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.