Wednesday, October 26

Pechalat and Bourzat Withdraw from Skate Canada

Skate Canada has confirmed on Twitter that the French team of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat have withdrawn from the second stop of the Grand Prix, taking place this weekend in Mississauga, Ontario. Bourzat was visibly fighting off bronchitis at Skate America last weekend, where the team was able to win the silver medal. Their third event of the series is scheduled to be at home at Trophee Eric Bompard, three weeks from now.

Skate Canada also announced that there is no plan to replace them; that leaves seven couples scheduled to compete.

ISU Recognizes Mroz Quadruple Lutz

Today, the ISU has recognized that American skater Brandon Mroz became the first person to land a quadruple Lutz cleanly in sanctioned competition, doing so at the Colorado Springs Invitational a month ago.

Michael Weiss (USA) and Evgeny Plushenko (RUS) are among skaters who have unsuccessfully tried the jump in the past. Weiss came extremely close in his attempt at the 1998 US National Chamionships. Nearly four seasons later, Plushenko attempted the jump at the 2001 Cup of Russia-- something that he reportedly only started working on three days before the competition.

[Expand story for video clips of quad Lutz attempts and Mroz's successful attempt]

Skate America: The Good, the Bad, and Everything In-Between

I'm welcoming myself back to blogging with my 'awards' from Skate America-- nothing goes unnoticed here, good or bad!

Click on the title to read the full article. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 7

Denise Biellmann Appreciation

I have a feeling that the following video is one of those performances that you either love or really hate. I'm a total lover this time around, and I'd be thrilled if I ever get into the kind of shape that Denise is in-- even to this day. Watch the speed and power she maintains throughout the skate, and she was 31 at the time! And to think that I could have seen this competition live (1994 North American Open) in my hometown as a seven-year-old.

Denise ended up winning, but you can see the judges weren't quite sure what to do with it, and I believe this is the only time she ever skated this "Frantic" program.

Wednesday, May 4

Yankowskas/Coughlin Done

I NEVER saw this one coming. I thought they showed the most potential of any US pair in a long, long time and they had a really successful season, finishing the year with a 6th place finish at Worlds. Former National Champions Denney/Barrett also went their separate ways earlier this year.

It sounds like Caitlyn is still interested in competing with a new partner, while John "wants to stay involved in the sport, which I'd interpret as becoming a full-time coach.

Tiffany and Johnnie Stiegler

We are now into the summer months, meaning it's perfect time for me to continue catching up on a whole lot of skating I missed throughout the years. Expect many more of these brief history/video posts!

Among the 'treasures' I have found so far are the performances of brother-sister pair team Tiffany and Johnnie Stiegler from the 1995 US Olympic Festival (a now defunct competition that featured some of the top up-and-coming youngsters from the States). She just age 11 and he only 13 at the time, their choreography and her sense of style, in particular, was truly remarkable. How many of us have longed for a US pairs girl that really has 'it'? I'd say she certainly had it.

Unfortunately, the team never really achieved great success once they reached the senior level, although they were twice pewter medalists (4th place) at Nationals. This particular competition was broadcast before the days that I recorded any skating, and I believe some of the only performances I do remember of theirs are the Grand Prix series in late 1999. Lifetime covered the circuit back then and turned everything very soap opera-y, and the particular short program I remember to 'Nightmare' paled in comparison to these two programs.


Saturday, April 30

2011 Worlds - Ladies Wrap-Up

Once again, I tried the whole live quick thoughts on Twitter for the final group of ladies today. If you aren't following me, please do so! Here is my summary..

1 Miki Ando - Much like with Patrick Chan, I like Miki, but I just don't really warm up to her programs very often. She skated an excellent short program, and aside from a step-out of a double toe, she delivered a strong free skate technically. What I don't care for is the relatively simplistic choreography and no real relation to the music. I'd say she's never been an "artist", but I also wish that one day she'd wake up and really connect to the programs she is given. Some of the jumps in the free skate looked questionable as to whether an under-rotation should have been called, but overall she was good. She has a great personality and always seems to doubt herself, so I hope she lets this second World title really sink in.

2 Yu-Na Kim - I loved Yu-Na's free skate music and choreography, but I wish she would have gotten more mileage out of it before Worlds, because it looked like she had to really focus on the program rather than sell it. The singling of the flip obviously cost her the gold medal (and technically a double flip would have probably been just enough for her to win, as in by 0.01), but I have a feeling if I score this myself, she'd be the winner. At least she'd win the free skate... I think. That might be a post for another day. I'm glad she is still around, and I think she has a lot more to offer in the sport in the next few seasons.

3 Carolina Kostner - Absolutely gorgeous, perfect jumps to start the free skate, but then it started to go downhill with a popped triple loop and then another that didn't seem to be all the way around (but still received full credit). I like Carolina and I like that she's had a decent season after a few poor seasons, but she used to be known for her amazing speed. Not anymore.. she crawls. The program is nice, but I think I would have had her behind 4th-place Leonova.

4 Alena Leonova - I've been so meh about her all season, but she was a very welcome change to the otherwise somewhat boring free skate. Her program was dynamic, she moved in interesting (if not quite the most refined) ways, and she skated extremely well aside from a doubled flip. The edge call on the triple Lutz was probably enough of a difference to keep her from bronze as less than a point separated Alena and Carolina. I used to be bothered by the over-the-top dramatics she would provide after every single skate, but it was really genuine here, and it was nice to see.

5 Alissa Czisny - Nice program, nice recovery after a nasty fall on the very first jump, a triple Lutz. She's made great improvements to her consistency this year, but I wish that she, too, would work on her speed.  No downgrades or under-rotations here!

I haven't watched 6th-place Mao Asada yet but I sense that she's probably just relieved that this long season is over. 7th-place Ksenia Makarova started out strong and had a shot for the bronze medal, but a hard fall on a triple loop and being called for four combinations/sequences killed her score.

Rachael Flatt had a stress fracture that she didn't tell anyone about until after she finished 12th place (14th in the long program). I like Rachael and it's clear the judges were more than ready to boost her up into the top 3 in the short program if not for the doubled jump, but I think she's going to get a lot of scrutiny for her choice to go to Worlds now. She probably should have just said she had a bad day rather than reveal any details.

The Canadian ladies finished in 13th and 16th, and miss retaining two ladies for 2012 Worlds by one spot. Japan and Russia are the only countries that will have three ladies next year. The USA, for the fourth straight Worlds, will send two.

I'm so glad this season is over. My interest in ladies skating took a total nosedive as the year went on, and I'm hoping for a lot of fresh, dynamic and exciting programs in 2012.

Thursday, April 28

Amodio Used Vocal Music Intentionally

I don't know. I loved Florent last season but this year his attitude seems to have changed greatly (thank you Morozov, no doubt). I'm getting a Surya Bonaly 1998 "I'm going to backflip no matter what the rules are" vibe from him after listening to him explain why he intentionally broke the rules. But hey, he didn't even get deducted.

2011 Worlds - Mens Wrap-Up

I decided to go the Twitter route for quick comments throughout the mens long program, and thanks to everyone that joined in and shared their own thoughts!

I'll start by saying this: if you didn't get to see the skating live, you might want to spare yourself the confusion and frustration by just watching the top two men, who were absolutely wonderful.

Patrick Chan definitely deserved his gold medal, landing two quads. His only mistake came on his triple Axel, which he stepped out of. The performance wasn't as solid as the short program, but it was still enough to give him the title by over 22 points. Crazy!

Takahiko Kozuka, who already skated his long program in the preliminary round on Monday, delivered a flawless performance including a fully-rotated quad toe loop. He gave Chan a bit of a run for his money in the free skate, besting him on the technical mark. It was enough to pull him up from 6th to the silver medal.

Artur Gachinski was the surprise bronze medalist to just about everyone except maybe himself and coach Alexei Mishin. He delivered an energetic free skate with solid technical content, including another quad toe/triple toe, just as he did in the short program.

And then the weird happened.

Michal Brezina landed two gorgeous quads only to later fall on both a triple flip and a triple Lutz. Still, he was able to move up to 4th place for the second straight year.

2010 World Champion Daisuke Takahashi had boot problems in the opening seconds of his free skate, and it unfortunately caused him to turn his planned quad toe loop into a single. A full restart was not allowed, so he kept the jumping pass, earning 0.16 points. Later, he had trouble with a triple Axel and fell on a triple Salchow. It was a mad rush to get his boot fixed in time before being disqualified (shades of Tonya Harding in 1994), and both he and his coach seemed satisfied with the effort he put out under the circumstances. There wasn't much he could do, unfortunately.

Nobunari Oda would be the bronze medalist if he'd learn to count. Seriously. I'm so frustrated that for the second time at a World Championship, he is off the podium because he does too many jumps. He lost 13.86 points when he repeated a triple toe loop for the third time, dropping him down to 6th place.

Even more odd.. Florent Amodio closed the show with his modern One Republic/Black Eyed Peas/Michael Jackson number, and his exhibition version, full with vocals, played through the arena. It's unclear whether it was intentional or an error on the part of the music operator, (he said afterwards that it was his decision) but he received no music violation which makes me believe it was the latter. Still, a crazy way to end an already bizarre day. He ended up in seventh place.

Brian Joubert had a great free skate but his short program issues (not doing a combination when he had the chance) kept him down in eighth place. This is only the second time since 2004 that he is not on the podium. The last time it happened was also in Moscow, in 2005.

The American men finished 9th, 11th, and 13th, with Richard Dornbush leading the way. Respectable placements, and about as much as you could ask for from all three.

Wednesday, April 27

2011 Worlds - Mens SP Thoughts

I didn't wake up to watch this event live, so I've spent my afternoon downloading all 30 performances and writing some quick notes. Here we go...

1 Patrick Chan CAN - I'm a fan of Patrick's, but there are definitely a few other skaters that I enjoy much more. However, he absolutely ran away with this short program by a mile. All of the elements were solid, and they fell right into place in the program without anything having long preparation or breaks. His ice coverage is amazing, and his weakest element (change-foot camel) was still pretty good. I'd even venture to say that comparatively speaking, his choreography and especially his transition mark seemed a bit low(!)

Sounds like a it'll be a really positive review after that, right? Hmph...

2 Nobunari Oda JPN - I keep mentioning how he is always my dark horse, and he's put himself in good position. Unfortunately today, though, he was totally flat to me, especially compared to the Grand Prix Final.. he was on fire there. Quad toe with a big step-out and then a wobble in the footwork. Everything else was alright, but again.. nothing remarkable.

3 Daisuke Takahashi JPN - Both his triple flip and triple Lutz looked like they switched edges, however that is possible. The flip at the very least seemed to take off from the flat, and he got called for it. His change-foot camel was poor at best (and I still hate that dumb flying upright spin), and I have an issue with the judges giving him +2 and +3 for his footwork sequence when his bobble was, in my opinion, just as noticeable as Oda's. It's a fun program, but I think the choreography and overall package was infinitely better in last seasons short. As much as I like him, his choreography mark shouldn't have beaten Chan, and his transitions mark shouldn't have even been close.

4 Artur Gachinski RUS - I've ragged on him all year, and I really want to like him since he is so young and progressing well. However, the choreography of this program literally consists of arm movements and maybe a single three-turn towards the beginning. He skates on the slow side so there is hardly ice coverage, and there was really nothing going on besides having a nice quad toe/triple toe. The loop had minimal steps into it and then he caught his heel on the way out.. at least he fought to stay up on it. I'd have all of his components down from what they were, but it is what it is..

5 Florent Amodio FRA - I like this program. I don't love that all of his jumps come so quickly in the beginning, but he really gets into it. The flip was definitely on the outside edge and he got called for it, and everything else was good, but I wouldn't say he's at that 'great' level yet. Still, I'd have him in front of Gachinski.

6 Takahiko Kozuka JPN - I've tried all year to get into this program, but it's just not what I want to see from my favorite skater. It doesn't showcase his gorgeous skating skills, and the whole 'fun' feel just doesn't fit his personality at this point in his career. The Axel was so crooked that he is pretty lucky that he just put his hands down. Choreography a whole .25 better than Gachinski? The judges are so generous. Sarcasm.

7 Michal Brezina CZE - He, along with Javier Fernandez, has one of the most effortless triple Axels I have ever seen. Gorgeous. Flip/toe was a little big and he had to step out of the latter. All three of his jumps were done in the first 30 seconds a la Amodio.. not such a fan of that. The program was good, but I feel like it could have had more intensity and built to a stronger finish.

8 Tomas Verner CZE - He went for the quad toe but went down.. the only fall in the top 14. Lutz/toe had a little hop around on the landing. I like the personality that comes through in his programs, but I just don't see the difficulty or speed that some of the men above him have. I feel like the changing coaches might have made him more consistent, but it also seems to have watered down the overall content within his programs.

9 Brian Joubert FRA - If you have been competing for as long as you have, there is no excuse to not add a triple toe on the end of the flip. He probably threw away four points right there, and then he'd be about five points off of the bronze medal heading into the long. Seriously, it infuriates me. Anyways, I think he was lucky with his score considering he followed Amodio who had the same music and a stronger program, and I still hate his flying upright spin, too. He doesn't have the skating skills to match Chan or the Japanese skaters, so he usually relies on his flair and intensity. It has never come through with this program (and the judges finally seem to be more accurately scoring him in PCS).

10 Denis Ten KAZ - Well I was sure wrong with my suggestion that he might be in danger of qualifying for the free skate! Axel was gorgeous, lutz/toe had a bit of a shake out of it. One of the few really nice camel positions in the event, and a great set of of spins. Stephane Lambiel did well choreographing this program, even if Denis is still a bit introverted on the interpretation. PCS should have been higher, but he skated very early in the day.

The Americans-- Richard Dornbush is 11th. His jumps really fly. I much prefer his free skate but he's put himself in a really good position after skating 3rd of the 30 men today. Ryan Bradley is right behind him.  He did a quad toe/double toe that was hunched over between the two jumps, but he did a beauty of a triple Axel. Even so, He's one of the slowest men out there, he crawls through relatively simple footwork, his spins are poor at best, and he doesn't skate to the beat of the (moderately quick) music at all. I'd be a hater and go lower on the PCS. At least the judges had him third of the three American men in that regard. Ross Miner is 13th, and I haven't seen his performance yet.  I heard a lot of talk on Facebook and elsewhere about the possibility of only one American man even making it to the later groups-- they've all done themselves well so far.

And some other comments down the line...

15 Kevin Van der Perren BEL - Another joke in PCS, nothing new. Almost 7 in skating skills and choreography? This was one of the most minimal programs of the night, and he spends most of the time skating around on two feet. The footwork and spins haven't ever been exactly great, either.

16 Peter Liebers GER - One of my personal favorites of the day, and probably the most screwed. Infinitely improved since last season, and I'd have his transition and choreography scores higher. There's no way skaters like Gachinski, Bradley, and Van der Perren deserved higher PCS than this effort.

19 Kevin Reynolds CAN - It's like all of the energy has been sucked out of him since Skate Canada to start the season. No quad, and nothing spectacular. His skating has improved, so I expected much more.

The Swedes both failed to qualify, with Adrian Schultheiss finishing 25th and Alexander Majorov 28th. Schultheiss didn't seem to be into his performance, and had falls on both the triple Lutz and in the middle of his footwork. Majorov was possibly the biggest shock performance of the day after such strong skates earlier his season and in qualifying. He fell out of his triple Axel and popped his combo to a single Lutz/single toe. Any pop just kills the score.

2011 Worlds - Mens Short Program

Anyone going to watch this live? For now, here is the starting order.

Warm-Up Group 1
2 Min-Seok KIM KOR
5 Denis TEN KAZ

Warm-Up Group 2
11 Misha GE UZB

Warm-Up Group 3
17 Alexander MAJOROV SWE

Warm-Up Group 4
19 Florent AMODIO FRA
22 Patrick CHAN CAN
23 Takahiko KOZUKA JPN

Warm-Up Group 5
30 Nobunari ODA JPN

Tuesday, April 26

Ladies Short Program - How the Draw Will Look

I know this interests some readers, so I grouped the 30 ladies into where they will fit in the short program start order based on current ISU rules.

Ladies that will draw anywhere from 1st to 15th to skate (first two warm-up groups, first three in warm-up group number three):

Lacoste (CAN), McCorkell (GBR), Glebova (EST), Lafuente (ESP), Meite (FRA), Vannut (BEL), Lee (AUS), Geng (CHN), Turkkila (FIN), Schonberger (AUT), Johnson (DEN), Grm (SLO), Pavuk (HUN), Movchan (UKR), Heim (SUI)

Ladies that will draw from 16th to 18th position to skate (final three skaters in warm-up group three):

V Helgesson (SWE), J Helgesson (SWE), Hecken (GER) -- so the odds of seeing the sisters back-to-back are very high

Ladies that will draw from 19th to 30th position to skate (final two warm-up groups of six):

Kostner (ITA), Kim (KOR), Ando (JPN), Korpi (FIN), Asada (JPN), Leonova (RUS), Czisny (USA), Flatt (USA), Makarova (RUS), Murakami (JPN), Phaneuf (CAN), Gedevanishvili (GEO)

Worlds Day Two; Mens Practice Videos

The ice dance and ladies preliminary rounds took place earlier today. No surprises in the qualifiers in dance, but the Czechs Mysliveckova and Novak completely missed two elements and finished down in eighth place. Good thing all is forgiven on Thursday.

The ladies qualification also went pretty much as expected, but the surprise here was that Korean Min-Jeong Kwak failed to make it out of this round. I thought she was grossly overscored at Worlds last year, but I warmed up to her this season. Figures.

The start orders for the men and pairs short programs are now online. All three American men skate in the first half, and Dornbush and Miner unfortunately skate in the very first group. Frenchmen Amodio and Joubert skate back-to-back, which might really put the pressure on Brian, and Nobunari Oda ends the night.

Below the cut, Youtube user WinterForever2009 has published some videos of the mens practices from the last few days.

ISU Championship Direct Entries: Skater or Country?

Just a quick thought: in the event that the ISU keeps the procedure of having lower-ranked skaters/teams compete in a preliminary round before the "actual competition" in Championship events, should the policy be changed so that those skaters who earned a direct entry for their country in the previous season automatically retain that entry in the following year? Moreover, should only that skater or team be able to use the entry for their country?

If I've lost you, I'll give an example from today. Takahiko Kozuka ended up having to skate the qualifying round as Japan's third-best ISU World Standing entry in the competition (behind Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda), even though it was Oda who had one of the biggest implosions in the history of the sport at last years Worlds, causing him to fail to qualify for the free skate. Kozuka finished in 10th place, which, along with Takahashi and his gold medal win, earned Japan the two direct entries to the short program this week. By the way, Kozuka is the current Japanese National Champion.

In the same light, Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic finished the 2010 Worlds in 4th place, but since he has a lower ISU World Standing than teammate Tomas Verner, it is Brezina who had to skate in today's preliminary round, while Verner gets an additional two days of practice before his competition begins.

My thought is that a skater or team who earns a direct entry from the previous season should be able to keep that entry if they are once again competing. On the other hand, if that skater does NOT compete in the next season, then the spot is given up and the replacement skater would have to enter into the preliminary round. 

This is a hypothetical because it did not end up happening, but imagine if Joannie Rochette returned to competition this season and was given the direct entry over Cynthia Phaneuf because of the World Standings. It's like telling Phaneuf, "Well, thanks for your amazing 5th-place finish last year! We are going to reward you with one extra day of competition for your efforts!" .... you get the picture.

Continuing, Viktoria Pavuk of Hungary had her best results some seven seasons ago, but thanks to Julia Sebestyen's top-18 World placement last year, she now goes straight to the short program. I'm not intentionally ragging on Hungary here, I promise, but ice dance team Dora Turoczi and Balazs Major also have a direct entry into the short dance thanks to the placement of teammates Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin last season. It's very likely that Turoczi and Major wouldn't have made it past the preliminary round had they been required to skate.

Brooke Frieling and Lionel Rumi of Israel are also direct entries thanks to the now-retired siblings Sasha and Roman Zaretski's 2010 World Championship placement. Frieling and Rumi were 20th at this years Europeans. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy have only competed in a few 'lower'-lever ISU competitions, but they also get the direct entry here after the retirement of 2010 World bronze medalists Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali. 

German team Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi finished 7th at the European Championships this season, but they are forced to skate the preliminary round because they did not compete last season. I understand that, and I think that is how it should be. The 10th-place team at Europeans, Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak of the Czech Republic, are also in the preliminary round. They did compete at the 2010 World Championships, but finished just outside of the placements that earned direct entries.

What do you think?

Monday, April 25

Mens Preliminary (Qualifying) Round Videos

I've been searching YouTube all day in hopes that we'd get something from the event, and two videos have popped up so far: winner Takahiko Kozuka, and 11th-place qualifier Misha Ge.

(4/26: I've also added Michal Brezina's skate)

2011 World Championships- Which Ladies Will Advance from Qualifying?

Well, I went 12 for 12 with the mens qualifiers, but who is really counting? Much more difficult to predict will be the 12 ladies that advance out of the preliminary round tomorrow; here are my guesses:

Ira Vannut BEL
Amelie Lacoste CAN
Karina Johnson DEN
Elena Glebova EST
Juulia Turkkila FIN
Mae Bernice Meite FRA
Roberta Rodeghiero ITA
Min-Jeong Kwak KOR
Dasa Grm SLO
Sonia Lafuente ESP
Joshi Helgesson SWE
Bettina Heim SUI

Vannut, Lacoste, Johnson, Glebova, Turkilla, Meite, Kwak, Lafuente, and Helgesson should all qualify fairly easily-- barring complete meltdown. Rodeghiero, Grm, and Heim would be my picks for the final three spots, but skaters like Ukrainian Irina Movchan might finally decide to pull it together here.

Many of these ladies have yet to actually skate a long program in an ISU Championship; it will be interesting to see if anyone takes advantage of not having to complete the do-or-die required elements of the short program.

Giselle: A Peek at Yu-Na Kim's Short Program

I hesitated sharing this after seeing the original, choppy feed of her program, but I found a much smoother and clearer version on YouTube.

So, my verdict? I'm really liking it-- the middle slow section in particular. There are some nice, sudden movements to match the music and I like the way she exits the double Axel. As this is a practice session, I suspect her footwork sequence will have 5000 times the energy in actual competition. I thought James Bond was always borderline-gimmicky. Not the case here, and I'm excited to see it when it counts.

Photos from Mens Qualifying

No summary here as, to my knowledge, the qualifying round was not broadcast anywhere. You can read the protocol on the event page for an idea of how everyone skated, but things seemed to go pretty much as expected right on down the line.

Anyways, here are some pics from the day (after weeding through tons of mid-jump face shots).

1st Place - Takahiko Kozuka

2nd Place- Alexander Majorov

3rd Place- Michal Brezina

5th Place- Viktor Pfeifer

8th Place- Kim Lucine

9th Place- Maxim Shipov

14th Place- Justus Strid

18th Place- Kutay Eryoldas

And (second-to-) last but not least, 23rd Place- Sarkis Hayrapetyan (seriously, who would ever think this is a good picture?)

Sunday, April 24

2011 World Championships- Which Men Will Advance from Qualifying?

The ISU has activated their 2011 World Championship start order & result page, and we now officially see which skaters will compete in the new preliminary round.

There are 24 men competing in the preliminary round, and half of them will end their competition here, while the top 12 finishers will advance to the 'actual' competition and skate in the short program. Which 12 will qualify? Here are my guesses.

Viktor Pfeifer AUT
Jorik Hendrickx BEL
Joey Russell CAN
Michal Brezina CZE
Peter Liebers GER
Maxim Shipov ISR
Paolo Bacchini ITA
Takahiko Kozuka JPN
Kim Lucine MON
Min-Seok Kim KOR
Alexander Majorov SWE
Misha Ge UZB

Justus Strid (DEN) and Bela Papp (FIN) could also potentially qualify.

Your thoughts?

He DOES Still Exist?!

Much like the Easter bunny (Happy Easter, by the way), I still *do* exist! I know I up and disappeared two times in the last four months, but I'm really going to do my best to follow the World Championships and once again find the passion for the sport that I've had for the last 18 years.

Saturday, February 19

Four Continents - The Ladies Short Program

Here are my quick thoughts from the ladies short program. All other events to follow in time ;-)

1 Miki Ando - All three jump elements flowed well, particularly the Lutz/loop. The individual loop had some really nice footwork directly leading into it, probably the highlight of the program for me. The footwork sequence has some nice and difficult content, but it goes on forever and loses me by the time it is 3/4 done. On that note-- this program, while it works 5000 times better than her prior short program, seems to be a practice session where she is told to go from one element to the next with very little going on in-between. She received the highest transition mark (well, all five components actually), but she didn't even have transitions in all honesty. The program didn't fill the ice well at all, and her speed was at the "meh" level the whole way. The music might ask for slower skating than usual, but not that slow. Even though I'm sounding really harsh about her, I *do* like this program and I guess at this point in her career, designing a program that makes her confident in herself is a great idea. Clean skates in the ladies short program are so rare these days!

2 Mao Asada - Last year, I think she had a bit of Miki's above problem going on-- lots of focus on the triple Axel, crawling around the ice preparing just for one or two major moves, etc. This year she has changed that and made the 'announcement' of the triple Axel attempt much more subtle. Almost there this time, just a bit short but the rotation looked tight and at least she actually went for it. What is my problem, though? This is a tango with really dynamic and sharp music. The way Mao performed today, it seemed to be very 'another day at the office' to me with no real passion behind her movements. If she can take the intensity that she had last year and put it into this short program, I think it could be very effective. Anyways, you better believe I'm happy that she's seeming to get it together more and more as the season progresses.

3 Rachael Flatt - Well, what a surprise. I liked this program at Nationals, but I LOVED it here. I think everyone can agree that we were sick of seeing the typical jazzy, stop and do silly arm/hand choreography during the footwork that we were so accustomed to with Rachael, and this program surprisingly really works. Put the Michelle Kwan comparisons aside.. I doubt anyone will ever top her performance to this music at the 1998 World Pros. This is still a great effort. The jumps flowed more than usual, there were some quality transitional movements, and the speed and ice coverage were great as well. I'm a definite fan, and it was my favorite of the day. Who knew?!

4 Mirai Nagasu - Not much to say here. I'm not blown away by this short program, but I've warmed up to it much more since the Grand Prix. Lutz looked off and there was no flow out of it, and then her flip was done right up against the boards. The highlight of the program for me was the first half of the circular step that she seemed to do with such ease on one foot. I don't think it has sunk in for many people that she was the *winner* of the short program at Worlds last year, and she didn't even qualify this year. Talk about an inconsistent discipline all the way around.

5 Alissa Czisny - Back to the old problems with the Lutz. I adore this program but I wish she'd go about it with more attack and speed. The music is slow, but she can still go faster (a la Ando). Anyways, her musical sense and overall interpretation were definitely the strongest of this top five for me. The judges thought she interpreted the music fourth-best. Hmph.

By the way, Amelie Lacoste of Canada received credit for a triple loop/triple loop combination with the < (under-rotated) mark. She has received full credit for the combination in the past (all the way back to the 2005 Junior Grand Prix!)

Friday, February 18

First Things First.. Remember Walter Toigo?

If you were following my blog back in late-August or September, you might remember my post about Italian judge Walter Toigo, and the videos I linked to from YouTube that made it seem as if he was copying the marks of the judges nearest him in the Junior Grand Prix Courchevel competition. Read part one and part two if you haven't yet been enlightened to the drama.

I was told today that Toigo has indeed received a two-year suspension by the ISU, and it also extends to being banned from judging national competitions during this time.

Maybe the ISU does have some sense after all? :-)

Thursday, February 3

As if the US Nationals mens free skate wasn't already amazing..

To recap quickly, we didn't see three skaters between coverage on IceNetwork and NBC of the mens free skate, because of NBC's decision to re-air short programs during group three of the long program. That meant the performances of Jason Wong, Grant Hochstein, and Jason Brown were skipped. While the former two fell a bit in the standings, Brown scored the seventh-best free skate on the unbelievable day of performances and finished in ninth overall.

First things first. I know I've commented so many times that this exact piece of music (Violin Fantasy on Puccini's Turandot) is a very safe bet and no matter how lacking your choreography or interpretive skills may be, the music will help lift you and also get the audience excited if you deliver. That's my feeling, at least. This isn't the case with Jason Brown at all. What an amazing program in all aspects-- and he knows how to listen to the music! The critical side of me can note that he doesn't have a triple Axel yet nor does his skating have much power to it at this point. At the same time, there's such a seemingly genuine quality to him and the way he composes himself that made me become an instant fan. I hope you enjoy this program as much as I did. Another memory from Sunday, as if we didn't already have enough!

Sunday, January 30

Bradley, Dornbush, and Miner on World Team

As per a USFS Tweet that just got posted.

Abbott, Rippon, and Mahbanoozadeh are going to Four Continents.

Joshua Farris Broken Ankle During Skate

I noted that he was crying and I believe he said he gave up in the kiss and cry after his free skate that dropped him to the bottom of the Nationals standings, but he updated his Twitter that he actually BROKE his ankle during the program and had to go to the emergency room following the skate. (I'm assuming he meant 4PM, not 4AM).!/joshdfarris

What does the USFS Do Now?

We are going to find out soon enough, but what does the USFS do? Bradley wins by six points, Dornbush second, and Miner third. However, the point difference between second and fourth is 1.40 points, and the difference between Miner and Abbott (4th) is .20. Does the USFS give the nod to Jeremy based on his history, or do they let two newcomers in Dornbush and Miner go to Tokyo with Bradley?

I wanted Miner to do so well here and mentioned he was the underdog from the beginning of the event, so I really want him to be the third representative to Worlds. Do I think it's likely? Probably not. One of the major reasons is the unpredictability/ISU scoring of Bradley, and a complete newcomer in Dornbush. The USFS might consider Abbott the strongest shot in the USA keeping three spots for 2012.

US Nationals - Mens Free Skate Final Group

Jeremy Abbott's smiles in warm-up frustrate me, because they usually disappear by the time of the performance.

Keegan Messing starts this off. I really, really enjoyed him in the short program. He's made huge improvements in his skating. 3A forwards but landed, 4T with a hand down but rotated. Huge air on flying sit and fast rotations but it's traveling more than any other spin so far in this free skate. Spread eagle and a reverse turn into a 2A, that was some nice choreography. 3Lz/2T. Flying camel not the best of positions into a change edge and it's again not amazing. 3A had to get way down in his knees/2T. Straight line step and how I want to be in the audience. The atmosphere there has to be ridiculous after all of these brilliant skates. Low sit spin into an upright twist variation/sit and this time it's well centered and the fastest of any spins so far. This music from The Hulk was on an episode of Family Guy I'm pretty sure. Just saying. Circular footwork step is a nice change of pace in the program. Still scratchy and not the best basics but there really is an excitement to all 5'3 of him. 3Lo, 3F/2T/2Lo, 3Lz at the LAST second. Wow. Program components won't be as strong as the previous three, but with two triple Axels and a quad that I think was all the way rotated, he might make this close. 76.56/66.94 = 143.50. 213.29 and he drops to fourth behind all three of the men in the previous group.

Douglas Razzano- 3A an absolute beauty. 4T that was rotated but he had to step out. 3A that he had but then lost balance and tried to fight it on his blades and fell backwards. 3Lz gets him back on track. Not much else going on so far in the program, though, and that should be reflected in his components scores. This is tango music but he's another one that seems a bit too focused on everything rather than letting muscle memory do the work and really sell it. 3T/3T. Spread eagle into 3S. 3Lo a good one too. 2A/2T/2Lo. He's a good skater and he's landed all of his jumps aside from the second Axel, but his focus really detracted from the audience involvement here and he could have capitalized from the energy of the previous four skaters. Still, he's been a really nice surprise in this event. Now that he knows what he is capable of, hopefully he's able to show his confidence. 206.76 and down to sixth. Pretty sure his coach said "my ass" when reacting to the components scores.

Ross Miner- Circular footwork to start. He has nice speed and great flow from one end to the other. Big 3A/2T. 3Lz/3T-- a beauty. 3A again and he holds on to it, curling the landing edge. Flying camel/fly over/sit/upright. My feed cut out for a second, but back for 3S/2T/2T. I actually think I missed a good minute of that program. 3F with nice height and distance. He's bringing it, too! I said he was the forgotten one at the start of the short program. 2A. Well, I missed two jump elements but if he went clean on those, he's sure going to make this interesting. Based on his reaction, I'm going to guess that he was clean. Another standing ovation. 81.80/74.56 and 224.something overall, so second by a point or so.

Jeremy Abbott- My favorite long program of the year. Please, no nerves this time around. 3Lz to open. 3F. 3A/2T. I'm already nervous for him, and I haven't felt nervous this entire free skate. Now he relaxes for choreography and hopefully paces himself for the rest of the program. Circular steps match the music and are complex. 3A with the same difficult entrance as the short program, and a hand down. Not a severe mistake. 3Lz which was completely underrotated and fell. Should be called a double. 3Lo/2T/2T-- the loop looked cheated and the last toe loop came to a stop and he hopped around. 3S is good. 2A. He's going to get high scores for components, especially in the choreography and interpretation marks, but this should not be the first place free skate at this point. Luckily for him, he has a comfortable lead over third place and the rest of the field coming in. Still a beautiful program, but those three jump elements in the middle killed it. 66.91 79.86 224.16 and he's THIRD. Wow. This is going to be tough to decide who goes to Worlds.

Brandon Mroz- All this talk about needing music that he relates to, and I'm surprised. I don't think this On the Waterfront does much for his skating. He's a very internal, technical skater to begin with and you can tell the choreography isn't natural. 4T cheated, probably called a triple and stepped out. Things are REALLY interesting now. Dornbush has at least bronze, Miner at least fourth. 3A/2T backwards on the Axel, causing only a double on the end. 3Lz is back on track. 3Lo. A big factor in his score is going to be that quad, if it's downgraded, he's only going to get about 2 points for it. 3A again, he's fighting. 3Lz/3T, second jump he couldn't hold on and put the hand down right away. 3S. 3F/2T/2Lo-- the third jump had a big pre-turn but the loop allows that, so he might be okay. I like Brandon and he's been one of the most consistent if not the most consistent US man this year coming into the event, but when you have the performances of Adam, Richard, Armin, and Ross, he just doesn't stack up. 73.66/68.22 141.88 and 213.49 and down into sixth. Dornbush will be no lower than second, and Miner no lower than third. Abbott and Rippon follow. Who would have thought?

Anyways, though, aside from not seeing Jason Brown, the top 12 here (well, depending what Ryan does) have all been amazing. This would have been an awesome competition to attend.

Ryan Bradley- 4T is messy and he steps out. Not sure about the rotation there. 4T two-footed and fall-out and he does a 2T on the end. This gets REALLY interesting now. My original thought was that if Miner held third place, Abbott would go to Worlds over him based on only being .20 behind him in the total score. If Dornbush and Miner stay 1-2, their spots should be guaranteed and then there would be a mess between Bradley, Abbott, and Rippon. 3A is a little wild but landed. 3Lz. Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. Ryan can still win this. 3A/3T again shaky and but landed. 3Lo again a fight. He's landing the jumps but I think he's losing critical points on the GOEs. 3S/2T/2T-- again, first jump bent over. 3F. I don't know. His interpretation should be high, but his spins are definitely the worst out of these last two groups and his overall skating quality lacks. I don't hate him, I know some people seem to think I do after the short program comments, but I just don't think he did enough.. at least in my book.

151.51,  he wins!

US Nationals - Mens Free Skate Group Three

Here we go.. well not quite. Abbott and Bradley's short programs are being shown on NBC and that means no Grant Hochstein, who just moved into second overall behind Jonathan Cassar with 117.61 points in the free skate. Also not being aired is Jason Brown, who was in 11th after the short. 144.44 points in the free skate and into first by 20 points. See, NBC, you should have just showed the entire flight rather than airing short programs that happened two days ago. Jason Wong goes down into sixth overall.

So we start with Adam Rippon, down in 9th. 3A/stepout/2T. Not his jump this week. Spread eagles into 2A. I like this program much more than his short. Pumping his back up and down on the crossovers still, he really needs to work on that. 3Lz with both arms above his head, this time he gets it back. Circular footwork and a flying sit low position into twist. 3A beauty this time. 3F/3T and another good one. Another 3Lz/2T with both having a hand above the head. No three-jump combo here as he was too close to the wall. 3Lo-- he's increasing the energy now. Camel//y-spin/change/sit/variation. Straight line step and now he has the audience into it. I was worried in the first half, as I felt like it was going the same as the short-- somewhat boring. 3S and a combo spin to end. Well, he really redeemed himself after that first jump. It seems he's almost surprised that he was able to hold it together. Good for him. 76.36/77.42 = 153.78 and 220.40. Into first for now.

Richard Dornbush- 3F to start nice. 3A/3T and that was SIMPLE. 3Lz another simple jump. Remember his score last month at the Junior Grand Prix Final would have been competitive in the senior competition, and this first minute has shown why. Choreography has been complete and fun throughout so far, much better than the short program. Another EASY triple Axel. Wow. By Nationals scoring standards, they deserve +3's. 3S. 3F/2T/2Lo with a difficult edgework entry.. again simple. 2A/2A sequence. He reminds me of the Russians and how sometimes they choreograph arm movements or flashiness out of jumps to show control, but here there isn't flashiness-- there's just absolute perfect quality and control out of everything. Wow. This was amazing and you know I don't get that blown away by skating anymore. Absolutely amazing. 83.27/74.58 = 225.56 and first. I didn't know if the judges would go for it, but they did. I love Adam Rippon, but this was better.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh in 8th. Another one of my favorites. Walley and steps into 3Lz great. 3A crooked a bit but the landing is just fine. 3F/3T again great. What a group so far. 3Lo again nice and controlled. What I like about this Avatar is the variety of movements. It's not a classical straight-forward program, it's a more modern and abstract-y type soundtrack and his movements fit that. 3A/2T and he's fighting. Spread eagle into a 3F and again a fight. Camel with the cool position/sit/change/sit. He's still looking strong and 3S is good. Spirals into 2A/2T/2Lo and he's happy. Here comes all the energy for the choreographed step, and the crowd is getting behind him. This has been one of the most amazing back-to-back-to-back performances I've ever seen from these three. End combo spin with donut position and a scratch. Well, he couldn't have done anything more. Now he's probably asking himself what happened in the short. 215.05 and into third. What a strong third place though.

US Nationals - Mens Free Skate Earlier Groups

For those that have nothing better to do besides read my comments ;-)

Scott Dyer- 18th after short- 2A- solid, flying sit/change/camel/a-frame type spin, good center and speed, that fit the music and set a nice beginning. Long prep for 3Lz/3T-- Lutz had a slightly rough run-out and the toe loop had a fall out, popped 1F, Circular step sequence has some nice long, comfortable edges. His skating reminds me of Paul Wylie in a way, and that's a compliment. Flying sit into donut. All of the elements in the program have really fit the music and pacing, we don't see that much anymore vs. just throwing elements in wherever they will fit. 3Lo nice. 3Lz maybe a two-foot but run-out was fine. 3Lo/2T again nice, and a 2A again solid. Walley into 3S/2T/2Lo.. all of those jumps came really close together. Choreographed step again has some nice toe pick work and solid content throughout. Camel- fast and decent position/sit/y-spin/change/lay-over broken leg spin.. again an awesome position. I really liked him this time around, and that's honestly one of the more likable On the Waterfront programs that I've seen. 61.65/59.72 = 121.37 and 177.15 overall. Good score to start out the night.

Lloyd Ting- 22nd after short- 3Lz/2T- you can tell her wanted to go for a triple there. 2A that had a long take-off on the forward edge and a fall. Flying camel/upright crouch/change/sit pancake. 3F. 3S had a turn-out. Flying sit travels/change broken leg.. spins are a bit on the slow side. 3Lz nice height. 3F/2T, not sure about that being fully rotated. Circular step. I'm not a coach or a judge, but my advice to him would be to loosen up in the face. From the minute he started he's had this very serious and cautious look and I think it really affects to feel of the program, because this slower middle could be very nice. 3T. 2A again can't quite hold it and he turns out a bit. Kwiatkowski also says not much connection to the music. Second footwork sequence still has nice speed through it at the end of the program. Flying sit/pancake held for the entire time-- almost too long honestly because the speed really died about 3/4 of the way through. Not bad.. problems with the Axel today, but two nice Lutzes. Could have done another combination to get some more points. 51.78/45.64 -1.00 = 96.42 and 140.92 overall. Way low on the components.

Sean Rabbitt- 21st after short- 3Lz/1T, not the best of air positions in his jumps. 3S/3T, really fought for that one and the free leg swung a bit but a clean combo. Back spiral turns into 2Lz. Flying camel/ugly sit that I hate/change sit which is a nice position/y-spin. 3Lo. 3F. I like this music, and while I don't think it fits him as well as the short program Michael Jackson music did, it's not bad. Circular footwork somewhat labored. I guess my comment about him would be that he seems too loose in the upper body, and not in an effective way. It makes him look off-balance a lot and generally unfinished. 2A/2T/2T-- that flowed well. 2S-- rushed the take-off. Footwork again a bit sloppy in my opinion and there isn't much content. Spread eagle turn 2A. Camel/outside/a-frame/ change/ sit twist/scratch. Out of steam at the end of that combo. He has some interesting qualities, I just think he needs something more upbeat or 'odd' (think Phillip Glass) to match his unrefined style. There are ways to work with it! 51.93/52.36 = 104.29 and 155.71 total. Second.

Parker Pennington- 19th after short- 3A leaned and a fall. 2A/3T-- short of rotation on the toe loop. 3Lo. Flying camel- nice position into a lay-over/catch-foot donut. Spirals into a 3F. Circular step actually has some really nice choreography to go along with the music, I really liked that. Spread eagle into a 3S. Walley 3Lz/2T/2T with a hand over the head on the latter. Two different styles between the programs, which he choreographed himself. I find him to be a lot more interesting now than in the past. 3Lz free leg took a while to get out and it was landed back on the blade. 3F was severely cheated. Camel again is a beautiful position. Unfortunately he's not going to move up much if at all without the triple Axel. He's talking a lot in the kiss and cry as he waits for marks. 51.99/58.20 -1.00 = 109.19 and 164.68 overall.

Andrew Gonzales- 20th after short- 3F off-balance and fell. 2A with nice flow coming out. 3Lo/2T again the loop leaned but this one is fine. Back camel/catch-foot. Circular footwork is nice. Flying sit, all of these guys in the first group have had pretty well-centered spins. 3Lz/2T/2Lo. He can work on adding some content into the jumps and not telegraphing them as much. 3F/2T maybe short? Kwiatkowski thinks so. 1Lz-- toe completely slipped off the ice. 3S again crooked but landed just fine. Combo spin-- the sit has amazing speed and the back sit also has great speed. Maybe a half second off time on the ending. 52.05/57.06 -1.00 = 108.11 and 162.52 overall. In comparison with Dyer and Pennington, I'd go a bit lower on the components. I didn't really have an opinion of that program overall.

No changes in standings after this group.

Wesley Campbell- 14th after short- Something I didn't realize.. as high as 7th at Nationals in the past. Nice 2A that came directly out of choreography. Solid, sturdy basics and posture. 3Lz/2Lo. 3A was close but fell. Camel/layover/ change/camel/donut change edge-- good spin. 3F/3T-- lean on the first jump but adjusted for the second. 3S. And when I saw Michael Nyman in the music info I wondered about this particular piece and whether we'd hear it-- the Memorial Requiem that Grishuk/Platov used so amazingly in Nagano. One foot step at the second half of his footwork sequence-- very strong. Footwork into a 2Lo/2T/2Lo. His flow is still amazing towards the end and he goes right into the choreographed step. 2A. 2Lz. Camel/upright variation/change/ sit pancake. Nice pacing, really good skating skills, and he kept the flow throughout the program. I really liked that. 57.84/60.50 -1.00 = 117.34 and 176.69 overall. Into second behind Dyer.

Christopher Caluza- 15th after short- Just like in the short, tremendous energy from the start. 3Lz goes down. 3T. Steps into 2A and a hand down. His body, much like Rabbitt's almost seems too loose and out of control at times. Footwork and we seem him taking his time there. 3S is the best jump so far. Spiral with a change of edge, actually well done. Into spread eagle, this middle section is a complete difference than the beginning and his short program. 3Lo/2T/2Lo with both hands over the head. 3F. Fan spiral into a 3Lz/2T.. no flow on either jump but complete. 2A/2T. Ina Bauer into a flying camel and he completely loses the edge and spins on his belly. Gets back into the spin and then a combination spin right after. Choreographed step has some wobbles too as the music picks up. I get the sense that when the music is really upbeat or powerful, he rushes everything just a bit or isn't quite comfortable with trying to keep up. The middle section showed that he can take his time, and it was really nice. Maybe he needs music that relaxes him rather than excites him to the point of making everything sloppy. Lots of cool and unique moves (Ina Bauer, spiral, spread eagles) but the points at which he does them don't really add up to much. 50.58/49.86 -2.00 = 98.44 and 157.72. Fifth for now.

Alexander Johnson- 16th after short- 3A/2T nice. First triple Axel of the night. 1A, rushed that. Flying sit in a low tuck position with good centering and into a variation. Spiral- nice position there too and then a 3Lz. 2Lo. Off and on so far. Camel that doesn't really find the strong point of the blade into a back camel/catch-foot change edge-- that half was good. 2F step-out. Another skater with strong basics. 3Lz/2T/2Lo-- first two jumps had a real fight on the landing. 2S. Seriously, a clean jump and then a pop this whole way through. That's frustrating. Singles and doubles kill the score so much more than step-outs or even falls, really. 2F/2T/2Lo-- another three jump combo, that won't even count since he's done one. Final combo spin ends in a nice position but the end lost me. His score is going to be really low, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's lowest on the technical mark so far, even with the triple Axel in the beginning. I always find these chats in the kiss and cry interesting. 48.70/59.50= 108.20 and 165.50 overall. Into third.

Joshua Farris- 3A almost there but a hard fall and right by the boards. 3Lo that he had but then had to really fight to hold a solid landing. 3A again a fall and again right into the boards. So, he needs to note that one of those will be called a +SEQ and therefore one of his three combo/sequences is now done. This music, much like with Rachael Flatt and many others that have used it, requires some personality to make it more interesting, and he's another one that seems more focused on the skate than selling it. 3Lz/2T-- forward on the Lutz. Footwork is a bit on the slow side. He holds himself well, though. Back spiral into 2A and he got lost in the air on that one too, putting his hands down. Axel just isn't working today at all. Music picks up and there's a look of concern on his face-- that's never good. 3Lz and he goes down on that too, looks like it went off from an inside edge. Choreographed step doesn't have much to offer and there are some attempts and making the choreography fun but he's not really into it. 2F/2T/2Lo got a bit stuck going up into the loop and hopped around on the landing. 3S that almost LANDED right into the board. Final combo spin has a nice pancake position. And he's crying, or trying hard not to. He's 15, there's plenty of time to develop. Tough skate here though. I notice that I question a lot of the packaging from Zakrajsek's students. I wonder if they have any input in what they want to skate to, or if they are just given the program and told what to do-- I'm really thinking it's the latter. He's crying in the kiss and cry and I'm pretty sure he said that he gave up during the performance. 43.24/50.58 -3.00 = 90.82 and 151.73 and down into eighth place, will probably end up second to last overall.

Jonathan Cassar- 17th after short- I got an Emanuel Sandhu circa.. 2001? vibe from him at first glance with the hair and costume, and his basics are just as strong. Starts with a serpentine step on a really slow part of the music that matches it wonderfully until the very end where he has a little wobble. 3Lz/2T-- that was nice. 3T. 2A, all three jumps good so far. 3S that had a delay on the take-off and again a great jump. Flying sit low position to twist. He's not the fastest or flashiest, but he's getting the job done. 3Lz with a hand down. I shouldn't have typed that. Inside spread eagle, about as deep as they come. He really feels the music and makes every note count. 3F/2T a bit eeked out the entire way, and a three turn out of the toe. 3Lo/2T. Beautiful camel position into a change edge /change camel catch-foot. There really is a lot to like about his skating. Choreographed step sequence, and here's a case of him making it just as elaborate as the first rather than taking the easy way out since every skater starts on the same value. 2A is nice and turns into camel/broken leg/change / y-spin. My favorite of the night so far and he has a standing ovation. Wow. I don't think his technical content was strong enough to move him up, but his components should be the best so far. Mocks not having a chain this time around in the kiss and cry after the short program incident. 63.28/68.50 = 131.78 and 187.76 overall. Well wow, almost 7's for that? I never thought they'd go for him THAT much but I'm glad they did. And I was wrong, into first by ten points.

Cassar, Dyer, and Campbell have been the definite highlights of this first half, and they sit in 1st-2nd-3rd- right now.

Friday, January 28

US Nationals Mens Short Running Thoughts - Second Half

Here we go again. Ryan Bradley is back.. just saw a quad toe from him in the warm-up.

Ross Miner- Perhaps the forgotten one here? He was pretty solid in his Grand Prix events. Nice speed from the start and a GORGEOUS easy triple Axel. The best of the night so far. Triple Lutz/double toe. Looked like he got his feet stuck together on the Lutz just long enough to keep him from doing a triple toe, but still the combination was done just fine. Spread eagles and other moves in the field down the length of the ice. and the music picks back up. Triple flip. Back camel travels and the combination ends with an Emanuel spin of average quality. Flying upright spin-- travels and sloppy. Again, GET RID OF THEM! Fun program, not the most engaging for the audience but it was a good effort. That triple Axel was amazing. The Mitchell/Johansson coaching team look like they belong as a team competing on the Amazing Race. I don't know why I think that. LOL.

Grant Hochstein- While I wasn't loving Messing last year, I thought Grant should have ran away with the short program even more-so at the World Juniors than he did. Moves in the field and a very balletic feel from the start. Triple Lutz on the inside edge/triple toe. Definitely a Flutz. Thanks for making my blog name have relevance every once in a while. Double Axel-- struggled with the triple earlier in the year. Nice low, strong flying sit spin. Camel/change/camel catch-foot.. positions are so-so, and the spin goes on for a while because of the slow rotations. Nice triple loop out of three-turns. The elements really fit the music in this program, and he pays attention to all of the details. He was seventh I believe last season here with no triple Axel, I don't know if he's going to be as lucky this year, but I'm still a big fan.

Sean Rabbitt- A red head Michael Jackson.. who knew? Triple Lutz was shaky/triple toe and the hand goes down. Sloppy as a whole. Of course the audience is into this from the beginning. Triple flip. Flying sit in a nice low position and a twist. Good spin. Double Axel came right out of a low kind of lunge move and he stepped out, and then got too excited on choreography while standing in place and fell backwards. Well, that silenced the audience. Footwork is on one foot in the beginning and has some nice choreography in the middle which he has fun with but it's of average difficulty. Emanuel spin that he holds for the full back half of his combination spin.. nice stretch. Fun program even with the weird mistake. Components scores the lowest so far.

Scott Dyer- Triple Lutz/triple toe- second jump definitely cheated and right up against the boards. Nice double Axel. Flying sit with a twisted broken-leg position.. I liked that. Triple loop pre-rotated and not rotated all the way around and fell. I'd say his skating is very traditionally American-- clean lines, classical music and nothing really flashy. Nice camel position, the change camel goes to a strong catch-foot.. definitely a good spinner. Final combination spin is fast and centered as well. Good skating quality, he doesn't stand out though.

Ryan Bradley- First competition of the season. Quad toe/triple toe looked really wound up, I don't know that it really was a full four rotations but I bet he'll get credit for it. Triple Axel is well done. Camel/change/camel-- one of the few skaters who has been doing these his whole life and hasn't had to 'relearn' the camel for this years rule changes. Still, not amazing positions on his spins.. story of his career. Triple flip out of footwork. Flying sit with variations.. the beginning traveled. I really think he could skate to the most boring music ever and the crowd would still go crazy over the way he carries himself and sells the skate. Footwork for him always tries to have fun choreography that masks how weak he really is on the element.. I'd say that's level 2 at best. Aside from his so-so spins and lack of difficult footwork, his problem has always been the speed. Here, I didn't really notice it as much. Well done, I'm happy he's had a successful return. I just wish he would have addressed all of his weaknesses much earlier in his career. I saw him live at Nationals in 2000 in his senior debut and he was bringing down the house even back then. Quad toe was just fine in replay.

Over 7 for components? I really do like him a lot, but his skating skills, transitions, difficulty in choreography, and overall polish are nowhere near many of these men. It's US Nationals, though..

Christopher Caluza- Triple Lutz/triple loop to start. Looked good to me. I didn't expect that. Triple flip on the outside edge. He's excited but he has plenty of sloppiness as he flies around the ice. The footwork has complexity but he's wobbling and flailing through a lot of it. Cool move toward the end, like a sideways cartwheel. Nice Y-spin on the end of a combination spin. Spiral, too. He sure has some interesting moves but they aren't adding up to anything to make it effective. Clean on the jumps though now with a double Axel. Junior feel and all, he still can be really proud of his effort, and he most certainly is. He really attacked it from start to end.

Lloyd Ting- Back shoot the duck/hydroblade into a double Axel is good. Triple Lutz/triple toe.. the toe didn't have much height and he falls on it. Triple flip that he has to really fight for. So all the jumps done in about 40 seconds. He has a very focused look and his footwork isn't particularly difficult, as the commentators mention as I type it. Spins are all of average quality, and there is nothing really going on in-between the elements. Sloppy approach into his sit/change/sit.. almost like it was a practice session where he was doing it in isolation. Odd. Not much choreography, and not much ice coverage as the entire program seemed to consist of just the seven elements. He did have a nice spread eagle towards the end, but that's about it.

Joshua Farris- Another 16 year old. And my player completely stopped right as he started. Almost the entire night without a problem, we are making progress. And he comes back two minutes in. In replay, the Axel leaned off the start causing the fall. Sounds like the other jumps were strong though. His first basic camel position in the flying spin wasn't held long enough.

Jason Wong- I've always liked his skating. Triple Lutz/double toe- first jump was forward, second had no run-out but it's done. Triple Axel really close but still a big step out. Flying camel in a bent leg unique position into a change camel/catchfoot very similar to what Farris just did. Nice long powerful crossovers and nice lines, some good moves in the field. He did a Russian split right by the boards and it looked like he really had to put the brakes on to not crash, but then he went into a triple loop just fine. Everything nice, but he's another one that doesn't really do much to make himself stand out. I still really respect his overall quality and soft style.

Richard Dornbush- Triple Lutz/triple toe is all over the place but ends up alright. Triple Axel digs in deep with the toe pick and that one is landed too. He's attacking everything but those first two elements maybe had a little too much energy, causing it all to be sloppy. Another Russian split, we never see those anymore, and some other moves in the field... the triple flip had a hydroblade entrance and he goes into it from a curve-- most everyone who does that seems to get really wound up on the take-off.. here he had a step out. Footwork has some nice flair in the choreography, but he seemed too focused. I'm a little disappointed with this performance.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh- One of my new favorites, and I really want him to do well. His Skate America free skate was great. Triple Axel.. not the best flow out but it's done just like that. Triple flip/triple toe.. took his time and it was a nice one. Flying camel with an ugly change edge, into a donut position which is nice. BLAH crooked wound up entrance on the Lutz and he's down. Might even be called a double which gives him next to no points. Footwork is strong and has plenty of content, and then one of my favorite positions on a spin-- his camel that turns into a downwards-facing spin with a bent leg.. I love it. Frustrating. I still think this is one of the best short programs in the field.

Alexander Johnson- Triple Axel that he landed and then fell, spinning around a few times-- not a good way to fall. Triple flip/triple toe.. not spectacular but a good recovery. Triple Lutz looked two-footed and maybe cheated. The combination and flying spin had some nice changes of edge in them, but I wasn't blown away by the rest of the program. Too bad about the Axel. He's talking about staring one of the judges down during the performance and the judge kinda scuffed at him. LOL.

So Ryan Bradley leads the way after the short program. Who would have known? He skated well, but I never really understand why National federations really push skaters up when the international judges won't be as generous with scores. I really doubt Ryan would be able to receive a 7.0 average on components from the ISU, but who knows.. Ross Miner makes the final group.

US Nationals Mens Short Running Thoughts

Hopefully a solid internet connection tonight. Favorite discipline by miles this year-- the men. I sure hope they don't disappoint!

Keegan Messing- First, a disclaimer about him. During last years World Juniors, I thought his skating exactly resembled Elvis Stojko-- posture, jump technique, style, all of it. I wasn't that thrilled. This year, though, what a change. His basics and posture have improved and the dynamic behind his skating is really exciting. All of his jumps not only have tremendous height, but they fly so far across the ice-- it's really something. The flip was done on the most severe of outside edges and probably scored -2's at best, but all of his other elements were good, and the spins rotated about as fast as they come. The footwork was done a bit heavily and down in the knees rather than letting it flow, but I'm nit-picking. Anyways, exciting start to the competition and he's definitely made a fan out of me.

Adam Rippon- Well, this is really something. The trek he's taken this year from the Japan Open (where he bested Takahashi and Plushenko in that free skate) to Skate Canada, to Skate America, to now, has been such a drop in confidence and spark. Axel leaned from the beginning and he stepped out, not a huge error but you almost saw it coming from the moment he started. Lutz, hard fall straight back-- I haven't ever seen him miss that jump, or at least in the last few years. The spins and the general program were so lackluster, but I've never really liked it. Skating after Messing and the energy he created didn't help, either. By the way, Brian Orser looks like he's put on some holiday weight.

Brandon Mroz- This is just a case of wrong packaging for me. You can see even in the preparation seconds before he started his program that his posture is way below the general quality of American men, and he has a really reserved style to his skating, yet he is skating to some Ryan Bradley-esque music. While he had moments of fun choreography, he still has a general tenseness and seriousness that make him a bit boring. Quad was there today, even if there was a bit of a fight, as were the rest of the jumps, and he had really nice camel positions-- one of the few I think we'll see. I question whether his change sit position was low enough.. it seemed slightly high. He's been top ten in the world before so he's not new to this, but I wish he'd just break loose and add some excitement to his skating.

Jonathan Cassar- Great posture and basics to his skating. The Lutz was at least a half turn cheated, causing the hard crash right from the beginning. I feel like that took a lot of the energy out of his program, but his choreography was strong and he has spread eagles to die for. He was late at the end of the program by about a second, and then he realized he lost his necklace or bracelet which caused a ten minute delay.

Jeremy Abbott- Oh, those arms. You know I think they look silly. But what I can appreciate is the choreography right into all of his jumps and the way this program built-- finally I see the good in it, I guess! What I didn't like so much was the ending cross-foot spin on the sit/change/sit-- I wouldn't consider it low enough to count and the position is just ugly. Also ugly is the flying upright spin, which goes down almost into an intermediate sit spin to begin (which helps the wind-up, but still..). I hope the ISU drops the option to do a flying upright spin after this season and everyone just has to suffer through doing a camel position in either the sit/change/sit or flying spin. Overall, though, I really enjoyed him.. tenseness and all. It works here.

Parker Pennington found Cassar's chain in warm-up and actually tripped over it. I guess all the "super sweepers" need to be fired. Kidding.. I know they are like five years old.

Wesley Campbell- Lutz/double toe had a nice kind of hydro-blade move into it, but the Lutz leaned and seemed slightly cheated, as did the following Triple Axel that he had three-turns out of. Another skater with very good camel positions, and a nice unique combination spin that kept good speed and perfect centering. Footwork went on forever and it also seemed a bit heavy to me, but he did pretty well. Need to check the first two jump elements in replay. Was 21st last year, I'm sure he will have a better outing this time around. 32 points for technical seems pretty high, so sounds like everything got credit.

Jason Brown- Just 16. Double Axel with a complex entry. This music is quick and powerful, I'd say he's trying his best to keep up with it. Lutz/toe-- again, have to check the toe loop. Flying camel travels and isn't a strong position but gets better with the catch-foot. Nice fan spiral for a second and some splits into the triple flip-- edge has to be checked, looks outside to me. Change sit has a bit of travel. Lots of comments on the specific technique of the elements, but he's actually having a good skate and he's having fun. One foot footwork comes towards the end of his sequence-- that's a nice change. Camel with a donut that is a unique position but travels. I like him.. the music added some excitement to the arena, I just think it made him a bit frantic. I like his classical free skate more.

Douglas Razzano- The Feeling Begins. Triple Axel didn't have much height compared to distance but it was one of the better so far. Quad toe! That was surprising, and kept up the speed out of it. Triple toe/triple toe- why not something more difficult? Maybe he wanted to play it safe after the first two elements. Two spins back to back.. both average. This is such good music but I really think it's only been done well a few times, Oksana Baiul among them. Most other times, like here, it's usually some generic choreography and the program itself is based on the music building so strongly. Final combination spin was nice. He's thrilled slash looks shocked with his effort! 40 points for technical-- best so far. I do agree with him going behind Messing, though.

Parker Pennington- Still skating! I remember him being in all the local Cleveland skating shows that were televised when I was growing up. Triple Axel leaned and fell. Already, though, his skating is so much more expressive than it was when he was producing decent results a few years ago. He did the choreography himself... maybe that's what he needed. Triple Lutz/double toe and triple flip are good. Sit/change/sit is strong and the combination spin also features a long nice sit spin in the first half, as well as a change sit with a twist variation. Fun, but I think the first half of the program was more interesting. He kinda lost me during the footwork. Into last. I would have had his components higher probably, but I don't know his exact scores for each of the five yet.

Andrew Gonzales- Long preparation into triple flip/triple toe, but a good combination. Double Axel, probably wanted to go for the triple but not solid off the take-off edge. Stroking from one end to the other so far. Double Lutz-- edge slipped on the take-off and then fell. Using Vanessa-Mae's Toccata and Fugue. I used to love this kind of music growing up, but now it seems like it's only used when you want to see the most generic of skating programs. There's been really nothing in between the elements, and the footwork doesn't have the speed of the others. He wasn't terrible by any means, just nothing really remarkable. He reminds me of Alban Preaubert from a distance. In the face, not in the wacky skating. With Phillip Mills and Frank Carroll as part of his team, I'm surprised this was so empty and flat.

Ice resurfacing. Second half will be in a new post.

Thursday, January 27

US Nationals - Ladies Short Program Thoughts - Group Three

The feed is getting terrible for me. I missed the first two skaters, but based on Khazova's 10 point technical score, I don't think I missed anything there. She's skating with injury, which sucks. I did see Morgan Bell and I loved her, probably my favorite skater of the night so far! She skated well and will be in the top twelve after the short at the very least, good for her. Keli Zhou used a terrible edit of Scene d'Amour that my favorite Butyrskaya used so successfully at the 2000 World Championships and even in this group, she looked a bit junior. Vanessa Lam also had a really good skate and I was impressed by the power behind her jumps. Outside chance to make the final group!

Did the In-House Announcer Really Just Say..

Did the long-time US National PA announcer just say "Tatyana Khazkova started skating at the age of six, inspired by her mother's ass.... ice ballet.." ?


And why is that commentator calling Tonia KWEE-at-kow-skee?

US Nationals - Ladies Short Program Thoughts - Group Two

Another thought, the male commentator called Gao's stand-still landing on the Axel a fall. Nice to see they are always hiring commentators with a real good knowledge of skating :-)

Alexe Gilles-- Disaster showings with this program in the Grand Prix. I don't really care for it, it's too cute and I feel like she could pull off dramatic or something cool and modern really well. Toe/toe was nice and the second jump in particular was a beauty. Lutz was crooked from the beginning and didn't really ever have a chance. Layback position barely laid and she covered up the rest of the element with sideways positions-- probably a good call. I'm not a hater, I'll just be happy when she gets a new short program :-)

Agnes Zawadzki-- Okay, let's be real about her. This program fits her really well, but the problems with her skating are her overall speed and her sloppiness in-between the elements. It's not horrible, but she can improve a whole lot in those aspects. All three jump elements were great (Axel out of a good Ina Bauer!) but the spins (aside from the I-position in the combo) could also be just a bit more refined-looking. Still, I like her a lot and I like the energy she gives off. Behind Czisny by less than a point-- high on components, for sure.

Caroline Zhang-- Definitely looks like she's in better shape here than in the Grand Prix. Flip had a HORRIBLE lean from the beginning and she fell hard. I absolutely cannot stand how her toe pick goes in right in line with her other skate, rather than drawing back and then lifting (hence why she probably has so many problems). It's like she's doing a loop just off of a toe pick rather than the edge, if that makes sense.  Triple loop/double toe was nice, though. Axel pre-rotated as always. Layback looks better and more memorable than in the Grand Prix, thankfully, but still not the wow that she had up until this year. I give her a lot of credit, though. She's grown and lost some of the qualities that really had people raving about her for a few years, but it's going to be a long road to getting the technique consistent and then being able to really command the performance and make her stand out. Right now, she's just 'there'.

Ellie Kawamura-- Cool Mishima music. Loop slightly cheated and came down on two feet, and only a triple toe/double toe as her combo. Layback has nice stretch and variations are all strong and well-centered. Nice flying sit entry and variation and good speed. This choreography is reminding me of Beatrisa Liang, who I greatly miss. She's interesting! Components were harsh!!!

Mirai Nagasu-- Lutz/toe nice, she has a nice smile as always. Seems like her World Championship short program was so much longer ago than 10 months, doesn't it? Flip was big and had nice flow out. She's looking light and faster than in the Grand Prix, when I found this program to be a total snooze. Little bobble on the beginning of her camel in the combination spin, but she recovered and held it forever in a nice position. Axel had nice flow in and out. Death drop had a little up-and-down bounce at the beginning to get into position that we see from so many. Layback obviously one of the best and up into a Biellmann. Well done. I liked that so much more than in the early months of the season. Not as much as last years short, but I'll take it. :) I don't know about the components vs. Czisny, but she skated with double the speed.

Katy Jo West-- Nice effortless double Axel. You can tell she's happy to be at Nationals. Triple loop rotated late and had a turn out, but I think it was rotated. Basics below the others in this group and somewhat wobby throughout the footwork. Triple toe with a hand down/double toe. She has a nice quality. The thing I noticed was the several instances of having to check herself and her posture throughout. I suspect that's her nerves and maybe rushing everything just a bit.

US Nationals - Ladies Short Program Thoughts - Group One

What?! A post by me? Sorry for the disappearance, it's been a long month full of many changes for me. But you aren't here to read about me, so here we go.

Ladies Group One:

Kelsey Traunero-- Wearing Joannie Rochette's 2010 long program dress, or a very similar copy (including the hair piece)? Whatever the case, it didn't really match the music. Lots of muscle needed in the jumps elements, but she had some really decent spins. Strong edges, average (blah) choreography and interpretation.

Felicia Zhang-- Skating singles but no pairs here because of her rib injury? Lutz was cheated a bit and the toe loop crashed, and I felt like the entire program was lifeless. As noted, her elements (layback, combo spin) seemed watered down possibly due to injury, and her heart just didn't seem to be in the performance. Nice quality to her skating, but the overall finish could be greatly improved.

Alissa Czisny- Love this program, and I love how it's made her take her time. The one nit-pick I would have is that I wish she picked up the speed a bit, even if overall affect matches the music well. However, clearly no 'blah' choreography or interpretation here. In the opening seconds, you can see that she just 'gets' how to move her arms and fingertips, it's not forced in the slightest. The score makes me think one of the jumps was under-rotated (maybe the flip? it seemed like it landed on a really stiff edge), but still a great effort.

Christina Gao-- Obviously growing a ton since we saw her at last years Nationals. I'm still not thrilled with her posture and slow carriage, but the triple flip/triple toe was there as was the Lutz right out of steps. The Axel landed on a stiff edge as well and it sent the free leg flying around, making it look really rough. It was nice to see her put a lot of energy in the footwork towards the end, and she seemed to be really relaxed after the jumps were over. The score still gives her a shot to be competitive here.

Kristiene Gong- I liked the first part of the music with the slower pace, and I thought she set the mood extremely well. Didn't love the second part until the footwork sequence. Flip was majorly cheated. All of the spins seemed to die out by the time the final variation was achieved, with always drives me insane. Still, a nice quality to her.