Thursday, October 23, 2014

In a Nutshell! Skating's 2014-15 Pre-Season/JGP Season/"B" Season

Skate America gets underway in Hoffman Estates (aka Suburban Chicago) Friday night at 8PM Eastern time, which means the unofficial official season start is close at hand! 
(So close, in fact, that I’ll include THIS LINK to Ice Network's "Viewer's Guide" so you can be ready when that Short Dance kicks things off...)

But have you been following the sport since late August? There’s plenty of need-to-knows floating amongst figure skating’s unofficial pre-season. Let’s see if I can boil it down to FIVE:

1) If you haven’t been to lately, go check it out. A major summer overhaul benefits it greatly, at least in terms of keeping track of which competition is happening where and when. A simple horizontal “Upcoming Events” calendar makes it easy to see and click through (if you like) on not only the GP sched, but the ISU Junior Grand Prix and the new-but-really-it’s-not ISU Challenger Series, featuring 11 “B” meets including the debut of the Skate Canada Autumn Classic (held just this past weekend).

2) Winners from the Challenger series to date include Polina Edmunds (U.S. Int’l Figure Skating Classic), Richard Dornbush (Lombardia Trophy), Kavaguti/Smirnov (Nebelhorn Trophy), The Shibutanis (Ondrej Nepala Trophy), Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (Finlandia Trophy), and Ross Miner (Autumn Classic).

3) The JGP wrapped up in Zagreb a couple weeks back... here’s the list of those teenagers who made it to the JGP Final, held at GP Final time in mid-December:

MEN: Jin Boyang (CHN), Shoma Uno (JPN), Alexander Petrov (RUS), Lee June-hyoung** (KOR), Sota Yamamoto (JPN), Roman Sandovsky **(CAN)

LADIES: Serafima Sakhanovich **(RUS), Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS), Wakaba Higuchi **(JPN), Maria Sotskova (RUS), Yuka Nagai (JPN), Miyu Nakashio (JPN)

PAIRS: Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN), Maria Vigalova/Egor Zakroev (RUS), Lina Federova/Maxim Miroshkin (RUS), Kamilla Gainetdinova/Sergei Alexeev (RUS), Daria Beklemisheva/Maxim Bobrov (RUS), Chelsea Liu/Brian Johnson (USA)

DANCE: Anna Yanovskaya/Sergei Mozgov (RUS), Mackenzie Bent/Garrett MacKeen (CAN), Betina Popova/Yuri Vlasenko ** (RUS), Alla Loboda/Pavel Drozd (RUS), Madeline Edwards/Zhao Kai Pang (CAN), Daria Morozova/Mikhail Zhirnov (RUS)

** = Skaters in the JGP that stood out for me this season. Other names on that list that did NOT make the Final include Chase Belemontes (USA), Amber Glenn (USA), Shpilevaya/Smirnov, Dance (RUS), Luke West (USA), Andrew Torgashev (USA), Anastasia Gubanova/Alexei Sintsov, Pairs (RUS)

4) Injuries! Yep, they’ve been cropping up ahead of GP season, and all of the following have bowed out of their GP events as a result:
Volosozhar/Trankov, RUS (injury to Trankov)
Bobrova/Soloviev, RUS (injury to Soloviev)
Valentina Marchei, ITA
Kaetlyn Osmond, CAN
Peter Liebers, GER
Joshi Helgesson, SWE

5) Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge an official changing of the (skate) guard... first announced several weeks back... that got a big push from the Today show a few days ago: Terry Gannon, Johnny Weir, and Tara Lipinski have supplanted Tom Hammond, Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic as NBC’s broadcast team for all things figure skating. Considering the fact that Hammond/Hamilton/Bezic go at least as far back as the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, and have been the premier team since NBC took the skating coverage reins from ABC/ESPN in the 2008-9 season, this is a significant development for those of us who watch faithfully!

Or will you be forced to watch with the sound turned off now because you can’t stand Johnny? Or Tara? Or both? (Please don’t say you can’t stand Terry Gannon. EVERYONE like Gannon. Every. One.) Let me know if you’ve got an opinion on this one... I really want to re-visit this particular topic when time allows.

Speaking of which, I’d better get to work on my second (second?? Yes, she said second) post of the week where I make crazy semi-informed guesses as to how Skate America will go. 


SFM said...

Love Tara and Johnny, Kelli!

Great move by NBC.

I work in a busy, bustling office and most people (in the past) have checked out of figure skating, but, with this announcement re: Tara and Johnny, quite a few co-workers say they might have to start paying more attention now, because of how impressed they were with this team during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Scott will be missed, of course (Special correspondence role for him though, if I am not mistaken?) However, Tara has A LOT of support and fans here, while Johnny rocks the boat (in a good way) for many of them. So, again, kudos to NBC for making a move that might help rehabilitate the sport a bit.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you SFM.
Tara and Johnny have been a refreshing change of pace by helping to educate and explain to the casual fan and viewer, without PC-ing to death, their analysis of a skater’s strengths and weaknesses. Tara and Johnny have great a rapport, chemistry and humor. This long time figure skating fan appreciates that!!

On a separate note. Gracie, shelve those nerves and leave them behind on the practice ice. You can do this!! Also, Go Mirai and Samantha...REPRESENT!!

wagrobanite said...

I'm pissed that they got rid of Scott (the other two I could do without) but Johnny and Tara *GAG* so pissed. I honestly don't know if I'll watch anymore or if I do it'll be with the sound muted because I cannot stand the sounds of their voices. They're like nails of chalkboards to me. Tara's so shrill and Johnny is well.. nuts. I mean come on NBC. Scott is an Olympic medal winner... Johnny is not

KA said...

I was so excited to learn that Tara and Johnny (and especially Terry!!) would be taking over. I'm very happy to see Tom Hammond go, as he didn't add any value and always grated on my nervees. Now if they'd only get rid of Andrea Joyce! Scott Hamilton is a lovely person but his commentary was not very insightful (and his voice can be shriller than Tara's at times). I really enjoyed the Tara/Johnny/Terry dynamic and the excellent information they provided during the Olympics. It is great that NBC is airing portions of all of the Grand Prix's, especially since many of us do not have access to Universal Sports :(. I enjoy hearing commentary (any commentary, but especially from a team like Tara/Johnny/Terry) and miss it very much when watching on icenetwork. Unfortunately in today's age of DVRs and online TV viewing, there are fewer people casually flipping through the channels who may happen to catch a skating competition and become fans -- regardless of who the commentators are. It's good to hear that Tara and Johnny made such an impression on SFM's coworkers during the Olympics, so maybe there is some hope for figure skating viewership after all. Hopefully the new commentator team move will draw in more viewers and convince NBC to increase its figure skating coverage, though I'm not holding my breath. Kelli, this is my first time commenting but I missed your blog posts during your absence and I enjoyed your book very much :)