Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Challenge of Attending Indy Challenge... and Finding the Subplots at Skate America 2009

Since I’ll be referencing U.S. pairs in this post, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a significant North American pairs competition took place in my neck of the woods this past weekend—Indianapolis—in the form of something known as the Indy Pairs Challenge. As has been the case for several years running, the event conflicts with a 2-day workshop I attend every summer, so I was unable to attend. With the breakup of at least two of the top five U.S. pairs now a reality, it was probably noteworthy for Caitlin Yankowsas and John Coughlin (6th at Nationals) to win the event… especially when they have something of a rep for doing fine short programs, but lackluster free skates. This article at IceNetwork.com will give you the lowdown on this past weekend. If you make it to the bottom of the article you’ll see an interesting bit about the way ISU rule changes are already affecting death spirals this coming season.

Now, back to what I was going to talk about…

When it came to both the pairs and men’s events at Skate America last fall, there was the favorite (Shen/Zhao, Evan Lysacek), and then there were all the rest. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t interesting things to follow in both disciplines.

With Pairs at SKAM, we got an early chance to compare and contrast three potential U.S. Olympic teams (though 2 of the 3 are now “discontinued). Here’s what I saw in watching both programs again:

Castile/Okolski: Trouble with 2 of 3 SBS (side-by-side) passes, doubled the throw jump in the SP, fell on both throws in free skate.

Evora/Ladwig: Evora had trouble on all SBS passes… both throw 3Loops were flawed, but not horribly so… aside from their exceptional lifts they had great throw 3lutz (in the free skate).

McLaughlin/Brubaker: Aside from a nice SBS 3sal/2toe at the top of their free skate, and a solid throw 3Loop in the short… the jump elements weren’t really there. Problems throughout.

Of course it’s not ALL about the jumps—that’s why McBru still took 4th at SKAM, while Evora/Ladwig took 5th, and Castile/Okolski finished 6th (all separated by healthy point margins). However, when 3rd-after-SP Duhamel/Buntin were forced to withdraw (Duhamel hit her head hard against the ice falling on a throw jump mid-program), only Evora/Ladwig and Castile/Okolski were able to reap the benefits and move up a spot. McBru stayed put because Zhang/Zhang leapfrogged them in the FS.

The men’s event at SKAM gave Lysacek his first-ever SKAM win, but Shawn Sawyer (of Canada) for silver? Yep, that was him…despite the fact that he couldn’t land a triple axel cleanly to save his life, let alone a quad. The reason? A placement shuffle like I haven’t seen in ages:

France’s Florent Amodio was in 2nd after the SP, but only had the 6th best free skate (4th overall).

U.S.’s Brandon Mroz was in 3rd after the SP, but had an abysmal free skate (11th of 12) put him in 8th overall.

Sweden’s Adrian Schultheiss was in 4th, but was only good enough for the 7th best free skate (7th overall).

MEANWHILE, Ryan Bradley of the U.S. followed the pattern he adopted most of the season: crappy short (8th), great FS (2nd). This time it got him the bronze medal…

Flu-stricken Tomas Verner (of Czech Republic) followed suit; in 11th after the short, he had the 3rd best FS (finishing 5th)…

And Canada’s Kevin Reynolds thought this strategy seemed like a good idea too—10th best SP, 5th best FS. (6th overall)

Sawyer, though only 5th in the SP and 4th in the FS, was the only consistent guy from the top 5 outside of Lysacek. So there you go. Sawyer’s first GP medal ever!

Which made me wonder: obviously Sawyer didn’t get to repeat as an Olympian this time around (he went in 2006 and finished 12th), but how close did he come? You can find out by checking out this
Clip of the Day.

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