Monday, April 1, 2013

A No-Foolin’ Look at My “Unseen” Worlds Awards

Don’t let the date fool you... this really is a list of Worlds Awards I've Imagined Which Don’t Actually Exist.

You follow?

I knew you would! Here we go...

BEST DEFENSE OF A WORLD TITLE WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY GUSHING BLOOD: Carolina Kostner, of course. Okay, maybe “gushing” is a little extreme. But Ms. Kostner’s pre-free skate nosebleed—in a sport where the runny noses are commonplace, and the dry cleaning costs for lycra and crystals run high—might as well have been an open wound. But she handled it with grace, and still skated well enough to earn silver behind Kim Yu-Na’s mighty demonstration of flawlessness.

HONORABLE MENTION to whatever stream of coverage I was watching live at the time; if I recall correctly, they refrained from showing any close-ups of Kostner (and her still-bleeding nose) from start to finish of her performance.

THE “MIGHT WANT TO RE-THINK THAT STRATEGY” AWARD: We watched Ashley Wagner do 3/2 and 3/2/2 combos on her triple flip all season long (likewise, I think, regarding her 2ax/2toe combo)... though she acknowledged frequently that she’d need to make it a 3/3 and a 2ax/3Toe in order to be as technically competitive as she wanted to be. When it came time for her to meet the press prior to Worlds, Wagner indicated she had a 3/3 planned for both her SP and FS. But in the end, she attempted neither (and the 2ax/3T attempt was one of the low spots of an otherwise very good free skate). The moral to this story: maybe it’s time to stop skating conservatively. Two top-5 World finishes in a row has surely established Wagner as one of the best in the sport... I’d like to think she’ll start working that 3/3 from the GP series onward next season in an effort to be really comfortable with it when she needs it most: in the first three months of 2014.

THE “THEN AGAIN, MAYBE IT WASN’T SUCH A BAD STRATEGY” AWARD: There were really two ways for Wagner to approach Worlds—1) focus on trying to medal (by going for the triple/triple and risking the results if she didn’t nail it), or 2) focus (along with Gracie Gold) on “skating clean” and earning three spots for the U.S. ladies in Sochi. By going the conservative route, Wagner was in essence keeping the three spots focus— not as personally gratifying as a medal might’ve been, but definitely good for the team.

BEST POST-PROGRAM, WAITING-FOR-THE-SCORES MUSIC CHOICE AWARD:  Davis/White got “Good Feeling” played as everyone waited to see if their mesmerizing free dance would score well enough to give them the championship. (Spoiler alert: it did.)

AWARD FOR THE TWO-SEASON PROGRAM I’LL MISS THE MOST: Kevin Reynolds’ “Chambermaid Swing” SP. Unique big-band-meets-club-beats music aside, I liked this last year... but loved it this year, when he was really able to start delivering the program as intended. Time to re-christen it “Chambermaid SING.”

AWARD FOR THE TWO-SEASON PROGRAM I HOPE I NEVER EVER SEE AGAIN: Michal Brezina’s Untouchables FS. You know that closing move he makes where his arms are crossed and it looks like he’s taking a final shot at something? That last time around I imagined he was blowing the whole program away. (Based on his 10th place finish, maybe he imagined it too.)

AWARD FOR THE ONE-SEASON PROGRAM I HOPE I NEVER EVER SEE AGAIN: Adelina Sotnikova’s “Tough Lover” (from the Burlesque Soundtrack), aka The One With Christina Aguilera Caterwauling All Over It. Please, someone tell me this sort of vocalizing is NOT the future of figure skating music.

Speaking of which... I also have an award for the ODDEST MUSIC MIX THAT SOMEHOW WORKED, which most definitely goes to Uzbekistan’s Misha Ge for his Charlie Chaplin medley (not to be confused with Javier Fernandez’s medley with the same theme).

Ge (pronounced ZHEE) had his highest Worlds finish to date--16th—and managed to “sneak” (can you call it that when he’s been doing it all season?) what he calls hip-hop Chaplin (with vocals) into the final minute of his program (see around 4:40 of this video). While I still find it rather jarring... and I could tell, from the reactions of those around me at Budweiser Gardens, that it was even more surprising to those unfamiliar with Ge’s work... his love of the choreography and all-around joy of performing won me over. Does anyone know if he’ll be able to compete in the Olympics? I’m not sure what the situation is re: qualifying scores, but he’d be a great ambassador for the sport.

NICEST SURPRISES OF THE EVENT: Denis Ten (KAZ) through and through.... followed by Kanako Murakami of Japan (ladies), Scimeca/Knierim of the U.S. (pairs), and Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA), who came much closer to a medal than I expected.

The “SIGH” AWARDS go to: Ross Miner of the U.S. (men), Akiko Suzuki of Japan (ladies), Berton/Hotarek of Italy (pairs), who I was hoping to see no worse than 8th place this year but ended up 10th (just a slight improvement on their 2012 finish) ... and Pechalat/Bourzat in dance (FRA), who uncharacteristically dropped to 6th after being in the running for a second consecutive bronze medal. Funny how 5th was a triumph for the rebounding-from-injury Weaver/Poje, but 6th was a crushing disappointment for the similarly-situated P/B... but the difference was in the lack of struggling. W/P simply looked more ready to be back than P/B by the time the free dances were completed.

And finally, the “Who Knew” awards:

Peter Liebers (GER)—while still lacking the quad jump that would “make him competitive,” 24 year-old Liebers turned in a clean, very impressive 8-triple free skate to earn himself a best-ever 11th place finish in six Worlds appearances. His previous best was 15th place in 2011. 

Li Zijun (CHN)— Not that her 4th place FS (and 7th place finish overall) at age 16 came out of absolutely nowhere—she also turned in a gangbusters FS at 4CC a month earlier, finishing 5th— but to wrap up the season on such back-to-back high notes is pretty darn amazing. And draws comparisons to Lu Chen, China’s skating starlet from 20 years ago (has it really been THAT long??). You can see her Worlds FS here.

But it’s worth mentioning that China’s Zhang Kexin finished 7th at Worlds (and 5th at 4CC) last year—only to withdraw from both her GP assignments this past fall, finish 10th at 2013 4CC, and plummet to 23rd place at Worlds a few weeks ago. Success can be a fleeting thing.
Sui/Han (CHN)— my first “who knew” pertained to the fact the injured-all-season team showed up at all... even as I write this, their Wikipedia bios have not been updated beyond the words “Worlds 2013 is still an option.” But after watching their fairly engaging free skate to music from Chicago, I was alarmed to see Sui drop to one knee, in obvious pain, immediately afterwards. (See 5:15 into this video.) Were they sent to compete before she was fully healed? Suddenly Who knew? gets a whole new meaning...

THE DANCE SPIN—as in who knew this would be the undoing of at least three different teams in the free dance... ??

At 2:09 in the Ilinykh/Katsalapov FD (when you hear the commentator’s “Oy-yoy-yoy!”) 

At 4:05 in the Coomes/Buckland FD— a real shame, as they were doing quite well until this happened late in the program... 

And a little bit at 3:45 in the Pechalat/Bourzat FD too... while not nearly as big of a glitch, it was one of a few different indicators that Bourzat in particular wasn’t at the top of his game. 

Still to come—more of those bitter pill (but need to be shared and talked about) columns from those who care deeply about the sport, as well as a few of my own observations from a couple of days spent at Worlds. 


john smith said...

Very nice! Big fan of the blog.

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Kelli Lawrence said...

Thank you!

Tony Wheeler said...

Ge earned a spot for Uzbekistan here and definitely should have the qualifying score, whatever the ISU may make it next season.

Kelli Lawrence said...

Yay for Misha! He's a fun ambassador for the sport, even when it's a hot mess in so many other ways...