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.