Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Unfortunate Fate for Evan Bates…

As of now, Evan Lysacek isn’t the only “Evan” that’s going to be missing the Grand Prix this season. According to this article in the Detroit Free Press (and confirmed by a similar article at IceNetwork), U.S. and Olympic ice dancers Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates are officially sidelined until further notice, thanks to a “freak accident” during practice that resulted in Samuelson’s blade lacerating Bates' Achilles tendon (say it with me: YEOWWW!!)

And to make matter worse—at least for me—it’s mentioned in the article that they were rehearsing their Free Dance, which this season was to use selections from An American in Paris. Are you kidding me?! After two years of Free Dance musical selections that barely stirred anything in me other than disdain, they switch coaches, get some music that is nothing short of awesome… and now this?!

UGH! I can’t stand it. Talk amongst yourselves… and while you’re at it, speculate on which U.S. teams might replace them at NHK and Trophee Eric Bompard.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Bit of Nebelhorn, A Bit of JGP Japan, and a Teeny Tiny Bit of "Improv-Ice"

As promised, a little follow-up of the past weekend’s international skating events is in order… but first, thought I’d mention that “Improv-Ice” apparently taped over the weekend too (numerous participants Tweeted about it—everyone from Joannie Rochette to Rachael Flatt to Evan Lysacek to Jeremy Abbott). As with most Disson shows these days, there was a Special Musical Guest… last year that guest was the Goo Goo Dolls; this year it was Foreigner (though I’m advised it is now a Foreigner minus original lead singer Lou Gramm). “Cold as Ice”, anyone? We can look for it on NBC Sunday, November 21.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world was the Junior Grand Prix’s Japan edition. Some notable finishes there include:

+ U.S.’s Max Aaron, claiming his second JGP medal in as many performances with a silver (17 year old Andrei Rogozine, representing Canada, took gold).
+ 15 year old Kiri Baga, also of the U.S., also won a silver.

And somewhere in between these two events we had the Nebelhorn Trophy happening in Germany. Always some curious results to be found at this one, and this year didn’t disappoint:

+ For the men, 20 year old Tatsuki Machida took gold; he was #4 at the most recent Japanese Nationals and finished 2nd behind Adam Rippon at 4CC’s shortly thereafter. Armin Mahbanoozadeh, the top U.S. competitor this time around, had a dismal SP (8th) but an impressive FS (3rd) to finish less than a point out of 3rd. Kevin VanDer Perren blew a 2nd place SP with an 8th place FS (5th overall), Joey Russell of Canada was 6th, Michal Brezina (4th at Worlds this year) was a surprising 5th (does anyone know if he’s injured or just had a bad weekend?)… and the U.S.’s Jason Wong was 8th.

+ Kiira Korpi (Finland) won on the ladies side, with surprise Top 10-at-Worlds Viktoria Helgesson (Sweden) in 2nd, and Melissa Bulanhagui (USA) taking 3rd… perhaps proving that the gold she won at the Junior GP level 2 seasons ago wasn’t a fluke (though I haven’t yet seen the performances). She’s competed nationally at the senior level since early 2007; her best Nationals finish to date was 8th in ’08. Canadian Diane Szmiett finished 6th; Germany’s rising star Sarah Hecken withdrew after the SP.

+ Speaking of rising stars, Russia’s upcomers Bazarova/Larionov won the Nebelhorn pairs title, with Italy’s upcomers Berton/Hotarek (one of the pairs coached by John Zimmerman & Silvia Fontana). Canada’s newest pair of Duhamel/Redford (formerly Duhamel/Buntin) had an impressive international debut; already they’ve won their first medal, a bronze. In 4th and 7th respectively were the U.S. teams of Donlan/Speroff and Zhang/Toth.

+ Pechalat/Bourzat were perhaps the best-known names in the dance division, and managed to pull up from 3rd to 1st over the second-best known names (Cappellini/Lanotte, who were only 4th in the FD). The Americans finished in 5th and 6th, but it should be noted that the brother/sister team The Shibutanis had one of the biggest placement ranges I’ve ever seen in this discipline—8th in the (new) Short Dance, and 2nd in the FD, to end up 5th. (The other U.S. team was Kriengkrairut/Giulietti-Schmitt.)

As some of these performances start to surface on You Tube, I just took a look at the Shibutani’s FD—it’s a wonderfully retro Nat King Cole medley, and with it placing so well here, it makes me curious what it might inspire… check it out
here, and look for them at NHK in a few weeks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Autumn... Skaters, Coaches and Fans Alike, Let's Get Busy.

Things are ramping up again in our little skating universe. Need proof? I’ve got plenty:

Exhibit A: the ISU Junior Grand Prix continues this week; the action started up again yesterday in Karuizawa, Japan and will continue through Sunday. I’ll try to make a mention of any medals picked up by the U.S. team.

Exhibit B: It’s Nebelhorn time…
that means we are now into the equivalent of the NFL’s pre-season. The always-interesting list of competitors this season—as far as names you might be familiar with—include Belgium’s Kevin VanDerPerren (still??) and Czech Republic’s Michal Brezina, the latter of whom sits in a surprisingly low 8th place after the SP… Finland’s Kiira Korpi and Germany’s Sarah Hecken… pairs Berton/Hotarek (from Italy) and USA junior champs Zhang/Toth…and ice dancers Cappellini/Lanotte (also from Italy) and Pechalat/Bourzat (from France)… you can check starting orders and placements
here. Follow-up on this event is imminent as well.

Exhibit C: The “broadcast/digital schedule” is up
regarding NBC and Universal Sports’ coverage of the Senior Grand Prix.
Take a look here and see what you think…here’s a quick summary for those just don’t want to take a look there:
+ Each GP event will get two hours of coverage on NBC (or what a source from my book likes to call “BIG TV”)
+ Universal Sports will again get the lions’ share of coverage—“More than 34 hours of original programming from five events,” according to the press release
+ More, more, more than ever from Ice Network
+ Continued streaming of events from Universal Sports’ website… much as they did with Worlds back in March… but with a notable catch: a “one-time subscription fee” of $14.95. (That would be in addition to the Ice Network’s subscription fee.)

Let me know what you think of the schedule (and the fees); I’ll post more about the topic in the coming week!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Few Good (U.S.) Men to Watch in the 2010-11 Season

So the senior GP season is a mere 31 days from liftoff, and only two of the top five men in the U.S. will be competing in it—leaving a strong likelihood that three new men will join them (at least until Lysacek and Weir return… cue eye roll).

Who will get up in the mix with Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon? Yes, I know Brandon Mroz and Stephen Carriere are still out there, and they've both had some podium success in the past... but I’ve been watching Nationals all over again, and I’ve got a few names for you to watch… (alphabetical order, please)

+ Richard Dornbush, age 21: with an 11th place finish in his senior Nationals debut, Dornbush possesses speed, deep edges, and some fine moments of flair (including a hydroblade into triple salchow).

+ Grant Hochstein, age 20: he was only 50/50 on his triple axels at 2010 Nats, but Hochstein has a few other tricks up his sleeve—including a hydroblade (yes, another one) into double axel, and some supreme spins. He finished 7th in his senior debut.

+ Keegan Messing, age 18: if the name sounds familiar, it’s because he just won a Junior Grand Prix event two weeks ago. (And finished 9th at Nationals.) In my notes I wrote “he’s not all that polished, but boy does he have the crowd on his side!” Perhaps they all smelled a little of the “it” factor wafting into the arena during his skating…

+ Armin Mahbanoozadeh, age 19: “Arminhammer” has already had a few mentions here, most likely because he found himself with not one but two senior GP assignments last season, and followed that up with an 8th place finish at Nationals. Considering the fact that he was competing with a hip injury at the time, I’d say his potential has yet to be fully tapped.

+ Ross Miner, age 19: Miner, the 2009 Junior Men’s champ, had to withdraw from last year’s Nationals with an injury… but U.S. Figure Skating certainly didn’t forget him, for he and the aforementioned Mahbanoozadeh are the only ones on this list of mine with a Senior GP assignment. Wonder what they know that others don’t? I sure do.

To get a clue, I looked up Miner’s recent free skate from the Liberty Open Would you like to see it too? He’s using Casablanca for his free skate… no white dinner jacket a la Bogart (or Kurt Browning), but my God, who can’t root for a guy who puts a cantilever in his programs?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Skating News-By-The-Numbers, September Edition

What does “skating-news-by-the-numbers” mean? Check this out:

Number of new articles out this week about Yu-Na Kim: 1.
Here it is, and in case you’d just like me to cut to the chase… she’s reportedly going to announce her new coach early next month, having now narrowed it down to 2 or 3 candidates.(Hey, that’s bonus numbers!) The part that intrigues me the most is where it points out that while former coach Orser was paid “hourly” fees, Kim is now likely to hire a “full-time coach”. Meaning what… the coach has to work with Kim exclusively? Meaning he or she has to be on call 24/7? Meaning they have to coach Kim on more than skating? The mind boggles…

Number of people comprising the 2011 class of the U.S.F.S. Hall of Fame: 34. With the 50th anniversary of the Sabena crash looming, the entire 1961 U.S. World Figure Skating Team (along with the coaches, judges, officials, and family members) has been announced as the inductees.
Here’s where you can read more about it.

Number of days until the start of the first Senior ISU Grand Prix event: 36. I’ve no news about this; I just like counting it down.

(But meanwhile, the Junior Grand Prix is already underway…)

Number of U.S. skaters who have already medaled in the first two events: 10! Including a gold medal won in the Men’s division by Keegan Messing. If his name sounds familiar it’s because he competed at the senior level in the most recent U.S. Nationals, finishing 9th. As always, it appears the Skating Powers That Be are keeping Wikipedia very well informed;
as you’ll see here. I’m not kidding; they do a very thorough and accurate job.

Another one of the names you’ll see there is GP Courchevel silver medalist (and reigning U.S. Junior Men’s Champ) Jason Brown. I found his free skate from that event on You Tube—it’s an amateur video, but it’s still the
Clip of the Day. For now, 15 year-old Brown is easily distinguished from the pack by his ponytail. With any luck, in time he’ll be noticed for much more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

One Step Closer for "Skating on Air"

I haven’t posted much specific information about my upcoming book since I first mentioned it in a bit of detail back in February—on this post, and then again on this post-- mostly because while the text was finished at the time, there was still a lot to be done with photos, releases, captioning, etc. But I got the whole thing turned in to my publisher last month, and while there’s many miles to go before Skating on Air evolves into book form…McFarland sent me a jpeg of the cover art yesterday. Take a look!

Obviously with the senior GP season a mere 6-7 weeks away, covering all of skating’s current events will require the lion’s share of this blog’s time. But as we get closer to the book’s release—which will most likely be in the first few months of 2011 at this point—I’m looking to share a handful of stories, either from the book itself or about the making of it, to give you a better sense of the whole thing. I can’t post excerpts—I promised my publisher I wouldn’t—but suffice to say you’ll be a better-informed reader if you stay tuned to State of the Skate!

The side margins will continue to remind you not-so-subtly about becoming a fan of Skating on Air via its
Facebook page, but if you’re not an FB kind of person, you can always email me to stay in the loop… or simply watch this space, as they say.

Thanks for the support, everyone!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Little Yu-Na, A Little Asada, and a Lot About U.S. Pairs

So as part of the year-long rewind I’ve been doing this summer, I’ve hit upon all the Senior pairs that competed at U.S. Nationals this past January…

Oh, wait. Any skating blogger worth her keyboard’s gotta keep everyone abreast these days of the developments in Camp Yu-Na, so…
this article and several others revealed Monday that Yu-Na is relocating to Los Angeles. A new coach has yet to be determined; for now, she will train without a coach at the East West Ice Palace, which as you might know is owned by Michelle Kwan’s family. (Thanks also to whoever mentioned this in the blog comments the other day)

And to keep matters as even as I can, here’s
MaoAsada’s latest news … she’s naming Nobuo Sato as her new coach. You might know him better as the guy who rubs circles into Takahiko Kozuka’s back just before he competes. Or… you might call him Yuka’s Dad. Both are accurate.

Back to U.S. pair teams… it could be a very interesting situation cropping up in this first post-Vancouver season. Rather than have Teams #1 & 2 retire from the amateur ranks, we saw Teams #4 (Castile/Okolski) & 5 (McLaughlin/Brubaker) make the big announcements earlier this year. Both had been the #1 team previously, but both had suffered their fair share of rough spots lately—enough to keep them both from making the Olympic team, as it turned out.

And while with pairs there’s always the possibility of one half teaming up with someone new, it appears that only one of the four involved here—24 year-old Rockne Brubaker—is currently considering it. (If anyone’s seen news of a new partner for him, let me know… other than rumors about being paired “temporarily” with Sasha Cohen (!) I’ve nothing to report here.)

Anyway, this is only half of the “interesting situation” I mentioned—for the Top Three is still something of a precarious bunch. I don’t mean Denney/Barrett; though their artistic side is still a work in progress, they’re probably the most consistently solid U.S. pair we’ve seen since Ina/Zimmerman (and I’m not just saying that because Zimmerman is their new coach). I’m referring instead to Evora/Ladwig and Inoue/Baldwin, who were separated by just a fraction of a point at Nationals and may have a harder time staying on the podium this year than they think. With late-bloomers Evora/Ladwig having such a breakout season last year, who can blame them for wanting to stick around when at ages 25/30, they might otherwise turn their thoughts to retirement? I just hope it goes as well for them as they’d like… I’m not entirely sure it will. And as for I/B... they keep sticking around, and I keep wondering when the “professional student” that is Baldwin will just graduate already. They peaked in ’06 as far as I’m concerned.

So who might stand out instead?

+ My top money will be on Yankowskas/Coughlin (ages 20/24), who have turned in very impressive short programs the past couple of years but haven’t been able to keep it together in the free skate. Maybe they’ll cave again for that reason, but I’m hoping it’s instead given them the experience to handle the pressure better than any of the other upcomers.

+ When it comes to fresh young talent, it doesn’t get much younger than 14 year-old Tracy Tanovich and 19 year-old Michael Chau. Though they only took 11th at this past Nationals, they lit up the place. Cross your fingers that they’re able to keep their magic touch as they mature…

+ Amanda Dobbs and Joseph Jacobsen (ages 17 and 23) would be my third choice, as they were also very fun to watch in their first round of Senior Nationals. We’ll have to see if they stick around though; Dobbs is also a singles competitor.

Sometime in the future I hope to shine a spotlight on last year’s top Juniors, too—after all, Tanovich/Chau were Junior Champs in ’09. For now, here’s a look at how they skated this year in the SP—the
Clip of the Day.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Great Skate Catch-Up: 5 Happenings from The Past Few Weeks (Plus 1 More About “Yu”-Know-Who)

And suddenly, here we are into September already. It’s less than eight weeks until the ISU Grand Prix series kicks off in Nagoya, Japan… and sadly, much of the focus over the past 10 days has been on a falling out that has stirred up enough press to make Lindsay Lohan jealous. To that end (one can only hope), here is
the latest chapter in the saga-- an article about Kim Yu-Na relocating to another Toronto rink, the one that is home to her short program choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne.

But enough of that for now… here are five more stories from the skating world, some more high-profile than others, worth a look:

· Here we have an article about Evgeny Plushenko indicating
he’s done… he didn’t appeal the ISU ban placed on him earlier this summer, so… buh-bye.

· And then over here we have an article quoting his wife (among others) indicating
he’ll be back, and alluding to some “secret” plan to get him competing in Sochi. Which one do YOU believe? (or do you care at this point?)

· How did Mirai Nagasu spend her summer vacation? Nursing a stress fracture, among other things. This
IceNetwork article will fill you in.

· Color me shocked, but a while back, Inoue and Baldwin pulled out of their lone GP assignment for the new season. Want to know what U.S. team has been chosen as their replacement? Click
this link.

· And finally,
this article in the August 2010 Chicago Magazine apparently featured everyone’s favorite Rocky skater (and 1981 World Silver Medalist) David Santee, as the Best Figure Skating Coach in the Chicago area. As I may have mentioned here before, I grew up in the Chicago suburbs just as Santee did, and always kind of quietly rooted for him to somehow defeat Scott Hamilton in the early 80s (even though he never really did.. He is now the director of skating at Oakton Ice Arena in Park Ridge, and as I understand it has been involved in the careers of at least a couple of U.S. up-and-comers, one being current Junior Champion Agnes Zawadzki. I knew most of this prior to the article… but who knew Chicago Magazine promoted figure skating coaches? Awesome.

And in case any of you are unsure who this Santee guy is, take a look at
this for the Clip of the Day…