Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Move #1 in the Coaches' Square Dance Goes to... Samuelson/Bates

According to my notes, the annual Coaches’ Square Dance (aka "Shuffle") started in early April last year… so you might say we’re off to a late start. But in an Olympic year, how could it be any other way?
Before we get to that first move in the Dance, here are a few other slightly related happenings from the past week:

+ Nominees for annual coaching awards were announced… there are several different ones (including for choreographers) and the details can be found here, but if you’re just curious about Coach of the Year nods, here they are:

Frank Carroll (coach of Evan Lysacek and Mirai Nagasu)
Yuka Sato (coach of Jeremy Abbott)
Jim Peterson (coach of US pairs teams & Olympians Denney/Barrett and Evora/Ladwig)
Igor Shpilband & Marina Zoueva (coach of Virtue/Moir and Davis/White)
Brian Orser (coach of Kim Yu-Na and Adam Rippon)
Saga Krantz (coach of US synchronized skating team The Haydenettes)
Tom Zakrajsek (coach of Rachael Flatt and Ryan Bradley)

I’m no expert in something like this, but in my mind there’s no one else for this year’s award but Brian Orser… not only is he widely credited for culling greatness out of Kim Yu-Na, but hopefully he’s getting equal kudos for helping her keep her focus all the way through Vancouver (for these purposes we’ll just pretend Worlds ’10 didn’t happen, ok?). No easy task there… oh, and somewhere along the way he also happened to steer a breakout season for young Adam Rippon. And if you saw either of his more prominent youngsters recently (S.Korea’s Kwak Min-Jung and USA’s Christina Gao), you know he’s only just getting started.

Well, I think I’ve made my case… the rest of you coaches can go home now. No, wait! Kidding!

First here are some of those other interesting articles…

+ The 2009 winner of Coach of the Year, incidentally, was Tom Zakrajsek… and one of his more prominent current successes, US Ladies Champ Rachael Flatt, answered “Fan Mail” for a pretty lengthy article in the Denver Post last week. No huge revelations to report; she hasn’t chosen a college (though she’s narrowed it to two and may still defer enrollment for at least a year anyway), and she still plans to develop her artistic side more in the coming year… but it’s a fun read, especially if you’re curious how she gets it all done. Trivia bit: you aren’t likely to find her in a long-sleeved skating frock anytime soon; she says with all the TV lights on much of the time it’s actually HOT out there in the arena much of the time!

*** UPDATE*** Actually, Flatt has made a college decision since this article ran... as noted in the comments section, she's going with Stanford.

+ Did you hear the rumor that the aforementioned Mr. Orser was interested in coaching Mao Asada? Thankfully that one was extinguished quickly; as you see here, Orser says Asada’s agent did indeed offer him the job at the end of the season, but he’s not interested. And so the search continues for Asada…

+ I suppose Asada dumping Tarasova counts as the first real move in the Coaches’ Square Dance, but it was such a bygone conclusion for so many of us, I barely think of it as a “move”. This next one, though, is different (and it’s the move I alluded to up at the top of the post): The #3 US ice dance team of Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates is moving up the road… leaving behind longtime coaches Yuri Chesnichenko and Yaroslava Nechaeva, and taking up instead with Igor Shpilband & Marina Zoueva (yet another entry for that Coach of the Year award). Here is one of several articles running about the switch… meanwhile, I just read over at Required Elements that Virtue & Moir have officially decided to continue competing. It’ll be interesting to see if all the teams in the Shpilband/Zoueva stable continue to grow and thrive… I’d hate to think of anyone feeling squeezed out at this point; they’re all so likeable. Hope it all works out.

For the Clip of the Day I found this “vintage” clip of Samuelson/Bates from their Midwestern Sectionals Novice Free Dance… back in 2003, when I believe they were all of 13 and 14!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Should They Stay Or Go: Men on the Frozen Bubble 2010

It occurred to me I’d better post my specs on the men before retirement announcements start to go out over the next few weeks (don’t they have to declare intentions soon so that the GP schedule can be assembled properly?)

Should these five guys stay or go? (in alphabetical order...)

1) Samuel Contesti, b.3/4/83, ITALY

On Senior circuit since: 2004 (I think)

Most significant titles (Wiki): He originally competed for France, then switched to Italy after the 2006-2007 season. He is the 2008-2010 Italian national champion and the 2009 European silver medalist. At the 2009 World Championships, Contesti placed 5th, his best finish to date in that event.

Most recent performances: The second half of the 2008-9 season proved to be a breakout time for Contesti, who must’ve thought his decision to leave France was the best he’d ever made for himself. The past season, though, was something of a backslide: no better than 4th at a GP event, 5th at Europeans, and 18th at the Olympics (though he rebounded a bit with a 7th place finish at Worlds).

Stay or go? GO. I get the feeling he isn’t really done, but I’m thinking about two things: 1) His technique problems, and 2) His age. His inventive skating makes him fun to root for, but he doesn’t seem to have many solid jumps in his repertoire…and at age 27, I suspect he’s already hit his athletic peak. I guess we’ll see.

2) Brian Joubert, b.9/12/84, FRANCE

On Senior circuit since: 2001

Most significant titles (Wiki): He is the 2007 World Champion, a three-time (2004, 2007 & 2009) European champion, a six-time (2003–2008) French National champion, and the 2006 Grand Prix champion.

Most recent performances: As we all know, he had an especially cruel time in Vancouver (finished 16th), which is even more stunning when you consider his world championship consistency-- making the podium 6 out of 7 times since 2004, including a bronze medal finish this year.

Stay or go? STAY… for one more year; maybe two. But not four. Some of the finest skaters of all time have faltered at Olympic time, and Joubert is now a charter member of that club. But he seems determined to stick around a little longer anyway, and has a second World title in his sights. I’m not a big fan of his, but somehow these past two appearances of his have me hoping he can find at least one victorious season—if Florent Amodio doesn’t overtake him, that is. (I DO think Joubert will have to at least pretend to take some of the CoP transitions love to heart in order to get it done. And who knows how willing he might be to play that game?)

3) Kevin van der Perren, b. 8/6/82, BELGIUM

On Senior circuit since: 2002

Most significant titles (Wiki): He is the 2007 & 2009 European bronze medalist and a six time (2000-2004, 2007) Belgian national champion.

Most recent performances:
Up until Worlds last month, van der Perren was having as mediocre a season as he’s ever had, including a 17th place finish in Vancouver (and an unfortunate decision to revive his “skeleton” SP costume). But he rallied like never before in Torino in March, landing the first ever quad/triple toe/triple toe combination and finishing in the top 10.

Stay or go:
GO. Sure, the free skate was a cohesion-less jumping show, but it was the best he had, and he skated it with heart… the way everyone should hope to do. Now he needs to put the period on this sentence and move on. Everyone should be so lucky to go out on a note like that.

4) Tomas Verner, b. 6/3/86, CZECH REPUBLIC

On Senior circuit since: 2002

Most significant titles (Wiki): He is a six-time (2002-2004, 2006-2008) Czech national champion and 2008 European Champion.

Most recent performances: The season started out quite well for Verner with a 2nd place at Trophee Eric Bompard, but somewhere between that high point and a long bout with the flu, he fell apart… losing Nationals to Michal Brezina, coming in 10th at Euros, and crumbling to 19th at the Olympics.

Stay or go: STAY. This is a toughie… I can’t think of another guy in recent memory who fluctuates so insanely and so repeatedly with his placements, yet is so insanely talented as well (he’s still landing a quad through many of these abysmal skates). He’ll only be 24 next season… and obviously he has a fierce challenger in fellow Czech skater Brezina. It won’t be easy for him to climb back, but I truly hope he does. I hate to see him go out this way. But please, Tomas, heed these two words if you haven’t already: SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST.

5) Johnny Weir, b. 7/2/84, USA

On Senior circuit since: 2001

Most significant titles (Wiki): He is a three-time U.S. National Champion (2004–2006), the 2008 Worlds bronze medalist, a two-time Grand Prix Final bronze medalist, and the 2001 World Junior Champion.

Most recent performances: Depends on whether you mean Weir’s skating season or post-skating TV appearances… On the ice, he held fairly steady with the past few years, with his sixth-place finish in Vancouver ultimately more satisfying than his “disappointing” 5th place in Torino. Off the ice, whether in his reality series or his countless appearances on the talk-show circuit, he’s become something of a cult hero.

Stay or go? GO. Or should I say GONE? He claims he won’t leave everyone hanging with his decision, but if he’s already got a release date planned for his long-discussed book, how can he possibly intend to keep competing? And that’s fine… despite his press statement about wanting to work on his technique in the off-season (I’m paraphrasing), I think he peaked a few years back as an athlete. As a celebrity? Time will tell.

I couldn’t find Verner’s FS from 2008 Euros, but here is his SP as the Clip of the Day. He upset Joubert for the win that year. Who’d have guessed they’d both be scraping the bottom of the Vancouver barrel a mere two years later?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mr. Weir Does NOT Go To Washington With The Other Olympians... But What About That Book of Essays?

So you probably heard Johnny Weir is writing a book.

Actually, if you’ve read any of his interviews in the past couple of years, you probably heard that a long time ago. But gee, one little Tweet from him a couple weeks back—

Book meetings! Get ready and brace yourselves.

And BOOM… the publishing world was all a’Twitter (pun only partially intended).

So maybe the real news is that Weir already has a publisher, and consequently a deal… and even a release date, according to
this AP release that appears in USA Today. His “collection of wildly entertaining anecdotes” is supposed to hit shelves next January. Which means his book is already moving much, much faster than mine! But then again, he’s Johnny… and I’m certainly not.

I’m just a silly writer who wants to spoof him a little bit, so here we go…


5) All Things A-Cyrillic: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Inner Russian Diva

4) A Word to the Wise… A Little Black Aura is Nothing, and I Mean Nothing, Like A Little Black Dress

3) Fur and Cow Leather and Spandex, Oh My! Why I No Longer Give a Crap

2) “Weir Eye For the Skater Guy”, and Other Lame Attempts From The Media to Label Me… Get Over It, Darlings, I’m Your Teflon Nightmare.

And #1…
The Pain of Kicking One’s Own Ass with One’s Own Skate Blade… or, Why I’ve Loved Dallas Since the 2003 Disaster.

Olympians Day At the White House

For whatever reason, Weir was not one of the Olympians gathered in Washington D.C. today to meet President and Michelle Obama. Neither was Lysacek, who of course barely has time these days to eat a sandwich. But the Tweets were a-flying from those that DID go… here’s a quick summary of some of the skaters’ experiences:

jeremyabbottpcf In DC reuniting with the Olympians. Hoping to meet the Prez!

RachaelFlatt I am ecstatic right now! I cannot wait to meet Mr. and Mrs. Obama today at the White House! :)

Ben_Agosto On the way to the White House with Olympic and Paralympic teams! I'm so excited!

Ben_Agosto 2nd security check point!

RachaelFlatt just met the president, mrs. obama, and the bidens!!!!!!!! soooo cool

Meryl_Davis At the white house with the rest of team USA. The first lady is a hugger, so sweet!

jeremyabbottpcf Ok 4 not wanting 2 go due 2 exhaustion I thoroughly enjoyed myself! So humbling and inspiring to shake the hand of the leader of our nation!

TanithJLB Dunno which was better:Meeting the President & have him tell me I have a beautiful name/Seeing @CharlieAwhite 's face when they shook hands

Evan_Bates Hugged Michelle Obama today. Shook Barack's hand. He wanted one too but I was like, "Easyyyy prez, why don't you buy me dinner first?"

TanithJLB After a series of speeches from Senators and Congressmen,the room full of athletes finally quiets down when a vid msg from Colbert pops up!

RachaelFlatt @TanithJLB Was it because Colbert sponsored speedskating? Can we get Team Coco to sponsor figure skating????

RachaelFlatt to bed. NOT. still hanging with Team USA ! But wish I was spending the night in the Lincoln bedroom! LOL!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Should They Stay or Go: Ladies on the Frozen Bubble 2010

Over at USA right now they are conducting their annual “Save Our Shows” survey—a chance for readers to cast a vote for or against a TV series that is deemed on the bubble by middling Nielsen ratings. It’s not any sort of vote that most likely makes a real difference, but it’s always interesting to see how the poll numbers stack up against the network decisions.

It’s probably only due to the timing of it all that I draw any sort of parallel between a TV show and a figure skater’s career. How can they really be compared? With an athlete like this we’re always talking about one that is already a proven success on some level—I hesitate to say the same about CBS’ Miami Medical (one of the “bubble” shows). Some series in the poll have already been around several years and have arguable run their course, and that’s indeed the real question behind these skaters—are their best years behind them, and if so, why continue? But when a TV show ends, a team of actors, writers and producers breaks up and dissipates… but those worth their salt tend to turn up on another “team” sooner or later, be it in television, films, theater, or even industrials.

On the other hand, when an elite skater decides their amateur career is at an end… especially a singles skater who never quite reached the heights they might have hoped for… I can only imagine it’s a much deeper, more personal kind of “breaking up”. And the options available for turning up elsewhere in the skating world are decidedly fewer.

Having said all that, here come five names you’ve likely heard by now… should they stay or should they go?

NOTE: I was hoping to add a poll over in the left margin—a “which one of these five do you want to STAY the most” sort of thing—but I’ve never done a poll and can’t figure out how to do it. I thought it was a “gadget” I could add, but that doesn’t seem to be working. If any of you can help with that, let me know via a comment or
email and we’ll get it going… thanks.

1) Carolina Kostner, b. 2/8/87, ITALY

On Senior circuit since: 2003

Most significant titles (Wikipedia): She is the
2008 World silver medalist, the 2005 World bronze medalist, the 2007, 2008 and 2010 European champion and the 2007-08 & 2008-09 Grand Prix Final Bronze Medalist.

Most recent performances: Finished a demoralizing 16th at 2010 Winter Olympics, but rebounded to finish 6th at Worlds one month later (though it was an admittedly weak field).

Stay or Go? STAY.
Though I don’t care for her skating much, I’d hate to think her Worlds finish was enough of a high note for her to end a career on—especially when word on the street is that she could train a LOT harder than she has in the past. And as the youngest lady on this list, I’d like to see her hunker down like she never has before, and give it at least one more year.

2) Sarah Meier, b.5/4/84, SWITZERLAND

On Senior circuit since: 2001

Most significant titles (Wiki):
She is the 2007 & 2008
European Silver medalist, the 2006-2007 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist and an eight-time (2000–2001, 2003, 2005–2008, 2010) Swiss national champion.

Most recent performances: After coming in a disappointing 15th in Vancouver (she finished 8th in Torino), she skated so poorly in the SP at Worlds she failed to qualify for the finals, plummeting from a 9th place finish in ’09 to 26th in ’10.

Stay or Go?
This is the hardest one of the five for me. I DO enjoy her skating, and looked forward to the time when she’d at least crack the top 5 at Worlds if not earn a medal. But she will be 26 next season… and has been plagued with injuries for the past several years. If you saw the fall she took on her lutz at Worlds, and the pain she appeared to skate in thereafter, maybe you understand why I gently advise her to GO… the pain ain’t worth it. (Plus, I couldn’t help but notice Switzerland’s got a pretty good up-and-comer in 20 year-old Bettina Haim, and Meier could be de-throned next year anyway.)

I know—I just said Kostner should leave on a better note than the one she left this season, and arguably Meier should too. But I think there’s a big difference between not doing your best because you aren’t working hard enough, and because your body is fighting you tooth and nail. Especially when you’re in your mid-twenties, not your mid-teens.

3) Julia Sebestyen, b. 5/14/81, HUNGARY

On Senior circuit since: 1998

Most significant titles (Wiki): She is the 2004
European Champion and 2002-2010 Hungarian national champion. At the 2004 European Figure Skating Championships, she became the first Hungarian woman to win the European title. She is also 4-time olympic team member of Hungary.

Most recent performances:
Though she earned bronze at the most recent Skate America, she only came in 17th and 15th at 2010 Olympics and Worlds (respectively).

Stay or Go?
Her best Worlds finish (6th) was in 2004; her best Olympics (8th) were 2002. I say GO, and for heaven’s sake, get a book written about your experiences being in FOUR different Olympics—what a journey! (And by the way, Julia… if you speak any English… I’d be happy to help you write that book :-) )

4) Fumie Suguri, b. 12/31/80, JAPAN

On Senior circuit since: 1997 (GASP... and you thought 1998 was long)

Most significant titles (Wiki): She is a five-time
Japanese National Champion, a three-time World Championship medalist, a three-time Four Continents Champion and the 2003-2004 Grand Prix Final Champion.

Most recent performances: Doing no better than 7th in an admittedly deep field at Japanese Nationals, Suguri failed to make either the Olympic or World team in 2010.

Stay or Go? GO! Go NOW!
I once heard Suguri imply in an interview what so many athletes must feel for a substantial part of their career—that she doesn’t really know what she’d do with herself if she didn’t train and compete every year. But I’m afraid she’s approaching “professional student” status now (the same status I think I once applied to U.S. skater John Baldwin Jr.). I thought after this year she’d finally bow out, but according to
this article, she plans on continuing at least until 2011 Worlds (in Japan) if she can secure sponsorship. But sad as it would be, I kind of hope the sponsors don’t come through. Suguri’s already secured her place in Japanese skating history… and she needs to move on.

5) Akiko Suzuki, b. 3/28/85, JAPAN

On Senior circuit since: 2002

Most significant titles (Wiki): She is the 2010
Japanese national silver medalist, the 2010 Four Continents silver medalist, the 2009 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist and the 2007 Winter University Games Champion.

Most recent performances: After really coming alive in the first half of the season, Suzuki made the Olympic and World team for the first time ever—finishing 8th and 11th, respectively.

Stay or Go? STAY. As those who’ve heard her story know by now, Suzuki’s career truly stalled when her battles with anorexia plagued her training for several years. It wasn’t until she earned a surprise silver at 2008 NHK Trophy that her name really surfaced on the radar internationally. As hard as she’s worked to kick her disorder demons to the curb, I’d really love to see her stay in for at least one more season.

For the
Clip of the Day I’m going with Meier; just not sure if I’ve featured her lately. This is her 6th place-finishing FS from 2008 Worlds, and if anyone out there is familiar with the artist on this piece (Tokuhide Nimi), please let me know as Pandora claims ignorance. It’s a unique and lovely piece to skate to, and while no blockbuster, definitely one of Meier’s best.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Coming S.O.T.S. Attractions

This is the third post-season the blog has endured, and it’s always a strange time in April—like sitting in an arena when it’s pulsing with activity and excitement, and still sitting there after it clears out in record time. But it’s my first time for doing the blog in an Olympic season, so the contrast is even more profound.

The lovely noise was sustained for weeks and weeks; my ears continue to ring as a result. They perk up a little every Monday, as Dancing with the Stars puts Lysacek through his paces. They stay tuned for Johnny Weir’s next sound bite. They burn at the news of this team’s breakup, that team’s coaching switch, the Surprise Retirement, and the not as surprising Taking a Break from Competition.

But even these nuggets become few and far between during most off-seasons, so it’d be easy to say our collective ears become enveloped in a certain kind of silence between now and October. How can that be true, though, when we love a sport as musical as this one? Firebird can involuntarily flood my brain at any given time, after all.

So don’t worry—there’s plenty to talk about. Here’s a sampling of what you might see around here in the next several months (be sure to speak up if something in particular strikes your fancy):

+ More from POGGS (Post Olympic-Grad Skating School)
+ More SOI Twitter updates
+ Class of ’10 Awards, which will include Olympic AND Worlds happenings
+ The Reruns… re-visiting each major competition of the past season and studying how each result shaped the season to come
+ More about my book Skating on Air (have you become a fan of it on Facebook yet?)
+ Notes about the Universal Sports “studio coverage” of Worlds (the one hosted by Peter Carruthers)…
+ And, for those still interested, notes about the Universal studio show that ran during the Olympics (the one hosted by Terry Gannon)
+ My 2nd annual State of the Skate Address (ooh, aahh)
+ Should they stay or should they go? Debates
+ News about the skaters you know
+ News about the skaters you may not know
+ 2010 Grand Prix assignments

And of course, much much more… even vintage stuff like this. Stick around...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tweets From the SOI Tour: East Coast Edition

While for now I cheerfully remain one of the world’s non-Tweeters (aka one who posts things via Twitter), I enjoy the little window it provides on those of the elite skating world. So just as I posted collections of Tweets from U.S. Nationals and Olympics… I now offer up this collection from three skaters currently working the Stars on Ice tour (and three that are among the more prolific)… it’s pretty interesting to get a little sense of their personalities via these limited character posts.

I throw in the occasional commentary, in italics.

EVAN LYSACEK…the hardest-working skater in show business

· Crazy couple days. Taking a redeye to DC tonight for stars on ice. Can't wait to skate again!!
9:05 PM Apr 7th
(This came shortly after confirmation that he’s moved on to the next round of DWTS…)

· My fingers are crossed that I can get some sleep on this flight. I'm in dire need.
10:20 PM Apr 7th
· Just arrived in DC. There was a cute baby on our flight.
3:48 AM Apr 8th
(I’m wondering if that was code for “I didn’t get ANY sleep on that flight”)

· Eating honey nut cheerios for dinner on the bus. So ready for a few hrs of sleep!
7:47 PM Apr 8th
(So, um, how long do y’all think Evan can keep this up? He’s an Olympic Gold Medalist but he’s not Superman…)

· Just arrived in NY. Off to training.
about 14 hours ago
(… or IS he?!?!)

JEREMY ABBOTT… the relative rookie

· @
Meryl_Davis and I just had a Disney sing-a-long moment through Tampa security. She's such a princess!
· For those non believes... This was pure spontaneous, unprovoked, real life between @
Meryl_Davis and myself! 5:12 AM Apr 5th
(If you follow Jeremy with any regularity of late, you already know that he and Meryl Davis seem to hang out together quite a bit…)

· It's an amazing day outside! Going to have lunch with @
meryl_davis in SOHO! :) 10:18 AM Apr 6th

· Leaving NYC! I had tons of fun with @
Meryl_Davis and all my local friends! Miss you guys! :) 1:15 PM Apr 7th
(He’s still in good spirits at this point…)

· Delayed in NJ :( I wanna get in bed already! I wish I could wiggle my nose and be in DC!
4:07 PM Apr 7th

· I'm tweeting sweet nothings at @
Meryl_Davis :) 6:47 PM Apr 7th via Echofon

· I hate not being able to sleep! I gotta put on a great show for you all tomorrow! It is of course all for you! :)
10:52 PM Apr 7th
(Where art thou good spirits…)

· Todd Eldridge and @
mirai_nagasu are separated by a @CharlieaWhite in age! @Meryl_Davis is credited for this discovery! 4:01 PM Apr 9th
(I just found this pretty hilarious, so I’m including it)

· I hate this freaking bus! I can't sleep at all and I'm starting to get really pissed off!!!
about 16 hours ago
(Good spirits apparently missed the bus and haven't caught up yet)

· In East Rutherford, New Jersey. I am sore, tired, hungry, and cranky! Hopefully I will be full and caffeinated by show time!
about 6 hours ago
(Ah, the glamorous life!)

· I dropped it like it was hot tonight... Maybe a little too hot! (I split my pants!)
about 2 hours ago
(Well that sounds like a turn for the better…hee)

BEN AGOSTO… the laid-back one

· Sitting here watching @
Jeremyabbotpcf tweet at @Meryl_davis while sitting next to each other...cute 4:48 AM Apr 5th

· Bumming around nyc check out this view from IMG's new office! 9:33 AM Apr 6th via UberTwitter
(Sweet! If his photo links still work from here, that is)

· Ohhhh yes!!!! Heavan in burger format :) 11:59 AM Apr 6th via UberTwitter

· My world is crumbling!! When did elmo grow to be the same size as cookie monster?!!! 6:24 AM Apr 7th
(Darn steroids…)

· We have the coolest driver today for our media... He's a 60 y/o Asian man who just answered his phone, "yo!"
9:25 AM Apr 7th

(How bizarre... I had a similar driver for MY media!!)

· Don't make me angry...I have a very hard head! 1:22 PM Apr 7th via UberTwitter
(Yeah, right… I think Jeremy did that, not Ben)

It’ll be interesting to see how the ups and downs even out… or don’t… as the tour makes its way across the country over the next 6 weeks. While the bunk-on-the-bus thing surely gets old quickly, I’d like to think everyone on tour is able to adapt in fairly short order. I’ll try to post an SOI update in a week or two.

For the
Clip of the Day I’ve got the “Bleeding Love” number from the Belgosto catalog… this was from last season of SOI; not sure if it’s still part of the show but they were using it back at the Nationals Gala in January. I’ve heard some say this program is more “pure Tanith and Ben” than any of their recent competitive work… Hmmm.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Post-Olympic Grad Skating School is Back in Session... Group 2, Pairs Free Skate

Today, I’ll pick up where I left off on
March 17, sharing notes I made when watching back the early groups of pairs from their Vancouver free skate. Not everyone in this batch went to Worlds this year, but if they did, I included their Worlds placement as well.

Again, let me know if you took a look at/had thoughts on any of these…

Vanessa James/Yannick Bonheur, France (ages 22/27)-- looking better than average here skating to one of the updated Romeo & Juliets… pretty powerful, nice throws! And lifts! Really good skate for them… unfortunately their last spin netted them zero points (called “non valid”) so they didn’t score as highly as they could… but it wouldn’t have pulled them past #13 (Denney/Barrett) who were quite a bit ahead of them.

Anais Morand/Antoine Dorsaz, Switzerland (ages 17/21)-- kind of strange. Skated to Once Upon a Time in America, but what was the tan plaid suspender look all about? Several hiccups in jumps & throws.

Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov, Russia (ages 17/23 and I badly want to nickname them Bazanovva):
Skated to 7 Years in Tibet… really nice carry lift… good spins & interesting spirals… throw jumps are weak right now.

Tatiana Volosozhar/Stanislav Morozov, UKR-- (ages 23/31) I've decided Morozov looks more like a linebacker (football) than pairs skater; maybe Volosozhar did too, for they have split since Vancouver and she's now paired with Maxim Trankov. Anyway, these two seemed to have a fair amount of power and cohesion, but I’m just plain uncomfortable watching him in particular… here, he blew the back end of their first SBS jumping pass and I wondered about the rest of the performance—though it turned out OK for the most part. Their throw 3salchow was especially lovely. Considering the “yikes” factor at seeing those electric blue, superhero unitards from their SP, I’ll pray that the new pairing of Volosohzar/Trankov breeds better costume instincts.
FINISHED 8th at Olympics.

Nicole Della Monica /Yannick Kocon, ITA—(ages 20/23) Skated to The Mission in Cornflower blue… really nice 2 axel SBS sequence… seems to have good speed but some little mistakes throughout I think.
FINISHED 12th at Olympics.

I think the next time I run a session of POGSS I’ll move on to feature the lower groups of the Vancouver Men’s Final… unless I get a request for something else, that is.

For the
Clip of the day we’ve got James/Bonheur’s free skate from this year’s Euros… this is still listed at Wikipedia as their season’s best score. It’s not without big flaws—he fell out of an SBS jump, and she fell off her edge on their first attempt at the death spiral, creating one of those messy moments where they had to let the music catch up while they recovered. But their SBS 3salchows, their throws, and their overall presentation is pretty impressive.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

All the Skating News Fit For One Post

Stars on Ice, Toes needing ice, Russian pairs shake-up, and a New skating resource-- they're all part of the skating news of this past week...

Smucker’s Stars on Ice 2010 is underway. Less than a week after Worlds’ conclusion, the greatest (and only) show of its kind on U.S. ice kicked off its spring tour in Florida on April 1… and will wind along the east coast most of this month, hit the Midwest through mid-May, and spend the last 10 days on the west side of the country. The cast changes from town to town, but the “master list” includes champs from the ‘90s (Eldredge, Sato), the first half of the ‘00s (Weiss, Cohen), and of course several more current “stars”, including 5 medalists from Vancouver (Shen/Zhao, Pang/Tong, Rochette, Davis/White, and Lysacek on non-Dancing dates). Will you be going? Find out more about the tour here.

Lysacek’s now dancing broken-toe-to-broken-toe. Speaking of the current hardest working skater in show business, he’s already working at a disadvantage. Word got out this week (first via his own Tweets, and then through mentions
like this) that the reigning OGM now suffers from not one, but two broken toes… which has got to feel freaking FANTASTIC when he spends the bulk of his time either in skates or learning the quick-step. How long will he be able to continue at this pace? Guess we should start by seeing how he does on his third round of DWTS tomorrow night.

Muk/Trank is now just Muk again. They said it couldn’t last, and, in fact, Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov (of Russia) might have sustained their stormy pairs relationship a lot longer than expected. But as of this week, Trankov has gone his own way… and Mukhortova (as well as coach Oleg Vasiliev) is on the lookout for a few partner. The couple finished 4th at Worlds and 7th in Vancouver…

And I was about to add that he might consider Tatiana Volosozhar, as her partner Stanislav Morozov recently retired… but it appears it’s already happened. According to Volosozhar’s Wikipedia listing (with a Russian newspaper listed as the source):

In March 2010, Morozov retired from competitive skating. Volosozhar moved to
Moscow to train with Maxim Trankov with a view to representing Russia. Nina Mozer became the new pair's coach with Morozov as assistant coach.

So… how does “Volo/Trank” grab you?? Guess they’d been planning that one for a while. I’ll definitely look to see what the new team can accomplish by the fall… and as for Ms. Mukhortova, I hope she can find someone to suit her needs. No small task, given what must surely be a stormy reputation by now.

My Skating Mall is good to go. And finally, former US men’s competitor (and 2003 World Team member) Ryan Jahnke wrote me again to let me know his latest endeavor, the place for “gently used” skater’s gear known as, officially “opened for business” late last month (sorry it took me an extra week to get it posted, Ryan!) He also asked me to remind you that 5% to 90% of every purchase raises money for the skating club or team of the buyer and seller. Skating groups can benefit from every purchase and sale their members make… so go check it out.

For the
Clip of the day I’ve got Muk/Trank’s gold medal-winning free skate at 2009 Trophee Eric Bompard. It was their only significant international victory as senior pair skaters, and it really had me thinking they might have an exceptional Olympic season… but as we now know, it was not to be. So long, you two. I’ll miss saying “Muk/Trank”, it had such a nice ring to it…