Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mens' Figure Skating Predictions for Vancouver

Before I talk about the men’s event—which doesn’t start till Tuesday, mind you, but with pairs immediately ahead of it I don’t think I’ll have any time to make predictions after today—a few words about yesterday’s coverage:

I suppose it says something odd about the world today to admit that I first heard about Nodar Kumaritashvili’s tragic death via some Twitter postings of fellow Olympians (I was working at the computer, but hadn’t checked a headline page in some time). Of course, the remainder of the day’s Olympic coverage was sadly galvanized by the accident at Whistler, as it needed to be. But the media—NBC in particular—had a tough call to make right out of the box: do you show the video of the young luger’s accident just because you have it available? And if so, how much do you show it? Once? Five times? When do you go to still shots leading up to the accident instead? When do you stop alluding to it visually altogether?

For those of you that caught any of the coverage, I’d be interested in how well (or poorly) you thought it was handled. As a figure skating fan, it lead me to thoughts of our most frightening accident in recent memory (Totmianina/Marinin at 2004 Skate America). That one’s been played and re-played for years now, but I think it’s done with a certain level of comfort (if you can call it that) because a narrator can assure viewers ‘it’s okay, she made a full recovery and they even went on to win Olympic gold’.

Sadly, no one will be able to say that about Kumaritashvili. So even as the video clip hit the news late yesterday, everyone watching it did so knowing they were watching someone in the final moments of his life. Did you watch? Did you look away?

For what it’s worth, I thought NBC did a fair job with the video. On Nightly News with Brian Williams, where I was watching, they gave at least two “warnings” that the accident was extremely difficult to watch, referencing the audible gasps that had erupted when Olympic audiences caught sight of the video replays. I tend to think that’s adequate… I don’t necessarily think it’s NBC’s job to “protect” it’s viewers by yanking video they don’t think we can handle. But I also think it’s been shown enough now… still photos leading up to the accident, maybe, but that’s it. And that’s just me. How about you?

MEN’S PREDICTIONS….

You’ve heard this before but it bears repeating: this field is OCEAN DEEP.

But Evgeny Plushenko remains the captain of this ship. Or does he…?

Here are the notes I jotted down today about the ones I consider to be the top 9 contenders, in alphabetical order. My apologies in advance when my personal biases for or against a given athlete show up…

+ Jeremy Abbott, USA… Age: 24… Injuries: none known… Has a Quad? Yes… 2-time (and current) U.S. champion.
Free Skate Music: Symphony #3 (Saint-Saens)
PROS: Very loose and relaxed style, gorgeous dance quality to work, skating VERY well of late
CONS: Still fairly new to the international scene, had consistency issues early in the season, hasn’t yet turned in a good Worlds appearance

+ Patrick Chan, Canada… Age: 19… Injuries: muscle tear early in season… Has a quad? Says yes but won’t compete with it… World silver medalist, 2009.
Free Skate Music:
Phantom of the Opera
PROS: Insanely good artistry, home crowd support, cops an attitude nicely
CONS: No quad, questionable triple axel, youngest of top guys… will he be regarded as “the future”?

+ Brian Joubert, France… Age: 25… Injuries: had emergency foot surgery a few months back… Has a quad? Yep; probably two… 2007 World Champion.
Free Skate Music: Ancient Lands
PROS: Takes risks, lots of power, wants gold baaadly
CONS: Minimal artistry, maximum ego, tends to give up a little when not skating perfectly

+ Stephane Lambiel, Switzerland… Age: 24… Injuries: knees (recurring)… Quad? Yes… 2006 Olympic Silver Medalist; 2-time World Champion.
Free Skate Music:
La Traviata
PROS: Incredible spins and footwork, great stylist, very musical
CONS: No triple axel, not much time on the scene this year, jumps have become inconsistent

+ Evan Lysacek, USA… Age: 24… Injuries: Had a stress fracture in toe last year… Quad? Due to the toe injury, no…2009 World Champion.
Free Skate Music: Scheherazade

PROS: Handles pressure well, very consistent, proven winner on world stage
CONS: Poor axel technique that often gets him in trouble… arm movements are often described as “windmilling” or “flailing” (neither is good for the artistry mark)… may not have enough technically to win.

+ Nobunari Oda, Japan… Age: 22… Injuries: None known… Quad? Maybe (is training one; not sure if he’ll use it)… 2008 Japanese Champion.
Free Skate Music: Chaplin medley
PROS: Great jumps (lands with very soft knees!), delightful choreography, very entertaining
CONS: Historically peaks early in season, tends to “pop” (single) the 2nd triple axel in program, doesn’t always think well on his feet

+ Evgeny Plushenko, Russia… Age: 27… Injuries: knees (recurring)… Quad? Yes, will likely do two…2006 Olympic Gold Medalist, 3-time World Champion
Free Skate Music: Tango Amore
PROS: Outstanding jumper, crazy consistency, extremely driven
CONS: Very average on numerous other elements (spins, footwork, etc.), mammoth ego shows unflatteringly in performances, severely overrated at this point

+ Daisuke Takahashi, Japan… Age: 23… Injuries: had knee surgery in ’08… Quad? Yes… 2007 World Silver Medalist.
Free Skate Music: La Strada

PROS: Awesome all-around quality, very musical, killer choreography
CONS: Not sure he’s had a clean skate all year; could still be returning to form after a year out (due to the surgery)

+ Johnny Weir, USA… Age: 25… Injuries: none known… Quad? Doubt it… 2008 World Bronze Medalist.
Free Skate Music: Fallen Angels
PROS: Nice technical quality, passionate competitor, gives memorable quotes
CONS: Hasn’t progressed much (artistically or technically) since Torino, seems more interested in fame than in winning, historically makes excuses when skating poorly

And to think I haven’t even mentioned the dark horses! Tomas Verner (Czech Republic) finished 4th at last year’s Worlds. Samuel Contesti (Italy) was a surprise 5th. Takahiko Kozuka (Japan) ended up 6th… Denis Ten (Kazakhstan) took 8th, and he was only 15 when he did so! I haven’t put them in the front pack simply because they’ve all lagged behind the others so far this season… but any of these four could be in the mix too.

But… assuming they’re not… I have two sets of predictions here.

Who I’d LIKE TO SEE on the podium, based on what I’ve seen this year:

Gold—Takahashi
Silver—Oda
Bronze—Abbott


And who I THINK WILL ACTUALLY BE on the podium:

Gold—Plushenko
Silver—Joubert
Bronze—Lysacek


We’ll see how things shake out when the action gets underway Tuesday!

Remember, pairs short program tomorrow night… on Valentine’s Day, as NBC is sure not to let you forget. I plan to post my notes ASAP after the event’s end.

3 comments:

Laura said...

This rundown is great, as usual! Particular highlights for me:
Chan: "cops an attitude nicely"
Joubert: "Minimal artistry, maximum ego"
heh, agreed.

Your podium prediction definitely makes sense. I would so love to see Takahashi and Abbott medal too (and even Oda - wonder what the quad situation really is there?). Their programs this season are just superb. Abbott's short may be my absolute favorite of the year. They are such wild cards, though! I have no idea what to expect this week.

Robin Agnew said...

I thought the coverage of the luge accident was OK but I do't think they needed the closeup of his face with the ventilator or whatever it was. But I thought overall it was reasonably tasteful though I feel bad that anyone in his family might have seen it.

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