Monday, January 30, 2012

The Way to San Jose, Part 3: The Journey Continues... (For Some)

So much to say about the past 4 days of skating in San Jose! And over in Sheffield last week! And up in Moncton before that! Whew!

What do YOU want to talk about? The return of JereMEEE? The determination and triumph of Ashley? The surprise of Rockne and Mary Beth? The battle for the spot eventually earned by Madison and Zachary?

And then there was the coverage to consider. What did we think of NBC this time around? How about IceNetwork? How about Johnny Weir and IceNetwork?

Have you caught up with Europeans yet? (um, no, other than to know who won…)

How about Canadians? (uh, see previous answer…)

And to think, 4CCs are already less than two weeks out!

I’ll post some observations over the next few days… but please post some of your own in the meantime… a question so nice I’ll ask it twice: what do YOU want to talk about?

(Because otherwise you'll just have to hear about what I want to say... blah, blah, blah)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Way to San Jose, Part 2: The Predictions

I had my days wrong; senior events at U.S. Nationals don’t get started until Thursday. So I took a little more time putting these together… we’ll see if it helps:


Gold: Denney/Coughlin
Silver: Evora/Ladwig
Bronze: Marley/Brubaker
Dark Horses: Castelli/Shnapir, Vise/Baldwin, Cain/Reagan

Pairs shapes up internationally as our weakest event… will things change this year at Worlds? Methinks the ones to answer that question are similar to the ones who tried it last year. While it’d be nice to see Evora/Ladwig on top for once—if only as a testament to their enduring partnership-- I’m afraid I have more confidence in D/C’s side by side jumps. I haven’t seen Marley/Brubaker skate in a while, but I miss seeing Brubaker on the podium so I’m hoping he and young Ms. Marley now have the experience to get there.

Gold: Alissa Czisny
Silver: Mirai Nagasu
Bronze: Ashley Wagner
Dark Horses: Rachael Flatt, Agnes Zawadzki, Samantha Cesario

Czisny has been at this what seems like forever (yes, 2002 now counts as a very long time ago in respects like this), and to win this title back to back would be to further banish her “emotionally fragile” label. Nagasu tends to shine at Nationals, even when she can’t anywhere else… it’s not out of the question to think she could re-claim the title she first won in 2008. But I wasn’t a big fan of her Spartacus free skate when I saw it in the fall, mostly because she lacked a spark with it. Has she re-tooled it… or herself? We shall see. Speaking of which, Flatt sure had her work cut out for her when she completed her turn on the GP circuit with some of the lowest scores she’s ever had at this level of competition. Has she adjusted the Skating/Stanford balance by now? Maybe, but for me, Firebird just doesn’t work very well on Flatt. If her bummer season continues, I’m pulling for Wagner to get back to the podium. By the way, if I’m right about Cesario giving everyone a surprise appearance in the final flight, look for some dueling Swans… both she and Wagner are free skating to selections from Black Swan (and I think have similar costumes to boot).

Gold: Davis/White
Silver: Shibutani/Shibutani
Bronze: Hubbell/Donohue
Dark Horses: Chock/Bates, Kriengkrairut/Giulietti-Schmitt, Samuelson/Gilles

Obviously D/W are untouchable as far as the U.S. compeition is concerned, so let’s move on to the battle for silver and bronze (both of which get to move on to Worlds). I prefer both Hubbell/Donohue’s and Chock/Bates’ free dances to that of the Shib Sibs this year, and would enjoy seeing either of them on the podium. But the Shibs appear to have killer technique that helps them overcome any emotional disconnect they may encounter—a disconnect prone to brother/sister teams (the Kerrs being one notable exception). Plus they’ve still got that World bronze medal in their back pocket…

Gold: Jeremy Abbott
Silver: Richard Dornbush
Bronze: Adam Rippon
Dark Horses: Ross Miner, Max Aaron, Armin Mahbanoozadeh

A tough category? Yes, but on the other hand, I’m going to try and call the whole top 10 here: Abbott, Dornbush, Rippon, Miner, Aaron, Mahbanoozadeh, (Joshua) Farris, (Jason) Brown, (Keegan) Messing, (Douglas) Razzano.

Abbott will be disappointed with anything less than his third U.S. title; as well he should be, he’s the best all-around skater of the field with two of the best programs of the season. Dornbush should do well enough to prove his silver medal last year was no fluke; Rippon, like his buddy Ashley Wagner, desperately needs to prove he can handle this Nationals pressure and get a medal by hook or crook. Also making a splash this year should be Aaron (2011 Junior champ), Farris (shaking off the horrors of his previous senior Nats), and—especially if he can land as triple axel by now—Brown.

The pairs skate their SP at 7PM Eastern time Thursday; the ladies; at 10:30. ARE YOU READY?? ARE THEY?? Let’s enjoy this.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Way to San Jose 2012 Nationals, part 1: The Competitors

So here’s some information to get you started on your U.S. Nationals-watching:

This is’s streaming schedule for all events.
(Please note that I typically don’t get the opportunity to watch/cover the Novice-level skating, and will probably track just the medalists at the Junior level)

This is a similar ”guide” from U S Figure Skating; this one includes NBC coverage and covers the various commentators that will be working the event. (Unfortunately I don’t see anything on here about Universal Sports coverage; I lost that coverage myself on January 1st so I’m not sure what’s up with that.)

Since the Senior Pairs and Ladies get started on Wednesday, I’m running them down first… will get my predictions (yeah, I’ll try doing it again) up before things get started on Wednesday.

P.S. if you know any of these competitors, please give a shout-out in the comments! Good luck to all!!


Who’s new?
Cassie Andrews/Timothy LeDuc-- Won the bronze in Juniors last year
Kloe Chanel Bautista/Tyler Harris-- Finished 10th in Juniors last year
Ashley Cain/Joshua Reagan-- Won Juniors last year; made their Senior GP debut this past fall at Cup of Russia, finishing 6th.
Rita Fehr/Peter Biver-- Other than the fact that they’re from Wisconsin, I couldn’t find much about them or their compeitive history.
Andrea Poapst/Christopher Knierim-- Finished 2nd in Juniors last year

Who’s been here before?
Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir – 5th last year
Caydee Denney/John Coughlin – 3rd & 1st last year, respectively
Gretchen Donlan/Andrew Speroff – 8th last year
Amanda Evora/Mark Ladwig—2nd last year
Mary Beth Marley/Rockne Brubaker—4th last year
Tiffany Vise/Don Baldwin—6th last year
Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay-- Felicia came to Seniors last year w/another partner (Taylor Toth), but they had to withdraw due to injury.


Who’s new?
Sophia Adams-- from the Pacific Coast Sectionals (did not compete at Junior Nationals last year
Kiri Baga—4th at Juniors in 2010; withdrew from Seniors last year due to injury
McKinzie Daniels – 4th in Junors last year
Haley Dunne—8th in Juniors last year
Leah Keiser—2010 Novice champion; injury kept her out of Nationals last year
Nina Jiang—9th in Juniors last year
Angela Wang—7th in Juniors in 2010; was not at Nationals last year

Who’s been here before?
Morgan Bell—17th at Senior Nationals last year
Samantha Cesario—14th at her Senior Nationals debut in 2010, but was injured last year.
Alissa Czisny—Reigning U.S. Champ; has competed in Seniors since 2002!

Rachael Flatt—2010 U.S. Champ; has competed in Seniors since 2007.

Joelle Forte—3rd Senior Nats; finished 9th last year.

Christina Gao—3rd Senior Nats; finished 5th last year.

Vanessa Lam—2nd Senior Nats; finished 7th last year. Also made it to the Junior GP Finals this past fall, finishing 5th.

Mirai Nagasu—5th Senior Nats; won in 2008; finished 3rd last year.

Yasmin Siraj—2nd Seinor Nats; finished 8th in her debut last year.

Ashley Wagner—5th Senior Nats; finished 6th last year (best finish to date is 3rd)

Agnes Zawadzki—finished 4th last year in her Seniors debut.

Caroline Zhang—5th Senior Nats; finished 12th last year (best finish to date is 3rd)

What about…
Danielle Kahle
—didn’t get out of Sectionals
Alexe Gilles—didn’t get out of Sectionals
Melissa Bulanhagui—now competes for Phillipines
Kristine Musademba, Kristiene Gong—not sure.

Courtney Hicks (last year’s Junior champion)—injured during the JGP this fall and is now out for the season


Who’s New?
Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus-- 3rd in Juniors last year
Carina Glastris/Kevin Allison—11th in Juniors last year
Charlotte Lichtman/Dean Copely—Won Juniors last year; made their senior GP debut at Cup of China this year, coming in 7th.
Anastasia Olson/Jordan Cowan—4th in Juniors last year
Brittany Schmucker/Adam Munday (I have no info on them… very very new?)

Who’s been here before?
Isabella Cannuscio/Ian Lorello-- 6th in last year’s Senior Nats
Ginna Hoptman/Pavel Filchenkov-- 10th in last year’s Seniors)
Meredith Zuber/Kyle Herring-- 9th at last year’s Seniors
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue-- She was 4th last year with her brother/former partner; he was 11th w/former partner)
Shannon Wingle/Timothy McKernan-- 7th at last year’s Senior Nats)
Emily Samuelson/Todd Gilles—new partnership, but neither competed at Nats last year.
Madison Chock/Evan Bates --She was 3rd last yr w/ Greg Zuerlein; he was out w/injury)
Meryl Davis/Charlie White—1st last year
Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt—5th at last year’s Senior Nats.
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani—2nd at last year’s Senior Nats.


Who’s new?
Max Aaron –Won Juniors last year
Alexander Aiken—3rd in Juniors last year
William Brewster—no info
Alexander Zahradnicek—2nd in Juniors last year

Who’s been here before?
Jeremy Abbott—6th appearance in Seniors; 2-time Champion who finished 4th last year
Jason Brown—2nd appearance in Seniors; finished 9th last year; also won the JGP this past Fall
Wesley Campbell-- 4th appearance in Seniors; was 14th last year
Stephen Carriere—5th appearance in Seniors; injured last year… best finish to date: 3rd
onathan Cassar—4th appearance in Seniors; finished 11th last year
Scott Dyer—2nd appearance in Seniors I think… finished 13th last year
Richard Dornbush—2nd appearance in Seniors; finished 2nd last year and was 9th at Worlds
Joshua Farris-- 2nd appearance in Seniors; 21st last year (you might remember he is the one who actually competed his FS last year with an ankle fracture!)
Grant Hochstein—3rd appearance in Seniors; 12th last year
Alexander Johnson—3rd appearance in Seniors; 16th last year
Armin Mahbanoozadeh—3rd appearance in Seniors; 6th lsat year
Keegan Messing—3rd appearance in Seniors; 8th last year

Ross Miner-- 2nd appearance in Seniors (I'm not counting 2010, when he had to withdraw); 3rd last year

Brandon Mroz-- 4th appearance in Seniors; best finish was 2nd in 2009

Douglas Razzano—5th appearance in Seniors; 10th last year

Adam Rippon-- 4th appearance in Seniors; finished 5th the past 2 years

What about…
Sean Rabbitt—didn’t get out of Sectionals
Parker Pennington—retired I’m assuming
Jason Wong and Christopher Caluza—no idea

Predictions coming Wednesday!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Canadian, Euros, U.S. Nationals... Let the Winter Gold Rush Begin!

The second half of the season is upon us!

Canadian Nationals have already begun (concluding this weekend)… U.S. Nationals begin next week… and ditto for Europeans.

Up north, it looks to be a pair of coronation/re-coronations paired with a couple more suspenseful competitions. For the men, of course, it’s Patrick Chan’s world… with a battle for silver (and the 2nd world team spot) that should prove the most interesting. Last year’s runner-up to Patrick Chan, Shawn Sawyer, has since retired; so too has Joey Russell, who took Sawyer’s place at Words. That leaves Kevin Reynolds, Elladj Balde, and the (finally!) injury-free Jeremy Ten among the contenders. Question for Canadian readers: should we include 13 year-old phenom Nam Nguyen (last year’s Junior Champ by a wide margin) among those who will make a run for the senior podium?

For dance, Virtue/Moir are back to reclaim their 4th National title after missing last year’s event. Crone/Poirier, who took the title in their absence, are no longer together… meaning the path is pretty clear for Weaver/Poje to repeat as silver medalists. Like the U.S., Canada gets three dance spots for Worlds—so battling for bronze should be Paul/Islam, Asher/Hill, and (possibly?) Paul Poirier with his new partner Piper Gilles. (Feel free to let me know if any of the athletes I name are not attending Nationals for some reason… I had the starting orders up earlier in the day, but they were proving difficult to load so I’m winging it at the moment!)

The biggest interest in the ladies event, I presume, is whether or not Cynthia Phaneuf’s recent coaching switch (to Brian Orser) will result in a notably improved skater from earlier in the season. Even if she’s still having trouble, is there really anyone strong enough to upset her from the top spot? Amelie Lacoste is the only one that comes to mind (is Myriane Sampson still competing?)

And over in pairs, the same three teams from last year could make the podium this year… but I wouldn’t place bets on the order for Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, Duhamel/Radford, and Lawrence/Swiegers. Duhamel/Radford took silver last year, but this season they were the Canadian pairs representative at the GP Final. Could they get the win at Nationals? We’ll know soon enough…

Over at Euros, the biggest news I’ve heard thus far (that isn’t Plushy-related) is that Russia’s Kavaguti/Smirnov, who took the silver here last year, will not be able to compete, due to the fact that Smirnov is still recovering from an emergency appendectomy he underwent earlier in the month. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are taking their place.

I’ll start honing in on the U.S. Nationals when I post again later this week!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Time to Talk War Horse(s)... and No, I'm Not Talking About the Movie

While we breathe through this little calm before the storm of events to come in the next month or so (Canadian Nationals… Euros… U.S. Nationals… 4CCs), I thought I’d take the lead provided by a certain Spielberg film that’s in theaters right now (and probably to score some Oscar nods, as I hear it) and talk a little about something that’s near and dear to the heart of any skating fan… the WAR HORSE. Also known as “music used for figure skating programs over and over and over again.”

Quick, can you think of 10 “war horses?”
Here’s the list I came up with, pretty much off the top of my head (along with a couple examples of recent uses):

Almost too easy, but hey, it’s what came to mind first. Currently being used by, among (surely) others… Brandon Mroz.

West Side Story
Ironically, can’t think of anyone prominent that’s using it this year. But I know a U.S. ice dance team skated it for their FD last season, and of course Akiko Suzuki used it with impressive results back in the 2009-10 season.

Concierto de Aranjuez
I never, never remember how to spell this properly, let alone pronounce it. But this majestic, guitar-fueled composition certainly appears to be in vogue over the past few years—especially in Canada, where Joannie Rochette used it in the 2008-9 season… and both Patrick Chan and the pair of Duhamel/Radford are using it currently.

Phantom of the Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music in general is certainly no stranger to figure skating, but there seems a certain soft spot for this 1986 Broadway smash hit. Elene Gedevanishvili has used it for her FS the past two years; Patrick Chan worked it for two years as well (2009-11). And of course Davis/White had pretty fine results with it during their 2009-10 Olympic season.

Romeo & Juliet (any version)
My gut reaction to naming this was which composition? The Tchaikovsky version, the Prokofiev, the Rota (from the 1968 film), or the 1995 “modern-day” film soundtrack? Almost all of them get equal use (though the ’95 ST is winning increasing favor); Adam Rippon’s SP from last season was an example of employing the Tchaikovsky version, while Yuzuru Hanyu’s current FS is among those using the modern version. But one thing’s for sure: if a piece of literature has been interpreted musically in so many well-known ways… and ALL those ways are embraced by figure skating… it’s gotta be a war horse.

The Mission
It’s a soundtrack from a 1986 film, and like Phantom, it’s been popular on the ice ever since… though when Matt Savoie went to the 2006 Olympics with it, funny how some of the very cuts he used keep turning up in other programs every single year. Last year it became perhaps best known as Miki Ando’s second SP (the one she debuted at the GP Final), and you might hear it again at U.S.Nationals as perennial competitor Wesley Campbell is using it for his FS (complete with a Savoie-esque tunic top, I couldn’t help but notice when I watched Campbell at Sectionals).

"Sing Sing Sing"
The ultimate upbeat, big-band ditty that’s been rocked annually for years, usually in short programs. Four that spring to mind: Jeffrey Buttle (2005-6 season), Rachael Flatt (2009-10), Zhang/Zhang (also 2009-10, though it wasn’t working for them and they changed it by Olympics time), and, currently, Jeremy Abbott.

Also a tough one to spell, although I think I’m getting better at nailing it on the first try! John Curry did a definitive interpretation of this in his pro years, but Evan Lysacek’s use of it in Vancouver 2010 is probably remembered best for the younger fans. Though very different cuts have been chosen, Mao Asada is currently using it in her SP.

Whether it’s the soaring melodic part that Domnina/Shabalin used to their advantage in the 2008-9 season, or the more frenetic part that Ashley Wagner skated so effectively that same year, Spartacus seems to have that something-for-everyone appeal. It’s currently being used by Mirai Nagasu for her free skate.

Turnadot/"Nessum Dorma"
Turnadot is the opera; “Nessum Dorma” is the popular aria from said opera. And one or both of these turn up year after year in the rink. Evora/Ladwig, the U.S. pair, used ND all last season… and coincidental or not, Denney/Coughlin have been using a Jeff Beck version of the same thing all THIS season.

So… which war horses—be they on this list or otherwise— still make you genuinely smile each time you see a skater using them? And which ones are you dying to be put out to pasture? Please leave a comment!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Johnny, Plushy, and More of the Biggest Skating "Gets" So Far This New Year

So… what did YOU get over the holiday season this time around? New IPad? Fruit basket? One of those Forever Lazy getups they sell on the Universal Sports Network? Well, whatever it was, it can’t possibly compare to “gets” such as the following:

Plushy gets the go-ahead to compete at Euros…
Russia went on record with some gobbeldy-gook about the “point minimum” rule only being in place to weed out weak athletes, and clearly, such was not the case with Plushenko (who just won Russian Nationals, you might have heard). What happened off the record to make it happen, perhaps we’ll never know.

And speaking of the European Championships…
the ISU just got its own video channel. And they’ll be covering Euros on it, which you can see for something like $18.50 U.S. dollars. Except that oh, wait, apparently the channel doesn’t work for U.S. viewers. And viewers in several other countries, if the Facebook posts I read were accurate. If you find out YOU can get this channel where you happen to live, will you post a comment and let us know? At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see if those of us in the blackout zones will still be able to see YouTube-delayed coverage.

Scott Moir gets vindicated…sort of
Have you heard about this little scoring/Swiss Timing mistake that has apparently been affecting certain ice dance scores all season? The good news for Scott Moir (who was kind of livid about the GPF results, as you’ll recall): he was right—he and Tessa Virtue DID win the free dance over Davis/White. The bad news: the difference wasn’t enough to change the overall results. Oh well.

Kim Yu-Na gets another victory… sort of
She’s receiving an out-of-court settlement from her former management firm (prior to her forming her own) for money apparently still owed to her in endorsement fees and the like.

Johnny Weir gets married…
Well as you see from this link, his New Year’s Eve nuptials with Victor Voronov made headlines at USA Today (it made the Yahoo! Ticker too), so what’s the say that hasn’t already been said? Except… um… does anyone know where they’re registered? Something tells me Weir’s not the Target Club Wedd kind of guy.

And finally:
the skating world gets…Corey Feldman??
Well if you’re in the U.K., it does anyway. This link shares that the 40 year-old child star of the 80s is lacing up for British TV hit Dancing on Ice-- the much, much more successful cousin to ill-fated U.S. efforts like Skating with the Stars. Apparently he’s doing it for the danger appeal. Good plan, dude. We’ll look for the outtakes if your inevitable bloodletting on You Tube. (Hopefully we won’t have to look for these in lieu of Euros coverage.)