Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Quick Correction...

I hate inaccuracies, especially when I'm making them... so I need to correct something from my Monday post. I said Mao Asada did not win Japanese Nationals... when what I meant to say was that she did not win the FREE SKATE portion. In fact, she didn't "win" either part of the competition-- Yukuri Nakano won the SP, where Fumie Suguri got the LP-- but Asada was 2nd in both, which in this event added up to 1st overall.

My original idea was to "scoop" that she had not won the FS so that you'd wonder "Really? Then who did?" and go to one of the other blogs I mentioned. But I was having a brain freeze by the time I actually posted. My bad! And my apologies.

Somewhere out at a college in Iowa, my Reporting Techniques professor from 20 years ago is shaking his head...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pass the Catch-up (End of Year Edition)

So! While elite U.S. figure skaters were snug in their beds last week with visions of national titles dancing in their heads, they could at least do so knowing the competition was still several weeks away… unlike their Japanese counterparts, Russian counterparts, French, Finnish…

Yes, national competitions have been a-blazing around the world this holiday season, so I suggest you go take a peek at
Aaron’s Blog or Laura’s Blog to get everything that’s scoopalicious, and that I did not locate in time :-(

A mini-spoiler to share... Mao Asada did NOT win Japanese Nats. See? Scoopalicious indeed.

Anyway, since the year is coming to a close I thought I’d attempt to update you on a few of the open-ended bits of “news” I’ve posted since State of the Skate launched in April:

Scott Hamilton’s book (“Here Comes Self-Help Scotty” 7/26)… has a January 6 release date; you can find out more in recent articles such as
this one. I’ll be keeping close tabs on sales once it’s out.

And… Hamilton vs. Trump (“But Will He Make Lemonade Out of These Celebrity Lemons?” 9/9): while there hasn’t been much reported on the actual cast for Season 2 of The Celebrity Apprentice since my post first went out, reports that the show will return to the airwaves on Sunday March 1st… apparently with several 2-hour episodes in store. I haven’t followed Apprentice in several seasons, so forgive me if I say I’m not sure yet whether I’m rooting for him to win or lose (as a “loss” means I won’t feel compelled to watch anymore).

Sasha Cohen’s possible comeback ("Is She, or Isn’t She, or… Whatever, Sasha" 10/5): The bad news is she’s still making it into the headlines every 6 weeks or so with her fence-sitting. The good news, according to
this article from a couple weeks back, is that she’s now set a deadline for making that big decision: next summer. Which is to say the wavering could go on through June. Or July. Or even August. And technically, summer stretches on into September… so, as usual—way to commit, Ms. Cohen! We’ll look to hear from you again around mid-February.

And finally...New skating reality show taping in December (“Just How This is This ‘Thin Ice’?” 9/19): Does anyone know if this thing actually took place Dec. 18-23 at the new MGM Grand at Foxwoods as advertised? I can’t find a single new article about it or that it took place at all, let alone that it will make it to the airwaves… which, unfortunately, makes me think the “ice” in this scenario was very thin indeed.

Clip of the Day features a short program from Russian Nationals that led to an overall victory. (OK, no big surprise for Kawaguchi and Smirnov.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Gift Fitting All Sizes of Skating Fans...

Everyone deserves a gift in this season of giving. You “gift” me every time you come visit this blog, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. Here is my gift to you… sorry I didn’t wrap it:


This is the link recently recommended by IFS Magazine as a sort of antidote to the misery being felt by figure skating fans this season… particularly those who, for one reason or another, have little or no access to all the great skating that is NOT finding its way to mainstream television. There’s a lot of different opinions out there with regards to the CoP system, the ongoing judging controversies, the quality of skating being produced by today’s athletes… but one thing I think all fans of the sport can agree on is that skating is as deserving to be seen on TV as any other sport—more so, I think, because of the huge ratings (and dollars) it rakes in every 4 years. It’s repeatedly earned the right to be seen for free more than 2 or 3 times a year. Why, then, must fans quite literally pay the price (to IceNetwork) because the ISU and the networks can’t find a way to work a deal?

So if you’d like to sound off in your own fashion, click on the link above.

Clip of the Day goes a little off the beaten path… all the way back to 1967, when Andy Williams still did annual Christmas specials. Check out this 2-minute group skating number, which reportedly features a young JoJo Starbuck and Ken Shelley. And for all who celebrate at this time of year… enjoy your holiday! I’ll be back to posting sometime over the weekend.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Other Half: Ladies/Dance, GP FInal Notes

Wow is time getting away from me… a typical lament from an overextended American with kids at Christmastime, perhaps, but the only excuse I can scrape together when it comes to being late on a post about an event that took place a whole week ago!

I got my DSL speeds back up to snuff a few days back, so I finally got my turn at watching the ladies and dance GP Finals. In the interest of consistency, I’ll frame my smattering of notes with the theme “HAD I REALIZED…”

--Had I realized 1/3 of the dance teams would pull out of the event before it was over, I might have given Davis & White a shot at the podium in my predictions. As it stands, the medal was well-deserved… they were spot-on with their sparkling Samson & Delilah free dance.

--Had I realized Domnina and Shabalin’s free dance seems more and more to be built entirely around 2 giant, soaring lifts… as if all the other elements are merely filler… I would have prayed that somehow Ashley Wagner be the only ranked skater to use Spartacus this season.

--And had I realized how much I appreciate the wildly different themes Delobel and Schoenfelder have chosen over the past few years (Bonnie & Clyde, The Piano)… I might have found myself appreciating their current program (to Pink Floyd) a little sooner. As it stands, it’s growing on me. I still don’t like the random female vocal that crops up every now and again, but that’s probably more about my aversion to Pink Floyd than any aversion to DelSchoen.

-- Had Miki Ando realized she was going to cheat so many jumps (including her newly-returned quad salchow), maybe she wouldn’t have used a program different than she’s used all season. My guess is that she didn’t want to continue drawing unfavorable comparisons to Yukari Nakano’s version of Giselle. And my guess is as good as yours as to whether or not she’ll stay with the Saint-Saens piece for Japanese Nationals.

--Had I realized Mao Asada was going to succeed this time with the back-to-back triple axels in her free skate, maybe I would have predicted her for the top spot.

But I would have winced doing it.

Because, especially in watching them in the same competition, I simply like Yu-Na Kim’s free skate much better. Asada looks like she’s putting every last ounce of energy and concentration in those first two jump passes (the triple axels, one in combination) and, terrific as they are, the intricacies of the program’s remainder seem to fall away as a result. Maybe that’s why Kim could still, at this point, have beaten Asada with a clean skate. Too bad it didn’t happen here. But with less than 3 points separating them in the end, IT is definitely ON (as young people and reality show contestants tend to say).

Anyway… just a couple more thoughts:

-- Had the ISU realized tickets for this GP Final (held this time in Korea) would sell out so quickly—about 45 minutes, I think I heard commentator P.J. Kwong say—perhaps they would have made Goyang City the home of international figure skating events for the past 5 years. (Heck, if U.S. Nationals has any attendance issues when it comes to Cleveland next month… maybe the USFS should consider moving the whole event over to South Korea.)

--And finally… had I not been treated to the low-key, helpful commentary by P.J. Kwong in the early phases of last week’s event, I wouldn’t have missed her as much when her voice was absent from the free skates. Really, IceNetwork or ISU or whoever hired her, you might want to consider doing whatever it takes to keep her on board next time!

Clip of the Day goes back to Davis & White’s Skate Canada performance, where they won their first gold on the senior GP circuit. Since I can’t locate last week’s similar skate on You Tube, this seemed like the next best thing to show.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Making Lemonade Out of DSL Lemons: a Half-Baked GP Final Review

What a lousy time to be reminded of a computer’s limitations.

Having only been able to watch a fraction of last weekend’s Grand Prix events “live”, I planned to watch the rest of them Saturday and Sunday nights… somewhere between washing the dishes and finishing the lights on the Christmas tree. But somewhere between watching the mens and the ladies free skates, my DSL service decided to start imitating a dial-up service. Buffer-buffer-buffer. Skate and pause, skate and pause, skate… and… pause. And pause some more. Nooooo!

Since this problem came from my end rather than the Ice Network, it’s taking more than a phone call to fix it. It’s taking a few phone calls, plus many minutes on hold, plus a couple of days of—shudder—managing with much-lower-than-average DSL speed.

So making a long story even longer, I have yet to see the ladies or the dance finals! But I finally read the reports of who won—couldn’t wait quite THAT long—and I know I managed only 4-for-12 on the predictions. Big shock… but really, with so many withdrawals, aren’t any accurate predictions a near miracle? :-) Especially when two of your medalist predictions were among the withdrawees?

I did make some notes on the Pairs and Men, which I caught before all this happened:

(NOTE: Dance/Ladies will come as soon as I can actually SEE them!)

PAIRS NOTE #1: Did everyone catch when Trankov (of Mukhortova/Trankov) flat-out deserted his partner in the K&C after a pretty dreadful outing? By the time they finished showing their comedy of errors in slow motion, Mukhortova was shown sitting awkwardly alone with the coach while the scores took a small lifetime to be revealed. Maybe their FS music—to something called “The Lady and the Hooligan”—is more accurate than we realized.

PAIRS NOTE #2: Did you also notice that these two underwent a costume makeover since the last time we saw them? Now the whole program is slightly less ridiculous.

PAIRS NOTE #3: Not sure if I noticed it before, but the tango music used by Pang/Tong in their free skate kind of rocks. Too bad I predicted them off the podium…

PAIRS NOTE #4: Wait a minute… did Pang/Tong just nail everything?

(They did… and went on to win, too.)

MEN’S NOTE #1: Okay, Khoklova/Novitski suddenly pulling out of the dance event was one thing… but Joubert pulling out too? COME ON!
(Joubert was my pick to win the whole event.)

MEN’S NOTE #2: As I watched Tomas Verner nail his quad near the start of his free skate… only to pop a triple axel a short while later… I decided to put Verner at the top of a new list I’m making called PEOPLE I WANT TO SLAP.

Then I watched him pop his second axel, and changed my list name to PEOPLE I AM GOING TO SLAP.

Then I watched that faux slap he “gets” later in that same program. Ha! I told him. That was from me! You’re welcome! Now go finish this should-have-been-SO-much-better program...

Then I realized I was way too into the whole thing, went off to get some Cheerios, came back…

MEN’S NOTE #3: See Takahito Kozuka take the ice. See Takahito stand by the boards with his back to his coach. See his coach lightly rub his back in a few big circles, then press his hand right into the center before he heads out. See me intrigued… does anyone know what this is about? Just a ritual, or does it have deeper meaning?

MEN’S NOTE #4: Whoa. I deeply underestimated Mr. Abbott. While I don’t know that he could have won if Joubert had stayed in the event and pulled out a great FS, he has certainly earned his stripes this GP season… and has surely earned a whole bunch of screaming females crying his name at events. How about if we just start referring to him as JeremEEEEE?

For the
Clip of the Day I give you JeremEEEEE’s exhibition skate from the last Nationals. Get ready for some vintage George Michael…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Final Predictions for the Final: Pairs & Ladies

No more abbreviations!

At least, not in this post. Putting D/B at the end of the last one when I meant D/S was bad enough… but with TWO D/S’s among the dance finalists, it’s simply bound to get me in more trouble. So while I make no such promise with nicknames… I shall spell out all the names of all the pairs mentioned. As long as I don’t accidentally call Pang & Tong Tang & Pong (two great staples of ‘70s Americana!), everything should be fine.

Speaking of PAIRS:

Gold—Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)
Silver—Zhang/Zhang (CHN)
Bronze—Kawaguchi/Smirnov (RUS)

At first glance this seems kind of easy, at least as far as gold and silver go. But while each of those teams won their events handily, I’ve yet to see either team truly on their game. So if Savchenko/Szolkowy skate as they did earlier in the fall while Zhang/Zhang step it up, then look out. It’s possible, but with so many little mistakes all the way around, I’m still going German on this one.

As for bronze, again I’m thinking of Tamara Moskvina’s uncanny way of getting what she wants… and I’m sure upsetting at least one Chinese team is on her wish list. Kawaguchi/Smirnov are one of the few teams at this event that actually seems to keep improving, where Pang/Tong gives the appearance of a team that might be as good as they’ll ever be (which is quite good, of course, but still…).

And last but not least, the LADIES:

Gold—Yu-Na Kim (KOR)
Silver—Mao Asada (JPN)
Bronze—Carolina Kostner (ITA)

Ugh, how could I? When there are no US ladies in this event, how could I predict the lone representative from North America (Joannie Rochette) will miss the podium in what has so far been a stellar year? Well, remember that this is what I predict will happen. What I would like to happen is something else entirely. And when it comes to predictions, I only have to think back to Kostner’s ridiculously (there, I said it) high presentation scores at Cup of Russia to know she has a good chance of sliding into bronze even if she blows her jumps. Rochette might turn in two more fab performances and finish off the podium… or she might buckle under the pressure and finish off the podium for more obvious reasons. Let’s hope for the former; back-to-back-to-back solid skates can only help cement her improvement in judges’ minds—no matter where she places this time.

What about the Kim/Asada decision? What about when Asada takes on a triple axel (or two)? I know, I know—I’ve thought of all that too. But for now at least, Kim continues to peak early. She hasn’t won the past 2 GP Finals by a lottery, after all. Plus the event’s in her homeland, and Kim seems to eat pressure for breakfast (in a nice tasty pancake). I predict she won’t disappoint.

OK, that’s it! Time to go stand by the finish line and crane our necks until we see them all coming…

For the
Clip of the Day I’ve got Yu-Na’s free skate at this event from TWO years ago… for those who are interested on how much she’s improved since then (as well as those who just don't think she's all that).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Big Finish! The GP Final Dance & Men’s Picks

Well here we are! Welcome to the ISU Grand Prix Final... otherwise known as Act 1’s Closing Number. We’ve seen all the players by now, and are well on our way to learning all their respective lines. Only the best of the best get to carry us to the holiday “intermission”; that fact alone usually makes this event more watchable… it’s like a greatest hits CD after several releases with a lot of “album filler”.

How have you done this season thus far? Are you missing the odd-hour ESPN coverage something fierce? Are you wishing NBC will do something about that next year? Or are you satisfied with the On-Demand capabilities of Ice Network and couldn’t care less if it makes its way to mainstream TV again? Are you trying to keep up via You Tube (or some similar source), cursing the screen every time a clip has been “removed”?

I’m sitting here with the finalist names in front of me, wavering between certain choices here and there, wondering if I should go take a peek at how this competitor fared over that competitor a few weeks ago… or how many points so-and-so racked up per event… but guess what? I’m not even going to mess with all that. Why make it a sport about numbers any more than it already is? I’m going with my gut on these predictions.

Based on recent history, my “gut” is downright unreliable. But as they say, ice is slippery… and those blades are so thin… so maybe this is all a better fit than I’ve realized!


Gold—Delobel/Schoenfelder (FRA)
Silver—Domnina/Shabalin (RUS)
Bronze—Belbin/Agosto (USA)

OK, so my USA spirit is showing a little with the Belgosto nod. It seems very possible, yes, that the steadily rising rep of Faiella/Scali will help them to the podium, particularly when Belgosto still seemed to be in rebuild mode when they competed earlier in the fall. And of course, Khoklova/Novitski has a serious shot at bronze too (some might even say silver?). But my hope is that Tanith and Ben will show up in Korea fully polished and ready to shine. As for Gold/Silver… the upset of Dombalin from a few weeks back is proof that they are still plenty beatable—especially when the team in question currently owns the world title.

Much as I love Davis/White, I think they are the newest (if not also the youngest) team invited to the big dance this year, and can consider it a huge victory if they come anywhere near the podium.

But that may just be the old school talking.

For MEN:

Gold—Brian Joubert (FRA)
Silver—Patrick Chan (CAN)
Bronze—Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)

Uh-oh… so much for that USA spirit.

Let’s start at the top this time. Joubert is far from the top point-getter coming into this weekend, but I still think he’ll take this title with his fuller arsenal of jumps and riveting short program (which, as you’ll recall, is what brought him enough points to still win Cup of Russia when his free skate wasn’t tops). Chan and Kozuka are well-matched to duke it out for the other two spots in my opinion… but with Chan’s presentation scores as off-the-chart good as they’ve been, I have to predict him to silver.

As for Johnny… I hope he can nail his quad and edge one of these guys out, but I admit I’m still thinking about that awful cold he had 2 weeks ago. I heard he stayed overseas these past 2 weeks rather than fly back and forth, and that will surely help (or at least keep it from getting worse), but still, a bad cold is a bad cold. Add strenuous training to the mix, and I sense he’ll be force to adopt an attitude of “Oh well, let’s just get through this, then rest till after Christmas, then pour it on in time for Nationals.” And really, who can blame him?

Of course, that’s someone’s cue to tell me how he’s made a full recovery!

For the
Clip of the Day, I’ve got the D/B Piano number from last year’s GPF. Sorry, but I still like this one a lot better than this year’s…

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Update on the Queen of the "Ice Castles"

From the Something Completely Different Files:

I’ve been hanging onto this for several weeks, waiting for a lull in the GP activity to mention it…

Those of use who grew up in the 70s/80s—particularly those of us who skated as they grew up at that time—may have adored the frequent TV coverage of our favorite sport to no end. But when it came to seeing our sport take the spotlight in modern-day films, the opps were few and far between.

So when Ice Castles hit the big screen in 1978 with an incandescent Lynn-Holly Johnson making her screen debut as rising skating star Alexis Winston… well, some of us went nuts and wanted our moms to take us to see it as many times as we’d gone to see Grease earlier in the year. It didn’t matter that Robby Benson’s character was something of a putz. It didn’t matter that Colleen Dewhurst’s character kind of scared me. It didn’t even matter that the latter part of the plot was downright impossible in its day (how could a blind girl compete at all when figures were still in the mix?). The overall story, the skating scenes, that soundtrack that launched a thousand freestyle routines during my brief competitive career… it was truly the Rocky for figure skaters of that era. (I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking that!)

this article from last month plays a little bit of catch-up with Lynn-Holly GIVENS (she’s married now, you see). As the headline reveals, it’s not really so much about her, or Ice Castles, as it is about her place in film history as one of the more innocent Bond Girls (as in Bond… James Bond). But it includes ample mention of her dual careers in skating AND acting, as well as a detailed telling of how Castles almost got an “R” rating (translation: they wanted her to do a nude scene, but she refused).

It’s a fun read, even if you’ve never seen a Bond movie…or don’t know what it means to say “we forgot about the flowers”.

For a hint about that last line—or a teaser for the whole film—check out this
Clip of the Day.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Who'd a Thunk It? I Finally Get Out an NHK Recap

Why is it taking so long for me to post some notes on NHK? Am I really that mentally winded from 6 weeks of back-to-back competition? All I had to do was sit here, turn my modem on and off until it found an IP address the Ice Network liked (!!), and watch things unfold. I didn’t even do it that well, at least in terms of predictions-- 4 for 12 again this week; nailed the Dance podium and Asada’s victory, missed everything else. Who would’ve thought I’d have to really concentrate just to remember an event that happened only a few days ago?

Hey, wait, I think I’m onto a theme…

--Who would’ve thought a virtual unknown named Akiko Suzuki would take silver behind Asada? OK, so she took silver waaaaaay behind Asada (24 points, to be exact). But criminy! Yet another sensational representative of the NHK’s home country is on the move. So how long until the ISU allows 5 Japanese women to compete at Worlds?

--Who would’ve thought Inoue and Baldwin would finally nail that throw triple axel again? Oh, wait, let me check that slo-mo replay… nope, it was two-footed. I guess Rena got tired of crash-landing—I surely would have.

-- Who would’ve thought one could cough through an entire free skate (as Johnny Weir says he did) and still manage a silver medal? Ugh. Sounds miserable.

-- Who would’ve thought the best quad of the men’s free skate would come from Yannick Pansero? (Note to self: yes, he might blow the free when he lays down an excellent short… but if it’s only an above average short, he’s likely to rally.)

-- Who would’ve thought Samuelson & Bates could still win bronze when they botched their dance spin so badly in the final phase of competition?

-- Who would’ve thought the winners of the Dance division (Faiella/Scali) essentially earned their gold medals by winning the one portion of competition we were unable to see on Ice Network this time? (They edged France’s Pechalat/Bourzat by nearly 2.5 points in the compulsories.)

-- Who would’ve thought presumed rivals Nakano and Asada would both turn up for the short program in similar shades of lavender… and both sporting long sleeves? Isn’t this kind of like being nominated for an Oscar, only to show up for the ceremony and discover a fellow nominee is wearing your gown?

-- Who would’ve thought Oda could rejoin the ranks of competitive skating with such a bang? (Apparently not me; I had him finishing 2nd.)

-- Who would’ve thought six weeks could come and go so quickly? Even if we’ve been through all this several years running?

For the
Clip of the Day I’ve got Asada’s FS from last year’s GP Final—a skate that lifted her from last place all the way to 2nd. As she showed over the weekend, she’s quite capable of erasing any bad performance in recent memory with a great one.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Usual Suspects at the GP Final? Well…

We’re approaching the eye of the storm.

The annual six-week whirlwind takes a brief break this week as the last ones standing in each discipline gear up for the GP Final. But before I review all things NHK-related, I thought it was time make some quick observations in studying the “finalists” over the past 3 years. Let’s see…

MEN in 2006: Joubert, Takahashi, Oda, Preaubert, Weir, Lysacek (the latter two withdrew)

In 2007: Lambiel, Takahashi, Lysacek, Weir, Chan, VanDerPerren

In 2008: Chan, Kozuka, Weir, Joubert, Abbot, Verner

Worth noting: Only 3 from ’06 repeated the task in ’07… and only 2 have repeated this season.
Only one in all three finals: Weir
Probably would’ve been in all 3 if not for injury/illness: Joubert & Takahashi
And one more thing: if your favorite isn’t in this year’s final, take heart… Jeffrey Buttle didn’t make last year’s final either, and it didn’t stop him from taking the world title a few months later.

LADIES in 2006: Kim, Asada, Meier, Suguri, Ando, Sebestyen

In 2007: Kim, Asada, Kostner, Zhang, Nakano, Meissner

In 2008: Kim, Rochette, Asada, Kostner, Nakano, Ando

Worth noting: the only real consistency here is with Kim and Asada, though Kostner, Ando and Nakano are all fighting the good fight to keep up.
Surprise of the year: each season seems to bring one distinctly unexpected ladies finalist. In ’06, it was Meier. In ’07, Zhang. In ’08, it’s Rochette… and what’s nice about that is the fact that she’s not an up-and-comer like the other two were. She’s a comparative veteran who made some firm changes in the past year (on the mental side, if not the physical as well) and has been reaping the rewards ever since.

PAIRS in 2006: Xue/Hongbo, Savchenko/Szolkowy, Zhang/Zhang, Inoue/Baldwin, Marcoux/Buntin, Petrova/Tikhonov

In 2007: Savchenko/Szolkowy, Zhang/Zhang, Pang/Tong, Dube/Davison, Kawaguchi/Smirnov, McLaughlin/Brubaker (withdrew)

In 2008: Savchenko/Szolkowy, Zhang/Zhang, Kawaguchi/Smirnov, Pang/Tong, Volosozhar/Morozov, Mukhortova/Trankov

Worth noting: Savchenko/Szolkowy and Zhang/Zhang are the only pairs that have been in all three finals.
Nipping at their heels: Kawaguchi/Smirnov continue to move up the ladder, despite any complications that might be on the horizon regarding Kawaguchi’s ability to represent Russia in an Olympic event.
Already done all the nipping they’ll do?: Pang/Tong have been the bridesmaids to Zhang/Zhang for years; at this point it seems unlikely they’ll overtake them, much less defeat Sav/Szol.

DANCE in 2006: Denkova/Staviski, Dubreil/Lauzon, Domnina/Shabalin, Delobel/Schoenfelder, Khokhlova/Novitski, Gregory/Petukhov

In 2007: Domnina/Shabalin, Belbin/Agosto, Delobel/Schoenfelder, Khokhlova/Novitski, Pechalat/Bourzat

In 2008: Delobel/Schoenfelder, Domnina/Shabalin, Faiella/Scali, Khokhlova/Novitski, Davis/White, Belbin/Agosto

Worth noting: Only three to show up in all 3 finals are Domnina/Shabalin, Delobel/Schoelfelder, and somewhat surprisingly, Khoklova/Novitski.
Nipping at their heels: Davis/White and Faiella/Scali.
Already done all the nipping they’ll do?: On paper, one might determine that couple to be Belgosto… but seeing how they surely have only one goal in mind for Vancouver (having already won Olympic silver), I hope they prove the “paper” wrong.

For the
Clip of the Day I went back to last year’s GP Final and found the Khoklova/Novitski FD…not really my cup of tea, but with so much consistency they’re obviously doing something right.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Once More, With Feeling: NHK Dance/Ladies Predictions

A nice tradition at some U.S. Thanksgiving Day dinners is to have everyone present tell about that for which they are specifically thankful. Since we neglected to do that this year at my table, I’ll tell what I’m thankful for here:

Healthy family… gainful employment… new opportunities… excellent hot chocolate.

Oh—and a blog that allows me to pretend people might be entertained by what I think about figure skating. Particularly when NHK Trophy is starting in a matter of hours, and I have two more guesstimates to make:


Gold- Faiella/Scali (ITA)
Silver- Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)
Bronze- Samuelson/Bates (USA)

It’s been surprisingly difficult to peg the outcome in this category of late—which is refreshing as a viewer, but maddening as a blogger :-) Still, I’ll give this one to the Italian team that took their clown-inspired, Moonlight Sonata free skate to silver in France. P/B, on the other hand, weren’t quite as impressive when they took bronze in Canada. In fact, I’d guess there’s a good chance Sam/Bates could even overtake them in this event… but I’ll leave them in 3rd just the same, as they're still much greener than the others.


Gold- Mao Asada (JPN)
Silver- Yukari Nakano (JPN)
Bronze- Ashley Wagner (USA)

I know Asada had numerous misfires at her Paris GP debut a few weeks ago, but I honestly can’t see any of her competitors catching her this time… including teammate Nakano, who has yet to beat her as far as I know. The way things have been going, though, I wouldn’t be flat-out shocked if Nakano did indeed make her move and prove spoiler in front of the home crowd. Laura Lepisto and Mirai Nagasu (the current U.S. National Champion) stand very good chances at getting that bronze, but Nagasu’s performance at Skate America didn’t make much of an impression on me, I’m sorry to say. I DO have lasting impressions from Lepisto and Wagner’s routines, though, and while Lepisto outscored her when they last went head-to-head, I found Wagner’s free skate light years ahead in terms of passion and excitement. If she can “up the ante” technically speaking, I think/hope it’ll be her turn on the podium.

For the
Clip of the Day I went back to the 2008 Nationals to show you Samuelson and Bates’ debut at the senior level (where they finished 4th, thanks in large part to a fall they took near the end of the skate). Enjoy this final weekend of GP qualifying!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pass the Turkey... I Mean, Pass the NHK Predictions, Please

I always wonder if the American skaters are a little bummed out if they get invited to a GP event the week of Thanksgiving. Does anyone know if the USFS organizes some sort of traditional turkey dinner for the team when they’re overseas? Or if it’s ill advised to do that just before a major competition, maybe they plan something directly afterwards…?

I’m just strangely curious about stuff like that… “that” being anything having to do with copious amounts of food.

Anyway, there’s one more GP event to be thankful for this weekend, and one more set of predictions to be made… so here we go with the NHK guesses:


Gold- Dube/Davison (CAN)
Silver- Pang/Tong (CHN)
Bronze- Inoue/Baldwin (USA)

This might be risky; the idea that one of the top 2 Chinese teams might be upset by one of the top 2 Canadian teams. But I’m thinking of the strong silver medal work of D & D at their home event, and I’m thinking of the subpar bronze medal work of P & T at their home event… and that leaves me feeling it more for Canada. Besides, with the roll Canada’s top singles skaters have been on all season, a little of that goodness is bound to spill over to the pairs sooner or later. Why not sooner?

And yes, I’m guessing bronze for our veteran-of-veterans I & B, but that’s largely due to the fact that I haven’t heard of any of the others! (And that includes the other U.S. pair!)

For the MEN:

Gold: Johnny Weir (USA)
Silver: Nobunari Oda (JPN)
Bronze: Stephen Carriere (USA)

Aw, Dice-K. Way back in the spring, I believe I predicted the Takahashi/Oda showdown to be the highlight of this year’s NHK Trophy. And now, wonderful hip-hop skating man, you sit sidelined for the season with a knee injury… and the showdown instead becomes a Weir/Oda thing. Not that they won’t put on a great show—Weir with his dramatic, here’s-the-performance-I-meant-to-throw-down-at-Skate-America vibe, and Oda with his dramatic, here’s-what-I’ve-been-working-on-while-I-was-suspended-last-season comeback. But I expect Weir to take this one. His consistency has done nothing but solidify over the past 18 months, and as some people pointed out after SKAM, that particular competition came much earlier than he typically competes in GP events. His entire presentation has had time to simmer since then; I’m eager to see what he serves up. Oda, after all this time, is a bit of a wild card. But I think he’s got it in him to shine again—especially in front of the home crowd.

IF I happen to be right about these top two, the bronze could be between Carriere and France’s Yannick Pansero. But while Carriere held his own nicely at Cup of China (earining Silver), Pansero started strong but burned out quickly at Skate Canada… and it’s not the first time he’s done so. Advantage Carriere.

As usual—even on Thanksgiving night—part two of my predictions will come tomorrow, hopefully before the compulsory dances are in the books. Here is Oda in the
Clip of the Day, in case you’re wondering what he’s looking like nowadays. I'll be back after I've eaten my weight in mashed potatoes...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Eight Is Enough: Cup of Russia Observations

(NOTE: If you want to see who's made the cut for the GP Final so far, scroll down and check out yesterday's post!)

Here in the States, Thanksgiving is just a few days away… and if we weren’t in the final stretches of the Grand Prix, I’d gladly devote a post or two to an A-thru-Z list of all the things I’m thankful for (both skating-related and otherwise). But there are observations from Cup of Russia to be made.

Come to think of it, there are pies to be made, too. So let’s get to it—8 observations:

+ ALMOST OVER .500: Dang! I was thisclose to being 7-for-12 on my podium predictions, but the Russian flip-flop upset in the FD sent me back to my typical 5-for-12. Oh well. At least I nailed one category (Pairs).

+ OH CHARLIE!: When I saw that Davis/White had placed 8th in the OD (dropping them down to 4th overall), I decided I had to check it out and see what happened. One bad stumble on a twizzle and two solid smackdowns to the ice later, I wished I hadn’t. Oy vey. If it happened to them here, that means something like that can NEVER happen to them at an even bigger competition… right??

+ FORGET THE “RISKY” QUADS; WHAT ABOUT “RISKY” FLYING SPINS?: First we saw Takahiko Kozuka come crashing down on a spin at TEB… then we saw Jeremy Abbott do the same thing at COR. Is nobody getting the memo to these guys that spins are given much more credence these days? It’s no time to break concentration.

And speaking of memos…

+ MEMO TO DOMBALIN (Domnina/Shabalin): I really liked the costume change you took on with the Spartacus FD. The deep scarlet was very flattering on Oksana, and as I mentioned in a column earlier this month, the idea of women needing to dress up like Xena the Warrior Princess for the sake of this music is kind of jarring anyway. I’m just afraid you won’t stick with it, as you were wearing it when you lost your “home” competition for the second year running. But in any case… can you send Ashley Wagner a photo of the new ensemble? Maybe it will inspire her to reinvent her own Spartacus ensemble.

+ MEMO TO BRIAN JOUBERT: I have to confess, I had my regrets shortly after I posted my picks last week—and a large number of the regrets centered on you. How could you possibly turn it around in the span of a few days and WIN an event? But you did. Sorry I doubted you! And welcome to the what-a-difference-a-week-makes club.

+ MEMO TO RACHAEL FLATT: On the one hand, I was wrong about you because I didn’t predict you to medal. On the other, I was right about you because I thought you’d be underscored… and you were! You should have won! So—sorry I doubted you too.

+ UNINTENTIONALLY AMUSING, PT.1: When it came to slips and falls for no apparent reason, there was no discrimination this week. Dan Zhang (of the #2 ranked Zhang/Zhang) did it mid-program in the pairs’ FS, and what’s more, unranked ladies’ competitor Elena Glebova did the same thing a mere 3 seconds into her SP! Did they oil up the ice, by chance?

+ UNINTENTIONALLY AMUSING, PT. 2: The overly enthusiastic (but well-meaning, I’m sure) kids cleaning up the ice after each performance were so determined to pass on their findings to each competitor, they seemed to be interrupting the bows just to hand over the loot. “Stop bowing—I have a stuffed dog for you! Here! Take it!! Here!! Please, you must notice me so I can go scoop up more doggies! STOP BOWING!! STOP!!!”

And on that note, I leave you with a
Clip of the Day featuring the Kerr’s “Kilt” OD from last season’s NHK Trophy. I would have gladly included a clip from this year’s COR, like I did yesterday, but I see TPTB paid You Tube a visit and already rendered yesterday’s Clip obsolete. Sorry!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Who's in the ISU GP Final So Far? Find Out Here...

It’s not very often that I attempt to be newsworthy—you might have noticed that if you’re a regular of any kind.

But with Cup of Russia having wrapped up today (observations coming tomorrow) and NHK on the radar screen (predictions coming later this week), I was curious as to who’d made the Grand Prix final already… and who might still have a shot. After all, I’m an American fan spoiled by the ESPN/ABC coverage of years gone by. They kept track of this stuff for us every week. Where can the likes of me go when Terry Gannon (who I miss so dearly) is now back to doing play-by-plays for college football?

Apparently, you can go to Wikipedia. Not always the most reliable source of information, that’s true… but I’ve found it to have a pretty solid track record when it comes to figure skating. And in looking at their current entry for the ISU Grand Prix—and I DO mean current; they have all the medal-winners from this past weekend’s COR included—their point totals sound accurate to me.

In short (with none of my babbling commentary, for once), here’s what I found:

Already qualified: Patrick Chan (30 points), Takahiko Kozuka (28), Brian Joubert (26), Jeremy Abbott (26)
Could still qualify after competing next weekend: Johnny Weir (13 points), Stephen Carriere (13), Yannick Pansero (9), Kevin Reynolds (9)
On the bubble: Tomas Verner (24), Alban Preaubert (22)

Already qualified: Yu-Na Kim (30 points), Joannie Rochette (30), Carolina Kostner (24)
Could still qualify after competing next weekend: Yukari Nakano (13 points), Mao Asada (13), Laura Lepisto (11), Ashley Wagner (9), Mirai Nagasu (7)
On the bubble: Miki Ando (24), Fumie Suguri (24), Rachael Flatt (22)

Already qualified: Savchenko/Szolkowy (30 points), Zhang/Zhang (30), Kawaguchi/Smirnov (28), Volosohzar/Morozov (24)
Could still qualify after competing next weekend: Dube/Davison (13 points), Pang/Tong (11)
On the bubble: Mukhortova/Trankov (24), McLaughlin/Brubaker (24)

Already qualified: Delobel/Schoenfelder (30 points), Domnina/Shabalin (28), Khoklova/Novitski (26), Davis/White (26)
Could still qualify after competing next weekend: Faiella/Scali (13 points), Pechalat/Bourzat (11), Samuelson/Bates (9), Gorshkova/Butikov (9). Navarro/Bommentre (7)
On the bubble: Belbin/Agosto (26), Crone/Poirier (22)

If you’re wondering about point tie-breakers (or need a refresher course), check out the whole entry

For the
Clip of the Day I’ve got Joubert’s electrifying SP from this past weekend… that is, unless the clip gets snatched off of You Tube by The Powers That Be. Catch it while you can!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

To Cup of Russia WIth Love: Pairs/Mens Picks

Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski are out again? Nooo!

And we did so well keeping most of the original competitors last week. I suppose it’d be too much to ask for two weeks in a row? Oh, well. As long as I get to see Daisuke Takahashi at next week’s NHK Trophy then all is well…

What? Out for the season?? Noooooo!

While I ponder how much that sucks, read over my picks for PAIRS at COR:

Gold- Zhang/Zhang (CHN)
Silver- Kawaguchi/Smirnov (RUS)
Bronze- Volosozhar/Morozov (UKR)

The Zhangs and V/M already competed together at Cup of China; the news there is not that the Zhangs won gold—it was expected they would—but that V/M edged Pang/Tong for silver. Still, there were 7 points between 1st and 2nd… which leaves plenty of room for Skate Canada winners K/S to sneak in there. Especially if they decide to unleash their throw quad in front of the home crowd.

The aforementioned Castile/Okolski were set to be the only other contenders for a medal; as it stands now, I can’t imagine any other names will truly challenge the three names I listed above.

Finally, for MEN:

Gold- Brian Joubert (FRA)
Silver- Jeremy Abbott (USA)
Bronze- Tomas Verner (CZE)

Wow! Welcome to last week’s disappointment vs. last week’s surprise vs. COC’s disappointment vs. COC’s surprise vs…well… Kevin Van der Perren. This was exceedingly difficult, but in spite of myself I went with Joubert for the second week in a row… the hope being that Joubert is angry enough at himself for last week to fight very hard for gold this week. I may be kicking myself in a few days for not going with Abbott, who was quite riveting at COC, but I simply haven’t seen him compete long enough to feel confident he can turn back-to-back great performances. Preaubert may well claim another medal, but I think Abbott and Verner are both more likely to outscore him artistically. Van der Perren is a definite dark horse, but I’m leaving him out of the medals because he’s the only one of these 5 that has yet to compete on the circuit this season.

With that in mind, here’s Van der Perren’s current SP (as seen at the Findlandia Trophy earlier in the season) as the
Clip of the Day . Or with this costume, maybe it’s from Halloween on Ice. You be the judge.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Weekend, Another "Cup"

I just got off the phone with my brother Michael. When I told him what I was doing—working on my predictions for this weekend’s Cup of Russia—he told me I MUST base my decisions entirely on the skater’s haircuts.

This, from a guy who works for USA Swimming. A sport where they try to be as hairless as possible while competing.


So sorry Michael sweetie, but I will disregard any hair judgments… as well as any jokes that could have been made about haircuts back when Plushenko was still in the competitive mix… and take some guesses anyway.

Gold- Domnina/Shabalin (RUS)
Silver- Davis/White (USA)
Bronze- Khokhlova/Novitski (RUS)

I said back at Cup of China that Dombalin would be sure to shine in Russia, even if they had to settle for silver in Beijing. Since they ultimately settled for nothing less than GOLD, I can’t imagine they’ll have trouble doing the same at COR.

As for the other two slots—my temptation was to guess silver for Khokitski (aka the other Russian couple), if only because they’re the other “home” team. But I underestimated Davis/White last time, and I don’t want to make that mistake twice! Cappelini/Lanotte (ITA) stand the best chance of upsetting my picks, but Khokitski beat them by 6 points 2 weeks ago…

As for LADIES:

Gold: Carolina Kostner (ITA)
Silver: Fumie Suguri (JPN)
Bronze: Alissa Czisny (USA)

This is a very tough category, though not quite as tough as the men (coming tomorrow). I must say I’m giving this one to Kostner by process of elimination—her performance at Skate Canada was troubling; I’m not sure if it’ll give her confidence a sucker punch or if it’ll inspire her to do better. But of the top names at this event, she’s perhaps the most consistent of several inconsistent competitors. If that makes any sense.

One of those “inconsistents” is Suguri… but she managed a silver at SkCan, so I’m hopeful she’s riding a good wave.

Czisny is another “inconsistent”, but she managed bronze at SkCan (and I hear it was that success that got her invited to COR to replace Finland’s Jenni Vahamaa), so I’m hopeful she’s riding a good wave.

See a pattern here?

The dark horses here are many; they include Kimmie Meissner (who seems capable of a comeback at any time), Rachael Flatt (who I fear will be underscored; hope I’m wrong), and Na-Young Kim—the lesser-known South Korean skater who still seemed impressive when I saw her (at 4CC) last year. So, in short, I’m crossing my fingers here and hoping for the best.

I must admit—the way my guesses have been going this season, maybe my brother Michael was on to something…

So, I’m off to study a copy of Celebrity Hairstyles! Your
Clip of the Day is that 4CC performance from Kim that I just mentioned… so I won’t have overlooked her completely if/when she medals this weekend. :-)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Spitting? Bleeding? Welcome to TKOs at the TEB!

When I was growing up near Chicago, and the White Sox (baseball team) made it to the playoffs—a most unusual happening in those days—someone coined the catch phrase White Sox: Winning UGLY.

I don’t know if “winning ugly” was a term used prior to that, but I know I’ve heard it many times since: football, soccer, basketball… the occasional political race…

But not for figure skating. Not literally, anyway.

This past weekend at GP Paris was a different story, though. Let me relay two separate events (one you probably witnessed, one you might not have) through the mindful eyes of my family members…

ME (to my 7 year old son): Hey, I’ve got something to show you from yesterday’s competition…

SON: Why? What happened? Did someone get hurt?

ME: You’ll see.

SON: (excitedly) Is there blood?

ME: Well, remember when you asked me how sharp skate blades are..?

SON (as the camera zooms in on Craig Buntin’s hand) Yuck!

ME: See, they’ve got to wrap his hand up because they haven’t finished yet—

SON: (panics) I don’t want to see it!

ME: He’s okay, really… they even got a bronze medal…

SON: (leaves room) I don’t want to see it!

ME: He got blood all over his partner’s dress, too…


ME: (more to myself) Well, it’s not like he had a choice.

I must say, the slice’n’dice with Canada’s Duhamel/Buntin was about as grisly an accident as I’ve seen in this sport for quite a while—even if it was, for the most part, a superficial flesh wound. Did you see how bloody the dressings were by the end of the performance? And how his poor paw was re-wrapped, post-performance, in enough bandages to resemble a boxing glove?

And speaking of boxing, here’s the other “event” I mentioned (with the help of another family member) from the men’s short program:

ME: (Talking to computer screen) Don’t do it, Joubert… don’t do it… AAUGH!

HUSBAND: Was there a fall on a quad?

ME: No… Brian Joubert just took a swig of water, swished it around in his mouth, then spit it out right on the ice!

HUSBAND: (unfazed) Uh-huh…

ME: Disgusting!

HUSBAND: Maybe he thinks he’s a hockey player.

ME: He’s not a hockey player!

HUSBAND: So… it’ll just freeze up, right?

ME: Not the point!! (Then, as I keep watching) Oh, WOW.

HUSBAND: Now was there a fall on a quad?

ME: Impossible. He was supposed to do it just then, and he missed it completely. Didn’t even try a double.

HUSBAND: Probably because he’s a hockey player now.

ME: I prefer to think of it as SPIT KARMA.


And so it went, at least around these parts.

Till I start making some stabs at Cup of Russia in a couple of days, I leave you with this
Clip of the Day of Joubert’s current SP. Can’t find the TEB skate on You Tube right now, so this is taken from the French Masters earlier in the season. Don’t worry—this one is totally spit-free.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Who Put the "Bomp" in Trophee Eric Bompard, Anyway?

Bonjour mes amis! Avez-vous apprécié Trophée Eric Bompard le week-end dernier?

I better not go any further than that… it’s been about 22 years since my last French class. Cut to the random notes…

+ Sorry to say I took a step backwards with my guesses and finished 4-for-12 (got one right in each discipline). And the margins for victory all around were HUGE, so even the upsets were clear-cut. However…

+ In Dance, while I got silver and bronze flip-flopped, I’d like to point out that the 2 ½ point spread between silver medalists Faiella/Scali and Kerr/Kerr was anything but huge.

+ Ditto for silver and bronze in Pairs (Mukhortova/Trankov and Duhamel/Buntin), where they were separated by only about 4 points. And after what happened to D/M in the free skate, I found their Tosca routine all the more inspiring… but I’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

+ A special American shout-out is due for bronze medalist Caroline Zhang, who skated one of only two clean free skates among the singles on the podium (Alban Preaubert being the other).

+ Another American shout-out goes to 5th place finishers Vise/Trent, who turned in a great free skate even without the throw quad salchow. And with all due respect to Inoue/Baldwin, THIS is the kind of team that makes me wish certain veterans would retire and get out of the way. Quickly.

+ For the men, what an interesting (if only temporary) fall from grace for 4th place finisher Brian Joubert. From beginning to end, he looked like he had something to prove but left key pieces of evidence back at the hotel… or maybe on the practice ice. I am glad to hear he held himself accountable, though. And nice for the cameras to catch him being very sportsmanlike backstage with fellow Frenchman Preaubert (who edged him for bronze).

+ As for winner Patrick Chan, two things to note: a) Skate Canada? Not a fluke. And b) Flawed programs? Not a problem. Neither of his free skates in this season’s GP have been the show-stiopper du jour, yet his overall technique and style seem to hold him up quite nicely. All the elite male skaters in the world who hope to be in Vancouver 15 months from now should be taking note of such a competitor… one who is “on” even when he is “off”.

+ And one final thing…was it just me, or did the Kiss & Cry look like everyone was sitting in front of a giant wall of jeans on display at Old Navy?

More to come tomorrow, as we take a closer look at the ways this weekend’s events compared to another sport people get passionate about…

For now, I leave you Kozuka’s SP to Take Five (I have yet to find a program set to this music that I dislike)…a super-classy
Clip of the Day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Voila! TEB Predictions, Pt. 2

I was all set to talk about how I look forward to TEB simply because the arena in which it takes place is so lovely… because it is… but then I caught this article at telling of the crappy condition of the ice itself over in Paris, at least mid-week. Sheesh. Maybe the key to appreciating the competition this weekend will be simple: don’t look down.

Anyway… better get to my predictions for PAIRS:

Gold: Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)
Silver: Duhamel/Buntin (CAN)
Bronze: Mukhortova/Trankov (RUS)

Let’s just face facts, and admit up front that as long as Zhang & Zhang aren’t in Paris, the Germans are in a class by themselves. They should win by plenty. My silver/ bronze picks might easily get reversed in reality, but I found Duhamel & Buntin infinitely more appealing at SKAM a few weeks ago than the Russian M&Ms (that would be Maria and Maxim). But I haven’t compared their content side by side-- the Russians are likely to have the edge there. IF they get it all done… it’s the IF factor that keeps them in bronze for me.

Much as I cheered the U.S. pair of Vise/Trent last year at this event (and their gorgeous throw quad salchow), and would enjoy seeing them on the podium, I’m not familiar enough with what they’re up to this season to predict an upset.

Finally, for the LADIES:

Gold: Mao Asada (JPN)
Silver: Joannie Rochette (CAN)
Bronze: Caroline Zhang (USA)

Rochette lit up SKCAN 2 weeks back, and may do quite well here too, but this weekend will probably be all-Asada, all-the-time. Bronze might be a toss-up between Zhang and Emily Hughes (making her first and only GP appearance this weekend); I’m factoring in the strong possibility that Hughes, who I believe hasn’t competed since last year’s GP assignments, will be a little rusty.

Since we haven’t seen Asada skate in a while, the
Clip of the Day showcases her free skate at this event last year. There’s only 2 days of competition this time; enjoy it as it fleets on by like so many Metro trains in rush hour!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quick, Before Someone Cancels: TEB Predictions pt. 1


I’m going to try to post my initial predictions for Trophee Eric Bompard very quietly. Why? Because I’m starting to fear that every time one of us skating bloggers (or skloggers?) tries to take some educated guesses at a GP finish, a major contender gets hurt, and falls out of the running for the next event. Not that we have any special powers… or voodoo dolls, for that matter… maybe it’s just a nutty coincidence. Or, maybe because it’s an impossibly demanding sport these days…

But just the same, I’m tiptoeing onto the internet this time… if that’s possible… with some TEB predictions. The hope is that we can get to Friday without so much as a stubbed toe from Mao Asada.

For the DANCE:
Gold- Delobel/Schoenfelder (FRA)
Silver- Kerr/Kerr (GBR)
Bronze- Faiella/Scali (ITA)

Frankly, the D/S free dance ’08 did little for me when I watched it at Skate America. But the judges obviously thought otherwise, and D/S come into this not only as last year’s defending champs… but this year’s world champs. They’d pretty much have to fall twice in every part of the competition to lose this one. As for the Kerr’s ability to go up one podium spot from their own SKAM finish… it’s kind of risky, but I really do think they can get it done.

The recent SKCAN silver medalists Crone/Poirier (CAN) also seem a podium possibility, but I’m not confident that what happened on their home turf can happen across the pond. Maybe I’ll have to gain some confidence in that thought by week’s end.

For the MEN:
Gold: Brian Joubert (FRA)
Silver: Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Bronze: Patrick Chan (CAN)

Ooh… finally, a tough one! Joubert might seem a shoo-in at TEB any other year, but this year he happens to be facing a rising star from Japan who just won SKAM... not to mention a rising star from Canada who just won SKCAN. So why am I still going with Joubert, particularly when he’s unproven so far this season? I guess it’s because I have a hard time seeing him blow it. Joubert hasn’t been at TEB for at least a couple of years, so I think he goes in with a double agenda: to give his native fans a great homecoming, and to give his rising star competitors a primer on what a long-burning star skates like.

It would certainly shake things up if either one of the other two can pull an upset, though. Stay tuned! Ryan Bradley and Alban Preaubert are possible contenders should any of the top three falter. And I know that’s what I said of Bradley at SKCAN, and then he went and won silver. The difference this time is in the deeper talent pool. Methinks it's going to be a little harder for lightning to strike twice.

Speaking of Preaubert, the
Clip of the Day is his SP from last year’s TEB (which put him in 1st, though he was unable to stay on top after the free skate). With programs set to music like Dracula and Addams Family Values, I can’t help but wonder: Is Preaubert the Ryan Bradley of France? Discuss.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cut the Popcorn Shots! An Open Plea Re: Cup of China Video Coverage

Calling all directors from the world feed of this past weekend’s Cup of China…
(Not to mention the producers that may have forced them to do as they did…)

After watching the coverage on, I’ve a few favors to ask of you.

+ Please remember that, as gorgeous as the skaters’ faces might be, it’s their performance we’re tuning in to see. When they’re doing footwork, it helps to see the feet. When they’re hitting key, story-telling poses in their program, it helps to see the pose. See how that works? This wasn’t the Cup of China Beauty Pageant, after all.

+ Please don’t do paint-by-numbers directing: show the head-and-shoulder shot here… dissolve to a brief shot of the feet there… dissolve to a full body shot by the third bar of the music… and so on. What works for Sunday morning public affairs shows does NOT work for figure skating. The athletes out there are having a hard enough time these days trying to get all the elements in without turning in cookie-cutter routines. Don’t do a disservice to them—and the viewers—with a cookie-cutter approach. They work too hard … and we appreciate them too much... for that treatment.

+ Please, please stay away from a) rafter shots, and b) audience shots. Or at least don’t use them so liberally. Rafter shots (those mile-high shots that make the skater seem microscopic on TV) might be pretty, but they suck away an awful lot of the sport’s athleticism. Oh that looked nice; did she do a triple/triple just then? Who can tell on a shot like that? And the audience shots—when did they become more important than the skaters? I was eager to see the initial reaction on Jeremy Abbott’s face after just turning in the best performance of his GP career to date… but guess what I saw instead? That’s right, at least TWO different pans of the crowd clapping and eating popcorn. By the time you got back to Abbott, he was taking his bows. And of course, thanks to the aforementioned paint-by-numbers approach, we saw “popcorn shots” time and time again as soon as a skater was done. Shame, shame, shame on whoever thought this was a good idea.

+ And finally: please, please, PLEASE stop showing us things like Stella the Squirrel (See above image-- no offense to Stella; I’m just trying to prove a point)

Stuffed animals are cute, we know. Skaters get them by the truckload—we know that too. But just as GP events are not about the crowds, they aren’t about the toys either. So we don’t need to see them sitting idle on the ice. Or sitting idle alongside a skater in the kiss’n’cry. Or wiggling around adorably in a skater’s lap while they await their scores. Once or twice per competition? Fine. But when you do it more often than you DON’T do it… that’s a problem. CUT IT OUT.

Thanks for your time, and with any luck at all, we’ll see a whole different approach (and production team) running the show at Trophee Eric Bompard in a few days.

For the
Clip of the Day , here is the Ashley Wagner FS I mentioned yesterday. Many thanks to tiamatsrevenge for pointing me to it!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Of Tangos and Spartaci: Cup of China Recap

“Spartaci” is plural for Spartacus, just in case you were wondering.

OK, not really. I just thought it sounded better than Spartacuses.

Why would I find a need to pluralize the name of Khachaturian’s ballet anyway? Read on, as the GP observations keep on coming…

+ Stats-wise, my predictions held even with Skate Canada as I scored 5 for 12 again: good guesses for Ladies’ gold and silver, Mens’ silver, Pairs’ gold, and Dance bronze. Sarah Meier had anything but a clean skate either night, so Laura Lepisto took bronze instead. And Jeremy Abbott took full advantage of the quad-turned-double toe loop and other errors served up by Tomas Verner, which resulted in trading places on the podium from what I’d predicted. As for the rest… just picture more flip-flopping. That just about sums it up.

+ First we had dueling, back-to-back Giselles at Skate America for the ladies free skate. This time we had dueling, back-to-back Tango Medleys in the mens free skate for Artem Borodulin and Tomas Verner. My vote easily went to Verner; I cannot wait to see that one with all the content at 100%. But was anyone else taken back at how deflated his program was for a good 10 to 15 seconds after he took his one tumble? He appeared stunned, as if he’d fallen out of a wonderful dream and was trying to figure out how to jump back in.

+ As for the non-medalists, my favorite among the men had to be Kristoffer Berntsson’s robotic visit through 1985. I have to admit, Axel F and Take On Me remixes are things I could generally do without. But if he can manage some better jumps later in the season, this could be the coolest flashback since Stephanie Rosenthal’s Rockit program at 2006 U.S. Nationals.

+ My non-medalist pick for the women was easily Ashley Wagner (who finished 4th). The word I wrote down was FIERCE… so much speed! So much power! And did you hear the applause that thundered down midway through the routine? She seems to be thriving just fine under Priscilla Hill’s tutelage.

+ However, I have to admit that I’m not a fan of either Spartacus costume…that goes for Wagner’s AND Oksana Domnina’s (who used Spartacus for her free dance with Maxim Shabalin). I’m not sure when it was that Romanesque themes started taking on a tribal flair, but it would appear that both ladies had caught a little jungle fever. Note to both of them: the season is young. Take advantage.

+ Speaking of costume overhauls: what did everyone think of the new look for Belgosto’s OD? I liked it, but as the OD itself goes, I’m afraid I still like others better. And it occurred to me that the last time these two did a major costume change mid-season was the That’s Entertainment! free dance of 2006-7. Which ultimately led to scrapping that program altogether. Could there be an all-new OD by the GP Final?

On that quasi-cliffhanger, I’ll leave you with Clips of the Day from both
this Spartacus (the Dombalin FD), with hopes that I can find THAT Spartacus (the Wagner FS) on You Tube by my next posting. By the way, if you scratched your head at the way these clips are directed, you’re not alone. I’ve got a bone to pick with the TV producers at Cup of China, and I’ll get to that tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Choosing Pairs and Men in the Cup of China

A Change is Gonna Come…

Sorry—just thinking about the outcome of yesterday’s election :-)

Or did you think I was talking about the latest withdrawal at Cup of China? Easy to see where there’d be confusion; we’ll now be missing Castile & Okolski in the Pairs event AND Daisuke Takahashi in the Men’s. Still, the predictions must go on.

For the PAIRS:
Gold- Zhang/Zhang (CHN)
Silver- Pang/Tong (CHN)
Bronze- Volosozhar/Morozov (UKR)

The third spot I’ve chosen strictly by the rankings—with the best chance for a U.S. medal out of the running, I went with the team ranked #9 at the end of last season. Of course, choosing between the top two Chinese teams is a much tougher task. The sky-high split triple twists, the throw jumps that seem to travel across small canyons… each team has ‘em. I’ll give the edge to Zhang & Zhang, as they seem to have stronger all-around skills. I haven’t seen either team since last season, though-- it really could go either way.

For the MEN:
Gold- Tomas Verner (CZE)
Silver- Stephen Carriere (USA)
Bronze- Jeremy Abbott (USA)

Could’ve been, would’ve been… Buttle was supposed to be in this event along with Takahashi and Verner, but Verner is practically uncontested now. Or is he? Especially when you think of what happened at SkAM last month, perhaps he should pay special attention to those he’s barely heard of. The absence of the others means both the two young Americans have a good chance of medaling, but didn’t Kristoffer Berntsson (SWE) make a strong impression in front of the home crowd last March? Maybe he’ll bump a USA guy out. Or maybe the trio of Chinese men will shine in their homeland. Or maybe the Canadian medal run will continue with Vaughn Chipeur…

But I’ll stick with my picks… even though I’m making Berntsson’s aforementioned FS the
Clip of the Day. Enjoy CoC!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Carrying That Delicate Cup of China: Dance/Ladies Picks

On this Election Day in the U.S., I’m happy to say I did the “vote early” thing last week, and therefore can sit here and make Cup of China predictions rather than wait in line for one or two hours!

So I’ll get right to it, and start with DANCE:

Gold—Belbin/Agosto (US)
Silver—Domnina/Shabalin (RUS)
Bronze—Khokhlova/Novitski (RUS)

Get right to it, indeed—this is one of the two most interesting showdowns of the event (the other being the battle of the top two Chinese pairs, which I’ll address tomorrow). And this is surprisingly tough, as I wasn’t all that wild about Belgosto (Yes, I’m trying out new nicknames) and their new routines… but I’ve not much of a Dombalin fan either. Plus, word on the street is that the Russians are not particularly happy in their current training situation (which happens to be not only in the U.S., but side-by-side with Belgosto… as you might know already). Who can blame them? In which case, either their frustrations will show rather clearly, or they’ll pour everything they have into their competitions-- figuring, why suffer without reward? I’m still siding with Belgosto… simple reason being that they’ve already debuted their routines, and are likely refining them further so they don’t have to settle for silver again as they did 2 weeks ago. Dombalin hasn’t had that opportunity yet. Not to fear; if I’m right, they will surely shine at Cup of Russia later this month.

As for the LADIES:

Gold—Yu-Na Kim (S. Korea)
Silver—Miki Ando (JPN)
Bronze—Sarah Meier (SUI)

Now that we’ve seen what both Kim and Ando have to offer this season, the choice here isn’t as tough. Even if Kim falters on a jump or two, I think she’ll have the component scores to top Ando at this point. And as long as Ando’s jumps are in good shape, she’ll likely stay ahead of Meier (who I was liking very much by the end of last season). The U.S. contributions to this event include Katrina Hacker, making her Senior GP debut... and current national bronze medalist Ashley Wagner-- who has an outside chance at a medal, as does Finland’s Laura Lepisto.

Men and Pairs coming soon… to tide you over till then, enjoy a sneak peek at Meier’s new SP as the
Clip of the Day … it’s Samba-riffic. Let’s hope for a better triple loop in China, though.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Eight Observations from Skate Canada 2008

Since we fly right into CoCh (Cup of China) so quickly—compulsory dance starts at 5AM New York time this coming Thursday!—I’m going to type up 8 semi-quick observations from the weekend in Ottawa:

1) My first official chance to follow the events in “real time” on, and I can see I’m going to drive my family bonkers over the next several weeks. “Need help putting boxes back into the garage attic? Sure, but the pairs’ free skate starts at 2:35 so let’s get going”… and so on. Gotta admit there’s a silver lining when you don’t have to wait a whole week for ESPN to run the tape-delayed version. (But I’m having security certificate issues when I try to login this morning… anyone else?)

2) Oh, and another thing… I don’t know that this is IceNetwork’s problem (as they seem to simply be picking up what I think is called the “world feed”), but the distorted/warbly audio I heard over much of the SkCan coverage was a drag. If I wanted to hear what “Otonal” sounds like underwater, I’d watch skating below sea level.

3) My batting average came up a bit with this round; I was 5-for-12 rather than 3-for-12… nailed the pairs predictions, almost nailed the ladies guesses (must admit I’m happier with the actual outcome), messed up considerably on the men, and severely underestimated Davis/White or overestimated their competition with my dance forecast. (More on that later.)

4) Eating my words part 1: Ryan Bradley showed up as Elvis, not Batman, and it seemed to serve him exceptionally well. And while I’m not much of a fan of recycled programs (especially those from 2 seasons ago), his Latin number once again brought him a silver medal—this time of the international variety. He’s obviously doing something right! (And yeah, I found myself a little surprised at Chan’s ability to outscore him.)

5) Reviewing last year’s performances proved helpful in more ways than helping make a good stab at pairs’ predictions. Yannick Pansero was in 2nd after last year’s SP, then turned in a pretty anemic FS and failed to medal. So when he was in the lead this year after the SP, I suspected he might do the same thing… and, in fact, he did. (But I liked his free skate as a whole much better, especially the straight line steps… I’m a sucker for some "Sing Sing Sing".)

6) As for the ladies, there was only one real star in the Canadian sky. SO glad to see Joannie Rochette pull out such a decisive victory… ditto for Alissa Czisny managing a bronze! I thought my prediction was for naught after her SP, but her rally in the FS was very nice to see.

7) From the Anything-Can-Happen-In-This-Sport-And-Usually-Does Files: Kostner’s bizarre slip-ups in the SP, and Suguri’s resurgence as a contender (well, at least for this event… we’ll see if she can keep the momentum swinging her way at Cup of Russia in a few weeks).

8) Eating my words part 2: Charlie Davis and Meryl White proved so solid in all areas of their competition, there was no way the judges could haggle between their performances and anyone elses. Kudos to them… and I’m with Laura at Required Elements in saying Belbin and Agosto better watch their backs in January. The Charleston/Samson and Delilah combo definitely wowed me more than the Steppin’Out/Tosca offering, at least initially.

I’ll be back to talk about Cup of China soon! Till then, the
Clip of the Day showcases Canadian Shawn Sawyer—who actually beat out everyone in the Free Skate Saturday, though he was too far back to medal. Maybe next year…

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Skate (Oh!) Canada Some More: Men & Dance Predictions

So when a competition starts on Halloween, do skaters get to dress up (and skate) like the competitor of their choice? Because it could be quite funny to see Ryan Bradley “be” Lysacek. Or Weir. Oh, what am I saying… his SP will probably put him in a Batman suit regardless.

With that said, let’s take a look at Skate Canada’s men and dance disciplines:


Gold- Evan Lysacek (USA)
Silver- Patrick Chan (CAN)
Bronze- Sergei Voronov (RUS)

Underrotations aside, I think Lysacek’s the easy favorite here now that Buttle and Lambiel are gone. Which might very well mean that it goes to Chan or Voronov, based on what happened last week. Chan’s performance might be the most interesting to watch in any case; every Canadian fan must be eager to see how well he fills the Buttle void. Yannick Pansero and (possibly) Ryan Bradley are the only other names that might challenge the podium in an otherwise rookie-esque field.


Gold- Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)
Silver-Davis/White (USA)
Bronze- Bobrova/Soloviev (USA)

According to Ice Network, the smart money is on Davis and White to win this event. Ah, well… much as I’d like to be wrong, I guess I’m putting the dumb money on Pechalat/Bourzat anyway. I’m simply trying to think the way the judges in dance seem to think, and concluding that they’d lean towards a “new” French team than a “new” U.S. team (of course I call Davis/White new the way the Grammys give well-established musicians the “best new artist” award once they finally have a breakthrough hit). Again, the absence of favorites Virtue/Moir means that bronze is up for grabs… and again, trying to think like a judge, I went Russian. Now, if I can only put faces with some of these names…!

Maybe this will help… the
Clip of the Day showcases Bobrova and Soloviev in their OD from last year.

That’s it for a few days. If you’re attending the competition in Ottawa this weekend, please eat some maple pie for me!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oh, (Skate) Canada! My Ladies/Pairs Predictions

One down, five to go.

A glance at Ice Network’s event schedule for Skate Canada tells me I’d better get my weak little predictions started—especially if I want to break them into two parts!

So, starting with PAIRS:

Gold- Kawaguchi/Smirnov (RUS)
Silver- Dube/Davison (CAN)
Bronze- McLaughlin/Brubaker (USA)

Confession time: I changed my mind as I started typing this… or better put, when I reviewed last year’s SkCan tape earlier tonight. I’d planned to give this one to Dube/Davison, put McBru (my new nickname for the Americans, though I’m sure someone else thought of it first) in 2nd like last week, and put the Russian team in 3rd as they were last year. But watching Kawa/Smir tonight, and thinking about the throw quad salchow they almost landed last year, and factoring in Tamara Moskvina’s certain strong desire to see her team make a major move (and the way she seems to get what she wants in this regard!)… I re-evaluated, and came up with a victory for them. I expect to see the other two mentioned give a strong run nonetheless, with McBru almost certainly earning a spot in the GP Final with a bronze follow-up to last week’s silver.

And as for the LADIES:

Gold- Joannie Rochette (CAN)
Silver- Carolina Kostner (ITA)
Bronze- Alissa Czisny (USA)

I thought about changing my mind here too… not because Joannie gave a weak performance last year (she didn’t), but because she had a rather strong free skate—and still only finished 3rd, due to a 5th place SP. Can she put two great skates back to back? In her home country? She might as well prove it right now, since everyone’s going to be wondering it come Olympic time anyway. So I’m rooting for her to do just that.

I’m also rooting for her to beat Kostner because I still think Kostner was overrated much of last season. A rather snarky thing to say, maybe, but there it is nonetheless. As for Czisny? I suppose it’s a longshot… but SkCan was very good to her a few years back, so no better time to set up her renaissance if you ask me. She’s already won one event this new season (Nebelhorn Trophy) by a whopping 14 points. I smell a comeback…

In fact, she gets the
Clip of the Day so we can get a sneak peek at her free skate. This is from Liberty Open back in the summer. A couple blips, but it’s nice to see both her triple lutzes in such fine form.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Final SKAM 2008 Thoughts... More or Less

In the bottomless pit from which I like to pull weak attempts at catchy ways to recap stuff, I’ve come up with what I’m calling the “more or less” files… which I will now apply to the SKAM ladies and pairs events. Here’s how it works:

+ MORE Yu-Na Kim victories… because every time I see her skate I’m in disbelief that the best she’s been able to get at Worlds thus far is Bronze. Twice! Just goes to show how very deep the talent pool is right now. (Or, how twisted judging continues to be…)

-- LESS (or ideally, NO MORE) throw triple axel attempts from Inoue/Baldwin. Why must Rene be subjected to this every program? Why must we, for that matter? I don’t mean to liken them to one-trick ponies, but have they even come close to landing one in competition since 2006 Worlds? I wish they could simply accept their place in history (which of course is nothing to sneeze at) and be done with it, but that would likely require them to retire completely… something they don’t yet seem ready to do. (Come on, John… you’re practically the same age as my husband, for crying out loud.)

+ MORE McLaughlin & Brubaker. Just more more more! I’m in total agreement with everyone who has mentioned them. The speed alone… my God, how much faster and more powerful they are than just about any U.S. couple in recent memory. They seem quite capable of breathing new life into the Story we know as West Side, and that’s saying something. My only complaint is that they’ll already be done with their GP assignments by this time next week. I miss them already.

--LESS of the Cutting Edge Crew, known better as Mukhortova and Trankov. If they hadn’t already mastered the love-on-ice/hate-off-ice thing, I’d be reminded of that film every time the camera gets a close-up on Mukhortova… she could be twins with Moira Kelly, were Kelly a platinum blonde. Anyway, that Lady and the Hooligan free skate was a hot mess. Even if they’d landed twice as many jumps, there’s not enough fake chemistry in the world to help them pull off something intended to be so charming. Toe-pick, indeed.

+ MORE press for Rachael Flatt. I know I’m not the first to say this, but a) she was the best U.S. lady at this event, and b) she’s the reigning U.S. silver medalist AND Junior Worlds champion. While I did notice some odd posture issues with her for the first time (did anyone else hear their mother in their head when watching her?), I was incensed to hear NBC make that “she kind of flies under the radar” comment that they did. They made the exact same comment about Savoie at the Olympics. Hey, NBC? You ARE the radar. If you want to play up Ms. Flatt, you have the power to do so. Or you did… now you’ve got to wait until Nationals. Nice work!

-- and I’ll wrap up with one more comment about NBC: LESS impromptu interviews with Andrea Joyce. Or at least cut away to a different camera while she dashes into place. We know it’s live TV… but we also know how these events go by now, don’t we? There’s no need to show Mirai Nagasu standing quietly off to the side one moment, then looking startled the next moment as Andrea descends upon her. I’d even take a close-up shot of Mukhortova and Trankov in the stands before I did that!

Clip of the Day features Yukari Nakano’s free skate from last weekend, simply because I think she might be the Rachael Flatt of Japan. Don’t worry, Yukari… you’re on OUR radar! (And you had the better Giselle, to be certain. That’s the last time I’ll predict Ando to win an event this year…)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Random notes and Letters: SKAM Dance/Men's Postmortem

Got to get just a few notes in about SKAM before the news gets too old and starts to take on that musty smell… so I’ll focus on the men & dance this time.

My notes about the dance competition are rather spare, and consist of a series of “Did anyone else wonder…” observations:

-- Did anyone else wonder who that perfectly lovely twosome was out there in the muted colors… before they realized it was the same quirky-cool twosome that resembled space aliens in their last major international event 7months ago? (In case you did, and never figured it out… it was the Kerrs.)
-- Did anyone else wonder why Tosca is considered to be the dramatic breakthrough of Belbin & Agosto when they spent last year swathed in black and dancing to Chopin—hardly what I’d call light and/or whimsical?
-- Did anyone else wonder why Belbin & Agosto even worry about picking dramatic music when Pink Floyd continues to be dramatic enough for at least one top couple per year? (Yes, Delobel & Schoenfelder, I’m looking at you. I want the Bonnie/Clyde routine to make a comeback! Work on it.)
-- And in general… does anyone else wonder if Tanith Belbin ever gets tired of pushing her long, sweeping bangs out of her face?

As for the men’s event… well, perhaps it’d be best if I put it in the form of a brief letter:

Dear Men’s Event at 2008 Skate America,

Thanks so much for all the contradictions you fulfilled in the course of just two days. For example, we worried once again that it would become a “quad contest”; turns out none of the top guys brought theirs this time.

We thought it would surely be a case of Evan vs. Johnny for 1st; turned out it was Evan vs. Johnny for 2nd.

We wondered if the newly trimmed panel of judges would prove to favor the European skaters against our will; turns out they favored the Asian skater against our will.

We came in with all the hope a new season brings; we came out feeling like we’d just been on another date with the Charming Significant Other Who Always Promises To Change And Then Never Does. (And Then They Stuck Us With The Bill.)

We come away with lessons learned: Skaters, don’t underestimate new guys… judges, don’t over-estimate new guys…under-rotaters, go home and fix those jumps because that’s the way the game is played right now, and you can’t fault people for trying to play by the rules… judges, don’t forget to really look… and listen… and find a way to reward the ones who are currently finding the most visible joy in this sport… for they are the ones that will fill the stadiums with a gleeful noise for years to come.

Five more chances to get this Grand Prix right for us lowly viewers. Step it up, everyone…we’re counting on it!

-- With love and concern from Kelli

Rachael Flatt, the highest-finishing of the U.S. ladies last weekend, is featured in the
Clip of the Day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

And They're OFF! (The Skaters? Judges? You Decide.)

What a weekend to be out of town—and not in Everett, Washington.

We made a quick jaunt over to Cincinnati, trying to make the most of our kids’ Fall Break and our limited vacation budget. While I think we were successful in that regard, I remain sans laptop with wireless access, and was therefore unable to follow SKAM in “real” time. I managed to get my season pass to in time to watch most of the Friday night action, but couldn’t stay up long enough to watch round 1 of the Johnny/Evan show (though I logged on long enough the following AM to watch their respective SPs)…

Anyway, I’m a little more caught up now on who-did-what-and-what-everyone-thinks-of-it, and will try to make up for my 3-day absence with several shorter posts in the coming week. Gotta get all the SKAM talk over and done with in time to make some meager SKCAN (Skate Canada) predictions, after all…whew! Such a whirlwind this part of the season is already, and now I’m blogging about it too?! Whose idea was this?

Oh, it was mine. Much as it was my idea to say “I didn’t say he’d WIN” about Kozuka in my last post, and here I am, eating my words a few days later. Chomp chomp.

For a
Clip of the Day I’ll give you the McLaughlin/Brubaker FS that won them silver this weekend… for two reasons: 1) It went unseen and unmentioned on NBC’s limited coverage of the event, and 2) It was one of only 3 predictions I got right. Which puts my batting average at a pitiful .250 and makes me instantly jealous of Aaron over at Axels, Loops and Spins going 8-for-12 ;-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Their Marks: SKAM Dance/Ladies Predictions

Before I get to the remaining two disciplines, I guess I have to predict a different bronze medalist for the men. (Thanks a lot, Van Der Perren :-)

OK, I’ll go with… Takahiko Kozuka for the bronze. Mostly because Japan is really riding the wave nicely these days, and I’m assuming Kozuka’s no exception.


DANCE: Gold- Belbin/Agosto (USA)
Silver- Delobel/Schoenfelder (FRA)
Bronze- Kerr/Kerr (GBR)

Tanith and Ben won this event last year, so predicting another victory for them isn’t much of a stretch. But more importantly, this is their first time out of the box since a) their 4th place disappointment at Worlds, and b) their well-publicized coaching switch. If I were them, I’d be chomping at the proverbial bit to show everyone what they’ve got this year, and how they shouldn’t be underestimated. I imagine it wouldn’t hurt to beat the current world champs either—and while I’ve grown quite fond of Delobel/Schoenfelder over the past few years, and thought their title was well-deserved, I do think they are beatable.

As for the Kerrs, I just want to see them on the freaking podium already.

LADIES: Gold- Miki Ando (JPN)
Silver- Yu-Na Kim (KOR)
Bronze- Kimmie Meissner (USA)

Now hear me out, because you probably think I’m crackers for not going with the obvious favorite (Kim). My thinking here simply runs along the same “hungry” lines as I did on other categories… with Ando forced to withdraw from Worlds, and always needing to hold her own in the deep, deep frozen pool of Japanese singles skaters, I’m guessing she’s ready to come roaring back. Add to that the fact that she already earned silver here last year, and you get an unstoppable drive for gold.

Unless it’s not her night, in which case Kim might make mincemeat out of her :-(

As for Meissner, I’m rooting for her to turn it around and will gladly be wrong if she repeats last year’s victory.

Clip of the Day is Takahiko Kozuka’s FS from last season’s Worlds; watch it and note what to watch for this weekend. Thumbs up for the Beatles medley… thumbs down for the missed triple salchow and lutz. (OK, I didn’t say he’d WIN… yet.)