Monday, December 31, 2012

Ten Toepicks for Figure Skating in 2012, Part 1

In no particular order... here are five of my TEN TOEPICKS THAT GRACED/GAUGED FIGURE SKATING IN 2012:

+ After two years of buildup in the time since the Olympic cycle renewed itself, “Chanflation”—a.k.a. the perceived inflation of Patrick Chan’s scores based on the fact that he is Patrick Chantook center stage at 2012 Worlds.  The news wasn’t all that different from other times: Chan makes some obvious errors in performance... his closest competitors appear to be technically compatible, but skate cleaner... Chan wins anyway. But this was at Worlds, the biggest event our sport has in non-Olympic seasons. When Daisuke Takahashi was forced to settle for silver after his spellbinding free skate, skating fans—both in the arena and around the world—cried foul. And with any luck, sounded the alarm to the ISU: the clock is ticking on you folks to get this right. If it happens at the Sochi Olympics, get ready for a great big slice to fall away from the sport’s integrity... and what’s left of its audience.

+ When a skater has become so popular that his rinkside tissue box has its own Twitter account... it seems like a good sign that something significant has taken place. Yuzuru Hanyu is that skater, and the “something significants” keep on coming: a bronze medal at Worlds, two SP world records set within the past 6 weeks, a GPF silver medal (over Chan, no less!), and what must be the most difficult national men’s title to nab in the free world. What a run for a guy who only turned 18 a few weeks ago!

+ The (Gracie) Gold Rush: In the 2010-11 season she didn’t even get out of Midwestern Junior Sectionals. But by the end of the 2011-12 season, she was the World Junior silver medalist and one of only two U.S. senior lady representatives at the World Team Trophy. Is Gracie Gold suddenly part of a renaissance for American figure skating... or will she struggle and fizzle at the senior level, as have so many other junior phenoms? The jury’s still out, considering her GP assignments this season brought her everywhere from 2nd to 7th place. But with a last name like GOLD, how can the press resist pressuring encouraging her??

+ Some kind of wonderful is happening these days with reigning U.S. Ladies Champion Ashley Wagner... the kind that makes her fans excited at game time, rather than nervous/worried/anxious. Ever since relocating to the West coast and training with John Nicks, success seems to beget success for Wagner. And for the first time in a looong while, victories seem to take the pressure off an American contender rather than pile it on. With all due respect to her predecessors, THIS is what we desperately need as the Sochi Olympic approach oh-so-rapidly.

+ In a coaching calamity not seen since the Kim Yuna/Brian Orser fallout of 2010,  Igor Shpilband not just parted ways with longtime coaching partner Marina Zueva but was “fired” by his home arena (Arctic Edge), forcing such high profile names as Davis/White, Virtue/Moir, and the Shib Sibs to choose sides. Ultimately all three teams stayed with Zueva while Shpilband continued with, among others, the U.S. team of Chock/Bates. As with Kim, we’ll probably have to hope for a memoirs release to hear even one side of the story in its entirety.

In the meantime, another half of my TEN TOEPICKS THAT GRACED/GAUGED FIGURE SKATING IN 2012 awaits... tune in later this week!

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