Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Torches, and Other Sources of Light In The New Year

Three little news items, some “newsier” than others, to take us out of 2009…

The Trail-Blazin’ Torchbearer


I’d seen that 1948 Ladies’ OGM Barbara Ann Scott was involved in the Olympic torch relay currently in progress across Canada, but have to admit it wasn’t until I caught this article (which appeared today on IceNetwork.com) that I took particular notice. There’s a very cute part in there about how she started practicing for the relay by running with something weighing about the same as the torch… and it turned out the only thing to fit the bill was her garden shears. Hee. By the way… last week I was marveling at Darlene Love (singing on Letterman as she does every December 23rd) and wishing I could look and sound that good when I’M 71 years old (71!) like she is… this week, I’m wishin’ and hopin’ I’m as physically fit at age 81 (81!!) as Canada’s Barbara Ann.

Oh, and she mentioned how she really wants to see another Canadian woman win the Olympics in her lifetime. Um… no pressure, Joannie.


If the Revolution is Not Televised, it Might Still Work as A Webcast


Check out this December 8 blog post from Phillip Hersh if you haven’t done so already… it’s got a lot of interesting info about the ways and means of skating coverage as we head into a new decade. Whether you have access to the Universal Sports Network where you live… or anticipate getting it in the near future… or have traditional (“over-the-air”) TV as your only option, you’ll get something out of it (see below):

To those who have problems in getting Universal Sports: the network is becoming available on more and more cable systems nationwide. Those viewers without cable, for economic or other reasons, rightfully feel shortchanged because some of these broadcasts used to be on over-the-air TV, but the market doesn't support that anymore.

Feel free to weigh in on this, particularly regarding your own reliance on over-the-air TV vs. Universal, IceNetwork, or the dreaded “other” outlets…


Hooray for Bollywood


Speaking of the “other outlets”… You Tube has been thus far a source of great joy for skating fans, particularly those with limited access to Universal or Ice Network. It’s also been a source of enormous frustration for outfits like U.S. Figure Skating, who own the Internet rights to, for instance, all the GP events and would take down every program posted if they the ability to police it as they wish. But seriously, how can they be upset when a link to Davis/White’s Indian Folk Dance OD has become a bona fide Internet sensation over the past month, generating over 218,000 hits according to this article??!? (By comparison, the average D/W video on You Tube has received well under 10,000 hits.)

What better way to gain free publicity for the sport… AND, quite likely, some new and badly needed fans… by showcasing some of the best the sport has to offer?

Just a thought as we head into what will surely be a most interesting new year.

Here is their OD Clip…

And just for fun,
here’s a clip of Barbara Ann Scott when she was the mystery guest for the game show What’s My Line back in 1955.

Happy New Year to all!

Monday, December 28, 2009

As The Calendar Turns (Towards Vancouver)… Roundup #2

As the rest of the world is winding down, the skating world winds up again. How else can it be explained when at least two countries of prominence hold their Nationals on and around Christmas Day?

The developments, they kept on a’comin’ throughout December… and a few of them I will touch on before the month is out, so they don’t feel lonely. But just because the U.S. won’t start its Nationals for a few more weeks doesn’t mean the rest of the world does it that way. Here’s a quick roundup of notable championships/winners and, occasionally, their respective links to more info:

Switzerland: No surprises here, as Stephane Lambiel and Sarah Meier did repeat business as winners.

Italy: Samuel Contesti won for the men… but here’s your surprise: Carolina Kostner was upset for the title by Valentine Marchei. Ouch. Doesn’t mean much in that both ladies will still be headed to Vancouver, but still…

Hungary: Not a surprise, but surely a milestone: Julia Sebestyen won her ninth title… and yes, in case you were wondering… this will be her fourth Olympics. (Her best Olympic finish to date was 8th in 2002; her best Worlds was 6th in 2004.)

Finland: Laura Lepisto snagged the Ladies’ title over Kiira Korpi

France: very interesting among the men, with Florent Amodio coming out on top and therefore checking his ticket to Vancouver. As for Yannick Ponsero and Alban Preaubert, I believe I read that they’re both being sent to Euros before a decision is made about the Olympics… anyone else see that?

Russia: Some guy named
Plush-something won for the 28th (or something) time with something like 100+ points in the SP alone. Apparently the judges at this event want us to believe if he’s worth inflating the scores THIS much, no other man need apply for that Vancouver gold medal…
Domnina/Shabalin are back… they won gold as expected too…
Kavaguti/Smirnov beat out Mukhortova/Trankov for the top spot…
And Ksenia Makarova beat out Alena Leonova for gold among the ladies. (Wait a minute—WHO?? And what happened to Leonova? Find out
here.

Finally,
JAPAN : It was Takahashi, Kozuka, and Oda for the men (all three go to Vancouver)… and Asada made a return to form that was good enough for first place, joined in second by Akiko Suzuki, and Yukari Nakano for third. BUT… because Miki Ando (finishing 4th) already qualified for the Olympics with her Grand Prix finish, the odd woman out was Nakano. (Fumie Suguri lost out as well, but a fall on her SP triple lutz effectively took her out of this tight race early.)

I found
this post at FS Universe that serves as a lovely tribute to Nakano, a fine skater who happens to come from the deepest pool of skating talent in the world, and as I understand it has now been thisclose to the Olympics TWICE. Oh, if only we could bend the rules for Japan this one time…!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Skaters' Letters to Santa (part 4)

Two more "letters" were located today...

Hey Santa,

I’m not really in the habit of asking you for things—not since you gave me that cashmere scarf in the completely wrong color—but I’ve got some pretty important months ahead of me, so I thought I’d better try and ask for a few things:
1) A 3 month supply of vitamin C (to try and keep me healthy for the rest of the season)
2) Fingerless gloves
3) One of those new leopard-print Snuggies (Don’t tell Lysacek)

Спасибо,

Johnny Weir


산타 클로스…

I am so very blessed this year it is hard for me to think of anything I might need, but how about this… a great big ventilated bubble for my fans to sit in when they follow me to events around the world. That way, if they scream at inappropriate times—like when I’m setting up a jump—I won’t be distracted by them.

Oh, and a new karaoke machine would be nice too. I can brush up on my singing that way, and besides, Brian has promised me he’ll sing a Neil Diamond song for me if I win Gold in Vancouver…

Warmly,
Yu-Na Kim


(P.S. HAPPY HOLIDAY TO ALL MY READERS!!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Skaters' Letters to Santa, part 3

(Just a reminder... these are mere fiction! Any resemblence these letters bear to actual Skaters' Letters to Santa is purely coincidental...)


Bonjour Pere Noel,

This is a fine time to me to have a serious foot injury, no? Ah well. Que sera sera. I am strong like bull and will be all right. But just in case it is harder to bounce back than I think, please fill my stocking with the following that I can then add into my protein shakes and become invincible…

NAILS
BULLETS
CAR BUMPERS

Merci.

Live par le quad, die par le quad…
Brian Joubert


Dear Санта Клаус,

I’m afraid I do not understand. Last year I told my partner Maxim that other than for training purposes, I would not touch him with a ten-foot pole… and then you gave me a ten-foot pole for Christmas. I did not even know they really MADE ten-foot poles. I was just trying to get him to leave me alone. Anyway, now I am confused because Maxim kissed me at the end of our Grand Prix free skate. It was not planned, of course, but I think I liked it. What should I ask from you for Christmas in this case? I do not know. How about a ten-centimeter ruler? Yes, that sounds right. That and an Olympic medal. Thank you.

Maria Mukhortova

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Skaters' Letters to Santa, pt. 2

Dear Santa,

What a strange, wonderful year this has been. So many supportive folks on my side when I won my first Nationals… so many that seemed to be mad at me, personally, for finishing out of the top 10 at Worlds… so many who say they love my skating, but would never figure me to make the Olympic team at all, much less successfully defend my National title!

It’s enormously frustrating, but I think I know what you can bring me that will help, Santa… NERVES OF STEEL. I know they are very hard to come by, especially just before an Olympics, but if you can locate some for me I promise I’ll take terrific care of them. If it helps, they seem to have them in abundance over in the Far East…

Thanks so much!
Love, Alissa Czisny
-------------------------------------
Dear Pere Noel,

We are so lucky to have this opportunity to challenge ourselves so late in our amateur career with the addition of my little baby Loic! I really think you brought me my gift a few months early this year, so all I ask of you is actually for my baby… could you please make sure Ludovic and I have Josee, our au pair, booked at least through the spring? It is so hard with all the training, and… oh, wait, I hear Loic crying right now and I gave Josee the day off… (Here, Olivier, could you finish this letter?)

HI PERE NOEL. OLIVIER HERE. LOOK, WHATEVER ISABELLE SAID ABOUT KEEPING HER MOTHER’S HELPER AROUND… JUST MAKE IT HAPPEN. PLEASE. I’M DYING OUT HERE WITHOUT ENOUGH TIME TO TRAIN!

Merci,

Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder

Monday, December 21, 2009

Skaters' Letters to Santa, Part 1

(Here’s my goal: 2 “letters” a day, all this week, through Christmas Eve. All letters are fiction, written in good fun, and in English regardless of a skater’s home country. Clip of the Day will return after Christmas. Enjoy! )

Dear Santa,

I hope you know that I have been working too hard to have time to be naughty this year. I had lots of time after my Grand Prix assignments to focus on training. With that in mind, here is what I want this Christmas:

1) A spot on my country’s Olympic team. This is no longer the given that it might seem, so please help with this if you can. (Japanese Nationals start on Christmas Day, so timing on this should be pretty easy.)

2) A full-time coach that can appreciate the best qualities of my skating. Again, this is no longer the given that it might seem.

3) And if I DO get to Vancouver, please allow Midori Ito some time to come and be my personal bodyguard when I get there. (Come to think of it… could you make her my coach too? I’m not sure anyone else knows quite what I’m going through…)


Sincerely,
Mao Asada



Hi Santa,

Well, I have a couple of very big months ahead of me. First I have to test out the leg again at Canadian Nationals and prove that I’m as ready for the Olympics as I can be… then I have to compete in front of the biggest “home” crowd I’ve ever seen come February. Exciting times! If only I can get back to the form I was in last March…

Anyway, here’s what I want:

1) TIME. I need more time, seriously! But if you can’t arrange that…

2) A way to remind everyone (including me!) that I’m only 19, and guys automatically get more time to peak in skating than the ladies do… in other words, maybe Sochi 2014 is my destiny. If not…

3) Please bring me a big can of whoop-ass that I can unleash on that pesky Joubert at any time (but preferably during our events).

Cheers Santa!
Patrick Chan

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On My Knees… and Plushenko’s Knees, and Shabalin’s Knees…

Fortunate soul that I am, I was a grown woman before I ever found myself sitting in a hospital awaiting surgery. But ten years ago, there I sat—anxiously awaiting a “scope” on my knee with the following ideas churning through my brain:

--Will this hurt as bad after surgery as it does right now?
--I’m a terrible sleeper; will the anesthesiologist really be able to “knock me out”? And if he does, what if I wake up while they’re still sucking stray cartilage out of my body?
--Does this surgery officially make me an athlete like everyone else in my family that has knee trouble?

I was still skating weekly back then—nothing fancy, but I quietly hoped my scope could be attributed to hundreds of sit spins in my lifetime. It seemed more glamorous than saying I’d spent too much time on the Stairmaster in the early 90s… even though it happened to be true, and was in all likelihood a bigger contributor than the skating.

For what it’s worth, I learned plenty of lessons about myself as I got back up to speed in the weeks that followed. Among them:

--I can never develop an addiction to Vicodin—I was sick to my stomach soon after taking my first post-surgery dose.
--Me and crutches don’t mix. In short? They suck.
--Hospitals charge something like $12 a roll for extra-wide Ace bandages. (This is probably common knowledge, but as I said at the top, I’m a fortunate soul and hadn’t spent much time in medical facilities at that point)


But of course the most important lesson: RESPECT YOUR KNEES.

As that Baz Luhrman ditty about sunscreen famously told us about a decade ago—coincidentally, around the same time as my scope-- “you’ll miss them when they’re gone.” Ah, how true. In the days leading up to surgery I was hobbling around like an injured monster in a horror flick, yearning for the days when I could bend down to tie my shoes normally again. I thought of two of my brothers (and maybe a sister too?), all athletes of some kind, all having undergone surgery themselves. I thought of my dad, an all-around jock back in the day, with the long surgical scar on one knee that I used to trace with my finger when he was sitting around in shorts watching TV.

I think of all of that nowadays too, as I carefully pace my daily exercise in efforts to keep my knees from hurting. But since hearing about His Evgeniness and how
his knee problems have returned, and why they’ve returned…(hint: as you might have already read, Plushy is reportedly practicing quad/quad and triple axel/quad combos to give himself even more of a competitive edge.)

… I have to ask, in all honesty: Dude, have you lost your mind? You have Olympic silver, Olympic gold, and a string of World titles. Is it really worth pounding your joints into a creaky, aching mess for the rest of your life? (And, um, wouldn’t it be kinder to your body—and the skating world—if you’d pour some of that energy into the footwork and spins you claim you heard “whispers” about?)

And I perpetually think of Maxim Shabalin (of the world champion ice dance team Domnina/Shabalin), and how he continues to suffer from chronic knee pain, and probably has no business continuing to compete… but whether it’s pressure from the Powers That Be for his skating federation, or his own determination, he’s surely training as hard for the Olympics as he possibly can. His motivation is a bit plainer to see; they’ve only got one World title to show for their trouble thus far. But good Lord, where do you draw the line between gutsiness and simple common sense?

True, I have no real interest in seeing either of these guys in Vancouver anyway. I admit that. But I have one other name that comes to mind with all of this; an American, still-young woman by the name of Tara Lipinski. It wasn’t her knees that gave her trouble, it was her hips—one hip in particular, messed up so badly by repetitive jumping passes at age 18, two years after her Olympic victory, she was having the kind of surgery usually reserved for women over the age of 70. To my knowledge, she hasn’t been able to skate professionally in seven years. Julia Sebestyen and Fumie Suguri are older than her… and are still competing!

Whether it was “worth it” or not could probably be debated for hours. The fact that it’s heartbreaking, sad, and could have been prevented… not so much.

What price glory?

An old question, but I guess that’s all I’m really asking.

A 2002 Ice Wars appearance by Lipinski— her last time on that once-annual event—is the
Clip of the Day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In Closing... a Few More Grand Prix Prayer Requests







Continuing the theme of the last post… imagine you’re at a church that takes written prayer requests, which a certain fine group of, um, church folks get together and pray for sometime after the service. Now imagine they have nothing better to do than tolerate a whole offering plate full of silly skating-related, post-GPF requests. Here’s what I would be jotting down during the sermon:
+ A request to help poor JeremEEE make up his mind: Simple black Costume A for the free skate (worn at TEB), Cinderella’s Coachman Costume B (worn at Skate Canada), and not-quite-finished-dressing-for-that-important-meeting Costume C (worn at the GPF). Since he’s still deciding, I’m offering up three more shirt options… as you can see above. Thoughts?

+ A request that all funky death spiral holds be banished… why must I be forced to say that Muk/Trank have the loveliest one in the business these days… mostly because it’s so classic?

+ And while we're on the subject, a request for an explanation of the actual kiss at end of Muk/Trank’s "Love Story"… wha?? Are they going completely Cutting Edge on us now that Olympic time is near? In three performances they’ve gone from him carrying her at the end… to carrying, then setting down and almost poised to kiss… to full-out liplock. Hmmm.
+ A request for special care to Dan Zhang, as she continues to struggle these days and her partner in Zhang crime looked PISSED this time. The little shake of the head right at the end of their free skate, body language that reminded me, momentarily, of Fusar-Poli in the Torino OD…the way he stalked out of K & C before he was supposed to…speaking of Torino, that doesn’t really seem like the same guy that tended to her so kindly when she crashed on the quad salchow back at the last Olympics.

+ A request to find me a way to see Japanese Nationals this year… (is any explanation necessary? I didn’t think so.)

+ A request to kill the Kiss’n’Cry mics when someone is, er, clearing their sinuses… yes, Tomas, I’m looking at you. We all were, and we knew what you were thinking, too, when you looked up so sheepishly: my God, I just had one of my worst skates since 2008 Worlds…must everyone witness me BLOWING IT here as well??
+ A request to put a ceiling on the amount of “silent hidden messages to friends” allowed in the Kiss ‘n’Cry… yep, pointing at you, Abbott. You’re hitting the threshold right about now.

+ And finally, a request for… more Stro-motion !! (It almost made me feel like “ESPN on ABC” was at the helm again… sigh)

For the Clip of the Day here is Yu-Na Kim’s GPF exhibition number.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Are You There, God? It's Me, The One With The Skating Blog.

(No, not that skating blog… the other one. Yep, now You’ve got it.)


So, God, I was watching the Grand Prix Finals over the weekend, and boy were my predictions a joke! I was only 5 for 12 this time. I was starting to think that maybe I’d gotten better at guessing the podium because we’ve now been following most of these competitors for the better part of four years, and have a better sense of what to expect… but then the GPF comes along, and I realize all over again how clueless I am when we get down to brass tacks! Yes, ice is slippery. Thanks for reminding me.

But as long as I’ve got Your attention, there are a few prayers I’d like to send Your way…

+ For the pairs: could You please help make the event in Vancouver as exciting as it was in Tokyo? As the only event at this particular GPF where every likely top Olympian actually competed, it was exceptionally compelling. I was surprised to see another flawed performance (or two) on the part of Sav/Szol, but if anyone deserved silver ahead of them it was definitely Pang/Tong. I would love to see all three of these teams on the podium in Vancouver…


+ By the way… if anything happens to Shen/Zhao between now and mid-February, I will weep openly and often.

+ For ice dance: I know it is a lot to ask from this particular discipline, and I know I’ve brought it up before…but in watching the loveliness that is Davis/White and/or Virtue/Moir as they twizzled it out yet again, I was saddened to think that history dictates at least one of these fine teams (if not both) will be denied an Olympic medal, even if they are spot-on when others falter. Please, can the big news this time be that an Olympic ice dance competition was judged fairly??

+ For the ladies, a few individual requests: a) that Akiko Suzuki still has some gas left in the tank for Japanese Nationals, because I like her more and more… b) that some sort of “skating angels” come down and keep Ashley Wagner’s feet from screwing up a powerful and gorgeous program with edge calls and 2-footed landings… c) that Joannie Rochette works out her pre-Vancouver jitters, or whatever’s keeping her from turning in great programs of late.

+ And for the men—look, here’s all I want to say… these guys are STUNNING. Save for the pitiful performances of Tomas Verner (I didn’t hear the NBC commentary yet—does anyone know if Verner was still sick?), they are amazingly talented, have by and large dug deep this year to assemble some beautiful programs, and deserve so much more than for His Evgeniness to stride in like he owns Vancouver, throw down a couple of quads, flail his arms like a contender in a Dance Fever tournament, wave his stupid “#1” finger in the air, not even bother to put an ending pose on his program… and walk out with the gold. Can You think about it? Oh please oh please?

Amen for now… (but I’ll probably be back with several more “minor” requests later)

The
Clip of the Day just had to be one of the many glowing SPs from this past weekend’s men’s event, so I went with the one at the top of the heap (Dice-K).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Studying: ISU Grand Prix Finals, Men's and Ladies Predictions

I saw an ad on Universal Sports yesterday promoting the GP Final, with the push being on the fact that Yu-Na Kim faltered at her last event… can she come back stronger?? Or words to that effect.

Answer: Uh, yeah… probably.

Anyway, here are a bunch of Universal airtimes (and 2 hours for NBC as well; the NBC time will be in bold)… all times are Eastern, as usual… and I’m still seeing conflicting reports about these times, so if any of it needs correcting, please send the link with the correct info and I’ll accommodate!

Thurs Dec. 3, 6-7:30: Grand Prix Final (Pairs Short & Original Dance)

Fri. Dec. 4, 6-7:30: Grand Prix Final (Mens & Ladies Short)

Sat. Dec. 5, 6-7: Grand Prix Final (Pairs Long)
Sat. Dec. 5, 7-8:Grand Prix Final (Men’s Long)

Sat. Dec. 5, 9-10: Grand Prix Final (Free Dance)

Sun. Dec. 6, noon-2: Grand Prix Final, NBC (probably Men’s and Ladies FS)

Sun. Dec. 6, 5-7: Grand Prix Final (Ladies Long)



And here come the rest of the predictions:

For MEN…
Gold—Nobunari Oda
Silver—Evan Lysacek
Bronze—Daisuke Takahashi
Also competing: Verner, Abbott, Weir

I was watching Dice-K’s 2007 World Championship skate recently—he won silver there—and was enamored with his smooth, easy jumps, deep knees, and gorgeous flow… and realized it reminded me somewhat of what Oda is skating like this season. Both their free skates are among my faves of the year thus far, but I’m picking Oda for his consistency. Lysacek’s been almost as consistent, but his triple axel technique still tends to get him in trouble sometimes. Plus, Oda’s bound to get some home-team advantage in Tokyo—thus far I don’t think I’ve seen him crumble under pressure.


And finally, the LADIES…
Gold-- Yu-Na Kim
Silver—Joannie Rochette
Bronze—Miki Ando


Also competing: Leonova, Wagner, Suzuki

I think it’ll be back to business for Yu-Na in this final, and I’m hopeful Rochette will step up and skate like the world silver medalist she is. I would not be shocked if ANY of the other ladies claimed bronze; each have had moments of brilliance so far this season… just not enough of them. I’m picking Ando because, like Pang/Tong in pairs, I think she’s somewhat less likely to make any major slip-ups.

From the GPF of approx. 10 years back, here’s Alexei Yagudin’s final-winning FS as the
Clip of the Day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Studying for ISU Grand Prix Finals: Pairs & Dance Predictions

This time I’m going to break the Finals predictions into two parts, like I did with all the GP predictions last season. And since I’ve been trying to post TV times, I’ll split those in half as well. Here are Tokyo streaming times for IceNetwork:

Thursday, Dec. 3
5:50 a.m.- Pairs Short Program
7:05 a.m. - Original Dance

Friday, Dec. 4

4:20 a.m. - Men's Short Program
5:40 a.m. - Ladies Short Program
6:40 a.m. - Free Dance

Saturday, Dec. 5

2:15 a.m. - Pairs Free Skate
3:50 a.m. - Men's Free Skate
5:20 a.m. - Ladies Free Skate


Predictions In PAIRS…
Gold-- Shen/Zhao
Silver-- Savchenko/Szolkowy
Bronze-- Pang/Tong


Who else is there: Murkhortova/Trankov, Yavaguti/Smirnov, Zhang/Zhang

It’s been 2 ½ years since Shen/Zhao last went up against Sav/Szol… the former won gold (at Worlds 2007); the latter took bronze. Has the latter caught up? They’re probably quite a bit closer, but it’s hard to imagine Shen/Zhao anywhere other than first, especially after seeing them in recent events. They’re truly in a class by themselves at this point. As for bronze—believe it or not, I’m not super-confident about P/T, and am willing to admit either Russian pair could get it. But I still think P/T have the smallest likelihood of making major mistakes.


In DANCE…
Gold-- Virtue/Moir
Silver-- Davis/White
Bronze-- Pechalat/Bourzat

Who else is there: Cappellini/Lanotte, Kerr/Kerr, Crone/Poirer

I know that V/M and D/W tend to go neck-and-neck when competing directly these days… but I’m picking the Canadians this time, if only because I’d love to see Davis/White over them when it counts a little more. In VANCOUVER. (Quite a pipe dream, I realize, with it being home turf for V/M and all… but skating fans have to know how to dream or else we go crazy, yes?)

I’d rather see the Kerrs or Crone/Poirer for bronze, but I know they don’t have the complexity of the French team. Besides, who doesn’t want to root for a guy dressed like a clock :-)


Men and ladies predictions to come soon… for the Clip of the Day here’s a look at the GPF winner from 5 years ago… hmmm, mighty familiar-looking…

Friday, November 27, 2009

As The Calendar Turns (Towards Vancouver)… Roundup #1

For some, Black Friday= early rising, marathon shopping, awesome deals.
For skating fans, Black Friday= A Friday in late fall without any GP events.

What on earth are we to do—watch Skate America reruns on Universal Sports? Watch college football? Catch up on gardening? Play with our children? Read??

If you tend to lean toward that last one, I’ll try to help you out. While I was whipping up Thanksgiving pies over the past few days, life rolled on for Olympic hopefuls around the globe. Here are the headlines:

No BelGosto at the Grand Prix Final.
According to
this Phillip Hersh article and other reports, an infected wisdom tooth of Belbin’s that requires immediate oral surgery means no GP Final for them. Rumor has it that the 1st GP dance alternates, Khoklova/Novitski, have passed on their invite to the GPF (citing illness), which means Canada’s Crone/Poirer are next in line.

Also, no Jourbert at the GPF.
Might I just start this briefing by saying injuries are especially dreadful to read about—and live through, I suppose—when the injured one reports, at one point, that “he could see bone”. Aack!

In any case,
here’s the Ice Network article that explains Brian Joubert’s withdrawal/injuries. Next one in line to go to the GPF, should he accept such a mission, is Tomas Verner. Just what you want to hear at the last minute when you’re recovering from the flu… yep, let’s hop a plane to Tokyo, breathe other people’s germs for hours on end, exert tons of energy I wasn’t planning to have to exert again for a while, and get sick all over again in time for Olympic trials. Sounds good. Where’s my Zorba costume?

Verner is probably not much of a whiner, so you’d likely never hear him say that outloud. But as others have said before me—why would any skater hoping to make that season’s Olympic team really want to make the GPF a priority? Perhaps they should allow each competitor to simply throw on their costume and perform from their home rink while it’s shown via webcam…

Oh, and by the way—no Lutai anywhere for a year.
Here’s the article talking about his ban due to the post-Skate America incident. After what happened to Nobunari Oda a few years back when he was charged with a DUI while on his moped, I suppose we saw this coming. Unfortunately for Lutai (and unlike Oda), he wasn’t competing strong enough for this ban to have much impact on the skating world.

*PURE SPECULATION ALERT*… do you suppose somewhere deep inside the guy might’ve just said look, Plushenko’s gonna get the bid, I’m not skating that well anyway, let’s just take myself out of the running now…?

On a lighter note, for PETA’s sake…
If you’ve ever wondered
What Tai Babilonia looks like (almost) naked , click on the link because this is your lucky day. All I have to say here is that I hope I look that good (almost) naked when I’m 49.


Finally-- ICE CASTLES… the trailer is here!
In lieu of a Clip of the Day, I’ve got the
Ice Castles trailer at the ready if you click on the link. I recently heard they still weren’t sure if this film was to be a theatrical release, a direct-to-video, or a TV film… does anyone have an update? It would seem the TV option is out if they’re sporting a trailer…

Monday, November 23, 2009

Skate Canada '09: The OTHER Battle of the Blades

Things For Which I Am Thankful After Watching Skate Canada:

in PAIRS...

+ Thankful that Muk/Trank still give me plenty to joke about despite the fact their FS is infinitely more watchable this year. (Like what? Well, that's for another post.)


+ Thankful Denney/Barrett have had such a nice debut GP season… coming in 5th at Skate Canada was as impressive as could be with a TOUGH and experienced field.

+ Thankful the Germans completely changed their free skate… not that I minded the previous one, but I do suspect this one (“Out of Africa”) will be more competitive with Shen/Zhao.


in DANCE...

+ Thankful to catch Canada’s Weaver/Poje in the Free Dance. I hate to say this, but when they took the ice just after USA’s Samuelson/Bates I felt like a baton had been passed between the wanna-bes and WILL-bes, if that makes any sense. (I'm just not liking SamBates’ choice of FD music again, for the 2nd year running.)


+ Thankful again for Virtue/Moir’s Mahler FD, though I’ve decided someone needs to get Tessa a shorter, more practical OD dance skirt for Christmas. The current one has a very laborious appearance to it. I think it might have been a weighted tablecloth in a previous life.


for the LADIES...

+ Thankful Cynthia Phaneuf’s Free Skate finally came to an end at some point. It DID end, right? Four falls…egads. Also, OW. By the way, Laetitia Hubert called… and wanted to remind her that it could be worse—this could’ve
been at the Olympics

+ Thankful the judges still have someone they can overmark when Carolina Kostner isn’t around. Laura Lepisto for bronze? Seriously? Methinks I should go study the protocols between her and Mirai Nagasu if I think I can do it without getting too pissed off.

+ Thankful that Alissa Czisny can fall twice in the free skate but, because no one skated clean, still come away with silver. The APB she has out for back-to-back solid programs remains in effect. (If you’re interested in re-visiting her flawless short program, though, here it is as the Clip of the Day .)


and for the MEN...

+ Thankful both Abbott and Takahshi skated as well as they did, grabbing spots in the GP Final while Patrick Chan faltered. (I know Chan couldn’t qualify anyway, but if he’d won this event I don’t know if either of those guys would’ve made it.)


+ Thankful for watching Denis Ten execute the Bielmann spin few men are capable of, for it inspired a new term for my skating lexicon: MannBiel . (Try it in a sentence this holiday weekend…)

So what inspired YOU to give thanks after watching the action in Kitchener?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Once More, With No Popped Jumps... Skate Canada '09 Predictions

And here we are, already at stop #6 on our (or their) Grand Prix adventure! My how time flies when you’re trying to calculate point deductions and positive GOEs. Lots of interesting showdowns to come this weekend… first, here are the showtimes:


For IceNetwork:


Friday, November 20

11:50 am - Pairs Short Program

1:15 pm - Ladies Short Program

6:30 pm - Compulsory Dance

7:55 pm - Mens Short Program


Saturday, November 21

12:00 pm - Original Dance

1:30 pm - Pairs Free Program

4:00 pm - Mens Free Program

7:00 pm - Ladies Free Program


Sunday, November 22

12:15 pm - Free Dance


For Universal Sports:


Friday 11/20, Pairs and Ladies short - 8 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Saturday 11/21, Pairs Free and Men's Short - 5-7 p.m.

Men's Free - 8-9 p.m.
Sunday 11/22, Ladies Free - 4-6 p.m.

And again it will also be on NBC 2-4PM Sunday…

As for predictions?


For DANCE:


Gold: Virtue/Moir (CAN)
Silver: Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)
Bronze: Samuelson/Bates (USA)


Does anyone know why Faiella/Scali withdrew from this? They’d have been my pick for silver behind V/M (with that sublime Mahler FD), but without them, I’ll go French with the only French couple present (Delobel/Schoenfelder were supposed to be here too, once upon a pre-preggers time). As for bronze, I’m really guessing but it would be nice to see Samuelson & Bates on the podium, especially if they’re front-runners for the third US dance spot in Vancouver.

For MEN:


Gold: Patrick Chan (CAN)
Silver: Jeremy Abbott (USA)
Bronze: Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)


Redemption, part un: JeremEEEE had a lousy skate last time out. Dice-K had a lousy skate last time out. Who will be more determined to show it was a fluke? Well, with Dice-K we have to wonder if, maybe, it wasn’t a fluke because he’s simply not back up to 100% yet. Then again, Abbott seems determined not to “peak too early”, and maybe he’ll somehow unintentionally psych himself out of doing his best. I’ll pick the latter for silver and Takahashi for bronze, if only because Abbott may have more control over how well he skates (assuming he’s healthy).
And I might be over-estimating Chan— I’m kind of putting him in the same spot I did with Takahashi at NHK, bouncing back strong after an injury—but then again, Chan’s injury didn’t keep him off the ice nearly as long. It’ll be nice to see what he has right about now on home ice. A dry run for Vancouver, maybe?

For PAIRS:


Gold: Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)
Silver: Mukhortova/Trankov (RUS)
Bronze: Dube/Davison (CAN)


Redemption, part deux: Sav/Szol also had a miserable outing last time we saw them. In fact, didn’t I hear last weekend (during Skate America coverage) that their coach was working on a new program with them? Hmmm. If any of the poor skates by champs this season were flukes, I’d say theirs was surely one of them (Yu-Na Kim last week being the other one). So, I could have this all messed up, but I’ll still put them on top, ahead of Muk/Trank. (But if Sav/Szol blow it this time… no more benefit of the doubt!!) Americans Denney/Barrett could give Dube/Davison a technical run for bronze, but D/D should have the overall polish to take it with that lovely Way We Were program.


For LADIES:


Gold: Joannie Rochette (CAN)
Silver: Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
Bronze: Alissa Czisny (USA)


Redemption, part trois: Rochette already did some redeeming with her FS last time, but in front of the home crowd in a Vancouver Olympic year, I’m sure she intends to blow the roof off the joint here (as they say). After seeing how well she fared under pressure last year, I’m pulling for her to repeat… as for Czisny with a bronze—honestly it could be her, or Zhang, or Nagasu, or Laura Lepisto for that matter. But right now I think it’s Czisny I want to see succeed the most, so there you go.


Oh, and if you still want to know what the Magic 8-Ball is predicting for the ladies:

Gold: Czisny
Silver: Nagasu
Bronze: Rochette

Speaking of Czisny… remember this Clip of the Day from Skate Canada 2005? Apparently the 8-Ball does...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grand Prix '09 Bubble Time...

BY THE WAY… you may have read this already, but Russia’s Andre Lutai (who just finished 10th out of 12 at this past weekend’s Skate America) was arrested in Lake Placid after the event. According to articles such as this one , the charges stealing a car and driving while intoxicated. Whoops.

Anyway…

Last year around this time I put together a list of the already-in, the might-be-in-after-they-skate-this-weekend, and the might-be-in-but-it’ll-be-a-long-weekend-until-they-know-for-sure… with regards to the Grand Prix Final, that is. Here is this year’s edition:

MEN
Already qualified: Nobunari Oda (30 points), Evan Lysacek (28), Brian Joubert (24), Johnny Weir (22)

Could still qualify after competing next weekend: Michel Brezina (11 points), Daisuke Takahashi (9), Samuel Contesti (9), Jeremy Abbott (7), Kevin VanDerPerren (7), Stephen Carriere (6), Alban Peaubert (4)

On the bubble: Tomas Verner (20)


LADIES


Already qualified: Yu-Na Kim (30 points), Miki Ando (30), Alena Leonova (24)

Could still qualify after competing next weekend: Akiko Suzuki (15 points), Joannie Rochette (11), Alissa Czisny (9), Caroline Zhang (9), Mirai Nagasu (7), Laura Lepisto (7), Cynthia Phaneuf (5)

On the bubble: Ashley Wagner (24), Rachael Flatt (22), Mao Asada (20), Yukuri Nakano (20)


PAIRS


Already qualified: Shen/Zhao (30 points), Pang/Tong (30), Kavaguti/Smirnov (26),

Could still qualify after competing next weekend: Mukhortova/Trankov (15 points), Dube/Davison (13), Savchenko/Szolkowy (11), Denney/ Barrett (9)

On the bubble: Zhang/Zhang (24), Volosohzar/Morozov (24), McLaughlin/Brubaker (20), Inoue/Baldwin (20)


DANCE


Already qualified: Davis/White (30 points), Belbin/Agosto (30), Cappellini/Novotte (26)

Could still qualify after competing next weekend: Virtue/Moir (15), Pechalat/Bourzat (13), Faiella/Scali (11 points), Bobrova/Soloviev (9), Samuelson/Bates (9),

On the bubble: Kerr/Kerr (24), Khoklova/Novitski (22), Crone/Poirier (20)


No Clip of the Day, but Skate Canada predictions are tomorrow, so it’ll be back soon!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Notes From The Drawing Board (Skate America 2009 Recap)


Did you notice I didn’t make any Magic 8-Ball predictions for Skate America?


It occurred to me sometime after I posted my guesses that I’d the big black plastic orb behind… but then I had the nerve to think Hey, I’ve been doing pretty good this year… who needs help from a childhood toy, anyway?


But looking at this week’s results… a paltry 5 for12 (guessed winners in all disciplines and Rachael Flatt for silver), it would appear I dismissed it too soon.


(Do you agree, 8-Ball? It is certain, it says… wiseguy.)


Anyway—if you watched any of the men’s SP coverage on Universal Sports Friday night, you may have heard Sandra Bezic make frequent use of the phrase “back to the drawing board”… in honor of all the competitors who either left their best jumps in the warm-up, on the practice ice, or never brought them in the first place. So that got me thinking… what might that illustrious “drawing board” really have on it—at least as far as Skate America developments go?


+ Lysacek’s Firebird costume. I know Vera Wang designed it, and she’s awesome… but all the black and all the feathers and all his pre-existing wingspan don’t equal a firebird. They equal a freaking CONDOR. (See above illustration) Caw-CAW!


+ Dan Zhang’s oomph. Must she suffer through Sing Sing Sing for her pairs SP if she’s not feeling it? Must we? Maybe we can sneak her some vitamin B12 next time…


+ The fine line between Adrian Schultheiss’ creativity and sensibility. I could go with the Swede’s free skate including Insane in the Brain as well as the theme from House M.D. (a.k.a. Teardrop by Massive Attack)… but to throw in a few lines from what sounded very much like… a PAC MAN game? Ya lost me.


ALSO ON THE BOARD…


+ My own sensibility… considering Susanna Poykio a dark horse for bronze? She finished second to last, for crying out loud. Nice going, Kelli.


+ A picture of “Canadian Quad King” Clay Aiken—who knew? (Whoops, guess I was looking at Kevin Reynolds…)


+ Navarro and Bommentre’s free dance music choice. Don’t get me wrong; I like U2 and “One” as much as anyone. I just don’t know that a mid-tempo rock piece is going to do much for them, especially internationally. Do any of my dance experts have an opinion on this?


+ Ryan Bradley’s “For Sale” sign for his program. Now this was what I expected at his last event and never got… an Amadeus free skate that he could really sell to the audience.


+ Duhamel/Buntin’s luck. First they had to contend with a badly cut hand at last year’s Trophee Eric Bompard… but at least that time they were able to finish. This time Meagan Duhamel fell on a throw triple salchow and banged her head in the process, forcing a withdrawal. Daaaang. Oh, Canada indeed!


+ Florent Amodio’s anonymity. After re-watching his short program (today’s Clip of the Day) , I’m not certain if I liked as much about his skating as I thought, or if he simply stood out because he was relatively error-free. But I AM certain that I will no longer confuse Amodio with Samuel Contesti. (what?? Yeah, don’t ask.)


+ Elena Glebova’s last name. I doubt she’d be delighted to know this, but when my kids first heard her name read on TV, they thought it was “Elena Bla-bla-bla.” Unfortunately that one’s bound to stick with me for a while.


And of course, the most notable thing left on that drawing board was Yu-Na Kim’s stunning consistency. On the one hand, I felt bad that NBC was hyping her to the nth degree only to see her fizzle for the first time in ages… but on the other hand, they showed a seemingly perfect athlete from overseas falter while an American girl (Flatt) put down her best skate of the season to date—not winning overall, but certainly making a statement with her free skate victory. How lucky could NBC get… after all the negative press about the USA’s lack of a current female skating star, they get to show on live TV how our ladies can still make it a ball game come Vancouver time!


Of course, we don’t even know if Flatt will make the Olympic team yet, but I’m just saying…

Friday, November 13, 2009

Unversal Schedule Update...

Another PS... I was informed that the times I'd obtained for Universal's coverage weren't accurate. Check out this link to Universal to get a more current schedule!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Skate America Best Bets

I’m late on it this week, so best get right to it! Starting with airtimes…


On IceNetwork.com…


Friday, Nov. 133:00 p.m.: Compulsory dance

7:30 p.m.: Pairs short program

9:00 p.m.: Men's short program


Saturday, Nov. 14

2:00 p.m.: Original dance

3:45 p.m.: Pairs free skate

7:00 p.m.: Ladies short program

9:00 p.m.: Men's free skate

Sunday, Nov. 15

4:30 p.m.: Free dance

On Universal Sports…


Fri. Nov. 13
7:00-8:00 PM (LIVE)
8:30-9:30 PM (LIVE)


Sat. Nov. 14
2:00-3:00 PM (LIVE)
4:00-5:00 PM (LIVE)


Sun. Nov. 15
5:00-7:00 PM Skate America

And…NBC, Sun. Nov. 15
2:00-4:00 PM (Ladies final)

As for predictions…


For DANCE:


Gold: Belbin/Agosto (USA)
Silver: Khokhlova/Novitski (RUS)
Bronze: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)


Not much to say here; Belgosto should sew up their GPF entry easily by the week’s end… and I’m basing silver and bronze on the number of points each team got in earlier events this season (K/N scored about 12 points higher than C/L).


For MEN:


Gold: Evan Lysacek (USA)
Silver: Tomas Verner (CZE)
Bronze: Brandon Mroz (USA)


This one’s risky, as Verner is sure to bring his quad (which looked great in Paris) and Lysacek reportedly is leaving his back in L.A. But I’m still going with Evan because he’s got the better all-around track record. Must admit I’m mighty fond of Verner’s work, though, and would always welcome a victory for him. The field is pretty weak after these two throw down their performances, but I’ll root for Brandon Mroz to make a turnaround from his Rostelecom disaster.


For PAIRS:

Gold: Shen/Zhao (CHN)
Silver: Zhang/Zhang (CHN)
Bronze: Volosozhar/Morozov (UKR)


It seems rather unfair that Zhang/Zhang have had to duke it out with Shen/Zhao in both of their GP events while Pang/Tong got to shine (and win) in separate competitions… but, in any case, a no-brainer here for gold and silver. Bronze is tougher, as I’d like to see McBru or Duhamel/Buntin with it, but I think V/M’s a more consistent team.


For LADIES:

Gold: Yu-Na Kim (KOR)
Silver: Rachael Flatt (USA)
Bronze: Susanna Poykio (FIN)


Another no-brainer for gold here, though if that turns out to be wrong there sure will be a lot of interesting press (She IS beatable!!!). The rest of the field, frankly, seems void of any serious competition. Suguri’s a possibility I suppose, but I’m hoping Flatt will make the splash that she needs to make on her “home turf”. And no, I haven’t forgotten about Sebestyen, but I think she can be outskated again in the long run—if not by Poykio, perhaps by Alexe Gilles (who I’d love to see with a medal). Sentimental favorite would have to be Emily Hughes—how great that doing this event gives her a “bye” for Nationals!-- but it seems like a top-5 finish for her would be victory enough.


Speaking of Hughes, this Clip of the Day was taken from a Disson show on NBC from about a year ago. Looking forward to Lake Placid this weekend…

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Men Who Put the NO in Nagano (NHK Review Pt. 2)

For the second week in a row, I did fairly well in my podium predictions—9 for 12 at Cup of China; and now 8 for 12 at NHK Trophy. But also for the second week in a row, 3 of the predictions went completely up in smoke when one of the singles’ events went through the meat grinder in terms of expectations and placements. At Cup of China, it was the ladies… this time, we had Joubert and Weir back to form… sort of glad to see it… but what about the other top male contenders?

T.A.M.I.A. ALERT—the Triple Axel Missing In Action network appeared to claim a few more members—everyone from Takahashi (noooo!) to Kozuka (huh?) to Joubert (must be nice to have that quad as backup—didn’t realize he and Lambiel had that much in common). Oh, and other than Johnny Weir, who snapped out of his Sparkly Boy haze long enough to put down two almost-clean programs and claim silver… TAMIA was affecting our Americans just as badly. Adam Rippon still looked great this time, but going 1-for-3 on the axels won’t cut it. Not even when those around you are too busy polishing the ice with their keisters to land much of anything. Speaking of Mr. Abbott…(oooh, snap)

The stumbles of JEREM-who?-- With that awesome, free-flowing Day in the Life SP, I was convinced he was back to the form that served him so well around this time last year. But then came that FS…okay, we all know it was a hot mess. But kudos to Abbott for creating the best “What the hell was THAT??” look of puzzlement I’ve seen in a long time. Did you hear him talking about how “at least I didn’t peak too early this year” afterwards? I almost wonder if his subconscious was messing with him the whole time out of a fear that if it went well, it might bode poorly for later in the season.

Oh, and one more thing I’ve gotta say about Jeremy Abbott… I’m digging the new costumes.

LA STRAKAHASHI—Part of what disappoints so much is when you see all the essentials of a killer program, but the jumps just aren’t there on a given day. That’s how I felt about Dice-K’s take on La Strada. Like Oda’s Chaplin, this is a piece so rippling with personality, I don’t even mind having to eat some crow for saying he has “quad consistency” on his side (I suppose His Evgeniness might be the only one to truly live up to that). I do mind the other falls suffered by Takahashi, though. Daaang.


In other disciplines…

Kudos, DENNEY/BARRETT—though they didn’t make the podium, they still delivered the breakout work I was hoping to see (especially with such a solid SP as the first competitors of the whole event!). And… did anyone notice that, with Firebird as their SP and Scheherazade for the FS they happen to be using the same music this season as one Evan Lysacek? (Though the cuts are surely different)

As for Ice Dance, I was impressed with all three on the podium. Crone/Poirier I admittedly didn’t watch closely their first time out this season, but I enjoyed their music and their kind of unique-looking twizzles. The Kerrs… I’ve liked them all along, and am glad they had a chance to scoop up two medals thus far this GP season. And Davis/White… well, I’m letting “the Phantom” grow on me. Anyway, great effort by all three, and I just hope the top teams who aren’t competing this GP season don’t effortlessly breeze by teams like these when Olympic time comes near.

In lieu of a clip, here’s an article of the day … this weekend marks the 30th (!) anniversary of Skate America; the article features recollections from Scott Hamilton, Peter Carruthers, and Lisa-Marie Allen (who finally got to win a major international competition there in ’79!). Come for the stories, stay for the photo archives from the event formerly known as Norton Skate. Predictions for this weekend coming soon!

Monday, November 9, 2009

P.S. Skate America: Cohen Out, Hughes In

Just had to add this headline that I spotted on IceNetwork's home page shortly after posting my longer piece. As with Trophee Eric Bompard, Cohen is withdrawing from this weekend's Skate America competition due to injury. (That's "strike 2" for those keeping tabs on her comeback.)

EmilyHughes has been announced as her replacement, so she steps into the pinch-hitting-for-a-major-player role for at least the second time in her career.

Oh, and if you check out Laura's Required Elements blog, you'll see there was a story over the weekend talking not about this injury as much as Cohen's return to having John Nicks as her coach. Interestingly, the Ice Network release still lists her coach as Rafael Arutunian... so perhaps even more news from Camp Cohen is yet to come.

Come On Feel the Skate Noise…NHK Review part 1

So, are you pro-skate noise (as NHK seemed to be this year) or anti-skate noise? Informal poll… please feel free to comment!

There seem to be two schools of thought on this. Some think having mics near the ice increases the athletic aspect of figure skating, reminding the audience that they are working out there as we hear every toepick, every scratchy landing, every deep edge. Others think it detracts from the grace and elegance of the sport, and have about as much interest in hearing the grunts of an elite tennis player going for a difficult shot. (And others probably couldn’t care less either way, so I suppose that’s a third school of thought.)

Me, I wish they’d dialed it down just a little bit this weekend… but otherwise I thought it was an interesting change of pace. (Won’t I feel silly if I’m the only one out here that noticed it!) And if you listened to the skate noise hard enough, it told you all you needed to know about this weekend’s NHK Trophy (roll the observations…)

The sure steps of A CZECH IN NAGANO: With so much crashing and burning by the top men, the silver (or bronze) lining sometimes comes in the form of a newer talent breaking through—in this case, all the way to the medals. Nice to meet you, Michal Brezina.

The carefree glides of A RUSSIAN IN CHICAGO: OK, she’s sold me. Alena Leonova’s breakout work near the end of last season was no fluke. I said she was a dark horse for a medal this time; does the fact that she succeeded mean she’s just a “regular, lighter horse” now? She already seems to be the best all-around Russian singles lady since Slutskaya… even if she’s got a long way to go in order to win Slutskaya-caliber hardware.

The painful thud of YUKO KAVAGUTI—So she dislocated her freaking shoulder with that wicked fall on the throw quad salchow. Ai-yi-yi. Shades of Zhang/Zhang back in Torino when they had to stop and regroup… do y’all really have to keep trying this maneuver?

The hush of LAURA LEPISTO—I really like her interpretation and expressiveness; but without some decent jumps to back it up it feels like style w/no substance.

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE that is staying at or near the top: with the notable exception of Yu-Na Kim, the leader after the ladies’ SP in each of the Grand Prix events this season had ended up taking quite a tumble (often literally) with their free-skate efforts: Julia Sebestyen had a first place SP but a 7th place FS at Rostelecom Cup… Mirai Nagasu led after her SP at Cup of China, only to have the sixth-best FS. Given this, I guess Ashley Wagner did well to stay on the podium! But I would have liked to see how a clean skate on her part would’ve stood up to Ando…probably the difference between bronze and silver.

For the Clip of the Day I’ve got Jeremy Abbott’s splendid SP… certainly NOT the Free Skate…but we’ll talk more about him next time, as there’s plenty more to say about this event.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dice-K at NHK (and Some Less Catchy Predictions)

Totally selfish of me, but I must admit I’ll be pleased next week when the GP moves into North America for its last two stops. The IceNetwork live streaming times are so early for much of NHK Trophy, my best bet to catch some events as they happen is to stay up late!

More on streaming & airdates later. Here are the predictions:
For DANCE:


Gold: Davis/White (USA)
Silver: Kerr/Kerr (GBR)
Bronze: Crone/Poirier (CAN)


No wild and crazy guesses here; D/W have already proven their ability to win this year; even if they are way off their game (as happened once last year in the GP with them), I don’t think they can be overtaken by The Kerrs. C/P were 20 points behind The Kerrs if you compare their earlier GP efforts this season.

For MEN:

Gold: Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Silver: Jeremy Abbott (USA)
Bronze: Brian Joubert (FRA)


This is much, much harder to call. I should add that if these three do indeed turn up on the podium, 4th and 5th places better be Takahiko Kozuka and Adam Rippon in some fashion. It hurts me not to predict them higher, but Dice-K’s got quad consistency—and I’m guessing he’ll be on fire in his first post-surgery major competition on home soil. Though I’m very much over Joubert at this point, he supposedly always does sub-par at TEB because of the pressure—if that’s true, maybe he can hold it together enough here for bronze. But not enough for JeremEEE to slip past him for silver.

For PAIRS:


Gold: Pang/Tong (CHN)
Silver: Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)
Bronze: Inoue/Baldwin (USA)


WHAT?! I/B for a medal?? Is the rest of the field comprised of junior-level skaters or something? Well… let’s just say I haven’t heard of many of them. If any break through well enough to medal, it’ll be significant for sure. (Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, I’m looking at you…)

For LADIES:

Gold: Miki Ando (JPN)
Silver: Yukuri Nakano (JPN)
Bronze: Ashley Wagner (USA)


What do I see when I look at the entrants here? A field with at least three dark horses… Laura Lepisto (FIN), Alena Leonova (RUS), and Sarah Meier (SWI). But among those three, only Leonova is on her second GP event, and while I think she’s an interesting up-and-comer, I don’t know if she can reach the podium unless Wagner has a bad day. And even then, Lepisto may be able to do what Meier did last week. (Or Meier, if she’s injury-free. Has anyone heard?)
I’m going with Ando for the top, but if the home country pressure gets to her, Nakano may have her day in the sun instead.


As for the Magic 8-Ball predictions: let’s go back to the MEN and see what we get…

Gold: Abbott
Silver: Kozuka
Bronze: Joubert

Does the 8-Ball have JeremEEEE fever a little early? "Without a doubt"--!


Here are those live streaming times for IceNetwork:

Friday, Nov. 6
12:30 a.m.: Compulsory dance
1:45 a.m.: Pairs short program
3:10 a.m.: Men's short program
5:05 a.m.: Ladies short program
10:45 p.m.: Original dance

Saturday, Nov. 7
12:15 a.m.: Pairs free skate
1:55 a.m.: Men's free skate
4:50 a.m.: Ladies free skate
11:00 p.m.: Free dance

And the times to watch if you have Universal Sports:


Friday, Nov. 6
5pm to 7pm
8pm to 10pm
11pm to 1am

Saturday, Nov. 7
2pm to 4pm
5pm to 7pm (Men and Pairs Free)


Sunday, Nov. 8
5pm to 7pm (Ladies and Men Free)

NBC will also be offering coverage from 2pm to 4pm Sunday.

The Clip of the Day is Wagner’s FS from this event last year… “Electrifying program, but technically, not enough in there to compete with the two Japanese girls that we’ve seen so far,” says the UK Commentator at the end. What will this year bring us? Stay tuned…

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cup or China: The Tricks, the Treats, and the Just Plain Spooky

No dial tone.

Since Saturday morning, when I came down to see which free skate was on Ice Network… no dial tone. Which means no Internet, no posting, and of course… no Cup of China. At least, not on the computer. SPOOKY.

All I can say is… Universal Sports to the rescue! With the exception of a local high school football game that apparently gets to pre-empt dang near anything, I managed to catch wall-to-wall finals with the exception of the first 15 minutes of whatever they showed for dance. So now that I’ve got my phone line back, I’m able to make the following “Trick or Treat” observations, with a few "SPOOKYs" thrown in for good measure (it’s not to late for Halloween references, is it??):

1) TREAT: I’m rather stunned by this, but somehow I managed to be 9-for-12 this week, correctly guessing the pairs, dance, and men’s results. (Call this spooky too...?)

2) TRICK: And with the ladies, I was 2-for-3 but had the order all messed up (as I suspect most of us predictors did on that one)! Underestimated Suzuki… overestimated Rochette.

3) TRICK: As for Korpi in second—wow. Not that I can readily name who I’d give it to instead, but she hardly seemed to have silver-medal caliber performances.

4) TREAT: Fumie Suguri’s SP dress looks like it’s lifted straight off a cell from Disney’s Snow White. I half-expected her music to be a mash-up of High-Ho and Someday My Prince Will Come. (But seriously, I thought it was lovely on her. Can’t say I’m as crazy about Rachael Flatt’s pink SP dress, though… or the way either of them skated. Sell, sell, sell that Sing Sing Sing, Flatt!)

5) SPOOKY: While we’re talking costumes, did anyone else see the Ukranian couple in the OD? He was sporting a fake mustache that made the fake one worn by Peter on a later episode of The Brady Bunch look real. Criminy!

6) TREAT: Not as many
stupid camera shots of stuffed animals on the ice this year.

7) SPOOKY: That blasted overhead camera. While I applaud the attempt to do something different… unless they happened to go to it during a certain type of spin, or an interesting pairs step sequence, it just seemed bizarre and distracting.

8) TREAT: Frank Carroll, AKA The Busiest Coach at Cup of China. With Lysacek, Kostner, Liang and Nagasu all at the same event, he needed a Carroll Clone to keep up. Did you see him sitting with Nagasu after the SP, then as soon as the score was posted, said “OK, bye, I’ve go see Carolina”-! No wonder he’s so thin. When does he have time to eat?

9) TRICK: Lysacek’s shoulder thingies on both costumes. What is that, feathers? Fringe? Tassles? a Parrot? Get ‘em off. Yuck.

10) TREAT: Lysacek’s programs in general. I’m not madly in love with either one of them, but I think they suit him well and will serve him well this season.

11) TRICK: Misfit programs. Exhibit A: Zhang & Zhang doing Sing Sing Sing in the SP. Exhibit B: Suguri doing Spartacus in the FS. The former isn’t lighthearted enough; the latter, not powerful enough.

12) TREAT: Shen & Zhao. Just because.

13) TRICK: That thing in Belbin & Agosto’s FD where does a 360 (or close to it) on her way up to a stunning lift. This time I mean “trick” in a good way. That was pretty cool.

14) TREAT: Their whole FD. They’re taking something fresh and making it their own without going over the top, much as Virtue & Moir are doing with the Mahler piece.


For the
Clip of the Day here’s Akiko Suzuki’s exhibition piece from over the weekend. I hope this event wasn’t a fluke—really liking what I see here…

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Calling it For Cup or China

Before I get started—a big shout-out to International Figure Skating and Audrey Snowden for mentioning this here blog on page 61 of the new issue! Woo hoo! Guess I’d better renew that subscription soon…

So anyway, on to Cup of China business:

For DANCE:
Gold: Belbin/Agosto (USA)
Silver: Khoklova/Novitski (RUS)
Bronze: Faiella/Scali (ITA)

Should be no contest for gold, though silver and bronze are anything but a lock. I must admit I have not seen any of these new dances yet…

For MEN:
Gold: Nobunari Oda (JPN)
Silver: Evan Lysacek (USA)
Bronze: Sergei Voronov (RUS)
On the other hand, I HAVE seen Oda’s program of course, and suspect it will be hard to beat in this field… unless Lysacek trumps him with a quad. As for Voronov… I’m guessing big time, as there’s a whole fleet of dark horses here… including Yannick Ponsero, Samuel Contesti and Denis Ten (a young talent from Kazakhstan who garnered a mess of attention at Worlds this year). I’m going with Voronov mostly because I’ve seen what he’s got this season. While I prefer Ponsero, his inconsistencies are killing him again this year thus far. Let me go on record to say I’d love to be wrong here!

For PAIRS:
Gold: Shen/Zhao (CHN)
Silver: Zhang/Zhang (CHN)
Bronze: Volosozhar/Morozov (UKR)

S/Z are now 30 and 36, respectively. Can they still get the job done? Well, consider this: Inoue and Baldwin of the US are now 33 and 36 respectively, and just landed the best throw triple axel of their career a couple of weeks back. I think there could be plenty left in the tank for the two-time Olympic bronze medalists, but I’m sure it must be Zhang/Zhang’s dream to defeat them, especially now, especially in their homeland. My personal fave for bronze would be Canada’s Duhamel/Buntin, but I think the Ukranians would have to have a pretty off day for that to happen.

For LADIES:
Gold: Joannie Rochette (CAN)
Silver: Rachael Flatt (USA)
Bronze: Akiko Suzuki (JPN)

OK, here’s the reasoning: Carolina Kostner doesn’t seem to be back on her game yet (though admittedly she could prove me wrong this weekend)… Fumie Suguri just seems to be hanging in till Japan’s Olympic trials… and Kiira Korpi doesn’t have the technical difficulty. Suzuki, for her part, left a powerful, positive impression on me the one time I saw her last season (NHK, where she finished in 2nd right behind Asada). So I’m giving her the nod, though again it’s a tough call because she doesn’t seem to have done much since then. In any case, beware: she’s reportedly skating to West Side Story. P.S. Nagasu could sneak in there for bronze too.

Oh, and Magic 8-Ball didn’t do so well in its sophomore outing… what will it predict for the LADIES this time…


Gold: Suguri
Silver: Rochette
Bronze: Suzuki


Hmmm… anyway, here’s where to watch (all times Eastern):

On ICE NETWORK…

Friday
2:30AM Compulsory Dance
3:55 Ladies’ SP
5:45 Men’s SP
7:45 Pairs’ SP
9:15 Original Dance


Saturday
2:00 a.m.: Ladies free
4:10 a.m.: Mens free
6:25 a.m.: Pairs free
8:05 a.m.: Free dance

On UNIVERSAL SPORTS…

Friday:
5pm - 7pm Men and Pairs short programs
9pm - 11pm Ladies short program and Original Dance

Saturday:
5pm - 6pm Ladies free skate
6pm - 7pm Mens free skate
10pm - 11pm Pairs free skate

11pm - 12am Free Dance

For the ClipoftheDay I bring you Jeremy Abbott’s FS from this event last year… I believe he was well on his way to JeremEEEE-dom with this performance

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fishing for Glory at Moscow’s Rostelecom Cup

Keep It, or Toss It Back? That is the question this time around after this weekend’s second stop on the GP express:


KEEP…Takahiko Kozuka’s blazing new SP to Hendrix. Who knew?

TOSS BACK…whoever produced the graphics on the World Feed…. It’s JIMI Hendrix, not JIMMY. (Oh, and in case anyone uses a Fab Four medley this season… it’s BEATLES, not BEETLES. Just a tip.)

KEEP…Ashley Wagner’s new FS costume (and program)…completely makes up for the Sheena look she suffered through all last season.

TOSS BACK…everything having to do with Mao Asada’s competitive skating right now… the music, the costumes, the all-or-nothing triple axels she can’t seem to land right now anyway. Since she’s unlikely to qualify for the GP Final (finishing a stunning 5th this weekend), I guess she’ll have plenty of time to regroup. I’m bummed for her. Hope things work out better the next time we see her.

KEEP… Pang and Tong using “Impossible Dream”…hmmm, wonder if it’s the first thing that sprang to mind when they heard Shen and Zhao were returning this season? (By the way, P/T, all the senior men hoping to have a shot at Olympic gold want to use it too. They said so right after watching chapter 1 of Plushenko’s comeback.)

TOSS BACK… Plushy’s finger in the air, non-ending pose, and all the other affectations that he seemed to have on display this weekend in the name of success. I know it’s not supposed to be bragging if you can really deliver what you promise…but does the same go for arrogance? Sorry—I’m just tired of him already.

KEEP…any skater that successfully tuned out that giant poster of shirtless Johnny Weir…Lord, please let us never EVER see that again. Nuff said.

TOSS BACK… Weir’s whole deal. The program looks and sounds a lot like last year, and I don’t see any other growth. In fact, I saw regression. What’s become of the guy who seemed to improve so much after leaving Priscilla Hill? He’s as MIA as his triple axel.

KEEP…Davis and White’s dominance and gold medal. Well-deserved!

TOSS BACK… don’t hate me, but… the “Phantom” FD. I know it’s here to stay, but I enjoyed “Samson & Delilah” more last season. There, I said it.

KEEP… McLaughlin and Brubaker’s new programs. Enjoyed them both!

TOSS BACK…McLaughlin’s splatfest. Come on, girl… that bronze medal was a gift.

For the record, I was 6-for-12 on the guesses again… which means I’m still batting .500 for the season. Rather shocking, but I’m sure my fellow bloggers are doing even better!

I’ve got Kozuka’s SP as the Clip of the Day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Role of Cup of Russia Will Now be Played by... the Rostelecom Cup

Sure, Patrick Chan is sitting this one out. True, Dombalin are opting to rest a certain arthritic knee rather than compete. And no, Meissner won’t be there either. Why should we let these things stop the fun? Here come the Rostelecom predictions:

For DANCE:
Gold: Davis/White (USA)
Silver: Crone/Poirer (FRA)
Bronze: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)


Davis/White should win this one easily. As for silver/bronze, it’s really a coin toss. I haven’t see either team lately; just know they were pretty evenly matched last year. (Russian’s Domnina/Shabalin was scheduled to compete here but have withdrawn—incidentally, they’ve now withdrawn from NHK as well. Shabalin’s troublesome knee is apparently to blame for both.)

For MEN:
Gold: Evgeni Plushenko (RUS)
Silver: Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Bronze: Johnny Weir (USA)


I’d like to say that I look forward to seeing the likes of Weir or Kozuka upset His Evgeniness, but word on the street is that Plushy is back in fighting form. Brandon Mroz (current U.S. silver medalist) could prove a spoiler for that bronze. We all know he’s beaten Weir before…

For PAIRS:
Gold: Pang/Tong (CHN)
Silver: Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)
Bronze: McLaughlin/Brubaker (USA)


I tend to instinctively lean towards the Chinese pairs these days over the Russians, but if K/S can pull a throw quad salchow out of their collective hats, this may be a lot closer than I’m bargaining for. McBru, for their part, seemed at the best early in the season last year. If that holds true, look for them to make the podium as well.

For LADIES:
Gold: Mao Asada (JPN)
Silver: Miki Ando (JPN)
Bronze: Ashley Wagner (USA)


Yep, I’m picking Wagner over Czisny. Though Nationals was hardly proof of it, I think Wagner’s the more consistent skater. And while both ladies have been downgraded numerous times with regard to their jumps, Czisny has the most recent ones (with several just happening at Nebelhorn Trophy a few weeks ago). Was it tentativeness, or technique? Perhaps her placement at Rostelecom will provide the answer.

As for Asada… while I’m admittedly not fond of her current FS, she’ll again have three opportunities to rack up a fierce amount of points with her triple axels. If she hits only ONE of them cleanly (as was the case last week), it could make all the difference between first and Miki Ando. Not necessarily the fairest way to go, but them’s the rules as y’all know.

Oh, and since my Magic 8-Ball did a better job with the prediction of the Men’s event than I did last week (as I feared would be the case), let’s see how it does at predicting the outcome of the Pairs this week:

Gold: Pang/Tong (CHN)
Silver: McLaughlin/Brubaker (USA)

Bronze: Martiusheva/Rogonov (RUS)

Hmm. 8-Ball seems to be putting its Monopoly money on an unknown Russian team rather than KavSmir. Such high stakes for a little black-and-white sphere.


Here’s where to watch: (all times Eastern)

On ICE NETWORK…
Friday
5:30AM Compulsory Dance
7:45 Men’s SP
9:35 Pairs’ SP
11:00 Ladies’ SP
12:50 Original Dance


Saturday
6:45AM Men's FS
9:00 Pairs' FS
10:40 Free Dance
12:40 Ladies' FS


On UNIVERSAL SPORTS…
Friday: 7-9 PM Saturday: 5-7 PM Sunday: 5-7 PM
And on NBC …
Sunday,12-2 PM


For the Clip of the Day we have Rachel Flatt’s SP from last year’s Cup of Russia We’ll have to wait one more week to see her GP debut for the season, though…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Five More TEB Mini-Observations and a Link You Might Like

A few more quick notables to put out there regarding last week’s GP opener, and then on to Evgeny’s World… oops, I mean Rostelecom Cup.

The One We Didn’t See Coming: out of absolutely nowhere, Inoue and Baldwin not only created a lovely throw triple axel, but created perhaps the best one they’ve ever done in competition. Too bad it wasn’t enough for a medal, but, um, some successful SBS triple toes might help next time… (Yeah, Baldwin, I’m looking at you.)

The Music (Make it Stop!): I’m sorry, but after only one listen I’m ready to retire Mao Asada’s FS choice (Bells of Moscow). From what I’ve read they went “heavy” with the music intentionally. All I can say is I hope there’s no occasion where Asada’s program is followed immediately by Joubert’s new FS (to Ancient Lands)…viewers would feel so bogged down by the end of the latter, they wouldn’t be able to stand up straight to leave the room.

The Costume: Yukari Nakano’s costume was one of the most colorful, interesting takes I’ve seen for Firebird in quite some time. It’s right here as the Clip of the Day if you haven’t seen it yet.

The Character: If anyone’s ever been suited to do a Chaplin number, it’s Nobunari Oda. So charming! Such deep knees! Such confident edges! Such a hard decision as to which Japanese man is my favorite!

The Look Ma No Hands: As amazing as that Virtue/Moir balancing act was, did you see the way she exited that maneuver? Beyond belief…

Finally, on a slightly related note—IceNetwork.com gave us this nice piece about David Pelletier’s chance run-in during TEB with Marie-Reine Le Gougne (the one who admitted to being pressured to place Sale/Pelletier second in 2002’s Winter Olympics).

Rostelecom predictions coming Thursday--!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Of Makeup and Men...and other TEB 2009 Observations

I’m quickly recalling how busy this blog will need to be over the next few months… gotta watch, gotta post some observations, gotta look over the next week’s event, gotta make some more predictions before the compulsory dances get underway, gotta watch… and so on, and so on…
I’ll do my best to keep up, but as you probably already know, there are several places out there you can go to read results and scores quicker… right, Laura ? Or MRR ? Or Lifeskate ? Or Aaron ?

(In case you need a quick fix, though… Ladies? Kim/Asada/Nakano. Men? Oda/Verner/Rippon. Pairs? Muk/Trank, Dube/Davison, Szol/Sal. (They came in THIRD? Oh, how they did…)Dance? Vir/Moir, Pech/Bour,.Kerr/Kerr.)

(I was 6-for-12 on my predictions, by the way… better than last year, though I must admit that half of those good guesses were thanks to a fairly predictable dance event.)

But me, I’m better at watching it all, taking notes as I go, and processing the most interesting observations for bloglike consumption. Here are the five that seemed the most noteworthy, though there was much to choose from…

(In no particular order)

+ Adam Rippon is blowing my mind. My first thought in watching his SP was of how much more mature he looks this season… physically as well as in terms of his skating. Wow. I know his axels weren’t clean in the free skate, but from the “Rippon Lutz” on down (can we just call it that already?), I was very impressed.

+ Everything oldies is new again . Rippon’s SP was to music from 1973’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull (composed by Neil Diamond, arguably at his pop-music prime)… Dube/Davison skated to another 1973 hit soundtrack—or, more specifically, song—in Hamlisch’s The Way We Were. And Yu-Na Kim’s Bond Medley, perhaps the “it” SP of the season, had to be primarily stemmed in ‘60s/’70s tunes as well. And I think all three ideas really worked. Where have these would-be warhorses been for the past 30-40 years?

+ Love Stories Redux pt.1: Was it just me, or did anyone else see several shades of another Canadian couple who skated to another tear-jerker ‘70s movie soundtrack when Dube and Davison got their “Way We Were” performance underway? (I loved it all nonetheless, except I think the complete turn-away from each other at the very end is a little harsh… maybe they could face apart while still holding hands? Streisand and Redford’s characters don’t hate each other at the movie’s end, after all.)

+ Love Stories Redux pt.2: When I saw that the Canadians were immediately followed by Mukhortova/Trankov with the real music from Love Story, I had one hand on the phone, ready to call the irony police. BUT… when I saw how beautifully they skated in their FS, finally, and how they seem to be getting along better (at least for now)… I realized it was another irony that consequentially cancelled out the first one. No phone calls were made. (Except to Savchenko/Szolkowy I simply shouted “what were you thinking?” in German and hung up.)

+ Random cosMENtology observation: Between the clownish Szolkowy, the downtrodden John Kerr (playing a lost soul in the FD), and the face-of-time look taken on by Bourzat, I can’t remember when I’ve seen more noticeable makeup on the men. And Johnny Weir wasn’t even skating here… (rim-shot!)

Maybe more observations Monday or Tuesday, if time allows!

For the Clip of the Day, here is Virtue/Moir’s DDG (Drop Dead Gorgeous) Mahler free dance… holy cow, how lovely. Let me know if this link stops working; don’t know if the ISU will let the TEB posts stay up this year.