Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Skating-Related News For the End of 2010

Three little bits of “roundup” news as we close out the year:

1) An engagement! U.S. pairs skaters (and 2010 Olympians) Amanda Evora (she of Evora/Ladwig) and Jeremy Barrett (he of Denney/Barrett) became finacee/fiance as of Christmas Eve. For the whole adorable story,
read more here.

2) A baby! Former World Silver Medalists Marie-France Dubreil and Patrice Lauzon got a slightly different kind of gift on Christmas Eve—the arrival of their daughter, Billie-Rose.
This link will give you all the exciting needs-to-know.

3) A Pre-order! I thought I’d take this opportunity to let you know that Skating on Air: The Broadcast History of an Olympic Marquee Sport – the book whose cover you see showcased over on the left of your screen—is now available for pre-order. Check for the title at the websites for Amazon or Barnes & Noble—or, even better,
click this publisher link! An actual release date is still not set yet, but presumably it will fall somewhere between the date listed at B&N (January 4) and the one listed at Amazon (April 30).

More info still to come on item #3. :-)

Happy New Year Worldwide!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Russian Nationals 2011: The Recap

One interesting set of showdowns concludes, and another interesting set opens up in another part of the globe. Actually it’s over already-- Russian Nationals wrapped up yesterday. Here’s what got my attention:

MEN—OK, to be honest… I didn’t watch ‘em, and I might not bother. Two-time champion Sergei Voronov apparently had a disaster of an SP (10th) but rallied on the FS (3rd) to finish 4th overall. Perhaps the most interesting name on the roster—Artur Dmitriev Jr., the 18 year-old son of pairs legend Artur Dmitriev Sr. (yes, THAT much time has gone by)—was looking very good after the SP (2nd), but took enough lumps in the FS (9th) to finish down in 7th. Former medalist Artem Borodulin… does anyone know what’s up with him? He’s been AWOL all season.

In other words, it’s a new batch of fellows in the top 3: Konstantin Menshov (4th last year) took gold, Artur Gachinski (13th last year) took silver, and Zhan Bush (17th last year) claimed bronze. I read that it was basically a quad contest. We’ll have to see how everyone fares at Europeans in late January.

LADIES: I DID watch these top 5 finishers…

Ksenia Makarova, the defending champ, had a clean SP with 3/3toe and 3loop… but in the FS she seemed tight from the start; had a flip out of her 3flip and caught an edge on a 3salchow, resulting in a complete splat. Finished in 5th.

Alena Leonova had a nice 3/3toe but fell out of 3flip in SP. Her FS was cleaner than I’ve seen her skate all season; maybe just one fall out I think? She skated with much more fire, and was visibly delighted afterwards with how she did. For once this year!

Julia Lipnitskaya, all of 12 years old (I have jeans in my closet that are older than she is!) is one of the three “baby ballerina”-class skaters that made the top five this time, with two seemingly clean free skates that added up to a 4th place finish. Remember her for her insane flexibility if nothing else (though she has plenty more to offer). Who knows if she can keep that up by the time she’s a grizzled veteran at age 15? For now, she’s Gumby of the ice.
Here’s her SP; see for yourself.

Adelina Sotlekova, age 14, has a triple lutz/triple loop that makes all the triple toe/triple toe combos look like chump change. Actually she had a little trouble with it in the SP, but she’s young and fearless enough to keep it in her FS—and succeed. She won the event.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva just turned 14 a couple weeks ago, and swooped in for bronze after a 7th place SP. Like Julia and Adelina, Elizaveta (“Liza”) is bit of a jumping machine at this early point who seems to rush through her music w/o feeling. As we’ve been doing in the U.S. w/Caroline (Zhang) & Mirai (Nagasu) & Rachael (Flatt), we’ll have to see how Darwinism works on these youngsters.

DANCE: The big question here was how the new dance team of Jana Khoklova and Fedor Andreev (former Canadian mens’ bronze medalist, and Marina Zueva’s son) would do…
here’s their FD to an Abbey Road medley (Beatles); my relatively untrained eye thought they worked pretty well together! It was good enough for 4th overall. Ilinykh/Katsalapov hung in for bronze with their Don Quixote program (he nearly toppled over during the twizzles); their overall lead on Khoklova/Andreev was only about 4 points. Riazanova/Tkachenko were 2nd overall with their Mexican-themed FD, leaving Bobrova/Soloviev with their first Nationals win.

PAIRS: Ah, here was the real story as far as I’m concerned.

Remember Mukhortova/Trankov, or as I not so affectionately called them, Muk/Trank? Remember how they split up after last season? Neither new team had proven itself to compete in the GP series this fall, so each had its major-event debut at Nationals… and to watch Maxim Trankov with his new partner Tatiana Volosohzar (formerly with Stanislav Morozov, representing the Ukraine) is to have a revelation as to what two people are capable of once they find the right partner. Daaang. Back-to-back great, great performances. Who knew the Germans and the Chinese will need to watch their backs for THIS team? They defeated faves Kavaguti/Smirnov, who weren’t quite as solid as they’d been at their GP appearance earlier in the season but were still good enough for silver. Bazarova/Larionov claimed bronze.

As for Maria Mukhortova (who continues to be coached by Oleg Vasiliev, I believe)… her FS with new partner Jerome Blanchard (formerly representing France) was a hot mess-- trouble on both SBS jump passes (especially on his part), a fall on a throw jump, an SBS spin that went completely out of sync, a weak pairs spin, a lift with a rough exit, and an overall rushed feeling… possibly because they were trying to catch up after all those mistakes. (Ironically, it looked like they ended up finishing the program about 5 seconds early.) Even the music, the can’t-go-wrong Pas de Deux from Nutcracker, DID go wrong because they opted to throw in a little bit of the Act 1 finale from the ballet. Yuck. They finished seventh. Wonder if they’ll continue as a team?

According to my dance card, the next big Nationals on the radar is for Canada—approx. 3 weeks from now.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Results Are in: Japan Figure Skating Championships 2010-11

There’s nothing like watching a handful of performances from this past weekend’s Japan Nationals to remind you just how freakin’ deep their pool of talent goes right now when it comes to singles skating.

And as you start to think that maybe there’s a loophole that will open up this year and allow the top 4 or 5 to come to worlds – they are that good—you sigh with the knowledge that 3 is the max for any country, even the best ones.

With regards to the men, Takahiko Kozuka proved that his outscore of Daisuke Takahashi at the GP Final was no fluke. While his FS was way off his season best—he fell on both the 4T and a 3sal near the end, to name the biggest flaws—Kozuka built up a strong enough lead in the SP to hold on for gold. Nobunari Oda was 0-for-2 on quad attempts at this event, taking falls in both the SP and FS (plus a splat during his footwork in the SP), but he was 2nd overall. It was a very slim margin between Oda and Dice-K, though, with component scores likely saving the latter when he flipped out of the back end of his 3/3 jump in the SP, had a weird delayed flip out of the 3axel, and flipped out of yet another jump in the FS. Dice-K took the bronze over Yuzuru Hanyu, Takahito Mura, Tatsuki Machida, and Daisuke Murakami—all of whom competed the GP circuit this season, but are just going to have to wait another year (or until one of these 3 outstanding men blinks) to make it into the top 3.

The ladies event was a bittersweet one for me to watch. Miki Ando was back to her consistent-yet-dull self; she attempted no 3/3’s but perhaps that was for the best as she ended up winning for the first time in a number of years. Kanako Murakami continued her breakout season with two clean and admittedly pretty good skates, and won another bronze medal—this time the kind of bronze that gets you a ticket to Worlds. (She just won one at the GP Final too.)

These ladies weren’t the wild cards though… that role was left to Mao Asada, who lately has looked like she might not even land a waltz jump properly anymore, let alone a triple axel. But Asada has once again proven to thrive on pressure. When a world team slot was on the line, she skated cleaner than we’ve seen all season; a clean triple axel in the SP, another attempt in the FS (underrotated), with all the other triples appeared clean and complete. It was good enough for second, and that appeared good enough for both a relieved Asada and the wildly supportive crowd. (
Here it is as the Clip of the Day in case you’re interested.)

Unfortunately, Asada’s gain (or re-gain) to podium-quality skating was Akiko Suzuki’s loss. Not that she skated her best by any stretch—she had a cross-footed landing on her triple lutz in the SP, a flip out of the back end of her double axel/triple toe loop, and another cross-foot mess on a triple flip. Both cross-foots were uncharacteristic and looked like concentration breaks, but whatever they were, they were mistakes she could ill afford amidst so much talent. She finished the championships in 4th place, which means Four Continents (to which she’ll surely be assigned) might be her last hurrah… unless she can be convinced to stick around another year. But as long as she’s been at this, who could blame her if she decides to let the youngsters—the Kanako Murakamis and Risa Shojis of Japan—duke it out?

Russian Nationals are in progress now, so I’ll share those results as the week progresses.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays from State of the Skate

Whatever holiday you may celebrate this month... the merriest of them to you from State of the Skate! I celebrate Chrsitmas, so I'm a little backlogged with yuletide tasks to get a full post up tonight-- but with Nationals activity kicking up around the world (including the always-interesting Japanese Championships this weekend), rest assured I'll be back with some updates, speculation and the like very soon.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Skating with the Stars" Week 5: It's a Wrap... Forever?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly to do with the enthusiasm you see.

Tanith Belbin possessed said enthusiasm. So did Johnny Weir, Melissa Gregory, and Jennifer Wester, to name a few others.

They’ve all posted countless excited Tweets over the past 6 weeks surrounding Skating with the Stars (or, as some put it, “Skating” with the “Stars”), and Weir in particular has gushed endlessly from his judge’s perch about what he’s witnessed from the likes of Rebecca Budig and Jonny Mosely. Maybe it was a contract requirement of all those named above. I mean, they could have been just that thrilled about being a part of the experiment that was SWTS… I suppose it’s possible…

But as with just about every other TV program to skim the airwaves, I suspect the ratings will dictate SWTS’ future—which is to say it doesn’t likely have one. The Monday overnights this week had SWTS at 4.8 million viewers, but we can’t hold those as accurate because both Chicago and Minnesota’s ABC affiliates chose to air the ESPN coverage of the Bears/Vikings game. The 3.4 million listed as watching the Tuesday finale—that’s the better number to go with.

Do you know how the last two eps played out? That Bethenny Frankel snared more votes than Jonny Mosely, forcing him from the event and prompting the promos to quickly shift from “The Natural vs. The Athlete” to “The Natural vs. the Underdog”? Or that the rest of the original cast, save for Brandon Mychal Smith (who sat in the front row and watched instead), came to help pad out the final episode by strapping on their skates one more time? Or that Frankel pulled down her first “10” (although no one told her it didn’t really count because it came from Laurieanne)? And that, in one of those endings that surprises no one, Budig emerged victorious? (By the way, her wrist hurts. Not sure if everyone got that message.)

Whether you knew how they went or not… it didn’t really matter. And that’s the problem with a show like this, which some Facebook friends of mine likened to an SNL sketch rather than a valid viewing choice. I myself deemed SWTS “relatively harmless” last month—and I’ll stick with that description, though I’d like to make a few suggestions should it miraculously get picked up for another mini-run the way The Sing-Off did:

+ Stop taking it all so seriously. Budig got it right when she said something upon winning about “knowing it’s only TV, but it’s still fun” (paraphrasing). Part of the reason Dancing with the Stars works is because its found its own kind of silly, irreverent groove amidst the over-the-top costumes and predictably dramatic editing on the fluff pieces. Maybe that’s more to ask than SWTS could’ve delivered in just 5 weeks, but hey, the prototype was literally right across the lot… and it was produced by the same folks…

+ Less focus on the injuries, please. Without a doubt, part of the attraction of figure skating is the danger involved within its maneuvers. But when we watch a real skater miss a quad, or a pair blow the timing on a lift, we subconsciously take comfort in the thought that they are trained athletes who most likely have prevented themselves from serious injury. The same cannot be said of celebrities who have only been at this for a mittenful of weeks—whether they sustain the injury themselves (Buddig’s wrist) or prompt it on another (Mosely’s slicing of Brooke Castile’s hand), it falls something considerably short of entertainment.

+ Make it a more appealing program for known skaters to be involved in. SWTS was lucky indeed to get Dick Button, Weir, and Belbin this time around… but whether the reasons were money-motivated or otherwise, the show gleaned either negative comments (put Brian Boitano’s name into Google along with the show title, and see what you get), or no comments whatsoever from the master class of the sport. I think they need to find a way to get them involved—I’d rather see a footwork, spins, or “how many axels in a row” contest anytime over Frankel’s prattling about her crazy life. Wouldn’t you?

Oh, and one more: replace Vernon Kay. ABC gave him a show; I gave him a shot. We both did our part. Now it's time for him to move on. :-)

Up north of here, Battle of the Blades just wrapped up its second season and, Lord willing, will get renewed for 2011. Why is it, with a format pretty similar to DWTS, so much better received? The quickest thing that comes to mind is this: in Canada, where hockey is king, figure skating found a sort of TV reality-show soulmate.

Maybe the U.S.—with no “soulmate” equivalent—simply isn’t going to find success with this sort of programming. No matter what network it’s on.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's So Great About Figure Skating...? (Aside from cool online contests, that is)

So what’s so great about figure skating, anyway?

Whatever your answer—the chills, the spills, the grace, the excitement, the costumes, the opportunity to rag on your least favorite commentator—don’t tell me! Tell Ryan Jahnke about it instead.

You might have heard about Jahnke’s terrific website, an online marketplace for “gently used”, skating-related merchandise. Turns out that is putting together a video designed to encourage potential new skaters about this decidedly unique sport… and your help is requested. Especially if you have a great answer to that “What’s so great…” question!

You might even win a $100 gift certificate for any item on the website (or from one of its Partner Stores), so what’s not to like about that? Time is running out, though—videos are only being accepted through the end of the year—so here’s what to do if you’re so inclined:

1) Shoot a short video.

2) Visit

3) Follow the directions for uploading videos to the YouTube channel.

4) Be sure to jump around a lot if you win!

Coming soon: A Skating with the Stars update!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ten Things the 2010 ISU Grand Prix Final Taught Me

I'm late on this post, so let's get right to it! NUMBER TEN...

10) What a difference 8 weeks makes. Carolina Kostner won NHK at the season’s start with a score of 164.61, in one of the weakest fields of elite ladies I’ve seen in quite a while. As it turns out, Kostner’s score would’ve only been good enough for last place at this event… where the highest ladies score (Czisny) was 180.75, and only seven points separated the top five competitors.

9) On the other hand… the more things change, the more they stay the same. Kostner and her junior-level jumps still managed a silver medal at the senior final, a medal that—as far as I’m concerned—should’ve gone to Kanako Murakami or Akiko Suzuki. Kostner, like Canada’s Patrick Chan, has been saved by outrageously high component scores more times than I care to count. It’s not that I don’t appreciate their efforts… it’s just that there are so many others whose “efforts” aren’t appreciated nearly enough. Kostner and Chan simply aren’t THAT much better at choreography, interpretation, etc. than their peers.

8) The GP Final is a crappy time to skate up—or maybe it’s down—to your namesake (if your name happens to be Flatt). Good grief, what else do you call it when the girl trails the rest of her competitors by some 45 points?!

7) The Final is also a crappy time to test out a new short program (if you’re Miki Ando). Was this new attempt—using “The Mission”, of all things-- intended to tap deeper into her artistic potential? It soooo did not.

6) Expect the unexpected. Suzuki outscoring Ando? I’d hoped for it all season long, and it never happened… but I finally got my wish with the help of clean skates by Suzuki, and Ando’s aforementioned SP mess.

5) Expect the unexpected twice over. I believe my exact words last week regarding Takahiko Kozuka were I don’t think he can defeat Dice-K… at least, not yet. So I was wrong on that one too… though I’m still left to wonder what might have been if they hadn’t had that crazy collision in practice. I think Dice-K seemed more out of breath than usual after that free skate because it (his breath) was knocked out of him so thoroughly a couple of days earlier!

4) Alicia Keys ain’t gettin’ it done for Crone/Poirier. If I didn’t know any better (and it’s ice dancing, so I really DON’T know any better), I’d suggest that Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier spend their Christmas holiday working up a whole new Short Dance. Seems to pale in comparison to what is widely received as a wonderful Eleanor Rigby free dance.

3) Just because ABC doesn’t cover this event anymore doesn’t mean they can’t get a Disney shout-out. On the Universal Sports coverage of the Pairs Free Skate, Peter Carruthers watched the Sui/Han attempt at a throw quad salchow in slow motion… and felt compelled to reference the scene in Bambi where the title character spins and splays across a frozen pond. (Well, he had a point…)

2) There’s nothing like watching a World Feed from China to remind me of how much I miss those folks at ABC. Simply stated… I will never forgive the director of last weekend’s feed for cutting away from Alissa Czisny’s relieved, modestly satisfied face at the end of her program just so they could get their standard, unnecessary audience shot. Never, never, never. (And likewise, I’ll never stop chuckling over the way they went to that audience shot too early on the Pechalat/Bourzat free dance, with its false ending and all. Ha-ha-ha-ha-PSYCH!)

And the #1 thing the GP Final taught me is… I might not be the best blogging medal predictor out there, but at least I was in the hunt! Kudos to Tony at Flutzing Around; I believe he had the most accurate predictions among the 6 of us that tried. I’m on your tail, though, mister… :-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Skating with the Stars Week 4: Oh What a Night, Indeed

If you look at the headlines today at (where I pull the overnight ratings for stuff like Skating with the Stars), you might find one saying “Skating with the Stars: Still Happening”.

Ouch—and yet it says it all. The good news is that 2 of the 6 original “stars” are doing a decent job, and it might even prove interesting to see who wins this thing. The bad news is that between withering ratings, an increasingly catty Judge Johnny Weir, and more press about Brandon Mychal Smith’s stomach flu than any other aspect of the show… not many WILL see who wins this thing.

But for those still watching, or wanted to but felt compelled to watch The Sing-Off last night… here’s a recap:

First 15 minutes explains the risky required elements of the night, which include an overhead spin, and/or a throw jump, and/or a death spiral (you’re supposed to choose 2, like a soup/salad combo at Panera). We then get the complete drama about Brandon’s continued illness, attempt to come back and compete, and sad decision to drop out—which is all sort of a rerun for those who have followed Keauna McLaughlin’s Tweets this week. Thankfully we don’t have the judges input on his decision—just the standard shiny recap of his handful of weeks on the show, and a chance to thank Keauna. And… buh-bye.

The other 3 couples, or maybe I should say Bethenny Frenkel, are in luck—no one’s leaving this week since Brandon’s already gone. Time to skate, y’all… oh, and by the way John Zimmerman’s dropping by to help out all the remaining teams this week. So the show just got a whole lot better!

Bethenny & Ethan—skating to “Superstition,” they manage a little tiny death spiral (just one revolution, maybe not even a full circle)… then a Detroiter (overhead spin where she’s on her side). Vernon gets a dig about Johnny’s wardrobe before the judges speak. Dick calls himself the Betty White of figure skating and tosses in a “rusty hoot” reference (awesome!) before reminding her for the 24th time to bend zee knees… Laurie Ann gushes, calls her fearless, and apparently doesn’t like getting cut off… Johnny gets his snark on once again by declaring (and this is paraphrased) “if you don’t care what we think, then I don’t care about you!” Meanwhile on the other side of town, the Irony Police see that phone ringing once again. (“Huh? Didn’t we just get back from that show??” they wonder…)
Scores: 6-6-6 technical; 7-6-7 artistic. 38.

Jonny & Brooke: apparently had a rough week (oh, who didn’t and are skating to “Take on Me” The first lift is OK… she does some sort of twist into his arms that’s pretty good… he successfully gets her into a throw double salchow. Lots of laughing at the end, apparently in disbelief that she landed it. As for the judges, Laurie loves it but wants a little more finesse… so does Johnny… Here is a clip if you want to judge for yourself.
Scores: 9-9-9 tech; 9-9-9 artistic. 54!

Rebecca and Fred:
I see she’s ditched the tummy-baring tops for practice… good move, especially when you’re practicing moves that could have you skidding across the ice on your belly in a heartbeat. They skate to “Oh What a Night”… they do overhead spin w/her facing ceiling… much longer (by MUCH I mean maybe 3 rotations) death spiral… and another spinning lift at the end? Stop, you’re killing me!

Johnny wants her to rely a little less on Fred… Dick breaks out the terms spiffy and life spiral (oh, fine, confuse her)… and says Rebecca has the “nicest bottom in this competition”. Laurie, meanwhile, wants her to stick her boobs out. Vernon wants her (Laurie) to shut up.
Scores: 9-8-9 tech; 9-9-9 artistic. 53; one point behind Jonny.

Very Special performance: oh, Denis Petukhov has been called back to skate the performance w/Keauna… that’s a nice way to fill the time. It was to “Stronger” (Kanye West). Thought it would be John Zim though…oh well, can’t have everything!

RATINGS UPDATE: more bad news… 3.8 million, which means they lost another million… despite the fact that “House” was a rerun! I don’t think we’ll see this on the ABC sched next season. Next week is the “finale”… following Monday’s show, that is. I guess ABC is gifting us by making sure this is done and served up before everyone else vanishes for the holiday.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 GP Final Results Summary (Oh, Czisny won... what else do you need to know?!)

As usual, I’m going to post more details and thoughts on the GP Final in a couple of days… but if you’re looking for what the Television Without Pity folks call a recaplet, I’m your girl!

The best headline, as far as I’m concerned, is that Alissa Czisny won the Ladies GP title. She freakin’ WON! And not so much on the errors of others (Miki Ando’s notwithstanding) as on the strength of not one, but TWO relatively clean programs! No, I didn’t pick her to win, or even medal. But I’m so glad to be wrong on that. (I kind of wish I was wrong on my other two podium guesses— based on their performances this weekend, Carolina Kostner over Akiko Suzuki is a crime. But I digress…)

As for the men… was it the pre-event body slam with Takahiko Kozuka that kept Daisuke Takahashi from skating his best? (I'd re-post a link to that, but they appear to have cleared it from You Tube...)Or even a reasonable facsimile of his best? As he slid off the podium, Patrick Chan finally rose a lot closer to all the potential we hear about and skated off with the title. Nobunari Oda once again proved his strength is the short program, but he still managed his third consecutive silver medal this season. The aforementioned Kozuka wasn’t perfect, but mighty close! Bronze for him.

The pairs showdown wasn’t nearly as close as I’d hoped it would be. Pang/Tong were better than their previous GP efforts this season, but nonetheless looked slow and kind of fragile compared to Savchenko/Szolkowy. Gold and silver went accordingly; bronze went to the young whippersnappers of the pack (that would be Sui/Han of China).

Over in ice dance—you might have noticed that all 6 bloggers on that table I posted last time had the exact same predictions with regards to this discipline. As luck would have it, all 6 of us got that one right… Davis/White won gold, Pechalat/Bourzat won silver, and Crone/Poirier won bronze.

AND... I think I promised that I'd include the Junior GP results too? Here you go:


GOLD Adelina Sotnikova, RUS
SILVER Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, RUS
BRONZE Li Zijun, CHI (defeating Japan’s Risa Shoji in a tiebreaker)

U.S. finishes: Christina Gao—6th, Yasmin Siraj—7th, Kristiene Gong—8th (there are 8 competitors in the Junior GP Finals)

GOLD Richard Dornbush, USA
BRONZE Andrei Rogozine, CAN

U.S. finishes: Max Aaron—4th, Keegan Messing—5th, Joshua Farris—6th

GOLD Takahashi/Tran, JPN
SILVER Stolbova/Klimov, RUS

U.S. finishes: Ashley Cain/Joshua Reagan—5th

GOLD Monko/Khaliavin, RUS
SILVER Sinitsina/Zhiganshin, RUS
BRONZE Stepanova/Bukin, RUS

U.S. finishes: Charlotte Lichtman/Dean Copely, 5th

A Skating with the Stars update will come tomorrow, and more about the GPF will follow that. Until then, I’ve gotta make Czisny’s free skate the
Clip of the Day. I just never get tired of this program… especially when it’s skated like that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The 2010 ISU Grand Prix Final: Airdates and Predictions

… make that SIX sets of bloggers’ predictions! You see, Tony Wheeler over at Flutzing Around corralled the opinions of six different skating bloggers (including Yours Truly), and arranged them into a lovely chart that (hopefully) will post nicely for y’all to see. (Double click to see it bigger...)
P.S. Takahashi and Kozuka had a nasty crash on practice ice this week; if Dice-K skates without pain this weekend (particularly back pain), it will be a holiday miracle.
UPDATE: Here's a clip of that collision that's now on You Tube.

The IceNetwork streaming times are…

Friday, Dec. 10
4:15 a.m.: Short dance
5:25 a.m.: Men's short program
6:30 a.m.: Ladies short program
7:35 a.m.: Pairs short program

Saturday, Dec. 11
3:55 a.m.: Men's free skate
5:10 a.m.: Ladies free skate
6:20 a.m.: Free dance
7:40 a.m.: Pairs free skate

The Universal Sports schedule is as follows…

Friday, Dec. 10
4:30-5:30 p.m.: Ladies Short and Short Dance (repeats at 10:30 p.m.; second airing is slated for 90 minutes )
8-9:30 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Short Program (repeats at 1a.m. Saturday)

Saturday, Dec. 11
7-9 p.m.: Men’s Free Skate and Free Dance (repeats at 1 a.m. Sunday.)
10-11 p.m.: Pairs Free Skate

Sunday, Dec. 12
4-6 p.m.: Ladies Free Skate (which can first be seen from NOON-2PM on NBC)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Skating w/The Stars Week 3: Blood, Sweat, and (Keauna's) Tears

For all the ABC execs who were hoping the “danger factor” would play a substantial role in Skating with the Stars… week three was the week they’d been waiting for. Slashed hands, swollen wrists—even vomiting! (But since the show's still losing viewers, I'm not sure it was worth the ABC execs' wait.) Here’s the quick recap, if you can stomach it:

FIVE couples are left. The performance this week is supposed to tell “a romantic story”, and has to include a jump of some kind on the part of the “star” (single revolutions of course).

Rebecca & Fred— skate to Katy Perry’s Hot & Cold… in the package they show that she’s injured her wrist to the point she’s supposed to be icing it and “taking it easy”, but we all know what that means… work harder!!! They still do a decent job. Her solo jump is a flip (my own fave).

Bethenny & Ethan—they skate to Halo…she remains pissed about the judging and how last week she was scored lower than those who fell down. She rants a lot and appears to be trying hard, but personally, I don’t see much improvement. Her jump is a toe loop—it’s OK. Laurie Ann (the clueless one) gives her a “7” at judgment time, and we never. Hear. The. End. Of. It.

Vince & Jennifer—In their fluff piece, Jennifer takes Vince to “basic training” with a pack of kids she teaches. They pretend to adore his tattoos… it’s very sweet. They skate to You’re Beautiful… ah, and as the song says, he indeed will never be with her. He manages a waltz jump. Laurie Ann gushes about his showmanship…and I notice Vernon Kay (the trying-hard-but-is-no-Tom-Bergeron-host) is starting to look like he’s passing a kidney stone when he’s dealing with Johnny. Vince’s back is apparently injured this week… but ah, no worries, he’s out of the running anyway. (They were voted out at the end of show.)

Brooke & Jonny—He’s taken 3 hard falls in the past couple days, and she got her hand sliced to ribbons via one of his blades earlier yesterday. Can they get this done? Well, sure they can. I’ve no idea what the music was, but they do well. I think their jump sequence was a flip/toe loop combo? Little rough (2-ft landings) but the ambition was clear. Last lift a little shaky but oh well… they’re in first anyway!

Keauna & Brandon—
my daughter had to go to bed and watched just long enough to see the lovely footage of Brandon yakking en route to the hospital, and was dying to know… whatever was wrong with Brandon and would it keep him from doing more Sonny w/a Chance episodes?? They didn’t go into much detail, so we’ll say “severe flu symptoms” and leave it at that. The show has to play a rehearsal tape of the K & B performance (as they’ve done under similar circumstances at Dancing w/the Stars), and Keauna has to sniffle on the sidelines, glittery headband and all, and hope everyone got a sense of just how hard they worked this week. (The tape was fine; I don’t remember what Brandon’s jump was though.) Johnny got a jab in during his evaluation to basically call out Brandon for not having a “show must go on” mentality— in other words, calling him a wuss. Vernon jumped in with the friendly reminder that “Puke doesn’t look good on ice”, to which Johnny chirped “Been there, Vernon!” Nice.

So do we remind ourselves of the Disaster in Dallas ’03 where Johnny’s “show must go on” mentality was a little underdeveloped… as he gave up relatively early in his free skate and withdrew due to injury?

Or is that too dated a reference at this point?

Nah, of course it’s not. Here’s a peek at it for those who need (or maybe just want) a reminder. Sorry if that seems snarky, but of all people to come down on a performer for giving up too soon or for an illegitimate reason… let’s just say the pot was definitely calling the kettle—or perhaps the kettle’s “aura”—black. ;-)

And by the way, they also filled some time with an ensemble performance featuring co-host/commentator Tanith Belbin, who talked Ben Agosto into braving this show as well.

RATINGS NOTE: Unfortunately, all the other first-run programming of the night took its toll. The first 60 minutes appear to have brought in just under 5 million viewers; the last 30 kept only 4.5 million of them. We’ll have to see if the numbers keep dropping next week (when House might return with a new episode?), or if they can hold steady from here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Are We There Yet? Questions on the Road to GP Finals and Beyond 2010

It’s so strange to have a little lull in the action, I hardly know what to post. How ‘bout if I post some fake, yet completely believable, Frequently Asked Questions of the week…

Is it GP Finals time yet? No; that’s next weekend. Come back later this week for airdates and predictions… and if you’ve got a prediction of your own, why not add a “Comment” and commit to it in writing? C’mon… heaven knows you’ll probably do much better with your guesses than I have thus far.

(And incidentally, the U.S. has NINE competitors in the Junior GP Final, also to be held in Beijing this coming weekend. It won’t be streaming live on IceNetwork, but I’ll try to get the word out as I hear it anyway.)

Has anyone withdrawn from GP Finals yet? Not that I’ve heard, but I suppose there’s still time for that to happen Monday or Tuesday? (If so, that means half the U.S. GP competitors are continuing to wonder if they’ll get “the call”)

Is Skating with the Stars cancelled yet? No, but this week it’ll face some still competition in the form of a) the regular CBS lineup, and b) the season premiere of The Sing Off, which NBC would probably call Real Live GLEE if it could do so without paying the folks at FOX. Anyway, if SWTS can get through Monday night with between 5 ½- 6 million viewers intact, it should probably be considered a serious victory. Check back on Tuesday for an update on all of this.

Have any of the “on a break” skaters announced their plans yet? Funny you should ask… Joannie Rochette, for one, officially opted out of Canadian Nationals several days ago. You can read more about it
here, if you haven’t already. While we’re on the subject… anyone want to hedge their bets as to when Evan Lysacek will officially do the same with this season’s U.S. Nationals? Or is that just a bygone conclusion at this point?

Is this update done yet? As soon as I post this
clip of the day from Dice-K’s 2009 GPF Gala performance. Will he run off with the title this year?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dear 2010 Trophee Eric Bompard TV Production Staff...

...I write this at the risk of sounding ungrateful—though that is hardly the case. As with every home country of a Grand Prix event, you were responsible for producing the “World Feed” that was sent out to Universal, NBC, Canadian TV, Japanese TV, etc… and it was quite apparent that you folks were determined to go above and beyond what’s been done by all the 2010 GP countries ahead of you. Nothing wrong with that; some of them seemed quite challenged to bring us even the basics (show the skater, show the skating, show the scores) and it was refreshing to know you aimed higher. To that end, I’m sending a little Do’s and Don’ts list to help you plan for next year. Consider it my bouche de Noel to you this holiday season. You’re ever so welcome.

+ DO keep the guy that does artist’s renderings of skaters on the fly. I’ve seen him several times before; it’s a very nice touch, the way you work him into the action every now and again. (And livens up an event with very few standouts—such as this year’s ice dancing!)

+ DON’T feature aerial shots so high in the rafters you cannot tell what’s being done, let alone who’s doing it. Just because some poor soul has to watch it from that high up doesn’t mean we all want to suffering nosebleeds right alongside her.

+ DO continue to stay on the skater after they’ve finished, allowing us enough time to gauge their reaction to their own skating. It was a treat to see, for instance, Takahiko Kozuka’s charming and triumphant (but still characteristically subtle) double-fist pump at the completion of his winning free skate.

+ DON’T show shots of other people while a skater’s program is in progress. Why were we looking at a two-shot in the crowd when Kevin Reynolds’ free skate was just getting underway? And why, for the love of God, were we forced to watch Nikolai Morozov boogie along vicariously from the boards for what seemed like an eternity while his student (Florent Amodio) was in the thick of his fun-loving footwork? Show that stuff after the skate, s’il vous plait!! (Big thanks to Tracy Wilson for complaining about this particular shot on-air!)

+ DO get creative with the kiss-n-cry shots. As entertaining as it is to hear Frank Carroll’s random comments to Mirai Nagasu (this time I picked up “Good job out there; you weren’t chicken at all!”), it’s nice to see a little tilt-down from the TEB sign here, a slow pan from the left there…

+But DON’T give us tight shots of a skater’s feet while spinning. When Alissa Czisny is executing the hands-down most reliable, beautiful part of her skating talent, I want to see the positions she’s hitting... the lovely lines… I already KNOW her spin is perfectly centered.

+DO get even more artsy-fartsy, and put little sweeper girls in the foreground of those K&C shots (having them move out on cue, etc.). That, plus the piled-up stuffed toys obscuring Brian Joubert’s face after his SP scores went up, made his mediocre (and as it turned out, only) 2010 TEB appearance palatable.

+And finally… DON’T show us coach/skater split screens unless it’s in the warm-up. No offense, but that sort of “experimentation” is SO 1980s.

Don’t believe me? Check out
this clip of the day from 1986 Worlds, about 1 minute in… while it’s not a split-screen, it’s a directing decision that ultimately got voted down for future use. Easy reason: it took away from the performance at hand. Attentionez, TEB producers! And never forget that sometimes the basics-- the skater, the skating, the scores-- are all you really need.

Merci beaucoup,
Kelli @ √Čtat de la raie