Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Better-Late-Than-Never Club Presents... Last Week's JGP and Nebelhorn Numbers and Notes

Yikes—all these “pre-season” events are getting tough to keep up with! Sorry for the delays, but I’m trying to catch as many medal and/or U.S. performances as I can… this past week, with two events in play, that added up to over two dozen. In any case, I’m trying to get back to at least 2 posts a week ASAP, especially since I’ll want to be up to around 4 a week by the time the Senior GP starts.

Speaking of Grand Prix events, here are some results and notes from last week’s junior entry in Brasov, Romania (Nebelhorn Trophy follows further down):

GOLD- Maxim Kovtun, RUS
SILVER- Ryuju Hino, JPN
BRONZE- Nam Nguyen, CAN

Kovtun gets Russia its first men’s gold medal of the JGP, while Hino (who won in Latvia a few weeks ago) settled for silver here. Nguyen, the reigning Canadian Junior champ, is all of 13 years old, and all of 4’11” to boot… get ready, he might be around for a good long time. For the U.S., Shotaro Omori came in 4th, while Harrison Choate finished 6th.

GOLD- Polina Shelepen, RUS
SILVER- Polina Korobeynikova, RUS
BRONZE- Hae-Jin Kim, KOR

So apparently the name “Polina” became as popular in Russia in the mid-90s as “Madison” and “Hannah” have become in the U.S. these days. Shelepen you may have seen before; she was the JGP Final silver medalist last year and now has two gold medals from this season. Korobeynikova is the third “Polina” to medal on the JGP circuit this season; unfortunately I’ll remember her for using Otonal for her FS more than anything else. (Sorry; not a fan of Otonal.) Ashley Cain, who came in 6th for the U.S. in Latvia, managed 4th place here, while international newcomer McKinzie Daniels (who I had the pleasure of seeing perform live way back in 2006) finished 10th.

GOLD- Stepanova/Bukin, RUS
SILVER- Galyeta/Shumski, UKR
BRONZE- Bent/MacKeen, CAN

Stepanova/Bukin, frankly, had me at the opening notes of their FD (a string version of Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Live and Let Die,” which I’ve long thought to be one of the best pop songs a skater could use). It’s worth a mention too that Canada’s Bent/MacKeen dance to music from South Pacific, which I thought to be a unique (and good) choice. In 4th place was Hawayek/Bramante of the U.S.; didn’t recognize their music but they had interesting and creative lifts, good speed on their dance spin, and an overall nice “dance quality” (must use the quotes since I’m no expert).

Next up for the JGP: Innsbruck! In fact, it’s already underway…Vanessa Lam is in 4th after the SP, and one of the Polinas is in 1st. There, something timely for once!

As for the Nebelhorn Trophy…


GOLD- Yuzuru Hanyu, JPN
SILVER- Michal Brezina, CZE
BRONZE- Stephen Carriere, USA

Hanyu, who I still think of as the Johnny Weir of Japan, got the victory solidly over Brezina (unrecognizable with brown hair and no argyle vest, now that he’s finally retired the American in Paris program), and a surprisingly strong Carriere (particularly regarding a very nice "La Vie en Rose/Mack The Knife" SP). Max Aaron, representing the U.S. and attempting a quad salchow in his FS, finished 5th.


GOLD- Mirai Nagasu, USA
SILVER- Elene Gedevanishvili, GEO
BRONZE- Joshi Helgesson, SWE

Nagasu’s using Spartacus for the FS—good news is that although she blew her first jumping pass (3Lo/2Lo), she stood up the rest of the performance and retained a substantial lead after dominating the SP. Bad news is that she’s got a ways to go before she really seems to connect w/the music. (Her poker face doesn’t help.)

Gedevanishvili is back to being a brunette, and she’s back to landing triple lutzes for the first time in a long while. Her Phantom of the Opera program brought her silver. Joshi Helgesson outskated her sister Viktoria with a Romeo & Juliet-themed free skate. Joelle Forte of the U.S. finished 7th.


GOLD- Volosozhar/Trankov, RUS
SILVER- Bazarova/Larionov, RUS
BRONZE- Denney/Coughlin, USA

Volosozhar/Trankov won this easily and looked good doing it, for the most part (though they did have a rare miscue on a lift in their Swan Lake FS). Bazarova/Larionov snatched second away from the new team of Denney/Coughlin; a big splat from Denney on a throw triple loop surely didn’t help much. Vise/Baldwin of the U.S. finished 7th.


GOLD- Hubbell/Donohue, USA
SILVER- Zhiganshina/Gazsi, GER
BRONZE- Ralph/Hill, CAN

My guess is that Madison Hubbell couldn’t have effectively skated to Joe Cocker growling “I’ve Put a Spell on You” if her brother was still her dance partner… which might be reason enough to applaud her gold medal here with new partner Zach Donohue. Among those coming in behind them were Ralph/Hill (who had a VERY nice set of partially mirrored twizzles in the opening seconds of their FD), and a James Bond-themed Olson/Cowan of the U.S., who finished 6th.

The Ondrej Nepala Memorial is up next for the senior lot!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another Week on the JGP Circuit, Another Round of U.S. Gold Medals

Gdansk brought more hardware to the U.S. juniors… 2 gold and 1 bronze, to be precise. Here’s a little of how it shook out:

GOLD: Joshua Farris, USA
SILVER: Artur Dmitriev (Jr.), RUS
BRONZE: Ryuichi Kihara, JPN

If your last image of Farris is of a young man struggling to muscle through his fall-plagued Nationals free skate—only to discover later on that he’d been skating with a fractured ankle—get ready for a much better picture of the 16 year-old. His free skate was far from perfect, and in fact he lost that portion to 19 year-old Artur Dmitriev Jr. (who skated clean but whose style is a little too herky-jerky for my taste). But Farris’ SP still gave him a 5 point edge when all was said and done. 17 year-old David Wang (also from the U.S.) finished a strong 5th, showing some nice style and polish if lacking some of the jump content of the medalists.

GOLD:Julia Lipnitskaia, RUS
SILVER: Satoko Miyahara, JPN
BRONZE: Samantha Cesario, USA

After watching the then 17 year-old Cesario’s impressive Sectionals performances last year, I was disappointed to learn that a back injury would keep her out of Nationals. But she’s back—in the JGP, anyway—and brought back a bronze medal this time with performances that included a Black Swan free skate—one of many we’ll see this year, I suspect. She was bested by a couple of teens just barely old enough for the JGP circuit—Miyahara, 13, who’s clearly hoping to get an early leg up on the deep pool of homeland talent, and Lipnitskaia, also 13, who may already have the upper hand with her Gumby-diculous flexibility and solid jumping technique. 15 year-old Lauren Dinh of the U.S. managed a 6th place finish.

GOLD: Simpson/Blackmer, USA
SILVER: Bobak/Beharry, CAN
BRONZE: Tudvaseva/Lisiev, RUS

To be fair, Simpson/Blackmer (or at least Simpson) had something of an unfair advantage in that she competed on the senior GP last season with former partner Nathan Miller… but rules are rules, and here they are in juniors. I look forward to their free skate to the Titanic soundtrack in the future. Also there for the U.S. were Calalang/Sidhu (finishing 4th), and Aaron/Settlage (finishing 5th).

GOLD: Sinitsina/Zhiganshin, RUS
SILVER: Galyeta/Shumski, UKR
BRONZE: Yanovskaia/Mozgov, RUS

As you can see, Eastern Europe was well represented in ice dance, led by Sinitsina/Zhiganshin… who brought back some Davis/White cuts from their 2010 Phantom of the Opera free dance. (They hit some really nice positions on their lifts, but as with most of the juniors they need more extension and duration on their moves.) Keep an eye on the Canadian team of Bruser/Lum, who skated only the 8th best SD but presented the 2nd best FD (leaping up to sixth place in the process). Parsons/Parsons and Mancini/Brooks, both of the U.S., finished 9th and 10th respectively.

An even fuller plate awaits over the next few days for skating fans, as both Nebelhorn Trophy and JGP Romania will take place over the next several days! Stay tuned… we’re one month away from Skate America now and the pace keeps on a-quickening…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brisbane Comes Up Golden (and Silver, and Bronze) For U.S. Juniors

If you’re a U.S. elite figure skater in search of a “favorite” place to compete… might I suggest Australia?

It worked out pretty well for this weekend’s batch of American competitors… that’s all I’m sayin’.

Well, actually I’ll say a little more. But not without including some of the results:


GOLD: Jason Brown, USA

SILVER: Keiji Tanaka, JPN

BRONZE: Liam Firus, CAN

16 year-old Chicagoland native Brown—aka The Guy With The Ponytail—returns to the JGP this season while competing at the senior level domestically, and won handily… despite a couple of falters (but no falls) in his free skate, and without a triple axel to his name. I continue to be impressed as Brown (who finished a solid 9th at 2011 Nats) skates beyond his years in every way possible… except, maybe, for that triple axel he still seeks to possess. Tanaka, also 16, has one—had room for two in his program; the fact that he popped the second one might have given Brown the upper hand. Canada’s Firus might be one to watch as well…no triple axel, but there was something about his presence on the ice that echoed—dare I say it??—a little Toller Cranston to me. 18 year-old Philip Warren of the US finished in 6th place.


GOLD: Courtney Hicks, USA

SILVER: Risa Shoji, JPN

BRONZE: Vanessa Lam, USA

Not one but TWO U.S. medalists in this case, as up-and-coming powerhouse athlete Hicks, age 15, captured gold despite two falls in the free skate (overnight/SP leader Kim Hae-Jin inadvertently helped Hicks’ cause by falling FOUR times, taking her out of the medals completely). Lam, a strong 7th at Senior Nationals last January, held down bronze despite a fall of her own on a triple lutz—the kind of nasty fall where their face smacks the ice and you can feel your own chin split open in sympathy (sorry if that’s too graphic). But I must admit, 15 year-old Shoji almost stole the show for me with fine jumps (no falls!) and an impressive amount of elegance for such a young skater. Am I crazy to say I saw pale shades of Chen Lu in that performance? (You can see her free skate


GOLD: Orford/Williams, CAN

SILVER: Bonacorsi/Mager, USA

BRONZE: Zenkova/Sinitsin, RUS

Orford/Williams were pretty captivating with their Gone with the Wind free dance—it seemed a little rushed, but I think the goods are there for the developing. Heritage/Fast (of the U.S.) finished 5th.

Next on the JGP Schedule: Poland!

Monday, September 5, 2011

From Latvia with Love: JGP Results (and a little commentary) From Week 1

One down already?

In the case of the ISU Junior Grand Prix… yes! Here’s a summary of the best and/or U.S. finishes in JGP Latvia:

GOLD: Ryuju Hino, JPN
BRONZE: Timothy Dolensky, USA

Hino (age 15) won on the strength of his jumps (including a triple axel and a triple axel/triple toe), but the one who got more of my attention was Zhang, also 15… no triple axel yet, but a lot of strength and flow and very watchable! Similar words can be said for Dolensky— might be due to his age (he’s 19), but in a season where many of the U.S. junior men are hoping to break out the way Ricky Dornbush did last year, I say his performance here couldn’t have hurt that effort. U.S.’s Emmanuel Savary finished further back, in 14th.

GOLD: Polina Shelepen, RUS
BRONZE: Polina Agofonova, RUS

In similar fashion, the gold here went to she with the triple/triples—no triple axels, but in this case the other combos served 16 year-old Shelepen well. The other Polina (age 15) had a spottier outing in the FS but possesses some lovely spins, including one that emulates (if not duplicates?) Caroline Zhang’s “pearl” spin. Yasmin Siraj (age 15) and Ashley Cain (age 16), both of the U.S., finished 5th and 6th, respectively.

GOLD: Sui/Han, CHN
BRONZE: Purdy/Marinaro, CAN

Although Sui/Han turned a lot of heads last year (and surely will again this year) as the Chinese Team of the Future, this wasn’t their best effort… several mistakes in the free skate and yet they still won handily. Which, sadly, doesn’t speak all that well for the rest of the competitors… including Oltmanns/Santillan, Denney/Frazier, and Duarte/Grafton, all of the U.S. (finishing 7th, 8th, and 9th respectively).

GOLD: Nosulia/Kholoniuk, UKR
SILVER: Kosigina/Moroshkin, RUS
BRONZE: Aldridge/Eaton, USA

I must point out that Nosulia/Kholoniuk had me at “Bust Your Windows,” a great R&B song by Jazmine Sullivan (and also found on one of the Glee soundtracks) that they used for their short dance. And Aldridge/Eaton pulled up to medal contention with a free dance that brought back the Riverdance trend of about 10-12 years ago… one of two U.S. medals earned this time out. Gamelin/Gamelin, also of the US, came in 17th (!) in the SD and 7th (!!) in the FD to finish out in 9th overall.

How did I see all this, you might ask? Why, via the brand-new ISU channel on YouTube. Say what?? Yes, it’s true. We’ll talk about that a little more next time.