Sunday, January 30, 2011
1) Gotta start with the men and work backwards, since it was the most surprising…wow. And again I say wow! So much talent bubbling underneath! So many (relative) veterans fumbling the ball! And the biggest veteran of all goes home with the gold despite a far-from-perfect free skate! Crazy.
2) And just when I thought they might break from tradition and send Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon to Worlds anyway—after all, as I mentioned before, it was their efforts last year that got us 3 spots this year—USFS put these two on the 4 Continents team (along with Armin Mahbanoozadeh), and kept the podium finishers (Ryan Bradley, Richard Dornbush, and Ross Miner) on the World team. Add this to my list of Things that make you go HMMMM… though it admittedly hasn’t been the best of seasons for either Abbott or Rippon, even before they had their troubles this weekend.
3) Which reminds me—that thing I said in the predictions about how picturing Abbott and Rippon in 1st and 2nd wasn’t much of a stretch? Yeah, scratch that. But as for that other thing I said about watching out for Dornbush…
4) Over to the ladies… I got the names right but the places wrong on the 1-2-3 finish, and was never so happy to be wrong. I’d pictured it being close, but that Alissa Czisny would perhaps err just enough (e.g. a stepout of one jump, like she did with the double axel at the GP Final) for a technically packed program from Mirai Nagasu to get the edge. Somehow I managed to forget, though, that Nagasu has yet to win an event after leading in the SP. And that Czisny could skate back-to-back clean performances! How cool was that! (And thank you, David Michaels or whoever was directing at NBC, for staying on Czisny’s face for that whole afterglow. TV directors around the world, take note!)
5) So what’s the verdict on Rachael Flatt’s take on East of Eden? I thought it was much better than expected, though I’m sure the comparisons to Kwan’s version will continue to abound. My only complaint was one that I’ve seen elsewhere; that she was kind of in “flailing arms” mode by the straight-line footwork time. I know she was trying hard to sell it, as they say… but in this case I tend to think she almost tried a little TOO hard. Still, I think it will serve her better for the remainder of the season than did her previous SP. Now if I could only get over the fact that her costume had long sleeves! (I’d read that she hated them because she got too hot out there in long-sleeve dresses.)
6) And (sigh) what to do about Ashley Wagner… I love her skating, but not her jumping. Kind of like I love her free skates, but not her short programs. Especially at Nationals. If she’s around next year, maybe we should pray for her to have a Czisny-esque revelation or two…
7) While I did manage to get my podium predictions correct for dance and pairs, I didn’t expect the placements to be quite so definitive—as in 19 points separating the 2nd place Shibutanis from the 3rd place Chock/Zuerlein, and 10 points separating 2nd place Evora/Ladwig from 3rd place Denney/Barrett. Too bad Denney/Barrett can’t go to Worlds; they obviously weren’t the best in show this weekend, but they still skated much better than they did earlier this year.
8) And if you were thinking during the Yankowskas/Coughlin free skate Gee it’s a shame that his mom passed away in the past year, but come on, NBC, aren’t you overplaying that hand a little? – just keep in mind that they love, love, LOVE their sentimental backstories, and I’m not sure they’ve ever downplayed one. And with the Y/C free skate to Ave Maria, dedicating it to Coughlin’s mom and all... the stage was already set for them. Remember how the commentators stayed quiet as Y/C made their way to the Kiss’n’Cry? There was a reason for that.
9) Speaking of NBC—kudos for that little segment they did explaining/demonstrating the role of the technical specialist.
10) But boo to my local NBC affiliate for pre-empting the first 20 minutes of today’s coverage with a press conference announcing the firing of Pacers head coach Jim O’Brien… luckily I think it only affected the recap of the short programs.
But I digress... what did you think of this year’s Nationals?
Friday, January 28, 2011
Gold- Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Silver- Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani
Bronze- Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein
For now, D/W (aka reigning Olympic Silver Medalists) are in a class by themselves when it comes to Nationals. That could surely change in a year or two, but not yet. So the much bigger question pertains to #2 and #3, particularly with Samuelson/Bates still out of the picture. USFS sent a number of different dance teams to senior GP events this past fall, but the ones that made the biggest splash are the names you see above. Silver and bronze could be reversed, but I went with the Shib Sibs for silver because their programs deliver more classic dancing that I’m guessing judges might favor in a close race.
Gold- Jeremy Abbott
Silver- Adam Rippon
Bronze- Ryan Bradley
Even with Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir out of the competitive picture this year, the men’s event should still prove to be a thrill ride. Abbott and Rippon’s combined performances at last year’s Worlds are why we can send 3 guys to this year’s Worlds, so I don’t think I’m pushing my luck (or theirs, for that matter) when I say I see them as 1-2 this weekend. Of course if either of them falter, there are at least 3 others ready to jump into action. If it’s Ryan Bradley, it’ll be on the strength of his quad toe and whatever impish delivery he gives to his programs this year (does anyone know if he’s recycling last year’s music?). If it’s Brandon Mroz, it’ll likely be due to his quad toe(s) and improved artistry with his “On the Waterfront” free skate. And if it’s Armin Mahbanoozadeh, it’ll be because he hits his triple axels better than Rippon. (More speculation than usual on that last one.)
DARK HORSES: Mroz and Mahbanoozadeh.
WATCH FOR: Richard Dornbush. He’s only 19, but he just won the Junior Grand Prix Final a month ago with this Clip-of-the-Day-FS to music from Sherlock Holmes… he finished 11th at last year’s Nationals. Repeating what he did at the JGPF could move him up significantly this time around.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Gold- Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin
Silver- Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig
Bronze- Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett
I’d like to say Denney/Barrett are a lock for a repeat victory, for I love their energy and in the past, their consistency has far surpassed other U.S. teams. But their two outings earlier this fall just weren’t clicking, be it the coaching change, or newfound pressure, or whatever. Evora/Ladwig can be a delight to watch and they’ve surely got some of the best lifts in the biz right now, but they’re still a little hit-or-miss with the jumps. I’m going with Yankowskas/Coughlin… in the past they’ve managed a great SP only to fumble their free skate, but they seemed to turn a corner in that regard with the Grand Prix events… including their first GP medal.
DARK HORSES: Simpson/Miller were the junior silver medalists last year, got 2 senior GP assignments this past fall, and are the top “junior” contenders since Zhang/Toth had to withdraw. And Castelli/Shnapir also got some solid GP experience this fall, and just missed a podium finish at Skate Canada.
WATCH FOR: Marley/Brubaker and Bereswill/Young, two wild cards in that they each feature a familiar name but are relatively untested as teams.
And for LADIES:
Gold- Mirai Nagasu
Silver- Alissa Czisny
Bronze- Rachael Flatt
This is tough! For all the difficulty we’ve had getting U.S. ladies to the world championship podium of late, there’s a pretty evenly-talented pool of at least a half-dozen young women vying for those two world spots. And then there’s all the questions: after the controversy surrounding Flatt’s victory last year over Nagasu (see today’s Clip of the Day) , will the tables turn in Nagusu’s favor this time? Will Flatt’s new SP go over better than anyone thinks? Will Czisny be able to shake off old demons and embrace confidence via her most recent success? Ashley Wagner tweeted last night that she has the flu (!); will she be able to skate to her potential? Can Agnes Zawadski skate as well in the FS as she’s been doing in the SP? My best prediction to any of these is reflected in my choices above, with Wagner and Zawadski having a great shot at top 5 if they don’t medal.
DARK HORSE: Christina Gao. You haven’t seen or heard as much about Gao (who is coached by Brian Orser and finished 5th in this event last year) because she was on the Junior GP circuit this fall. But she was racking up silver medals on said circuit, so don’t count her out.
WATCH FOR: Samantha Cesario. Though she only finished 14th last year, she and her Man of La Mancha free skate was one of the more impressive performances I caught when skimming through Eastern Sectionals (her qualifying event).
I’ll be back soon to post dance and men’s predictions…
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
MEN: As demonstrated by yesterday’s clip, Patrick Chan skated above and beyond the call of duty for the top spot. Kevin Reynolds was another story—an underrated quad and a popped triple axel in the SP set him down in 5th, and he was only able to improve to 4th by the end. No Worlds team for him! That coveted slot alongside Chan goes to Shawn Sawyer, who pulled a skate-of-his-life type of performance out of his huge Mad Hatter hat. Content-wise, he’s no match for the top guys. But he skated his best, landing the jumps he does have while embodying the character of his Alice in Wonderland program with fluid extension and passion. A well-deserved silver for him! Joey Russell landed between Sawyer and Reynolds for the bronze.
LADIES: Cynthia Phaneuf didn’t skate to perfection, but she did well enough to claim her first national title since 2004. Myriane Sampson, third behind Joannie Rochette and Phaneuf last year, also slid up a spot to claim silver this time. Amelie Lacoste, the bronze medalist from the GP’s Skate Canada, ended up third here as well. And if you were wondering how Jessica Dube (usually partnered with Bryce Davison) managed as a singles skater… she had a nice program with a few bobbles (including doubling her salchows after falling on one in the SP). Check it out yourself; it’s the Clip of the Day.
PAIRS: Moore-Towers/Moscovitch continued their breakout season with their first senior national title. Duhamel/Radford rose up from 4th in the SP to take silver; Lawrence/Swiegers hung in for bronze.
DANCE: With Virtue/Moir sitting out this Nationals, Crone/Poirier were the clear favorites; however, it’s worth noting that while they DID win… Weaver/Poje were right, and I mean right behind them (as in a mere 1.03 points behind). Paul/Islam were 10 points further back for bronze.
Monday, January 24, 2011
U.S. Nationals are underway in Greensboro, N.C.!
If you’re following them from stem to stern (meaning, from the Novice events straight through to the Championship Gala), you already knew that. But whether you’re one of them, or one more inclined to pay attention to the big guns (aka Senior-level stuff)… you might take an interest in these various lists of streaming/broadcast times over the next several days…
Here is the schedule for streaming video from IceNetwork.com (subscription required):
Jan. 24 (Monday)
10:30 a.m.: Novice free dance
12:30 p.m.: Novice ladies free skate
3:45 p.m.: Novice men's free skate
5:45 p.m.: Novice pairs free skate
8:45 p.m.: Junior ladies short program
Jan. 25 (Tuesday)
11:00 a.m.: Junior short dance
8:30 p.m.: Junior men's free skate
Jan. 26 (Wednesday)
11:00 a.m.: Junior pairs short program
1:30 p.m.: Junior dance free dance
9:00 p.m.: Junior ladies free skate
Jan. 27 (Thursday)
3:30 p.m.: Senior pairs short program
7:15 p.m.: Senior ladies short program
Jan. 28 (Friday)
11:00 a.m.: Junior pairs free skate
3:00 p.m.: Senior short dance
7:30 p.m.: Senior men's short program
Jan. 29 (Saturday)
10:45 a.m.: Senior pairs free skate (Early groups only, late groups will be shown live on TV and will available on-demand only)
12:35 p.m.: Senior free dance (Early groups only, late groups will be shown live on TV and will available on-demand only)
6:40 p.m.: Senior ladies free skate (Early groups only, late groups will be shown live on TV and will available on-demand only)
Jan. 30 (Sunday)
1:35 p.m.: Senior men's free skate (Early groups only, late groups will be shown live on TV and will available on-demand only)
And as for what’ll be shown on NBC… (with assorted repeats on Universal Sports)
Jan. 29 (Saturday)
3-6PM Pairs Free Skate and Free Dance
9-11PM Ladies Free Skate
Jan. 30 (Sunday)
4-6PM Men’s Free Skate
Feb. 5 (Next Saturday)
2:30-4:30PM Gala (Exhibitions)
And while all four champs from last year will be returning to defend their titles**, here a few more notable names who have recently withdrawn from Nats:
**= remember that Evan Lysacek and Belbin/Agosto only won silver at 2010 Nats.
She competed the Senior GP this season in one event (Cup of China), placing 6th, and finished 6th at Senior Nats last year. But as per a message on her website, she “took a weird fall” last week and injured her ankle too badly to compete (though a full recovery is expected).
Felicia Zhang/Taylor Toth:
They were last year’s Junior Pairs champs and competed at two Senior GP events this season; their best finish was 5th at Trophee Eric Bompard. But Zhang has bruised ribs, so the twosome will sit out this Nationals (although Zhang will still be competing singles).
She was the 2009 Novice Ladies Champion, and had some success (including a silver medal) in the Junior GP earlier this season, but “left Achilles tendinopathy” prevented her from competing the GP final… and is now keeping her from competing in Greensboro too. Here’s what she posted on Twitter a few days ago (actually 3 “tweets”):
After everything I've done I still have slight pain in my ankles, not letting myself get reinjured, so no nationals for me.
I've done everything that I should, mentally and physically, to get ready to compete. As of 9 am this morning I was packing. No regrets.
You'll see me next year. Ill be ready. Sick of being injured but couldn't be happier skating all the time.
Baga is only 15, so hopefully her ankle woes will clear up in time to allow her several more years in senior ladies.
For the Clip of the Day I’ve got Patrick Chan’s mighty fine free skate from Canadian Nationals this past weekend… yes, he landed both quads AND a triple axel, and I must admit he earned every bit of his over-scoring this time :-D
Speaking of which… I’ll post a Canadian Nats recap very soon.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
(NOTE: I’ll try to include links to these respective stories later on today.)
+ Virtue/Moir sat on the proverbial fence, all the way to… well, just a few days ago… regarding whether or not they would actually compete at Canadian Nationals in an effort to defend their title. (Virtue had surgery that kept them out of the competitive eye this past fall.) The answer is “no;” apparently they feel a little more time is needed… next chance to see them will presumably be Four Continents.
+ But Patrick Chan plans to compete this weekend. So does Kevin Reynolds. And despite the latter being the current “quad king” and all, the attention remains on Chan… especially since he announced his plans to put two quads in his own free skate. Veeery Eeenteresting. Or at least it will be when it comes to Worlds… here at Canadians, I’m not sure Reynolds would be able to upset Chan if Reynolds did his jumps with both hands tied behind his back, much less the normal way.
+ And hopping over the border for some U.S. news-- through the magic of Twitter and Facebook, I saw (via a post from U.S.F.S.) that Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller have withdrawn from next week’s pairs event. Simpson/Miller competed in the GP twice this year (earning 6th at Skate Canada and 7th at Cup of Russia); while they surely weren’t seen yet as title contenders, a spot on the podium seemed a definite possibility…
Friday, January 14, 2011
As it turns out, a fellow GP Finalist has decided to follow her lead. If you check Rachael Flatt’s bio at IceNetwork.com, you’ll discover that she’s apparently scrapped her old SP (Summertime/Oh, But on the Third Day…) in favor of working with East of Eden. Yes, Michelle Kwan fans, THAT East of Eden. Sight unseen, folks seem to be alternately surprised, concerned, even downright appalled by this SP choice.
So in doing so—for better or worse—Flatt raises an interesting question: Are there certain pieces of music that have become so closely identified with a particular skater that it’s downright unwise for anyone else to skate to them?
Earlier in the season, I took note of the fact that Carolina Kostner’s current free skate is to Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun… which was also used, rather famously, by Janet Lynn back in the day. But I haven’t heard any complaints; no what-is-she-thinking comments. In fact, I’ve read that some are seeing Kostner’s artistry in a whole new light this year.
If anyone in this crazy skating world gets mentioned in the same breath as the iconic Ms. Lynn, it’s the iconic Ms. Kwan. So what’s the difference?
The easy answer is TIME. Lynn first skated to Faun in the 1970-71 season I believe, while Kwan last skated competitively to Eden in 2001 (she actually used it a few times prior to that). Ten years is a decade; 40 years is a generation or two. Maybe someone can make Eden their own by the time I’m applying for Social Security, but the prevailing thought seems to be NOT YET…
Unless you actually find the prevailing answer to be not Rachael, not ever. Unfortunately I’ve seen a lot of that too… perhaps a reaction that bears similarity to what would’ve happened if Elaine Zayak had chosen to skate to cuts of music first popularized by Peggy Fleming. It doesn’t seem fair, and yet I find myself skeptical as well— not just about the music, but the idea of unveiling a new short program at Nationals. Especially when you’re coming off of one of your worst-ever international performances.
In any case, I’m glad she’s keeping her Slaughter on 10th Avenue free skate… still a great fit for her, in my opinion.
Will East of Eden steer her in the right direction? Or completely take her off the map? We’ll know in about 2 weeks…
Until then, I’m including one of Michelle’s definitive Eden performances as the Clip of the Day.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Tessa and Scott: Our Journey from Childhood Dream to Gold sounds like a pretty self-explanatory title for a pretty straightforward tale of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and in fact it is: boy pairs up with girl at a relatively early age as an ice dance team… boy and girl really click on the ice and demonstrate that “it” factor at one competition after another… boy and girl face some of the struggles that come along with the ride (leaving home to train, school challenges, tough choices, Tessa etc.)… boy and girl become best friends (but not love interests—as the book states several times)… boy and girl progress rapidly through the ranks and become the youngest ice dance team to ever—not to mention first North Americans-- to win the Olympic Gold Medal (in Vancouver last February).
But precious few ever get to claim such a tale as their very own, and that’s what makes Virtue and Moir’s story unique. Boasting plentiful color photos of the twosome—many from their families’ own collections—Tessa and Scott reads like the perfect road map for anyone remotely interested in knowing Just What It Takes for an ice dance team to make it to the top. What it might lack in intrigue or fascination (which isn’t their fault of course; their story simply is what it is) it makes up for with a light, easygoing style. I’d credit that to co-author Steve Milton; he’s the one to whom Virtue and Moir (and all other sources for the book) relayed their story, consequently, he’s the one responsible for creating a successful narrative flow.
It’s a hardcover book, and at 191 pages it’s a quick read, especially with all the photos in between. Tessa and Scott is sure to be appreciated by skating fans worldwide, but I imagine it will cause Canadian readers to rejoice most of all. Anyone else out there read it already? Please share your thoughts if you have!
If you haven’t, you can order a copy here.
And for the Clip of the Day I’ve got V&M’s performance from All That Skate L.A. this past fall.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
+ Johnny Weir’s autobiography/memoir/whatever you want to call it Welcome to My World will arrive in bookstores this coming Tuesday (January 11). Apparently the book reveals that Weir is gay. Just remember, you heard it here one hundred-and-thirty first :-)
By the way... I DO plan on reading it, but there are a few books ahead of it right now in my queue (somehow I think he’ll sell well without my review!). If anyone else reads it and has some thoughts to share in the interim, feel free to send me a note…
+ In other news that isn’t really news (yep, I said it), Evan Lysacek has officially announced that he won’t be competing at this year’s U.S. Nationals in Greensboro, S.C. He will, however, be in Greensboro to skate in the Smucker’s Skating Spectacular that follows Nationals. He will also do a special performance (following the Spectacular) that will be used in the upcoming documentary RISE.
+ What is this RISE documentary, you ask? Eh, you probably know that by now. Let’s rephrase: Where can I see this RISE film when it hits movie theaters February 17? What you need to do is go to www.rise1961.com and enter your zip code. I was surprised to see it scheduled to run in 3 different theaters around here. Unfortunately, at $15 per person (plus the cost of babysitting), I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend. There’s still time to work that out, though… Here’s the trailer to RISE that is currently featured at IceNetwork.com.
+ And finally… I don’t know the goings on with the competitors at Canadian Nationals (which start next week) as well as their U.S. counterparts, but I can tell you that 2009 bronze medalist Jeremy Ten is out of the running, following ankle surgery. You can read more about it here… with three spots at Worlds this year, plus the retirement of Vaughn Chipeur, and now Ten’s injury, it would seem that Shawn Sawyer’s chances of making a second Worlds team (presumably behind Patrick Chan and Kevin Reynolds) are getting better all the time. If he does, it’ll be his first time there in 5 years. Aside from Joey Russell, are there others that are poised to make a splash? Post a comment if you know of any.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
As we settle into this new year, it’s bound to become apparent that all skating roads in January lead to either Canadian Nationals (mid-month), U.S. Nationals (end of month), or Europeans (also end of month).
For instance—you can check this link out for a look at who’s currently scheduled to compete at U.S. Nationals (senior level)… and when you do, you might see some names you weren’t expecting to see, and/or in places you weren't expecting to see them. Not exactly “blasts from the past”… not yet, anyway… but I’ll just call them People to Make You Go “Hmmm”…
RYAN BRADLEY. Did you think he’d moved on? I sure did. Maybe it was that little wave goodbye he gave to the backstage camera last year after he knew for sure he hadn’t made the Olympic team. Maybe it was the fact that he’s now 27 years old. Maybe it was the fact that he’s done plenty of “show skating” since the spring, including Brian Boitano’s Skating Spectacular, rather than Grand Prix assignments. Nonetheless, he’s back to compete in Senior Nats for the 10th time. Universal Sports ran this article about it… Bradley’s best finish at this event was silver, in 2007.
PARKER PENNINGTON: He’s the only U.S. man to have won National titles on ALL the lower levels (Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice and Junior)… but ironically, that senior title continues to elude him in a big way. Pennington, now 26, will put in his ninth appearance at Senior Men’s this year; clearly he hopes to improve on the best finish he has to date (7th place, in 2007).
DANIELLE KAHLE: For someone who has yet to really prove herself at the senior level, Kahle has amassed her fair share of high-profile appearances—including the film Ice Princess and the TLC mini-series Ice Diaries. She seemed to be one of the many U.S. skaters who peaked in her mid-teens, with her best Nats finish by far coming at age 17 (6th place in 2007). The past two years didn’t even see Kahle getting past Sectionals… and yet this time she successfully cleared that hurdle with a 2nd place finish. At age 21, is Kahle one to watch once again?
LINDSAY DAVIS & THEMISTOCLES LEFTHERIS: You most likely remember Leftheris from his bronze-medal partnership with Naomi Nari Nam, but he’s had several different pairs skaters by his side through the years (he’s now 28). Though I can’t find anything on them as a team, he’s listed as now skating with Davis, who’s the 2010 Junior Bronze Medalist.
MARY BETH MARLEY & ROCKNE BRUBAKER: After a heartbreaking Nats last year, and dissolving of his partnership with Keauna McLaughlin shortly thereafter, Brubaker is back at Nats with new partner Marley, who’s the 2009 Novice Silver Medalist.
BECKY BERESWILL & TREVOR YOUNG: In this case you’re more likely to know her name than his… she’s competed in singles until this year with her best Nats finish coming in 2008 (10th). Young has been in pairs longer, with his previous partner being Andrea Best.
Will any of these Hmmm… athletes make a big splash in Greensboro later this month? WIth any luck, I'll remember to revisit this post in February
Here’s an exhibition skate from Bereswill/Young as the Clip of the Day. Considering this was back in June—and they already looked pretty good together—it would be fun to see pairs skating do for Bereswill’s career what it ultimately did for John Baldwin (who, mercifully, is NOT on the competitors’ list this year… just in case you were wondering.)