Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This vs. Last Year's Model: Pairs Free and Free Dance, Skate Canada 2012

Time to compare and contrast programs old and new! This time I'm using the Pairs Free and the Free Dance from last weekend's Skate Canada as my launching point:

Savchenko/Szolkowy (won gold): Last year’s Pina vs. this year’s (Flamenco) Bolero... sorry, but my heart still belongs to Pina, which is probably my favorite FS of theirs to date. So far I see nothing distinctive about their Bolero... other than the costumes. And in this case, “distinctive” means I spent all my time trying to determine which work of modern art chose to vomit on Szolkowy from all directions. No bueno!!

Duhamel/Radford (won silver): Last year’s Concierto de Aranjuez vs. this year’s Angel... I’m picking this year’s model. Canada’s top pairs team keeps getting stronger, and this year in particular, Angel feels like something they can really make their own.

Lawrence/Swiegers (finished 4th): Last year’s Man in the Iron Mask (in part; two other pieces of music were involved) vs. this year’s War Horse... can I pick none of the above? I only say that because I really enjoyed their Van Helsing free skate from a couple years back. OK, sorry to digress—I’ll go with War Horse for the simple reason that they are skating to a soundtrack from a movie called WAR HORSE. Write your own punch line!! (Maybe Lawrence/Swiegers already have—they seem to have a good sense of humor from what I’ve seen...)

Virtue/Moir (won gold): Last year’s Funny Face vs. this year’s Carmen... I’ll go with Carmen. Not because I’m completely sold on what I saw over the weekend, because that’s not the case... at least not yet. (I see earthy, primal moves here and there, but they feel contrived to me. Complex and difficult, to be certain, but contrived.) I’m preferring this year because Carmen feels inevitable for these two—a must-do in the season just before Sochi, because if not, when? (assuming they have no interest in putting “their” Carmen into the same Olympic basket as Witt, Lysacek, and Navka/Kostomarov, among others...)

As for Funny Face, it was whimsical and sweet, but I never really got where it fit into the V/M story.

Cappellini/Lanotte (won silver): Last year’s La Strada or this year’s Carmen... in this case, I have to side with last year’s model. La Strada was an engaging, charming fit for Cap/Lan, while Carmen feels like... well... another Carmen, especially when going against the likes of V/M.

Hubbell/Donohue (finished 5th): Last year’s I Put a Spell on You or this year’s Flamenco? I’m favoring the Spell. To me, it was an out-there declaration that this was NO brother/sister team (as Hubbell was paired with her brother Keifer for a decade prior to this). The Flamenco just seems too ambitious for them at this point—it’s an intense, passionate work that only V/M have really tackled of late (and even they only did it as their OD!). Just seems like too much of a leap to make in what is only their second season.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

2012 Skate Canada Preview

As Skate Canada gears up for events starting on Friday, my skating-obsessed head wonders things such as the following with regards to its most prominent competitors:

Will Patrick Chan get his groove back—and by “groove,” I mean to fall only 2 or 3 times in the free skate (as opposed to 4 times at the Japan Open) and still win on his PCS scores?

Will Nobunari Oda bring some of that early-season fire he’s become known for?

Will the steadily improving Ten (as in Denis, not Jeremy) make a mark?

Will Javier Fernandez have enough stamina to make his FS as captivating as his SP?

Will Ross Miner land his quad salchow?


Will Kaetlyn Osmond make a big a splash here, in her senior GP debut, as she did at Nebelhorn Trophy a few weeks ago?

Now that she’s a few years older, will Kanako Murakami continue to be able to distinguish herself from the ever-growing field of uber-talented Japanese athletes?

Is reigning World Bronze Medalist Akiko Suzuki the favorite at SKCAN? Or is it Russian phenom Liza Tuktamysheva (who won this event last year)? And how will both ladies respond to the pressure?

Is Gracie Gold (like Osmond, also in her senior GP debut) as much a contender as any of them?

FOR THE PAIRS (of which only 7 teams will compete; Kemp/King have withdrawn due to injury):

Can anyone come close to Savchenko/Szolkowy?

Will anyone get a better ovation than Canadian faves Duhamel/Radford (another team enjoying slow, steady, solid improvement)?

Will the bronze medal be a toss-up between Berton/Hotarek, Lawrence/Swiegers, or Americans Vise/Baldwin?


How will I feel about hearing Carmen for the bajillionth time once Virtue/Moir take the ice?

Are Cappellini/Lanotte as logical a guess for silver here as I think they are?

Will Gilles/Poirier light it up at SKCAN as much as I think they’re capable of?

So... what are YOU wondering about? If it’s “Where can we watch it if we don’t get Universal Sports, don’t want to wait a week for Ice Network coverage, and am currently trapped under a fallen piece of furniture and can’t access You Tube for a while?”, well... see if you can reach your TV remote, because NBC is scheduled to have coverage from 2-4PM Eastern this Sunday.

For any other “wonderings,” be sure to leave a comment! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Last Year's Model: Comparing the old and the new at 2012 Skate America

Here's what I'd like to do... for each senior Grand Prix event that transpires this season, I'll choose a few competitors for whom I'll compare/contrast last year's program to this one (the Free Skate in this case). Do we like the new stuff we see? Do we miss the stuff we don't? Can we miss it if it hasn't gone away (aka keeping last year's music)? Let's find out...

Jeremy Abbott (finished 5th)—so far, I’ve got to admit that his new FS (to “Bring Him Home”) is not my favorite of his. And that’s not because he had difficulties with it at SKAM. When Abbott said in the spring that he’d be keeping one of last year’s programs into 2012-13, I hoped it would be the Muse piece (“Exogenesis Symphony Pt. 3”). Seems he had a change of heart somewhere in there. To me, the new FS feels like a Muse sequel of sorts—similar in theme, and lovely enough, but not quite able to compete with “the original.” At this point, I kind of wish he’d gone in a whole different direction... (especially when it comes to choreographing back-to-back triple axels-- no, that's insane, cut it out!!)

Michal Brezina (finished 6th)—aha, a trick question because it’s the same “Untouchables” program as last year. Though I haven’t checked the numbers, I read that this year’s performance at SKAM actually scored higher than last year’s—which won the event! In any case, I wish he wasn’t in the habit of keeping programs for 2 seasons each. What sounded exciting for him last year is already sounding tired to me.

Yuzuru Hanyu (won silver)—last year’s modern-day Romeo & Juliet vs. this year’s more traditional Notre Dame de Paris? I choose Notre far... but then again, I wasn’t a huge fan of his other program.

Ashley Wagner (won gold)—I’m going to vote for the new FS (Sampson & Delilah) even though I LOOVED her Black Swan. Why? It’s about timing: Black Swan was her breakout season. Sampson feels more like music for someone who has already “broken out” and is now ascending at a healthy pace. I’m not sure yet about the orange dress (then again, I’m not a big fan of orange), but I like the progression just fine.
Christina Gao (won silver)-- aha, another FS repeat from last year (Liebertango)... perhaps because she’s a Harvard student now and was doing well just to train and get ONE new program together? Whatever the reason, I wasn’t even sure it was the same thing until I looked it up—that’s how night-and-day different this was from her last GP performance of it... at 2011 Rostelecom Cup, where she finished 10th.

Alena Leonova (finished 7th)—Uh, what was the new FS? Oh, a flamenco number called “Poeta” (Vicente Amigo)... why don’t I remember it? Because she skated in the first group Sunday and I haven’t even taken a look at it yet. That being said, I still choose this year’s music. Why? Because it contains nary a note of anything from Requiem for a Dream (Nightmare), that’s why. And that’s all I need to know.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Five Highlights From Four of the Last Five Skating Events (WHEW!)

Here I sit, about 6 hours away from the first real vacation I’ve been on in 6 years (!!)... and still so much to say about what went on in figure skating last weekend (which is to say nothing of what’s happening this weekend and next weekend!!!). I’m not at all sure if I’ll be able to post in the coming week or so, but at least I can still get caught up a little...

So—There were five major international events last weekend, and I’m here to report on the five that stood out for me in each one. (Well, almost. Sorry Ondrej Nepala Memorial, you were the odd one out this time.)

Finlandia Trophy

Richard Dornbush (won silver): for looking fit, skating hard, and putting folks like me on the path to believing in you again (not easy after last season)...

Hubbell/Donohue (won bronze): for throwing down a decent flamenco routine. This one, Chock/Bates’ Dr. Zhiavago FD, and K/G-S’s Adele medley are the most likely candidates when determining the bronze medal at 2013 Nationals. Who would you go with at this point?

Kiira Korpi (won silver): for winning the SP—and the love of her home crowd—easily with her Girl with the Flaxen Hair program. She may not have taken home gold here, but she didn’t completely self-combust under the pressure either. Is Korpi poised to make a big move on the World stage this season?

Julia Lipnitskaya (won gold): for still earning her nickname of Gumbyskaya as she made her senior international debut, hyperflexing her way to a win right out of the box.

Johnny Weir (finished 4th): for coming through with a respectable, if not jaw-droppingly awesome, return to competition. Not an easy task for anyone!

JGP Croatia

Nathan Chen: For proving to be “only human” after all when an injury forced his WD from this event following the SP. Unfortunately, the injury also cost him a likely spot in the JGP Final...

Harrison Choate (won bronze): For earning his first-ever JGP medal!

Hannah Miller (won silver): For staying consistent in this early part of the season... consistently good enough to punch her ticket for the Final, that is!

Angela Wang (won gold): For really making me eager to see all the U.S. ladies at Nationals in a few months... she’s looking like a formidable challenger! Who will be ready to bring it when it counts the most?? (She's also headed to the Final, by the way)

Zaitsev/Stevens (finished 11th): Why mention the U.S. pair that had the weakest showing at this event? Because they happen to hail from my adopted hometown of Indianapolis, and any “local” skating news is good news in my book. Shout-out!!!!

Medal-Winners Open:

This was the event Kurt Browning referred to a few weeks ago; one where pro skaters competed and were judged, I believe, on the IJS guidelines... most of whom were long-retired from eligible skating by the time it came into play. (The results—and protocols-- can be found here if you’re interested:)

Kurt Browning (won silver): For breaking out the Singin’In The Rain routine he first presented on Canadian TV in 1994, and still making it sing proud...even though, at age 46, he was easily the “most experienced” competitor out there.

Jeffrey Buttle (won gold): For skating with more confidence and awesomeness (if that’s a word) than ever. Hard to believe he’s four years retired already. Especially since he competed in TWO events in Japan last weekend! (He won bronze at the Japan Open too...more to come on that.)

Kimmie Meissner (finished 6th): For taking on Romeo & Juliet when it might’ve been tempting to ease back into competing with less demanding music. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a piece she’d once hoped to compete with before her eligible career was stopped so dreadfully short...

Irina Slutskaya (won bronze): For holding her own against more recent Olympic Bronze Medalists (Joannie Rochette, who took silver here).

Alexei Yagudin (finished 5th): For actually holding down the back end of a three-way tie for bronze with a thrilling program where he played the role of a fugitive... and immediately made you miss the days when you could watch his footwork every other weekend. (Yagudin, Takeshi Honda, and Ilia Kulik all finished within one point of each other.)

Japan Open

Patrick Chan (finished 6th): For falling four times and finishing dead last... a far cry (and much more just) than falling three times and winning.

Evgeny Plushenko (finished 4th): For coming back in Japan much as Weir did over in Finland: credibly, but not remarkably. Not yet, at least. (I guess I’m one that likes to see these comeback kings prove to be mere mortals after all... too bad Evan Lysacek’s “proof” befell him before he even made it to Skate America. But thank goodness it gives well-deserving Armin Mahbanoozadeh a spot! OK, tangent over...)

Akiko Suzuki (won bronze): For previewing what looks to be a completely enchanting FS that immerses her in the role of a bird (complete with a STUNNING costume). I say “previewing” because her jumps looked half-baked and unsteady this time around, like she was still getting familiar with their places in the program. But by December... (between Suzuki and Mao Asada’s Black Swan FS, the birds are well-represented in Japan this year!)

Daisuke Takahashi (won gold): For returning to classical this year for his FS and abandoning his quad flip attempts to instead deliver not one, but TWO quad toes... and winning, in this case!

Ashley Wagner (won gold): For skating like a National Champion right from the get-go. Even if she hadn’t won with her new Sampson & Delilah FS, I’d feel good about where she’s headed this year.

FOR ANYONE TRYING TO FIND THESE LAST TWO EVENTS ON YOU TUBE: look under MWO 2012 for the Medal Winner’s Open, and JO 2012 for the Japan Open.

OK, I’m out for now. Senior GP is just about here!! Get psyched everyone!!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Quick, before they're overtaken!! Skaters of interest this past week

Maybe it’s just me, but for a “pre-season” (as I tend to call any skating events prior to the kickoff of the ISU Senior Grand Prix), there sure is a hot mess of stuff to cover. FIVE events this coming weekend alone (!!), the specifics of which I’ll be discussing shortly.

But first: a tiny recap of figure skating newsmakers from the past week or so, for any ripples they made in the pool are about to be overtaken by some big ‘ol waves...(I’ve added news and/or video links to each)

Kurt Browning—because, as stated in his own words, he’s dusted off and re-booted his Singin’ in the Rain program for a competition over in Japan (“the specifics of which I’ll be discussing shortly”)...

Cynthia Phaneuf—because she’s retiring after a rough year, and that can’t be easy...

Katelyn Osmond—because she just beat Adelina Sotnikova in an international event, and that can’t be easy either...

Josh Farris—because after last weekend (at JGP Bled/Slovenia), he’s a double gold medal winner this season and is therefore in the JGP Final for sure. Check out his most recent FS here

Aldridge/Eaton— Ditto. And their most recent FD (to Fiddler on the Roof) is here.

Nobunari Oda—because he’s back to doing what he does so well: lighting up the leader boards in the first half of the season. Watch his FS from Nebelhorn, which handily defeated 4th place Brezina and 5th place Verner (both of whom are still using last season’s FS, incidentally).

OK... now... the following events will be taking place this weekend (or have already started):

Ondrej Nepala Memorial

Finlandia Trophy

JGP Croatia

Japan Open

Medal Winners Open (the one featuring Browning)

Who's in what event? Who's in which place so far? I will do my level best to keep up on these (though one is likely to be the Odd Event Out-- my money's on Nepala) over the weekend, either over here and/or on Twitter (@KLBSt8ofSk8).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Barbara Ann Scott (1928-2012)

Before I write about this past week’s figure skating newsmakers, I must dedicate a single post to Canada’s Sweetheart, Barbara Ann Scott.

For most of us, she’s the pretty blonde from an era way before us who wore that lacy knit cap thingy when she skated... and was often photographed in that iconic stag leap of hers. But for a nation—a whole continent, really—she was much more: first lady to win Olympic gold after WWII... first (and still only) lady to win that title representing Canada... a successor to Sonja Henie in numerous ways, including starring in Henie’s Hollywood Ice Revue... a contemporary to her North American counterpart, a fellow named Dick Button... a successful businesswoman outside the figure skating world who also maintained a healthy role within the sport.

But perhaps equally important to all that is the simple fact that she showed figure skating to be more than a European specialty. What Midori Ito did to skyrocket interest in the Far East, Scott arguably did for the “far” West (far when compared to Norway, at least). Yes, Henie was the ultimate ambassador when she not only brought skating to Hollywood, but to U.S. cities coast to coast. But Scott became a North American inspiration to Carol Heiss Jenkins... who became an inspiration to Janet Lynn... who, among other things, helped introduce skating to Japan when she won Olympic bronze over there in 1972. The wheel goes round and round, and Scott was one of the first to really put it in motion when it came to figure skating champions.

A couple of clips you might want to check out, especially if you’re unfamiliar with her work... this one of her skating...

And you might get a kick out of this too: her poodle-toting stint as the “secret guest” on a 1955 episode of the TV game show What’s My Line...

R.I.P, Barbara Ann. You’re missed already.