Friday, February 27, 2009

Everything Junior is Senior Again

She has one of those names you remember—long, melodic, a little complicated. I remember Scott Hamilton gushing over her at the Torino Olympics three years ago; watched her expectantly for another year or so in the Senior GP events. So when I saw it on the list of competitors today at Junior Worlds, I was admittedly a little confused: what is Elene Gedevanishvili doing there?

Winning the short program, that’s what.

And she’s not the only one there this week despite competing at the senior level most of the time. Ashley Wagner turned in an SP she probably would have preferred to do at Senior Nationals, and is currently in 2nd place. Russia’s Alena Leonova and the U.S.’s Katrina Hacker both competed on the Senior GP circuit this past season, and are now in 3rd and 5th, respectively. Over on the men’s side, Senior GP’er Adam Rippon took Gold yesterday—actually defending a junior world title he’d already won last year. (Curran Oi dropped from 3rd to 5th after yestrerday’s free skate; Ross Miner finished 10th.)

While I doubt this is an all-new phenomenon, I just have to wonder what it’s like all the way around. Do senior skaters mind being sent “backwards” if they’re sent to Junior Worlds? Do junior skaters resent the fact that they don’t stand much chance at their own event? Or does everyone just take everything in stride?

They probably do, and perhaps that’s the only way to fly…but is everyone and everything benefiting as they should? Feel free to leave a comment; I’m curious what people think.

In the meantime, here’s Gedevanishvili’s 2006 Olympic appearance as the
Clip of the Day. (Sorry I couldn’t find Scotty’s commentary; only the Eurosport edition was handy.)

P.S. A shout-out is necessary to Team USA with regards to Ice Dance… they finished 1-2-4, missing a medals sweep by only ½ a point!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

U.S. Juniors Hit the (Bulgarian) Ground Running in Sofia

Junior Worlds got underway over in Sofia, Bulgaria Tuesday, and lookee here… the U.S. skaters already have something to crow about:

The Madisons—that is, Madison Chock and Madison Hubbell—are first and second, respectively, with their partners Greg Zuerlein and Keiffer Hubbell after the compulsory dance. And just a few points behind, down in 5th, are Maia and Alex Shibutani (also of the U.S.)

Meanwhile, over in the pairs event, Americans Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir sit in second place after the short program. Great start everyone! The Mens’ SP and Pairs’ FS take place Wednesday; live coverage continues on the Ice Network for subscribers. Curran Oi, Ross Miner and Adam Rippon are representing Team USA; Oi finished 6th and Rippon finished 7th in the recently held Senior U.S. Championships (while Miner won the U.S. Junior division).

Oh, and when the ladies follow in a couple of days, expect a few names you might already know… Caroline Zhang (Senior Ladies bronze medalist this year), Ashley Wagner (Senior Ladies pewter medalist), and Katrina Hacker skating in place of Mirai Nagasu.

For the
Clip of the Day – you might have heard (or even remembered) that this week marked the 15th anniversary of the Lillehammer showdown between Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding, and as it turned out, some girl from the Ukraine named Oksana something-or-other. There’s so much that’s been said, still more that could be said—if not about the event, about the way it changed skating forever—but as far as the anniversary itself, I think the best thing to come out of the whole thing is what you’ll see when you hit that link above.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Coming Soon on NBC: Kwan Finally Steps Into The Press Box

With Junior Worlds starting up in few days, it’s the perfect time to talk about… Senior Worlds?

Well, yes, if only to pass on the news that Michelle Kwan is set to join the NBC’s broadcast team next month, and possibly beyond that.
This article in the L.A. Times (written by Phil Hersh) confirms it:

The five-time world champion will be joining Bob Costas and Dick Button in giving overviews and reflections during the live telecast of the women's free skate final March 28. This will be Kwan's debut as a TV commentator.

So it sounds as if Kwan will be stepping into the slippers typically worn by Peggy Fleming in the ABC days. I suspect she’ll hold her own well enough, but still, I wonder if the role sounds as daunting to her as it does to someone like me?

Kind of exciting, though. Even when she’s not competing, I think Kwan brings a positive energy to everything she does. Figure skating needs her in any form they can get her!

But anyway, Junior Worlds is coming up, so let’s talk about…

Skate America 2009?

Well, just long enough to pass along
this announcement about Lake Placid, N.Y. being chosen as the location for next season’s edition of the event. According to the article, Lake Placid hosted it in 1979 (its inaugural year), ’81, ’82… and not again until now. Hmm. Could the USFS be hoping for a psychological shot in the arm by revisiting a location from better times? Just a thought.

Did I mention Junior Worlds is coming up?

But I’m not making any predictions there, so I’ll simply post as it goes along next week. :-)

Until then, check this
Clip of the Day ... Adam Rippon may not have done as well at U.S. Senior Nationals as he’d have liked this year, but I think he earned his keep well enough to say he should be a Junior Worlds highlight.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is Hamilton's "Eight" Selling Great?

OK, just one more post having to do with Scott Hamilton before we tumble onward to Junior Worlds...

And this one is because I’d forgotten about his book until this week.
The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (Even When You Have Every Reason To Be Miserable) was actually released back on January 6. Is that an ideal time for a book to come out—right after the books-make-a-great-gift holiday season?

In theory, it’s not so bad. The majority of current books pertaining to skating are released around the skating season itself (October-April), and even though Hamilton’s book is not about skating per se, I suspect it still qualifies in some way. And perhaps the true subject of The Great Eight – self-help and mental wellness—is what made it a good candidate for January… resolutions, turning over new leaves, that sort of thing.

As for reviews—not the kind you find on blogs like mine, but in Library Journal—here’s what they had to say:

While seemingly just another steps book, this work is based on principles that 1984 Olympic gold medalist Hamilton developed while learning to skate the figure 8: have a strong faith in God, be authentic in word and deed, and find humor in everything. Hamilton's prescription is certainly believable, as he has endured both testicular and brain cancer, but it isn't essentially different from lessons told by any other athlete who has overcome adversity. A nice, heartfelt story but not essential.

OK… not an “A+”; maybe a solid “B+” instead.

Sales-wise, it’s currently ranked around the 15,000 mark in Amazon. Might not sound impressive, but consider the peak sales rank for these recent titles from the skating world:

A Skating Life: My Story (Dorothy Hamill’s autobio from 2007)—peak position: 93

The Tonya Tapes (Tonya Harding’s bio from last year)—peak position: 5,937

Figure Skating Today: The Next Wave of Stars (2007)—peak position: 33,105

Figure Skating: A History (2006)—peak position: 46,110

The time I really want to gauge, though, is the month of March… between The Celebrity Apprentice and the tiny, 2-hour window in which he’s likely to be heard during NBC’s coverage of Worlds, it’ll probably be the best exposure he’ll get all year.

For the
Clip of the Day , here’s a curve ball: rather than show something from Hamilton, I’m showing David Santee, and his part of the battle at Worlds in 1981 that left him with the silver (Hamilton, of course, winning his first World title at that event).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Skaters on TV: One You'll See Soon; Others You Probably Won't

A couple of skating-related TV updates for you...

+ As updated here at the start of the year,
The Celebrity Apprentice (featuring Scott Hamilton as one of the 16 “celebrities”) will kick off on March 1st—in other words, two weeks from the time I’m writing this. Have you seen the promos? Can’t tell Hamilton is on the show unless you do a freeze-frame of a big boardroom shot, right? It’s all about Joan Rivers, Andrew Dice Clay, Dennis Rodman, and… Tom Green? Really? I know charity is the name of the game in these all-star editions, but there’s got to be some sort of compensation involved too, especially when one’s “star power” is considerably dimmer than it once was. Anyway, the competition starts as a two team, men vs. women thing that will have Hamilton working with the aforementioned fellows as well as Heisman Trophy Winner Herschel Walker, Jesse James (an “entrepreneur/TV Star” according to the NBC website), country star Clint Black, and R&B star Brian McKnight. Any guesses yet as to how long Scotty will last?

+ Remember Thin Ice, a made-for-TV, male pro championship of sorts that was supposed to feature Kurt Browning as a contestant, Dick Button and Peggy Fleming as judges, and be taped this past December? Remember how we didn’t hear anything more about it? Shortly after speculating on its fate near the end of last year, I finally came across this update that ran via International Figure Skating magazine. Not really a surprise, I guess, to learn that the project (which seemed to be announced mighty late in the year for it to actually take shape so quickly) is now on hold and “in development for the 2009-10 season”. What will be a surprise—a pleasant one—is if we ever hear about it again after this.

But since I mentioned Takeshi Honda as someone I’d like to see included in that event, I’m making his 2002 FS at Worlds the
Clip of the Day. It was far from perfect, but it earned him the first of his two World Bronze medals.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Till Next Year, Vancouver... Some Final 4CC Observations

A few final, fleeting observations from last week’s 4CCs before I start trolling for new things to discuss this month…

+ I have seen the near future in ice dance, and the future is a battle for World Bronze. Unless the double D/S’s (Delobel/Schoenfelder and Domnina/Shabalin) have to back out of Worlds due to injury… in which case it could be a battle for a medal of even higher value. Virtue/Moir and Davis/White may have had very different seasons thus far—the former have barely had a season to speak of; the latter have had a long, steady ascent—but if 4CC’s proved anything last week, it proved that these two teams are extremely well-matched right about now. Barely half a point separated them in the end! And while it might be considered unfair to claim them as virtually equal when there was a small bobble on V/M’s opening spin, I’m thinking in the simple terms that a bobble like that can happen anywhere, anytime. Next time it could be D/W just as easily. But in any case, I think I’ll be more interested in what these two teams do than what any of the so-called “top contenders”might pull out of their impeccable hats.

+ And just a couple quick comments about the Free Dances of 4CCs #3 and 4 finishers: Samuelson/Bates are in dire need of less monotonous music… and Crone/Poirier are in dire need of the little push that could consistently take their program from the slightly tedious to the truly remarkable. It will be interesting to see what both teams come up with next year.

+ Also of interest: something I’m starting to think should be called the Great Chinese Change-up. For not only have Pang/Tong supplanted Zhang/Zhang as the top team in China this year, but they’re really starting to trounce them soundly. This time they beat them by 20 points! And with a year to go, I’ve got to say P/T found a great time to make a move.

+ As for Canada’s top pairs… I still find myself liking and appreciating Duhamel/Buntin the most; they posess speed and power similar to the U.S.’s McBru… but their consistency can’t yet match Dube/Davison. At least, not yet.

+ Singles winners Patrick Chan and Yu-Na Kim are off the freakin’ charts with their excellence these days, there’s no disputing that… so why is it that I find myself rooting for Takahiko Kozuka and Joannie Rochette instead in a competition like this? Especially when I’d never heard of Kozuka before this season, and never believed much in Rochette in all the years I HAD heard of her… ah, well, maybe I answered my own question there.

Clip of the Day showcases Kozuka’s exhibition program, a charming number set to Michael Buble’s version of Save the Last Dance For Me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Four CCs: A Little Bit About the Big Event Very Few Saw

Since I was an abysmal 1-for-12 in my 4CC’s predictions, let me start by saying I’ve easily found a fifth thing-I-don’t-get about the Four Contenents Championships.

Ladies? I got the medalists right at least, but in the wrong order. I guessed Asada/Kim/Rochette; we got Kim/Rochette/Asada. Not quite the same thing. (BTW, the U.S. ladies finished 4/7/9—but it was Caroline Zhang with the highest finish; not much comfort for those fearing we won’t get 3 spots for the Olympics next year.)

Pairs? I got Pang/Tong right, but with Dube/Davison holding onto second and Zhang/Zhang having to settle for third (sending my guess for bronze, Duhamel/Buntin, down to 4th), these predictions were mostly a wash as well.

And it went downhill from there. With Davis/White eking out a so-called “upset” over Virtue/Moir, and Samuelson/Bates triumphing over Crone/Poirer, my Dance predictions went nowhere. As for the men, I was so far off the mark they had to come find me with a search party… Chan/Lysacek/Kozuka was light years from the Oda/Abbott/Chan prediction I made earlier in the week.

Of course, just because I can’t call it like I’d like doesn’t mean I didn’t like what I saw. I’ll get into all that with the next post, but suffice to say there was some mesmerizing stuff going on up there in Vancouver, and it’s a crying shame that more people didn’t get to see it.

So let me finish by giving props to Sharon, a follower of the blog who absolutely nailed the dance predictions this time around! I think I’m going to let her call Worlds for me…

(No Clip of the Day this time; You Tube is acting very squirrely tonight! Sorry!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More Predictions for 4CCs (or, Vancouver's "Test Event")

Were you wondering, like I was, if IceNetwork was going to stream 4CCs live this week… or if it was going to be a delayed on-demand thing, like Euros?

I don’t know if it was a last-minute deal or not, but the answer apparently is YES. As of this morning, a streaming video schedule can be found
here … for subscribers only, of course, but I couldn’t find a thing about it until just today, so I thought I’d pass it along in case I’m not the only one.

Which brings me to my other two things-I-don’t-get about 4CCs:

3) What anchors this one?
I’m glad to hear that this year’s championships, happening in Vancouver, is doubling as a sort of “test event” for next Winter’s Olympics. But the Grand Prix events serve a purpose… as does Worlds, of course… even early-season meets such as Nebelhorn Trophy seem to have a raison d’etre more than 4CCs does. Which is not to say that a stand-alone competition like 4CCs is absolutely unnecessary… but look how long it took IceNetwork to even announce a schedule. I can only guess that even the week in, week out fans weren’t e-mailing down their doors with 4CC fever.

As for the ISU’s proclamation of its purpose… I have to refer back to what I said with don’t-get-it #1 on Monday. Sorry, but good intentions aside, it just doesn’t seem to be working the way ISU might have hoped for.

4) Location, location…?
Not to be confused with #2 (Timing, Timing…)—but when is this event going to take place in Africa? Or South America? Or Australia? To date, 4CCs has ping-ponged between the U.S., Canada, South Korea, China, and Japan. Which only re-iterates the Two Continents (and Two Others Can Come if They Want) vibe in my mind. Wouldn’t a trip to warm, sunny (compared to the U.S. right now) Sydney be a welcome change for ALL the skaters involved? Just a thought.

Anyway, coverage is getting underway soon, so I’d better get this posted so I can be wrong about most of them for everyone to see! :-)


Gold—Mao Asada (JPN)
Silver—Yu-Na Kim (S.Korea)
Bronze—Joannie Rochette (CAN)

Last year Asada took this title, Rochette earned silver, and Kim was out with an injury I think (which brings up another point: why make these athletes risk additional illness or injury when many are trying to gear up for the biggest events of the season at this time of year?? But sorry, I digress…). This year, Asada’s got two triple axels in her FS, Kim’s not letting up the pressure on her end of things, and Rochette has had a mostly stellar season save for a couple of recent baubles on the SP. I’m struggling with the bronze prediction in particular, for I could see Suguri grabbing it, as well as Czisny (cross fingers for some more confidence-building this weekend) or Flatt. But I’m giving it to Rochette because she’s proven she can handle the home-ice pressure—she did so at Skate Canada last fall—and if she can bump up her SP performance to what it was earlier in the season, I think she’ll be a fairly easy choice.

For MEN:

Gold—Nobunari Oda (JPN)
Silver—Jeremy Abbott (USA)
Bronze—Patrick Chan (CAN)

At the risk of sounding like I did when I predicted Weir would win Nationals (wow was this the wrong year for that call!), I think Oda might come into this with more than the average chip on his shoulder. He’s in the midst of a comeback already, and we saw how up for the challenge he was when he won NHK. But does anyone else remember what happened when he competed at 4CCs in 2006? He completely “waxeled” his triple axel, crashed into the boards as he fell, missed at least one other jumping pass, and looked so dazed and confused in some parts of his free skate you just wanted someone to go out there, grab his hand, and lead him off the ice before the music ended. He still managed to win, but only because Matt Savoie-- only ½ a point behind him in the SP-- had an FS meltdown of his own, and there was very little in the way of close competition otherwise (a lot of Olympic-bound skaters skipped the event that year I think).

Anyway—the judges seem to be happy to have Oda back, and as with Chan, like to give him the big presentation points. So I pick him over Chan—the latter with the squirrely triple axel of his own, lately—and put JeremEEE in between them right now because he seems kind of unstoppable at the moment (particularly when there are no French skaters between him and the podium). Kozuka or Lysacek could certainly prove to be worthy spoilers, though…

Clip of the Day is the SP from last year’s winner for the men, Daisuke Takahashi… not sure, but I think he earned his highest SP score of the season with this one. Come back healed and ready to hip-hop, Dice-K… we miss you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Blink and You'll Miss 'Em: 4 CC Pairs/Dance Predictions

There are some things I don’t really get about the Four Continents Championships. Four things, to be exact (she says in an effort to be clever).

Let’s see if I can come up with two before I break out my Magic 8-Ball and make predictions:

1) Shouldn’t they just call it Two Continents (and Two Others Can Come if They Want)?

It’s not that the premise is cloudy; it was established 10 years ago “to provide skaters representing non-European countries with a similar competition to the much older European Championships and a chance to win prize money” (according to Wikipedia). But to date, not one medalist has come from Africa or Australia in any discipline. I suppose it differs from Worlds in that everyone gets to complete the competition—there’s no 24th place cutoff here—but I guess I don’t see why Asia and the Northern half of “the Americas” need another place to flex their muscles. And win most of that coveted “prize money”.

2) Timing, timing… timing?
Apparently the ISU wants to place the event close to Euros… but in doing so, it ends up breathtakingly close to U.S and Canadian Nationals. (And don’t get me started on the monkey wrench it becomes in Olympic years.) In the past, it’s served as “counterprogramming” on ESPN for testosterone-fueled events such as the Super Bowl. But of course, without the ABC/ESPN deal in place it doesn’t show up on TV at all, at least not in the U.S. It’s not that I can think of a better place to have it—I just have to wonder, why have it at all?

All that being said, here are some quick predictions:


Gold—Pang/Tong (CHN)
Silver—Zhang/Zhang (CHN)
Bronze—Duhamel/Buntin (CAN)

The way the top two pairs in China have been competing of late, I almost tossed a coin and called it a day. But I’m convinced Pang & Tong are on a roll with that performance at the Grand Prix Final in December. That, paired with the fact that they won 4CC’s last year (again beating their teammates), and I find myself putting them on top. As for Duhamel/Buntin… I’m still in awe of that gutsy free skate they gave, sliced hand and all, at TEB a couple months ago. I know Dube/Davison is probably favored ahead of them, but I’d like to see Duhamel/Buntin pull an upset.


Gold—Virtue/Moir (CAN)
Silver—Davis/White (USA)
Bronze—Crone/Poirer (CAN)

I admittedly am not being very imaginative here; V/M won it last year and D/W were the runners-up, too. But they’re both still skating great, and I still think they’ll finish in this order. Yes, I know V/M just got back to competition, but did you see their FD at Canadian Nationals? Quite amazing… it very nearly makes me overlook the now-tiresome-instead-of-innovative Pink Floyd music choice ;-)

But Crone/Poirer have been gaining momentum this year in V/M’s absence, and that’s why I see them supplanting Navarro/Bommentre for the bronze this year.

I’ll be back with Singles predictions sometime before they start mid-week. In the meantime, the
Clip of the Day is the free dance I mentioned above.