Mens Free Skate
The Japanese men obviously brought it! Takahiko Kozuka remains my favorite of the bunch, and he came away with an impressive win here. He seems to have reworked his quad technique so that he can get his free leg out quicker; before, it always tended to get stuck. There is such an understated, amazing quality to his basics, but I mentioned in my short program notes that I wish he'd drop the puffy sleeves and loose pants. It takes away from that quality. Anyways, a solid score and a nice way to start his season after his troubles last year, and his PCS were more in line with where they should always be.
It seems like Yuzuru Hanyu let the pressure really get to him after the world-record short program. Big falls on both the quad toe and quad Sal attempts. He still moves a little too gumby-like for me (basically his upper body seems too loose at times), but I remember being completely underwhelmed with him a few years ago in the short program at Junior Worlds. He's obviously made huge improvements and hopefully he takes this experience and builds from it. One thing I would like to see is less Johnny Weir-style recovery from jumps. He takes too much time to just get back up and keep going, and it's distracting to the program. He almost became totally uninterested after the first few mistakes.
Tatsuki Machida is one of the more expressive Japanese men, and I really enjoyed his interpretation to Firebird. We have seen it plenty of times, but he brought an interesting approach. Everything was there besides the quad and he stumbled out of his second triple Axel, but he was able to place 2nd in the long, and it's great that he has Anthony Liu as a coach, who had quite the quad toe himself. I think his 80+ PCS was a little on the high side, but he definitely deserved to be on the podium.
Konstantin Menshov has some cool Rene Aubry music, that I believe Denkova/Staviyski used once upon a time. He feels confident on those quad toes! I'm happy for him and his placement, but his components were again way too high. The skating in-between his elements looks almost lazy and a if he's in a practice run-through. He should have been behind Mahbanoozadeh on PCS, easily.
Jeremy Abbott's new free skate is alright. I won't like it as the Muse free skate last season, but this is infinitely better than the short programs he tries to do, including this season, where the choreography just never seems to get comfortable. It's risky to put the two triple Axels five seconds apart, as we saw here. He's going to need a strong landing on the first because there's no time to gain back the speed for the second if there are problems. Nicely choreographed, just not overwhelmingly interesting, and the end just trails off. He really needs to really get over the depressed/shocked look.
Michal Brezina kept his Deadmaus and Untouchables program from last year. Did his vest always have writing on it last year, too? I never noticed. Hard fall on first quad Sal, not anywhere near all around. Aside from that and another quad Sal fall, he kept the jumps together. That combination spin he does right before the final footwork always slows way down, and I feel like that ruins the energy of the rest of the program when it should be doing the exact opposite as the music builds. He should put all of his spins in the slower sections!
Armin Mahbanoozadeh had trouble with the quad toe, the second Axel, and a flip in his Doctor Who free skate, which is one of the more interesting and exciting music selections lately. I see a lot of improvement in the quality of his skating, but the judges apparently don't with the components still not reaching 7's. I fear that the only way he is going to have a huge breakthrough at this point is if he has the absolute performances of his life at Nationals and he gives the USFS no doubt that he should be on the World team. That isn't going to be easy.
Tomas Verner kept his free skate from last season, and I think if I was his coach and choreographer, I would create programs for him that have movements directly into all of his jumping passes. Some of the jumps come from stroking from one end of the ice to the other, and it gives him plenty of time to have doubt about them. Using a different approach, maybe he won't have enough time to worry about anything. Anyways, this program, like the short, seems so empty in spots and he doesn't move particularly quick. However, he was able to keep it together for the most part following an early pop.
Douglas Razzano put out a stronger effort than his short program. Plenty of other skaters have chosen to skate to the Queen Symphony, and I can't say that any of them have been remarkable or memorable programs. Although he was rotating between hot and cold on the jumps, he should be proud of having done a quad.
Alexander Majorov intrigued me with his Alexei Yagudin-like costume (with an added hood), but it wore off quickly after the cool opening choreography. For finishing last, this was a decent skate jump-wise. I just got lost in the music about two minutes in.