Sunday, November 11

Rostelecom Cup - Mens Free Skate

Patrick Chan is just amazing, whether people want to see it or not. His short program, in my opinion, could have been marked even higher components-wise than it was. It's a masterpiece, whether clean or not, and when you compare it to some of the other programs that we saw here, it's infinitely more complex and packed with movements between the jumps. The free skate continues that trend, although I'm not as in love with it yet. He's really addressed his facial expressions and overall understanding of the music this year. If you listen closely when he's skating, you can constantly hear the 'crunching' sound of the ice as he works his edges. They are deep, powerful, and gain speed almost instantly. A few instances of doubling jumps here, but so much better than his previous two competitions. I'm not even a hardcore fan, but I really, really respect how much he pushes himself in his programs and just how far ahead he is of many other skaters.

Takahiko Kozuka is just so traditional in his movements. I say it just about every time I review his skating, but I really could watch him all day. Good for him for attempting two quads at the beginning of his free skate, but it seemed like on this day, having trouble with both made him a little lifeless and 'heavy' with the rest of the program. I always enjoy his choreography but he seemed much more into the program in his first event. US commentators mention that his dad competed at the Olympics in 1968 in figure skating. Did anyone know this? I believe it's the first I heard it. Anyways, both he and Chan earned a ticket to the Grand Prix Final here, joining Tatsuki Machida as the three qualifiers so far.

Michal Brezina is having problems with the quad this year but still has one of the most beautiful triple Axel jumps that I have ever seen. While I wasn't initially thrilled that he retained his Untouchables/Deadmaus free skate, I think it's a whole lot better than the disaster of a short program he has (see my components scoring post for an idea of just how much I don't like it). Spins still need work but I keep seeing slight improvements in them. Remember at Skate America I suggested that if I was his coach, I'd put ALL of his spin elements during the slow section of the program. He loses all of his energy with this free skate during the jump elements towards the end and then the spins and footwork are somewhat lifeless. If he can get those quad Salchows together (or even one of them), he's going to score huge. For now, I still think his components are really generous.

Konstantin Menshov gets all my respect for having the best results of his life this year, and he's 29 years old. He's really making a case, in my opinion, to be the lone entry to Worlds this year from Russia (if Plushenko does not compete), and that comes with added pressure to get more than one spot for Sochi in 2014. The quad toe loops are just SO easy for him, it's insane (and he's 7 for 9 with the attempts internationally this year-- the two he missed were just tripled). Components still entirely too high. 8 and 8.25 for skating skills? 7.50-8 from some judges for transitions? We are watching different programs. The crowd really got behind him here, but he still could improve in all areas aside from the jumps. The doubled triple toe at the end cost him the bronze medal, as he lost out to Brezina by under a point.

Artur Gachinski's movements and his facial expressions tell two different stories to me. I see a lot of flamboyance and confidence in his choreography (very typical Russian arm movements), but his face seems really reserved and almost shy. Even though he skated very well in 2011 to win the World bronze medal, I think it was way too much too soon. His overall skating quality isn't anywhere near the level of many men and the choreography is just too much upper body with nothing much going on with his feet besides basic crossovers. Components all-around were way too high for all of the Russian men here, in my opinion. Three triples in the program and the quads didn't work. I see potential in him, but skating under Mishin isn't going to get him top results unless he's absolutely perfect. I'd like to see him skating a more traditional, slower program that really makes him hold out his moves.

Nobunari Oda, even with the second-best free skate, was only able to move up to fifth place overall after his disappointing short program. He will not qualify for the Grand Prix Final, and likely has an uphill battle in his own country at Nationals; Hanyu and Takahashi still have great shots at also making the Grand Prix Final.

Johnny Weir withdrew after finishing last in the short. He said, "I don't want people thinking that the withdrawal from this competition means that it's the end of my career." I haven't heard yet if he's going to try to skate at Trophee Eric Bompard next week.


Anonymous said...

Well, the story of Takahiko's dad (and his grandad who was also a figure skater and founder of the local skating fed in Aichi where many skaters like Midori, Miki, Mao etc have been produced) is well known among fans.

I'm not a hardcore fan of Patrick either but I have to agree with you. I can't stop loving both of his programs this year!

nest1989 said...

Takahiko is a third-generation skater, as Anonymous mentioned.

NHK just aired a "Family History" program on Kozukas tonight, and according to it, his grandfather Mitsuhiko (1916-2011) learned to skate in then-Japanese occupied China and became the champion of Manchuria. He had hoped to compete in the 1940 Sapporo Games but it was cancelled because of WWII. He came home to Japan and worked tremendously to popularize competitive skating in Nagoya.

Mitsuhiko named his son Tsuguhiko ("Tsugu" means "inherit"; he had hoped his son would inherit his dream of competing in the Olympics) and taught him to skate beautifully. Tsuguhiko became an Olympian in the Grenoble Games and later married a top-class ice dancer. When he began to teach Takahiko, he again put emphasis on skating skills, and taught compulsory figures, though at the time it was not a major part of the competition anymore.

At Van Couver, Takahiko fulfilled his grandfather's dream of competing in the Olympics.

Takahiko is referred to as a "thoroughbred" here in Japan(though he said he hated being called so in the program. "I'm not a horse!"). I'm surprised that the story is not quite known ove

nest1989 said...

Takahiko is referred to as a "thoroughbred" here in Japan(though he said he hated being called so in the program. "I'm not a horse!"). I'm surprised that the story is not quite known overseas. Now you know why he has an air of tradition and class.

Tony said...

Thank you so much for that story! Not much is said of Takahiko here in the United States, so I love learning about the (very long) history of skating within his family!

nest1989 said...

Glad you liked it! I forgot to mention that it was his grandfather's dream also to have him land a quad in a match. That he did in Van Couver!

The funny thing is that the reason his grandfather ever began to skate in Manchuria was because he fell in love with a girl skater. He learned to skate just to be with her. Eventually, he lost his love, and focused on competitive skating to fill the gap. If it weren't for the girl there would be no Kozukas in figure skating!

She appeared in the program. She was over 90 and still very strong. She cried when she shook hands with Takahiko after watching one of his ice shows. Isn't this kinda romantic?