Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Post-Omaha: Nationals 2013: Pairs & Ice Dance Overview

Now that Omaha's been cleared of all blades and sequins, it's time to let the analysis fly! 

Top 5 Pairs: Castelli/Shnapir, Scimeca/Knierim, Zhang/Bartholomay, Davis/Ladwig, Denney/Frazier

The “debate” (if there really is one): Is it fair that Denney/Coughlin will go to Worlds if they are physically ready to do so by that time? 

Yes, I’d say so; it’s hardly an unprecedented move. Pairs seems the least likely of all the disciplines to get 3 spots for Sochi, but the U.S. still needs to put its best skate forward. Silver medalists Scimeca/Knierim had a pretty good GP debut this season (and will get some great new experience at Four Continents)... but Denney/Coughlin need to see if they can build on their Grand Prix momentum, and improve on last year’s 8th place at Worlds.

As an aside—did you hear that new U.S. champs Castelli/Shnapir are planning to attempt a throw quad salchow at Worlds? They’ve made several attempts at throw triple axels in the past few years, so it’ll be fun to see if they pull it off.

Top 5 in Dance: Davis/White, Chock/Bates, Shibutanis, Hubbell/Donohue, K/L-S

The debate (if it counts): Does the Chock/Bates leapfrog from 5th to 2nd shock (or “chock”) anyone inside or out of the ice dance community? I’m fond of them, and anticipated a bump upwards for them—but that’s more like a BOMP, isn’t it?

If you read here with any regularity, you know that I’m not particularly schooled in ice dance. But here’s what I DO know:

a) a one-year leap in the standings like that is very rare.

b) The Shib Sibs had two extended lifts (one in the SD, one in the FD) that apparently made the slight difference between silver and bronze...

and c) on the other hand, Hubbell/Donohue skated very well but simply couldn’t reach the same levels of difficulty (a.k.a. “4s”) as the podium-finishers.

So here’s my dumb-girl theory: Bates’ previous success with Emily Samuelson—as well as Chock’s previous success with Greg Zuerlein—had already put each of them in that upper echelon of ice dance quality. It just took them a couple of years to re-discover it together.

OR, everyone just loves that cool floaty spin they do at the end of their Zhivago FD because it’s awesome.

Next up—some thoughts on the men’s and ladies results.
(Please post your own thoughts in the meantime!)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 U.S. Nationals Predictions: Ladies

As with the men's predictions, I'll start with some trivia/stats:

Oldest competitor: With Alissa Czisny out, this easily goes to Joelle Forte (26)

Youngest competitors: I’m not certain about this, as I was unable to find information on a few new faces, but Hannah Miller is the youngest of three 16 year-old entrants. (If you know of anyone younger, please feel free to correct me!)

Most appearances as a Senior: Mirai Nagasu, Ashley Wagner, and Caroline Zhang are all in their 6th consecutive seasons (debuted in ’08)

Longest time competing at Nationals as a Senior: Add 22 year-old Becky Bereswill to the above list—she debuted in ’08, competed in pairs for the 2010-11 season, missed last year’s Nats... but returns this year, competing again in singles.

Senior Rookies: Ashley Cain (last year’s Junior silver medalist), Gracie Gold (last year’s Junior Champion), Courtney Hicks (2011 Junior Champion), Amanda Hoffmann, and Hannah Miller (last year’s Junior bronze medalist)

New Withdrawal: Post-Czisny, there have been two—Vanessa Lam (announced last week; replaced by Laney Diggs), and last year’s 12th place finisher Leah Keiser (announced yesterday—ankle injury).

Here’s what else I know:

+ The time is ripe for Wagner to do what no U.S. lady has done since 2007: win back-to-back national senior titles. This is the first time in ages that I think it would be a true upset if she doesn’t repeat.

+ A below-par SP doesn’t count out Wagner... likewise, an above-par SP doesn’t count IN Nagasu.

+ With Czisny out for the season, that battle for silver is fiercer than ever. Gold seems to have the momentum behind her to claim 2nd in her senior debut (!!), but we’d better not forget...
·        Agnes Zawadzki, who won the SP last year and ultimately took bronze.
·        Christina Gao, who is having her Best Season Ever and surely is poised for a breakthrough this weekend after three straight 5th place finishes.
·        And Nagasu, my dark horse for this event.

Still, Gold gets my vote... she and Wagner at Worlds this year could be our best shot at getting three spots for the U.S. ladies in Sochi.

As for the rest of the top ten—I’d enjoy seeing Angela Wang, Haley Dunne, Samantha Cesario, Ashley Cain, and Becky Bereswill get in there.

So, predictions are:

GOLD: Ashley Wagner
SILVER: Gracie Gold
BRONZE: Christina Gao

And with that—let the senior events begin!!
First up is Pairs SP, which you can find on IceNetwork.com starting at 5PM Eastern time later today.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2013 U.S. Nationals Predictions: Ice Dancing

Time to talk about the 2013 field of Senior ice dance competitors! 

And with Davis/White and the Shib Sibs a lock and near-lock for 1-2, here's thoughts on some of the others:

I’m looking for Madison Chock/Evan Bates to make a move from last year’s 5th place. Now two seasons strong, they are more established, have more experience, and their Dr. Zhiavago FD is a lovely vehicle for them. I don’t know if they can overtake Hubbell/Donohue for third—yet—but fourth is another story. Last year’s pewter medalists K/G-S (as I’ve vowed to nickname them this year) use an Adele medley for their FD this season, and I wonder if it comes across as challenging enough in what amounts to their 7th season together.

Incidentally, Keiffer Hubbell (Madison’s brother and former partner) will return to the National scene this week with new partner Anastasia Olsen. We last saw her finishing in 6th place last season with Jordan Cowan.

Also of note...

+ Both Cannuscio sisters are back. Anastasia (the younger one) returns in her third season with Colin McManus, and Isabella returns with new partner Michael Bramant. But don’t let their inexperience fool you—they won Eastern Sectionals with a unique, retro jazz FD that definitely grabbed my attention.

+ Speaking of siblings... we may be missing Rockne Brubaker at this Nationals (sigh), but his younger brother Collin will compete among the Senior ice dancers with Alissandra Aronow.

+ If you happen to be looking for new Pacific coast representatives of ice dance in Omaha, you might want to look for something else... there was no senior dance event at Pacific Coast Sectionals this year.

So, my predictions... 

GOLD: Davis/White
SILVER: Shibutani/Shibutani
BRONZE: Hubbell/Donohue 

That only leaves THE LADIES... which of course I'll post sometime before their SP begins Thursday night!

Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 U.S. Nationals Predictions: Next Up-- The MEN

I've received a request to preview the MEN of Senior U.S. Nationals ’13 next...

So let’s start with some stats for this year’s field (you might also know it as trivia):

Oldest competitor: Jeremy Abbott (27)

Youngest competitors: Jason Brown & Joshua Farris (both 18)

Most appearances as a Senior: Abbott, who has been here for 7 years straight starting in 2007.

Longest time competing at Nationals as a Senior: 26 year-old Wesley Campbell, who made his debut back in 2005.

Senior Rookies: Both Philip Warren & Harrison Choate were juniors last year (finishing 3rd and 4th, respectively).

New Withdrawal: Evan Lysacek was officially scratched from this event over the weekend (still recovering from groin injury)
Who’s in The Hunt? The top 9 from last year’s event are all present and accounted for
(Abbott/Rippon/Miner/Mahbanoozadeh/Razzano/Carriere/Messing/Aaron/Brown)... plus I’m guessing Richard Dornbush and Joshua Farris are both considered to be at least top 6 challengers.

Who’s got the most consistent quads? While I really need to start working up batting averages for these guys... I would say Ross Miner, Doug Razzano, Keegan Messing, Max Aaron, and (maybe) Dornbush.

Who has component scores on their side? Abbott, Adam Rippon, and Jason Brown are the ones that spring to mind first. (We'll have to see if Brown goes for the triple axel at last; he's yet to try one at Senior Nats.)

Can any of these guys beat Abbott? Yes... especially if he has an off day on the jumps. We’ve seen it happen before. But we’ve also seen Abbott give his best of the season at many a Nationals—more often than not, to be sure.

My predictions:

GOLD: Jeremy Abbott
SILVER: Ross Miner
BRONZE: Max Aaron

... and before you say What about Rippon???—believe me, I’d love to see him stay in the Top 2. But his Mad Men free skate this season hasn’t been a smash hit, and I really haven’t seen progression in his jumps. In fact, I’d swear they were stronger last year. So I’d not be at all surprised to see Miner (who had a monster-good free skate in his last GP appearance) make the hop up to silver. And Aaron looked very strong whenever I saw him compete this past fall. Unless it was an ill-timed “peak” for him, I can’t imagine him doing any worse than Top 5—and, in fact, I can see him doing a little better than even that.

I'm crazy, yes? It's OK, you can tell me... ;-)
So what predictions would you like next?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 U.S. Nationals predictions start here... with PAIRS!

It turns out you have to go back 20 years to find a Nationals with 10 or fewer entrants in Senior Pairs. 1993 Nats gave Calla Urbanski/Rocky Marval the gold, Jenni Meno/Todd Sand the silver, and Karen Courtland/Todd Reynolds the bronze... and then only 6 more teams behind them in the entire thing (including fifth-placers Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen, the latter of which you might know better now as coach to Jeremy Abbott and Alissa Czisny).

This year brings us only ten teams, so we might as well list them all... why not... there’s plenty of room! I’ll even include a YouTube clip if I can find one.

So... coming to Nats via Sectionals are:

From Easterns... Tarah Kayne/Daniel O'Shea—I know nothing about them, but here they were as competitors at this past summer’s Indy Challenge. 

Also from Easterns... Felicia Zhang /Nathan Bartholomay, who finished 8th last year. They too attended Indy Challenge this past summer... 

From Midwesterns come Kiri Baga /Taylor Toth; a new team and a first-time (?) pair team for Baga, who continues to compete in singles as well. Their Indy Challenge video is here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTjQD-3pKUk

Also from Mids is DeeDee Leng /Timothy LeDuc. LeDuc was 11th last year with former partner Cassie Andrews. I can’t find any video of these two skating together, but if you happen to know more about them or their story, please share!

One more from Mids: Alexa Scimeca /Christopher Knierim. It may be a new pairing (both skated at Nats last year with other partners), but it appears to have started well—they won Coup de Nice and finished a respectable 4th at NHK Trophy, as can be seen here.    

As for the rest of the competitors (all of whom have received a “Bye”):

Marissa Castelli /Simon Shnapir are perhaps the “veteran” team at this point, training as a team since 2006 and competing at the senior level since 2009. They won their first GP medal, a bronze, at NHK Trophy a couple months ago (seen here).  

Lindsay Davis /Mark Ladwig, on the other hand, are perhaps the newest team... but they’ve already got three major events under their collective belts with the Ice Challenge (5th place), Skate Canada (7th), and NHK (6th). Here’s a performance from SkCAN.   

Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier were competing at the Junior level as recently as this past fall (see this performance at JGP Lake Placid, where they finished 4th), so Seniors is a new game for them.  

Gretchen Donlan /Andrew Speroff are in their third year as seniors and received their first GP assignment this season with Skate America (seen here). 

Tiffany Vise/Don Baldwin are only in their third season together, but at ages 35 (Baldwin) and nearly 27 (Vise) they’ve achieved their own sort of seniority. Vise, in fact, has competed at the senior level (with three different pairs partners) since 2002! You can find a performance from this season’s Skate America here.   

My predictions for the pairs podium...

GOLD: Castelli/Shnapir
SILVER: Donlan/Speroff
BRONZE: Scimeca/Knierim

Any requests on what to predict next...? 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 U.S. Nationals Who's Who: Who's in, who's out, who's questionable

U.S. Nationals officially begin in about one week; the main attractions will finally know their fate about two weeks from now... guess I better start with some needs-to-know stuff!

If you’d like to see the list of competitors—including those given a “Bye” and/or have officially withdrawn—click here! 

IceNetwork has not yet listed their streaming times, but I believe Heather W.’s schedule regarding the NBC airdates is current. (P.S. I think the Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular has been moved to Sunday 1/20 since she last updated this.)

Update: I was a day too early... CLICK HERE to see the full IceNetwork viewers guide to Nationals.

The Withdrawals: You know about Johnny Weir already... and reigning pairs champs Denney/Coughlin, I suppose... and Yankowskas/Reagan’s debut remains on hold due to Reagan’s rib injury.

The wild card? Word got out over the weekend that Alissa Czisny was injured during her free skate at an invitational event in Appleton, WI. Last I heard, no word yet on whether or not this changes her status for Nationals. Here’s hoping she’s okay.

Update: According to Aunt Joyce's blog, Czisny dislocated her hip and has already had surgery. Can't imagine she'll be able to skate for a while... again. I'll post more updates as I see them.

Not-so-wild card: Evan Lysacek is still listed as Omaha-bound, but when the guy was last heard to have had surgery a couple months back... and Tweets all this past weekend about what he’s wearing, what he’s riding in, and who he’s hanging with at the Golden Globes... I have a hard time believing he’ll be there.

The change-ups:
Back from injury... Samantha Cesario, Courtney Hicks
Now skating both pairs and singles: Kiri Baga              
Now NOT skating pairs... just singles: Ashley Cain
Now back to skating singles after a season in pairs: Becky Bereswill

And I will leave you with... a trivia question! Here goes: This season it appears that only TEN teams will compete for the U.S. Senior Pairs title. When was the last time that few (or fewer!) competed?

If you’ve got a guess, leave it in the comments... I will post the answer in a few days!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Part 2 of Ten Toepicks For Figure Skating 2012... (aka The Other Five Toepicks)

Here come my Other Five Toepicks from 2012 (before we get much deeper into 2013!)

+ Pairs skating success stories may have stalled out over in China, disappeared in Japan (now that Takahashi/Tran are no more), and are on medical leave in the U.S. (until John Coughlin recovers from surgery).  But the biggest and best news is back to happening over in Europe, where Savchenko/Szolkowy and Volosohzar/Trankov—representing Germany and Russia, respectively—have emerged as two of the best-matched, most competitive teams the world scene has witnessed in years. As evidenced at the most recent Worlds, veterans Sav/Szol retain the upper hand in this battle... for now. But time (and experience) is building on Volo/Trank’s side, to the point where February 2014 might just prove to be the perfect timing for a run on Olympic gold.

+ Any hopes that Ottavio Cinquanta’s reign of figure skating terror would actually end “on time” were dashed over the summer, when it was announced that the ISU granted his request to stay on as president through 2016. Fortunately (I suppose), this here blog doesn’t attract the kind of readership that would’ve made it dangerous that I used my pulpit to suggest skating fans punch Cinquanta in the face.  To my knowledge, no one did. In public, anyway.

+ The Class of 2010 (and to some degree, 2006) began staging its comeback in bigger, bolder ways with the days until Sochi shrinking away. Kim Yu-Na showed us she could walk the talk with her recent return to competition; Mao Asada never really left the field but, arguably, her quality of skating had... until now. As for the men, where Evgeny Plushenko has gotten back out there a time or two with success, Evan Lysacek apparently wanted to but has been hindered by injury, and Johnny Weir did—without much success—then was hindered by injury, and now has found his way to a FoodNetwork celebrity cook-off as he heals... what can I offer but a thoroughly disgruntled mumbling of the words Advantage Plushy.

+ I suppose no year-end skating wrap would be complete without a mention of the State of the (Televised) Skate... which took another hit this year, as Universal Sports Network made it more difficult than ever for fans to keep up with figure skating in the U.S. if they were not fortunate enough to have access to the channel. 

An interesting note to this issue: Back in November, a rep from the marketing department at USN wrote me to ask if it would be OK to post about USN’s offerings on State of the Skate. I asked if she could first clarify what was actually available from USN to the majority of my readers. She never responded, nor to my knowledge ever posted anything directly to the blog.

Maybe that clarifies things just a little TOO much, huh?

+ It’s been said that one advantage to the COP scoring system is that it allows for more surprises in the medals, as skaters typically considered out of the running—or in many cases, never really in the running to begin with—can find themselves near the top with a great free skate. But that strategy (for lack of a better word) sort of worked in reverse for several fine athletes this past year:

Takahiko Kozuka (2nd in Worlds 2011/11th in Worlds 2012)

Artur Gachinski (3rd in Worlds 2011/18th in Worlds 2012)

Alissa Czisny (5th in Worlds 2011/22nd in Worlds 2012)

The Shibutanis (3rd in Worlds 2011/8th in Worlds 2012)

Which way will the tides turn as THIS season heads for home? Nationals from many countries have already taken place, with the Canadian and U.S. Nats right around the corner. Let’s take a closer look at the latter next week.