Friday, January 22, 2016

2016 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships: Previews/Predictions Part 2

Here's what I've got for you regarding DANCE predictions at 2016 Nationals:


DANCE
GOLD: Madison Chock/Evan Bates
SILVER: Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani
BRONZE: Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
PEWTER: Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker

Dark Horse: Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus

Like my Ladies predictions from yesterday, this list is pretty similar to last year’s. But for what it’s worth (and since I’m not a judge, “it” is not worth much at all I’m afraid), I would like to see the Shib Sibs win this year. I know I’m not alone in the feeling that their “Fix You” free dance has elevated their skating this season. And it’s not that the Chock/Bates classically-rooted FD is a problem,  or a step backward, or anything like that—at least not for me, as still enjoy it (and them) very much.

But “Fix You” is special. The Shibs, like so many sibling couples ahead of them, have struggled at times to conceptualize their contributions to the part of this sport that is uniquely driven by romantic imagery. Here, in “Fix You”, they have created a piece that is so much more than beautiful and (for lack of a better word) appropriate. It is contemporary, it is evocative—and maybe most important of all, it is a wonderfully telling reflection of how much those two have grown, both individually and as a team.

Unfortunately, “it” still landed them behind C/B at the recent Grand Prix Final—even with the latter team having a notable error on at least one element (the twizzles). And while I guess it could be argued that the Shibs couldn’t possibly have done their best at the GPF—Alex suffering terribly from a stomach ailment and all—I’m one of those who thought it was possibly the best and most moving performance they’ve ever given in competition (and not knowing something was actually wrong with Alex until post-performance).

So the reasoning goes like this: If they couldn’t finish ahead of C/B there... they won’t do it here either. (Sigh. I really, really want to be wrong though—can you tell?)

As for the bronze/pewter battle: after 2015 Nats it looked like Hawayek/Baker had a crazy head of steam propelling them towards overtaking Hubbell/Donohue this year. But as of right now, it feels like all that steam has dissipated. From Baker’s concussion in September, to Hawayek’s bout with food poisoning that took the team out of  Cup of China, to a free dance (taking on the Hawking story of The Theory of Everything) that seems a little difficult to connect with—yeah, I find myself thinking Advantage HUBBELL/DONOHUE. And that’s not by default either—I think they have risen to the challenge of staying on the World team this year. (I still like their Hallelujah SD much more than their Adagio for Tron FD, though.)

The one change I made from last year’s predictions is having Cannuscio/ McManus (or as one of my Twitter followers calls them endearingly, Can Man) as the Dark Horse. For better or worse, both Can Man and Haw/Bake have taken on story pieces for their free dances—Beethoven’s saga is the Can Man version—and it feels like the time might be right for them to make a move.

As for the rest of the field (14 teams in all), I watched their qualifying Sectionals performances and... sorry to say... very few stood out for me in a positive way. (As always, I note that I don’t “know” dance like I know singles skating... I just know what looks/feels good to me.)  The only exceptions—aka teams you might want to take note of—are:

+     Karina Manta/Joseph Johnson, who were 10th at Junior Nats last year (I wrote in my notes pretty good twizzles; seem much better than the rest)

+     Alexandra Aldridge/Matthew Blackmer and Danielle Thomas/Daniel Eaton. The names sound familiar because A) Aldridge and Eaton competed together through 2015 Nats, and B) Blackmer previously competed as a pairs skater, winning Junior Nats in 2013 with Britney Simpson. (FYI, Thomas/Eaton are skating 3rd in the SD while Aldridge/Blackmer are skating 9th.)

**

Here's what I'm predicting for the MEN:

GOLD: Nathan Chen
SILVER: Max Aaron
BRONZE: Adam Rippon
PEWTER: Vincent Zhou

Dark Horse: Grant Hochstein or Ross Miner

“Nowhere” Man: Zhou

“Not Here” Men (that is, the laundry list of guys who have scratched from this event):
Jason Brown, Richard Dornbush, Joshua Farris, Jordan Moeller


Admittedly, I haven’t peeked around to see what others are predicting so I’ve no idea of choosing Chen is a surprise, or the surprise-that-everyone-saw-coming. But here’s how I’m looking at this:

+      Chen has good quads. Yes, he has artistry (still developing, of course—he’s only 16!—but it’s coming). But more importantly for this level of competition: Chen has good, point-mongering QUADS. And he lands them most of the time.

+      Aaron has quads too, and so does Rippon. But so far this year, the consistency hasn’t been there for either of them (and that goes moreso for some of their triples than the quads).

+      Especially with all the WDs at the top, the pressure is both Rippon and Aaron like it probably hasn’t been since... well, since a team was being chosen for Sochi (which didn’t include either of them). While I don’t think they will have dates with disaster—I wouldn’t predict them for medals if I did—I’m afraid the nerves will tag them both just enough to keep the top spot out of reach. Chen, meanwhile, has nothing to lose. Did I mention he’s 16??

+      Speaking of teenagers... Vincent Zhou. He won Novice Men on his first attempt. He won Junior Men on his first attempt. He didn’t compete last year due to injury... but he’s back. With a quad salchow (one of the few to successfully land one in Sectionals, if not THE only one). And a full arsenal of triples. And some decent musicality (his FS is to The Godfather, or as I’ll probably quip on Twitter, The Godfather’s Unexpected Nephew). And yes, I’m predicting this 15 (FIFTEEN!!) year-old will finish his senior-level debut in a most-exciting 4th place.

+      Finally, we’ve got Grant (Hochstein) and Ross (Miner). One turned in surprisingly strong 4th place finishes at both his GP events this season (after being away from the entire circuit for several years); the other earned a surprise of his own when he claimed bronze at Rostelecom Cup a couple months ago. Can either of them convert those successes into a podium-worthy Nationals? Yep, I think either one of them could do it—especially with a landed quad (which both have done) and IF the other guys I’ve mentioned execute seriously flawed programs. (And after watching the ladies Thursday night, we certainly know what that’s like!) But those are pretty specific circumstances, which is why I give both Hochstein and Miner the Dark Horse slot.

 OTHER MEN RETURNING WITH A “BYE” (as in by-passing Sectionals): Tim Dolensky

OTHERS RETURNING VIA SECTIONALS: Scott Dyer, Alexander Johnson (NOTE: he skates first in the SD tonight) Jimmy Ma, Curran Oi**, Sebastien Payannet, Robert Przepioski, Sean Rabbitt


ROOKIES to the senior ranks this year are Ben Jalovick, Daniel Kulenkamp, Emmanuel Savary, Eric Stinehart, and the previously mentioned Zhou.

VETERANS: 26 year-old Rippon’s first senior-level Nationals was 2009.
**But of special note is 25 year-old Curran Oi, who you might recall was a standout 6th-place finisher that same year (FUN FACT—he outskated Rippon by less than half a point!). He then dropped out of competition to attend M.I.T. full-time. But he’s back, and while his FS at Sectionals wasn’t a complete return to that 2009 form, it was enough to get him back to Nationals for the first time in seven years! No small accomplishment.


Whether you’re following everything on Ice Network, or just the marquee groups/events on NBC this weekend, chances are good that I’ll be on Twitter at the same time... look for me @KLBSt8ofSk8, using #USChamps16 on all Nats-related Tweets!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships: Previews/Predictions Part 1

Hey! Welcome back to State of the Skate! Say, did you know 2016 U.S. Nationals are underway?

Of course you did. I'm just messing with you. Anyway, the Pairs SP is up first-- as usual-- so here's a few words and predictions about all of that:

PAIRS

GOLD: Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim
SILVER: Tarah Kayne/Daniel O’Shea
BRONZE: Madeline Aaron/Max Settlage
PEWTER: Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran

Dark Horse: Jessica Calalang/Zack Sidhu

Even with two teams scratching (Donlan/Bartholomay and reigning silver medalists Denney/Frazier), this year’s pairs field is a little bigger than last year’s. Trouble is, I feel like I barely know what’s happening with any of them. Sci/Kni seem to be a lock for gold this year, especially with Denney/Frazier gone. Kayne/O’Shea have had a pretty good season thus far—1st at the U.S. Classic and 4th at Rostelecom among the highlights—so I’ve got them making the move from bronze to silver this year. The rest is kind of a crap shoot... Aaron/Settlage had to scratch from their only GP assignment, Castelli/Tran are improving rapidly but still had a ways to go last time I saw them (4th at Skate Canada), and Calalang/Sidhu could only manage 7th place at NHK. So consider all those placements sheer guesswork!

As for the nine teams that got here by way of Sectionals—I tried to watch all of them via IceNetwork, but couldn’t locate four of the teams (!!). And the five I DID see were not particularly noteworthy—not in a good way, at least!

So when it comes to new teams, I’ll just call out two of ‘em: Chelsea Liu/Brian Johnson, who skated the JGP circuit this past fall (and had a BYE from Sectionals for that reason I think) and have “good speed and energy” with their Beauty and the Beast program... and Caitlin Fields/Ernie Utah Stevens, who didn’t have a great skate at Midwestern Sectionals but won Junior Nationals last year, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. Also I’m giving them a “homer” vote because they skate out of the Indianapolis area (and Stevens is (or was?) a Butler University student)!

VETERAN OF THE FIELD: 25 year-old Castelli, who first competed senior Nats in 2010 with Simon Shnapir. But to be fair her current partner (Tran, also 25) is even more of a veteran, considering he first competed in a senior nats (for Japan, with Narumi Takahashi) back in 2008!

**
LADIES

GOLD: Gracie Gold
SILVER: Ashley Wagner
BRONZE: Polina Edmunds
PEWTER: Courtney Hicks

Dark Horse: Karen Chen
“Nowhere” Lady: Tyler Pierce

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that this is the exact same gold-to-pewter set of predictions I made last year. That’s not by mistake. This time, I’m saying “Gracie for Gold” because I’ve grown concerned about Wagner’s ability, of late, to deliver back-to-back great skates. While I’m not convinced Gold will skate either program clean, I’m better the sum of her mistakes will be slightly less than whichever program Wagner might bungle (FWIW I’m guessing that will be the long... I just don’t know that she can come close to her Nats performance of essentially the same Moulin Rouge free skate of 2015.) But, having said all that, keep in mind that I’ve gotten this particular prediction correct only ONE TIME in the past five years!

As for Bronze, Pewter, and my DH pick, the thinking goes like this:
+      both Edmunds and Hicks have been stronger so far this year (with Hicks picking up her first GP medal!) but I tend to think Edmunds is both more fluid and more consistent... so long as she fully rotates her jumps.
+      Hicks’ jumps are FIERCE but she’s had issues with her combo jumps in particular. (As in, not really combo jumps.)
+      While Chen has been OK in the first half of the season, I don’t really see her improving (or “keeping up”?) enough to get another podium finish. BUT she’s proven she’s capable...

And I’ve got Pierce as a coming out of “nowhere” for a top-6 finish because based on what I saw last year and this year. I started this prediction last year and didn’t do well with it, so I won’t talk more about it unless I happen to be right this time... heh heh.

OTHER LADIES RETURNING WITH A “BYE” (as in by-passing Sectionals): Mariah Bell, Hannah Miller, Mirai Nagasu, and Angela Wang.

MISSING IN ACTION? Last year’s 12th place finisher Leah Keiser. If you know what she’s up to (injured, taking a break, full-time college, etc.) please share in the comments!

OTHERS RETURNING VIA SECTIONALS: Ashley Cain, Francesca Chiera, Christina Cleveland, Katie McBeath, Maria Yang

ROOKIES to the senior ranks this year are Alexis Gagnon, Carly Gold (aka Gracie’s redheaded sister), Avery Kurtz, Alexie Mieskoski, Heidi Munger, Elena Pulkinen, and Bradie Tennell (last year’s Junior Champ—watch for her!)

VETERANS: Both Wagner (age 24) and Mirai Nagasu (age 22) have competed at senior Nats since 2008!


See you on Twitter, I hope...? More predictions coming Friday of course! 



Thursday, December 10, 2015

2015 Senior Grand Prix Final Predictions!

For the Senior Grand Prix Final predictions I’ve kept it simple... in a way.

My guesses are below; you’ll see that I’m attempting to predict ALL the placements this time around. However, I offer no explanations yet for said predictions. (That’s the “simple” part.) That is partly by design, and partly because I want to get this posted before the event actually gets underway. My thought is that I’ll work my reasonings into my GP wrap-up... where it will surely become crystal clear why I got the guesses so backwards!


And here is the TV Schedule... NBC viewers, take note: coverage will not air until NEXT Sunday...


PAIRS PREDICTIONS

Gold: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
Silver: Stolbova/Klimov (RUS)
Bronze: Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)
4th: Peng/Zhang (CHN)
5th: Scimeca/Knierim (USA)
6th: Yu/Jin (CHN)
7th: Seguin/Bilodeau (CAN)


MEN’S PREDICTIONS

Gold: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
Silver: Patrick Chan (CAN)
Bronze: Jin Boyang (CHN)
4th: Shoma Uno (JPN)
5th: Javier Fernandez (ESP)
6th: Daisuke Murakami (JPN)


DANCE PREDICTIONS

Gold: Weaver/Poje (CAN)
Silver: Chock/Bates (USA)
Bronze: Shibutanis (USA)
4th: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)
5th: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)
6th: Hubbell/Donohue (USA)

LADIES PREDICTIONS

Gold: Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
Silver: Elena Radionova (RUS)
Bronze: Gracie Gold (USA)
4th: Mao Asada (JPN)
5th: Satako Miyahara (JPN)
6th: Ashley Wagner (USA)


Don’t forget to use #GPFBarcelona on Twitter... and look for me @KLBSt8ofSk8 !

Rostelecom and NHK Trophy in Review, Pt. 2 (Men/Dance)

Time to continue this dual recap of Rostelecom Cup and NHK Trophy as we move over to cover the other two disciplines...

NOTEWORTHY MEN...

            Yuzuru Hanyu—When he came off the ice at the conclusion of a near-perfect pair of NHK performances, coach Brian Orser said “I have no words!” with good reason. All the superlatives you’d typically go with—breathtaking, brilliant, lights-out!—had already been used a number of times on his less perfect skates. How could they have a place now? But since that day, I’ve thought of three “words”—a.k.a. multiple words strung together as sentences:

1) The desire to post his NHK performances to Olympics-only skating fans on Facebook, saying “THIS is why he’s the Olympic Gold Medalist”... but of course that’s kind of silly; it’s hard enough to get performances like this in a relatively minor event, let alone the Olympic stage. That’s why it was special.

2) In fact it’s almost as silly as Hanyu being asked after NHK if he was going to retire now (that he’d skated the perfect competition). Retire?! He just turned 21... an absolute adolescent by today’s skating standards! (Just ask Konstantin Menshov.)

3) The perfection of Hanyu in that competition may not be attained again for a long, loooong time. And that’s okay.

      Russian Roll Call: There’s a lot of talk on the NBC coverage of these events—mostly by Johnny Weir—about Russia’s ongoing search for The Next Plushenko. But isn’t that about as productive as when the U.S. was “searching for the next Kwan”? Michelle and Evgeni (and let’s be honest, Evgeni and Alexei Yagudin) were talents beyond their time. Meaning more than just a particular era. Irreplaceable. Sure now we have a U.S. rivalry between Gold and Wagner that will be looked on fondly one day, but that nearly a decade (after Kwan’s final U.S. title) to develop. And, arguably, neither of today’s top ladies has approached Kwan territory yet (if ever they will). Likewise, Plushy and Yag challenged each other at the top—not even considering how long it took for them to get there—for years! It’s an unmatched battle! So meanwhile, as Yag has long since retired with hip injuries and Plushy keeps on threatening to return, major back surgery be damned, Russia struggles to find a single superskate hero, let alone a pair of them:

+      32 year-old Konstantin Menshov, who has yet to medal at a GP event and has never been on a world or Olympic team

+     28 year-old Sergei Voronov, whose best Worlds finish (7th) was 7 years ago

+      22 year-old Artur Gachinsky, who was 3rd at his first Worlds (in 2011), 18th at his next a year later, and hasn’t been back to Worlds since.

+      20 year-old Maxim Kovtun, a two-time national champ whose initial big chance to shine was, ironically, taken away from him when Plushenko was chosen over him to represent at Sochi.

+      17 year-old Aidian Pitkeev, recent Rostelecom Cup silver medalist who is too young to have his career thwarted by Plushadow Plushenko. Yet.

            My point, which understandably has only trace connections to my topic of choice (sorry) is this: Maybe it would behoove Russia to remove the specters of Olympics past from current conversation.

      GP Finalists 6, USA Men 0... but not for lack of trying.
+      Jason Brown had a shot at the Final for sure until an injury forced him from NHK.
+      Max Aaron seemed a lock for the Final after Skate America, but then TEB ended before he got to redeem his 7th place SP.

And with Joshua Farris out recovering, the chances got even slimmer:

+      Ross Miner and Adam Rippon took on Rostelecom and did well... very well in Miner’s case... but were still nowhere near Final qualification.
+      Grant Hochstein and Richard Dornbush, meanwhile, both took on their 2nd Asian GP assignment of the season. Dornbush, sadly, seems to have stalled out much the way Rachael Flatt did when she worked the collegiate balance... and Hochstein, with two 4ths, did exceedingly well this GP season—and like Courtney Hicks, I have hope he can leverage that success to a best-ever Nats finish. However, his best work is not anywhere near GP Final best.

NOTEWORTHY DANCE...

            Here are the top GP scores from U.S. dance teams so far this season:

174.43—Shibutanis at NHK Trophy

173.22—Chock/Bates at Skate America

169.16—Chock/Bates at Cup of China

168.36—Shibutanis at Skate Canada

167.49—Hubbell/Donohue at NHK Trophy

So just how important is this GP Final for the U.S. dance teams? Important enough that winning the whole thing would be great, but getting the top U.S. score would seem to be the goal.

On the international front... I’d say the following battles were critical:
            Chock/Bates vs. Weaver/Poje
            Weaver/Poje vs. Cappellini/Lanotte
            Bobrova/Soloviev vs. The Universe (where do they really fit in now that they’re back?)

Meanwhile, everyone’s got to be wondering about Papdakis/Cizeron, who like Volosohzar/Trankov will be the (missing) elephant in the GP rink this weekend... even more so, in their case, because they’ve yet to return to competition. (Welcome to the real reason anyone internationally might pay attention to French Nationals this year.)


Stand by for my full list of senior GPF predictions! 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rostelecom AND NHK Trophy in Review, Pt. 1 (Ladies/Pairs)


The field is set, as they say!

Gracie and Ashley! Weaver and Poje! Sui and Han! Wait, they’ve scratched (due to injury)... Peng and Zhang! Yuzuru and... oookay fine, he’s currently standing all by himself after last weekend. But we’ll get to that later.

First, as promised, let’s take a step backwards and see what was worth remembering at Rostelecom Cup AND NHK Trophy:

NOTEWORTHY WOMEN...

+  Rostelecom Russian Sweep: Many predicted it; I was not one of them (sigh)... but give Russia this: they picked the right young women for this event. Medeveda is Russia’s current “It” girl, Radionova was last year’s “It” girl (if you consider Tuktamysheva last year’s comeback queen, that is), and Sotnikova and her OGM probably made her the headliner above both of them. Then, for an added twist, Radionova got the win! One prediction I got correctly here was Sotnikova for bronze, and while I actually think bronze should’ve gone to Polina Edmunds, Sotnikova’s first time back in the GP ring was good. Not great, but good. Which, I think, is how I’ve characterized her skating all along. And I still don’t think she’s ever really elevated beyond “good”. Not even in Sochi.

+  Pogorilayaaaaaaah!!!: Then, Russia sent the struggling Anna Pogorilaya to NHK Trophy a week later... and we witnessed one of the most painful SPs we’ve seen this season (the other one that comes to mind is Kaetlyn Osmond’s at Skate Canada... back to her in a moment). Three jumping passes, three falls. Hard falls. No, make that brutal, sprawling, spirit-crushing falls and a couple “OMG did she hit her head??” comments on Twitter. It thumped her to last place—and while she bravely eked out a much more on-her-feet FS that landed her in 9th overall, you’ve got to feel for her as they head towards Russian Nationals. I can only speculate, but right now it seems like it’s between Pogo, Tukta, Sotnik(ova) and Lipnit(skaia) for that third World Team spot. Oof. Advantage Tukta, without a doubt.

+  Chartrand’s chances of holding her SP spot (when attempting a triple axel in the FS): slim to none. Alaine Chartrand may very well become the first Canadian woman to land a triple axel in competition... but based on results, maybe she should shift that goal to next season. Twice she’s attempted it in this season’s GP, twice she’s fallen on it, and twice the rest of her FS has been a wash. The 88.80 last place score she got at Skate America was merely a morale-guzzler, since she was 6th after the SP. Rostelecom, though, saw her in 2nd place (over Evegenia Medeveda, for heaven’s sake!!) after the SP... so even though she was able to improve on the SkAM debacle by some 17 points, that skid down to 6th place overall had to hurt, especially since she made the podium last year. She’s clearly capable of very good work, so I hope she takes a cue from Adam Rippon and ditches the huge points-getter that ain’t getting her any points. A World Team spot at Canadian Nationals may depend on it.
           
+ Osmond’s rocky road back: She’s getting there—just not at the pace she hoped for. After experiencing ankle pain, a blistering flying spin wipeout, and a dizzying array of stumbles and falls at Skate Canada that left her in 11th place, Kaetlyn Osmond was decidedly in the middle of the pack with a 6th place finish at NHK. The near 25-point gain she made from one FS to the next was definitely helpful... still, like Chartrand, I’d say absolutely nothing is guaranteed to her come Canadian Nats. Perhaps she said summed it up best in this Twitter post shortly after NHK:
    Everything is a learning process. Practices have been         perfect, just getting used to competing is the trick. I       know I can just keep building.

The American trail mix: we had an interesting assortment of U.S. ladies’ performances over the past few weeks. Up in Moscow, current pewter medalist Polina Edmunds turned in a pair of pretty strong skates only to find herself in that familiar 4th place. The good news to be found from that: she lagged behind reigning OGM Sotnikova by less than 2 total points. The bad news: in my opinion, she shouldn’t have. In the FS in particular, Edmunds had the higher tech score. But—oh hello, more subjective components—Ade got an average score of 8.67 compared to Pol’s 7.59. This goes back to what I said about Ade being good-not-great... I think her components should be a fair shot lower. No more than a 7.9 to Pol’s 7.6. But oh, what a judge’s world must look like through OGM-colored glasses...
      
    Anyway, NHK proved interesting for all the reasons           Ashley Wagner didn’t want it to: a few misses in the       SP? Check. A few more in the FS? CHECK. Finishing off       the GP podium for the first time in 4 years? CHECK!           While your teammate finishes ahead of you? Ai-yi-yi...

    Speaking of the teammate! Courtney Hicks kept the         mustard FS dress, but left behind the jitters that took       her out of the running the last time she had a top-3 SP     to build from. Well, she left behind some of them,             skating fairly well in a sea of disappointing                       performances (save for Miyahara, the NHK winner). But     that first-ever GP medal she won could go a long way       when it comes to confidence at Nationals.

      (For Hannah Miller and Mirai Nagasu, who also competed at Rostelecom and   NHK, respectively, I’m leaving them out of the trail mix conversation because   Miller’s 10th place and Nagasu’s 5th were pretty much what I expected—both before and after they skated.)

NOTEWORTHY PAIRS...

+  Honestly, I don’t have a whole lot to say about either the Rostelecom OR the NHK pairs event. All three from the Rostelecom podium (Stolbova/Klimov, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Peng/Zhang) are competing at the GP Final now that Sui/Han have scratched due to injury, and all three from the NHK podium (Duhamel/Radford, Yu/Jin, Scimeca/Knierim) will be at the final too.

+  One notable addition to this list: Seguin/Bilodeau of Canada, who turned out to be the sole beneficiaries of the rule adjustment made by the ISU in the wake of the cancelled Trophee Eric Bompard event. One notable absence: Volosohzar/Trankov, the reigning OGMs back from their one-year hiatus. Since they only competed at TEB, there was no way for them to rack up enough points for the Final. Those awaiting a Russian/Canadian showdown between this team and Duh/Rad—who have won every major event they entered within the past two seasons to this point—looks like you’ll be waiting until Worlds.

 Speaking of Duh/Rad (that looks so silly; I think I want to change that abbreviation to Doo-Rad), I want to talk about THAT MUSIC. Even if you don’t recognize the song they’ve chosen for this season’s FS, you might have already deciphered it to be sung by the currently omnipresent Adele. “Hometown Glory” is the closing track on Adele’s debut album from 2008; it was also the first single released from that album and is reported to be the first song Adele ever wrote. The team of Doo-Rad is not the first to use “Hometown”—Jeremy Abbott, to name another, made it an exhibition piece from 2010 through 2012—but with vocals only in their second year of use in competition, I happen to think Doo-Rad are making an excellent case “for” the vocals side of debate. (And yes, I still plan to dedicate a post to that topic!)

+  On the “against” side: the 70s mix tape that the Italian team of Marchei/Hotarek have for their FS. I was a little concerned when Wikipedia listed their FS music as The Way We Were followed by Saturday Night Fever (meaning some sort of medley from the film’s soundtrack, I assumed, since unlike “The Way We Were”, “Saturday Night Fever” is not an actual song). But the actual program contained not only those unlikely music bedfellows, but—in between SNF cuts—a snippet of the 1977 megahit ballad “You Light Up My Life”. WHAT?? I then had an indelible image in my head of Debby Boone (the squeaky-clean singer of that song) trapped in Studio 54, begging to be released but going unheard amid a relentless Bee Gee bass line. GAH! Mar/Hot, for heaven sakes, turn off the disco ball and go get a new program before Euros gets any closer!


Next up, Next time: Men and Ice Dance! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

2015 NHK Trophy Preview/Predictions

Here are the times for NHK Trophy viewing via IceNetwork...


And TV coverage can be found here... 
  
NHK TROPHY

LADIES...
CONTENDERS: Kaetlyn Osmond, Mao Asada, Satoko Miyahara, Anna Pogorilaya, Ashley Wagner

GOLD: Asada (JPN)
SILVER: Wagner (USA)
BRONZE: Miyahara (JPN)
DARK HORSE: Pogorilaya (RUS), Osmond (CAN)

I know Asada just barely won Cup of China after a tripped-up FS, but I just don’t see her being beaten by anyone in this field. Pogorilaya and/or Osmond could make some podium noise, but only if one of the other has a major turnaround from their previous GP outings.

USA Alert: Both Courtney Hicks and Mirai Nagasu are here for the U.S. as well.

MEN...
CONTENDERS: Jin Boyang, Yuzuru Hanyu, Maxim Kovtun, Richard Dornbush, Grant Hochstein

GOLD: Hanyu (JPN)
SILVER: Jin (CHN)
BRONZE: Kovtun (RUS)
DARK HORSE: Dornbush (USA), Hochstein (USA)

Knowing what sort of technical score Jin is capable of even when he does NOT land all his jumps, I could be out of my mind in putting Hanyu ahead of him. Oh well. I blame all the Thanksgiving carbs.

PAIRS...
CONTENDERS: Megan Duhamel/Eric Radford, Yu Xiaoyu/Jin Yang, Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres, Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim

GOLD: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
SILVER: Yu/Jin (CHN)
BRONZE: Scimeca/Knierim (USA)
DARK HORSE: James/Cipres (FRA)

Nothing but room here for Duh/Rad to show what they can do. I’ve got the French team as possible spoilers because their 2nd place SP at the aborted Trophee Eric Bompard deserves some credit.

USA Alert: Jessica Calalang/Zach Sidhu are here as well, making their only GP appearance this season.

DANCE...
CONTENDERS: Penny Coomes/Nicholas Buckland, Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev, Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin, Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue, Maia/Alex Shibutani

GOLD: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)
SILVER: Shib Sibs (USA)
BRONZE: Hubbell/Donohue (USA)
DARK HORSE: Coomes/Buckland (GBR)

I wouldn’t mind seeing the Shibs win this at ALL, and in fact they just might since they beat Bob/Solo a few competitions ago. But I’m thinking the Russians might leapfrog to the top now that they’ve got their first-competition-in-forever event out of the way.

USA Alert: Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus are here as well; earlier in the GP season they finished 5th at Skate America.

As you’ve surely noticed by now, I didn’t get a Rostelecom Cup in Review post completed yet. So my plan right now is to combine my NHK and Rost Cup reports into a couple of posts in a few days... when, among other things, I don’t have another major competition staring me down at the end of the week!


As usual NHK is a tough one to watch live in my time zone, so if you don’t catch me live-tweeting #NHK15 be sure to comment/ask me stuff using my Twitter handle @KLBSt8ofSk8 !

Thursday, November 19, 2015

2015 Rostelecom Cup (of Russia) Preview/Predictions

Here’s when to catch Rostelecom on IceNetwork (starting Friday at 7AM Eastern Time):




MEN

CONTENDERS: Nam Nguyen, Takahiko Kozuka, Adian Pitkeev, Sergei Voronov, Javier Fernandez, Adam Rippon

GOLD: Fernandez (ESP)
SILVER: Nguyen (CAN)
BRONZE: Pitkeev (RUS)
DARK HORSE: Rippon (US)

I don’t think Javi will have a lot of difficulty with this field, though my silver and bronze picks might be able to meet him quad for quad (or better, depending on how tired Javi looks in the second half of his FS).

LADIES

CONTENDERS: Roberta Rodeghiero, Rika Hongo, Yuka Nagai, Evgenia Medvedeva, Elena Radionova, Adelina Sotnikova, Polina Edmunds

GOLD: Medvedeva (RUS)
SILVER: Hongo (JPN)
BRONZE: Sotnikova (RUS)
DARK HORSE: Radionova (RUS), Nagai (JPN)

Russian sweep in Russia? Yep, maybe... especially since the role of Russian Phenom is currently being played by young Medvedeva. But that’s a lot of pressure... and Radionova has already shown she might not have the instant triple-triple power that she had last year. (Hongo, meanwhile, could be on a roll. And remember, she won this last year.) Sotnikova’s last time competing in an ice arena in front of the Russian crowds was... um... dang, what was that?? Anyway, this is her first GP appearance since 2013, and her first time back to Rostelecom Cup since 2012. Your guess is as good as mine as to how she’ll do here... bronze seems possible, though.

PAIRS

CONTENDERS: Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro, Peng Cheng/Zhang Hao, Valentina Marchei/Ondrej Hotarek, Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov, Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov

GOLD: Stolbova/Klimov (RUS)
SILVER: Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)
BRONZE: Peng/Zhang (CHN)
DARK HORSE: Moore-Towers/Marinaro (CAN), Marchei/Hotarek (ITA)

Whew. Tough one. And I’m going against recent GP history with my 1-2 prediction, but I feel like living on the edge.

DANCE

CONTENDERS: Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje, Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte, Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri, Elena Ilinykh/Ruslan Zhiganzhin, Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov

GOLD: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)
SILVER: Weaver/Poje (CAN)
BRONZE: Sinitsina/Katsalapov (RUS)
DARK HORSE: Ilinykh/Zhiganzhin (RUS)

The battle for gold—between two previous winners on this year’s circuit—should be fierce. And the battle for bronze—between two Russian teams that used to be one Russian team (Ilinykh/Katsalapov)—sounds melodramatic, even on paper. Bring your popcorn.