Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Good, Bad, and "Spiffy": Skating with the Stars, Week 2

So now that Jennifer Grey is finally out of Baby’s “corner” and into the limelight that is Dancing with the Stars’ mirror-ball trophy glare… and DWTS has, subsequently, faded for now into winter hiatusland… it’s time for its pesky new kid sister, Skating with the Stars, to start flying solo. How’d it do? Well, there’s good news and bad news…

The Good News: So far, the numbers on Skating with the Stars are actually better than the numbers earned on the last prime-time, non-Olympic skating event (March’s 2-day show Thin Ice, also on ABC). That show averaged about 4.2 million viewers; SWTS pulled in around 6 million Monday night (about the same amount reported to have stuck with the show through its second hour last week). Incidentally, those numbers also put ABC in second place during those hours… not bad, except…

The Bad News: DWTS traditionally pulls down at least 24 million viewers… or 4 times more than SWTS has done thus far. Also, it must be noted that both CBS and FOX had some reruns happening… we’ll have to wait and see if the show is able to keep (and build?) on the 6 million, or if that number erodes when more first-run series return in December.

While I’m ill-prepared to give you the full-blown review that I gave last week, here are some of the SWTS needs-to-know as I see it (for Episode #2):

+ It’s still not DWTS, but that’s not for lack of trying. From the hyper-elaborate hair, makeup and costumes, to the presentation of the scores, to the dramatic, can’t-go-on fluff pieces (did everyone get that Bethenny is s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g?), to Tanith now hanging backstage in the “Brooke” role (Vernon did this in week 1), the show is terrified of doing anything that might have the nonchalant viewer rubbing their eyes, saying “Wait a minute… when did Brooke become a blonde?”)

+ But one look at the judges as the camera panned the studio en route back to Vernon told the story: the three sat very poised, not speaking, staring straight ahead. Maybe Carrie Ann, Len and Bruno used to do the exact same thing… I didn’t watch DWTS in its first couple seasons… but I hope everyone gets a chance to loosen up as this series progresses. The chemistry between Tom Bergeron and the other DWTS talents feels very genuine, and (I think) has as much to do with that show’s success as the dancing.

+ Also like DWTS, the competitors were assigned one of two “dances”… this time they either had the jive (Jonny/Brooke, Bethenny/Ethan, and Sean/Denis), or the tango (Vince/Jennifer, Brandon Mychal/Keauna, and Rebecca/Fred).

+ The apparently all-important FALLS that they like to show so much in the promos? Finally started happening here. Vince Neil went down once; Sean Young went down twice.

+ Ben Agosto and John Baldwin were among the recognizable faces in the crowd this week. (Recognizable to skating fans, anyway.)

+ The Johnny Weir Gushfest continued this week… is he genuinely surprised at how well some of these folks are picking up the moves, or just selling it all like crazy because that’s his job? Hard to tell. What do you think?

+ I had to wince when Vernon made a ham-handed comment about one of Dick Button’s use of “spiffy” dating back to the original ice age. Good Lord. If viewers can’t allow Dick his “spiffy” comments now and then, who needs ‘em? (Don’t answer that, ABC.)

+ As for the performances, some were better than others of course. The leaderboard had Rebecca/Fred in 1st, and Vince/Jennifer in last—just like last week.

+ Nonetheless, Sean Young was the one with the lowest combined total of judges’ scores and audience vote, so she was sent home. And was rather relieved, I think.

I’m including the Jonny/Brooke jive—which wasn’t terrible—as the
Clip of the Day.

A closer look at last week’s Trophee Eric Bompard coming soon…

Monday, November 29, 2010

TEB and GPF 2010-11 Updates At-A-Glance

Here’s the thumbnail of TEB developments, and the Grand Prix Final assignments that were clarified as a result… my full report (complete with references to the oh-so-fancy directing that was taking place throughout the World Feed!) will likely come on Wednesday..

After Brian Joubert withdrew (“flu-like symptoms”) and French newcomer Chafik Besseghier suffered a case of RSO (rookie spaz-out), the stage was set for the top 3 to easily hold on to their podium places. Brandon Mroz laid down another solid, if not stellar, free skate to earn bronze… Florent Amodio easily supplanted Joubert as the home-country fave with another entertaining free skate that made up for the fact that it was quad-free… he took silver. Takahiko Kozuka hit another high point in his career by coming out right after Amodio brought the house down…and rebuilt it, and brought it down all over again with a technically packed, quietly brilliant free skate of his own. (I was 2 for 3 on the predictions.)


It was a good weekend for the U.S. ladies, though not as good as it should have been. Alissa Czisny botched her triple lutz in the SP, then resorted to meltdown mode after making her initial mistake in the FS (a stepout on her triple loop)… still, she hung on to bronze when Haruka Imai tumbled out of 3rd place with a pretty sorry-looking free skate. Mirai Nagasu fared much better from 2nd place than she’s done from 1st, happily accepting the silver medal (her first medal in the GP). She lost gold—by less than 2 points—to Kiira Korpi, who I wouldn’t have put in first in either the SP or FS… but the judges were ready to hand it over after Nagasu under-rotated 2 of her jumps AND made mincemeat out of her own gorgeous layback spin. Sigh. (I had the people right in my podium predictions, but not the order.)


In what was essentially a 2-pair event as promised, Savchenko/Szolkowy built on their previous Pink Panther free skate to create another great, if not flawless, GP performance. It put them well enough ahead of Bazarova/Larionov, who came up very close in the SP and, I suspect, will be a team making a major move at this year’s Worlds (they were 8th this past year). My prediction for 3rd, Canada’s Brodeur/Mattatall, had consistent difficulties with side-by-side jumps and throws and settled for 4th behind the surprisingly strong Maylin Hausch/Daniel Wende of Germany. (I was 2 for 3 here.)


Pechalat/Bourzat took gold with a pair of programs that topped their previous gold medal-winning work, looking very much like a team that could make a successful run for the Worlds podium this year. The U.S. team-on-a-roll Chock/Zuerlein managed a second bronze medal with their infectious Cabaret number (despite a fall on Chock’s part), leaving silver to Russian newcomers Ekaterina Riazanova/Ilia Tkachenko. (Meaning 1-for-3 for me)

With these results, the GP Finalists were able to be determined:

Men: Kozuka, Takahashi, Chan, Verner, Oda, Amodio (ALT: Abbott, Mroz, Rippon)
P.S. It’s worth noting, I think, that 2 of these top 6 (Verner and Amodio) made it this far without having a quad in their repertoire so far this season.

Ladies: Ando, Czisny, Kostner, Murakami, Suzuki, Flatt (ALT: Korpi, Nagasu, Wagner)

Pairs: Savchenko/Szolkowy, Pang/Tong, Bazarova/Larionov, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, Iliushechkina/Maisuadze, Wenjing/Cong (ALT: Takahashi/Tran, Yankowskas/Coughlin, Lawrence/Sweigers)

Dance: Davis/White, Pechalat/Bourzat, Crone/Poirier, Bobrova/Soloviev, Weaver/Poje, Hoffman/Zavozin
(ALT: Shibutanis, Chock/Zuerlein, Riazanova/Tkachenko)

As it currently stands, only 3 slots of the Final are occupied by U.S. skaters… oddly enough, 8 of the 12 “alternate” slots are occupied by them.

Look for a Skating with the Stars update tomorrow…

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 Trophee Eric Bompard: Airdates and Predictions

Quick Skating with the Stars ratings update: in a word, they were mediocre. One report I saw had the show with less than 11 million viewers by 9:30 Eastern (compared to 23 million for the Dancing with the Stars which preceded it)… and less than 6 million one hour later. I want to check those numbers against a few others and try to put things more into perspective next week.

Hope my fellow Americans had a wonderful Thanksgiving… without further adieu, on we go with the streaming/air schedule for Trophee Eric Bompard!

On IceNetwork:

Friday, Nov. 26
9:25 a.m.: Pairs short program
10:50 a.m.: Men's short program
12:45 p.m.: Ladies short program
2:40 p.m.: Short dance

Saturday, Nov. 27
7:40 a.m.: Pairs free skate
9:25 a.m.: Men's free skate
12:25 p.m.: Ladies free skate
2:40 p.m.: Free dance

And as for Universal Sports:

Friday, Nov. 26
7-8:30 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Short Program
9-10:30 p.m.: Ladies Short Program and Short Dance
11 p.m.-12:30 a.m.: Men’s and Pairs SP (rebroadcast)
1-2:30 a.m.: Ladies Short Program and Short Dance (rebroadcast)

Saturday, Nov. 27
4-6 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Free Skate
8-9 p.m.: Free Dance
11 p.m. - 1 a.m.: Men’s and Pairs Free Skate (rebroadcast)

Sunday, Nov. 28
4-6 p.m.: Ladies Free Skate
8-10 p.m..: Ladies Free skate (rebroadcast)

And remember the Ladies Free Skate will first air on NBC from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, followed by Holiday Celebration on Ice from 4-6 p.m..

Let’s see if I can better my 6-for-12 from last week’s predictions…

For MEN:

Gold: Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Silver: Brian Joubert (FRA)
Bronze: Brandon Mroz (USA)

I don’t think Florent Amodio is a sure bet for this event, especially since he’s still hot/cold from event to event… plus doesn’t have a quad in a field where at least 5 other guys are sure bets to at least attempt one or two. Having said that, I’m not sure Kevin Reynolds can pull off his other elements well enough to make his numerous quads worth his while. And Joubert never seems to turn in a great TEB outing, so the silver position might be generous… but I’m not confident enough in Mroz’s back-to-back abilities to bring home another 2nd place, so there you go. Kozuka’s won once this season already, so I’m guessing that given the competition, he could pull it off again.


Gold: Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)
Silver: Bazarova/Larionov (RUS)
Bronze: Brodeur/Mattatall (CAN)

Gold was easy for this one… so was silver… then came multiple reviews of the list of skaters (since Zhang/Zhang aren’t competing the GP this season) and thoughts of these are my choices?? So Brodeur/Mattatall ended up being my guess. Sorry…it’s about as un-scientific as that.


Gold: Alissa Czisny (USA)
Silver: Kiira Korpi (FIN)
Bronze: Mirai Nagasu (USA)

So over here we have the likes of Nagasu and Cynthia Phaneuf, both of whom turned in top-flight SPs earlier in the season only to fall apart in the free skate. I’m thinking this time, both of them will have flawed SPs and Nagasu will be the one who skates well enough in the FS to bounce back and medal. Meanwhile…over here is Mao Asada, who is presumably still “re-learning” her jumps and, sorry to say, is no longer reliable for a medal (though I don’t rule it out). Barring a surprisingly strong debut from last season’s up-and-comer Sarah Hecken (Germany), that leaves Czisny and Korpi for 1 and 2—and while neither is a sure bet for great technicality (Czisny tends to implode; Korpi tends to dumb down her jumps), Czisny’s got the much better goods when it comes to all the other things that make skating beautiful.


Gold: Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)
Silver: Chock/Zuerlein (USA)
Bronze: Riazanova/Tkachenko(RUS)

Pechalat and Bourzat—no contest. Then…? Um… I’ll go with Chock/Zuerlein because a) it’s a pretty thin field, and b) they won bronze a few weeks ago, so it’s not an outrageous notion they could win silver. For the bronze, I’ll pick the Russians over the remaining French team (Carron/Jones), if only because I wasn’t crazy about the latter’s Rolling Stones-inspired dance when I saw it earlier in the season.

For a reminder of Riazanova/Tkanchenko’s skating, check out this
Clip of the Day. Back with observations soon…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rostelecom Cup 2010 Results: Any Questions? (Um, yeah, I have just a few...)

Everything’s a rush this week—another GP event in the books; then Skating with the Semi-Stars, then Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), then another GP event which happens to be the final qualifier. So when it comes to posting something cohesive about last weekend’s Rostelecom Cup (of Russia)… I simply found myself with a list of questions (even though most of them are rhetorical in nature):

(Quick summary: currently quad-less Tomas Verner picked up his first-ever GP victory with 2 relatively clean performances, while the favorite (and judges’ darling) Patrick Chan struggled, especially with his free skate, and settled for silver. Jeremy Abbott also suffered a sub-par free skate, but his short program score kept him in it for bronze. I had the podium names right in my predictions, but not the order.)

My questions:

+ With all the Plushenko, Yagudin, and Weir posters I saw flanking the stands, I had to wonder… what year is this, again??

+ Will Samuel Contesti ever skate a short program that doesn’t take him out of the medal hunt?
+ Will Alban Preaubert ever rise above the 4th-5th-6th placements in which he now seems mired? (Answering self here: probably not with this year’s free skate.)
+ How many more times in one event can Chan fall to the ice and still finish first or second? Won’t someone please take away the Kool-Aid that all the judges seem to be drinking when he’s in an event??

(Quick summary: though she was down in 5th after the SP, Miki Ando once again proved to be the best of the field on FS day and rose to another overall victory. Akiko Suzuki skated better here than she did at Cup of China, but it was close-but-no-cigar event for her as she took silver again. And while home country faves Ksenia Makarova and Alena Leonova both struggled throughout the event, Ashley Wagner found what she needed to improve significantly on her NHK performance, winning bronze in the process. I was 2-for-3 on the predictions.)

My questions:

+ Will Agnes Zawadzki (who started this event in 2nd, but finished 4th after another troubled free skate) be able to take what she’s learned from the GP circuit this fall and turn it into a more successful outing at U.S. Nationals?
+ Will Wagner realize now that one fall in an otherwise clean program is often better than having 4 insecure, two-footed landings? (Um, SP at last year’s Nationals notwithstanding…)
+ Will Leonova ever give a sincere smile on the ice again? The way her face plummets after every disappointing skate these days is bumming me out.

(Quick summary: Yavaguti and Smirnov are back, and won here easily with a lovely, understated take on Claire de Lune. Japanese newbies Takahashi/Tran skated to silver, while Evora/Ladwig relocated their Olympic groove and earned their first trip to the GP podium—a bronze. I was 2-for-3 on this prediction too.)

My questions:

+ As much improved as Yavaguti/Smirnov are with this year’s program… will Ms.Yavaguti ever look anything less than terrified at the end of a routine? (It makes me wonder what sort of fear of God Tatiana Moskvina has instilled in her, especially since missing the podium in Vancouver.)
+ Why do I like the Lawrence/Stiegers free skate to the Van Helsing soundtrack better than most of the programs I’m seeing this year? (They took bronze with it at Skate Canada, but only finished 5th here.)
+ Can Evora/Ladwig be as good at every event as they were at this one? Pretty please? It would make those gorgeous lifts so much more satisfying… and their side-by-side flying sit spins are always a treat too.

(Quick summary: it all started like a normal competitive event, but by the time it was over nearly half the competitors had dropped out due to injury. Of those that remained, home faves Bobrova/Soloviev easily took gold, while Hoffmann/Zavozin of Hungary claimed their first podium finish (a silver) and Russians Ilinykh/Katsalapov took bronze. I somehow ended up 2-for-3 on this pick too.)

My questions:

+ All right, who threw thumbtacks all over the Rostelecom practice ice so three of the eight competing couples had to get injured and scratch the event?? (Road Runner, I’m looking at you… did you think Massimo Scali was Will E. Coyote?)
+ How can I possibly ask any questions about an event that barely took place?
+ Oh, wait, here’s one more: I said it earlier in the week, but it bears repeating… isn’t Tanith Belbin a great addition to the Universal broadcast team? I’m quite fond of Susie Wynne (and she gave me a lovely interview for the Skating on Air book), but the one thing she wasn’t able to do was speak from experience about the IJS system as it applies to ice dance. Belbin can, and does… plus is starting to offer some spirited opinions about the different teams. Go girl!

And one more general question about Rostelecom in general… was it me, or did the crowd here seem unusually quiet (except for when Russian skaters took the ice)? I tend to think it was the Russian version of the World Feed that was the culprit—and that they kept the crowd mic at an overall lower level than other places. (They’re also responsible for using dissolves between the cameras where I would’ve preferred takes, and takes where I’d have preferred dissolves… but that’s just the director in me talking.)

Anyway, I hope they re-think that for the future if that was indeed what happened. Very strange to hear next to NO crowd reaction when someone successfully completes the toughest jump in their arsenal, after all!

Since I already posted his free skate a few weeks ago, I’ll put up Verner’s “Singin’ in the Rain” SP from Rostelecom as the
Clip of the Day.

And despite tomorrow’s U.S. holiday, I still plan to get Trophee Eric Bompard predictions posted before Friday morning… watch this space!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

“Skating With The Stars” in a Nutshell: 5.3 Technical; 5.7 Artistic

Here’s the very, very short version of my SWTS review: it’s about what I expected it to be. The scores above have more to do with the production values of the show itself rather than the skating, which is very Skating-with-Celebrities-ish (What else could it have been? The sport is at least as hard to master now as it was when that show aired in early 2006.)

No dramatic falls last night; no controversial scores (despite host Vernon Kay’s efforts to drum up a feeling that “star” Bethenny Frenkel wuz robbed). I’m not sure everything worked— Tanith Belbin could have been used more effectively, to name just one possibly change I’d make—but with just 6 weeks on the whole series, I don’t know if they’ll bother tinkering with it much unless it gets picked up for another season. Is it Dancing With The Stars On Ice? Nope. Battle of the Blades, U.S. style? Afraid not. But as a stop-gap measure (filling the time between the end of DWTS and the start of whatever premieres in this time slot in January), I think it’s relatively harmless.

For the full-length version of what I saw last night (I wrote as the show unfolded, segment by segment), read on… and of course, feel free to add your own two cents!

Skating With The Stars Premiere… As it Happened

Vernon Kay literally walks us from the Dancing With the Stars set over to the SWTS set (silently pleading don’t turn away, DWTS audience… please… please stay!!!!) and it goes very well… until he throws his arms wide and forgets he has the mic in one of them, cutting off his own intro… “Welcome to Skating with the St---!”

Oh well.

The so far un-id’d pro skaters do a group number to “Dynamite”—the one I’ve heard via Radio Disney all summer and fall. Halter tops, booty shorts, hip music—yep, it’s pro skating time… and we’re in Sweeps.

Introductions. OK, Sean Young already looks terrified she’s going to break an ankle. Early guess… she’ll be the first out. Let’s see if I agree with me in 2 hours.

Judges intro… Johnny first, then Laurie, then Dick. They’re trying very hard to make this part interesting. The judges’ table is shown… you’d think they’d put Dick in the “Len” position (center) if they were going to keep up the DWTS similarities… after all, Johnny makes a pretty decent “Bruno”, sans accent.

Tanith is here to brief us on the rules. Oops, I was too busy typing and missed ‘em. We’ll figure it out.

Brandon Mychal Smith is up first. His current claim to fame is the Disney show Sunny with a Chance (getting all the Disney connections yet?!) Which means my 7 year old daughter loooves him. He’s paired with Keauna McLaughlin… they show zero footage of her pairs victories (C’mon, doesn’t ABC/ESPN have the rights to at least one of those?!) They show their getting-to-know-you montage, then leave us hanging with…

Commercials. I have to mute it when one comes on with a variation of “Jingle Bells”. Still too early.

OK, time to skate. Smith and McLaughlin. Song is American Boy I think. Sorry, my age is showing… OK I think I saw one “element” (1-foot spin)… not bad. Not bad all around… wow, they’re using Tanith for color commentary but will we ever see her again?

Judges: Dick says pretty good things but nails Smith on the spiral. Laurie calls the performance “magical fantastical”. Have I mentioned she’s not a skating expert? Weir calls it a solid first effort.

Now Tanith runs the elements in slo-mo… oh, there she is in the corner. Scores: 6-5-5 for technical, 7-7-6 for artistic. 36 out of 60.

Commercials. I love the Target 2-day Sale lady. She reminds me of the cousin GLEE’s Sue Sylvester never knew she had. Not sure why.

Sean Young is up next. Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about self-esteem issues with her (heh). She’s paired with Denis Petukhov… poor guy. Tanith calls her the least experienced, and cites a fall in rehearsal that sounds like Faiella/Scali’s entire Cup of China performance. They skate to “Bubbly”… seems an odd choice for a 51 y.o. woman. But… she didn’t fall. I’ll give her that.

Judges. Johnny says something about a bunny running through a meadow. What? Laurie drools all over her as if Sean is Julia Roberts. Dick claims he fell in love with her in “that movie”… I thought he forgot the name of the movie, but then he worked in some puns about “No Way Out” and “Bladerunner”. Heh. Told her to be less tentative.

Vernon Kay (the host) tossed to break, but it looks like something was goofed up there. Especially when he reminds us we’re LIVE. Yep, copy that.

Commercials. Somebody tell me why Winter Wipeout is full of pratfalling Santas but we won’t see it “premiere” until January 6??

We’re back. Tanith with the slo-mo (never heard “beautiful” and “shoot-the-duck” in the same sentence before) and scores: 6-5-5 for technical; 7-5-6 for artistic. 34 out of 60.

Next comes Jonny Mosely—1998 Olympic gold medalist (skiing). Brooke Castile is his partner. She refers to skating as “like dancing, but way cooler.” Um, DWTS crew, pretend she didn’t say that…

Vernon teases that Johnny Weir will be skating later. Oh, so THAT’s why he’s been back on the ice lately…(one of the reasons, anyway)

Commercials. OK, I love the Target lady, but not when she’s on FOUR times in one break.

We’re back. Jonny & Brooke skate to the Chili Peppers’ version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”… well I wouldn’t call it going at “electric speed” as Tanith did, but pretty good. I must say Mr. Mosely has some rockin’ hair. Castile looks like she had more fun in that routine than in all her Nationals performances put together. (Except for maybe the one where she won.)

Judges: Laurie loves it, but wants more “funk in your trunk”. Dick goes on a bit about the transfer of his ski skills to skating… Johnny says it was like a bull in a China shop and he loved it. Complete with a hand clap when he said “loved it”! My goodness. Scores: 7-7-7 for technical; 6-6-7 artistic for 40 out of 60.

In the toss to break they show the remaining skaters (including Vince Neil) practicing back crossovers… I have to giggle because they all look like center ice at every public skate anywhere where they let the kids with the moves skate in the middle. And then the kids either have very few moves, or no room in which to do the moves. (The “stars”, so far, are of the very-few-moves camp.)

Commercials. The Mastercard ad reminds me I should be working on Christmas shopping plans instead of blogging around this show.

We’re back, and Johnny’s slapped on his makeup (a modified version I’m sure) and is doing his “Poker Face” routine—also a modified version. Was this done in advance? Probably… Ooh, and Vernon follows it with a mention of the USFS’s basic skills program. Good plug.

Rebecca Budig is next; she’s been obsessed with this sport since she was a kid and used to pretend to do pairs with her sister. Let’s see if her love translates to the ice… Fred Palascak is her partner. He’s athletic and super serious, and no, he can’t claim any national titles or medals… so there. I don’t know this song. You can tell she’s got a little more experience, she does a decent spiral and they manage some nice lifts. “It was often difficult to tell who was the pro and who was the star…” Tanith gushes. Um, that’s pushing it.

Judges: Dick calls it absolutely elegant… you can tell she’s thinking I can’t believe I’m getting tips from DICK BUTTON! Johnny says something about her being like a real skater, and something about his weave…? Missed it. Laurie said something I didn’t catch, and don’t really care about.

Scores: 7-7-7 technical; 8-8-8 for 45 out of 60.

Vince Neil’s turn. He allegedly won a skating competition as a kid—he has photographic evidence! But it doesn’t translate to an easier time here. He’s with Jennifer Wester, who describes herself as a “professional ice skater for 14 years”… which doesn’t make much sense to those of us who know she was competing not that long ago, but whatever.

Commercials. I got nuthin’.

We’re back. Vince and Jennifer are skating to something that’s supposed to rock “I Like the Way You Move”. Hey, his spin isn’t god-awful! But the rest of it seems like he didn’t have much to do.

Judges: Weir tagged him on following his partner around too much; not enough rock star. Laurie disagrees. Um, did I hear that right? Did she just tell him to SPOT when he’s spinning like dancers do? Not with skating!! Shut up Laurie. Dick tells him “any man afraid to make mistakes will never make anything.” Allrighty, then.

6-4-4 Technical. Vernon is flabbergasted and calls the judges “harsh”. Heh. 6-4-4 artistic; 28 out of 60. Aw come on rockers… vote him through anyway!

Next is—wait; did I get trapped in the middle of an extended trailer for “The Bachelor”?? Note to The Bachelor himself: the only way you’re truly going to fall in love… is if you stop trying to do it on national TV.

Commercials again. How are they going to fill the last 20 minutes of this show with just one remaining skating team? Will there be a “Bachelorette” trailer too? At least I can now tell my husband that “V” is returning… he won’t watch this show (SWTS), but he’ll probably catch that.

We’re back… they’ve burned 3 more minutes. It’s time for Bethenny Frenkel OK, she’s one of the “real housewives”, right? Never saw her before this. But she gets a good line in (to partner Ethan Burgess): “OK, the fact you’re not gay is going to alarm my husband, so we might have to pretend that you are.”

They’re skating to some variation on “You Spin Me Round”… cause she gets dizzy easily. GET IT? She appears to be in good shape, but looks only slightly less tentative than Sean Young. Oh, I finally see someone I recognize in the crowd—Len is over here, slumming from DWTS. He must’ve missed his ride home.

Judges. Laurie tells her to relax her shoulders more. Dick calls her “one skinny babe” and wants her to put more flow in skating. Johnny also praises her shape (Oh, forgot to mention she had a baby a handful of weeks ago. Another reason to loathe her.)

Vernon tosses to break—we have about 8 minutes left to fill. Damn, I just realized I missed Hoarders. (I sense a joke about SWTS also being a show about crap might be imminent.) This show is seriously torching my schedule. I definitely won’t be doing this much detail in the future…

Commercials. Good Lord, another Bachelor promo. Someone kill me.

Scores! 5-5-5 technical; 5-4-5 artistic for 29 out of 60. Vernon tries to milk the crowd into “saying” her marks were too low. Eh, not so much.

They show the leaderboard… explain next week’s score will be incorporated into this week’s score (no results show this week). Then the recap, then… buh-bye!

We’ll get back to business (aka Rostelecom observations) tomorrow…

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Time to "Kick Some Serious Ice"... and Hold Your Breath: Here Comes "Skating With the Stars"

Before I hit you with some Rostelecom observations… I bet you’re foaming at the mouth with anticipation over tomorrow night’s premiere of Skating with the Stars, which is set to hit the airwaves at—no, I’m not kidding—9:11 (that’s nine-eleven) PM. Because that’s apparently how long Dancing with the Stars is scheduled to run over its 8-9 PM time slot.

Sorry I’ve been lax in getting this out; it slipped through the cracks over the past couple of weeks. Here’s what else you need—and I use the term loosely—to know:

Who’s Hosting: Tanith Belbin (who’s doing a bang-up job calling ice dancing on Universal Sports, so good for ABC in getting her)… and Vernon Kay (who??), a UK guy who appears to be newly under contract to the Alphabet Network. I’ve no clue, so let’s cross fingers on that one.

Who’s Judging: Dick Button (natch; would he miss this??)… Johnny Weir (as previously mentioned)… and Laurie Ann Gibson (apparently a successful choreographer for, um, everything but skating). I guess 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

Who Are The “Pros”: OK let’s see if I can get this right:

Actress Rebecca Budig is paired with Fred Palascak… and before you wonder “who??” again like I did… Palascak is a U.S. ice dancer who has participated in several seasons of the U.K. series on which this is based (Dancing on Ice) along with his wife (and dance partner) Melanie Lambert.

“Reality Star” Bethenny Frenkel is paired with Ethan Burgess… a former U.S. pairs skater who had some minor-league success with partners Laura Lepzinski and Keauna McLaughlin (the latter before she paired with Rockne Brubaker).

Olympic Skiier Jonny Mosely is paired with Brooke Castile… who as you might know was a U.S. Pairs Champ in 2007 with Benjamin Okolski.

Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil is paired with Jennifer Wester… you might recall her as half of the U.S. ice dance team Wester/Barantsev; their best Nationals finish was 5th in 2008.

Disney Channel star Brandon Mychal Smith is paired with Keauna McLaughlin—yep, the same McLaughlin mentioned earlier. A-ha…

And actress Sean Young is paired with 2006 Olympian Denis Petukhov, who continues to ice dance professionally with wife Melissa Gregory.

Speaking of which—Gregory is offering up a behind-the-scenes vlog for the show… I can’t find her introductory one at the moment, but will post it if I locate it in time for my SWTS review.

In the meantime, you can check out more about the show by clicking here.

Pray that this show doesn’t suck, everyone… ‘tis been a long time since non-Olympic skating was seen consistently in prime time. As I said, I'll post a review later in the week, plus ratings info if I can find it...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rostelecom Cup 2010: Airtimes and Predictions

Let’s cut right to it—here are your IceNetwork streaming times for the Rostelecom Cup:

Friday, Nov. 19

7:00 a.m.: Men's short program

8:50 a.m.: Pairs short program

11:00 a.m.: Ladies short program

12:50 p.m.: Short dance

Saturday, Nov. 20

6:45 a.m.: Men's free skate

9:00 a.m.: Pairs free skate

10:40 a.m.: Ladies free skate

12:40 p.m.: Free dance

And as for Universal Sports:

Friday, Nov. 19

6-7 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Short Program

8-9 p.m.: Ladies Short Program and Short Dance

10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs SP (rebroadcast)

12:30-2 a.m.: Ladies Short Program and Short Dance (rebroadcast)

Saturday, Nov. 20

5-7 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Free Skate

8-9 p.m.: Free Dance

11 p.m.- 1 a.m.: Men’s and Pairs Free Skate

Sunday, Nov. 21

5-7 p.m.: Ladies Free Skate

11 p.m.- 1 a.m.: Ladies Free skate

This Ladies Free Skate will first air on NBC Sunday from 2-4 PM. (The Disson Special Improv-Ice will follow from 4-6 PM.)

I bettered my predictions to 5-out-of-12 last week, so let’s see if I can finally bat .500 this time:

For MEN:

Gold: Patrick Chan (CAN)

Silver: Jeremy Abbott (USA)

Bronze: Tomas Verner (CZE)

By this event-- #5 of the 6—I’d be remiss if I didn’t factor previous finishes into my predictions. So Chan, with his often inexplicably high component scores that we’ve already seen can make up for just about ANY technical deficit, is my pick for gold here. Who I’d really like to see in that spot is Abbott. But while he reportedly will bring the quad back into his repertoire, I’m going to guess he’ll miss it this first time out (sorry)-- and with his wider-ranging components, I just don’t see it.

If Verner skates here like he did at Cup of China, it should be good enough for at least 3rd… but if there is any wiggle room, look for Japan’s teen phenom Yuzuru Hanyu to make a move.


Gold: Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)

Silver: Takahashi/Tran (JPN)

Bronze: Berton/Hotarek (ITA)

While I’m sure the centerpiece of this competition will be Kavaguti/Smirnov’s season debut (with a free skate to “Claire de Lune”), I’m actually going to be paying much more attention to the season debut of Berton/Hotarek… and hoping they find their way to a medal. Paige Lawrence/Rudi Swiegers of Canada (replacing Dube/Davison) would be my first guess to get the bronze if the Italian team proves less promising than they were at Worlds last season.


Gold: Miki Ando (JPN)

Silver: Akiko Suzuki (JPN)

Bronze: Ksenia Makarova (RUS)

Last time Ando and Suzuki went head to head—at Cup of China—I predicted Suzuki to win, underestimating the reliability of Ando’s jumping prowess. Though I still prefer Suzuki, I’ll put this as Ando’s to lose.

The bronze is tough; I can see four different possibilities. Alena Leonova got bronze behind the Japanese women at Cup of China, but that was largely on the errors of others. Ashley Wagner has a shot, but her two-footing tendencies could get the best of her. Even Agnes Zawadski could be on the podium, if she doesn’t fall apart like she did in the NHK free skate. That leaves Makarova, who gave a solid performance to earn silver at Skate Canada behind Alissa Czisny. And at this point I’d predict Makarova over Leonova in any event.


Gold: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)

Silver: Faiella/Scali (ITA)

Bronze: Ilinykh/Katsalapov (RUS)

Until I read that The Kerrs were pulling out of this event due to Sinead’s shoulder injury, I thought it was a pretty safe bet as to who would make the podium here. But even then, I wasn’t sure about the order. Faiella/Scali will presumably have their costume issues resolved, but are their dances this season gold-medal worthy to begin with? I’m not yet convinced… which is why I’m suggesting Bobrova/Soloviev will win instead. And while bronze may be an interesting battle between Canada’s Paul/Islam and Russia’s Ilinykh/Katsalapov, I’ll give the tip to the latter—who also happen to be home country faves.

I’ll be back with results and observations after the event!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eleven Observations about Skate America 2010

Many thanks for all the nice condolence notes regarding my father’s passing… I have very thoughtful readers. I need to leave again today for his memorial, but will take a few minutes here to list my observations from last weekend’s Skate America (I’ve scrambled to watch the key performances since Sunday night!) Sorry that this is more ragged and less cohesive than my usual observations…

+ Did anyone else wonder if “The Pink Panther” would really work as a free skate? A short program, yes, but a long one? (Especially when Aliona Savchenko is wearing a unitard that looks like it was literally cut from the same cloth as that purple and pink getup she wore in the 08-09 season’s short program?) In the end, I liked it more than I thought I would… but am not at all crazy about the dance re-mix version they use near the end of the program.

+ And did anyone else hold their breath, with images of Dube/Davison spinning through their heads, when Felicia Zhang got so dangerously close to Taylor Toth’s blade during their side-by-side flying camel attempt? Maybe it wasn’t as close in reality as it looked on TV, but…

+ Speaking of Dube/Davison: kudos to Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch, who proved their silver at Skate Canada was anything but a fluke. I know Dube/Davison are trying to stick around despite Davison’s recent surgery, but they’d better watch their backs…

+ And speaking of the underestimated… add Kanako Murakami to that list. She ran out of gas at NHK, but not here!

+ I’d said I wanted to see what happened when Rachael Flatt skated clean… or at least “cleaner”. According to the judges (who downgraded two of her triples), she leaned toward the latter. But defeated Kostner, at least…

+ Caroline Zhang may not have won a medal in this year’s GP, but I’ll easily give her the honor of “most awkward fall” for that triple lutz debacle that essentially had her doing the splits on-ice, mid-program. Great googly moogly, that didn’t look like much fun.

+ The one “top” skate I didn’t watch yet was Viktoria Helgesson… who was mired in last place after the SP, but apparently turned in the third-best free skate of the day. Is it worth a look? Someone let me know…

+ One more for my “underestimated” list: Armin Mahbanoozadeh, who bested Adam Rippon in what became his weakest pair of performances in quite a while (though he still finished 4th). ArminHammer should also take some pride that he’s been christened as having “the best name in figure skating” according to the one and only Scott Hamilton.

+ Odd happening I noticed: all four skaters/teams that were in 3rd after the first half of competition dropped off the podium to finish 4th.

+ For some reason I never pictured a Kelly Clarkson tune being used in the Short Dance, but thanks to Krein-G-S (my new nickname for they who have the longest combined name I’ve ever seen), I’ve pictured it now. Even “pictured” the audio fadeout. Umm… not crazy about that part.

+ When’s the last time we saw both the top two ice dance teams take their respective tumbles in the free dance? Not to mention Charlie White’s spaz-out on the short dance twizzles?! But I liked the quote I heard from him explaining what happened… something about trying to break the speed of life but physics got in the way… hee. Does anyone have the exact quote?

I hope to have my Rostelecom Cup predictions and airtimes up late Thursday night… thanks for your patience!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Skate America 2010: Airtimes and Predictions

Keeping up with Skate America (SKAM, as I like to call it) is likely to prove especially challenging this weekend… my dad has passed away, and I will likely be incommunicado for the next several days—not sure when I’ll be able to see the actual event.

So—if I don’t get an analysis posted, that’s why.

Nonetheless, I have IceNetwork’s streaming schedule: (All times Eastern, but the event is in Portland Oregon… Pacific Time… which explains the relatively late starts on these.)

Friday, Nov. 12
10:00 p.m. Pairs Short Program
11:45 p.m. Men’s Short Program

Saturday, Nov. 13

5:00 p.m.: Ladies Short Program
6:45 p.m.: Short Dance
10:00 p.m.: Men's Free Skate
12:30 a.m.: Pairs Free Skate

Sunday, Nov. 14

2:00 p.m.: Free Dance

And the Universal Sports coverage looks like this (and, shockingly similar):

Friday, Nov. 12
10 p.m.-1:30 a.m..: Men’s and Pairs Short Program (LIVE)

Saturday, Nov. 13
5-8:30 p.m.: Ladies Short Program and Short Dance (LIVE)
10 p.m.-12 a.m.: Men’s Free Skate (LIVE)
12:30- 2 a.m.: Pairs Free Skate (LIVE)

Sunday, Nov. 14
2-3:30 p.m.: Free Dance (LIVE)

And finally, NBC will cover the Ladies Free skate on Sunday from 4-6 PM.

Here’s my attempt to better my 4-for-12 of last week with the predictions…

For the LADIES:

Gold: Rachael Flatt (USA)
Silver: Carolina Kostner (ITA)
Bronze: Amelie Lacoste (CAN)

If those predictions look like a mash-up of medalists from the first few GP events, it’s because they’re kind of just that. But with Laura Lepisto scratched from the event, I’m hard-pressed to find any other true contenders. As for putting Flatt over Kostner when the opposite just happened at NHK—I hear you. I know Kostner’s invariably going to get better component scores than Flatt, and if she plays it safe again, may win another gold. I’m hopeful, though, that Flatt’s willingness to take risks with a wider range of jumps (including possibly a triple lutz/triple loop combo she’s been working on) will pay off. Last time, Flatt made a couple of technical errors (the kind they like to say are unexpected because she’s “so solid”) and lost to Kostner by about 3.5 points. I want to see what happens here if she skates clean. Or at least “cleaner”.


Gold: Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)
Silver: Sui/Han (CHN)
Bronze: Denney/Barrett (USA)

Despite their difficulties last season, Sav/Szol are to this event in pairs what Davis/White are in Dance… virtually unchallenged by any other team. I’m putting Sui/Han in the silver spot on the strength of their Cup of China appearance last week—risky, if only because they might suffer the same back-to-back effects that the young Russian team recently did. But I doubt if any team will have the artistic marks to challenge Sui/Han’s technical difficulty. Even if they miss a fair amount of stuff, I still think they’ll have the edge. Denney/Barrett, I’m hoping, have dusted themselves off from their disappointing debut and will do better this time—they’re completely capable of winning a medal in this field. (But Skate Canada stars Moore-Towers/Moscovitch could easily step on the podium again if D/B aren’t somewhere near their best.)

For MEN:

Gold: Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Silver: Nobunari Oda (JPN)
Bronze: Adam Rippon (USA)

It’s hard to bet against Dice-K these days… so I won’t! Oda is of course a formidable opponent who should already have his own GP gold medal this season… but side by side, I’ve gotta go with Takahashi here. As for Rippon-- even at his best (which is, of course, extremely good), he’s not attempting a quad yet as far as I know… and this is one of those times when it will probably keep him from any better than a bronze finish.

Rounding out the top 5 is tougher this time, but I’ll go ahead and suggest Canada’s Shawn Sawyer (who earned silver here last year, and made the top 5 at NHK a few weeks ago)… and “the other” Daisuke (Murakami) of Japan might prove a strong contender too.


Gold: Davis/White (USA)
Silver: Crone/Poirier (CAN)
Bronze: Weaver/Poje (CAN)

Um… what? An all-North American podium for dance? Well, consider the following: 1) Cappellini/Lanotte of Italy have withdrawn from the lineup—apparently they are re-tooling their free dance after an unsatisfactory outing at NHK. 2) Consequently, there are only 9 teams competing here—and 5 of the 9 are from either Canada or USA. 3) Of the other 4, only one team—the young Russians Riazanova/Tkachenko— seem even close to contenders.

I should add that I may pay special attention to not only D/W (who have tweaked their free dance since NHK), but Crone/Poirier—sorry to say I didn’t see all the wonder and magic in their “Eleanor Rigby” free skate that the judges (not to mention commentator Tanith Belbin) saw at Skate Canada.

Take care, everyone, and I’ll be back to post next week as soon as I can…

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Misfortune to Whimsy, and Everything In Between: Keywords for 2010 Cup of China

What came to mind as I looked over my Cup of China 2010 notes? A fierce need to boil those notes down into some key words of reflection… hey, yeah, that’s it! KEYWORDS.

Top 10 Keywords (or Phrases) to Summarize Events at 2010 Cup of China:

10) Sustenance. Takahiko Kozuka is one of few singles skaters so far this season who has led after the SP and gone on to win. Nagasu didn’t do it. Nor did Phaneuf. Or Oda, though he should have. Kostner did, but with the “safest” FS I’ve seen win in a long time (and Rachael Flatt actually won the FS; Kostner just had the point spread to beat her). Dice-K did, but… OK, he’s World Champ Dice-K. But to the rest: Come on, SP leaders! Sustain those successes!

9) Subpar. Once again, the entire ladies event was something of a letdown. Has Kim Yu-Na’s absence, coupled with Mao Asada’s “back to basics” 8th place performance at NHK, sucked all the air out of the arena for the time being? (Breakout stars of 2010, that’s your cue!!)

8) Breakthroughs. AKA “a breakout star’s successful performance,” and yes, there managed to be a couple of these from both China (Geng Bingwa and the pair of Sui/Han) and the U.S. (Brandon Mroz with his best GP performance to date, and Yankowskas/Coughlin).

7) Four. (OK I had to include this because it’s the number of predictions I got right this week…three of the four gold medalists, plus the aforementioned Yankoughlin. Sorry to say, but this is the best I’ve done yet this season. Woo hoo!)

6) Misfortune. Sadly, in watching Kwak Min-Jung at this event I was reminded what a bum deal she got through absolutely no fault of her own. Earlier this year, she was another Brian Orser success story in the making—earning a 6th at Four Continents, and an impressive 13th in Vancouver. Then that relationship became a casualty of the Kim/Orser meltdown… and Kwak was sent back home to train… and here, she fell no less than FIVE times (twice in the SP; three in the FS) and finished second-to-last. The only encouraging thing to say about this 16 year-old having to turn around and compete at Skate America this week is that there’s (almost) no where else to go but up.

5) Whimsy. On the other hand, we have the sparkling-gloved Tomas Verner. Who started 2010 finishing 10th at Europeans and a sickening 19th at the Winter Olympics, yet happily rebounded at this event with a bronze medal. I say “happily” because, well, how else do you describe a guy who skates (well) to “Singin’ in the Rain” for his SP, and skates (very well) to a Michael Jackson medley? Verner’s performances were perhaps my favorite thing about Cup of China.

4) Dueling MJs. OK... this hasn’t happened yet, but if Verner and Florent Amodio compete against each other… look out. (For the record, I like Verner’s MJ better—I thought he captured the essence of the music without resorting to as much showboating.) Here’s the Verner version as the
Clip of the Day.

3) Chaplin. Wow, speaking of whimsical routines… we had Todd Elderege doing
Chaplin back in the early 90s. Then Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze used it about a decade later… then Nobunari Oda skated a Chaplin routine almost a decade after that. Here, just one year after Oda, we had not one but two “Chaplins”-- Pechalat/Bourzat’s free dance, as well as Sui/Han’s free skate (in pairs). Has the spell been broken? Will Chaplin-themed programs cross the line and wander ever-closer to the land of the warhorses? Let’s hope not. I find them pretty endearing… for now.

2) Feet and Crowd Shots. I probably complain about the TV directors at Cup of China every season, so here I go again. There were too many dissolves, too many shots of feet right after music starts… and as always, too much attention on the crowd. For example, Alena Leonova knocked herself deprecatingly on the head immediately after her performance in the free skate, but the director was too tunnel-visioned into getting a crowd shot to notice, so all we saw was a millisecond of Leonova’s priceless reaction. Duh. It’s about the skaters, y’all. Not the ones clapping for them!

Finally, #1…
Forbici. Which is, of course, the Italian word for scissors. (But I’m sure Faiella & Scali know that.)

Skate America predictions coming Thursday!

Monday, November 8, 2010

2010 Cup of China Results (Nutshell Edition)

I’m going to try something a little different with this overview: very succinct phrasing!
(If you prefer the more fleshed-out contemplation that usually follows GP events, check out tomorrow’s post… it’ll be much more up your alley.) OK, here we go…

Miki Ando won gold for the ladies. Still looks uninspired for most part. But relatively clean.
Akiko Suzuki took silver. Goofed a couple jumps. A shame.
Alena Leonova won bronze. Mostly because Mirai Nagasu (leading after SP) self-destructed.
Amanda Dobbs attempted a triple flip (now her hardest jump) in the FS. Fell down. Got back up. She’ll get there. (Especially now that she’s focusing on singles full-time.)

Takahiko Kozuka got his second career GP win with victory in Beijing. Thwarted Brian Joubert’s chance to make history? No; Joubert thwarted himself (dropped to 4th after the FS)
USA’s Brandon Mroz skated near lights-out to win silver. Surprise!
Tomas Verner is back; he skated 2 solid skates to take bronze. Watch out Florent Amodio… there’s another MJ impersonator in the midst.

Pang/Tong keep winning gold. Even though they aren’t skating that well. Yet.
Cute Pang/Tong wannabes Sui/Han for silver… Yankowskas/Coughlin got the bronze that eluded them at NHK.

Pechalat/Bourzat are, according to press reports, ready to WIN at ice dance. So they did.
Faiella/Scali were ready to do the same, but a couple of sinister costume designers thought otherwise…

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check the Clip of the Day. Then multiply the mishap you see by two... yeowsers.

We’ll dig in a little more tomorrow!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

2010 Cup of China: Airdates and Predictions

If you know your time zones, you’re probably aware that Cup of China has the least compatible timetable of all the GP events when it comes to U.S. viewing. I’ll run the streaming times for IceNetwork, in hopes that it serves a better purpose for my non- American readers :-) (ALL TIMES EASTERN)

Friday, Nov. 5

2:45 a.m.: Short dance
4:30 a.m.: Ladies short program
6:25 a.m.: Men's short program
8:25 a.m.: Pairs short program

Saturday, Nov. 6

2:00 a.m.: Free dance

3:55 a.m.: Ladies free skate

6:05 a.m.: Men's free skate

8:25 a.m.: Pairs free skate

The Universal Sports schedule is as follows…

Friday, Nov. 5

5:30-7 p.m. : Ladies Short Program and Short Dance (repeats at 11a.m. Saturday)

10-11:30 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Short Program

Saturday, Nov. 6

2:30-4 p.m.: Ladies Free Skate and Free Dance (repeats at 6 p.m.)

10-11:30 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Free Skate

As for NBC, last week’s Skate Canada coverage will be this SATURDAY 4-6, as the Sunday 4-6 slot is occupied by the Disson show Shall We Dance on Ice. For whatever reason, NBC is NOT scheduled to run any of Cup of China on the main network; I presume they already had the time slot committed to something else.

Now let’s see if I can do better on predictions this time…

For the LADIES:

Gold: Akiko Suzuki (JPN)

Silver: Miki Ando (JPN)

Bronze: Mirai Nagasu (USA)

This was originally intended to be Kim Yu-Na’s season debut, which presumably would’ve made predictions a little easier. Fellow Korean Kwak Min-Jung (who, like Kim, is no longer training with Brian Orser as I understand it) skates in her place, but I don’t see her in the medal hunt quite yet. Soooo… the front runners appear to be Ando, Suzuki, Alena Leonova (RUS), and Nagasu. At this point, Ando feels like an also-ran to me. She’s usually got the jumps, but is sorely lacking any spark. She’s quite capable of winning this, but I’m going with Suzuki anyway—technically I think she still lags behind Ando, but she makes up for it with the passion with which she skates. Plus I saw both their new free skates via the Japan Open last month, and doing so only reinforced my feelings on both of them.

As for Ms. Nagasu, I’m just surprised to still see her on the roster after hearing about her off-season stress fracture. If she’s back to top form I daresay she’s as capable of a win here as the Japanese contingent… but for now, I’ll keep the expectations relatively low with a guess for third. (Leonova’s the only one that strikes me as having a chance at it besides her.) I’d love to see USA’s Amanda Dobbs make Top 5 here, but I don’t think it’ll happen unless several of the previously mentioned ladies crash and burn… last time I looked, Dobbs doesn’t have the jumping chops yet.


Gold: Pang/Tong (CHN)

Silver: Iliushechkina/Maisuradze (RUS)

Bronze: Yankowskas/Coughlin (USA)

Apparently P/T’s biggest competition (for the 100th time) in this event, Zhang/Zhang, are out of the GP series this season because he (Zhang Hao) broke his finger. So I don’t see much of a challenge for the reigning World Champs. Last week’s winners (Iliushechkina/Maisuradze—still in search of a nickname for them; any ideas?) are probably the next-best in a relatively weak field… and though I’m on the fence for which U.S. team to predict for bronze, I’m leaning Yankowghlin because they ended up so close to a medal at NHK… and I feel more secure about their individual jumping passes than Evora/Ladwig. (I’d be happy to see the latter in medal position too—just for the record.)

For MEN:

Gold: Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)

Silver: Tomas Verner (CZE)

Bronze: Brian Joubert (FRA)

Criminy—talk about your wild cards! In this corner we have Joubert, who, if he wins, will be the first singles skater in the history of the Grand Prix to win all six events at one time or another. (But can he come back strong after last season?) Over in this corner we have Kozuka, who is one of my favorite all-around skaters at the moment, and quite capable of pulling the “upset”—see 2008 Skate America for more details. (But does he have a consistent quad yet?) Then take a look in that corner, and you see Tomas Verner, who had a Joubert-like season of his own last year—complete with the coaching change. (But is he ready to prove what he’s made of?)

Who we don’t have is Verner’s teammate Michal Brezina; he apparently underwent some groin-related surgery (yeow!) and is out for at least this event if not TEB as well. Seeing only a couple other players in this game—Sergei Voronov (RUS) and Brandon Mroz (USA) among them, and both largely dependent on their quads to have a shot—I went with personal preference here. Not the best way perhaps, but maybe it’ll clear the way for Joubert to meet his GP goals. (He never seems to win when I pick him to win…)


Gold: Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)

Silver: Faiella/Scali (ITA)

Bronze: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)

Weren’t Faiella/Scali going to retire? I guess now that they’ve had a taste of the podium with their world bronze medal, they might be one of those “one-more-year” teams… wondering if they can do even better next time, now that some of the top teams have retired. Maybe, but I’m still picking frequent rivals Pech/Bour to defeat them here with their Chaplin-inspired free dance (which they discuss a bit in this article from IceNetwork).

Although the USA has produced back-to-back bronze medals thus far (thanks to the ShibSibs and Chock/Zuerlein), the team we’re sending this time with the most GP experience is the Hubbells (HubSibs? Nah, maybe not)… who should be very pleased if they crack the Top 5, as their best finish last year in the GP was 6th. But I think a medal is pretty unlikely. Our other entry is Isabella Cannuscio/Ian Lorello, fresh off the JGP circuit and making their senior debut in Beijing.

For the Clip of the Day I’m showing Sergei Voronov’s FS from 2009’s edition of this event… he won bronze last year and I want the SkateGods to know I’m not purposely underestimating him by predicting him out of the medals here :-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2010 Skate Canada Recap: Pretzel Logic, Part 2

So did you catch the announcement of the Skating with the Stars cast on Tuesday night’s Dancing with the Stars? If not, click the link to read all the news, such as it is. As with DWTS, all the demographics are represented… the soap star (Rebecca Buddig), the reality show star (Bethenny Frenkel), the athlete (champion skier Jonny Mosely), the kids’ show star (Brandon Michael Smith), the actress-with-a-crazy-reputation (Sean Young), and the alpha male rocker (Vince Neil of Motley Crue). The only thing you won’t find is Cloris Leachman… or anyone “of a certain age”, I guess (watching a “star” fall on their tush gets a lot less fun as the risk of broken hips goes up).

The bigger question/bigger mystery, for now, is what poor saps did they line up to teach these people how to skate? The above article says not to expect “household names”, although Johnny Weir is expected to be one of the judges. The promo that ran last night (and on the ABC website) works pretty hard to avoid any direct shots of skater/trainers, but I’m pretty sure I caught a glimpse of Keauna McLaughlin (late of the pairs team McLaughlin/Brubaker). Did you see anyone else? Three more weeks until the fun begins…

And now, we continue with the Skate Canada recap I’m calling Pretzel Logic, part 2:

+ I'll be blunt-- Patrick Chan shouldn’t have won, for the simple reason that he should never have had so many points after that train wreck of an SP. (Sorry, but the program should’ve been named “Take Five Back”.) If you study the
protocols , check out the distance between Chan’s technical score in the SP and that of Alban Preaubert (who finished just below him). I know Chan made up most of his points with the component mark (which ranged from 7.25 all the way to 9.25), but to me even his tech scores are suspect. Not saying it’s his fault; just saying... it’s the judges’ fault.

+ Pretzel logic actually worked in my favor when it came to guessing the fate of Canada’s Kevin Reynolds… for even when he was in the thick of the medal hunt, I was thinking about how many times I’ve seen him pop those damn triple axels right after nailing a killer quad. Whether it’s an adrenaline thing, lack of concentration, whatever—I hope he gets it straightened out soon because he’s certainly got a lot to offer the sport.

+ With all the fuss surrounding the changed SP rules, we got new choruses of how the men “must” have a quad to be competitive. But here’s where pretzel logic applies: Chan had the quad, yet (in my opinion) shouldn’t have won gold… while someone like Adam Rippon didn’t have the quad, and should’ve won silver! (Whoa. This is starting to make my head hurt.)

+ We had not one, but TWO cases of programmus interruptus in this competition. Spain’s Sonia Lafuente caught a toe pick and crashed down hard on one knee early in her SP--so hard that for a while it looked like she might withdraw altogether. And the next day, Canada’s Jeremy Ten suffered a snapped boot lace one-third of the way into his FS (yep, shades of Tonya Harding; even Ten himself drew the comparison on Twitter) and had to spend a couple of anxious minutes skating around with one pant leg up, trying to re-tie the lace and retain his composure all at the same time.

But guess what? Lafuente not only stayed in the event, but can now say she’s outskated a former World Silver Medalist (Fumie Suguri) at least once in her career! (OK, that’s not saying as much as it used to, but she still earned more points than Suguri in the FS and that’s still something.) And as for Ten… he seemed to skate even better after the equipment malfunction, pulling down an 8th place finish; it’s his best result in two years at a GP event.

+ And P-Logic even tried to send a message to Switzerland’s Sarah Meier (who suffered an ankle injury just prior to SkCan and had to withdraw)… the message being Girl, you need to get out of this sport before you’re another day older. See Suguri? She hasn’t medaled in the GP in 2 years and just turned in her lowest finish EVER in 15 years of GP events. Don’t be a Suguri, Sarah…the bum ankle was a gift. Take it and run… or at least hobble quickly!

Even though I didn’t mention her here, I’m including Alissa Czisny’s gorgeous Free Skate (to selections of George Winston’s “Winter into Spring”) as the
Clip of the Day … just because I can.

Cup of China predictions and airtimes coming Thursday!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Skate Canada 2010 Recap: Pretzel Logic, Part 1

After watching the weekend’s worth of Skate Canada, I waited for a sort of recurring theme to come to me as a way to describe it. It didn’t take long for a couple of words to spring to mind: pretzel logic. That is to say… a way of making sense that doesn’t make ANY sense.

Now don’t get me wrong; by and large I was alternately as pleased and displeased with SkCan as you probably were. But then again a few things saddened me, intrigued me, and frustrated me more than usual—and I’m not talking about my sad track record on the predictions.

Wait, maybe I am—I only got ONE right out of 12, and that ONE shouldn’t have won! Ugh! See?? But we’ll get back to you in the next post, Patrick Chan

+ Pretzel Logic, case and point… the stars of the pairs event—an event that seemed sorely lacking of such—were Dube/Davison’s replacements Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch of Canada. They vaulted from 6th place in the SP all the way up to a silver medal with a free skate that, while not perfect, whipped the home crowd into a frenzy. (Iliushechkina/Maisuradze of Russia squeaked out the win by less than a point.) Funny thing is, M-T/Mosco did at least as well here, technically speaking, as the team they replaced. If Dube/Davison had been competing anywhere other than Canada, that is.

(At this event, frankly, I think D & D would’ve won easily. Even if they phoned in their performances. From a control tower on planet Neptune.)

+ P-Logic’s most interesting surprise: bronze medalist Amelie Lacoste, who’s only in year two on the GP circuit and finished no higher than 6th in her debut season.

+ P-Logic’s most encouraging move: keeping the SkCan magic alive for Alissa Czisny, who won gold here for the second time in her turbulent career. For the record, I was very glad to get that wrong… but I think I got it right when I said she had a great music choice (music from George Winston), and her ocean-wave of a dress was divine.

+ P-Logic’s cruelest twist comes in a quote I saw from Canada’s Cynthia Phaneuf (who led after the SP but crumpled to 4th after the FS): "I don't seem to be at by best at Skate Canada. I don't think I'll be coming here next year." Tough to hear, especially after reading how relaxed and confident she was prior to this event.

+ Remember when I said Javier Fernandez was likely to get a Top 5 finish? Turns out I got that right… but over on Universal Sports, Terry Gannon and Michael Weiss voiced surprise at Fernandez’s progress. So how’s this for P-Logical advice: Terry, Mike… you guys obviously need to start reading State of the Skate :-)

More examples of the Skate Canada Pretzel Logic to come tomorrow.

For those of you already reading it, here’s Fernandez’s new SP (complete with bright pink bowtie!) as the
Clip of the Day. I do kinda wish he’d started a new FS rather than continue with last year’s Pirates of the Carribean, but it’s still cool enough I’ll let it slide.