NHK was the last Grand Prix event of the 2009-10 season to occur outside of North America. It gave Miki Ando a victory despite a sub-par performance (Alena Leonova beat her in the SP, if that give you an idea of the field at hand))… it gave Brian Joubert his mojo back (at least temporarily)… it gave us Michal Brezina as someone to keep our eye on NOW, not just in the future… and it gave us fairly predictable pairs and dance finishes (Pang/Tong for the former, Davis/White for the latter). But looking back at it now a second time… what else did it give us?
+ It gave us back to back to back POPERA in the free dance when 3 teams: Huang/Zheng of China, Zadorozhniuk/Verbillo of Ukraine, and Bobrova/Soloviev of Russia, all skated to some variation of the pop music/opera hybrid while over-emoting their hearts out. The Russian team fared the best of the three, with slightly less bombastic music and better body lines (the lot of them finished 4th, 5th and 6th).
+ It gave us Canada’s Crone and Poirier, who were starting to show their "Bohemian Rhapsody" program to be a standout of the season (the team took bronze here).
+ It gave us Yukari Nakano missing triple lutzes in both the short and long programs—when’s the last time that happened??—and was perhaps a sign of things to come, seeing how she failed to make the Japanese Olympic Team (and announced her retirement shortly thereafter).
+ Likewise, it gave us Cynthia Phaneuf missing all her lutzes… but doing everything else right, which put her in 6th behind Nakano’s 4th. The difference is that Phaneuf’s season went on quite a bit longer, and in that time her lutz got better—contributing to her surprise 5th place Worlds finish. Speaking of which, wouldn’t that Worlds free skate of Phaneuf’s be great to see right about now? Here it is as the Clip of the Day.