Thursday, November 20, 2014

Moscow in a Minute: 2014 Rostelecom Cup in Review

Revenge of the Dark Horses!!

That’s my subtitle for this Rostelecom in Review... mostly because it sounds so much better than I couldn’t pick a podium to save my life this week. To summarize:

+      My dark horse pick of Rika Hongo upset Anna Pogorilaya for the ladies title.
+      My dark horse picks of Sergei Voronov and Michal Brezina finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, behind Javier Fernandez.
+      My dark horse pick of Coomes/Buckland claimed bronze (their first GP medal in 5 years of trying!)
n      And my dark horse pick of Astakhova/Rogonov also claimed bronze! (Over my original bronze medal pick of Denney/Frazier. By 1/100th of a point. 
OK, never mind; I’m not happy about that one at all.)

But what else did we learn last weekend? Well..

+      Even Pogorilaya’s not a perfect jumping machine; and the pressure of being the “heavy favorite” on home ice surely didn’t help. I’m really, really hoping she didn’t overhear someone muttering “Good thing we didn’t send HER to Sochi, eh?” Because I’m sure she’s got enough on her mind.
+      As I alluded to before, Denney/Frazier is the 2nd U.S. skater/team this GP season to miss out on bronze by the smallest fraction of a point (Stephen Carriere being the first to do so, at Skate Canada). The fact that it happened on Russian turf, among a fleet of Russian pairs, just twists the knife a little. (And that they finished four points ahead of two such pairs in the free skate? Agony.)
+      Even Jason Brown cannot be happy all the time. No it wasn’t his best weekend, competitively speaking (he was 5th, which all but ended his chances of making the GP Final), and that might wipe the smile off of anyone’s face. But young Jason had also received word on this trip that his agent, Shep Goldberg, passed away from cancer last week. (Goldberg was perhaps best known in the skating world as longtime agent of Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek; this article by Amy Rosewater can tell you more about him.) So that moment when he covered his face with his hands at the end of the program? Probably more about the wealth of emotions that comes with one’s passing than anything else.
+      Brezina can land his quad salchow in competition! And when he does, he’s better able to sustain his energy throughout his free skate! No, I don’t have a lot of facts to back this up... just his Moscow performance, actually. But it’s a start, and he needed that pretty badly considering this was the first medal he’s won on the GP circuit in 2 years. While (as I said a few weeks back on Twitter) I can’t help but see Ryan Bradley following him and mocking his every move to this Mozart/Marriage of Figaro FS... hey, whatever it takes!
+      I guess my new Russian dance team of choice (Stepanova/Bukin) isn’t All That when skating alongside Ilinykh/Zhiganshin (or IZ as I might start to call them). Or, at least, when IZ is making its major Russian unveiling on the heels of Sinitsina/Katsalapov’s major Russian unveiling. The audience love was clearly on IZ’s side, and that wasn’t just because they outscored S/K by 13 points.
+      Remember that thing I said about breakout athletes and seemingly dull-without-the-stars competition? I have a few examples for you now: Misha Ge of UZB (finishing 4th), surprise winner Rika Hongo of JPN, Alaine Chartrand of CAN (winning bronze), both just-out-of-juniors pairs teams from RUS (winning silver and bronze), and Kaitlyn Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker from the U.S... they didn’t win a medal; in fact, they finished 6th of 8. But their Romeo &Juliet free dance really clicked for me, and not just because it wasn’t THAT R&J... or even THAT one. (It was music from a U.K. version released in 2013. Yup, I looked it up.)
+      NBC lessons part 1: Send Terry Gannon to cover golf in Mexico, and the skating natives get restless. (Apparently THAT is where Gannon was last week. But hopefully not THIS week.)
n      NBC lessons part 2: If you are an ice dance team from the U.S. and your last name doesn’t start with a D or W, you’d better kick some serious ice with two GP victories if you want them to throw you a crumb of coverage. By “ice dance team” I mean Chock/Bates, and by “crumb” I mean 15 seconds. Let’s look on the bright side, though: if C/B happen to win the GP Final, they might give them an entire 30 seconds!

What will Trophee Eric Bompard bring us this weekend? I’ll be back later on tonight with a preview... and hopefully a decent prediction or two. Or five... five wouldn’t be bad.

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