Friday, July 29, 2011

The 2011 Indy Pairs Challenge-- I'm SO There...

I’ve spent the better part of my week wondering if I’d be attending this weekend’s Indy Pairs Challenge as A) a spectator (covering it for the blog), B) a vendor (promoting/selling/signing copies of Skating on Air), or C) neither A nor B. As it turns out, I’ve been cleared for option B… so if you’re in attendance for “the largest pairs-only event in the world,” please seek me out, have a little bite of chocolate (if I remember to bring it!), and take a peek at the book if you like! I’ll be at the table festooned with fliers and posters that look a lot like that book cover over on the left side of this page :-)

I’m hoping to be there most of Saturday, during which the Senior Final and Junior Final will be taking place. The list of Junior entries is rather daunting (26 teams!), so I won’t re-create it… but there’s only a dozen pairs competing in seniors, so here they are… a quite impressive dozen at that…

Margaret Purdy / Michael Marinaro
(9th at 2011 Canadian Nationals)

Lindsay Davis / Leftheris Themistocles
(7th at 2011 U.S. Nationals)

Tiffany Vise / Don Baldwin
(6th at 2011 U.S. Nationals)

Caydee Denney / John Coughlin
(3rd & 1st, respectively, at 2011 U.S. Nationals, making their FS debut as a new team here)

Taylor Steele / Rob Schultz
(4th in Juniors, 2011 Canadian Nationals)

Ashley Cain / Joshua Reagan
(Junior champions, 2011 U.S. Nationals)

Kirsten Moore-Towers / Dylan Moscovitch
(1st at 2011 Canadian Nationals)

Paige Lawrence / Rudi Swiegers
(3rd at 2011 Canadian Nationals)

Gretchen Donlan / Andrew Speroff
(8th at 2011 U.S. Nationals)

Chloe Katz / Joe Lynch
(9th at 2011 U.S. Nationals)

Cassie Andrews / Tim LeDuc
(Junior bronze medalists, 2011 U.S. Nationals)

Andrea Poapst / Chris Knierim
(Junior silver medalists, 2011 U.S. Nationals)

More info about the Indy Pairs Challenge can be found
here. Good luck to everyone, and I hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

NBC Ensures Competitive Figure Skating Has A Place on Mainsream TV For Fall 2011

For those of you in the U.S. who always wonder, around this time of year, “How much skating are we actually going to get to SEE on regular TV this season…

… because we don’t have access to Universal Sports?”
… because we can’t (or choose not to) pay for on-demand coverage?”
… because how is figure skating supposed to attract new participants and continue to grow and thrive if it’s not on network TV?”

Well, take heart. NBC released its broadcast schedule for the new season this week with regards to the ISU Grand Prix and U.S. Nationals. You can read the full article here at the official USFS site, but the specific dates/times are listed below. Most events, with the exception of Skate America and NHK, will be shown on a one-week delay as network TV often does… I’m not sure what happened with Cup of China (which isn’t getting any mainstream coverage according to this); I can only assume NBC is committed to something else around that time that is more lucrative for the network.

Please note that the Universal and schedules have not been released yet; they will, no doubt, carry the events live or near-live (in Uni Sports’ case).

And for those who are still disappointed to see NBC covering skating (as opposed to another network), please take note that NBC’s existing coverage is directly correlated to its acquisition of Olympic broadcast rights. In other words… it ain’t going anywhere for a while. And with the viewing audience as fragmented as it is today, let’s be glad it’s on mainstream TV at all!

NBC Sports 2011 ISU Grand Prix Series Broadcast Schedule(All times ET; check local listings for times in your area)

Saturday, Oct. 22
2011 Hilton Honors Skate America (LIVE)
3-6 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 5
Skate Canada International
4-6 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 13
NHK Trophy (Japan)
2-4 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 27
Trophee Eric Bompard (France)
2-4 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 3
Rostelecom Cup (Russia)
1-3 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 11
Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final (Quebec)
12-2 p.m

NBC Sports 2012 U.S. Championships Broadcast Schedule(All times ET; check local listings for times in your area)

Saturday, Jan. 28
Free Dance (LIVE)
4-6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 28
Ladies Free Skate (LIVE)
9-11 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 29
Men's and Pairs Free Skate (LIVE)
3-6 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 4
Skating Spectacular
2-4 p.m.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seven Reasons to Beat the Heat via the 2011 Liberty Open

Question: What’s cool when it’s hot? (speaking literally)

Answer: An ice rink.

Q: What’s cooler when it’s REALLY hot? (Not speaking literally)

A: An off-season skating competition that attracts international competitors (such as Philadelphia's LIBERTY OPEN).

Q: What’s cool on a hot day, but seems hot in a way because many performances are new, and fresh, and actually quite cool? (Not really making sense at all now—I blame the heat!!—but hopefully you know what I mean)

A: Performances such as the ones I’ve linked to below.
(NOTE: Short and Free skates are judged and awarded separately.)

Samantha Cesario’s Black Swan FS
17 year-old Cesario has been off the radar for the past year or so due to injury, but she appears ready to roar back… winning “Group B” both in the short and free senior programs.

Leah Keiser’s SP (partial)
She’s 13, she’s got a triple lutz/triple toe (unfortunately not shown in this clip), and she won “Group A” both in the short and free senior programs.

Stephen Carriere’s La Vie en Rose/Mack the Knife SP
Don’t count him out yet… the former U.S. men’s bronze medalist put down a clean and stylish short to win the event.

Keegan Messing’s FS
He’s not particularly graceful, and doesn’t appear to currently have the stamina to skate his program cleanly… but this Alaskan teenager’s jumps are getting fierce, and his spins are even fiercer.

Denney/Coughlin’s SP
If you are eager to see what this U.S. power pair looks like in competition, wait no more… they didn’t skate an FS here, but did a fine short to win that event.

Dube/Wolfe’s FS
Canada’s Jessica Dube now skates with Sebastien Wolfe, and while their FS wasn’t spot-on great, they definitely had moments of brilliance… such as a fairly successful throw triple flip, and the wise avoidance of side-by-side triple salchows (one of Dube’s biggest downfalls in her last 2 years with Bryce Davison).

Nathan Chen’s Godfather FS
Chen, who I believe has won the U.S. Novice Men’s title for the past 2 years, is entering the 7th grade this fall… and upgrading to the Junior Men’s division. And taking on The Godfather for his free skate! How will all this work for the little guy who is essentially the mascot of USFS? Pretty good so far… he won his event here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Showdown Highlights of the 2011 ISU Grand Prix (Part 2)

I’m returning to the analysis of the 2011-12 Grand Prix that I started 10 days ago, for if everyone shows to these as scheduled, there are enough interesting showdowns to fill a classic spaghetti western…

NHK TROPHY (or, simply, NHK)
Last year, NHK led off the entire series; this year it’s in the middle of the pack. But for both pairs and dance, the excitement level should create a certain “new-season smell.” Pairs boasts a sort of musical chairs situation, with Pang/Tong, Savchenko/Szolkowy, Kavaguti/Smirnov, and Iliushechkina/Maisuradze all seemingly serious contenders for the 3 podium places. Meanwhile there’s no clear front-runner on the ice dance docket… but with the Shibutanis, Weaver/Poje, and Ilinykh/Katsalapov all in the mix, it looks like a great time for at least one of these three to make a very positive move.

If Evan Lysacek is, indeed, returning to competitive skating this fall—and his recent “tweets” sure seem to indicate he’s training as such—TEB will be his second event, and will pit him against Patrick Chan for the first time since Vancouver (where Chan finished a somewhat disappointing 5th). But if Chan is able to skate anything like he did in the past 6 months—heck, even if he has a human Zamboni moment or two, as he did at Skate Canada last season—ah, how interesting this may be. As for the ladies, the potential showdown material is rich: two veterans who are coming off of stellar comeback seasons (Carolina Kostner and Alissa Czisny), a veteran trying to rebound from an injury-plagued season (Laura Lepisto), a breakout star from last year (Kanako Murakami), and a potential breakout star for the new year (Liza Tuktamisheva). This will be the second event of the season; All four competitors will be making their second visit to the series by this point.

ROSTELECOM CUP (Cup of Russia, or CoR)
I suppose much of the skating world will feverishly await this, the final qualifying GP event, to see if Evgeny Plushenko will indeed leap into Russia’s “TBD” spot and once again use the wind created by all that thunderous applause to further inflate his parade balloon of an ego. As for me… yeah, I’m kind of hoping he gets (temporarily) trapped under something heavy long enough to stay away. Particularly when that creates an opportunity for either Michal Brezina, Jeremy Abbott, or Artur Gachinski—who I’d never have slipped into that list, save for the fact that he managed to claim bronze, at Worlds, in Moscow, just a few months ago. Should that opportunity pass them by, get ready for an interesting Ladies event… with Asada appearing to be an unreliable choice for a front-runner these days, the door to victory could be open to Russia’s own Alena Leonova, Finland’s Kiira Korpi, USA’s Rachael Flatt… or even relative newcomer Agnes Zawadzki (USA) or true newcomer Sofia Biryukova (RUS).

Just in case you’re wondering who that last lady is, here’s her most recent Russian Nats SP as the
Clip of the Day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

PyeongChang, 2018 it is... With Kim Still in the Mix? Well...

So as you no doubt have heard by now, PyeongChang, South Korea was chosen earlier this week as the location for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. As you may or may not have heard (or read), the marvelous Aaron over at Axels, Loops & Spins has a quote posted from Kim Yu-Na indicating she plans to still be competing by the time the 2018 Games came to pass. Not an unprecedented thought; numerous skaters have set a certain “home country” event as their personal competitive finale, while others just happened to be in their prime when the Olympics came to their backyard. But how have these various home-country heroes fared under that kind of pressure? Let’s take a quick look at all the Winter Olympics that have transpired since World War II with host country reps on the medals podium:

1948 (St. Moritz, Switzerland)-- Hans Gerschwiler (SWI) wins the silver behind gold medalist Dick Button (USA).
1960 (Squaw Valley, United States) – Americans David Jenkins and Carol Heiss won the singles events, while Barbara Roles and the Ludingtons earning bronzes.
1964 (Innsbruck, Austria) Regine Heitzer (AUT) claimed silver behind Sjoukie Dijkstra (NED).
1968 (Grenoble, France) Patrick Pera (FRA) claimed bronze behind Wolfgang Schwarz (AUT) and Timothy Wood (USA).
1980 (Lake Placid, United States) Linda Fratianne and, Charlie Tickner both of the USA, took silver and bronze, respectively.
1988 (Calgary, Canada) Brian Orser, Liz Manley, and the dance team of Wilson/McCall kept the medals coming in for Canada amidst a sea of silver and bronze.
2002 (Salt Lake City, USA) Timothy Goebel nabbed bronze and Sarah Hughes claimed gold—both at relatively young ages.
2010 (Vancouver, Canada) Joannie Rochette took bronze and made it perhaps the defining moment of her career… while Virtue/Moir went all the way to gold territory.

So without doing checking to determine if Ms. Heitzer ever stood a chance of defeating Ms. Dijkstra by way of a previous win (I’m pretty sure Dijkstra was dominant in that era)… or to speculate as to whether Hughes could have even come close to gold in Salt Lake City had she been the gold medal favorite... is the question of how often a home-country, gold-meal fave can completely succeed with that mission?

David Jenkins and Carol Heiss of the Squaw Valley U.S. dream team? Check.
Linda Fratianne, a U.S. and World Champion in Lake Placid? Not quite.
Charlie Tickner, a U.S. champ and former World Champ, also in Lake Placid? Make that “not quite” a double. (He got bronze.)
Brian Orser, representing Canada in Calgary? Close, but no gold-plated cigar.
Virtue/Moir, representing Canada in Vancouver? Absolutely… but as you see, it took 50 years for history to repeat itself.

In other words, I think it would be fantastic for Kim to have the kind of staying power that puts her in PyeongChang as a competitor, let alone a still-dominant factor, seven years from now. And for now, I’m just gonna leave it at that!

I decided to dig up one of those home-country medal performances for a
ClipoftheDay by way of Charlie Tickner. Here is the LP that helped him to his 1980 bronze medal in Lake Placid… and listen close to Dick Button and the late great Jim McKay at the beginning of this clip; you can hear McKay sound just a little bit exasperated as Button quickly emphasizes that Tickner still has a shot at gold. (That shot, unfortunately, is blown by at about the 1:55 mark.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Showdown Highlights of the 2011 ISU Grand Prix (Part 1)

As with last year, I’m going to start the Grand Prix showdowns by looking at the first three events of the 2011-12 GP season… and of course, these are subject to change as athletes withdraw from events, get injured, etc.


The 2011 season kickoff looks like it will find its biggest star in 2010 OGM Evan Lysacek, who is currently scheduled to compete. If he’s there, he will meet up against current World silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka, fan favorite Florent Amodio… and Michal Brezina, who had TWO quads at Worlds and might be quite the force if he can stay injury-free this coming year.

The other highlight at SkAm should be the ladies event, which will be a sort of re-match between potential World bronze medalists Alissa Czisny, Carolina Kostner, and Ksenia Makarova. Kostner won that battle, as you know, but Czisny was seen to be a fall-on-a-triple-lutz away from it in April. And while Makarova didn’t quite have the jump content to stay in the race at Worlds, she was in 3rd after the SP and could very well come back with a new trick or two up her sleeve in the fall.


The pairs event could prove quite interesting here, as it features what I’m calling The Next Big Thing (current World silver medalists Volosozhar/Trankov) vs. The Big Little Thing (tiny Chinese phenoms and Junior World champs Sui/Han).

The men will see another Patrick Chan/Daisuke Takahashi showdown (good luck beating Chan on his home turf, Dice-K), while the ladies will see something both very new (the senior debut of Russia’s Junior World silver medalist Elizaveta Tuktamisheva) and something kind of new (Akiko Suzuki as the sole Japanese entrant; no standing in Asada’s or Ando’s shadow this time).


As for ice dance, keep your eyes on it when we arrive at CoC. With no Canadian teams scheduled to compete, no Davis/White here, and the French team Pechalat/Bourzat taking a break after back-to-back events (SkAm and SkCan), the frontrunners appear to be Bobrova/Soloviev of Russia and current World bronze medalists the Shibutanis (USA). Could the young ShibSibs pull in their first senior GP victory this fall? This event may hold the answer…

Pairs also ought to be interesting at CoC (as usual), with home country faves Pang/Tong and Zhang/Zhang competing against each other for the first time in over a year… add Russia’s Kavaguti/Smirnov into the mix, and I see an above-average early-season event taking place!

I’ll take a closer look at the second half of the upcoming GP season next week. Happy Independence Day to all my U.S. readers!