Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Should We Love Nebelhorn 2013? Let Us Count The Ways...

Thursday 9/26 marks the start of the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy... a “B” event that takes place annually in Oberstdorf, Germany. A few weeks back, someone left a comment on my September schedule post, pointing out that special attention should be getting paid to Nebelhorn this year. That person was right. Here’s why:

+ The pressure of it all. Some are trying for a very limited number of available Olympic spots; a few also need to get the ISU minimum TES under their belt as well. You can read a detailed article about this at IceNetwork, or a relatively shorter one below... 

The fight for six ladies’ spots includes Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO), Brooklee Han (AUS), Sofia Lafuente (ESP), Kerstin Frank (AUT), and Juulia Turkkila (FIN), who is the sole Finnish rep for the ladies since Kiira Korpi is (SIGH) injured.

Six spots exist for the men as well; those contenders include Kim Lucine (competing for Monaco), Luis Manella (BRA), Jin-Seo Kim (KOR), Brendan Kerry (AUS), Justus Strid (DEN), and Yakov Godorozha (UKR).

Only four spots remain for pairs; Kemp/King (GBR) are trying to get in, as are the new Japanese team of Takahashi/Kihara (she formerly of Takahashi/Tran, who earned World Bronze in 2012 before splitting due to Mervin Tran’s citizenship issues).

And the five or so spots up for grabs in ice dance will be twizzled up and down by Reed/Reed (JPN),  Hurtado/Diaz (ESP), and O’Brien/Merriman (AUS), among many others.

And then there are a few other choice reasons to pay attention to Nebelhorn:
+ The premieres—internationally speaking, that is—of new programs by reigning World champs Volosozhar/Trankov and potential (if he skate great beyond GP season, that is) Japanese Olympic hopeful Nobunari Oda
+ The newbies—meaning international senior debuts for the likes of Russia’s Elene Radionova and the U.S.’s Jason Brown, Ashley Cain, and Davis/Brubaker
+ The Miki Ando. (OK, that didn’t need a “The” on it but it kind of feels like it does.) Taking the spot vacated by Korpi, Ando hasn’t competed since Worlds 2011 (which she won, defeating Kim Yu-Na in the process)... and she’s one of those who really does need an ISU minimum TES in order to be viable for an Olympic bid. Seems unlikely that would be a problem, but wouldn’t you like to see for yourself?

Speaking of which, one more thing about Nebelhorn... catch it if you can, but it might be tricky-- IceNetwork will have some coverage, but it’s limited. This link from Hot Blades, Hot Passion should help set you up with the event schedule as well as the Eurosport feeds. 

I’ll do a recap next week!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

An Open Letter To Evan Lysacek

As figure skating’s “pre-season” continues this week with both JGP Slovakia and the U.S. International Classic, I took it upon myself to write this open letter to our reigning men’s OGM. In theory, at least, he has time to read it now that Grant Hochstein is replacing him at the Classic. Best of luck to Hochstein and the rest of Team USA!

Dear Evan Lysacek,

You don’t know me, but we actually have a connection that goes beyond our suburban Chicago roots. Way back in the early 1980s—a few years before you were even born—came the formation of the DuPage Figure Skating Club of which you’ve been a member your entire career. I know this because, as an adolescent, I was one of its first members.

So, see? It’s almost like we’re related or something. Which might be why I feel I can say the following to you: 


I’m actually better than a relative because sometimes, ya know, they’ll just tell you what they think you want to hear. But I’m out here, in the cyberspace trenches. I read the IceNetwork and Phil Hersh articles (just to mention a few); I watch NBC bring your name up with every breath of skating airtime they take. And I’m here to tell you it’s just. Not. Worth it.

You are a 28 year-old man with two U.S. titles, one World title, and an Olympic Gold Medal. You have “everything” (by figure skating standards, anyway); still, you want more. I don’t begrudge you that... okay, that’s not true. I DO come from the school of thought that says the Olympics (to say nothing of that precious OGM) are such a special event... you’ve had your turn... in fact, you’ve been there twice... don’t deny someone else their dream just because “you wanted more”...

I know there’s that Other School, too—the one that says The U.S. needs to send its best competitors to Sochi; if Lysacek earns a Top Two finish in January, so be it. And I always have a problem with that argument, if only because the component mark is (and always will be) such a subjective little sucker, particularly where OGMs are concerned...

But that whole “should he or shouldn’t he?” debate is water under the proverbial ice bridge in your case, at least as far as I’m concerned. Because you’re injured, Evan. Again. It took a full season of “negotiations” with U.S. Figure Skating to reach an “agreement” for you to resume competing, but the resumption was over before it began due to a groin injury that kept you out of 2012 Skate America. Then came surgery in November 2012 to repair an abdominal tear (a.k.a. sports hernia), which of course kept you out of 2013 Nationals. Then came more buildup in the off season... again... more than ever this time, for you’ve made it clear the Sochi goal was your goal as well...

Then came USFS’s Champs Camp just a few weeks back, where your coach Frank Carroll made it clear that you are still suffering, reparation surgery be damned.

I don’t know in figure skating if someone has tried to come back from that level of injury, Carroll said about you.

And earlier this week, with just a few days to spare, IceNetwork announced your withdrawal from your latest comeback vehicle (the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, which starts its senior events Thursday evening ) due to a “slight abdominal tear.”

Look... I don’t think any of us doubt that you’re serious-as-a-heart-attack about this Sochi comeback stuff. It’s just that, at this point, I don’t want to see it become serious-as-a-guy-writhing-in-dire-agony-on-the-ice. If your body’s not fully healed at the start of an Olympic season, how’s it going to rectify itself... or even stay at some sort of “manageable” pain level... over the next four months of intensive training?

If you’d never made an Olympic team before, I’d understand the mindset a little better. But you HAVE. Twice. And won the ultimate prize the second time around. What is there to prove? That you’re a Man of Your Word? That your groin muscles are more resilient than Plushenko’s back muscles? That you’re more serious about this quest than Johnny Weir is about his? Is it a pride thing? (Oh, please don’t let it be a pride thing...)

NBC will set its sights elsewhere... eventually... but not until you and Frank tell them it’s time to do so. Maybe The Network Powers That Be aren’t as concerned about your well-being as you think. Maybe it’s time to stop listening to all that press, and stop feeling all that pressure.

Maybe, instead, you should listen to what your body’s trying to tell you.

See you at Skate America...?


Kelli Lawrence

(Who, incidentally, has 4 very nice photos of you in her book Skating on Air)