Thursday, November 6, 2014

Calling Back Kelowna: 2014 Skate Canada in Review

Two weeks into the Grand Prix series and it feels like we never left!
For some of our skating favorites, though, it looks like they aren’t really back yet... unless they’re the ones that have clearly been doing pushups and squats in the basement all summer, getting stronger. Here’s my take on 2014 Skate Canada International:


GOLD: Takahito Mura (JPN)
SILVER: Javier Fernandez (ESP)
BRONZE: Max Aaron (USA)

+  Before predicting Javier Fernandez to win, I should have had a little conversation with Johnny Weir. Then I would have realized Fernandez has been in “show mode” the entire off-season (as opposed to just the late spring), and wasn’t ready yet for this level of competition. While his “Black Betty” short program was stellar and showed signs of becoming one of the “IT” SPs of the season, the Rossini FS was off from his first jump, and never really came together. (I’d like to think the costume for that one is also “not ready”; could that bland ensemble really be what he wears all season?) In any case, he’s scheduled to be at Rostelecom Cup in two weeks so we’ll see if he’s able to gain any ground in that time.

+  Adam (Rippon) and Taka (Kozuka) are both trying very hard to break my heart. Both are beautiful, accomplished competitors with a history of inconsistent finishes (but considerable triumphs among them). One has struggled with triple axel demons for years; the other has only recently done so. Watching each of them barely break 200 points in their totals last weekend left me, and maybe countless others, wondering: does either guy stand a chance of making their respective World teams this year... and will they compete any longer if they don’t?

+  I want to know who it was in the USFS organization earlier this year that zeroed in on Stephen Carriere—a former U.S. medalist, now in his mid-20s, who had finished 10th at Nationals two years running and had not been a part of the Grand Prix since 2010—and said “This guy gets two GP events next season.” Because it just might’ve been... genius?!  The fact is, Carriere used to be assigned to these events regularly, and even medaled at them. Twice. But we’re talking six and seven seasons ago, when he was fresh off of winning Junior Worlds in 2007. Since early 2009, his results have been by and large less than spectacular... and time will tell if 2014-15 will truly be any different. He DID win the Ondrej Nepala Trophy earlier in the season, though—his first international win in three years—and followed it up by being thisclose to a bronze medal (or, technically speaking, 0.1 points) here at Skate Canada. Do we call it a comeback yet? Rostelecom Cup is his next stop...


GOLD: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
BRONZE: Tarasova/Morozov (RUS)

+  Duhamel/Radford won in such convincing fashion, I’d completely forgotten it was their first-ever GP title! But indeed it is. Kudos to the ever-challenging Canadian team!

 Speaking of Canadian teams, Kirsten Moore-Towers made her GP debut with new partner Michael Marinaro, finishing a solid 6th here (and only a few points from 5th). Not bad! But for now, I must admit I miss Dylan Moscovitch...

+  I saw a lot of “When did Sui/Han grow up??” comments on Twitter, and with good reason. Maybe the long-awaited retirement of Pang/Tong has something to do with it; maybe we can just blame the good old passage of time, but Sui/Han did more than just win silver at Skate Canada—they looked, more than ever before, like a long-term future for China.

+  As for a long-term future for U.S. pairs... eh, we’re still working on that. But in the meantime, our reigning Junior champs Madeline Aaron/Max Settlage are certainly doing their part. Not just at SkCan, where they finished a solid 4th, but at SkAM a couple weeks ago (finishing 5th), Nebelhorn a few weeks before that (6th), and even the U.S. Classic a few weeks ahead of that (3rd). Busy much?? Thankfully, The King and I—I mean, “she”... get a well-deserved rest, of sorts, for the rest of the year before heading into their Nationals senior debut.


GOLD: Weaver/Poje (CAN)
SILVER: Gilles/Poirier (CAN)
BRONZE: Hubbell/Donohue (USA)

+  Gilles/Poirier for the surprise silver! I did pretty well with most of my SkCan predictions-- except here in Dance, where I couldn’t find silver and bronze to save my life. Apparently I should’ve put more faith in my Dark Horse choice. I couldn’t imagine saying that after watching Poirier’s twizzles spin out of orbit during the SD, but they pulled it together nicely the next day. Guess their old-fashion-ish FD (set to four different pieces of music that I’m just not going to name here, sorry) is going over better with the judges than Psycho did—at least so far.

+  Let’s talk about Hubbell/Donohue’s FD, set to music from the Great Gatsby soundtrack. I wanted to like it, I really did. But I didn’t... at least not yet. I’m glad they won bronze here, but even their FD score (in the high 80s, compared to 90+ for both U.S. dance teams at SkAM a week earlier) seemed to reflect a certain sense of “meh”. Or maybe I’m just missing something. What did you think?

 Obviously Weaver/Poje were finally able to move out of the bridesmaid role and claim their first SkCan title in fine fashion. Less obvious, to me, were enough problems in the Hurtado/Diaz FD to set them solidly in last place (a place they were NOT in following the SD).  I like this up-and-coming couple very much, and it usually seems the judges do as well...but I couldn’t find any egregious errors here and I’m puzzled. Ice dance details are not my strong suit, though. Can anyone else explain it?


GOLD: Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
SILVER: Ashley Wagner (USA)
BRONZE: Satoko Miyahara (JPN)

+   I think many people thought this event was Ashley Wagner’s to lose, but as you know I called it for eventual winner Anna Pogorilaya. What I didn’t make clear in the predictions post was that I did so almost entirely for content/difficulty reasons. Even before I saw the already-retooled-since-Japan-Open Wagner FS... knowing the jumping passes Pogorilaya is capable of, and executes with fair success in most every program (save for her apparent nemesis, the SP double axel), it simply seemed that those points would pile up quickly. Add in the more likeable FS this season—maybe not saying much, but I still prefer her “Firebird” to her “Mermaid” of last year—and the strong PCS scores were sure to follow. Even against the more complete, mature package that is Wagner.

+  Speaking of Wagner: Spartacus SP was very nice (another Adam Rippon choreo project, if I’m not mistaken). Moulin Rouge FS... not my favorite, but I can live with it. The jumping strategies involved are actually more interesting to me right now than the programs. Yes, the skating purist in me cringes at that sentence as it shakes a fist at the sky and growls “Curse you, IJS!!” But I know Wagner’s skating by now, and how it’s grown in eight years on the senior circuit. So if she and her team want to tinker with the jump placement, jump combos, and even (in the case of her lutz) jump omissions, all in order to maximize points... I say tinker away. (As long as she keeps doing all she can to get things rotated.)

+  Satoko Miyahara. Is that name burned into your brain yet? Methinks it just might be by the end of this season. She’s special. She might be Akiko Suzuki-special, with time. And if the puberty monster is kind, of course... (she’s 16 and not even 5 feet tall yet).

Back later with Cup of China predictions!


physics girl said...

Can we call Aaron/Settlage "Mad Max"? :)

Kelli Lawrence said...

I like it!!!