Thursday, August 29, 2013

Your One-Stop Shopping for Skating's JGP and "B" Events Starts... HERE!

And just like that, figure skating’s pre-season is underway!

That’s an unofficial term, of course, but I tend to see it as the entire Junior Grand Prix (JGP) season... which started today, as it happens... and a few of the “B” events that come before Senior Grand Prix.

(Which kicks off Friday, October 18 in Detroit with Skate America—but you knew that already, right?)

So you might want to check that out. But if you’d like a quick rundown of the who/what/where for the next month—especially as far as U.S. skaters are concerned—keep on reading. (And don’t forget that the ISU posts video from all the JGP events on its own YouTube channel.)

JGP Latvia (this weekend)
Featuring (from the U.S.): Jordan Moeller, Karen Chen, Yasmin Siraj, the pairs team of Zaitsev/Stevens, and the dance teams of McNamara/Carpenter and Pogrebinsky/Gudis

JGP Mexico (Sept. 5-7)
Featuring (from the U.S.): Nathan Chen, Tomoki Hiwatashi, Mariah Bell, Polina Edmunds, and the dance teams of Hawayek/Baker and Lewis/Bye

JGP Slovakia (Sept. 12-14)
Featuring (from the U.S.): Shotaro Omori, Nix Phengsy, Leah Keiser, Barbie Long, the pairs teams of Budd/Cheban and Liu/Perini and the dance teams of Moore/Klaber and Parsons/Parsons

ALSO THE WEEKEND OF SEPT. 12-14... The U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City, Utah (the Classic made its debut last year). Here’s a complete list of entrants;  it includes four U.S. reps for each discipline, including Evan Lysacek for men, Gracie Gold for ladies, Denney/Coughlin for pairs, and Davis/White for dance. Other recognizable names include Amelie Lacoste, Misha Ge, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, Weaver/Poje, and Pechalat/Bourzat.

JGP Poland (Sept. 19-21)
Featuring (from the U.S.): Brian Krentz, Jordan Moeller, Yasmin Siraj, Angela Wang, and the dance teams of Hawayek/Baker and Pogrebinsky/Gudis

JGP Belarus (Sept. 26-28)
Featuring (from the U.S.): Spencer Howe, Jimmy Ma, Karen Chen, Hannah Miller, the pairs teams of Aaron/Settlage and Zaitsev/Stevens and the dance teams of McNamara/Carpenter and Patsis/Johnson

ALSO THE WEEKEND OF SEPT. 26-28: Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany. This longtime annual “B” event is set to feature athletes such as Nobunari Oda, Jason Brown, Kiira Korpi, Elena Radionova, Ashley Cain, the U.S. pairs team of Davis/Brubaker making their international debut, the U.S. dance team of Hubbell/Donohue... oh, and reigning World Pairs Champions Volosohzar/Trankov are supposed to put in an appearance as well.

So this takes us through all of September. With any luck, I’ll actually keep up with these events and even post about them (and more about new programs, old concerns, etc.) with a lot more consistency.

See any up-and-comers on the JGP circuit you’re thrilled about? Or are the “B” events catching your attention more than usual this year? Feel free to name names (as it were) in the Comments!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Olympic Season 2013-4: The Warhorse Drafting Has Begun!

(NOTE: For the time being, I am writing in a twilight world where human rights, violations, and boycotts are not in the same sentences as the next Winter Olympics. I want to make time to read some of the thoughtful op-eds that have been written in the past month (by everyone from 1980 Olympian Randy Gardner to 2006 and 2010 Olympian Johnny Weir) before deciding if & when I’ll have something of value to add to the conversation. So kindly allow me to delude myself into thinking the big “issues” of the here & now are Miki Ando’s plea for privacy from the media [good luck with that], and the music choices discussed below. Thank you.)

The Revelation of Music Choices has started to take on a sort of NBA Draft-like significance, don’t you think? Social media surely has something to do with that, as does the steady stream of stories filed for Just think, in a few years, with a little more organization and timing, one skater after another (or their coach... or their agent) could approach a podium, greet a press corps, and say into the microphone...

Suzie Skater has chosen selections from This Year’s Epic Blockbuster Film for her short program...

(Cut to a small group of people representing said Blockbuster Film, giving each other high fives)

...And her free skate will be to... "Clair de Lune"...

(Cut to an even smaller group of Debussy groupies pumping their fists in the air)

If we did it this way at least we could keep even the top selections to one use per season, right? And if it was REALLY done like a typical player draft, the lowest-ranked skaters would get the pick of the proverbial litter of music, which could all but force the A-Listers to do something unique. Doesn’t that have the potential to be some kind of awesome?  But I digress...

So anyway, I’ve got a list of selections from my 2012 Top 10 Off-the-Top-of-My-Head Draft Picks—er, I mean War Horses—and an athlete or athletes that have thus far picked them for their team. Did I say team? I meant programs:

CARMEN—Max Aaron (FS)
ROMEO & JULIET (Prokofiev)—Ashley Wagner, (FS)
SCHEHERAZADE—Carolina Kostner (FS)
SING, SING, SING—Pechalat/Bourzat (part of SD)

And then there were these War Horse suggestions made by my readers, which have been chosen by the following:

SAMPSON & DELILAH— Evan Lysacek (FS)
SELECTIONS FROM LES MISERABLES (In this case, “I Dreamed a Dream”)—Pang/Tong (FS)

So that’s nine programs accounted for. The tenth one I want to throw in there is The Shibutanis with their Michael Jackson Medley free dance... while I’m not sure there’s an MJ warhorse just yet, if only because of the depth of his danceable catalog (but watch your back, “Billie Jean”),  the concept has been broached several times over the past 12 years. Will it help the Shib Sibs win back the judges that they’ve “lost” since their World Bronze heyday? I’ll admit that I’m pretty eager to find out.

As for the other choices listed above, my interest level in each shakes out like this:

Oh so curious... Lysacek, Suzuki, Wagner
Wagner, because I’m used to seeing her portray stronger female characters than “Juliet” and I want to see how she carries this out... Suzuki, because I’m kind of disappointed with her over-used choice and I want her interpretation to cheer me up... and Lysacek, for basically the same reason as everyone else (has he still got it, and if so, will this music be the right vehicle for him?)

Mildly curious... Aaron, Asada, Kostner
Have Kostner and Asada saved the best for their last (season)? Their respective free skate selections seem like suitable enough choices... just not particularly inspired. Especially in Kostner’s case, who has sidestepped most of the “horses” up until now. (But I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt; maybe she’s been waiting her entire career to skate to Scheherazade...

Curious? Meh... Pech/Bour, Pang/Tong
In P/B’s case, “Sing Sing Sing” is being used along with two other pieces—“Hey Big Spender” and “Mein Herr”—so I’m probably more curious about their take on the “other pieces.” As for P/T, big kudos to them if they’ve somehow made it through their entire elite career (which literally began before the turn of the freaking century) without tapping anything from Les Miz up to this point. I just want to see them get through this twilight time of their eligible career without shattering, rupturing, or dislocating anything... so they can be in relatively good shape when they finally take off their skates, get married, and live the rest of their lives.

Finally, about the Davis/Brubaker free skate music... it sounds familiar for more than the standard “overused” reason: it was the music/program that Rockne Brubaker had trained with former partner Mary Beth Marley just one season ago. Marley/Brubaker split in the summer of ’12, and Brubaker didn’t partner with Lindsay Davis until this past spring... so there clearly wasn’t any time to waste. Which is probably why they decided to bring Umbrellas back to life. But in her recent interview with Jenny Kirk & Dave Lease’s The Skating Lesson, Marley sounds none too pleased with the decision, saying it’s caused her to lose respect for Brubaker... and Kirk and Lease agreed with her (likening it to “putting a rejected engagement ring on another girl’s finger” or words to that effect). I’m not sure I see it that way, particularly since it was Marley’s decision to end the partnership. Surely Brubaker is being practical rather than vengeful in “re-gifting” Umbrellas, right? But maybe I’m alone in that opinion.

What are your thoughts on this, or any of the other music choices listed? And are there any unclaimed-as-of-yet Warhorses that you’re praying will be used by a particular skater? Be sure to leave a comment!