Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Parellel Universe of IndyCar Racing and ISU Figure Skating

The reason I wanted to post about Indy 500 today (other than the fact that I was there) was because I see a lot of similarities in IndyCar racing and figure skating. My husband is about as passionate about racing between April and October as I am between October-March when it comes to skating, so while I’m fairly late to the party, I’ve become a keen observer of it. Among the things I’ve noticed:

+ Both are generally considered “niche sports” with a passionate, dedicated following.
+ Both attract athletes from around the world.
+ Both hit their mainstream stride in the 1960s and ‘70s, when…
+ Both were routinely getting TV time by way of ABC. (And, well, at least one of them still is)
+ Both have taken big hits in viewership over the past 15 years (for different reasons, but political at heart)
+ BUT… both seem to be on the comeback trail.
+ One more thing they have in common… while no one likes to admit it… any given event gets more interesting when disaster strikes. Whether it’s an ugly car crash or a disarming fall in the free skate, we kind of perk up on those “uh-oh”s.

And as I mentioned yesterday, even the best-known personalities in racing bear certain similarities to their bladed counterparts…

Dario Franchitti (2-time Indy 500 winner as of today) is like… Evan Lysacek
Because he’s proven he can peak at the best times, because he minds his manners most of the time, and because he’s not afraid to show off his super-attractive better half (for Lysacek that includes girlfriends Tanith Belbin and Nastia Liukin; for Franchitti that would be his wife, actor Ashley Judd.

Helio Castroneves (3-time Indy 500 winner who came in 9th today) is like… Kim Yu-Na
Because he’s a crazyfierce and successful competitor, because he’s omnipresent in his sport’s “world”, and because he’s multi-talented (Yu-Na sings as well as skates; Castroneves won Dancing with the Stars a few years ago).

Scott Dixon (2008 Indy 500 winner who came in 5th today) is like… Daisuke Takahashi
Because he keeps his name out of the headlines, except when it’s unavoidable because he’s won something… because he’s always a quiet force to be reckoned with in any event… and because if drivers could execute quadruple flips in competition, Dixon would probably be the one to attempt it without any grandstanding, just as Dice-K did!

Tony Kanaan (frequent lap leader at Indy 500 who has not yet won here; came in 11th today) is like…Michelle Kwan
Well, at least he is around here. Kanaan has won countless other races since becoming a part of the IndyCar series in 2002… and has looked many times like he was destined to win here in Indy… but it still hasn’t happened. (His best finish was 2nd, in 2004.) And like Kwan, he’s extremely personable and draws on his sense of humor more than most. Maybe that’s why he’s so beloved in this town.

And Danica Patrick (first woman to win an IndyCar race and first woman to take the lead at the Indy 500, though she hasn’t yet won… came in 6th today) is like… Johnny Weir
No, this isn’t in reference to their diva tendencies, or their mutual interest in fashionable shoes… I’m thinking more about their respective statuses as media darlings who tend to make more headlines for what they do while away from their sport. Oh, and the fact that they both had quick success upon entering the “senior” level of what they do, but haven’t really maintained it. Dang, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe Johnny IS Danica! Maybe that’s what’s revealed on those online Go Daddy spots in which she’s always featured…

Speaking of Weir… I went to see if his single “Dirty Love” is visible via You Tube yet, and I found
this … have you ever seen it? It’s Weir singing something called “Ice Shadows” in Russian. Yes, he can sing… how remarkably? I'll let you be the judge.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Watching the Indy 500 Sunday? Read On...

Just wanted to give a heads-up to any skating fans around the world who also happen to follow the IndyCar series...

Since I'll be one of the hundreds of thousands in attendance at the Indianapolis 500, I'm hoping to write a post tomorrow night (if I'm not too exhausted from walking to and from the track!) doing a little compare/contrast on these two sports... and I'm giving some thought to which drivers share certain qualities with notable skaters. Does Helio Castroneves have more in common with Evan Lysacek than Dancing with the Stars? Who shares Tony Kanaan's streak of hard luck? Or Danica Patrick's temper?

Let's talk about it tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the coverage of the race on ABC; I'll be sitting squarely between turn 1 and turn 2 :-)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

2009 Trophee Eric Bompard Revisited, Part 2

In doing these Closer Looks at the past season’s events, I’m hoping to take one part of each event and study the judges’marks closer to look for downgrades, edge calls, levels of difficulty, etc. This time around, I went right to the ladies’ free skate. But before we get to that—just a few notes about the ice dance:

+ There was quite a bit of shifting in placement between the different parts of competition, at least as far as the non-podium finishers go… in fact, Navarro/Bommentre managed to outskate Samuelson/Bates in the OD when Bates faltered on his twizzle sequence. (Sam/Bates finished ahead of N/B overall—by 8 points or so.)

+ And there was quite a bit of costume changing between TEB and the second half of the season-- particularly for Emily Samuelson, who was sporting “Daisy Duke” shorts for the OD back in October but eventually changed to her red, short-sleeved number with the big cut-out on the back. (This of course left Sinead Kerr with sole Daisy Dukes honors for the remainder of the season.) Samuelson was also in her lavender outfit for the FD; she went to a gold dress by the end of the season (not sure if Bates had to change his costume as well). And Tessa Virtue was still twirling her long, heavy-looking black skirt in the flamenco OD (she eventually went with the slightly shorter red one, as seen in Vancouver).

+ It’s also worth noting that the lifts undertaken by the Kerrs seemed to draw bigger responses in Paris than the ones by Virtue/Moir (including the awesome inverted one near the end of the OD). Could it have been a bit of European influence…?

And as for the LADIES:
Do you remember the lineup? It was highlighted by the unusual, early-season meeting of Kim Yu-Na and Mao Asada, which in fact overshadowed any other competitors. Yukari Nakano was there… Carolina Kostner… Kiira Korpi… Elene Gedevanishvili… any memories triggering? Any at all?

Take heart; you’re not the only one. Save for a triple flip that she opted to skate right through, Yu-Na was stunningly sharp and clean when competing in Paris last October. In contrast, however, were her competitors:

+ Asada, who went only one-for-three with clean triple axels in Paris and ended up falling on, of all things, a double axel
+ Nakano, who had problems with her free skate
+ Korpi, who only attempted TWO triples and neither was clean
+ Kostner, who had hands down on two triples, fell on a downgraded triple lutz, doubled another, and did a waxel that wasn’t even enough of an effort to call a waxel (how about a Wa-??)
+ Gedevanishvili, who proved she’d be a fairly formidable competitor if she could only jumpstart her content… a triple lutz, subpar 3T/3T, two triple salchows (falling on one), and spins, steps and spirals that all hover around “level 2” just aren’t quite enough.

Anyway, throw in four lesser-known skaters, including the USA’s Alexe Gilles and Caroline Zhang (neither of whom skated clean in the FS, though Gilles managed the 4th best SP of the event, and pulled down “level 4”’s on all her free skate spins as well)…

And not only do you see why Yu-Na won, and won BIG… she looked positively unstoppable in Paris. The fact that there wasn’t much “traffic” probably helped. I mean, how else could one omit an entire jumping pass from the program and still pull in a score well over 200 points?

Sorry if I’ve featured this one before, but for the
Clip of the Day here is Yu-Na’s exhibition skate to Rhianna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” from the TEB Gala. Quite fun!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Let the Reruns Begin: 2009 Trophee Eric Bompard Revisited (Part 1)

Before the week is out, we will have a new American Idol (Lee or Crystal?), a new Mirrorball Trophy winner on DWTS (Evan or Erin or Nicole?), and we already have a new Celebrity Apprentice (Bret!!!!!). And then the rerun-heavy “summer season” gets underway. But for skating fans, the season ended about 2 months ago. Where are OUR reruns? I hear you pleading.

Well take heart—starting with this post I’ll be taking a look back, every couple weeks or so, to the events that shaped figure skating this past year… watching with fresh eyes, you might say.

We’ll get started with the 2009 TEB in Paris, which launched the ’09-10 ISU Grand Prix this season back in October (featuring Men and Pairs this time):

Diamond-in-the-Rough award, men
—Javier Fernandez of Spain, who finished 11th at TEB but managed 12th in a much deeper field at Worlds, just 5 months later.

Diamond-in-the-Rough award, pairs—James/Bonheur of France, who suffered 3 falls in their tepid free skate and ended the TEB night in last place. Like Fernandez, they ended the year in 14th at Vancouver and 12th at Worlds. Go figure!

Shoulda-seen-it-Coming, men—Brian Joubert finishing off the podium at his home country’s event. I’m not positive about this, but the clear errors he made in the SP (overrotated/step out of quad, double-threes out of axel, and hands down on the lutz) seemed hauntingly similar to his Olympic SP performance… except that his mistake on the lutz (a messy fall) was even more blatant.

Shoulda-seen-it-Coming, pairs—
It was during the spiral sequence of their “You’ll Never Walk Alone” FS that Aliona Savchenko slipped off her seemingly confident edge and incited gasps as she and partner Robin Szolkowy struggled to put the gaping, disruptive error behind them. They certainly failed to do so that day… and even with a complete FS overhaul to the “Out of Africa” program, problems persisted as they’d never seen before.

Last but not least: Who’d a Thunk…
+ that two guys (Nobunari Oda and Adam Rippon) could fare so well without quads (winning gold and bronze, respectively) when at least four of their competitors had them—and sometimes even landed them?
+ that two men in the top five (Rippon and Yannick Pansero) wouldn’t make their respective Olympic teams a few months later?
+ that the same “kid” that was getting his hair scruffed by Nikolai Morozov in the Kiss-and-Cry (Oda) would be married with his own kid on the way by the following spring?
+ that Oda, Tomas Verner, and the gold-medal pair of Mukhortova/Trankov all essentially gave us the best they had on that first competition… and then never really gave it again?

I’m including Verner’s "Zorba" SP as the
Clip of the Day… if he stays with competitive skating beyond this year, here’s hoping he can find his way back to performances like this.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kwak, Lee, LaFuente… New Senior Ladies with A Running Start?

Consider this another session of POGSS (Post Olympic Grad Skating School), with the focus this time being on the equivalent of skating’s “D List”.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Think about it… you’re a virtually unknown athlete who not only gets to represent your country at this year’s Worlds, but this year’s Olympics, too… and you make the finals for BOTH. What an amazing accomplishment that is all by itself! And you get to skate in the first group… virtually pressure-free! What a sweet deal!

But, I imagine the D-listers generally aspire to something higher—which is why I’ve made a little list of some with the potential to do just that:

CHELTZIE LEE, Australia…
Age: 17 20th at Olympics; 17th at Worlds

Season highlight: While her FS at Worlds pulled in a just-slightly higher Season’s Best (SB), I still think it was her Olympic experience that shone the brightest. Lee was a junior-circuiter who was thrust into an uneasy spotlight earlier this year when Israel ceded its Olympic slot, and Australia (and she) were the surprise beneficiaries. Then Lee (and her story) made it onto NBC’s coverage in both SP and FS versions—suddenly the girl’s got an audience! (By the way, Israel’s Tamar Katz did compete at Worlds… unfortunately she didn’t make it to finals.)

Anyway, I think Lee showed some fine potential. Her biggest weakness for now is the lack of some serious triples (her program appeared to contain only the triple salchow and toe loop)…and granted, that is a sizeable issue. But as young as she is, I’ll hold on to hope she’ll bring more to the table next season.

Age: 16 13th at Olympics; 22nd at Worlds

Season highlight: Olympics Free Skate; it was rated the 12th best of the night.

What’s it like to skate in the shadow of one of the biggest, brightest skating stars on earth? If Kwak’s placements are any indication, it’s quite the roller coaster. She made a pretty big splash in Vancouver with a top 15 finish, but wept then put the CRY in Kiss-and-Cry after her problematic SP at Worlds. Still, I hope she’s taking her Worlds experience in stride. After all, unlike other D-listers, she does have the tougher jumps already in her arsenal. And she was hardly the only one from S. Korea to make mistakes in Torino this March…

Age: 18 22nd at Olympics; 20th at Worlds

Season highlight: Worlds FS; despite falling on a 3F she had her SB score there.

Apparently Lafuente is the first Spanish skater to medal on the Junior GP circuit (which she did twice). While her jumps indicate she may have already peaked as a junior (she fell on 3Lo in the Worlds SP as well as that FS fall, and there was no lutz to be found in either program), I saw a certain flair there that I hope gets developed further. Between Lafuente and, to greater degree, male skater Javier Fernandez, Spain could very well make a little name for itself in the skating world over the next few years.

I’m including Lafuente’s FS from one of those medal-winning Junior GP events (Sheffield 2007) as the
Clip of the Day , where you can see she has her lutz just fine at approx. age 15… so if the puberty monster is responsible for wreaking havoc with some of her work, I kindly ask said monster to cut Lafuente a break.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A New Batch of Tweets, SOI Style, As The Tour Heads West

Before we get going here, I should mention that there is one more retirement to announce that happened since my last post… the U.S. pairs team of Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski. Here is one of the articles announcing it…another one of those bittersweet stories; this time they actually DID reach the summit of sorts (2007 Nationals Gold) and made two trips to Worlds (12th in 2007, 11th in 2008). But as I recall, they were hindered by injuries from 2007-2009 that kept them from getting as much international experience as they could have… and sometimes hindered their National podium efforts as well (5th place in 2009; 4th this year).

I’m making their 2007 Nationals performance the Clip of the Day… not only because it was probably the highlight of their career, but to remind everyone that Castile/Okolski were one of the first elite skaters (to my knowledge) that used the soundtrack of a terrifying little film called Requiem for a Dream. In the 2006-7 season, it was lovely, unique and haunting. Three years later… well, let’s just say the unique no longer applies!

Meanwhile… back on the SOI Tour…

Hard to believe the 2 month, 41-city trek across the USA is about 75% complete. But they’re in Denver now, heading for the west coast in a few more days. Here come some more “Tweet” highlights from the past several weeks—this time from Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek, and Tanith Belbin—with my occasional comments in italics:


Last minute shopping in Boston... Then racing off to the next one in Maine tonight! (4/12)

Good morning Reading, Pa. And welcome to my day off! Ps I actually slept on the bus, so watch out! (4/15) (Yay—he’s learning how to sleep on the bus!)

Good luck Providence! I can barely function this morning... I hope the rest of the cast will carry me through on this! :) (4/18) (Well, maybe not sleeping EVERYday…)

4some reason when we "Rock the Runway" my clothes just wanna fall off! 2night the button popped & the fly came open! Hope u liked the view! (4/29)

Laying in the grass at the gateway arch enjoying a beautiful day with belle! @
Meryl_Davis (5/6) (He seems to continue hanging out with Meryl Davis, for those of you wondering…)

Yeah I tried quad and fell all over the place... I actually even fell backstage! (5/9)

Kansas City was a blast! In Dallas en route to Austin. I got the worlds cheapest upgrade. Way to go American Airlines! (5/11)

I'm back home!.. Sort of! :) (5/15) (He’s from Aspen; the show is in Denver.)


Just finished training Rumba. In Long Island, NY. Extra is with us today. (4/17) (EXTRA being the syndicated entertainment show)

I wish I could have joined Team USA and relive amazing memories from Vancouver! (4/21) (This is from when the Olympians went to the White House)

Hit my head in training today, just have a mild concussion. Ouch! Hope I can skate ok tonight. (4/24) (You heard about his concussion, right?)

Can't sleep. Still discouraged about tonight. (4/27) (Aww… this was due to sub-par scores from the judges, not his concussion. Unless that's what he attributes the sub-par scores to...)

Will get 8 hrs of sleep tonight. That's what I usually get per week. So excited! (4/29) (Mercy!!)

Took @
Flexjet Learjet 60 XR to IN last night. I love the @starsonice tour bus but I’d choose a Flexjet flight on a private jet any day. (5/5) (Lots of Flexjet plugs in Evan’s life these days! It’s easy to see why!)

Thanks to a great audience for Stars on Ice tonight in Austin Texas!! I was so exhausted and you guys totally energized me. (5/12)

Just landed back in LA! Good to be home... Off to work. We've got to step it up even more this week with Paso and Foxtrot! (5/15) (I wonder how quietly relieved he is that both the tour and Dancing w/the Stars are ending in a couple of weeks?)


Woke up after a 9 hr busride,rolled out of my bunk,gathered my things-then realized we're only at a rest stop & there's still 3 hrs left.Oof (4/10)

Thnx to sewage plant next to the rink,I think I know what Andy's escape in Shawshank smelled like.Shouldn't Hershey smell like chocolate? (4/23)

Fun day @ Smuckers hq in OH.Didn't realize they also own Pillsbury baking products.Now our bus is full of @
PillsburyTreats.Uh-oh:) (5/3) (Here’s hoping they don’t have weigh-ins on SOI like they used to in the Ice Capades…)

Spent 1st hr of bus ride tonight reading about the newest hot baby names (Cullen...seriously?) &learning the stanky leg dance.5hrs left! (5/7) (Oh dear… doesn’t she know the rumors that get triggered from a post like this?)

Forced @
Charlieawhite to watch Ice Castles for the first time.If he seems more inspired tmw night at SOI Austin, you'll know why (5/11)

A visit from DJ on tour in Dallas :) beautiful day at the dog park (5/13) (The link, if it works, is a pic of Tanith with current beau Charlie White. And now you see why she was able to “force” Ice Castles on him…)

I’ll probably post one more collection of Tweets once the U.S. tour closes. (The Canadian SOI tour just ended a day or two ago, in case you were wondering.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

As the Skating World Turns: a Departure, an Update… And a “Beauty”-ful Irony?

This first one isn’t a shocker: it’s often sad to see a skater or skaters announce their retirement, and the news this week of U.S. ice dancers Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre definitely fits the bill… if only because they were the odd couple out this year when it came to U.S. ice dance teams in Vancouver. I always hope that team or that skater is someone on the rise (see Mirai Nagasu’s Olympic experience)… rather than someone who’s been hanging around the second tier of placements for several years, hoping to make a great move in an Olympic season (see Evora/Ladwig).

It didn’t happen for Navarro/Bommentre… they were 5th in 2006, and probably quite confident they could rise to a firm podium position over the next four years. And while they weren’t exactly denied the hardware—U.S. bronze in ’08 and ’09; even Four Continents bronze in ’08—it obviously didn’t work out quite the way they hoped. (Check out Kim Navarro’s Worlds “diary” over at to get a better understanding of her/their mindset post-Nationals.) Still, it’s been a fine run.

Coaching square dance continued:
We know about Czisny and Meissner… and Samuelson/Bates. But then there are those skaters who have parted ways with their coaches and have yet to announce their next do-si-do. Who are they? This
handy Universal Sports blog shares the latest on all the current “dancers”:

+ Mao Asada, who is still without a coach after leaving Tatiana Tarasova but plans to work with both Tarasova and Lori Nichol for choreography
+ Nobunari Oda, who is no longer with Nikolai Morozov… but IS a married man as of a few weeks back, with a baby due in the fall. Better make that do-si-do a do-si-whoops
+ And Brian Joubert, about whom rumors are apparently circling that he might seek out coaching options in North America (despite his long-standing insistence on staying close to home for such training)

But will he sing at the pageant too?: is reporting that the omnipresent Johnny Weir’s latest non-skating assignment is as a
judge at the upcoming Miss U.S.A. Pageant. Weir will join Food Network’s Paula Deen, former Miss U.S.A. Tara Conner, and Melania Trump (gee, how’d she get in there??), among others. No word on whether Weir will actually be representing the Russian Judge in this battle (heh).

For the
Clip of the Day I’ve got my personal favorite from the Navarro/Bommentre catalog… their Beatles FD from 2007 Nationals.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Three Ladies and a Dream: The Latest on Czisny, Liang, and Meissner

It’s probably time I move on to the should-they-stay-or-go question as it applies to some of the world’s best pair and dance teams… after all, the breakup of a whole bunch of lesser-known ice dance teams in the U.S. (including virtual unknowns in the junior and novice ranks) was announced en masse this past friday.

But it’s the decisions announced by three U.S. Ladies in that same press release that I’d like to address this time around. No more will they or won’t they questions for these three; it appears they’ve each found the answer. For now, at least. In alphabetical order:

NAME: Alissa Czisny, b. 6/25/87
BEST NATIONAL FINISH: Gold medal, 2009
BEST INTERNATIONAL FINISH: Gold medal, Skate Canada, 2005
STAYING OR GOING: Staying… but switching coaches.
2009-10 had to be one of the most difficult seasons of Czisny’s career, and that’s a crying shame, considering the high she should have been on with a U.S. title in her back pocket. But something I’ll call negative fact-underscoring started before the medal ceremony even took place. She’d only won on the strength of her stunning SP? Check, along with the “fact” that apparently none of the other ladies wanted the title. She still couldn’t put two solid skates back to back? Check, and unfortunately that continued to hold true with her GP assignments in the fall. We were doomed as far as getting three spots for the Olympics? Unfortunately, that proved true too. Only Czisny knows how much that sort of chatter might have affected her 11th place performance. There were even those that said she’d probably cost the U.S. team her own spot; an implication that she’d do well to finish 3rd in 2010… there was no way she’d pull off another win.

That last part proved true too… except she didn’t make the podium at all. She finished down in 10th, leaving us to wonder if this was the last we’d see of her on the competitive stage. Then came word a while back that she’d left her longtime coach Julianne Berlin, leaving us to wonder if another coach was coming, or if they’d parted ways because Czisny was retiring. Now, via the new announcement, we learn it’s the former—and that Yuka Sato (Jeremy Abbott’s current coach) is the one taking her under her wing. At age 23 in the fall, will Czisny be able to demonstrate the mental toughness and resilience (not to mention technical difficulty) necessary for a comeback? And if she does, how will she rank against the rest of the best?

I’ve no clue, but I’m glad she’s trying… it would be pretty heartbreaking to have called it a day after Spokane.

NAME: Beatrisa Liang, b. 3/31/88
BEST NATIONAL FINISH: Pewter medal (4th place), 2007
BEST INTERNATIONAL FINISH: Bronze medal, Four Continents 2006… and Gold medal, Nebelhorn Trophy 2006
On the other hand, Bebe Liang didn’t do her best in Spokane either (finishing 7th), but I think her decision to retire is the right one. And this is someone who arguably never had their moment in the sun. What’s the difference? Well it can’t be age; Liang is even younger than Czisny. And as progress goes, it’s a tough one to measure—while she did rebound from a 14th place finish at 2009 Nationals, her sole international appearance this season (Cup of China) was a dismal 10th. But whether Liang was finishing 3rd or 13th, we have to keep in mind she made her debut at Senior Nationals when she was only 12 years old! That was a decade ago! (as you can see in this adorable
Clip of the Day)

As a former low-level competitor (read: VERY low, VERY long ago) who came in second more times than my hands have fingers, I can empathize just a little with the frustration that must come from being christened “the next big phenom” when you enter the elite ranks at such a tender age… only to miss the national (let alone world) podium every single time you try. Even if you’re of the Reason For Everything school of thought, that’s got to be a bitter pill to swallow.

But of course, it’s been swallowed by countless young, talented athletes through the years. Skating isn’t a Saturday morning soccer game put on by the YMCA; you don’t come away happy with a snack and a Capri-Sun and the simple satisfaction that you tried your hardest, and that’s what matters. There’s so much time involved, so very much money, and so many injuries that don’t shake off at 25 like they did at 15. And with so few fine skaters ever getting the public recognition they deserve, the rest are left to pick apart the bones for their tidbits of treasure, taking away as much value as they can carry before starting that Next Chapter.

Liang and Czisny were two of four U.S. “Olympic hopefuls” featured in the 2005-6 documentary series Ice Diaries. They’ve also, difficulties and all, been by far the most successful of the four in terms of their skating. If that’s not a testament to the multitude of ways a “hopeful” career can go, I don’t know what is.

NAME: Kimmie Meissner, b. 10/4/89
BEST NATIONAL FINISH: Gold medal, 2007
BEST INTERNATIONAL FINISH: World Championships (Gold medal), 2006
STAYING OR GOING: Staying… but switching coaches.
Meissner’s the wildest of wild cards right now. The once steady-eddie teenager with the full arsenal of triples (yes, including axel) AND triple-triple combos had a merciless fall from grace less than two years after winning her world title… then came a rash of injuries that sent her careening off the radar completely, in an Olympic season to boot. Would anyone have blamed Meissner if she took her sole U.S. and World titles, called it a life, and vanished from the competitive scene forever?

Apparently Meissner herself would have… she’s decided she still has something to contribute to this sport, and hauled herself back from Florida (where she trained with Richard Callaghan for the past couple of years) to train in Fairfax, VA with Chris Conte. Back on March 30 she announced on Twitter that she was going to be abandoning the service “for a while… probably a month or so”, and indeed not a peep (or Tweet) has been heard from her since then. Could it be a symbolic focusing move for someone who, at age 20, is young enough to potentially have her best competitive years still ahead of her?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Five Things To Know in Skating News This Week

I’m bumming a bit today because the SOI tour is cruising through my town (probably wrapping up their performance as I post this), and my husband’s employer isn’t as giving with the comp tickets as they used to be… so here I sit instead.

But lest I seem ungrateful for the opportunity to blog, here are some links to things you may find interesting…

+ Have I already mentioned the documentary being planned by U.S. Figure Skating on the 1961 plane crash en route to Worlds? You can check
this link to find out more about the film, including its planned title and release date.

+ Remember the news that U.S. Champion Rachael Flatt has decided to attend Stanford Univerity? She has now also announced that she plans to defer enrollment for one year, meaning she’ll presumably continue training in Colorado Springs for the 2010-11 season. Guess she’d like to see if she can defend her national title head-on at least once without the pressures of academia…

+ Speaking of contenders for that U.S. ladies title: IceNetwork is currently running a nice piece on bronze medalist
Ashley Wagner, who among other things has been working like a dog to re-master her triple lutz—or should I say triple flutz—to reduce both the possibility of downgrades next season as well as the possibility of taking a tumble. The latter is what arguably cost her a spot on the Olympic team when she fell on the lutz in the SP at Nationals. No word on her new music choices yet, though I believe the words “slinky” and “jazzy” came up when discussing the new SP.

+ With no apparent end in sight to his 15 minutes of fame, Johnny Weir will reportedly give new meaning to his Pop Star on Ice moniker when he records (yes, records) a tune called “Dirty Love”… according to
this article , anyway. Are you searching ITunes at the mere thought? Yes, I figured as much.

Ironically, the last skater I heard about doing something like this was none other than Canada’s Master of Machismo,
Elvis Stojko. (Click on his name to see the results of that effort, which I might as well make the Clip of the Day…) Let’s see if Weir can grab some bragging rights on record sales, at least, when all is said and done.

+ And finally, in case you haven’t been following Dancing with the Stars… Evan Lysacek continues to tear it up over there on ABC, so his hellacious part L.A./part on the SOI tour bus life continues for at least another week. Oh, and have you heard that he and Weir are
“at war”? Just as in days of old, when the two sat on opposite sides of Andrea Joyce on an NBC telecast and never looked at each other… somebody please, PLEASE find these guys a patch of snow so they can have a new pissing contest and be done with it already… good Lord. Way to take a good post-Olympic publicity season a bit too far, guys.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Class OF 2010 Awards

Since we’re getting to that time of the year for academic classes (and a little past that time for the skating class), thought I’d better start posting what I’ve got of these before they go completely stale!

THE CLASS Of 2010 Awards…

Men’s SP most likely to pull me to the TV (or computer) every time:

A Day in the Life, Jeremy Abbott

Ladies’ SP most likely to be remembered as the “It” program of the season:

Bond Medley, Kim Yu-Na

Original Dance most likely to attract press in a very very good way:

Indian Folk Dance, Davis/White

Pairs SP most likely to be found charming, even though the song they used actually has zilch to do with clowns:

Send in the Clowns, Savchekno/Szolkowy

Best—and by “best” I mean most cohesive, exciting and inventive
FS Program, Men: La Strada, Daisuke Takahashi, and Chaplin, Nobunari Oda

Best (see above criteria) FS Program, Ladies:

Gershwin Concerto in F, Kim Yu-Na…Samson & Delilah, Joannie Rochette…West Side Story, Akiko Suzuki

Free Dance most likely to be found spellbinding, and not just in Vancouver:

Mahler’s 5th Symphony, Virtue/Moir

Pairs Free Skates that were most likely to make people want to fly
Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor, Shen/Zhao, Impossible Dream, Pang/Tong

Best Success Story in 1st Half of Season—Nobunari Oda

The only thing he missed in those first events of the season was the 2nd triple axel, which he tended to pop. Perhaps we should have taken that as a sign of things to come by Worlds time…

Best Success Story in 2nd Half of Season—Evan Lysacek

Wow, talk about somebody peaking at the right time. Lysacek has never been my favorite among the men, but there’s no denying he got the Vancouver job done in extraordinary fashion. And he earned bonus points for handling the Plushenko fallout with terrific class. (What a success story right there—he defeated Plushenko!!) And his double-duty efforts this spring as the headliner for Stars on Ice while also bringing in the votes for Dancing w/the Stars continue to transport Lysacek to skating superhero status…

Best comeback (singles)—Evgeni Plushenko & Johnny Weir
… that is, if you don’t already have your “superhero” sights set on one of these two gentlemen. Plushenko, for all his post-Vancouver angst, trash talk, and ability to induce multiple eye rolls (at least from yours truly), still must be credited for returning to form in a way very few athletes can—particularly when they haven’t been back “at it” for that long. And Johnny Weir, while never really going anywhere to justify a need to “come back”, has still managed to do so in his own inimitable way. Who else could parlay a 6th place finish at the Olympics into such a publicity bonanza? For his reality series, for his book, his documentary, his public appearances, his “tweets”, his whatever.

Best comeback (pairs or dance)—Shen/Zhao
They were so much older than the rest of the pack… worked so much harder… deserved every bit of additional success that they found this year. And I hope they ponder a career in coaching as they “take a break” to settle in to raise their family.

Most unique music (singles)—Adrian Schultheiss (FS)
Featuring a hybrid of Insane in the Brain, Teardrop (aka the theme from House MD), and that always-charming ditty Smack my B**ch Up, Schultheiss’ straitjacket routine got more impressive as the season rolled on, including a best-yet 9th place finish at Worlds.

Most unique music (pairs or dance)—Dube/Davison (FS)

Unlike their SP music—the if-I-hear-it-next-season-I’m-ripping-my-own-ears-out Requiem For a Dream—I can honestly say I’d never heard Marvin Hamlisch’s lovely The Way We Were used for a skating program until this season. Seems odd, given how easily it lends to a skating program’s needs, but it’s true. Just wish D&D had been able to live up to the program more often than they ultimately did.

Best breakout season (men)—Adam Rippon & Michal Brezina
I would’ve said Rippon on the National front and Brezina on the International, but then by the time of Worlds, both guys finished within the top six. Blond guys haven’t been this well-represented in figure skating since, oh, what’s his name, with the mullet… and the ego…

Best breakout season (ladies)—Akiko Suzuki & Mirai Nagasu

One rebounded from years of discontent and recovery from a devastating eating disorder. The other rebounded from a year of growth spurts, coaching changes, and a fear that she’d never return to her pre-puberty greatness. Both managed to take absolute warhorses of skating music (Carmen and West Side Story) and inject them with something fresh and new.

Best breakout season (Pairs)—Evora/Ladwig & Berton/Hotarek
If anyone timed their peak better than Lyacek, it was Evora/Ladwig… I can’t fathom who’d have picked them to not only make the team, but have the best U.S. pairs finish at Vancouver (and still do well enough at Worlds to show it wasn’t a fluke). Berton/Hotarek, on the other hand, are the kind of young team that made such a strong impression at Worlds we can’t wait to see their GP efforts (assuming they get an assignment or two?) next fall. Incidentally, one of their coaches is former U.S. pairs champ John Zimmerman…

Best breakout season (Dance)—Zaretsky/Zaretsky & Crone/Poirier
The Z’s are relatively young but have been at this (at this level, I mean) for a while; on the other hand, C/P are still pretty new to the senior ranks. The Z’s are in a class by themselves for Israel; on the other hand, C/P will likely be challenging Virtue/Moir for Canada’s top honors for the next 4 years (Lord willing). In any case, these two teams finished 6/7 at Worlds, at a time when several teams above them are likely to bow out of competition. I look forward to their future efforts, and hope Samuelson/Bates are able to keep up with them too.

Berton & Hotarek’s Gala performance in Torino is the
Clip of the Day … a gorgeous take on Romeo and Juliet that could easily be adapted into a competitive program next season (hint hint)