Thursday, October 28, 2010

Skate Canada International 2010: Airdates & Predictions

With the next GP event being Skate Canada, the schedule ends up being infinitely more compatible with U.S. TV needs… which is why most events will run live on Universal Sports. But first, here’s the Ice Network streaming schedule: (ALL TIMES EASTERN)

Friday, Oct. 29

11:30 a.m.: Ladies Short Program
1:45 p.m. : Pairs Short Program
6:15 p.m.: Men’s Short Program
8:10 p.m.: Short Dance

Saturday, Oct. 30

2:00 p.m..: Paris Free Skate
3:55 p.m.: Men’s Free Skate
7:00 p.m.: Ladies Free Skate

Sunday, Oct. 31

12:15 p.m. : Free Dance

And as for Universal Sports… (I’m not sure what happened to the Pairs Short; didn’t see it when I checked the schedule)

Friday, Oct 29
11:30-1 p.m..: Ladies Short Program (LIVE… repeats at 3:30 p.m.)
6:00-9:30 p.m.: Men’s Short Program & Short Dance (LIVE… repeats at 10:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Oct. 30
2:30-3:30 p.m. : Pairs Free Skate (LIVE… repeats at 9 p.m.)
4:30-6:00 p.m. : Men’s Free Skate (LIVE… repeats at 10:30 p.m.)

Sunday, Oct. 31
1:00-2:00 p.m.: Free Dance (LIVE… repeats at 11:30 p.m.)

And don’t forget that NBC will bring 2 hours of Ladies Free Skate coverage this Sunday from 4-6 (NHK) and next Saturday, 11/6, from 4-6 (Skate Canada).

Time to make another round of predictions, but before I do, please know that there are some relatively slim pickings in some of these disciplines. But not to worry… such are often the situations where we find some new favorites, or rediscover old ones! (In other words… the “breakout stars” are also likely to be the medalists.)

For the LADIES:

Gold: Ksenia Makarova (RUS)
Silver: Cynthia Phaneuf (CAN)
Bronze: Agnes Zawadzki (USA)

Laura Lepisto (FIN) and Sarah Hecken (GER) are both scratched from this event, which leaves an even smaller pool of winning possibilities, which includes Japan’s Fumie Suguri (yes, she’s still on the GP circuit) and the U.S.’s Alissa Czisny. But Alissa’s gotta earn her stripes with me before I predict another podium spot for her—and for the record, I hope she does because she’s using some George Winston music I’m rather fond of in her free skate this season. So I found myself boiling it down to jumping ability—specifically, who here has a triple lutz (or better yet, a lutz combo) that we can count on, as well as at least a couple other jumps? That’s what left me with Makarova for gold, and the U.S.’s Zawadzki for bronze (now that Universal Sports has touted her as a possible spoiler for the event via
this article, I fear they’ve jinxed her!). As for Phaneuf—no, she isn’t a sure bet on her lutz by any means… but this is her first big event since that surprise 5th place finish at Worlds, so I’m hoping her confidence is boosted to the rafters. (I also suspect some “home court advantage” is always possible for Canadians at Skate Canada… just a feeling I have.)


Gold: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
Silver: Iliushechkina/Maisuradze
Bronze: Castelli/Shnapir (USA)

Where are the original headliners for this event, you might be wondering? Dube & Davison… out with recent injuries. Kavaguti & Smirnov… apparently still recuperating from past injuries (Kavaguti required shoulder surgery this past April—color me shocked!). And as for the original U.S. top pick, McLaughlin/Brubaker… HE is now skating with someone new, and SHE is posting her poetry on Twitter (among other things, I’m sure). So my replacements for the podium include Duhamel, who medaled occasionally in GP events with former partner Craig Buntin… a Russian pair who won Junior Worlds 2 years ago, and were the #4 team at Russian Nationals last year.… and Castelli/Shnapir, the more experienced of the two pair reps from the U.S.

For MEN:

Gold: Patrick Chan (CAN)
Silver: Adam Rippon (USA)
Bronze: Nobunari Oda (JPN)

Here’s where some bigger names reside. Chan had a miserable outing last year at this event; he was competing post-injury and didn’t appear ready. So there could a strong sense of redemption lurking in his boots at this Kingston event… oh, and he has a quad now too. Rippon does not, but if he can skate anywhere close to the way he did over at the Japan Open several weeks back, I think he can claim at least silver. Oda is something of a wild card—haven’t heard much about him lately, other than that his son was born fairly recently—but if he’s “on” at all in any given year, it tends to be the first half of the season. And as a side note, I’m looking to see Canada’s Quad King Kevin Reynolds in the Top Five (if he can stay relatively clean), and would enjoy seeing Spain’s Javier Fernandez up there as well.


Gold: Kerr/Kerr (GBR)
Silver: Crone/Poirier (CAN)
Bronze: Gorshkova/Butikov (RUS)

Could the Kerrs finally pull out a GP win in what may be their final GP season? They will likely face stiff competition from Crone/Poirier, who are Canada’s go-to dance team (at least until Virtue/Moir return)… but since the Scots beat out the Canadians by about 9 points at their last event (Worlds), I’m confident enough to give the Kerrs the nod here. It was between the Russians and the French (Carron/Jones) in my book for bronze, so I relied on history with my vote there.

Since it appears that they are using last year’s exhibition music (Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3 by Muse) for their FD this season, here are The Kerrs, from the Torino Worlds Gala, as the
Clip of the Day.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ten Takeaways from the 2010 NHK Trophy

Before we zoom so far into the week that I can’t find my NHK notes for all the Skate Canada notes I’m about to make… here are the ten things that stick in my mind the most regarding last weekend’s opener (no particular order):

1) How do we love Tango? Maybe we should start counting the ways... Not to say that the Tango isn’t an amazing dance, or that the various incarnations of tango music aren’t welcome additions to the musical landscape of figure skating… but I haven’t seen such a strong representation of a specific genre since the Celtic/”Riverdance” trend about 10 years ago.

2) Welcome to 10th Avenue, Rachael Flatt. I think I’ve mentioned here in the past that I thought Flatt was suited for non-classical music, so I was elated to see that her FS this season is set to “Slaughter on 10th Avenue.” Though “Slaughter” was originally a ballet number for the musical On Your Toes, and thus obviously has classical elements... it’s chock full of other things that I think Flatt readily relates to, and puts forth with ease in her program. This is a great fit for her, and I hope it helps her boost that presentation score to new heights this season.

3) Kostner and the Faun Legacy. Upon discovering that Carolina Kostner was skating to Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun” this year, my skeptic’s eyebrow raised even more in her direction than usual. “Faun” was famously used by Janet Lynn back in the day; in fact I believe many would consider it her signature program. For Kostner to work with the same music some 40 years later might be seen by some as sacrilege… and by others, as a vessel for introducing the music to a whole new generation. Personally, I think any skater described as “coltish” (which the tall, lightning-fast Kostner often is) might benefit from music with another animal named in its title… seriously... and her interpretation is definitely quite lovely. But she needs some triple lutzes and flips in there to give it some real resonance...

4) The European Connection ...Or does she? Kostner managed to win, after all, with nary a flip or lutz in sight. And even the jumps she DID pull off were far from perfect. Ditto for Kiira Korpi of Finland, who finished 4th. There were only 8 triple jumps completed between the two of them, and only one of those was more difficult than a triple loop. So here rears that ugly-headed question again… is their artistry THAT much better than everyone else’s? Or is a Europe-heavy judging panel doing all it can to hold up its best in a sport that has become increasingly dominated by Asian competitors?

5) Jackets, everyone… jackets!!! Not sure if this is new or not, but it appeared that U.S. Figure Skating is pushing hard for all its skaters to wear their official jackets at Kiss-N-Cry time. And make sure that USFS logo is clearly seen. In Flatt’s case it was kind of funny; she had her jacket off to the side after her free skate and appeared to suddenly remember… and put it on… and give a little flourish with the logo, all before her scores came up. She must loathe the request more than most; I’ve heard her say how she insists on sleeveless skating dresses now because she gets too hot in long sleeves. (Maybe the U.S. should go to the vest style used for the Japanese team?)

6) Giving new meaning to the “Goose” Lift. “Well… it’s interesting, and let’s just leave it at that,” chuckled Andrea Joyce during the the Universal Sports' coverage of the Cappellini/Lanotte free dance. She was referring to a new lift they do where it appears Lanotte raises Cappellini vertically by way of his hand or fist being placed just under her torso (some might say “her crotch”). File this one under Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

7) Dice-K’s done it again. It would be very hard for Takahashi to top the masterpiece that I felt last year’s “La Strada” free skate was… but his current SP sure hits that same upper stratosphere. For me, it was kind of like taking Ryan Bradley’s mambo-inspired FS from 2007 and replacing the campiness with something even more electrifying. If I can just get past the Alfalfa Effect that occurs to his product-infused hair when he’s in a spin (and occurred to Evan Lysacek at the Olympics as well), He’ll have me on cloud nine all season long.

8) Where has Asada’s groove gone THIS time? Clearly her World Champion form is still out on vacation, and her Olympic Silver Medalist form is over in the corner mocking her to pieces. The president of the Japanese Skating Federation is already rising to her defense (see
this article for more info ), and she has until the last event of the series (TEB in Paris) to re-group. Hopefully it won’t suck to be Mao Asada so much next time around.

9) Is Zhang back? Well… define your terms. She no longer looks like a pixie, and she certainly skates differently when it comes to those “kickback” issues of the past couple years (thank heavens). But she continues to have that skating-in-molasses look at nearly every turn, and with a botched lutz and two popped jumps in the free skate, confidence and/or timing issues remain at her forefront. I still have hope that she’ll reach her full potential, for I can only imagine how tough it must’ve been to relearn so many of her jumps… perhaps her other issues continue to be a work in progress.

10) Have Denney/Barrett checked out? It was admittedly kind of unsettling to see the top U.S. pair with such an error-ridden program— until I thought about the fact that this is D/B’s first season as the "top U.S. pair". Maybe it’s a pressure thing… maybe it’s a fluke… hopefully it’s not a coach thing (they haven’t been with John Zimmerman long enough for that, have they?). Their next appearance will be at Skate America… I’m going to reserve further judgment until then.

For the
Clip of the Day, I’m going with Flatt’s free skate (so far, it’s still available online). The fact that she was judged to have the best skate of the day despite falling out of a triple lutz, and no triple/triple combos, is perhaps a testament to the underwhelming work of the ladies in general. Her spins still need more speed, and the positions leave room for improvement, but I still think she’s on to something with this one.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

2010 NHK Results Overview

OK, pretend it’s Saturday… I was out of town a few days and am still trying to catch up. Ugh, I’m behind and it’s only the first event of the season!!!

So here comes the at-a-glance overview of NHK 2010, with more detailed observations to follow in the next couple of days…

Dance—Davis/White’s gold was one of the few predictions I got right at this event, so much thanks for that, D/W. Weaver/Poje did one better than I expected when they claimed silver (my prediction, Italy’s Cappellini/Lanotte, were a surprisingly hot mess all around and couldn’t do any better than 5th). And then with the bronze—look at that, it’s the Shibutanis—or, as they seem to be getting better known by, the Shib Sibs! On their senior GP debut! With a wardrobe malfunction in the Short Dance and all! How very impressive and exciting.

Pairs—My other two correct predictions (yep, I’m a pathetic 3 for 12 with this event) were the obvious Pang/Tong for gold, and Bazarova/Larionov for silver. Takahashi/Tran
were my breakout pick, and breakout they did—all the way to bronze, though I was a little surprised by this given how many small errors they had. Denney/Barrett had what are commonly known as “uncharacteristic errors” (she fell on the SBS 3T, and they messed up a lift late in the program) and ended up 5th, actually being bested by their U.S. teammates Yankowskas/Coughlin.

Men—Well, forget what I said about Dice-K not being at his best—while that was still evidently true in the Free Skate, he was certainly good enough to easily win gold. Jeremy (earning his way back to “JeremEEE” status, despite a popped axel here) Abbott nabbed the silver, and Florent-the-Funkmeister-Frenchman Amodio roared into the bronze slot. (What did I say about him being subpar at French Masters? Suffice to say he’s cleaned up his act!) Yuzuru Hanyu definitely made the splash I expected, though in the end he settled for 4th this time around. Ross Miner’s senior GP debut went well enough; he finished 9th in the field of 12.

**** SPOILER ALERT… if you are waiting to watch next weekend on NBC and don’t want to see the Ladies’ results in advance, STOP READING NOW.****

Ladies—Oh, Ms. Asada! Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, and I (mistakenly) pick you to win NHK this year. With a dreadful 8th place finish, I can’t help but wonder if right about now she’s wishing she’d gone Kim Yu-Na’s route, and ditched the GP series. On the other hand, Carolina Kostner not only got her mojo back—she won a GP event for the first time in 2 years. Rachael Flatt took silver (and won the free skate); Kanako “A-Star-Is-Born” Murakami lost some ground with her Free Skate but still managed bronze. Ashley Wagner turned up in 5th, behind Finland’s Kiira Korpi. And Caroline Zhang—who, you may have noticed, looks like her physical maturity was shoved into a microwave over the summer— unfortunately could do no better than 7th.

As I say… more details and observations coming soon!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cutting to the Chase: 2010 NHK Airdates/Times and the Men/Ladies Medal Predictions

Very interesting little survey posed by USFS on their Facebook page today when they posed the question “How will you be watching coverage of the NHK Trophy?” I haven’t counted or tallied the responses yet, but I must say it was a pretty smart way for them to spot-check their core audience.

Speaking of which, here’s the Ice Network (and presumably Universal Online?) live streaming schedule:
(All times Eastern)

Friday, Oct. 22

2:00 a.m. : Short Dance
4:05 a.m. : Pairs Short Program
6:05 a.m.: Ladies Short Program
11:20 p.m.: Men's Short Program

Saturday, Oct. 23

1:30 a.m.: Free Dance
3:35 a.m. : Pairs Free Skate
5:30 a.m. : Ladies Free Skate
11:00 p.m. : Men's Free Skate

As for the Universal Sports schedule (the cable channel, not the online stream), it looks like this:

Friday, Oct 22
6:00-7:30 p.m.: Pairs Short Program and Short Dance
10:30-11:30 p.m. : Ladies Short Program

Saturday, Oct. 23
3:00-4:00 p.m. : Pairs Free Skate
5:00-7:00 p.m. : Men’s Short Program and Free Dance

Sunday, Oct. 24
6:00-7:00 p.m.: Men’s Free Skate

And though I believe the Ladies Free Skate was originally slated to air on Universal too, THAT is what will be featured on NBC’s coverage next Sunday, 10/31, from 4-6PM. Remember what I said earlier in the month about You Tube being policed more than ever this season? Can’t wait to see how quickly the ladies FS clips go up… and come back down…

Speaking of the LADIES—here come some predictions:

Gold: Mao Asada (JPN)
Silver: Ashley Wagner (USA)
Bronze: Rachael Flatt (USA)

While I’m aware that Asada had a dismal outing just a few weeks ago at the Japan Open… and allow that she might be competing here at something below her best work… I still predict Asada for the win, if only because I just don’t think she’s going to have a lot of competition. I also allow that I might be overly optimistic in predicting 2 U.S. ladies as the ones coming closest to Asada’s point total (and even putting Wagner over Flatt in the process). But if I can’t go with plain old haunches at the start of a new season, when CAN I go with them?

Breakout Star Watch?: Another reigning Junior World Champion will be in attendance in this discipline, and her name is Kanako Murakami (Japan). She was also 5th at Japanese Nationals earlier this year (in what we all know is an ocean-deep field)… so if she ends up claiming one of those medals I won’t be very surprised!

Others that will be interesting to see include Italy’s Carolina Kostner (can she get her mojo back? Such as it was, I mean?)… Sweden’s Viktoria Helgesson (was her top-10 finish at Worlds a fluke?)… and the U.S.’s Caroline Zhang (will she be glad she’s still in the sport after this week?).

The Replacements:
There was one TBA going into this that was originally slotted for Japan, but Jenna McCorkell (Great Britain) has been given the assignment instead.

For MEN:

Gold: Jeremy Abbott (USA)
Silver: Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Bronze: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN

OK—hear me out. Abbott tends to compete better in the first half of the season; Takahashi tends to do the opposite. These aren’t absolutes; I haven’t forgotten how Abbott blew his FS at his first Grand Prix event last year. But I saw Takahashi’s performance at the Japan Open a few weeks back, and much as I love his work, he’s got a ways to go till returning to World Champion form. It’ll be interesting if this boils down to THE QUAD, though, as I suspect both guys plan to do one.

The bronze was a very tough choice. I’d have given it to Denis Ten (KAZ) if he hadn’t become so wildly inconsistent over the past year. And I’d have given it to Florent Amodio (FRA) if he hadn’t had his own difficulties at French Masters recently. Is the pre-season a barometer of the GP season? We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ve settled on 15 year-old Hanyu, a Junior World Champ from last season making his senior GP debut here. (Kind of a “Why not??” thing.)

Breakout Star Watch?:
Obviously that would be Hanyu if he indeed pulled off a podium finish…but his teammate, 19 year-old Takahito Mura, might be a breakout too. Worth noting, though… Hanyu had a strong FS and weak SP at Japanese Nationals this past season… and Mura had the opposite. (Hanyu ended up 6th; Mura wound up 10th.)

My own vote for a “breakout” performance would be Sweden’s Adrian Schultheiss; I can’t wait to see what he’s done this season (music is Romeo & Juliet) Something tells me it won’t be your Other Competitor’s R&J… even when they’ve used the modern-day version favored over the past decade.

The Replacements:
Shawn Sawyer (CAN)—he of the impossible spirals and spin positions—is the replacement for Artem Borodulin (RUS).

I’d better post this already—competition starts in just a few hours! A nostalgic
Clip of the Day awaits; it is Midori Ito’s outstanding free skate from the 1989 edition of NHK Trophy. Stay tuned for updates and impressions starting Saturday!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Aaaaaand… We’re Back: Dance & Pair Predictions, NHK 2010

It turns out that NBC won’t be the only network featuring figure skating this fall.

Remember when I mentioned back in March that ABC might bring a Dancing with the Stars spin-off to the airwaves that featured skating in place of the dancing? Turns out it’s really coming to pass. Check out this article at to learn about Skating with the Stars, which will apparently be picking up where DWTS leaves off… for six weeks starting November 22, which (gasp!) means it will premiere during “November Sweeps” (a 4-week period where advertisers reset their rates based on the Nielsen ratings of TV programs). If I’m not mistaken, this will be the first time a non-Olympic, prime-time figure skating event is showing up during Sweeps since the final airing of Ice Wars… four long Novembers ago. Hope this goes well! The cast will be announced during the November 2 airing of the DWTS “results” show. All of this begs the question… what star would YOU like to see on this show? (Leave a comment if you like!)

But that’s not why you came, is it? As for NHK, I’ll post IceNetwork streaming times and Universal Sports/NBC air times a little later in the week. Right now, it’s time for some top-of-the-season predictions…


Gold: Davis/White (USA)
Silver: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)
Bronze: Weaver/Poje (CAN)

D/W and Cappellini/Lanotte should be a lock for 1 & 2; if you’re curious (as I am), D/W – or do you call them Marley?—are using Il Postino and cuts from Forever Tango for their Free Dance this year.

Breakout star watch? I’m trying to pay more attention this season to names that are unfamiliar to me on the various GP rosters, and in doing so have noted several of the Junior World champs from last season are making their debuts here at NHK. For dance, those “champs” are Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov of Russia. They used Schindler’s List and Fiddler on the Roof last season, this year they’ll use Don Quixote.

The Replacements: Myslievckova/Novak (Czech Republic), Turoczi/Major (HUN), and Coomes/Buckland (GBR), replacing the retired Zaretsky/Zaretsky, the injured Samuelson/Bates, and the your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine Beknazarova/Zuev.

And of course, this will mark the debut of the Short Dance in the GP series (replacing the Compulsory Dance and Original Dance). I suppose if an SD feels long, it’s failed in some way…


Gold: Pang/Tong (CHN)
Silver: Bazarova/Larionov (RUS)
Bronze: Denney/Barrett (USA)

This should be a no-brainer for Pang/Tong (Pong??)… and ooh, I’m loving their music choices this season: Chopin for the short, and Liszt’s Liebestraume (the same music as Mao Asada). Bazanova are going with The Man in the Iron Mask... Denney/Barrett might not have been my bronze choice, had Italy’s Berton/Hotarek been here as planned. But now I think the U.S. team will have a clear shot at their first podium finish.

Breakout Star Watch? Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran are not the Junior World Champs, but they’re the runners-up… and only the second Japanese team to do that in the history of Junior Worlds.
Here’s their free skate (the Clip of the Day) from last season’s 4CCs, where they finished 5th. Interesting side note; they have competed NHK 2 years running, but also continue to compete in the JGP. I didn’t know that was possible!

The Replacements:
Takahashi/Tran (JPN), Yankowskas/Coughlin (USA), skating in lieu of Inoue/Baldwin and the aforementioned Berton/Hotarek.

Singles’ medal predictions coming Thursday!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

U.S. Senior Ladies, Class of 2011: Who to Watch

Yikes—we’re a week out from NHK! I’d better preview the U.S. ladies... pronto!

Here are the top 10 senior ladies from this year’s Nationals:
1) Rachael Flatt
2) Mirai Nagasu
3) Ashley Wagner
4) Sasha Cohen
5) Christina Gao
6) Amanda Dobbs
7) Bebe Liang
8) Alexe Gilles
9) Emily Hughes
10) Alissa Czisny

Flatt, Nagasu and Wagner are all scheduled 2 GP appearances each, as you might expect… Cohen is back out of the picture, also as you might expect… ditto for Liang. To look at Hughes’ bio at, it would appear she is still planning to compete this season, except that she’s not in any USFS team envelopes… and I’m not sure how many “byes” she gets, if any, towards 2011 Nationals (plus she’s trying to graduate from Harvard next spring, right?)… in other words, I’d love to see her back. But this time I’m going to focus on 5 ladies who haven’t quite made it “there” yet, let alone made it back… (alphabetical order, as I also did with the men)

Amanda Dobbs (age 17): When watching one of her clips at You Tube recently, I noticed someone posted a comment calling Dobbs “the American Laura Lepisto”—I assume it was in reference to Dobbs’ limited jump repertoire. But Lepisto is also 5 years older than Dobbs, and has competed at the senior level since ’07 (last season was Dobbs’ senior debut). In checking out Dobbs’ recent appearance at the Finlandia Trophy (where she finished 5th), it appears a triple lutz is still not part of her skating vocabulary—her toughest jump was a triple flip, which she fell on in the free skate. Maybe it’s because she’s also training as a pair skater… and maybe she’ll have to choose one discipline over the other soon in order to reach greater success. But she was a pleasure to watch in the second half of last season, and I hope she breaks into the top 5 come January. In the meantime, look for her to compete at Cup of China (#3 on the GP calendar this year).

Christina Gao (age 16):
Somewhere off in the shadows of the ugly Orser/Kim split from late this summer, young Ms. Gao was surely training as hard as she could—Orser is still her coach, after all, and she had a Junior GP series coming up all too quickly. From what I’ve seen thus far it’s paying off, with two silver medals earned in that JGP series and a spot earned in the Final. In observing her new programs I was also taken aback by how fluidly she’s moving such seemingly long limbs—I say “seemingly” because, at 5’2”, Gao is the most petite of the ladies on my list! Given her age, a growth spurt is still possible so we’ll have to see how she continues to evolve. For now, our next chance to watch her will be at the JGP Final in December.

Alexe Gilles (age 18): On the other end of the height spectrum we have Gilles, who is either 5’7” or 5’8” depending on the source. She’s been competing at the senior level a little longer than some on this list, but she’s a senior who is still waiting for her breakout performance—her best international finish thus far is a 5th at TEB (GP Paris) last fall. Her lack of speed (and loss of steam in free skates) has been her downfall in the past; but with all the tweeting she’s done of late about “bike sprints,” maybe her speed issues are in the past. Fingers are crossed for Gilles this season for sure—I think she needs to hit the National top 5 in the worst way. Her next scheduled event is Skate Canada (GP event #2).

Agnes Zawadzki (age 16): Young lady (the youngest of any on this list). Awesome name. Reigning National Junior champ, and then went on to grab silver at Junior Worlds. USFS has given her two GP assignments in her senior-level debut; the first one being Skate Canada in just a few weeks. There isn’t much buzz about her yet on You Tube, but a couple of good skates this fall could change all that. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating… keep an eye on her.

Caroline Zhang (age 17):
Maybe it seems unlikely I’d have her on this list—she’s already made it to the podium a number of times, and finished a dismal 11th at last Nationals—but she’s still SO young, and so many of us are hoping her coaching change this season will significantly affect her jumping technique. Last year was miserable, but she hasn’t given up yet. Perhaps we shouldn’t either. (USFS sure hasn't; her first of TWO GP events this season is NHK.)

I’m making Dobbs’ SP from Finlandia Trophy the
Clip of the Day … if you’re a fan of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, you’ll enjoy this even more.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Virtue/Moir Sidelined; Meanwhile, More "Pre-Season" Skating Events Roll Out

As close as we are to Senior GP time, it seems high time to take a look at the U.S. Ladies much the way we did with the men a few weeks ago.

And we will… in a couple days. But first, gotta take care of the news:

+ Reigning Olympic Gold Medalists Virtue/Moir have announced they’ll be sitting out Skate Canada, due to Virtue’s needing surgery (actually, she’s already had it) for pain associated with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome… the same thing that required surgery for her a couple of years ago. Read more about her situation
here... no word yet on whether or not they will fulfill their other assignment (Trophee Eric Bompard, which is in the last slot this year).

+ The “pre-season” perks along in the meantime, with Finlandia Trophy taking place last weekend. Of note was Akiko Suzuki (who won), as well as the fact that both Kiira Korpi (finishing 2nd) and Ksenia Makarova (4th) are using music from Evita in their free skates. Korpi definitely looks the part; unfortunately neither performance is ready to light up the room just yet. Amanda Dobbs of the U.S. finished 5th… the men’s side was a mass (or should I say MESS) of inconsistencies, with Japan’s Daisuke Murakami turning in the 2nd best SP but the 9th best FS (5th overall)… U.S.’s Grant Hochstein only in 6th after SP, but pulling to 1/10th of a point from 3rd when he delivered the second-best FS… and Russia’s Artur Gachinski was 3rd and 1st (which left him the winner), Sweden’s Kristoffer Berntsson was 1st and 4th (finishing 2nd)… and the other veteran in the event, Samuel Contesti, is the one who edged Hochstein out of a medal. (The other U.S. competitor, Jonathan Cassar, finished 7th.) Finally, the U.S. dance team of Hubbell/Hubbell came in 4th (Pechalat/Bourzat won that event).

+ Also last weekend was the JGP Germany, held in Dresden, earning the U.S. one more medal of each color: gold for Richard Dornbush, silver for Kiri Baga, and bronze for the dance team of Lichtman/Copely. That brings the total JGP medal count to 17, with one more regular event on the way this weekend in the Czech Republic. (By comparison, last year’s senior-level GP earned the U.S. 16 medals, plus 3 more in the Final.)

For the
Clip of the Day, I’ve got Dornbush’s winning FS to music from Sherlock Holmes.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

NBC Brings "All That Skate" to Network TV (A week after the event... BTW, better get used to that.)

To the figure skating fans who simply start looking for it on TV to know when it’s back “in season”… TEN must be their lucky number. Because 10/10/10 (Sunday) is when NBC brings Kim Yu-Na’s All That Skate—the L.A. version that occurred last weekend—to TV screens, at 2:30PM Eastern.

The show is, of course, all-that-skate-and-a-bag-of-chips when it comes to its cast. In addition to Kim and Michelle Kwan (skating in front of a U.S. audience for the first time in 4 years), who have to be considered the co-headliners even though this is Kim’s show, we have recent Olympic Gold Medalists Shen/Zhao, Virtue/Moir, as well as world champs and/or medalists Stephane Lambiel, Johnny Weir, Patrick Chan, Belbin/Agosto, and Savchenko/Szolkowy. Current U.S. bronze medalist Ashley Wagner joined the party as well.

(Based on numerous “tweets” about the event, current U.S. champ Jeremy Abbott wanted very badly to participate—he did so in the Korean version, after all—but cited “conflicts,” at least one of which involved a costume fitting appointment, that kept him from being anything more than a spectator this time.)

From there,fans of televised skating will basically see the fall/winter season evolve as a pastiche of Grand Prix events and Disson shows (Skate for the Heart, Improv-Ice, etc.), somewhat as they have in previous seasons, all culminating with the bigger events in late January and March. But if you take a look at the breakdown of NHK coverage at the
Figure Skating TV Schedule, you’ll see that the NBC coverage actually comes a week after the “same-day” Universal Sports coverage concludes: NHK ends October 23, but the highlights won’t hit broadcast TV until October 31. Skate Canada International occurs October 29-31, but won’t broadcast until November 6. And so on.

Are you out of luck if your cable system doesn’t pick up Universal Sports? Not exactly, as the channel is now offering a live, wall-to-wall, streaming-video subscription package similar to that offered by IceNetwork. So those folks will have to decide if they are ready to pay for live, or wait a week and get the highlights for free. (And just a guess here, but I suspect the YouTube police will be more vigilant than ever when it comes to those next-day GP posts.)

Is this yet another sign that broadcast figure skating is becoming obsolete? Not in my book (no pun intended, though “my book” is indeed about broadcast figure skating…plug plug). Quite the contrary in fact—it looks like they are starting to find their way in this brave new media world. And a lot of “finding their way” has to do with finding a profit. It’s not just the sport of figure skating that’s doing this, or will be soon… it’s equestrian, it’s swimming, it’s all the “niche sports” that absolutely have an audience… just not often one that compares to the NFL, MLB or NBA. Yes, 15 years ago figure skating was in its commercial stride, commanding hyper-lucrative contracts and dominating Sunday afternoons, sometimes two networks or more at a time. But that time is long past, for every reason you’ve probably thought of and likely a few more. It may come again; it may not. The reality is the schedule in that link I posted above. Frankly, I’m pleased to see it on network TV at all… especially in a non-Olympic season. I honestly wasn’t sure it could happen. (We might want to thank the likes of Lysacek and Davis/White for that; their Vancouver finishes surely didn’t hurt.)

I’m including Lambiel’s Korean ATS performance to the William Tell Overture as the
Clip of the Day… rumor has it this got a VERY good reception in LA. Hope it makes the telecast!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And the Coaching Job Goes To...

Peter Oppegard.

OK, complete sentence this time: Kim Yu-Na has announced her new coach will be Peter Oppegard. Just thought you'd want to know.

And while you're here-- three quick facts regarding Oppegard; at least one of which you couldn't possibly know until now:

1) With his partner Jill Watson, Oppegard won Olympic Bronze back in 1988 (the last time a U.S. team won a pairs' medal, by the way).

2) He's married to Karen Kwan... Michelle's older sister, as well as a former competitve skater in her own right.

3) Back in his Olympic days, he was on a "Top 10 Men List" I composed with my college roommate. :-) (Let's just say Kwan has EXCELLENT taste.)

Um, any thoughts on Kim's decision?

Monday, October 4, 2010

What You Need to Know About the 2010 Japan Open

As we inch closer to senior GP time, non-traditional skating events are starting to pepper the globe. We’ve seen them before, and sometimes they can reveal some pretty interesting things…just check out this story about the recent French Masters (featuring the newest, improvi-est version of Brian Joubert) for proof of that.

And/or, take a look at these notes on the Japan Open (held last weekend) that I just wrote up after watching some of the clips…

Who was involved: “Team Japan” consisted of Daisuke Takahashi, Takahiko Kozuka, Mao Asada, and Miki Ando… “Team America” (meaning Canada and U.S.) was Adam Rippon, Joannie Rochette, Jeffrey Buttle (pro skaters… that’s part of the “non-traditional” thing), and Cynthia Phaneuf… “Team Europe” featured Sarah Meier, Michal Brezina, Julia Sebestyen (yes, she’s apparently a “pro” now), and Evgeny Plushenko (reinstated or not, he’s apparently free to skate in this event).

What we learned: Rippon (who won the men's side) looked absolutely ready to compete with a spot-on new free skate to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and 2 successful triple axels… while Dice-K (in 2nd) was hot and cold, nailing his quad toe in competition for the first time since returning from knee surgery (that was the “hot” part) but flubbing several other elements, not unlike some of his GP performances from last season. Ando looked… well…the same, which is to say “fine, but…meh.” I do think her new FS (to Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16) is an improvement on last year’s though. Perhaps the most important sight to see this weekend was Asada—in her first big outing (I think?) since settling on Nobuo Sato as her new coach. Did she skate well? No, not at all—she fell twice, and her triple axels were simply MIA (it was other jumps that she fell on). But just to see her in a light-colored, sleeveless, airy-looking dress… skating to Liszt’s Liebestraume, which also seems downright effervescent compared to last year… it did my heart good just the same.

Which is why, flaws and all, I’m making it the
Clip of the Day.

P.S. If you’re saying “What?! No mention of All That Skate L.A.?”… not to worry. I plan to do so later in the week.