Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Silver and Bronze... a Different View of the 2011 Grand Prix Final

As this first half of the 2011-12 figure skating season came to its unofficial close over the weekend, there were two sorts of questions filling my head. One was the short, impetuous sort—

Chan feels underappreciated in Canada??
Chan won that free skate over Dice-K???
Do I like the silver unitard look for Kostner? Well, do I???

And then came the more contemplative kind, where I ruminated over the placements of all the skaters… particularly the ones who finished with silver and bronze. Have you noticed that medals are often accompanied by one of three emotions: relief (see Jeremy Abbott at Cup of Russia, where he “held on” by the skin of his components scores to win the bronze)… joy (see Nan Song’s story thus far this season)… or disappointment, often of the bitter variety (see Nancy Kerrigan, Surya Bonaly, Irina Slutskaya…).

So which emotion likely dominated with this GPF’s runner-up medalists? Let’s see…

Akiko Suziki’s Silver? Joy. When have we seen her exhibit anything else? Suzuki’s love for this sport lights up her whole body, trails out of her fingertips, and leaves little sparkles on the ice when she’s done spinning on it. And while she surely would have loved to come out at the top of the leader board here, a silver is still her best finish ever at this event… bring on Japanese Nationals, for we’d better see her at Worlds this year!

Alena Leonova’s Bronze? Big-time joy. For in my alternate universe (and maybe even hers), a non-injured Alissa Czisny would have come away with at least a bronze at this event. Which is not to say that Leonova was lucky to get anything—she’s having a great season, and definitely earned it, in my estimations—but in an event that anticipated the pain-free presence of both Czisny and Mao Asada (not to mention Carolina Kostner and everyone else), a medal for Leonova was far from a lock.

Daisuke Takahashi’s Silver? Let’s call it “gracious relief.” Coming back from a fifth-place SP to win any medal at all would have been impressive… but he more than did that—he won the free skate! Or so I hoped, after seeing all the errors that (once again) plagued Patrick Chan’s program. You’ll see from
this article that Dice-K acknowledges Chan’s flaws at the GPF… but rather than complain about his scores, he rationalizes them, concluding that Chan’s jumping technique must be superior to his, and confirming his need to bring a more consistent quad jump to both programs. Was he just being polite, hiding away frustrations? Beats me. All I can say is that Dice-K is one classy gentleman.

Javier Fernandez’s Bronze? Absolute freakin’ joy. I mean, think about it: I remember being happy for him last year because he’d cracked the top 5 at Skate Canada. Now look at him: two effortless quads… two silver GP medals… and now a bronze GPF medal to boot? What a season so far! And to think, this guy was barely breaking into the top 20 at Worlds back in ’09…


Volosohzar/Trankov’s Silver? Disappointment, to judge by the look on Trankov’s face after the scores went up in the Kiss’n’Cry. It was thisclose, to be sure—only .18 separated them from winners Savchenko/Szolkowy—and their content was pretty compatible. But Sav/Szol got the upper hand on the element score, with just enough of a boost on the component side to help them overtake Vol/Trank. Was it a case of the German’s experience helping them “earn” higher components? Maybe. Was Trankov justified in his disappointment? Maybe. But if I was Trankov, I’d cool my jets. His time is coming… and by the way, don’t you love this well-matched rivalry that has developed? (Sorry to say that I love it quite a bit more than Savchenko’s new hairdo.)

Kavaguti/Smirnov’s Bronze? I’m going with relief here… got to admit I’m feeling for these two just a little; it must be hard to basically tread water at an advanced level for several years while others (particularly teammates) swim over and under them. They finished this event a good 25 points behind the top two, so there just isn’t much of a contest for them for gold right now. It’s all about bronze, and they bested their closest competition (Zhang/Zhang) by about 5 points… so I hope they’re reasonably happy with their prize.


Virtue/Moir’s Silver? Well, these good-natured kids just seem to go back and forth with the top prizes, volleying with Davis/White, and it’s “only” the GPF, not Worlds, so…

Wait a minute. Did you read what I read about Scott Moir’s reaction to silver? It’s a piss-off? Bitter pill to swallow? Implications that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet; just wait until his wrath is unleashed if they lose gold at Worlds this year… Look out! The little knit stretchy gloves are off! I smell a rumble!!

In other words, pour V/M a big steaming cup of disappointed. With a bitter chaser, thank you very much. So we’ve got an ongoing (but still building) rivalry in Dance, and a fast-developing rivalry in Pairs. LOVE it! Game on, everyone!

Oh, and lest I forget: Pechalat/Bourzat’s Bronze? Let’s call that relative joy—surely they feel things are back in place with this event, having edged out Weaver/Poje and easily defeated the Shib Sibs (aka The Ones Who Got The Bronze When Bourzat Went Down). But, like Kavaguti/Smirnov, they are still no match for the Top Two in their field. And I don’t know if this Skate-Like-An-Egyptian-themed FD is going to get them any closer; last year’s Chaplin program remains my favorite from them.

One more thing to mention: I haven’t mentioned the Junior GPF lately. I plan to rectify that later in the week as I do some more “catching up,” but until then… be sure to watch Jason Brown’s gold medal-winning free skate. He’s still lacking a triple axel—or at least isn’t doing it in competition yet—and of course, that won’t get him very far at the senior level. But when others in this event faltered on that coveted jump, Brown’s stellar technique and beyond-his-years sophistication put him at the top of the heap.

***Don’t forget to enter your name for the chance to win a free, personally autographed copy of my book Skating on Aircheck this post from the other day for details. The drawing will be this coming Saturday, December 17.


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