Friday, December 3

Grand Prix Final Poll Results and Discussions

First, I want to thank everyone for the tremendous amount of poll responses I received when I asked which skater or team would win each of the four disciplines at the Grand Prix Final next week (760 votes for the mens event!)

Here are the final numbers, and as always-- discuss whether you agree or disagree, and share your own thoughts!

Mens Gold Medalist Votes
Daisuke Takahashi 55.66%
Takahiko Kozuka 28.95%
Patrick Chan 8.03%
Nobunari Oda 3.55%
Tomas Verner 2.89%
Florent Amodio 0.92%

So, an overwhelming majority goes for Takahashi. Yes, he's the current World Champion and yes he has yet to really deliver yet this year.. I suppose Beijing is as good as any time to do so. Kozuka in second after his great Grand Prix showing, also not surprising, but I do think the gap between he and Patrick Chan is interesting. Also, I personally am predicting Nobu Oda to be the dark horse in this whole thing, and he just barely received more votes than Tomas Verner. Interesting.

Ladies Gold Medalist Votes
Miki Ando 58.16%
Akiko Suzuki 24.88%
Carolina Kostner 4.52%
Alissa Czisny 4.36%
Rachael Flatt 4.36%
Kanako Murakami 3.72%

No surprises here, as Ando was the high scorer overall. My question is, even though the poll asked for the winner, does the closeness in numbers between Kostner, Czisny, Flatt, and Murakami suggest that there will be a tight and exciting battle for the podium?

Pairs Gold Medalist Votes
Pang/Tong 50.13%
Savchenko/Szolkowy 46.44%
Moore-Towers/Moscovitch 1.32%
Sui/Han 1.06%
Bazarova/Larionov 0.53%
Iliushechkina/Maisuradze 0.53%

Surprising that the Chinese came out on top here after the way the Germans have scored so far this year, honestly. I suppose Pang/Tong do have the home-country advantage, but we shall see. Also, I realize that the votes for the other teams were most likely votes for favorite teams rather than actual gold medal picks, but is there really a four-way battle for the bronze medal?

Dance Gold Medalist Votes
Davis/White 85.56%
Pechalat/Bourzat 11.81%
Crone/Poirier 1.05%
Bobrova/Soloviev 0.79%
Weaver/Poje 0.79%
Hoffmann/Zavozin ..I swear they were an option.

Obvious favorites here, but they have had their share of mistakes so far. Do the French have a chance if this happens again? Also, the battle for bronze probably comes down to Crone/Poirier and the Russians. Who has the edge?

Thursday, December 2

Dube/Davison-- Once Upon a Time..

I was clicking around YouTube and came across the magical free skate that was The Blowers Daughter by Canadians Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison. He's out for the season (and possibly for good), so let's remember back to this happy time when they skated superb and ended up with the World bronze medals. His absolutely horrifying skates during the lifts aside, this is really something special.

Unfortunately, both video links I found have embedding disabled, but seriously go enjoy this program!

Mukhortova/Blanchard and Volosozhar/Trankov: Who Goes Further?

Thoughts on these new pairings? My verdict is still out there, although I'm a little bit disappointed to see Mukhortova skating to a Secret Garden song again this year. On the other hand, I think this style fits Blanchard more than it worked for Trankov. Volosozhar, as always, is amazing.

Mukhortova/Blanchard new free skate (click here to watch their short program)

Volosozhar/Trankov new free skate (click here to watch their short program)

Wednesday, December 1

"The Unwritten Code in Figure Skating"

With Yu-Na Kim's recent announcement of her 2010/2011 season programs, I've seen plenty of articles popping up stating that former coach Brian Orser broke "the unwritten code in figure skating" by revealing part of her free skate music (to Arirang) in interviews directly following their split. In 2005, I was involved in a debacle of my own when I mentioned Brian Joubert's Olympic-season music choices before he had wanted them to become public. I had no idea it was such a sensitive subject!

So.. I'm curious to know how everyone else feels about this topic: is something as simple as the title of a song really that important to keep secret? On one hand, I see plenty of comments across skating message boards and websites that proclaim a program is either a masterpiece or a complete disaster--- before anyone has even seen said program; the only basis is from the music listing. On the other hand, I don't think a particular piece of music of selection of pieces being announced ahead of schedule does anything in terms of other skaters' own plans, but I suppose I could be wrong.

Sometimes, it just so happens that skaters choose the same music in a season. Michelle Kwan and Irina Slutskaya both chose the same piece of music for their 2006 short programs-- Totentanz by Maksim Mrvica. Of course, Kwan withdrew shortly after arriving to Torino, but she kept the program even though Slutskaya was easily dominating the field earlier in the season. In 2009, Miki Ando and Yukari Nakano both chose selections from Giselle for their free skates. Ando ended up dropping her program half-way through the season, but she really wasn't comfortable with the choreography. Let's not forget Debi Thomas and Katarina Witt both choosing to skate to Carmen for their 1988 free skates. Neither dumped their program, and they were the previous two World Champions (Witt in 1987 and Thomas in 1986) heading in to the Calgary Olympic Games. There have been plenty of other instances of music being shared by top competitors, and revealing it first or not revealing it at all prior to the first competition of the season has done absolutely nothing in terms of helping or hindering a skater. I'm sure there have also been cases (all of which are escaping me at the moment) of skaters choosing the same music in the pre-season only to have one switch it before the fall competitions. But how often does that happen? In the same light, I can't see any skater rushing to choose a certain piece of music just because someone else has already gone public with their choices.

With many skaters taking advantage of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter these days, I'm sure that they would like to be the first to let people know about the details of their own skating.. completely understandable. But, in the event that the news shows up somewhere else first, is it really the end of the world?

My Scoring System in Play: Skate Canada Mens Short Program

Yeah, I'm using the Skate Canada mens short as an example once again. I kept all of the program components and spin/footwork GOE's exactly as they were scored in Canada as I haven't really thought of any ideas on re-tooling those aspects of the system, but I did convert all of the jump element scores using the system I came up with in my previous post.

The results..

My Own Ideas for the Judging System

Oh, what do we have here? I played around with some numbers and came up with my own concept for the judging system.. well, at least the jumps.

Some concepts I have come up with are to remove the +3 and -3 from the options when marking the elements, and rather just have everything scored -2 up to +2. The column to the far right is the fall, or completely failed column, which essentially takes the place of the -3. However, I would remove the 1.00 deduction for falls on jumps (but keep the deduction for other falls in the program), and just use these set values for whenever a skater falls on a jump. Harsh? Yes. But a failed jump is exactly that.

The single Axel and doubles through the Lutz earn 33% of what the double Axel/triples through the Lutz are worth (I rounded on a few, but it didn't change the numbers that much), and the double Axel/triples through the Lutz are worth 40% of what the triple Axel/quads are worth. Most of this lines up with the current ISU base values for the jumps, anyways. I underlined the ones that have slightly changed in base value.

What would these changes mean? For starters, you'll notice that a 'excellent' double Axel, triple toe, and triple Salchow earn the same amount of points as a 'very poor' triple Axel, quad toe, and quad Salchow. This still would encourage some skaters to go for the difficult elements, yes? However, a fall on any of the most difficult jumps, and the skater would end up with less points for the element than the base value of the same jump with one less rotation (example: fall on quad toe earns 3.42 points, a base value triple toe is 4.10 points).

I haven't figured out if I want to also add an under-rotated column into this chart.. I have to play around with the numbers some more and see how everything turns out in a mock-competition.

One more aspect to think about is that many of these numbers are really random (6.63, 5.83, etc.). If a judge is going to try to cheat or figure out which components scores they must give Skater B to beat Skater A, their job might end up that much more difficult in trying to add up all of the numbers in their head. Not saying it happens all the time, but I'm also suggesting that it might happen every once in a while ;-)

In the case of jump combinations (example 3F+3T), a +1 for the element would result in the skater earning the +1 GOE for both jumps (5.83+4.51). That gives the skater more credit for the combination than just applying one single GOE to add to both jumps.

More later..

Tuesday, November 30

The 'Patrick Chan System' Part Two: How Much Did the New Scoring Help Oda and Rippon?

My first post focused on Patrick Chan's programs at Skate Canada, as I scored them using the Code of Points from the 2009/2010 season. The end result was that he scored 8.28 points higher than he would have if the old system was still in place. I didn't think that seemed like too huge of a difference considering some of the more fine changes that were made, but then I scored Nobunari Oda and Adam Rippon's programs from the same competition to see if they also followed the trend..

Surprise, Surprise: Seasons Top Free Skate-Scoring Lady Won't Compete Rest of Year

If signing on for the full Stars on Ice tour wasn't a big enough hint for you, Skate Canada has made it official that Olympic Bronze Medalist Joannie Rochette will not compete the rest of 2010/2011. The only competition for Rochette this season was the Japan Open team competition in early October, where she posted a free skate score of 122.71 points-- a number that has yet to be bested by any other lady this year.

Joannie debuted a new exhibition to Cyndi Lauper's True Colors at the Stars on Ice opener in Lake Placid this weekend, and she will also work on another new program with long-time choreographer David Wilson to unveil at later tour dates. Visit the Stars on Ice website for the full American tour schedule.

The 'Patrick Chan System': How Much is the New Scoring Method Really Helping?

We all should know the story by now. Following last season, there were plenty of figure skating fans who felt that risking difficult jumps (Quads for the men and Asada's triple Axel, for example) were too much of a risk, as skaters would often be down-graded for their efforts and they'd end up losing even more points than doing a simple triple toe or double Axel would earn them. So, what did the ISU do? They came up with a re-worked Code of Points (or IJS), one that increased the value of the more difficult jumps, and also decreased the negative grade of execution scores, so the penalty for taking risks wouldn't be as harsh. They also implemented an under-rotation penalty, one that docked some points from the base value of the jumps-- but not nearly the severeness of the full downgrade that they'd previously incur.

Everyone that was complaining before about skating taking steps backwards last year should now be happy, right? Not exactly. We have Patrick Chan falling all over the place in his Grand Prix events and still managing to score among the top skaters. We also have the "Mao Asada rule" (as many seemed to think the triple Axel changes were only to benefit her) not even playing a part yet this year as Asada has had extreme difficulties while changing her jumping technique.

Back to Chan. I thought it would be interesting to compare his scores from Skate Canada this season under the system used last year, to see if he really is getting plenty of help from the re-worked system.

Monday, November 29

8! I Mean 7! Brooke Wester! The Footwork "Season"! Our First (and Second) Fall! Skating With the Stars Week 2

I know hardly any readers are watching this, but I'm still giving it a shot :-P

So, some changes for week two. Johnny is in yellow with a whole bottle of gel stuck to his head and his fingernails painted black, Tanith has come out of her "nest" and not only does the replay commentary now, but she also interviews the skaters right before they receive their marks. She still sounds like she's reading from a script, and the way she enunciates everything doesn't help. Oh well. Vernon Kay, who most people seemed to loathe in week one, had a much smaller part: introducing the couples and the judges comments-- that was basically the extent. I don't think he's too bad. Laurie bothers me with some of her comments. I know she's a dance choreographer, but most her thoughts don't have any relevance to figure skating.

The show wasn't without its faults, though. Dick held up a 7 and exclaimed "8!" for Jonny and Brooke, and then a few minutes later Kay called Jennifer Wester "Brooke Wester!" and corrected himself about ten times afterwards. We saw our first fall from Vince while holding Jennifer, but it was pretty uneventful and they recovered quickly. Tanith said the footwork "season" instead of sequence for one of the replays. It happens.

Giselle for Yu-Na Kim's New Short Program

Do we love it or hate it? I have to say that Angela Nikodinov, Yukari Nakano, and Ekaterina Gordeeva have come up with some gorgeous programs to the music, so I am looking forward to seeing Yu-Na's take, with choreography by David Wilson.

Note the similarities in costuming and choreography between Gordeeva and Nakano's programs-- both were choreographed by Marina Zoueva.

Adrian Schultheiss and Coach Evgeni Lutkov Separate

Swedish skater Adrian Schultheiss and long-time coach Evgeni Lutkov have gone their separate ways, Schultheiss tells me.

You may remember the scene from the short program at Skate America when Adrian walked around in the kiss and cry looking extremely confused without his coach or a team leader. Schultheiss says that it wasn't uncommon in the past for Lutkov to miss at least part of the off-ice warm-up, but he started to worry when Evgeni still hadn't shown up towards the end of the six-minute warm-up on the ice. He does recall in his earlier skating days that his coach would show up late to a practice session and then tell the skater that it was just a test to see if he would continue working without him. Confused about whether his coach was somewhere in the arena or just running late, Adrian made the decision to skate the short program. We later learned that Lutkov had blacked out in his hotel room and was found by security after Schultheiss told competition organizers of his absence directly after he skated. The coach woke up startled by the whole incident, and at the strong advice of Schultheiss, finally called 911 after an hour of insisting that he did not need to be examined. The doctors suggested that he be kept overnight for observation.

Lutkov was released the next day and was able to attend the free skate with Schultheiss, and he very kindly thanked the American doctors and others for their help while sitting in the kiss and cry area.

However, directly following the competition, things started to get shaky. Lutkov grew distant and told his pupil that he needed a rest from "big" figure skating for two weeks, which would be understandable given his health situation. There were no words exchanged between the two on an awkward plane ride back to Sweden, and to make matters worse, Schultheiss was informed by other officials from his skating club that Lutkov had actually gone to Finland to host a skating camp for some of the country's top skaters in the time that he was taking his "break". Schultheiss had two planned competitions coming up in a few weeks (the NRW Trophy in Germany and then his own National Championship), so obviously this was a slap in the face.

Schultheiss says that over the years, like with anyone you are around so much, there were plenty of disagreements and arguments between the two, and even with some of Lutkov's family. He knew that if he was going to continue to be happy with his skating, he needed to make a change. He now works with Maria Bergqvist and Johanna Dalstrand and says he feels very happy about the new set-up, but will unfortunately skip the NRW Trophy due to a groin injury and focus on making Nationals a success. His placements at the 2010 European and World Championships give two spots to Swedish men for this seasons competitions.

Oh, Great Britain Media... Apparently, Only the Short Programs Count Now

Does anyone see anything wrong with this article? I guess skating isn't exactly that important in Great Britain anymore, even on a big website like Eurosport. Then again, there were only three senior ladies, eight senior men, two senior pairs, and two senior dance teams (minus the injured Kerr/Kerr) registered to compete..

(By the way-- the competition is over but final results have yet to be published to the event website.)

Can the Japanese Men Sweep in Beijing?

Looking at the statistics of the six men qualified to the Grand Prix Final got me thinking: is it possible that the Japanese team of Kozuka, Takahashi, and Oda could sweep the podium?

Takahiko Kozuka leads the way after his impressive 170-point free skate at Trophee Eric Bompard. Daisuke Takahashi is the reigning World Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist, but he's shown flaws in both of his events. Nobunari Oda might seem like the odd man out, but his short program scores actually lead all of the men this season. Trouble with figuring out the judging system on the fly once again cost him a gold medal, this time at Skate America-- versus Takahashi.

Patrick Chan of Canada will be the biggest threat to split up this party, but his Grand Prix showings featured eight (yes, eight) falls between the two competitions. He still scores extremely well on every element he does successfully complete, and his components are deservedly among the top scores of all the men. I'm not completely discounting Tomas Verner and Florent Amodio from their own spoiler party, but their numbers don't quite stack up to what the other four are capable of, at least not yet this season.

So, the big questions: Can Kozuka continue to build on the great season he has started, or will his nerves sink in when he realizes his position? Can Takahashi finally deliver a World Champion-caliber skate in Beijing? And can Oda once again rock the short program, and if he does-- can he hold it together for the free skate? Nobunari frustrates me so much when I see a perfect quad toe/triple toe/triple loop in warm-up, only for him to crash on the first jump when it actually counts. But then again, we all know the ice is slippery.


Sunday, November 28

Anyone Else Say "Finally!" To Themselves?

I had the rare chance to actually watch skating on American television today, and I got to again enjoy Takahiko Kozuka's amazing Trophee Eric Bompard free skate as well as the final few ladies free skates from the event that I more-or-less missed due to connection problems during the live webcast yesterday.

I was so impressed with Kiira Korpi here. She might have severely under-rotated her triple Lutz and popped a flip, meaning she completed nothing more difficult than a triple loop in part of her three-jump combo (a la Kostner this season), and she did lose some steam towards the end, but I was just blown away by the way she presented Evita with such passion. Now, don't get me wrong. You will notice in one of my Formspring answers from a few weeks ago that I named this free skate as one of my favorite ladies programs so far this year, but this performance took it to a whole new level. I'd be willing to bet that I'm not the only one who thought "Wow, finally, a program that really shows off what a star Kiira can be!"

In all honestly, this is probably my favorite performance of the entire ladies Grand Prix season. In a year when I have been totally bored by 95% of the discipline, this was a much-needed pleasant surprise. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think we see nearly the amount of performances post-6.0 that really just go all out rather than have the skater worry about their running jump and combination count and every other little aspect to bring up the point totals.

Sui/Han Won't Do Double Duty, Will Only Compete in Senior Final

The ISU entry page for the junior and senior Grand Prix Final events has been updated to reflect the decision that Chinese pairs team Sui and Han will give up their Junior Final spot to first alternates Jones and Gaskell of Canada, and they will focus their energy solely towards the Senior Final. The ISU allows pairs skaters to compete at the junior level and senior level Grand Prix circuits within the same season, but this is the first time a team has done well enough to earn berths to both events. Starting a few seasons ago, The Senior and Junior Grand Prix Finals were combined to take place in one arena over the same weekend.

American ladies skater Kiri Baga has also withdrawn from the Junior Final due to injury, giving first alternate Zijun Li a chance to skate at home in the championship.

You can find the up-to-date entries for both events by going here: Senior | Junior