Sunday, January 24, 2010

U.S. Nationals: Spokane Finals Frenzy!

Talk about spoiled… we get NBC covering skating for three hours yesterday afternoon, 2 more hours in prime time last night… AND 2 more hours for the exhibition this afternoon… AND a prime-time recap (I presume??)/Vancouver preview this evening? Dare I say NBC Sports has tons more on the ball currently than does its entertainment counterpart?! (Freebird, Conan! FREEBIRD!!!!) But I digress…

I haven’t watched the early groups much yet, but here are the notes I made on what I did see yesterday:


+ Belbin/Agosto: twizzles were nice. HATE the new costumes, and I’m kind of irritated by Tanith’s toss-off comment about them (“Well, this IS figure skating”). As I recall, Virtue and Moir did quite well for themselves last year in a very basic black ensemble. Come to think of it, so did Belgosto (the Chopin number, which I continue to miss)! Anyway, they seemed slow to me, but Tracy (Wilson) said they had “excellent delivery”, so what do I know. Oh, wait, here’s what I know: my interest in this number has waned since the early part of the season. Didn’t mind them getting 2nd at all.

+ Navarro/Bommentre: Poor Kim… when she lost her grip on that blade for the twizzles I wonder if she was able to process through all that spinning that they were likely NOT going to stand a chance now for Vancouver. Not that it was that close… at least I’m not sure it made the difference. I liked the story about choosing “One” because it related to their story to stay together for one more year… do wish the choreography had played into the “carry each other” line more. Ah well.

+ Chock/Zuerlin: Not too big of an impression yet; kind of struck me as Davis/White Lite. Senior debut though, so I look forward to more from them.

+ Davis/White: Okay, it’s official—I’m on board the Phantom train now. Very happy they won; it was well-deserved!

+ Samuelson/Bates: I even liked this one better than I did earlier in the season, and they weren’t my pick to make the team originally. Still, Tracy said what I’m still thinking in that this music just doesn’t have the highs and lows to really make it, um… SING.

(Disclaimer: I haven’t yet studied the protocols on any of these yet; if I’m able to find time for it this coming week, I’ll do so. Could be especially interesting this time!)

Caroline Zhang (finishing 11th): I seriously wonder if she’ll quit now; she just looks miserable out there. All. The. TIME.

Alissa Czisny (finishing 10th): Sad that she seemed to give up the program early; it was one of the weakest I’ve seen from her in a while (and if you follow her throughout the year, I’m afraid that’s saying something). Gotta wonder what it would be like if she and Ashley Wagner were roommates; they seem like polar opposites at this point…

Emily Hughes (finishing 9th): Aw, good try, grasshopper. You know… the Hughes seem like a very healthy, strong family, but nonetheless, I don’t envy her place in skating history. Seems like it would be rough to try to make your way in a sport where your sibling happens to have already snagged the most coveted prize… (unless you’re David Jenkins, that is…)
Alexe Gilles (finishing 8th): I was surprised by her lack of steam near the end … doesn’t she train at altitude in Colorado Springs? Still, hope she can overcome that in future years.

Bebe Liang (finishing 7th): Better than I’ve seen her lately; I wonder if she was simply glad not to fall this time? Nice improvement on last year (when she finished 14th). At age 21, is she done? Gotta wonder.

Amanda Dobbs (finishing 6th): Seemed very tired, but I suspect we should stay tuned… between pairs and singles this was a very impressive debut.

Christina “rhymes with WOW” Gao (finishing 5th): Oh dear, she’s getting branded with that FUTURE label already. Don’t let it get to you, Christine! The last one to carry the weight of that on her delicate back was Kimmie Meissner. Nice job, though. Will Brian Orser be a shoo-in for the PSA’s Coach of the Year honor or what??

And then the main attraction (drum roll!!!)

Sasha Cohen (finishing 4th): uh, can we re-rack that drum roll; this couldn’t have been the main attraction…

But all snarkiness aside, I agree with all those that said she showed amazing gumption and fortitude just to show up. Hat’s off to you, La Cohen, but I also agree with Sandra (Bezic)’s comment about not expecting it to be a fairy tale… you can’t just sweep in after four years and expect to slide right on up the road from Spokane to Vancouver (my words, not Sandra’s). Not that Sasha did that intentionally, but without any pesky GP events under her belt, all we (and she) had to draw on was a long-but-not-that-faded history of FS slip-ups. (By the way, did anyone last night mention the injuries that she’d cited earlier in the year? Even with all the mistakes, they seemed long forgotten.

In any event, I was willing to give her the spot if she’d held her own last night among the more challenging programs… thinking (maybe over-thinking again) maybe USFS will want to send a message to the younger girls about their inconsistencies. But I was stunned at how easy Sasha made it for viewers. And her seemingly good attitude about it all. Oh, and did you catch this irony: even if the U.S. had qualified 3 women for Vancouver, she STILL wouldn’t have made the team. My longtime concern was that she’d drum a deserving skater out of a spot, but it wasn’t even close… for her…

Which brings me to Ashley Wagner (finishing 3rd). When you might have missed out on the Olympic team because of an SP fall on a jump you haven’t fallen on in a week’s worth of practices… aaaaugh, what can I say? I loved her spirit, and how excited she was with her performance, and worried that her two-foot landings might be her undoing…
But around 4 points is what separated her final score from Nagasu’s, and about 4 points is what she lost when she took the SP tumble (OK, I DID check the protocols here… base level score on 3Lz is 6 points; she did get 3 points for rotating it but then of course lost the other 3 (plus one more) for the fall). I guess it just isn’t her time yet. *SIGH*

As for Mirai Nagasu and Rachael Flatt: looks like one of the ongoing debates about the New Judging System is already rearing its ugly head, as you can see here. That’s another issue for another post, so I’m not going to dig deep into that mess yet. Maybe later in the week… but for now, I was so happy for both girls. The order in which they should have/DID finish might be debated for a long while, but I think the most important thing is that the two best ladies at this event are going to Vancouver, and I think everyone can probably agree on that.

Can I just say how exciting it was for Nationals, in general, to rise well above the splatfest it has been all to too recently? Suddenly it wasn’t as much about “who made the least mistakes” as it was “who skated lights out”. A pretty nice thing to have happen just a month before the Olympics.


jumping clapping man said...

when rachael finishes far ahead of mirai in vancouver noone will be talking about this finish!

Katrina said...

I'm really annoyed that they're sending Ashley to Junior Worlds. That's such a step down in my opinion. Why didn't they send her to Senior Worlds since she beat Miari in the free skate? Plus, as far as I've heard (haven't seen the breakdowns yet), Ashley wasn't down-graded on three elements?
*sorry being slightly snarky this morning, moronic people (not you!) on the internet bring it out in me*

Kelli Lawrence said...

Yeah, I'm not understanding the Junior Worlds assignment for Ashley either... but when Junior World Champs in general are now being sent back to "defend" that title (as I think happened w/Rippon last year), isn't something amiss? GRRR