throughout that and all decent positions. Mirror footwork has some nice use of edges and toe work. Lasso lift with her grabbing the blade and then a variation star lift with her leg bent to a flip out dismount. I enjoyed that 100 times more than at NHK Trophy, and they skated really well. Aside from the scratchiness (as opposed to the "crunch") of their blades on their crossovers, they are a developing really well and relating much more to the music than last season. Again showing Fontana and Zimmerman at the boards as they go through the program.

58.49. Again, interesting. Into second by three points.

Savchenko/Szolkowy
Korobushko, Bond's version. Sharp choreography to set the mood. Throw triple flip.. she really bent her knees in that take-off, and it flew. Nice split triple twist with spread eagles leading right in. Side by side toe loops-- she doubled. Lasso lift with a kind of twisted-bent-knee split with him holding her with one hand. Death spiral switched hands and then she held on with both.. looked a little bit sloppy. Mirror footwork is nice and difficult with some edgework as they are in hand holds. The crowd isn't crazy about any of it and I'm not really thrilled so far either. Flying camel/sit/y-spin/upright/ change/ sit/upright-- on and off unison but the positions are good. Meh. First competition with this but it seemed pretty hmm.. generic and rushed to me? I much prefer last season short (so far). My favorite moment is where he lifts her and then swings her parallel to the ice-- I was hoping that was their entry to the lift or something really exciting, but it was just a bit of choreography done in isolation.

63.99 and first just by two points. The Canadians ran away with the total elements score, even with her hand down on the toe loop. I need to see protocols.

Thursday, November 11

Skate America Preview IV: Dance

Dance
This is probably the second-most stacked discipline of the event, with four teams already having earned medals on the Grand Prix competing. However, it will probably end up the easiest to predict, as well.

Wednesday, November 10

Skate America Preview Part III: The Pairs

The Pairs
This field has more-or-less stayed in tact since the original Grand Prix assignment listings, with American pair McLaughlin/Brubaker having split being the only change in the roster. However, much like Skate Canada, the race for the silver and bronze medals should be intense.

Skate America Preview Part II: The Men

The Men
Maybe it's just me, but the men became my favorite discipline starting sometime last season and it has definitely continued into this season. The first two Grand Prix stops in particular featured some amazing skating, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of the same here. Current World Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist Daisuke Takahashi leads the way, while last years Grand Prix Final silver medalist Nobunari Oda follows close behind. Adam Rippon looks to improve upon his bronze medal at Skate Canada, and several other skaters have a chance to sneak on to the podium.

Skate America Preview: The Ladies

This is the first part of my Skate America previews. I decided against a Cup of China recap, and will rather write a best of and worst of the season (so far) following this event. The men, pairs, and dance previews will come tomorrow AM.

The Ladies
The same thing holds true for the competitor list at Skate America as it has in the previous three stops in the series: a bunch of decent names, but many of them can't exactly be described as consistent. The entire podium from NHK (Carolina Kostner, Rachael Flatt, Kanako Murakami) is back to face off once again, as are Skate Canada surprise bronze medalist Amelie Lacoste and a handful of other skaters looking to redeem themselves after disappointing first outings.

Tuesday, November 9

Jeremy Ten's 'Tonya Harding Moment'

I was clicking around Facebook today, and noticed the current profile picture of Canadian mens skater Jeremy Ten. He had an issue with his laces at the beginning of his long program at Skate Canada, and decided to humor the world with this comparison, which he calls 'My Tonya Harding Moment':

Takahashi/Tran and Sui/Han: Double Grand Prix Final Qualifiers?

Sui and Han. Photo from daylife.com
Weijing Sui and Cong Han from China already have a silver medal on the Senior Grand Prix, while Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan have a bronze medal. So what, you ask? Well, both teams have already qualified themselves to the Junior Grand Prix Final, an event that runs concurrently with the Senior Final in Beijing. The ISU allows only pairs skaters to compete in both the senior and junior circuits in the same season, but they've never been in a position where one team (let alone two) have had the chance to qualify for both.

Monday, November 8

Fellow Skating Blogger Hits the Airwaves on Jeopardy!

Laura Spadanuta, the editor of Required Elements, very quietly mentioned that she appeared on Jeopardy! on October 26th. As one of my goals is to end up on either Big Brother or the Amazing Race (or even Jeopardy! if I could remember when the online test is.. just one time..), I thought that this was definitely deserving of an off-topic blog post. How cool is that?!

In the end, Laura finished as the runner-up, but she held her own throughout the first half of the show.

You can watch the entire episode on YouTube here: Part One / Part Two

Bryce Davison Out For the Season; Jessica Dube Back to Singles

Photo from daylife.com
The Canadian Press is reporting that Bryce Davison's worst fears are have come true: he will be sidelined for the rest of the season with an ankle bone chip. Partner Jessica Dube will return to singles skating and attempt to qualify for Nationals. She last did the double duty in 2008, finishing 6th in the ladies competition and the team went on to win the bronze medal at the World Championships the same season.

Costume Problems: What Are the Odds?

Photo from daylife.com
So, what are the odds of skaters having serious costume issues two times within one competition? Luckily for the ice dancers and their elaborate outfits, not that often. However, Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali started their season at Cup of China last weekend, and suffered that unfortunate fate.

Before that, highlights of two pairs teams of the past that also had their own problems.