Friday, December 12, 2014

Time for the 2014 "Skating on Air" Book Giveaway!!

Who wants to win a book??

‘Tis the season of giving, and I’ve still got some copies of Skating on Air: The Broadcast History of an Olympic Marquee Sport up for grabs. If you want a copy for a friend/family member, or still need one for yourself... this could be your time!


Here's how this works: 

1) This year I’m giving away two paperback copies (no Ebooks, though you can certainly find those for sale right here.)

2) If you've previously won a copy from my giveaway or someone else's, please refrain from entering this time.

3) If you win, I'll make every effort to ship it to you before Christmas (No promises on when it arrives though). And, of course, I'll sign it for you-- or for someone else if it's a gift!

4) To enter, please shoot me an email at KLawrence997-at-gmail-dot-com. Put Skating on Air 2014 Giveaway in the subject head. I'll send you back a confirmation email when I see it.

5) I plan to do the drawing NEXT FRIDAY EVENING (12/19).

Questions? Please leave 'em in the Comments.

Good luck! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Best go to Barcelona! 2014 Grand Prix Final Preview/Predictions

What fun must it be to have made the GPF this year! I mean, how often does the competitive circuit envelop a whole new country? And such a breathtaking city?

By the time I get this finished and posted, the Junior GP events will already have started. But the Pairs SP kicks things off for the senior crew at 2:15 (Eastern Time) this afternoon. Check out this schedule... and if you want to keep score on my predictions to tease me about them in the comments later, here they are:

GPF Predictions

PAIRS:
GOLD: Stolbova/Klimov (RUS)
SILVER: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
BRONZE: Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)
Dark Horse: Sui/Han (CHN)

Because... while the Canadians have the most challenging elements of the field in their arsenal (including a throw quad salchow that has yet to be landed at a GP event), I think Stol/Klim are seen as the more polished, complete package.

MEN:
GOLD: Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
SILVER: Javier Fernandez (ESP)
BRONZE: Takahito Mura (JPN)
Dark Horse: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)

Because... Javi’s dealing with a lot, competing in such a major event at home for the first time after having almost single-handedly brought this sport to Spain’s masses. Much as I’d love to think it’ll roll off his back, his semi-sloppy free skates thus far indicate he’ll be a gamble for gold here. (I still hope he wins, though. That would be beyond cool.)

DANCE:
GOLD: Weaver/Poje (CAN)
SILVER: Chock/Bates (USA)
BRONZE: Papadakis/Cizeron (FRA)
Dark Horse: Shibutani/Shibutani (USA)

Because... while Wea/Po and C/B are pretty compatible when you look at their scores from their winning GP events, I can’t see the reigning World Silver Medalists losing to anyone in this field... so long as they don’t collapse a lift or spin out of orbit on a twizzle, that is.

LADIES:
GOLD: Elena Radionova (RUS)
SILVER: Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)
BRONZE: Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS)
Dark Horse: Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)

Because... it’s a preview of Russian Nationals for a reason. And much as I’d love to see Ashley Wagner crash this particular podium party, I don’t think she can amass the kind of points needed to do so.


As always, you can follow me on Twitter @KLBSt8ofSk8... I’ll be tagging my comments with #GPF14.Enjoy the happenings as Act I of the 2014-15 skating season draws to a close!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Other Things-We-Didn't-See-Coming in Osaka: 2014 NHK Trophy in Review


I’ve decided that this year’s NHK was about surprises.

(OK, MOST of this season’s GPs were about surprises, as is often the case in a post-Olympic season, but go with me on this.)

In fact, I’ve boiled it down to TEN NHK surprises. Here they are:

1) Daisuke won!! I thought he retired?! (Oh wait, not THAT Daisuke..) OK—Murakami won!! Wow! When’s the last time she did this well?? (Oh wait, not THAT Murakami...)

The moral of this story is: if Daisuke Murakami continues to skate as solidly as he did at NHK, he might need to change his name. Poor guy. By the way, in case you were wondering (I certainly was)... his best GP finish prior to this event was 5th, at Skate America... four years ago!

2) Yuzuru Hanyu competed, only 3 weeks after slamming into a fellow human at high speed. And, while holding his own better than some might have expected, didn’t skate anywhere close to his best and finished 4th. And (thanks in part to Murakami’s unexpected victory) managed to squeak in as a qualifier for the GP Final.

Actually, only one of those three statements came as a surprise to me.

3) Eighth-place finisher Jeremy Ten (Canada), at age 25, landed his quad toe for the first time in competition—with an immediate step or three turn-out, as I recall, but landed just the same—and to follow his Twitter feed right after NHK was to know that he couldn’t care less about anything else. It was a fun thing to see.

4) Josh Farris returned to the circuit after missing his previous GP assignment due to injury, but his jumps didn’t return with him.  The look of “Oh NO, what just happened?!” On Farris’ face after the FS was pretty painful to witness. All I could think was better this happen at NHK than Nationals... I know he’s using last season’s Schindler’s List FS, but the quality of movement in his new short program (to Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love”) was really stunning. There’s a new maturity to his look, too. Made me really want to see him do great things at Nats.

5) On the ladies’ end of things, the door was wide open for a non-Russian teenager to (for ONCE this Fall) grab the spotlight, as well as a victory. Except they didn’t.  I know Gracie Gold won, but it was mostly on the strength of her short program. Same thing for Alena Leonova—and yes, I give her big props for proving everyone wrong yet again (including me) and delivering just when she’d been counted out of the running. But neither one skated “lights out” in the free... and those nipping at their heels after the SP either skated a little subpar (Satako Miyahara) or a little more subpar (Kanako Murakami) in the free skate.

6) Edmunds stumbles again! Just as she did at Cup of China, Polina Edmunds had a great free skate—but it was the follow-up to a meager SP, and this time she ended up nowhere near the podium. When she gets to Nats, she needs to remember her short program from a year ago rather than a couple months back...

7) Li Zijun is using “my” music for her SP! I missed watching her at Cup of China, so it was truly a surprise to hear “Waltz of the Flowers” from Nutcracker (a.k.a. the music I used for my first-ever competitive program) when she took the ice. Can that really be the first time I’ve heard someone else use it?

8) Not much of a pairs showdown, was it? Sixteen points separating the winners (Duhamel/Radford) and second place (Kavaguti/Smirnov)? And Kav/Smir actually finished behind the Chinese team of Yu/Jin in the free skate?  Guess the real showdown will be in Barcelona...

9) Penny! Nick! Noooo! Or so I wailed when Nick Buckland went down (and even had a slippery time getting back up) in the final minute of their free dance. They were in second—second!!—heading into that, with a chance to make the final. GAH. And I like this FD SO MUCH for them...

10) Nikita & new partner, Nooooo! But also a little bit of KarmaHee. Or so I gasped (and then giggled) when Sinitsina/Katsalapov collapsed and crashed on one lift in that way we always fear and seldom see... then aborted another lift altogether. I haven’t followed the Ilinikh/Katsalapov breakup as some of y’all have, but from what I gathered at Rostelecom Cup, sympathy is heavily on Ilinikh’s side. Good thing Katsalapov’s FD flop didn’t happen in the home country, huh?

So there’s NHK in a 10-point list for you.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some GPF predictions to cobble together... 

Monday, December 8, 2014

2014 GPF: Who's in? Who's on stand-by? Who's getting replaced?

Where’d I go????

Sorry about that. It was a monster week last week (or since Thanksgiving). So much so, in fact, that I’m still catching up on watching key performances! Got a half-dozen to go before I feel qualified to string together a few sentences about NHK 2014.

In the meantime, I thought I should at least post who is in each discipline of the senior GP final.

MEN: Maxim Kovtun, Javier Fernandez, Tatsuki Machida, Takahito Mura, Sergei Voronov, Yuzuru Hanyu
ALTERNATES (in order): Jason Brown, Denis Ten, Nam Nguyen

LADIES: Elena Radionova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Anna Pogorilaya, Gracie Gold*, Julia Lipnitskaia, Ashley Wagner
ALTERNATES (in order): Rika Hongo, Satoko Miyahara, Kanako Murakami

* As you’ve probably heard by now, Gold has withdrawn from the Final, citing a stress fracture in her foot. Hongo, as first alternate, is taking her place. (Hongo wins a points tiebreaker with two-time GP bronze medalist Satoko Miyahara on account of Kato’s first-place finish at Rostelecom Cup.)

PAIRS: Stolbova/Klimov, Duhamel/Radford, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Peng/Zhang, Sui/Han, Yu/Jin
ALTERNATES (in order): Tarasova/Morozov, Denney/Frazier, Wang/Wang

DANCE: Chock/Bates, Weaver/Poje, Papadakis/Cizeron, Shibutani/Shibutani, Gilles/Poirier, Ilinykh/Zhiganshin
ALTERNATES (in order): Monko/Khaliavin, Hubbell/Donahue, Coomes/Buckland

(Those who qualified for the Junior GP Final I reported on back in October; those names can be found here .)


The GP/JGP Final action takes place in Barcelona this coming weekend. Got an opinion about who’s in the Final? Who isn’t in? Or do you have something in particular you’d like me to address about NHK? The comments section is ready and waiting for all of the above...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

2014 NHK Trophy Preview/Predictions

Happy Thanksgiving, American readers... let's get to these podium guesses!

LADIES PREDICTIONS:

Gold—Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
Silver—Gracie Gold (USA)
Bronze—Kanako Murakami (JPN)

Dark Horse: Polina Edmunds (USA)

I know I might be on a pretty big limb with this one, but to me, Miyahara’s got the best programs and the most consistent elements of the bunch. (Also because the Russian athlete-of-the-week is veteran Alena Leonova, and based on what I’ve seen of her this season I don’t see her having a shot at this event.)

MEN PREDICTIONS

Gold—Takahito Mura (JPN)
Silver—Sergei Voronov (RUS)
Bronze—Jeremy Abbott (USA)

Dark Horse: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)

Last week I predicted a Japanese man and a Russian man would go 1-2, and the results were actually the opposite. So what do I do this time? Go with the Japanese man, naturally. Am I just a slow learner? We shall see. As for head-wounded Hanyu, I really don’t want him to skate at all. Even if he happens to do well, I am not convinced that he is doing well for himself in the long-term.

PAIR PREDICTIONS

Gold—Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)
Silver—Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
Bronze—Yu/Jin (CHN)

Dark Horse: Bazarova/Deputat (RUS)

Throw Quad SHOWDOWN!! For the first time this season, two teams are likely to attempt throw quad salchows. They are the top two teams on my list... but more than the complex elements, Kav/Smir and Duh/Rad are two veteran teams with programs as interesting as they are. Hard to see anyone else getting near the top in this field.

DANCE PREDICTIONS

Gold—Weaver/Poje (CAN)
Silver—Sinitsina/Katsalapov (RUS)
Bronze—Coomes/Buckland (GBR)

Dark Horse: Monko/Khaliavin (RUS)

While I’m still on the fence regarding this year’s Vivaldi FD, Wea/Po is the crème de la crème here no matter what they’re skating to. But I’m also hoping Coomes/Buckland will pull down their second consecutive medal, as this season’s programs indicate real progress for them!


Looks like this week’s Twitter hashtag is #NHKTrophy... follow that thread when things kick off at 12:45AM tonight (technically Friday morning). Or you can just follow me (@KLBSt8ofSk8)!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bon Soir, Bordeaux: 2014 Bompard in Review

Trophee Eric Bompard (the 2014 edition) is in the books. Here's my take on the event:

LADIES...
The ladies’ podium at TEB looked, well, just like I thought it would (for once!). Elena Radionova continued to hit her jumping sweet spot and claimed gold... Julia Lipnitskaia recovered fairly well from her nightmarish Cup of China appearance (though not perfectly) and took silver... Ashley Wagner nailed the performance, if not all the jumps, and accepted bronze. There were no close calls in terms of points; no judging controversies, at least among the top three. The most noteworthy happening of the free skate, to be honest, was Russia’s Maria Artmieva and her curious costume choice—the majority of which appeared to me a button-down shirt(!) as she skated to Chopin selections(?!).  She’d competed at Rostelecom Cup a week earlier, in more typical competition wear, so the prevailing thought on Twitter was that something must’ve happened to her costume at the last minute. If so—maybe her alternate choice didn’t have sufficient shoulder coverage, and the shirt was the best thing they could come up with on short notice? Either way, I think it was a Grand Prix first... and, with any luck, will also be a GP “last”.

If you haven’t looked it up or read it elsewhere already, I bet you’re wondering what’s what for GP Finals as we head into the final week of competition. Here’s the scoop where the ladies are concerned:
+ Unsurprisingly, four Russian teens already occupy 4 of the 6 slots: Radionova, Lipnitskaia, Elizaveta Tutkamysheva, and Anna Pogorilaya.
+  Next in the points is Wagner, followed by Japan’s Rika Hongo.
 Four skaters competing at NHK are capable of doing well enough to challenge Wagner’s and Hongo’s tentative spots on the roster: Kanako Murakami, Satoko Miyahara, Gracie Gold (all of whom would need to place 2nd or higher), and Polina Edmunds (who would have to win).


MEN...

I was very sorry I’d discounted Denis Ten from my predictions... until it almost didn’t matter. His early-season history is such that I figured him to be a 4th place TEB finish at best. But then he went gangbusters on his short program, earned 91+ on it, and the tide appeared to be changing! Ack, what was this? My gold medal prediction in 2nd place; my silver medal prediction in 6th?! But then Maxim Kovtun proved to be the Last Man Standing in an event that saw programs rapidly lose steam (Chafik Besseghier, Konstantin Menshov), never really have steam to begin with (Ricky Dornbush), or simply had too many errors to win (Ten, Tatsuki Machida). In other words... not the best event to witness.

And before any of this even happened there was Yan Han’s free skate. Technically, it went better than it did at Cup of China (by about 16 points) and he pulled up to an 8th place finish. But seriously, why was he there? All I could think as I watched him last weekend was It’s too soon and I hope he doesn’t fall any more (he accumulated 3 falls between the two programs; two were pretty awkward-looking tumbles on 4Toe attempts). I’ve been watching the IceNetwork home page like a hawk all week, hoping to see that Yuzuru Hanyu has withdrawn from NHK Trophy... but to no avail. He’s going. So we’d better practice holding our breath.

And as for the Men’s GRAND PRIX STANDINGS...
+  Kovtun, Javier Fernandez, and Machida are all locks for the GP Final.
+  Further down, on a very tentative bubble, are Nam Nguyen, Jason Brown, and Ten (all with 20 points).
+ All three of those guys could be bumped out this coming weekend by: Hanyu (who’d need to finish 3rd or higher), Takahito Mura (4th or higher), and Sergei Voronov (3rd or higher). 

PAIRS...

So I guess I’d better start giving more consideration to the Chinese team of Wang/Wang...before I could figure out who they are (and I still am, by the way—the male Wang has been on the scene a while; the female Wang has not) they’d already gone and won two GP bronze medals this season! Something’s definitely clicking there...

Meanwhile, I’m starting to wonder if the French team of James/Cipres will ever catch a break. Despite solid skating from them over the past few seasons—no small feat, given the inconsistencies and weaknesses of other pairs teams—they’re all but guaranteed a middle-of-the-pack finish. They’ve got to be wondering What do we have to do...

Looking at the GRAND PRIX STANDINGS among pairs teams...
+  Stolbova/Klimov, Peng/Zhang, and Sui/Han have spots in the GP Final.
+ Tarasova/Morozov, Denney/Frazier, and Wang/Wang are on next in line.
+ Four teams are capable of qualifying via NHK: Kavaguti/Smirnov and Duhamel/Radford (both of whom are in the Final with a 4th place finish or higher), Yu/Jin (who’d need to finish 3rd or higher), or Bazarova/Deputat (who would have to win).

DANCE...

Will Pechalat/Bourzat feel one more twist of the knife in their collective gut if their French successors (Papadakis/Cizeron) become as decorated in their 2nd year on the GP circuit as P/B was in half their entire, storied career? Two events, two gold medals. BOOM. There’s something very elegant yet earthy about them this year. And not at all over the top (at least not yet—I know they’re young)! I look forward to their continued evolution.

So are you excited to see Gilles/Poirier as 2-time GP medalists this season, or do you miss their Psycho FD too much to care? I find myself as fond of this year’s old-school feel as I was last year’s spooky trip down Hitchcock Lane, but I realize I might be in the minority... until I remind myself that the judges have put them on the podium this year. Repeatedly.

And finally... although I’m glad Hubbell/Donohue made the podium again, and I liked their new free dance costumes a little better than the old ones... I still can’t say I fully appreciate their current FD (though I really want to!)

The GRAND PRIX STANDINGS for dance go like this...
+ Chock/Bates, Papadakis/Cizeron, The Shibutanis, and Gilles/Poirier are all Final-bound.
+ Ilinykh/Zhiganshin and Hubbell/Donohue are on the bubble.
+ Four teams are still within reach: Weaver/Poje (who need to finish 4th or higher at NHK), Coomes/Buckland (who need to be 3rd or higher), and Sinitsina/Katsalapov or Monko/Khaliavin (both of whom would need to win).
  

Speaking of NHK, my predictions on that event should be up, as usual, no later than an hour or so before the first event begins. (U.S. readers, that means you’ll likely be past your post-turkey nap, and well into your third slice of pie. NHK actually starts on the east coast at 12:45 AM Friday morning!)

Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 Trophee Eric Bompard Preview/Predictions

Trophee Eric Bompard finds itself in Bordeaux this weekend rather than the traditional Paris! Will there be other surprises? Will each skater take a bow when announced for their warm up, like last year? And will that cool guy who’s always sketching the TEB skaters still be around? Answers to those and other outlying questions will arrive by Friday afternoon. Here are some predictions in the meantime:

MEN’S PREDICTIONS

Gold—Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Silver—Maxim Kovtun (RUS)
Bronze—Richard Dornbush (USA)

Dark Horse: Yan Han (CHN)

With just a couple weeks to go in the initial 6-week stretch of the Series, we start to see previous podium winners resurface. How will they fare when pitted against each other—for the second time, in some cases? Machida (along with Takahito Mura) started the season with a stunning 1-2 punch from Japan, and I’m looking forward to another marvelous effort from him. Kovtun won the now-infamous men’s event at Cup of China a couple weeks ago, but had been so thrown by The Grand Collision (as IFS Magazine’s calling it) that he didn’t seem to give his victory much value when he spoke about it. I hope he ends up feeling better about this week’s results, even if it leaves him with silver. And I’ve gone ahead and put Dornbush in bronze position because Yan has to be one of the truest Wild Card picks this week (1st event back since the crash! Has he really recovered enough to compete well?). Dornbush, on the other hand, has proven that medals can happen when you nail a quad in your lovely Coldplay FS...

LADIES PREDICTIONS

Gold—Elena Radionova (RUS)
Silver—Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS)
Bronze—Ashley Wagner (USA)

Dark Horse: Courtney Hicks (USA) or Samantha Cesario (USA)

Another GP event, another Russian teen for the win? Sure seems likely to me. And with Radionova and Lipnitskaia the ones in question, I’m giving the nod to the former. For the record, though—while Lipnitskaia comes here on the heels of giving one of her (self-described) worst-ever free skates, I don’t expect her to keep on crumbling. Leave points on the table, maybe. But there’s got to be a lot of strength, mental and physical alike, amid all that flexibility... don’t you think? Meanwhile, I look forward to the strong U.S. women in this event skating very well. Just not well enough, judicially speaking, for the top spots.

PAIRS PREDICTIONS

Gold— Stolbova/Klimov (RUS)
Silver—Sui/Han (CHN)
Bronze—James/Cipres (FRA)

Dark Horse: Scimeca/Knierim (CHN)

With Stolbova/Klimov looking as strong as they did a week ago, it’s hard to begrudge them this gold prediction—even if the back-to-back events exhaust them a bit. Sui/Han could lock up their own GP Final berth with another silver medal... and I’m going with the home team for bronze on the thought that a) they might be able to break through a first-ever podium finish with the support of the French crowd, and b) Scimeca/Knierim haven’t been as strong yet this season as I was hoping they’d be. (But with their American in Paris FS, this would sure be a good time (and place) for them to make a move up the rankings.

DANCE PREDICTIONS

Gold— Papadakis/Cizeron (FRA)
Silver—Gilles/Poirier (CAN)
Bronze—Hubbell/Donohue (USA)

Dark Horse: Paul/Islam (CAN)

It happens, sometimes... a team withdraws from a competition not due to injury or illness, but because they feel their programs need so much tweaking they feel it’s not even worth coming to the starting line. Such as the case this time around for Cappellini/Lanotte. The reigning World Champs ended up 3rd behind a relatively new French team two weeks ago, and that could not possibly have sat well with them. So when faced with the same dance team—on their home ice, no less—C/L have opted not to show. Will that adversely affect the competition? Not if you’re okay with a possible repeat of silver and bronze from Skate Canada.


Look for #TEB14 as the hashtag if you are on Twitter. Things kick off with the pairs short program at 9:30AM ET... bonne chance with your viewing!