Wednesday, December 15

Roster Watch: ISU Championship Events

I created a Roster Watch page to keep track of all of the likely entries into the ISU 'Majors', notably the European and World Championships.

So far I've updated the page with projected entries in the mens competition at the 2011 Europeans. Check it out, and please feel free to add any details you may know that I've skipped over or forgotten!

Swedish Nationals: Three-way race for the men; Which Helgesson sister will go to Euros?

The Swedish National Championships. Who would have thought it had the potential to be so exciting?

Adrian Schultheiss, Alexander Majorov, and Kristoffer Berntsson are fighting for the two entries to the European and World Championships. Schultheiss, whose high placement at last years' Europeans and top-ten finish at Worlds allowed the country to send two representatives in 2011, has had a rocky start to his season. He's changed coaches, been dealing with a groin injury, and hasn't skated near the level that earned him his success last year.

Alexander Majorov, on the other hand, has been on fire in the early months of this season. He won the NRW Trophy in Germany and the Ice Challenge in Graz, and also has a bronze medal from a Junior Grand Prix event in the Czech Republic. He looks to be the favorite heading into the event.

While Majorov won the competition in Austria, teammate Kristoffer Berntsson finished with the bronze medal. He made the decision to stay in the amateur ranks at the age of 28, and is known for his audience-friendly programs (his free skate this year is a Michael Jackson medley). Kristoffer won the silver medal at the Finlandia Trophy earlier this year, although he narrowly held on to a podium place after winning the short program.

Who do you think we will see at Europeans?

The ladies event also features what should be a close battle, between sisters Viktoria and Joshi Helgesson.  Both ladies have earned moderate results this season, and in the most recent head-to-head battle at Skate America, Joshi finished 4th overall while Viktoria finished 6th.

The rare situation here is that only one lady will be able to compete at the European Championships, but both (in the event that they are the gold and silver medalists) can compete in Tokyo for the World Championships after Viktoria finished in the top ten at the event last season.

Here are both of their great free skates from Skate America.

French Nationals: Amodio has a free ticket to Euros, and can Joubert get it together?

The French National Championships begin this weekend, and this post will focus on the mens event.

Grand Prix Finalist Florent Amodio has already secured one of the three entries to the European Championships after his successful start to the season, while a handful of other men are competing for the remaining two spots.

Reigning World bronze medalist Brian Joubert doesn't have much to show yet this season: he was off the podium at the Cup of China, and he withdrew after the short program at Trophee Eric Bompard. Joubert has tried to work with new styles for his programs this season, particularly his long program in which he skates to Beethoven. I'm not convinced that he is fully comfortable with either program just yet, but Brian seems to always be one who pulls it together in the second half of the season. It is no fluke that he's been on the podium at six of the last seven World Championships, and all nine European Championships that he has attended.

Alban Preaubert has to be one of the biggest models of consistency I have ever seen. He delivers clean programs nearly every time out, but his overall skating quality and lack of polish hold him back. Alban had consistent outings on the Grand Prix, but only finished 5th and 6th in his events. He is another skater that has strayed away from his usual comical programs for the free skate, and instead skates to a Schubert piece that remains at the same dynamic throughout. Another consistent outing here should probably be enough to get him on the podium, where he'll most likely have to battle it out with Amodio and Joubert at the European Championships for the two Tokyo Worlds berths.

The aforementioned Trophee Eric Bompard short program found Joubert not only behind Amodio, but also trailing Chafik Besseghier. When he is on, he has absolutely huge jumps and an excitement behind his skating. However, he showed just a day later at Bompard that he still is new to this level of skating and completely fell apart in the first half of his free skate. If he can pull two solid programs together this weekend, he may have a chance at challenging Preaubert or a completely-off Joubert.

Thomas Sosniak and Romain Ponsart both competed on the Junior Grand Prix this season, showing very respectable results. They should most likely round out the top six.

Monday, December 13

Johnny vs. Bethenny Throw-Down-- one reason to still watch Skating With the Stars?

Fast forward to 5:20 to see the throw-down begin. Things start off sweet from Mr. Weir, but ten seconds later he's singing a different story.

All things that happened in the past aside, I thought Bethenny did well to keep her mouth shut this time around while Johnny instigated things during his review. Partner Ethan Burgess seems to be over all of the cattiness.

I know Bethenny has made comments that she really doesn't care what the judges think, but we've seen actual competitive skaters say they care more about making the audience happy than pleasing judges-- do those skaters get told that there's essentially no point in watching them anymore? I don't think so. It's a stupid television show that won't come back for a second season, and it isn't going to make Johnny any more famous. I wish he would have just shut his mouth this week.

By the way, if I had only skated for two months and was trying to make the best of this disaster of a show, I'd probably be a little upset with hearing how bad I was every week, too... especially when other skaters can fall and be dragged all over the place and be told how fun and great they are (see Vince in week two).

Sunday, December 12

Hey, How About We Lay off Rachael Flatt a Bit?

This post basically serves as a reply to the article I just read by Philip Hersh, who discusses how brilliant Alissa Czisny was en route to winning the Grand Prix Final this weekend and how miserable Rachael Flatt was in her last-place finish of the six qualified ladies.

First of all, note the bold term above. Only six ladies make it out of the Grand Prix regular season events, and Rachael Flatt earned silver medals at both the NHK Trophy and Skate America en route to qualifying her spot in Beijing. Her overall total score from the two events was 323.90 points. Whatever you think about comparing scores across events aside, that total was good enough for fourth-best of all the ladies that skated in two events. She finished higher than eventual Grand Prix Final silver medalist Carolina Kostner at Skate America, and she finished on top of bronze medalist Kanako Murakami at the NHK Trophy.

You want more stats? Mirai Nagasu finished with 314.02 points, Ashley Wagner 310.75 points, and Agnes Zawadzki with 308.13 points. It wasn't earth-shaking when Nagasu dropped from first in the short at Cup of China to fourth overall, and it wasn't a big deal when Wagner earned just 90 points in her free skate at NHK Trophy, her first event. Those three, along with Czisny and Flatt, figure to be among the front-runners for the two World Championship spots up for grabs at the National Championships next month.

Rachael will not be the next Michelle Kwan or Sasha Cohen in terms of popularity in the United States, but this event was one of the worst (if not the absolute worst) of her life and already it's the end of the world in Philip Hersh's eyes. Flatt did her part at the 2009 World Championships in hopes of earning the US three spots to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but then-National Champion Czisny finished outside the top 10 at the event. She may not have had the best Grand Prix season the following fall, but she did best Yu-Na Kim in the long program at Skate America. It seems like everything I read about her lately just focuses on all of the negatives, but we seem to forget how Rachael was the model of consistency for some time while plenty of other American ladies were either crashing and burning all over the ice or under-rotating every other jump (and some still continue to have this problem).

By the way, Philip Hersh: "dead last" is such a dramatic way of describing the situation. There's six-- yes, just six of the supposed best ladies in the world competing in the event. It's not like she finished 25th in the short program at the World Championships. Give me a break. Yes, I'm aware that the scores she posted may very well have her 25th or lower in the event that it was Worlds, but it wasn't.

In all honesty, I'm not that wowed by Rachael Flatt. But if you read my comments about most of the other ladies this season, there's not much a difference. The discipline itself is just not that interesting anymore, and Flatt is not a severe unique case by any means. However, comments such as these
Unless Flatt's fortunes improve dramatically the rest of the 2010-11 season, she would be wise to consider ending a competitive career that will be judged as an impressive success, with the U.S. title, the world junior title, an Olympic appearance and two world team appearances.
Flatt has so many other good things to do with her time - and the intelligence to do any of them.
The temptation is to tell her there still is time to enroll at Stanford for the winter quarter.
honestly make me want to root for her even more when she shows up to Greensboro. One bad event should hardly make one suggest that she should give up. If anything, preaching about Czisny just paragraphs above those statements, while reminding readers that she went from 3rd to 9th to 1st to 10th at Nationals in the last four years, should show that everyone has a bad day.