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.


Anonymous said...

Let me add the 11th takeaway... if I may.

11) Where is Yuna?

Aaron said...

I thought it completely absurd that Carolina Kostner won this event.

And the 12th takeaway...How brilliant is Jeremy Abbott!

Kelli Lawrence said...

JeremEEE was looking pretty exquisite, wasn't he! I'm already looking forward to seeing both of his new programs multiple times.

He's definitely not forgotten...I'll be talking more about him as soon as time allows.

Anonymous said...

>Where has Asada’s groove gone THIS time?

Asada is reworking all of her jumps (except for 3L) from the scratch - going back to basics and re-building the jumping technique from the scratch. She said that she's aware of the consequences of re-building jumps at this stage, but even if it takes a season, two or three of shaky performances, she wants to have textbook jumps in time for Sochi.

It isn't very likely that she'll be in stellar form in time for TEB. It took Joannie over 2 seasons to rework "just" her Lutz.