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.." ?

Ha.

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.