Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The 2009-10 USFS Team Envelopes, Please…

They posted the team envelopes for next season at the USFS website yesterday; since I don’t think there’s any copyright infringement on re-printing a list of names, here’s the list…

P.S. I don’t really have anything to say about these envelopes at this point except for some curiosity at Katrina Hacker’s appearance in Envelope C—I thought she was retiring from competitive skating to focus on school. May have to check that out a little further.

P.P.S. Is the “tier” thing new this year? Either way, I’m not sure of its purpose. It’s probably better explained at
this USFS link anyway.

Team A - Tier One

Ladies--Alissa Czisny
Men--Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek
Pairs--Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker
Ice Dancing--Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, Meryl Davis & Charlie White

Team A - Tier Two

Ladies--Rachael Flatt
Men--Brandon Mroz, Johnny Weir
Pairs-- Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett

Team B - Tier One

Ladies-- Ashley Wagner, Caroline Zhang
Men-- Ryan Bradley, Adam Rippon
Pairs-- Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig, Rena Inoue & John Baldwin
Ice Dancing-- Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein, Madison Hubbell & Keiffer Hubbell, Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre, Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates

Team B - Tier Two

Ladies-- Becky Bereswill, Alexe Gilles, DeeDee Leng, Mirai Nagasu
Men--Stephen Carriere, Richard Dornbush, Armin Mahbanoozadeh, Ross Miner
Pairs-- Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir, Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski, Tracy Tanovich & Michael Chau
Ice Dancing--Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani

Team C - Tier One

Ladies--Amanda Dobbs, Christina Gao, Katrina Hacker, Ellie Kawamura, Bebe Liang, Angela Maxwell, Kimmie Meissner, Kristine Musademba, Brittney Rizo
Men-- Alexander Johnson, Keegan Messing, Curran Oi
Pairs-- Chloe Katz & Joseph Lynch, Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin
Ice Dancing-- Piper Gilles & Zach Donohue, Trina Pratt & Chris Obzansky, Jane Summersett & Todd Gilles

Team C - Tier Two

Ladies-- Kiri Baga, Melissa Bulanhagui, Kristiene Gong, Mary Beth Marley, Angela Wang, Kendall Wyckoff
Men-- Jason Brown, Steven Evans, Joshua Farris, Grant Hochstein, Austin Kanallakan, Shaun Rogers
Pairs-- Molly Aaron & Daniyel Cohen, Cassie Andrews & Nicholas Anderson, Haven Denney & Daniel Raad, Olivia Gibbons & Tyler Harris, Britney Simpson & Nathan Miller
Ice Dancing-- Lauri Bonacorsi & Travis Mager, Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello, Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, Anastasia Olson & Jordan Cowan, Moriah Tabon & Matt Kleffman, Shannon Wingle & Tim McKernan

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Harding’s Book Still Awaits “The Oprah Effect”

I could be completely wrong about this, so if you have information to the contrary, please don’t hesitate to correct me…

I saw that Tonya Harding was making an appearance on Oprah’s show last week, and the first thing I thought was hmmm… must be a rerun, since Harding’s book (The Tonya Tapes) came out nearly a year ago… Except that they were talking about the 15th anniversary of you-know-what, so it had to be a current episode.

So then I just said hmmmm.

Why did Oprah bother? I’ve no clue, particularly since I didn’t watch it. There was one thing for which I did seek an answer, though: would Harding’s book get a sales boost? After all, Oprah’s touch is downright golden on just about everything she touches. Even if she didn’t make The Tonya Tapes the newest addition to Oprah’s Book Club, Harding was still on her show, making millions more people aware of her book than ever before. (Unless they saw her on HBO’s special, or saw her during the original press tour, or… you get the idea.)

So once I saw the promo, I went to Amazon’s web site to make a mental note of The Tonya Tapes’ sales ranking prior to her Oprah appearance. It was somewhere in the 500,000 range. (As a frame of reference, Scott Hamilton’s recent release The Great Eight currently hovers around the 50,000 rank for sales.)

And a couple days later, I went back to Amazon to check the ranking again. It… was… somewhere in the 500,000 range. Still.

I could’ve simply been a day too late; Amazon rankings can fluctuate quite a bit, even from hour to hour. Harding’s book could have received an Oprah-riffic shot in the arm; I might have missed the whole thing.

Or… maybe even an Oprah episode wasn’t enough to generate interest?

If so…now there’s a sign of something.

As far as a
Clip of the Day goes on this subject—I dug up Nancy Kerrigan’s FS from the ’91 Worlds, where she took bronze as part of a US sweep that included Kristi Yamaguchi and, yes, Harding too.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A World of Skating Pain... and Gain (As in weight gain. The good kind. Seriously!)

Time for a little round-up of, shall we say, “medical or otherwise life-altering” news happenings that have surfaced since Worlds ended a few weeks ago…

-- Got to start with the newest news: Isabelle Delobel, of the former world champion ice dance team Delobel & Schoenfelder, has a pain dans le four (rough translation of the English slang “Bun in the oven”). According to
this and several wire reports, she is expecting and due in September. French skier Ludovic Roux is the proud pere-to-be; they plan to marry next year. From the article at

Delobel's pregnancy has not discouraged her Olympic dreams. On the contrary, she said, "However unexpected the news came, I can assure you that I never thought this would force me to stop skating," she said. "You know, those pregnant woman's wishes ... They are just like the will for a special victory," she offered in a smile.

I must say, when I indicated earlier this month that D & S could probably bounce back into things relatively quickly next season, I didn’t consider THIS possibility! It will indeed be interesting to see how this affects their final Olympic bid, though perhaps not as interesting as it would be if the baby was due in… say…December.

-- Skating While Injured, part 1: World Champ Evan Lysacek knew (but the public didn’t) at the time of Worlds, he was competing while contending with a stress fracture in his left foot. But former World Silver Medalist Fumie Suguri did NOT know she was competing while contending with a fractured rib… the ninth rib, to be more specific. Yeow! You can read a little more
here about her plans for recovery (which don’t seem long enough, but I’ve never dealt with a cracked rib so what do I know…).

-- Skating While Injured, part 2: Rockne Brubaker, one-half of the current US Pairs Champion team McLaughlin and Brubaker (or McBru as they’re often called here), competed the entire season with two “sports hernias”, and skipped the ISU World Team Trophy so that he could get right on the necessary surgery to repair them. From the
icenetwork article:

"The injury was not severe but bothersome to Rockne's performance," said Dr. John Reasoner, the medical director of performance services at the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo., who treated Brubaker throughout his injury.

Ya THINK? I really haven’t dealt with (nor am I likely to deal with ) one hernia in my lifetime, let alone two at the same time… so again, what do I know… but I’m going to wince every time I watch a playback from this season showing Brubaker executing a lift. Egads!

Speaking of which, let’s wince right now… just kidding. The
Clip of the Day showcases McBru back at the Nationals Gala from January. It appears to be grimace-free :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The First Annual State of the Skate Address

Note: In honor of this blog’s 1st anniversary (which occured, well, today), please kindly tolerate my attempt at a leader-esque “speech” intended for those who adore skating as much as I do.

And by the way, thank you ever so much for reading. Whether you are a regular or not, I deeply appreciate you taking time out of your day to visit! --KL

My fellow Figure Skating Fans…

I sit before my computer screen today, wondering what I might say to lift people’s sprits regarding the direction in which our beloved sport is headed, and astonished to great extent that spirits are even in need of lifting.

If you’re reading this from certain parts of the world, your spirits might be raised to the hilt already: South Korea, Japan, China, Canada, certain parts of Europe… yep, I’m talking to you. And I’m grateful for your unbridled enthusiasm much more than you know. It’s worth its weight in gold—and yes, perhaps Olympic Gold as well—right about now.

For the problem, at least from my particular perspective, lies here in the USA—land of the free, home of the disenchanted.

(Assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that the massive problem that is ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta is a given. I don’t care for what he’s doing/has done to figure skating, and I don’t know of anyone who DOES care for it. But to rant about him specifically, at this particular point in time, seems like a waste of my own blog space. Maybe I’ll save that for another address.)

By that, I do not mean to imply that the US holds all the cards when it comes to skating’s success. The wave of popularity its currently enjoying in those aforementioned “certain parts of the world” is proof of that. But we are a nation of over 300 million people that, in the past 33 years, has produced 19 figure skaters that have won Olympic medals… 43 who have won World medals… and as many as 45 million of us sat in front of our TVs at the same time, in Prime Time, and watched at least a couple of them do it.

But things change. National champions have to settle for 11th place at the biggest event of the season. Fans can’t find NBC’s scant two hours of traditional TV coverage of Worlds with a freaking magnifying glass, and the ratings show it. Die-hard fans are left praying they can find streaming video online from somewhere—anywhere(!), and in time to see someone they recognize.

How did we get here? You can count the ways any way you like: Miserable management (or should we say mis-management?). 2002 scandal. New scoring system. No fresh, consistent, memorable breakout stars. Kwan is all but retired. Young demographics would rather watch snowboarding. The list could stretch on into the summer and through to next season, but it hardly answers the next question: What do we do about it?

I don’t profess to have the answer listed in hidden code anywhere on this blog. Yes, change can feel most effective when it comes from the top— one look at our new presidential administration will tell you that. But we don’t get an election in our little frozen world.

So, we can bemoan the paint-by-number routines, the suspicious judging, the “cost-cutting” reduction of judges, a seeming conspiracy to keep skating from even being seen at times… and even talk, openly and often, about how we don’t even watch when we DO have the opportunity… that IS something we can “elect” to do.

But it feels an awful lot to me like we’re giving up if that is all we do.

I love figure skating. From the moment I saw Dorothy Hamill in Innsbruck in 1976, it was love at first sight. And for me, at least, it’s not something from which I can divorce myself. It’s a blood relative, you might say. I competed for a while, won some stuff, and would like to think I could still at least turn in a decent forward scratch spin if I laced up my skates right now.

But televised skating is what has kept me connected through the years. It’s what hooked me, it’s what kept me in touch (just barely) as I got busy with other things in my high school and college years, and it’s what allowed me to know the sport inside-out, particularly in the 1990s. I may not love what’s being done to it at any given time, but I simply can’t abandon it. There has to be a better way.

So while the State of the Skate is anything but ideal, and we consequently head into this upcoming Winter Olympic season with a sense of anxiety more than we do a sense of eager anticipation, wondering who we can complain to, where we can best make our feelings known, and why a particular boneheaded decision is made in the first place.. the only definitive thing I can say is this: Keep watching, by any means necessary.

Because to watch is to care, to care is to get involved, and even if “getting involved” requires a god-awful amount of banging one’s fists against the wall, sooner or later, you’ve got to believe that the wall will crumble. And I, for one, would still love to see what’s on the other side of it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The US Shows That Figure Skating CAN Be a Team Sport

We’re #1!!!

As far as the ISU World Team Trophy is concerned, that is… USA in first, with Team Canada finishing second and Team Japan in third.

Solid, if not winning, performances by the remainder of Team USA clinched the victory:

--Caroline Zhang pulled up to 3rd, behind 2nd place Canada’s Joannie Rochette and Japan’s Mao Asada (who apparently turned in a gangbusters performance and a nice bounceback from Worlds).

--Rachael Flatt pulled up as well, finishing in 4th right behind Zhang.

--Denney/Barrett lost some ground in their free skate, but still managed to hang in for 4th place.

Oh, and lest I forget (since it hadn’t happened yet when I posted last), Evan Lysacek won the Mens division, while Belbin/Agosto did the same for Dance.

You can read more about the three-day event

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Introducing the (Totally Anti-Climactic) ISU World Team Trophy!

I’m a little backlogged at the moment with writing assignments, so my apologies for not coming up with a full-blown post… but, indeed, this Team Trophy thing has gotten underway, so here’s just a few things you might be interested in knowing…

+ “On demand” video will be available at soon… but not as I write this.
+ After Day One, the US team is in the lead, followed by Japan and Canada.
+ Lysacek (in 2nd) and Belbin/Agosto (in 1st) led the US pack; Zhang and Flatt are 4th and 5th respectively. Denney/Barrett have yet to start for the Pairs’ division.
+ Any notable surprises in the standings came in the Mens’ SP: Kozuka popped his axel, crashed on another jump and finished 10th in the field of 12, while Chan fell on TWO jumps and had to settle for 9th. (And Abbott, with another blown triple axel and an additional fall on footwork, found himself in 5th.)
+ Asada and Joubert are the SP leaders; Asada by a huge margin (the triple axel combo put in an appearance); Joubert by only a couple of points.

You can check out all the results

And for the USA Today article about the event,
look here.

More as the weekend progresses…

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back to Cali (Review): Four Dance Lessons Learned in Spite of it All

Imagine, for the duration of this post, that there were no controversies in the judging/scoring of ice dancing. Yes, you can imagine at the same time that democracy is flawless, and educators are paid what they’re worth and then some…

Then return to my dance judging fantasy-land as you study the final standings at Worlds for
2009 , 2008 , and 2007 (the years since the last Olympic season). What might they teach us at face value? Well…

1) Compulsories can make the difference between going home with a medal, and going home empty-handed. A lot of fans (myself included) were stunned to see USA’s Davis/White on the short end of a virtual tie with Canada’s Virtue/Moir, especially when they’d actually beaten V/M in the free dance (by mere hundredths of a point, but a win’s still a win). But if you look at the event segment by segment, you find that the biggest discrepancy between them was actually in compulsories… where V/M’s 39.37 was more of a tie with Belbin/Agosto (39.65), and D/W’s 37.73 was actually more in line with Khoklova/Novitski (37.34).

2) The point totals don’t automatically shoot higher every year. Over in the Ladies Final, the big question was “Can Yu-Na Kim break 200 points?”… something that had not previously been achieved in the new system. But while the 200 point mark was surpassed by ice dancers as early as 2005 (the first year the CoP system was used at Worlds), the top score from year to year has fluctuated wildly since than. In fact, the best overall score at this year’s competition (Domnina/Shabalin’s 206.30) would have only been good enough in ’05 for… 6th place!

3) An off and/or injured year doesn’t mean you have to re-earn your place in the line upon returning. Belbin/Agosto took an infamous tumble at compulsories last year, and didn’t seem to be bouncing back with any gusto (pun intended) this season… until Worlds, that is, where they came as close as they ever have to winning the title. Domnina/Shabalin have struggled with Shabalin’s knee injuries for years, to the point where they had to withdraw from Worlds altogether in ‘08… and we all know what happened with them. So for anyone worrying that Delobel/Schoenfelder might have a tough time of it next season, perhaps those fears can be put to rest a little early.

4) (Speaking of tough times…) It can be just as cold and cruel out there on the ice for dancing as it is any other discipline. Italy’s Faiella/Scali finished 9th back in 2007, and 5th in ’08… but rather than continue or at least maintain their ascent, they suffered a fall in the OD this year and finished the season back down in 8th. And while their problems were pretty plain to see, those of Russia's Khoklova/Novitski were more mystifying: after claiming bronze last year and doing quite well for themselves in earlier season events (including a win over Dom/Shab), they could do no better than 5th in any one event here and ended up 6th overall. Hmmm...

And for what it’s worth:

I predicted Khok/Novot for gold… they finished 6th
I predicted Domnina/Shabalin for silver… they won gold
I predicted Davis/White for bronze… they finished 4th

1 out of 3 for the podium; no correct placements

Since I mentioned everyone in the Top 6 except Pechalat/Bourzat, here they are as the
Clip of the Day with their whimsical, circus-inspired FD (which has really grown on me, I must admit).

ISU Team Trophy coming up later this week! (What the heck is that?! Stay tuned and we'll find out together.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Back to Cali (In Review): Paring Down the Pairs

When it came to the Pairs discipline at Worlds, here’s how my predictions fared:

I predicted Savchenko/Szolkowy for gold… they won gold!!!
I predicted Pang/Tong for silver… they finished 4th
I predicted Zhang/Zhang for bronze… they won silver

2 out of 3 for the podium; 1 correct placement.

So let’s not talk so much about the Germans; they were pretty solid winners. And let’s not talk at all about the Americans; despite an impressive debut from one and a disappointing turnout from the other, they are simply not contenders for much of anything at this point. Let’s talk instead about #2, #3, and #4.

(Admittedly I could also talk in here about #5 (Mukhortova/Trankov) and #6 (Volosohzar/Morozov), as less than 10 points separated all these different teams… but I’m trying to keep it a little simpler than that for now.)

I watched the LPs of #2, 3 and 4 again. Since none of them had the skate-of-their-lives, nor did any of them have a splatfest (the wicked fall on the Russians’ throw quad salchow notwithstanding), I was curious what made the difference…especially since second place was a virtual tie (with only .13 separating them!).

So, I went ahead and studied the protocols (“judges details”) for all three free skates. Here’s the breakdown as best I can determine:

Side-by-side jumps: Kawaguchi/Smirnov had the best score of the three; Zhang/Zhang were 1.5 points behind, and Pang/Tong were more than 3 additional points behind. Of all the scores, Pang/Tong’s SBS score is the biggest head-scratcher. They only earned .88 points for their SBS triple toes—yet the only thing I saw wrong with them was that they were a little out of sync. Did I miss something…?

Throw jumps: Pang/Tong did best here, with Zhang/Zhang a few tenths behind them and Kawa/Smir over a point behind both. Not that it’s that surprising, but both Chinese teams scored better with their throws than even Savchenko/Szolkowy.

Lifts: Kawa/Smir rose above both Chinese teams; but Zhang/Zhang was less than two-tenths behind. Pang/Tong lagged more than half a point behind their Chinese counterparts.

Spins: Kawa/Smir had the edge with these, but considering spins have long seemed to be the only notable technical weakness of either Chinese team, the scores were surprisingly close—Pang/Tong lagged only two-tenths behind, and Zhang/Zhang only three-tenths behind. (It’s probably worth noting too that all three teams had Level 3 spins, while the German team managed Level 4s.)

Pang/Tong led another very tight race, with Kawa/Smir only one-tenth behind and Zhang/Zhang only three-tenths off. Gotta wonder if P/T benefited here from having their sequence relatively early in the routine. But did they break even by saving two of their three lifts for the end (where they came in third of the three as you recall)?

So, to summarize: of five different types of elements, Kawaguchi/Smirnov were tops in three of the categories… and took bronze. Pang/Tong topped two of them… and finished 4th. Zhang/Zhang won none of them… but won silver.

Um… what?

Maybe they did the best in the component scores…no, they actually scored lower in this than both the other two teams.

Maybe they had a higher SP score… well, yes for Pang/Tong, but no for Kawa/Smir—they were about 1.5 points behind them headed into the finals.

Well, well—wasn’t THIS helpful??

And won’t it be fun trying to explain a battle like this, should a similar situation crop up in Vancouver next year???

Maybe Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett can stay consistent through next year, gain some international experience, force some judicial love, and really throw a monkey wrench into things next year. Here’s their Worlds FS as the
Clip of the Day … just forget about the scores and, especially if you're rooting for the Americans-- dream a little!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Back to Cali (in Review): To Quad or Not to Quad-- Is That Really The Question?

So I’ve been thinking about this quad thing…

Wait—first, to stay consistent, here’s how my predictions for the men at Worlds shaped up:

I predicted Joubert for gold… he won bronze
I predicted Chan for silver… he won silver!!!
I predicted Ponsero for bronze… he finished way, waaaaay off the podium (16th, to be precise)

2 out of 3 for the podium; 1 correct placement. (And sorry Evan Lysacek; I had you as a possible spoiler but didn’t have enough confidence in you to predict you for any podium slot, let alone gold. Shame on me!)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this quad thing. For the past decade or so we’ve had the same line droned in… if a man competing in singles doesn’t have a quad jump in his arsenal his chances of making the podium (at Worlds or the Olympics), let alone actually winning, are minimal.

Yet we look at this year, and we see not only gold and silver medals worn by guys who skated quadless… but a bronze worn by a guy who did have a quad, but ironically blew any chance of winning with a flipout on a triple axel… as well as a belly flop on, of all things, a double axel.

And we look at last year, and we see that same quad guy on the podium, but surrounded yet again by two North American guys (two other North American guys) who skated quad-free as I recall.

What’s the deal? Where did all these lofty, master-a-quad-or-you’re-toast notions come from?


To be honest, it really started with Elvis Stojko… he won Worlds in ’97 with a FS that included a quad toe/triple toe (hereafter known as a 4T/3T); Alexei Yagudin, barely 17 at the time, claimed the bronze.

A year later, Yagudin won Worlds in one of those tired, post-Olympic letdowns we often see… during which he’d planned a quad, but blew it into a double. Another Russian upstart in the form of Evgeny Plushenko claimed silver.

In ’99, Yagudin won with a successful quad; Plushenko held silver once again.

In ’00, Yagudin won with a successful quad yet again; this time Stojko had silver.

In ’01, Plushenko won with a successful quad combo (the 4T/3T/2Loop!); Yagudin settled for silver.

In ’02, Quad man Yagudin regained his title (and an Olympic title too) while the U.S. Quad King,, Timothy Goebel, took silver.

In ’03, with Yagudin in retirement, Plushenko nailed his quad combo again and won while Goebel repeated his silver medal work (with, dare I say, more quads).

In ’04, Plushenko won his third Worlds, quad intact. Up-and-comer Joubert took silver.

In ’05, Stephane Lambiel ended the 7-year Russian domination with his victory, but yes, a 4T/3T helped him win.

’06 and ’07 saw Plushenko win Olympics, Lambiel win ’06 Worlds, and Joubert win ’07 Worlds… all with successful quads.

So there’s a flurry of names there, particularly near the end of the list, but here’s my point: during a solid 8-year span (1997-2004), of the 24 worlds medals for men handed out during that time, 11 of them—nearly half—were won by just two men. Two Russian superstars, when all was said and done.

And they didn’t just win on the technical difficulty of their jumps… they were arguably brilliant all-around skaters; Yagudin, in particular, frequently found himself smothered with 6.0s in presentation for his considerable efforts.

We just have to face facts—no matter what neck of the woods a skater is from, the bar was raised impeccably high for all of them, for a mighty long time, because of Yagudin and Plushenko. Respect it, and strive for it, but please don’t make a pissing contest out of it, fellas. The ice is slippery enough for everyone.

With that said, here’s
Yagudin’s Free Skate From the 2002 Olympics as the Clip of the Day.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Back to Cali (in Review): Decisions, Decisions-- Asada and Joubert Style

Before I trek back too far into the events of the past couple of weeks, I should probably mention that the first move in the annual Coaches’ Square Dance has been made: Brian Joubert apparently parted ways with Jean-Christophe Simond before he even made it back to France from LA last week. has an interesting article about the split here; it would seem that the trouble brewing between Joubert and Simond is fairly recent in nature:

Joubert had consistently credited Simond for his results in 2007 and 2008, praising his superior coaching capacity. "Now I have a real coach", Joubert said in 2007. "I do not have to think by myself about what I need to practice. Every session is carefully planned, and my success rate on every element is recorded."

By this winter, those happy feelings had visibly come to an end…

As always, it will be fascinating to see who else does the proverbial do-si-do towards new guidance and instruction... and with Vancouver clearly on the horizon now, the intrigue just ramps higher.

But what I really wanted to do this time was start the dreaded analysis of my predictions vs. what really happened out in LA. Since I received a question last week about Mao Asada, I’m starting with the Ladies:

I predicted Asada for gold…. She finished 4th
I predicted Yu-Na Kim for silver… she won gold
I predicted Joannie Rochette for bronze… she won silver

I was two out of three for the podium, but had no correct placements.

Since it was Asada’s performances that arguably jumbled my guesswork, that’s where I’ll focus. While Kim’s SP was simply unstoppable this time, Asada could have made it quite a bit closer with a successful triple lutz in the short program… so there’s an obvious case of points left on the table. But could Asada, or anyone, have caught Kim in the free skate with a clean program?

To be honest, I haven’t yet made the time to study the protocols and do that kind of math (though I intend to do so as the off season progresses… I’m kind of funny like that). But I had the GP Finals in mind when I put Asada on top, the bottom line being that Asada was fully capable of landing not one, but two triple axels in a single program (and beating Kim in the process). And just like any other time, this fact runs the risk of overshadowing all else in a given free skate. It may not seem fair, but the strength and ability it takes to execute those moves cannot be ignored.

It is a gamble, though, and should be treated like one—for as we all know, ice is slippery stuff. We saw just how slippery one year ago, when Asada had one mammerjammer of a fall on her triple axel but still managed to win the world title. This year, I believe I said she could probably win even if she did blow one of the two… problem was, I clearly had my head in last year’s event when I made that decision. This year, both Kim’s and Rochette’s programs were little masterpieces on ice, full of the shading and delicate detail that makes you want to sit still and watch them again and again. Even when the jumps weren’t spot-on, the programs held up.

In Asada’s case, though, the entire first minute or more of her skate was about getting through those two triple axel passes. Maybe it was simply a case of her “peaking” in December rather than in March, but…if I were her (or her coach), I’d reconsider that whole move. As far as any other moves go (like switching coaches)—I don’t know her situation, but I must admit, I don’t get it when skaters let one tumble to the ice at the wrong time become the driving force in a coaching change. Such a fall may become a giant metaphor for what went wrong in a given season, but it’s also one that should be rather transparent once the snow sprays have settled. Asada’s still in the mix, whether she feels it at the moment or not.

For the
Clip of the Day I’ve got the free skate of the one top ladies’ finisher I haven’t mentioned at all. Miki Ando may not have been the artistic belle of the ball in Los Angeles, but she was a rock-solid jumping powerhouse, and there’s nothing wrong with a bronze medal for that.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Meeting the Press, Worlds '09 Style

I’ve been away from my usual routine over the past few days—not just here with the blog, but generally speaking as well. When all that World class drama is over, I just have to get away from everything for a few days!! (No, not really, but it sounded pretty good, eh?)

And in a few days, my hyper-analytical ways will come back in full force, looking back at the week in Worlds before it fades too far from our collective sights. In the meantime, I’ve gathered a few news articles together so you can, um, read up on others’ hyper-analytical ways:

From Ron Judd of the Seattle Times : a fine summary, though Judd is one of many that has (and will probably continue to) rail on Alissa Czisny:

She only needed an eighth -- clearly within the expected realm of a U.S. Champion -- and failed to get it.

That's a flub of truly historic proportions.

Aaaanyway, from Juliet Macur of The New York Times : a piece that quotes Kristi Yamaguchi about the “only two” Olympic slots for US women, but also points out that only one team worldwide did well enough to be awarded a table for three:

Mao Asada of Japan, the 2008 world champion and Kim’s rival, cried after finishing fourth, nearly 20 points behind Kim…(but) Japan was the only country to secure three entries for its skaters in the Olympic women’s event, increasing their odds of standing atop the podium in Vancouver, British Columbia.

And it’s always hard to choose which Philip Hersh article to feature; this time I’m going with this one focusing on the outcome of Dance…:

The essence of ice dance is entertainment, and there was nothing more captivating than the final 90 seconds of the Davis-White free skate to the ballet scene from Saint-Saens' opera "Samson and Delilah."

The Russians and Canadians both did a lot of eye-catching tricks, and that apparently is what the judges were looking for.

Spoken like someone with a true American bias? Maybe. But he also correctly acknowledged the Belbin/Agosto silver medal as a “triumph”, given what happened last year at Worlds and the seemingly subpar season that followed.

Heaven knows I didn’t give ‘em enough credit to be able to get a silver, much less gold.

But me and my ridiculous predictions are another story…

(P.S. The Clip of the Day will resume in a few days as well… seeing as I’m on a dial-up as I write this, I cannot access video clips anyway!)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"We Apologize for Any Inconvience..."

I actually had a post all ready to go tonight-- finally-- but I'm writing this away from home, and "away from home" isn't allowing my prepared entry to be formatted properly when posted. Come back in 24 hours or so, and it should be up. Sorry for the technical difficulties!