Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Checking out the Men & Dance Assignments of ISU GP 2013

We (finally) continue the GP assignments/analysis review for next season with a look at the MEN...

Omissions: Johnny Weir, if that’s considered an omission? I honestly don’t remember what he said his comeback plans would be after he dropped out of Rostelecom Cup last year. Also absent from the assignments is Armin Mahbanoozadeh-- except that, as you may have heard by now, he’s calling it a (Mahbanooza) day in terms of his competitive skating career. (Thanks to Truly S. @hotincleveland for that line!!) 
In fact, he recently announced on Twitter that he’s headed to Dartmouth in the fall... so much as we’ll miss him, his future seems quite bright!

Surprises? I start the answer for that some quick trivia... the last time Brian Joubert was NOT among the French assignments at Trophee Eric Bompard was all the way back in 2001! Until this year, that is. No Joubert at TEB. Meanwhile, Nobunari Oda still got two GP assignments—a surprise to me, considering how very deep the Japanese talent pool continues to be... and how many of those talented men are eclipsing him at this stage in his career.

New to Senior GP this season: The list includes China’s Han Yan (reigning 4CC Bronze Medalist), as well as U.S. young’ns such as Max Aaron, Jason Brown, and Joshua Farris.

Noteworthy are the comeback attempts promised in this Olympic season. Reigning OGM Evan Lysacek is surely the most talked-about as we wait and see what he brings to Skate America... assuming he’s able to show up for Skate America this time. Word from the rink is that he’s doing solid run-throughs of his programs with a quad toe intact...

And on the other side of the world, reigning OSM (or OPM*, if you prefer) Evgeny Plushenko recently received his doctor’s go-ahead forresuming competition... this after enduring surgery earlier in the year. His last ISU appearance was at 2012 Europeans, when severe back pain forced his withdrawal. 

(*OPM= Olympic Platinum Medalist. But you knew that, right?)

Perhaps not quite as noteworthy—but still a bummer for me, at least—was the confirmation via his Facebook page that Adrian Schultheiss will not be returning to the competitive ranks. His peak season was 2009-10, when he earned his highest GP placement (6th at Cup of Russia) as well as represented Sweden at the Olympics (finishing 15th) and Worlds (finishing 9th). It looked like he was continuing onward with Sochi in sight, but injuries have forced him out of contention for the last couple of years. I believe he’s now in the U.S. working as a coach, but I’ll miss his innovative style and music interpretation. And I’ll always remember how he got the “home crowd” fired up at the 2008 Gothenburg (Goteborg) Worlds... the final Worlds covered by ABC/ESPN (sigh).


Omissions: a Japanese dance team for NHK. The Reeds, Japan’s longtime go-to dance team, have one assignment—Skate America—but that’s it so far, as the NHK slot is TBA. Hmmm. I also couldn’t help but notice zero assignments for the US’s Lynn & Logan K/G-S (though there is currently a TBA for the US at SKAM)... probably not what they want to see in what could be their final Olympic season together.

Surprises: It’s not evidenced on the assignment roster—not yet, anyway—but the possible return of Marina Anissina/Gwendal Peizerat surely counts as a surprise, oui? The 2002 OGMs of ice dance are now 37 and 41, and haven’t competed since Salt Lake City. Could they possibly get ready/qualify for Sochi?? All I know is that there IS a French TBA spot open at Trophee Eric Bompard, and both Carron/Jones and Pechalat/Bourzat already have two assignments apiece. I would presume that slot to go to Papadakis/Cizeron (new to the senior GP, see below)... but now... who knows? 

New faces: include Kolbe/Caruso for Germany... Heekin-Canedy/Dun for the Ukraine... and the aforementioned Papadakis/Cizeron of France, who finally get “bumped up” after four years on the junior international circuit (and silver Junior GP & Worlds medals last year).

Noteworthy: Although I haven’t seen anything official about it yet, I just spotting the following from Torvill & Dean’s Twitter Feed (presumably written by Dean):

“I have been choreographing with Piper Gilles, but Paul (Poirier) her partner is recovering from a broken ankle. So I've been partner. Very sore.”

Hard to tell how serious Poirier’s injury is, based on just that, but at least they don’t have to be ready to roll at the start of the GP season... they’ve been assigned NHK and Rostelecom Cup (the 4th and 6th events this year).

On a completely separate note—I apologize again for the delay in posts. This time I blame Annie... as in Annie, the musical we’re putting on this summer for Wayne Township Community Theater. I’m involved, my daughter is involved, my son too (working stage crew), and we’re in Tech Week at this point! So not as much writing/posting time, as you’ve seen. But we open this weekend and run only one weekend beyond that, so I’m looking to step up the pace as soon as I can. Next post is going to revisit that Elephant Bites post I made several weeks back,  and discuss the article I included—there’s still time to chip in your thoughts before we get started!

Friday, June 7, 2013

ISU GP Assignments 2013: Checking Out the Ladies and Pairs

The ISU Senior Grand Prix assignments have been out since Monday. I’m not sure what this means for you, but for me, it means I spent the week with 4 pages of printouts in my bag. Come a lunch break, come some dead time at community theater rehearsal, come a lull (and there are many) at the end-of-school awards ceremonies I sat through yesterday, I had the lists out... circling, noting, question-marking, and occasionally wondering either a) why I didn’t see a certain name, or b) why I saw a certain name SO MUCH (meaning twice).

The ISU link to downloadable files can be found here. As for what I’ve got so far:


Omissions: Internationally speaking, the only “usual suspect” I don’t see on the list of assignments is Ksenia Makarova—but I think she’s out for the season with an injury. From the U.S. there is no Alissa Czisny (possibly by request, if there is a concern about her re-injuring if she returns too soon?)... also no Courtney Hicks (4th at 2013 Nationals) and no Yasmin Siraj (6th at 2013 Nationals). I presume that means both Hicks and Siraj will go to the JGP? Oh, and there’s also no Rachael Flatt among the entries—not sure if she’s still recovering from last season’s injuries, saving all her energies for one final push at Nationals, or none of the above.

Surprises: Despite her subpar performance at the last Nationals (7th), Mirai Nagasu still received 2 GP assignments. And despite her even weaker showing (12th), Caroline Zhang still got assigned to Skate America. My rational side argues “why bother? Why not give Hicks, or Kiri Baga, or Leah Keiser a try instead?” But sentiment suggests to me that Nagasu and Zhang—both up-and-coming junior stars when they were first brought to the attention of the ABC/ESPN audience, back in 2007—are each being showed a glimmer or two of support in what could be their last competitive season.

New faces: Elena Radionova, RUS, Anna Pogorilaya, RUS, Satoko Miyahara, JPN, and Lenaelle Gilleron-Gorry, FRA.

Noteworthy: With Yu-Na Kim & Mao Asada in two events apiece, the assignments pit Gracie Gold & Ashley Wagner against them alternately. In other words, Skate America will feature Asada vs.Wagner, Skate Canada’s got Kim vs. Gold, NHK has Gold vs. Asada), and Bompard will bring us Wagner vs. Kim. As for U.S. bronze medalist Agnes Zawadzki, she will face Carolina Kostner in the remaining two events (Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup).

Omissions: none jump out at me.

Surprises: The good news is that the U.S.’s newest team to have a shot at the Sochi Olympics-- Lindsay Davis/Rockne Brubaker—have a GP assignment to test the waters. The bad news—it’s at Skate Canada, which means they don’t get as much prep time as they would at, say, Rostelecom Cup (one month later).

New this year on the senior circuit (aside from Davis/Brubaker): Margaret Purdy/Michael Marinaro, CAN... Anastasia Martiusheva/Alexei Rogonov, RUS... Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay, USA... Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier, USA... Yulia Antipova/Nodari Maisuradze, RUS... Britney Simpson/Matthew Blackmer, USA.

Noteworthy: How about the fact that FOUR of those new teams represent the U.S.? Yes, we’ve got Denney/Coughlin back from surgery, as well as the proven Castelli/Shnapir, and the promising Scimeca/Knierim... but with Davis on to another partner since Nationals, and a GP pairs staple of the past 2 years (Vise/Baldwin) now retired (thank goodness), our weaknesses are showing. Or are they?? Let’s take a positive spin for now, and smile at the possibility of Top 5 finishes for all this fresh talent. No, I’m not looking at their competition as I write that. And you can’t make me. I’m staying positive, dammit.

ALSO noteworthy: remember 2011 World Bronze Medalists Takahashi/Tran? The team that split so that Takahashi could be paired with someone who better represented Japan (aka not a Canadian citizen)? Well, they are back... though of course (sigh) not with each other. Mervin Tran will debut with his new partner Natasha Purich at TEB; Narumi Takahashi will debut with her new partner Ryuichi Kihara one week later, at Rostelecom Cup.

Will post on the Men and Dance entrants soon. Say, did you happen to hear Evan Lysacek is planning a comeback at Skate America?