Sunday, September 27, 2009

Notes on Nebelhorn 2009

Savchenko & Szolkowy won by 20 points. Lambiel won by 26 points! Davis & White won by 31 points!!

Czisny won by about 1 point. Well, someone’s gotta make it interesting.

What else can I tell you about this week’s Nebelhorn Trophy? Well…

+ Sav/Szol no longer wear the day-glo purple and pink for their SP. Collective sigh of relief, as that also means it won’t freak everyone out in Vancouver next February.

+ The U.S. team of Castile/Okolski (who finished 4th) is the latest to jump on the Claire de Lune bandwagon… it’s their FS music this season.

+ Lambiel may be back (he’s now officially qualified 1 spot for Switzerland in the Olympics), but his triple axel isn’t.

+ Yannick Pansero is back to blowing one program big time (13th in the SP) while nailing the other one (4th in the FS). Maybe it’s an early-season thing he does?

+ Ryan Bradley, who apparently uses Mozart’s Amadeus (really?) for the FS, finished 4th overall…and his triple axel has apparently run away with Lambiel’s. (If you see either jump, be sure to report it to your local TAMIAN (Triple Axels Missing In Action Network).

+ Davis and White are skating to Phantom of the Opera for their FD, and apparently are already doing it very, very well (standing O’s abounded in Germany).

+ As for Czisny, it wasn’t that she collapsed in the FS with a horrible skate… even though she dropped a jump or two from the repertoire…it was the downgrades that nearly lost her the title to Kiira Korpi. She got FOUR of them. Yikes. But she apparently didn’t have any such problems in the SP, so hopefully this was just her sometimes tentative nature rather than a deeply-rooted technique problem.

+ Oh, and you might want to keep an eye on China’s Yan Liu during Grand Prix season. She won the FS and finished 3rd overall here.

But don’t watch her yet, as I’ve got Czisny’s new SP as the
Clip of the Day . I take back what I said last week about being sorry she’s replaced The Swan…this Zorro number is already looking pretty smart for her.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blowing The Nebelhorn: Who's There in 2009

Question: When is the Nebelhorn Trophy more than just an early event in the competitive season?

Answer: When Olympic qualifying is the hot topic. As well as sneak previews of what we’re likely to see several times in the months to come, test-driving stuff on an international stage for the first time in a while, proving you still have something in the tank to offer…

In other words, we might want to pay attention as this event goes down over the next few days. Actually… I’m a little late on it myself; it started today. Here are the “persons of interest” as I see it:

MEN: It’s all about Stephane Lambiel. Is he really back, and can he be really competitive? Based on the results of his SP (a big ol’ 77.45), the answers are yes, and OH YES. Hope he brings it for the FS too. Also worth noting: USA’s Ryan Bradley, who sits in third while that “still have something in the tank” analogy sits squarely on his ever-mugging shoulders (he had 68.18). In between the two: Czech Republic’s Michal Brezina with 73.23. Michal who? Well, maybe not for long. We’ll see if we’re still talking about him after the finals. Oh, and I was rather surprised to see France’s Yannick Pansero (who really seemed to make a breakthrough last year) mired down in 13th place with a score in the mid-50s.

LADIES: Their event has yet to begin, but an eclectic bunch of names are in attendance, including USA’s Alissa Czisny, Hungary’s Julia Sebestyen (who is 28 now, in case you were wondering), Finland’s Kiira Korpi (skating first in the entire event, somehow)… and Megan Williams-Stewart, who represented the U.S. until 2007 and now skates for Puerto Rico. I hope Czisny finds herself in the right place when this event is in the books… Korpi would seem to be her closest competition.

PAIRS: A decent representation is there, but waaay above the rest of the pack is
Aliona SAVCHENKO / Robin SZOLKOWY with an SP in the 70s. Duking it out for 2nd/3rd/4th is Tatiana VOLOSOZHAR / Stanislav MOROZOV, Anabelle LANGLOIS / Cody HAY, and Brooke CASTILE / Benjamin OKOLSKI, with scores all in the 50s. (And yes, I copy/pasted those names from elsewhere—sorry, it’s late!)

DANCE: Ah, an easy one… Davis/White, and then there’s everyone else.

I’ll try to post a recap on Sunday!

In the meantime, I looked to see how far back Julia Sebestyen’s work goes on You Tube and found
this Clip of the Day – her SP at the Nagano Olympics. From 1998. Last Century. I’d say go girl, but it just doesn’t seems apropos… how about Go WOMAN?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Zhang Shuffles on Back… (But Will She Keep Her Music?)

It’s kind of old news at this point, but Caroline Zhang may have taken the final and most interesting turn on the coaches-go-round this month. After spending the summer training with Charlene Wong, she’s apparently decided to return to Mingzhu Li (her previous coach). Here are one of the THREE sentences (I’m not kidding) currently posted on about the split:

Zhang says she will continue to work with Wong on "choreography and footwork."

Shortest. Press release. Ever.

So, with Zhang as one of the Americans representing at Trophee Eric Bompard (which as you’ll recall is now the FIRST event of the ISU Grand Prix Season), that gives her just about a month to settle in before throwing her new programs down for the first time in the GP:

SP Music: "Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs)" by Pablo de SarasateFS Music: Music from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky

Again, lost on the SP choice… which is not necessarily a bad thing. As for the FS—I know it’s apropos of nothing, especially when you’re talking Tchaikovsky, but, well, I’ve got this thing about only wanting to hear seasonal music in season. Especially when it’s music as well-known, and as seasonal, as The Nutcracker. I suppose that never enters a judges mind with any gravity; Carol Heiss was using it (in part) in 1960, and I’m sure countless others used it before and after (including Sasha Cohen)…

In any case, she’s using the “Pas de Deux” from the second act—absolutely lovely to be sure; just hope such a slow-building piece of music doesn’t underscore how slow she tends to skate in general.

And here’s her SP (apparently shot at the recent Golden West Championships) as the
Clip of the Day. Now that I’ve heard the music, I have to admit I wish this was a little livelier too. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Note Skates a Thousand Words: New Music for Cohen, Czisny, Wagner

I would say that the question “What music are you using?” is the skater’s version of the “Who are you wearing?” query that gets batted about at every major awards ceremony… except… lately, skaters seem to get the Who are you wearing? question too.

But they’re not really the same thing anyway. A skater’s music sets the tone for his or her career for an entire season. It can be love at first listen (and sight) for an audience, or it can grow on them over time. Occasionally, it can prompt nothing but grimaces and groans for a year (particularly if the program is a holdover from a previous season). On rare occasions, the music and program is ditched altogether—think Belbin/Agosto’s That’s Entertainment-esque FD from a couple years back that was, thankfully, replaced by the Amelie soundtrack midstream.

So anyway—I’ve started checking out what I could find about program music for the upcoming season, curious to see what’s recognizable… what’s all TOO recognizable… and what might be truly unique. This time out, I’ve got the selections for three U.S. Senior Ladies… your thoughts and input are welcome:

Sasha Cohen: SP Music: "Espana Cani" by Pascual Marquina Narro…FS Music: "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven

I’m not schooled enough to recognize the Narro piece—anyone else know it?—but I have to admit I’m intrigued with the Beethoven choice. Last lady of note that I recall using it was Suguri…

Alissa Czisny: SP music: Music from the The Mask of Zorro soundtrack…FS music: Selections from the Dr. Zhivago soundtrack by Maurice Jarre

Hmm. Of the two programs she could have carried over into the new season, I guess I’d have preferred she bring The Swan along… wonder if she’ll be able to up the ante on last year’s Dr. Zhivago?

Ashley Wagner: SP Music: Music from the Once Upon a Time in America soundtrack by Ennio Morricone…FS Music: Alexander Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances" from Prince Igor performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra

Sigh about the “Polovtsian Dances”… I can’t hum it from memory I the off-season, but as soon as I hear it again I’ll recognize it in a war-horsey way. Not my favorite. As for her SP, can’t hum that at all! But Morricone is considered one of the finer composers of our time, isn’t he? And didn’t Plushenko and Lambiel both want to use this music a few seasons ago? No, wait, that was Once Upon a Time in Mexico, wasn’t it… so confusing.

But in fact, Lambiel ended up taking the Mexico music… and look who was using the America version of Once-Upon-A-Time,
back in 2001?

Friday, September 11, 2009

So HE Can Dance (for now)... and SHE Can Commentate (Sort of)

I don’t think I’ll be mentioning Emanuel Sandhu and Nancy Kerrigan in the same post very often, so enjoy this while it lasts…

As you might recall from
this post about a year ago, Sandhu set his sights on making the So You Think You Can Dance Canada Top 20… only to be cut several rounds too soon. But that was 2008. Apparently he put in the extra effort over the past 12 months, for this year he reached his goal… and made it onto the show. Impressive!

Take a peek at
this article from the SYTYCD Canada blog that ran today, giving a nice analysis of his work so far on the show … and then watch the routine mentioned in the article via this Clip of the Day… though if you’re a fan of the show in Canada, you may have just seen this a few days ago. He appears to be several weeks away from having to do the dreaded “Dance for your Life”, but as fans of the show know, that might all change if he has to do a quick step next week.

Meanwhile, Nancy Kerrigan is involved in some other Canadian broadcast news of a sort.
This press release explains the deal made with StarGames LLC (the agency run by Kerrigan’s husband, Jerry Solomon) and STATS, “the world's leading sports technology, data and content company”, to create exclusive video reports with Kerrigan during the Vancouver Games to be licensed to select online and mobile clients. Which isn’t exactly NBC, but times have changed…and even the commentating opportunities are starting to reflect all the different ways we get our information nowadays:

Ms. Kerrigan's videos will bring home the atmosphere to viewers as she shares experiences from throughout the Olympic village. Concepts will cover a wide variety of topics, from "woman on the street" reporting to lighthearted interviews with athletes as well as a unique feature called "Lifestyle of Vancouver."

Ms. Kerrigan will also provide in-depth figure skating analysis with event day previews offering complete analysis from the perspective of an experienced figure skater.

I’m not sure what this means for her other broadcasting stints (which included IceNetwork’s coverage of Skate America 2008 as I recall), but if I find out I’ll pass it on. Should be interesting to see where these “licensed reports” will turn up.

Monday, September 7, 2009

All Puns Aside, Ross Miner is Due for Major Attention

Time to tap the Need-to-Know files again…

This time the spotlight is on Ross Miner, the 2009 U.S. Junior Men’s Champ who also just won the first JGP event of the year (held in Lake Placid over the weekend). Miner is an 18 year-old product of the Boston area; combine this with the fact that he’s got the Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell team involved, and the notion that he might have a future in this sport is an easy one to have.

And you’ve gotta like a guy that strategizes no matter what—minutes after coming off the ice in Lake Placid with a free skate that is described at as
“rocky”, Miner was determining exactly what he needed to do to skate better at his next event:

"I need to do my programs more. They are still relatively new, but I want to make sure that every time I do my program, I really sell it and fight for every single element."

This despite the fact that he WON! Always nice to hear a strong work ethic in progress, though…

As for other interesting factoids in his bio:

+ Favorite author is Ernest Hemingway. (I’m required by law to note this as my hometown—Oak Park, Illinois—is Hemingway’s hometown too.)

+ Favorite magazine is The Economist. Wow! I think the last 18 year-old I heard of who might have said this was named Alex P. Keaton (think Family Ties).

+ Speaking of TV Characters: he lists his “Three television characters I wish were real so I could hang out with them” as Michael Scott (from The Office), Brian Griffin from Family Guy …and MacGyver. I’m not even sure about the Brian Griffin guy (I don’t watch Family Guy; I’m guessing he might be the dad?), but something about this list cracks me up.

While the weekend’s programs don’t seem to be available to access yet (someone let me know if you find them), you can see (presumably) the same FS on this
Clip of the Day taken from the Liberty Open earlier this summer. He’s lacking speed at this point, but he definitely has a lot going for him… hmmm, maybe someone to watch for the 2014 Olympics? And in reference to my own post's title, just think of all the fun to be had with headlines alone: "No MINER Accomplishment", "Ross Skates in a MINER Key", "The MINER is Going to the Majors"... the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

So THAT's Who Does "Disney on Ice" These Days...

Back in the 1970s, when Ice Follies signed Janet Lynn… and a few years later when Ice Capades did the same with Dorothy Hamill... those shows were essentially the only two tours circling the USA. By the late 80s, the focus had shifted to shows such as Stars on Ice, which gave the Tom Collins tour a run for its money.

Somewhere in between—1981, to be precise—the folks at Disney came up with shows of their own. And while the Follies, Capades, and even the Tom Collins tour are no longer in business, Disney’s shows persevere…I’m guessing the fact that it’s DISNEY helps a whole bunch.

Anyway—every once in a while, an article pops up about one of the principal skaters behind the otherwise faceless cast in a Disney show. I tend to read those, sensing I might be one of the few readers who might actually recognize the name of said skater.

Indeed I did this time… the
article in question is about Natasha Kuchiki. You remember Kuchiki—she was Todd Sand’s partner back when his future partner Jenni Meno was still skating with Scott Wendland. With Sand, Kuchiki won a National title and—I didn’t remember this until I looked it up—a World bronze in 1991. They even competed in Albertville together (1992, taking 6th) before splitting up. She was quite young, as I recall… which probably explains why she’s been a part of Disney on Ice for (gulp) 15 years and is only now in her 30s.

So if you find yourself turning up at one of these Disney extravaganzas (presumably with kids, but hey, I won’t judge you if you go alone or on a date), keep an eye out for Kuchiki, She’s the one playing Mulan and Princess Jasmine in 100 Years of Magic.

Still not sure who she is? Check out this
Clip of the Day.