Saturday, November 24

Asada vs Suzuki NHK Trophy Free Skates: My Verdict

Who wins this battle? The actual judges scores were 126.62 points for Suzuki, and 117.32 points for Asada. This, combined with the short program scores, gave Asada the win by 0.05 points.

If you listen to the British Eurosport commentators at the end of Asada's video, they are very confused as to how Mao held on for the gold medal.

What were my results?

As you can see, I had Suzuki easily winning the free skate-- by 16.77 points (compared to the 9.30 points she actually won it by).

A few things-- I think both skaters were overscored in certain areas-- specifically some of the spins. The judges seemed to be +2 and +3 happy today, but I think most of their spins were 'good' at best. Suzuki's FCSp4 really should have had negative GOE, for example, but was still able to pull some +1. Don't think so.

With that in mind, I had Suzuki 1.89 points lower technically, while I had Asada 3.33 points lower.

Program components, to me, were where the total joke happened. Asada's program, for the first three or so minutes, has no life at all and she really could be skating to any music. Much like the jumps in this performance, it's just so on-and-off until the footwork starts to gain energy. Also, her fifth jump element comes two seconds before the half-way point. That's poor program planning in my opinion. She has nice basics and beautiful edges, but she really crawls through everything and doesn't do too much in terms of transitions. I've always felt that way about her, honestly.

Suzuki has a nice program and was much more engaged. She has some nice transitional highlights and a great tension and build with the music. I do think she's not as strong as Asada skating skill-wise, but everything else should have been higher in my opinion. Asada pulled off scores mostly in the 8's for performance/execution (huh?), choreography, and interpretation. I just don't feel like she was into this program at all.

For what it's worth, Asada lost 14.85 points off her base mark just from the three jumps she doubled and one she singled in this program. 117 with three triples.

Suzuki easily wins this battle in my opinion.

Grand Prix Series Facts & Trivia - Men

The top six overall-scoring men (event total scores) were the six men that made the Final. This is often not the case. Patrick Chan was the overall top scorer with 505.78 points, just over a point ahead of Yuzuru Hanyu.

No man was able to win both of his events, which means that there were six different gold medalists. Five of them are in the Final; Takahito Mura (winner of Trophee Eric Bompard) is not. The only man in the Final to not win either event? Daisuke Takahashi.

Tatsuki Machida is the only qualifier who hasn't participated previously in a Grand Prix Final.

The only other time that there has not been a repeat gold medalist in the mens Grand Prix series was the first season of the event: 1995/1996 (in which Eldredge, Urmanov, Kulik, Zagorodniuk, and Stojko each won once. The Cup of Russia was not part of the series until the next season).

If event total scores were the basis for Japanese Nationals, this would be the final standings at the event:
1. Yuzuru Hanyu
2. Daisuke Takahashi
3. Takahiko Kozuka
4. Tatsuki Machida
5. Nobunari Oda
6. Takahito Mura

All six were in the top ten final standings for the series.

The highest-scoring American man was Ross Miner. In second place was Jeremy Abbott, whose best long program highest score was some 17 points below the score of Miner at NHK.

Konstantin Menshov was the top Russian total event scorer, with Sergei Voronov four points behind. Remember, Russia only has one mens spot to Worlds this season.

Four qualifiers (Chan, Takahashi, Fernandez, and Hanyu) qualified for the Grand Prix Final last season, as well.

Sergei Voronov's overall event score at Cup of China was just around four points more than his event score at NHK Trophy. The difference? He finished with the bronze in China and 21 points off the podium in Japan.

The highest event score needed to reach the podium was Nobunari Oda's 238.34, at Skate Canada. The lowest score for a bronze was Florent Amodio's 214.25 at Trophee Eric Bompard. Oda would have won both the Cup of China and Trophee Eric Bompard with his score from Skate Canada.

Happy Holidays; Grand Prix Final Participants

Hi everyone, I was off enjoying Thanksgiving with family the last few days but I will get around to my NHK Trophy thoughts later today.

So far, three of the four disciplines have finished their events and with that are the qualifiers to the Grand Prix Final next month. Everything has gone as predicted so far!

Patrick Chan (CAN)
Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Javier Fernandez (ESP)

As I thought was possible, Japan has six men in the top ten overall standings, with Takahito Mura finishing in 9th place and Nobunari Oda in 10th. Jeremy Abbott (USA) is the first substitute.

Ashley Wagner (USA)
Mao Asada (JPN)
Kiira Korpi (FIN)
Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS)
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)

Tuktamysheva beats out first alternate Christina Gao (USA) on overall competition scores tie-breaker, in which she won by almost 9 points. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) would have only needed a fifth place finish in a second competition to qualify for the Final.

Davis/White (USA)
Virtue/Moir (CAN)
Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)
Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)
Ilinykh/Katsalapov (RUS)
Cappellini/LaNotte (ITA)

Weaver/Poje (CAN) are first alternates.

Finish up at NHK Trophy tonight, but if the standings hold, the top two teams will qualify to the Grand Prix Final.

Tuesday, November 20

I Judge It: Kaetlyn Osmond Skate Canada SP

I received a few comments from interested readers asking how I would score Kaetlyn Osmond at Skate Canada. A few posts down, you will see how much I rave about the performance in the short program.

Here is my result:

Compare it to the ISU protocol:

Click the image to view it more clearly.

As you can see, I went 3.07 points even higher than the judges, and here's how I got those extra points:

The 3T+3T got all +1 and +2 from the judges. I honestly don't think I've seen a better triple-triple combination. Gracie Gold is very similar in her power with combinations, but just look at the footwork both leading directly into the jump and the control she has on the landing. It's absolutely a +3 element for me. The +1's? Nonsense. We see certain other skaters having absolutely no flow out of either jumps in combinations basically crawling into them getting +1. There's a 1.10 point difference just in this element for me.

The layback spin achieved a mix of +1 and +2. I would give it a +2 based on the difficult entry and her ability to immediately center the spin. She also doesn't lose any speed in the latter positions. +2 for me, and that's an additional 0.36 from what the judges scored.

The double Axel had a difficult entry, coming right out of a spread eagle. It had height, and it had a strong landing edge. Again, a +2 from me while the judges gave a majority +1 (although two did give her the +2). She gets 0.43 points more from me.

She loses 0.07 in the combination spin from me as I gave it a +1, while two judges scored it a +2.

Overall, I had her 1.82 points higher on the total elements score.

Program components were a different story. I had her lower than the average for skating skills (6.68), and I think that is by far the component she needs to work on the most. Only two judges went higher for her transitions mark than her skating skills mark, and that I do not understand. This program is loaded with transitions. I had her almost a full point higher than what the judges scored it (6.61). The performance and execution mark, in my opinion, was also about a half-point too low (6.96), although five of the nine judges did score her at 7.25 or higher there. Choreography and interpretation were both under a quarter-point of what I scored the program.

I had her 1.25 points higher in program components, with a majority of the points being gained on the transitions mark.

Disagree? Share your opinions. I love discussing my scores ;-)

In Memoriam: Sergei Grinkov

Sergei Grinkov, two-time Olympic pairs champion (with wife Ekaterina Gordeeva) tragically died of a heart attack 17 years ago today, and I still remember hearing the news as a fourth grader like it was yesterday. He was just 28 years old.

Here is their final performance, just ten days before he passed away.

Love It or Hate It? Kaetlyn Osmond

At the beginning of this season, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada was virtually unknown outside of her country. To that point, she was best-known for winning the short program at the 2012 National Championship and finishing with a bronze medal overall in her first attempt at the senior level.

Not only did she win the Nebelhorn Trophy to start the 2012/2013 season (her first senior international), she also bested world bronze medalist Akiko Suzuki and previous World Junior medalists Kakano Murakami, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, and Gracie Gold at Skate Canada to win the title.

Osmond, who was originally a host pick to the Grand Prix event in her home country, did not get assigned a second assignment on the series and is stuck at 15 points overall. It is likely that a fourth place finish or higher in a second event would have given her a ticket to the Grand Prix Final in Sochi.

Here is Kaetlyn's short program from Skate Canada

Where do I begin? I am so impressed with her and I love this program. Watch the steps into the triple toe-triple toe combination and the movements right out of the jump from 0:18-0:26. The jumps had great height and distance, and she kept up the speed into them. Those steps aren't even necessary! Then watch, starting at 0:42 how the linking steps go right into her individual jump, the triple flip. Steps are required here, but we rarely see skaters have them go directly into a jump. She has a unique illusion right into a well centered layback, and her Biellmann position does not lose any speed. Again, we don't see that often. There are more moves in the field into a spread eagle leading to her double Axel. I could keep going, but this program is seriously one of the strongest I have seen this year.

She has the power, the speed, and the excitement level that has, in my opinion, been missing from ladies skating for a few years now. All of her movements are secure and refined. Her spins have great center and positions. She can still work on her polish and carriage as well as some of the run-outs in her jumps (the free skate showed her issues, but she was fine in this particular short), but she is well on her way.

Watch the replay at 3:46 of her triple toe-triple toe. EFFORTLESS. Combined with the steps she had right into it, I don't see why it's not a +3 element.

Monday, November 19

Love It or Hate It? Brian Joubert

Here is Brian Joubert's international debut of his new free skate, with music from Inception.

Back in 2010, I summarized my feelings on Brian; I still feel the exact same way. There's something about his skating that really gets me involved and I root for him to do well every time, and I like this music. However, I know he is still competing because he is a driven competitor and wants to get back into the medals and hopefully end up on the podium in Sochi.

Having said that, I don't quite understand the direction his skating has went since he tried something drastically different in the 2011 season (remember the Beethoven free skate?) The music didn't fit his style, but he was really pushing himself to skate a complete, IJS-satisfactory program. He had his lowest Worlds result since 2002 that season, and then returned to The Matrix last year for a third time-- skating it almost exactly as he did in the pre-IJS days.

I feel like this year is just another extension of that, and it's really disappointing. He's shown that he IS capable of adding more complex movements and choreography to his programs. Just because Beethoven didn't fit him doesn't mean that he couldn't have kept up with the choreography in a program which better suited him.

I said the following on Twitter during Trophee Eric Bompard:
There's something so hilariously pre-everything that IJS asks for about Joubert's LP that makes me kinda like it/miss the old days. Sue me.
I don't know how else to describe or feel about it! What do you think?

Around the Internet

The final list of qualifiers for U.S. Nationals can be found here. If there are no withdrawals, there will be 22 entries in both the senior ladies and senior mens competitions (Johnny Weir and Evan Lyascek among them). The 2013 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships take place January 20-27 in Omaha, Nebraska.

In case you missed it, here are the winners' free skates/dance from the Trophee Eric Bompard competition.

Ladies- Ashley Wagner

Men- Takahito Mura

Pairs - Kavaguti/Smirnov

Dance - Pechalat/Bourzat

Ashley Wagner, surely having just arrived home from France, will be skating on the Today Show tomorrow morning, November 20th, at 9:45 AM.

Results from the Warsaw Cup. Isabelle Olsson is on a roll this year and looks to be a serious contender for the second ladies spot for Sweden at Europeans, and potentially even the Worlds spot.

Results from the Merano Cup. Sarah Hecken of Germany earned the technical minimum score for the short program and is now eligible for Worlds. Nathalie Weinzierl, who was 6th, is the only other German lady who has reached the minimum scores. In the mens competition, Paolo Bacchini also achieved the technical score and is the first Italian man to be eligible for Worlds. The country has two spots available based on the top-ten placement of Samuel Contesti last season.

Humberto Contreras, a former international competitor, posted the final results from the Mexican National Championships this weekend. Reyna Hamui won the ladies event and Luis Hernandez was the mens champion. Hamui is the only lady eligible for Four Continents, while no men have achieved the minimum technical score. No skaters are eligible for Worlds at this point. Ice dancers Bruhns/Van Natten are also eligible for Four Continents.

Finally, a popular choice for exhibitions this season is Psy's Gangnam Style. The song isn't so annoying when skaters tackle it, right? :) Here is Christina Gao's performance from Trophee Eric Bompard, with the help of a few other competitors.

Inflation of Grand Prix Skaters Competing at Home? May This Be Why..?!

I have seen many gripes around the internet this year about the supposed inflation, or holding up, of the athletes competing at their home-country Grand Prix events. I think we can all look at the results of the five completed competitions thus far and think to ourselves, 'Hmm.. those components scores (and maybe even grade of execution scores) look a little bit high compared to what that skater has been normally receiving.' Well, maybe you haven't. I know I have.


Let's look at the Rostelecom Cup pairs as an example to visualize a situation.

The ISU appoints the technical panels to all events. There could be a conspiracy in itself for those choices, but we are just going to look at the actual judging panel here:

Judge No.1Ms. Anne CAMMETT
Judge No.2Mr. Vladislav PETUKHOV
Judge No.3Mr. Peter LEVIN
Judge No.4Mr. Benoit LAVOIE
Judge No.5Mr. Alexei SHIRSHOV
Judge No.6Mr. Evgeni ROKHIN
Judge No.7Ms. Ingrid Charlotte WOLTER
Judge No.8Ms. Natalia PRIMACHENKO
Judge No.9Mr. Nikolai SALNIKOV

Compare that now to the entry list:

7Tiffany VISE / Don BALDWIN

Canada, Russia, and the United States were allowed one judge on this panel. I haven't gotten a definitive answer yet, but a possible reason there was no Italian judge was because the two original teams scheduled to compete were both German, and we see a German judge on this panel. The Italians were a later replacement. Maybe the judges are assigned way in advance in order to make travel arrangements? I think that is likely the case.

Anyways, looking past those four judges guaranteed a spot on the panel, we have the following countries:

Sweden, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Estonia.

Sweden had a ladies entry, and Peter Levin was on that panel. That could (or should) explain his inclusion here.

You wonder how the other four judges were picked for this competition?

No, it was not a random draw. No, they were not assigned by the ISU. They were invited by the host Federation!

Interesting choice, wouldn't you say? Why not Japan or China or use judges already on panels in other disciplines? If they are judging the singles events, they most likely would be qualified for the pairs event.

Instead, we have judges from four countries with no skaters in the entire competition.

If I was in charge of the any decision-making in the ISU, I would eliminate the option to invite judges. They would be randomly selected in a method very similar to what is done to choose panels of the ISU major internationals (Worlds, Europeans, Four Continents, World Juniors).

Just some food for thought...

Why the 2013 World Championship is Important for Sochi

Why the 2013 World Championship is Important for Sochi: A Look at How Olympic Qualifying Takes Place

The 2013 World Championships in London, Ontario serve not only as the biggest event of the figure skating season, but also it is the competition that will determine around 80% of the spots earned, by country, for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Newer fan to figure skating or you were never quite sure how rosters were finalized for the Olympics? Let me explain.

Much like the process of determining how many spots a country has earned for the next World or European Championship, the total placement system is first used to give countries with high-placing skaters or teams the chance to send more than one entry.

In order for a country to earn three entries in one discipline to the Olympics, the following must happen:
A) If one skater/team is sent in 2013, they must finish in the top 2 of the World Championships.
B) If two or three skaters/teams are sent in 2013, the placements of the two highest finishers must total no more than 13 points. (Example, Skater A finishes 3rd and Skater B finishes 10th. 3+10 = 13 and they have earned they three spots).

In order for a country to earn two entries in one discipline to the Olympics, the following must happen:
A) If one skater/team is sent in 2013, they must finish in the top 10 of the World Championships.
B) If two or three skaters/teams are sent in 2013, the placements of the two highest finishers must total no more than 28 points, using the same method as above (skaters qualifying to the final round of competition but finishing lower than 16th place still earn 16 points. Skaters qualifying to the short program/short dance but not advancing earn 18 points. Skaters not qualifying from the preliminary rounds earn 20 points.)*

*- With the new ISU technical minimums coming into play this year, I am not sure if the 18 and 20 points rules will stand, as all disciplines will not, as of now, even have a need for preliminary rounds.

Now, after all of that is said and done, 24 spots for the men and ladies, 19 spots for ice dance, and 16 spots for pairs will be determined, by country, based on the 2013 World Championship final results. It starts with the top-ranked countries and works its way down the list until the maximum spots have been filled. Only countries that have qualified at least one entry to the free skate/dance have the option to earn an Olympic spot here.

6 more spots for the men and ladies, 5 spots for ice dance, and 4 spots for pairs will be earned in an early-2013/2014 season ISU event that will be pre-designated as the 'Olympic Qualifying Competition'. More on that in a bit.

Let's use the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships ladies results as an example of how the 24 spots are filled up.

1Yu-Na KIM
3Miki ANDO
5Rachael FLATT
9Sarah MEIER
11Alissa CZISNY
12Carolina KOSTNER
13Susanna PÖYKIÖ
15Cynthia PHANEUF
17Na-Young KIM
18Annette DYTRT
22Candice DIDIER
23Kerstin FRANK
24Ana Cecilia CANTU

Going down the list:

Korea, with 1st and 17th placements, earned the first two spots. (2 of 24)

Canada, with 2nd and 15th placements, earned two spots. (4 of 24)

Japan, with 3rd and 4th placements, earned three spots. (7 of 24)

The USA, with 5th and 11th placements, earned two spots. (9 of 24)

Finland, with 6th and 13th placements, earned two spots. (11 of 24)

Russia, with a 7th placement, earned two spots. (13 of 24)

Switzerland, with a 9th placement, earned two spots (15 of 24) but would eventually only use one.

Georgia, with a 10th placement, earned two spots (17 of 24) but would eventually only use one.

Italy, with a 12th placement, earned one spot. (18 of 24)

Slovakia, with a 14th placement, earned one spot. (19 of 24)

Estonia, with a 16th placement, earned one spot. (20 of 24)

Germany, with an 18th placement, earned one spot. (21 of 24)

Poland, with a 19th placement, earned one spot. (22 of 24)

Great Britain, with a 20th placement, earned one spot. (23 of 24)

Turkey, with a 21st placement, earned the final spot. (24 of 24)

Even though France, Austria, and Mexico qualified skaters into the final free skate, countries ahead of them gained spots (Russia, Switzerland, and Georgia) and therefore the 24 qualifiers were reached and those countries would have to earn a spot at the Olympic Qualifying Competition the next fall, which was the Nebelhorn Trophy.

Let's look at the final results from that event now:

1Alissa CZISNY
2Kiira KORPI
3Yan LIU
5Teodora POSTIC
10Katharina HÄCKER
11Isabelle PIEMAN
12Tamar KATZ
15Cheltzie LEE
16Gwendoline DIDIER

Alissa Czisny (1st), Kiira Korpi (2nd), Sarah Hecken (7th), Elena Glebova (9th), and Katharina Hacker (10th) all skated for countries that had finalized their entry amounts at the World Championships and had no effect on the additional qualifiers here.

China, with a 3rd placement here, earned the first qualifying spot. Yan Liu also competed at the 2009 Worlds, finishing in 42nd place.

Hungary, with a 4th placement, earned the second qualifying spot. The Hungarian skater at 2009 Worlds (Bianka Padar) finished in 39th place.

Slovenia, with a 5th placement, earned the third qualifying spot. Teodora Postic also competed at the 2009 Worlds, finishing in 35th place.

Austria, with a 6th placement, earned the fourth qualifying spot. If you remember from the chart above, Kerstin Frank finished in 23rd place at the 2009 Worlds, and was one of the three unlucky skaters who qualified for the free skate without earning an Olympic spot for her country.

Spain, with an 8th placement, earned the fifth qualifying spot. Sonia Lafuente also competed at the 2009 Worlds, finishing in 26th place.

Belgium, with an 11th placement, earned the sixth qualifying spot. Isabelle Pieman also competed at the 2009 Worlds, finishing in 40th place.

That's it, right? Technically, it would be. But remember my notes above about two countries not sending their maximum amount of entries? We keep going..

Israel would have been the next in line, but their Olympic Committee decided against sending Tamar Katz.

Same thing with next in line Czech Republic. No lady was sent to the Games, although they had now earned a spot.

Uzbekistan did take the spot given up by Switzerland after they chose to only send one lady. Anastasia Gimazetdinova finished 31st at the 2009 Worlds.

Australia took the final spot, which was given up by Georgia after they chose to only send one lady. Cheltzie Lee was 33rd at the 2009 Worlds.

Interesting note here. France was one spot away from directly qualifying a lady to the Olympics after Candice Didier finished 22nd at the World Championships. They again missed out by one spot after Gwendoline Didier (not related) finished 16th here after a disastrous free skate.

To make matters worse (and this is a bit of trivia), Candice Didier injured herself in the middle of her Worlds free skate, came back on the ice after a few minutes, and did two double Axel-double Axel sequences. Since only three double Axels were allowed in the free skate, the entire second sequence was voided. If you take a look at the final point totals, that made the difference between earning an Olympic spot and just missing out.

Depending on what the ISU ends up doing with the technical minimum scores for the 2014 season (and/or the Olympics specifically) we could see the potential of several countries earning more spots than skaters eligible.

In addition, several countries' Olympic committees hold strict criteria for allowing skaters to compete. I remember in 2002, Sarah Meier of Switzerland was questionable for the Olympics after she didn't finish in the top 8 at the European Championships. She had to skate in front of national judges and land a certain number of triples in her free skate in order to go to the Olympics. She succeeded, and ended up in 9th place following the short program in Salt Lake City.