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.