**** LATE BREAKING NEWS *** Since it's now in the Korea Times, I might as well go ahead and mention Kim Yu-Na's decision to skip this year's Grand Prix, meaning she intends her only major competition of the 2010-11 season to be the World Championships. Certainly not an unprecedented move for an already-proven champion-- Joannie Rochette and Evan Lysacek are doing the same thing, to name just two others-- but surely disappointing for those selling tickets to GP events in Russia or China, where she was to compete. We'll get more into this topic in future posts.
Also-- I’ve been trying to find some detailed results from the Liberty Open—the mid-summer event out of Philadelphia that just wrapped up yesterday—but their website has not been updated. So for now, I point you instead to IceNetwork.com where you can read about Ashley Wagner’s new and improved triple lutz, Patrick Chan’s quad toe (which translates from skate-ese to mean all right, Brian Joubert—game on!!), and other interesting unveilings.
And now, back to our “encore coverage” of the 2009 NHK Trophy: Things we missed the first time around (or didn’t know to note at the time):
+ The other “DICE”: that would be Daisuke Murakami to the rest of the world. Will we come to call him “DICE-M”? Guess that depends on his progress from here. At NHK last year he used a very radical reworking of West Side Story for his short program (and was undermarked I thought), finishing the event 9th overall. On the other hand, he plummeted to a 19th place finish at Japanese Nationals just a year after finishing in the top five. Looking at his track record, he was one of the stellar juniors who hasn’t quite managed to break through consistently at the senior level. Did you know he skated for the U.S. until 2007? I didn’t.
+ When your field of competitors contains seemingly steady-Eddie Takahiko Kozuka (2nd or 3rd at Japanese Nationals for the past 3 years), Murakami may have started to ponder skating for the U.S. again… until this event, when Kozuka finished 7th after turning in the 5th best short, but the 10th best free skate. It’s worth noting he did something similar at Worlds a few months later (4th in short, 12th in free). Uh-oh. Where’s that awesome Kozuka who won Skate America in 2008? I hope that vicious beast known as self-doubt doesn’t try to claim him.
+ At the time of NHK I took notice of Michal Brezina—how could I not; he was a virtual unknown who won bronze—but didn’t look up his history until recently. Turns out NHK was his senior GP debut, coming out of two years on the junior circuit and several years at the junior level in general. (Oh, and he was also World Junior Silver Medalist in ’09, second only to the U.S.’s Adam Rippon.) Even more impressive than all this was the momentum Brezina carried all season long, concluding with a 10th place finish in Vancouver and 4th place at Worlds—just a couple notches above Adam Rippon’s 6th place finish. When was the last time a couple of blond guys (neither of which was named Evgeny) were vying for the top of the heap? Just an observation…
+ And as for the pairs event at NHK, the only thing I really feel is worth re-visiting is the gaping hole in the Kavaguti/Smirnov free skate that came when they stopped the program. It was one of those times—which got to be a habit, it seemed—where Kavaguti fell hard enough on their throw quad salchow attempt to dislocate her shoulder. But while the program stoppage is designed to allow athletes to seek medical attention in order to continue… all she seemed to do was catch her breath (and, presumably, quietly pop the shoulder back into place). Good for her, I guess, but it makes me hope we don’t start seeing more “medical breaks” from overly ambitious competitors. If the skater can’t handle the risk involved with a maneuver, don’t put it in the program. Take Rene Inoue (who happened to finish right behind the Russians in this event with partner John Baldwin)—she’s taken plenty of hard tumbles in competition with that throw triple axel, but to her enormous credit it’s never really disturbed the flow of their program. If Kavaguti (or her coach) insists on trying to land this jump, she’s got to do more of what she did a couple of competitions after this—keep going, and (ouch) pop the shoulder back in place (ouch) as soon as possible during the course of the program (again I say OUCH). And if that’s too harsh, here’s a better idea: LEAVE IT OUT until she’s got it down cold.
For the Clip of the Day I found that SP of Murakami’s I mentioned earlier. Apparently he got a slight ding point wise on his triple flip, as well as level 2s and 3s (mostly 2s) on spin and step sequences. Incidentally, if anyone wondered why Adam Rippon was down in 8th after his SP—besides the missed triple axel, I mean—take note that he only managed level 1s on both step sequences and a spin!