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.

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