Friday, September 5, 2014

"Should They Stay...?" North American Single Skaters Edition

In finally getting around to a North American edition of the “should they stay or should they go?” question posed in my last post, I’ve decided to list the top U.S. and Canadian singles skaters by age rather than placement at the last Nationals. (Because, like it or not, it matters.) I’ve boldfaced skaters "of interest":

Top 12 men at U.S. Nationals by AGE
Jeremy Abbott (age 29)—finished 1st
Douglas Razzano (will be 26 this fall, one GP assignment)— finished 6th
Stephen Carriere (25, one GP assignment)—finished 10th
Adam Rippon (will be 25 in fall, 2 GP assignments)—finished 8th
Grant Hochstein (24, will compete at Finlandia Trophy)—finished 11th
Brandon Mroz (24 this winter) – finished 9th
Ross Miner (23, 1 GP assignment)—finished 7th
Richard Dornbush (23, some reports indicated he’d be focusing on college this season but he, too, currently has 2 GP assignments)—finished 5th
Keegan Messing (22)—finished 12th
Max Aaron (22, 2 GP assignments)—finished 3rd
Jason Brown (19, 2 GP assignments)—finished 2nd
Joshua Farris (19, 2 GP assignments)—finished 4th

Abbott: I might as well start with the one that will likely bring the most objections, so here goes... I wish he’d stayed with his plan to retire. It’s not that I love his skating any less than I ever have. It’s more about going out a) on his own terms (read: without a career-ending injury, a la Lysacek) and b) on a high note. While I can appreciate his re-thinking his exit strategy after pulling down a 5th place at Worlds, as well as helping secure a 3rd spot for the U.S. men for the first time in several years... I think he may be asking too much of himself with this post-script. I could be dead wrong, and I’ve a fork in hand, ready to eat as much crow as necessary. But there was a feeling I had when Abbott’s close pal Alissa Czisny continued competing beyond her strongest season (2010-11), and... to state it simply... that feeling is back.

Mroz: Consider this my APB on the former U.S. Silver Medalist whose name is not to be found among any “Team Envelope” and has not posted to Twitter since early January. Is he continuing? Has he moved on? I don’t take the time to read the message boards much anymore, so someone feel free to clue me in if he’s already been discussed to bits. My thought: with his name already in the record books (first—and only, so far—quad lutz landed in an ISU-sanctioned event, October 2011), Mroz may well have something to offer as a jump specialist. Or maybe it’s time to pursue his dreams of being a dentist. But he’s one of those athletes that seems to have lost his joy of competing several years ago. I might actually be sad if I see his name in the Nats lineup this time.

Messing: The Alaskan with the crazy jumping ability and the unfortunate inability (thus far) to bring his best to Nationals... has decided to cross the border. According to his website, he plans to compete for Canada this season. Assuming he qualifies for their Nationals (??), it’ll be interesting to see how he stacks up against the likes of quad royalty (Kevin Reynolds) and young firecrackers (Nam Nguyen).

Speaking of the Top Canadian Men (again, by AGE)... 

Jeremy Ten (25, 1 GP assignment)—finished 6th
Kevin Reynolds (24, 2 GP assignments)—finished 2nd
Elladj Balde (23, 1 GP assignment)—finished 4th
Patrick Chan (age 23, at least part of season off)—finished 1st
Liam Firus (22, 1 GP assignment)—finished 3rd 
Andrei Rogozine (21)—finished 7th
Nam Nguyen (16, 2 GP assignments)—finished 5th
Roman Sandovsky (15, in Junior GP)—finished 8th

Welcome to the group of guys Keegan Messing will face if January if he competes at Nationals... the oldest of which seemed to spontaneously announce his own post-Nationals retirement on Twitter earlier this year. But Jeremy Ten, like another “Jeremy” we’ve discussed, appears to have had a change of heart. No one else, save for Chan, has announced any sort of break. I highlighted Chan’s name, though, to point out he’s still relatively young in this field—one more reason why, as I said last time, I hope he sticks around at least a few more years.

Top 12 ladies at US Nationals by AGE
Ashley Wagner (23, 2 GP assignments)—finished 4th
Mirai Nagasu (21, 2 GP assignments)—finished 3rd
Samantha Cesario (21, 2 GP assignments)—finished 5th
Christina Gao (20, two GP assignments)—finished 8th
Agnes Zawadzki (20, taking year off)—finished 11th
Ashley Cain (19, 2 GP assignments)—finished 12th
Gracie Gold (19, 2 GP assignments)—finished 1st
Courtney Hicks (19 this winter, 2 GP assignments)—finished 6th
Barbie Long (18 this month)—finished 7th
Hannah Miller (18 in Fall, no GPs but has new music for this season)—finished 9th
Leah Kaiser (17 in a few weeks, Junior GP assignments)—finished 10th
Polina Edmunds (16, 2 GP assignments)—finished 2nd

With the U.S. leading ladies still relatively young—you know that’s gotta be true when 21 year-old Nagasu is now among the “elders”—there aren’t as many here that I look at and say “WHY are they continuing??” With the only thing close to a retirement announced by way of 14th place finisher Kiri Baga (who will now focus on continuing her education), 2010 Olympian-turned-Stanford-Student Rachael Flatt, and two-time Champ Alissa Czisny (who did not compete last January, and formally announced her retirement plans this past spring)... my focus falls to Wagner and Zawadski. Wagner may feel she has something yet to prove (at Nationals, anyway), and after what happened this past January, who can blame her? Whether or not she competes through another 4-year Olympic cycle is another story, but for now, I support her decision to continue. Zawadzki, on the other hand, is at enough of a crossroads to Be On A Break— something that’s become fairly commonplace among the world’s elite skaters, whether they’ve achieved the sport’s greatest heights or not. If you’ve read anything about the unique sacrifices Zawadzki’s family has made in order for her to compete at this level (and I say that with an emphasis on unique; stories of familial sacrifice with top skaters are everywhere), then you might be able to appreciate her decision all the more. As for whether or not she should return... given the wild ride she’s had with placements the past few years (some blame her skating, some blame judges propping her up/giving up on her), it’s a tough call. I’d love to hear what you think if you have an opinion!

Top 8 Ladies at Canadian Nationals by AGE

Amelie Lacoste (25, RETIRED)—finished 3rd
Alexandra Najarro (21) – finished 6th
Veronika Mallet (20, 1 GP assignment)—finished 4th
Marianne Ouellet (19)—finished 8th
Katelyn Osmond (18, 2 GP assignments)—finished 1st
Alaine Chartrand (18, 2 GP assignments)—finished 5th
Julianne Seguin (17, doing JGP pairs for sure)—finished 7th
Gabrielle Daleman (16, 2 GP assignments)—finished 2nd


Since 2010, when Olympic Bronze Medalist Joannie Rochette (now 28) has essentially stopped competing, Canada has only lost a couple of its consistent top women: 26 year-old Cynthia Phaneuf, and—as of this season—25 year-old Lacoste, who most recently won bronze (but missed out of the two available Olympic spots). And with teenagers Osmond and Daleman taking the top two spots last year, it might be a while before any of Canada’s finest decide to call it a day (and a career). 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Should They Stay or Should They Go? 2014 Olympians Taking "A Break"

So, we’re less than three weeks from the start of the 2014-15 Junior Grand Prix (what I call figure skating’s pre-season)... what better time to look at the list of the elite skaters of the world who are “taking a break”, as has become so common in post-Olympic seasons, and ponder whether or not they should return to competition...?

(I’m looking to do a similar post dealing strictly with U.S. and Canadian skaters, particularly those that didn’t make it to the Olympic or World teams, but I hate the thought of getting *zero* posts up in July! So I’m going to focus on the world list for now.)

Mao Asada, JAPAN
Best Hardware: 2010 Olympic Silver Medal, 3 World Championships
Placement in Sochi Olympics: 6th
Age: 23
Asada says: Her chances of staying competitive beyond last season are 50/50; she’s taking this next year off to rest and focus on other areas of her life.
State of the Skate says: Although she gave some of the best efforts of her whole career this past season, and might very well make it through another Olympic cycle... I’m not sure why she’d want to. If she learned anything this year, it’s that satisfaction and redemption can take many, many forms. She’s competed at the senior international level for NINE years, and won most everything there is to win! Here’s hoping she gets her well-earned rest, and then moves on to all the other areas of greatness that await her.

Carolina Kostner, ITALY
Best Hardware: 2012 World Championship, 2014 Olympic Bronze Medal
Placement in Sochi Olympics: 3rd
Age: 27
Kostner says: She’s sitting out this season (according to social media).
State of the Skate says: Guess who’s been on the senior world scene even longer than Asada? And gone from the highs to the lows and back again even more often? Time to call it, Carolina. Just because you didn’t end with your best performance (2014 Worlds FS) doesn’t mean your stellar Olympic performances won’t live on forever.

Virtue/Moir, CANADA
Best Hardware: 2010 Olympic Gold Medal, 2014 Olympic Silver Medal, 2 World titles
Placement in Sochi Olympics: 2nd
Age: 25/26
V/M say: No GP series for them this year; no further decisions yet.

Davis/White, U.S.A.
Best Hardware: 2014 Olympic Gold Medal, 2010 Olympic Silver Medal,
Placement in Sochi Olympics:
Age: 27/26
D/W say: Taking the entire season off; no further decisions yet.

To both of them, State of the Skate says: Why are we even talking about this? RETIRE. You have nothing left to prove. (And Charlie, my dear, you’ve got a wedding to pretend to help with.)

Patrick Chan, CANADA
Best Hardware: 2014 Olympic Silver Medal, 3 World Championships
Placement in Sochi Olympics: 2nd
Age: 23
Chan says: No GP season this year; unsure about the rest.
State of the Skate says: Plot twist! Despite the way he annoys me whenever he opens his mouth to the press, I wouldn’t mind seeing Chan continue to compete. Despite all his successes, he hasn’t really put it all together yet. And as deftly talented as he is... that’s a shame. Wouldn’t it be nice to see him win at least ONE World title and not feel like Chanflation had anything to do with it?


Coming next: Either the all-North American edition of the above, or a look at the pairs epidemic (self-explanatory, yes?). Got a preference? Mention it in the comments!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Skating's Last Straw? Pt 2: The Rocky Road to Dublin

**NOTE** 
Just getting this out of the way... I’ve obviously been neglecting my blogging duties of late, and again I apologize for that. Work has been steady and constant; I’m always appreciative and grateful when that happens, but that’s also when State of the Skate is most often forced to take a back seat (especially in the off-season). I’m likely going through a bit of blog burnout too, as I’ve maintained SOTS for 6 years now without any official hiatus, off-season or otherwise. But let’s see if I can get back on track now... not with talk about Meryl & Maks (winners!), or Charlie & Tanith (engaged!!) or the epidemic of pair breakups (yet), or the onset of lyrics in competitive skating music (God help me!!!)... but a finish (or continuation, for now) to what I started back in April. And thanks for your patience!

SO, what’s been happening regarding Cinquanta, resignations, and that pesky short program since I last posted? Let’s see...

BACKTRACK PART 1: First, I want to point out this article from The Wire that ran very shortly after Adelina Sotnikova won Olympic Gold. Not only is it a fine reminder, several months after the fact, of what so many specifically got up in arms about in the first place... it is DEEP and it is DETAILED as it digs into the current scoring system (and the scoring of that event in particular) with video clips, protocol screen shots, and overall gusto:

BACKTRACK PART 2: Next, let’s backtrack to Dick Button’s fab op-ed that ran in Newsweek on 3/31.
Did you catch it? If not, here’s another one of my article breakdowns...

1st paragraph points out the decade-plus decline of figure skating and the fact that the ISU has been run by “speed skaters” for nearly 40 years...

2ndgraph discusses the indignation that erupted in Sochi when Sotnikova won over Kim Yu-Na... the complaint filed by Korea... the fact that the event already had questionable judging choices prior to the judging itself... and that an online protest petition has two million signatures...

3rd graph discusses how we need to go back to question of why speed skaters are running figure skating...

4th graph points out problems with the current judging system: rewarding falls over artistry, anonymous judges, etc.

5th graph declares it’s time for figure skaters to take back their sport... says the ISU needs to split into two organizations... and that speed skaters seem to hold all the cards right now.

6th graph says it’ll take a fight, but Sochi proved that the skating public is getting more & more outraged... ISU must return respect to judges and all that goes with it. We can find allies in associations from Australia, Japan, South Korea, hopefully others. “Figure skaters of the world, the opportunity is now. Take back your sport. Get the foxes out of the henhouse.”

BACKTRACK PART 3:

In mid-April, USA Today's Nancy Armour reported South Korea’s complaint filed on a "disciplinary or ethical offense" which, unlike one filed for the results of a competition, can be accepted up to 60 days after said event. Complaint can then be referred to a full panel, or rejected outright... the decision is subject to appeal. (Sadly, it's now been “rejected outright” as per this ISU document)

BACKTRACK PART 4:
And then there was this Reuters story from May 6...

From about a month ago, this piece doesn’t necessarily share anything new—the petitions (some engineered by 2-time World Champ Tim Wood), the reasons why, the fact that “the ISU didn’t respond to requests for comment from Reuters”... ah, there’s the significance. Not that the ISU blew off an interview request, but that the request—the article itself—was from Reuters. That’s Big Time in terms of newswires, right up there with Associated Press. Three months post-Olympics and the demands for Speedy’s hide had not only NOT faded... they’d commanded a mainstream audience. Could there be hope for us??

BACKTR—wait! CURRENT, THIS-MONTH TRACK
Then came last week’s (June 2) article from Phil Hersh, a “Danny Downer” for figure skating of late if ever there was one (I’ll give Christine Brennan the “Debbie Downer” honors). I put off reading his “ISU bosshas driven skating towards a ditch” piece as long as I could, but... well, I’ve got a job to do here. The gist of it, in case you don’t want to click on the link:

+  Another recap of how much money figure skating has lost in revenue since 1994 (when Speedy happened to take over)

+  Another assessment that both North America and Europe lack the talent and overall appeal to get skating anywhere close to its mid-90s popular heyday... along with the sentiment that South Korea’s interest is bound to decline now that Kim Yuna has retired. (Nothing was mentioned of how the sport is likely to continue thriving in Japan, but I suppose fans cannot live on Hanyu’s Pooh box of tissues alone...)

+  A mention of the petition Tim Wood started, calling for Speedy’s resignation and generating 33,500 signatures... followed by the grim (and probably true) declaration “It won’t happen”, referencing the meeting of the ISU Congress taking place in Dublin this week

+ Then he delineates why “it won’t happen” (the notion of him voluntarily stepping down is preposterous, and so is the idea of the ISU demanding his resignation—I assume that’s Hersh’s assessment, though he never says it directly)... Wood, for his part, seems to agree but gives the “couldn’t sit back idly and do nothing” explanation for starting the petition

+  He also quickly shuts down the re-proposed notion of figure skating and speed skating becoming separate entities, reminding us that the latter still needs the former far too much to let that happen

+ There are proposals submitted by both the US and Russia calling to end anonymous judging, but it would require backing by 2/3 of the 61 ISU member federations—a happening that Hersh (surprise!) considers highly unlikely

+ The silver lining to this whole damn cloud, if there is one... (reading from the article here)

The radical ideas Cinquanta proposed for both sports in a March internal letter obtained by the Tribune, including elimination of the short program in figure skating?  Not on the agenda for this Congress. 
(Except for the idea to make all senior free programs the same length of 4 minutes)

So there’s good news in that statement, right? No short program on the chopping block after all? But several questions linger: WHY are all those things “not on the agenda”? Who made that decision? Did the petitions influence that decision in ANY manner? Or are there ISU decision-makers that still tolerate Speedy for some confounded reason, but now draw the line at implementing the bulk of his senseless, rambling proposals?

Hersh didn’t answer any of these in his article, and that’s a surprising shame. If the petitions helped, we NEED that encouragement. If it was any other reason, we DESERVE to know it. We who love this sport—fans to athletes to coaches to everyone in between. Hope for figure skating’s future is scarce enough as it is... if this qualifies as hope, let us scrape as much of it out of the pail as we can!

I leave you with this: the image of two skating fans (or better said, former fans) protesting outside of the ISU Council being held in Dublin this week.  Though the article appears to be written by someone who is, at best, mildly amused by the sport and its scandals (just what we need!), I’m mighty glad the fans are there and they’ve garnished enough press to make the rounds on social media. Had the Council been held in or near any of the worlds’ skating hubs—Japan, South Korea, Eastern Europe, North America—maybe we’d have seen a lot more protesting taking place.

But, by Speedy Cinquanta’s choice, they’re convening in Dublin. As in IRELAND.  I mean no offense to my ancestral land with this statement, but Ireland has not yet developed into a hotbed of figure skating marvelousness... which surely translated into a minimum of “fans who gave a rusty hoot” about the sport (apologies to Button), and might show up with the goal of at least netting the ISU even more negative publicity.

Which is just the latest example of why I’m sure Speedy knows exactly what he’s doing.

And why those protesters are two of my favorite people in the world right now.








Saturday, April 12, 2014

Skating's Last Straw? Pt. 1: The Cliff Notes

Role-playing time! You be the voice in italics, and I’ll be... the other one.

What?! No Worlds recap yet?!

Sorry. And this post isn’t going to be about it either.

Wait... maybe you’re just holding out until NBC FINALLY airs its coverage this weekend...

Well, sort of... in that my recap will come sometime after this weekend’s airing (4 to 6 PM ET, preceded by Stars on Ice at 3PM!). But that’s more a coincidence than anything else.

I don’t get it. What could be more important to a figure skating blog than to cover a major event like the World Championships?

I am SO happy you asked.

If you pay attention to the other blogs (as you should!), or the columnists, or the articles of general off-ice news, you might’ve gotten word by now that ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta, aka Speedy, aka Buffoon Intent on Crushing The Sport We Love Into An Unrecognizable Slush, has made yet another attempt to leave his mark on skating while he still has the wherewithal to do it. But as we know by now, damn near any attempt to leave his mark has all the benefit of a deep, ugly scratch on a treasured vinyl record.

Yeah, I’ve heard something about it. Lots of long articles I don’t really have time to read... especially when doing so is only going to upset me.

OK, I get that. In fact I REALLY get that. But what if, in the body of this post, I provided summaries of three of these important articles for you to read instead? And furthermore, what if some of this reading led to a call to action you might be able to get behind, no matter how much time you have to spare?

Go on...

Well, let’s start with Peter Murray at Blazing Blades and his post “Cinquanta’s Leadership—Off the DeepEnd”, who listed (verbatim) Speedy’s seven proposals for change in figure skating... followed by a lovingly crafted explanation of why each proposal is an underscore to just how batshit crazy this “leader” has become.

The proposal lowlights, in (very) short:
-- Preserving the anonymity of judges
-- Creating uniform performance times
-- Eliminating the short program


Concluding and/or bottom line: It’s time for a vote of no confidence for Ottavio Cinquanta and for the ISU Congress to demand his resignation.

To that end, Murray is now circulating a petition you might be interested in signing; find a link for it here. 

Next, let’s move on to Ryan Stevens’ “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Cinquanta?” post on what my newly-teenaged son will tell you is the best-titled skating blog out there

It’s nine paragraphs; here’s the gist of each:
 +     Cinquanta runs the ISU almost like a dictatorship.
+   Casting a spotlight on his ham-handed, extended stay in office, Stevens imagines if George W. Bush had been allowed 4 terms at the top (!).
+   Recalling the early years of Cinquanta, the pros and cons of awarding prize money to Olympic-eligible athletes & its effect on pro skating...
-   How 2002 changed everything. “The one (thing) that has been consistent through the good, bad and ugly figure skating over the last 20 yrs has been Cinquanta’s iron fist rule,” Stevens says.
+      He maintains Cinquanta has little affection for artistry of sport...popularity has dropped... and he stayed in office while two below him were suspended during the Salt Like City judging scandal (and are, incidentally, back involved in the sport today).
-     Where are we today? Stevens asks. Angry, confused... Speedy has essentially dismissed the widely protested results of Ladies in Sochi, instead sending a “letter of personal opinions” to all ISU members  (see previous summary)
-     The cookie cutter programs of today are another result, causing fans to abandon the sport (he includes a quote from his recent Dick Button interview here).
-     The reality of the situation: things aren’t working, and we’re not going to see it get any better until the “next person steps up”.
-      Stevens’ call to action: Contact your ISU rep... address your concerns about Cinquanta's leadership and urge them to take action, save the short program, and  demand accountability and judging that isn't anonymous. Share your opinions and have your say with the people that have voting power and the right to commence impeachment proceedings, because these people have the power to enact real and quantitative change in skating's future...
-      He then follows with a FULL LIST OF COUNTRIES/email addresses for readers to use.
-- 

And there’s a great follow-up—real letters that have been written already!—right here: http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/2014/04/the-letters-skating-community-calls-for.html

One more... Monica Friedlander’s article “Skating Chief Puts Short Program on the Chopping Block” which looks at the Short Program proposal specifically. 
 -- 
Why would the entire figure skating world allow a speed skater with no understanding of figure skating and a clear disdain for its artistic side to constantly change the sport’s rules willy-nilly and in the process drive skating into oblivion? When is enough, enough?—Monica Friedlander

She continues (original article is 17 paragraphs):

-- This proposal, if it goes through, is the “last nail in the sport’s coffin”

-- It makes no sense to abolish the SP, which never caused any controversy... yet keep anonymous judging, which is nothing BUT controversy

-- Cinquanta has always had a determination to make figure skating less artistic/more difficult, ignoring some of the very things that make it what it is

-- Cinquanta came to power at skating’s peak—but ever since he implemented IJS things have been tanking (Well, there are MANY factors as I discussed in Skating on Air but yes, that’s the centerpiece in many minds)

-- Abolishing the SP for no real reason is a blatant abuse of power

-- Explains the difference between previous radical changes (the addition of the SP, the deletion of figures) and this one

-- The many benefits of the SP: its intent, the suspense it builds, it’s a different type of program to see; it’s a showcase for some skaters lacking FS endurance

-- There will be too much pressure if it’s all put into one program... making it even harder to skate clean than it is now

-- Wonders flat-out: Is he mad? More & more in skating community say yes... but...  “Tragically for the sport, the ISU is not much of a democracy, and the chances of Cinquanta’s proposals to fail are slim.”

(THIS IS WHY COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IS IMPERATIVE)

-- Call to Action: The time is long overdue for the skating community to come together as one and:
  1. Reject Cinquanta’s proposals.
  2. Demand his resignation.
  3. Request that the figure skating and speed skating branches of the ISU be split asunder.

Finally (from Friedlander): “In a sport where everyone fears consequences for their actions and words, the actions suggested above are a lot to ask. But when compared with the likelihood of figure skating being destroyed altogether, what does anyone have left to lose?”

And she is now part of a petition too... hers has the benefit of being backed by Tim Wood and Bill Fauver, two notable names in the sport’s past. Check it out and/or sign it here:


Will these posts/summaries drum up more debates than signatures? And why might it finally be the time when (as Friedlander said) enough is enough? I’ll address these things and more—including additional summaries!—next time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

One More Time: 2014 World Figure Skating Championship Predictions

I was thinking about what I just wrote the other day about unexpected outcomes in post-Olympic World Championships, and that’s why you’ll see a special category among these 2014 Worlds predictions. Full-out Radar Buster (FoRB) means someone who has been “flying under the radar”, as we say, during the course of the 2013-14 season... not skating up to their potential, be it a physical thing, mental thing, or something we fans never quite understand for sure. I might not have pegged them correctly—why get shockingly accurate with my predictions this late in the year, right?—but be on the lookout for FoRBs in all the disciplines. This could be their time.

MEN’S PREDICTIONS

GOLD: Javier Fernandez, ESP
SILVER: Yuzuru Hanyu, JPN
BRONZE: Tatsuki Machida, JPN

Dark Horse: Maxim Kovtun, RUS
Full-out Radar-Buster: Takahiko Kozuka, JPN

Hanyu is the only OGM showing up at Worlds this time, but I don’t necessarily think a World title will be easy for him to get... even with his fellow medalists out of the picture (as they’ll be this week). Enter Fernandez, who was a mere 1.18 points from earning bronze in Sochi. Last year he became the first Spaniard to win any World figure skating medal. Maybe this year he’ll be the first to win gold.

My dark horse, Kovtun, is the Russian teen who won his Nationals, but was left behind on the Sochi bus as Evgeni Plushenko was the Olympics rep, not to mention the attention grabber (first for how he could skate and then for how he couldn’t). Kovtun proved at Europeans to be fallible under intense pressure; here, he might be able and ready to prove something else... and win back a 2nd Russian men’s spot at Worlds in the process.

And my FoRB is Kozuka because he’s had a so-so year to date, but pulled it together in time to make the podium at Japanese Nats... only to be passed over for Sochi by 5th place Takahashi. Two years ago he won silver at this event. I’d love to think anything’s possible for this guy.


LADIES PREDICTIONS

GOLD: Carolina Kostner, ITA
SILVER: Julia Lipnitskaia, RUS
BRONZE: Mao Asada, JPN

Dark Horse: Gracie Gold, USA
Full-out Radar-Buster: Kaetlyn Osmond, CAN

Ideally, Asada would win this one more time (with both triple axels intact, on home ice) and retire on that high note... but that may be too much to ask of her at this point. So instead, I’m hoping Kostner can ride the wave of confidence that buoyed her to Olympic bronze and net her second World title. I suspect Lipnitskaia will rebound from her time in the Sochi pressure cooker and return to form.

If Gold hits her 3/3 she should have a shot at bronze... especially if others at the top fumble. FoRB pick Osmond was chosen just because of a little feeling I have :-)... maybe her first top 5 finish, if not a medal?

PAIRS PREDICTIONS

GOLD: Savchenko/Szolkowy, GER
SILVER: Stolbova/Klimov, RUS
BRONZE: Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, CAN

Dark Horse: Peng/Zhang, CHN
Full-out Radar-Buster: Sui/Han, CHN

I’m going traditional with this one, mostly because I’m not sure what to expect with Stolbova/Klimov. They lit up Sochi, but Saitama? They DO seem to be on a roll, which is why I’m predicting the podium for them... just not THAT much of a roll. (But as you know by my Oly predictions alone, you might want to bet on the opposite outcome!)

I know I don’t have Duhamel/Radford up here... I guess I think they’ve already peaked this season (maybe with the Olympic team event in particular). I could be wrong, as M-T/M are the ones that finished higher in the pairs event and maybe they’ve already turned in their best, but it just feels like M-T/M’s turn right now. But look for both Chinese teams to crash the Canadian party...


ICE DANCE PREDICTIONS

GOLD: Ilinykh/Katsalapov, RUS
SILVER: Pechalat/Bourzat, FRA
BRONZE: Bobrova/Soloviev, RUS

Dark Horse: Weaver/Poje, CAN
Full-out Radar-Buster: Cappellini/Lanotte, ITA

I want to be wrong on this one in particular. It’s closing time for the veteran French team; they apparently wanted to wrap it all up last month, but popular demand pushed them to give it one more go. With both of the top North American teams out, this might be the most interesting discipline of the whole week... and I’d enjoy seeing Pech/Bour counterbalance their Sochi disappointment with a victory here. But I feel like the momentum is tipping the scales in I/K’s favor. Unless they have a glaring error, like they did at Euros (and the GP Final I think?)... then a spot-on P/B might get a chance.

And my Dark Horse and FoRB candidates might be interchangeable here... with dance having less placement fluctuation than singles, I don’t really think an “off-the-radar” team could suddenly leap into the medals. But there’s a tight race between five teams (who finished 3rd-7th in Sochi). One bummer stretch of twizzles amongst any of them could make the difference between victory and 4th place!


Everything gets started Tuesday night at 9PM Eastern Time—join me on Twitter for as much live-tweeting as I can manage @KLBSt8ofSk8!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Living in a Post-Olympic World(s)

It’s such a kettle of mixed emotions when it comes to World Figure Skating Championships in an Olympic year. For some athletes, it’s a stab at redemption following disappointment at the Games. For others, it’s the swan song that takes them into Olympic-eligible retirement. For a few, it’s both. For a few more, it’s neither—as they were either not part of the Olympic team, or were, but found satisfaction with their work there and see Worlds as simply the next logical step in their journey. Oh, and every single competitor at the event is likely to be feeling the fatigue (and sometimes, consequential illness) that comes with the final event of a longer-and-more-stressful-than-usual season.

Feelings vary for skating fans too. There are those that, noting all the A-listers that often skip the event for whatever reasons, think of post-Olympic Worlds as something less than a “real” championship. Then there are those that see it as rife with opportunity for overlooked and/or underappreciated skaters, old and new alike.

Whatever your take is, there’s no denying the mass of storylines that emerged the last time this all went down...

Previously... at the 2010 Post-Olympic Worlds, in Torino...

-- Daisuke Takahashi became the first Japanese man to win a World title... Patrick Chan converted his Olympics disappointment into Worlds Silver... likewise, Brian Joubert rebounded from a poor Olympics with the bronze medal (last time he was on the Worlds podium, incidentally).

-- Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon finished 5th and 6th, respectively—not only their best finishes to date, but also the most recent time the U.S. men earned three spots for the following year.

-- Crazy inconsistencies took place in the ladies event: Mirai Nagasu was 1st after the SP but 11th in the FS (finishing 7th overall)... Kim Yuna skipped an entire element in the SP, if I recall, and was down in 7th before a FS win vaulted her to 2nd overall. Akiko Suzuki was 20th in the SP and 7th in the FS (11th overall). Miki Ando was 11th in the SP and 3rd in the FS (4th overall). All these ups and downs allowed for a few surprises for less accomplished but more “steady” competitors, such as Cynthia Phaneuf of Canada managing her highest Worlds finish ever (5th)... and Laura Lepisto of Finland winning bronze (first-ever World medal for a Finnish lady)!

-- Pang/Tong won the pairs title... it was the 2nd time they won, and 2nd time they won directly after the Olympics. Savchenko/Szolkowy collected silver, while Olympic 4th-placers Kavaguti/Smirnov moved up to win bronze.

-- Worlds 2010 turned out to be the last major competition for the Canadian team of Dube/Davison (2008 World Bronze Medalists), as well as the Russian team of Mukhortova/Trankov... the latter of which would go on to be much better known for an amazing pair of yellow pants and an even more amazing Olympic Gold Medal.

-- Worlds 2010 also marked the final time compulsory and original dances were competed at that championship. As for the competitors: Virtue/Moir won the dance title, with Davis/White finishing less than 2 points behind them for silver. Bronze went to veterans Faiella/Scali of Italy; it was their first (and only) world medal... Pechalat/Bourzat were in that all-too-familiar 4th slot. Then-rising stars Bobrova/Soloviev of Russia and Cappillini/Lanotte of Italy took 8th/11th, respectively.

SO... that was four years ago. What storylines are looming on the 2014 Worlds horizon?

n      Only one reigning OGM will be there (Yuzuru Hanyu). Will he claim his first Worlds title as well... especially in the absence of reigning World Champ Chan?
n      How will Jeremy Abbott fare in his final competition? And can he and Max Aaron get a third spot back for the U.S. as the ladies did last year?
n      Can Carolina Kostner or Mao Asada reclaim the World title they’ve each held in the past? Or will it be Julia Lipnitskaia’s time?
n      Can Gracie Gold find her way to her first World podium?
n      Can Ashley Wagner get her 3/3 groove back?
n      Can  Florent Amodio F get ANY groove back?
n      Will Pechalat/Bourzat close out their competitive careers with another World medal? And will a Russian team reclaim ice dance gold in the absence of the dueling North Americans?
n      Will Maxim Kovtun show the world why HE should’ve been at the Olympics instead of that one guy... what’s his name... oh, never mind, it’s not important.
n      Will Savchenko/Szolkowy be glad they stuck around for one more event?
n      Can Stolbova/Klimov recapture their “surprise” Olympic magic?
n      Will the U.S. hold on to all three ice dance spots?
n      Can we get through an entire major competitive event this season without crying FOUL when we see the results?
n      And most importantly... what color will Misha Ge’s hair be this time??

We’ll know the answers to these, and so many more questions, by month’s end. Check this schedule for daily event times. Things get underway Tuesday, March 25.



Who will I predict for the podium? I’ll post my guesses late Monday/early Tuesday. Hit the comments to leave your own Worlds prediction thoughts!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Where I've Been, and Four Other Less Than Important Questions

FIVE QUESTIONS TO ME, FIVE ANSWERS... So brief that that's the whole introduction :-)

Q1: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN SINCE THAT LAST POST OVER TWO WEEKS AGO??

A1: Busy writing... just not for this blog (Sorry!). The freelance gods kept my schedule relatively clear during the Olympics window, which allowed me to blog and live-Tweet to my heart's content! But, sadly, it doesn't pay the bills... and consequently falls a bit on the priorities list when my clients come a'calling. 

Q2: SO WHEN WILL YOU HAVE A NEW POST??

A2: You mean besides this one? (Oh... I guess you do.) I'll say later this week. No promises, but that's my goal.

Q3: HAVE YOU AT LEAST BEEN FOLLOWING ALL THINGS SKATING SINCE THE OLYMPICS??

A3: Well, let's see: Ladies' OGM scandal? Check. The IOC post with the made-up Kim Yu-Na quotes? Check. Ashley Wagner's a sore loser/No she's not, she just tells it like it is? Check/check. Who's in and who's out at Worlds? Check, check, check... and yep, Junior Worlds is about to start and I'm keeping tabs on that as well. What should we talk about first when I post later this week? Give me a suggestion and I just might run with it. SO much to talk about...

Q4: UM, AREN'T YOU FORGETTING SOMETHING?

A4: Um, don't think so. Do you follow me on Twitter? I RT a lot of this stuff when I'm otherwise kind of silent...

Q5: WHAT ABOUT MERYL & CHARLIE ON DANCING WITH THE STARS???

A5: Of course!! But that's all things dancing...