Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Great 4CC/Euros Score Mashup of 2015

Did you know the Four Continents Championship is kinda sorta considered the equivalent of the European Championships? It’s a funny thought for me, if only to look at how long each has been around. Euros is the oldest of the four annual “ISU Championships”—it started in 1891, even pre-dating World Championships by five years!—while the inaugural 4CC didn’t happen till more than a century later (1999).

But 4CC came to be at a time when Japan and China were fast becoming skating superpowers, and the North American Championships (a biennial event between the U.S. and Canada) had its last hurrah way back in 1971. What’s more, elite skaters now come from all corners of the world. Some of them may never come near an international top 10 finish, let alone make the podium. But they’re hard-working, qualified athletes that deserve more than one high-profile event at which to compete, and 4CC provides that.

But the equivalent of Euros? I don’t think so... 

At least that’s what I might have said a decade ago, when 4CC felt a lot more like a consolation prize than a noteworthy competition. 

In fact, I used to call it the NIT Tournament for figure skating... a reference you’ll only get if you follow college basketball (go Google it!). It still applies at times, such as when Ashley Wagner opts out of the event and Samantha Cesario finds herself with one more international competition this season after all. But if you watched—either online, or in the tape-delayed coverage NBC offered —then you know there were some very good performances there in Seoul. Very good. Worlds-podium good, in fact.

In fact, I got curious: if you put together the scores of the top finishers from both 4CC and Euros, how would they compare? What sort of top 10 would you get?

Here’s what I came up with (understanding that I deleted the names/scores of athletes from 4CC that are not currently scheduled to compete at Worlds)...

MEN

1) Denis Ten (KAZ)—289.46 @ 4CC
2) Javier Fernandez (ESP)—262.49 @ Euros
3) Joshua Farris (USA)—260.01 @ 4CC
4) Yan Han (CHN)—259.47 @4CC
5) Jason Brown (USA)—243.21 @4CC
6) Takahito Mura (JPN)—235.75 @4CC
7) Maxim Kovtun (RUS)—235.68 @Euros
8) Sergei Voronov (RUS)—233.05 @Euros
9) Misha Ge (UZB)—226.20 @4CC
10) Alexei Bychenko (ISR)—220.22 @Euros
11) Michal Brezina (CZE)—220.11 @Euros
12) Peter Liebers (GER)—213.57 @Euros
13) Adam Rippon (USA)—212.30 @4CC

With this mash-up and the others I’ve done, it’s easy to think this is a foreteller of Worlds itself. IT ISN’T. Performances might differ radically (as we all know), judges will likely be different, and few believe all tech specialists are created equal (meaning some will cite edge calls and underrotations more frequently than others). That’s to say nothing of the impact of the location, the travel, the Shanghai crowds they’ll be skating to... even the food sometimes factors in! Plus, in the case of the men's list, there is the notable absence of Yuzuru Hanyu, who will be competing for the first time since undergoing surgery just after Japanese Nationals (assuming he’ll be in Shanghai at all).

But pretend, just for a minute, that these scores DID tell the story for Worlds. (After all, they’re certainly in the range of World-class finishes.)  What could we gather from them?

-- That Ten (or DTen, as he’s called in events that also feature Canada’s Jeremy Ten) is either in a great place for another Worlds medal—maybe even gold—
...or he’s “good for one great event a year”, as Johnny Weir said in NBC’s coverage of 4CC, and something dastardly will come between him and his best jumps in Shanghai. (I know that of which Weir spoke, but still hope Ten can shed that reputation in a few weeks.)

-- That Farris could prove to be our top-ranked US man at Worlds, even though he finished 3rd at Nationals. Hopefully he isn’t freaking out too much about that possibility.

-- That Brown must’ve been feeling the pressure (after those Nationals press conferences, if nothing else) to stick his toe into the quad pool. 4CC was as good a competition as any to do so, even if it factored into his substandard score. Will he attempt it at Worlds? I hope not.

-- That as excited as we were when Rippon conquered his Nationals demons in January... I’m not sure he can also “conquer” Worlds this time around. :-(

Here’s what the LADIES mash-up looks like:

1) Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)—210.40 @Euros
2) Elena Radionova (RUS)—209.54 @Euros
3) Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)—191.81 @Euros
4) Polina Edumunds (USA)—184.02 @4CC
5) Satoko Miyahara (JPN)—181.59 @4CC
6) Rika Hongo (JPN)—177.44 @4CC
7) Gracie Gold (USA)—176.58 @4CC
8) Li Zijun (CHN)—175.92 @4CC
9) Joshi Helgesson (SWE)—169.07 @Euros
10) Gabrielle Daleman (CAN)—167.09@4CC

So yeah, there’s the Russian Trifecta... and then there’s all the rest of the world-class ladies. It looks like the Grand Prix Final podium all over again, except that of course Ashley Wagner won bronze over Pogorilaya (Wagner won bronze with a 189.50; Pogo fared better this time around while Wagner opted out of 4CC). Even best-of-the-4CC-bunch Edmunds would have been several points from the Worlds podium. Granted, neither Miyahara nor Gold (especially Gold!) was anywhere near their best in South Korea. But the thing about Tukta and Radio this season is they almost always seem at their best. Their artistry (particularly Radio’s) might not be that of a grown woman’s yet, but their technical consistency is mind-boggling and tough to minimize. And that’s not even counting the possibility of Tukta attempting a triple axel in Shanghai!

While I don’t know that her total score would have put her on the podium, it’s worth noting that Kiira Korpi was in the mix at Euros (4th after SP) before she withdrew due to illness.

As for the PAIRS:

1) Duhamel/Radford (CAN)—219.48 @4CC
2) Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)—207.67 @Euros
3) Peng/Zhang (CHN)—201.45 @4CC
(Stolbova/Klimov (RUS)—201.11 @Euros)
4) Pang/Tong (CHN)—199.99 @4CC
5) Wenjing/Cong (CHN)—198.88 @4CC
6) Scimeca/Knierim (USA)—187.98 @4CC
7) Tarasova/Morozov (RUS)—183.02 @Euros
8) Marchei/Hotarek (ITA)—175.39 @Euros
9) Iliushechkina/Moscovitch (CAN)—173.50 @4CC
10) Denney/Frazier (USA)—167.57 @4CC
11) James/Cipres (FRA)—167.29 @Euros
(Kayne/O’Shea (USA)—166.67 @4CC)

I know Kayne/O’Shea won’t be at Worlds; I just wanted to show where they’d fit in the mix.

I also kept Stolbova/Klimov’s score in there to show where’d they be—allowing that their Euros performance, which included a throw jump error early in the program and a complete non-attempt on their closing throw triple salchow (thanks to a massive toe pick trip on Klimov’s part), was easily the worst we’ve seen from them. Of course the reason they’re in parentheses is their surprise WD announcement regarding Worlds... reportedly so they could turn their focus to next season a month or two early. How wide are the speculations running, I wonder? Could the reigning Olympic Silver Medalists be breaking up? (Or at least “legally separated” based on that death glare Stolbova let loose after their FS was over?) Could one of them be nursing an injury that they don’t want to make public? What possibilities have YOU considered?

One thing’s for sure: with S/K out of Worlds, Canada’s Duhamel/Radford will be favored for the title in what’s clearly their Best Season Ever.

And finally, DANCE...

1) Papadakis/Cizeron (FRA)—179.97 @Euros
2) Weaver/Poje (CAN)—177.46 @4CC
3) Chock/Bates (USA)—176.18 @4CC
4) Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)—171.52 @Euros
5) Shibutani/Shibutani (USA)—170.79 @4CC
6) Gilles/Poirier (CAN)—162.25 @4CC
7) Stepanova/Bukin (RUS)—160.95 @Euros
8) Ilinykh/Zhiganshin (RUS)—159.93 @Euros
9) Hurtado/Diaz (ESP)—155.81 @Euros
10) Guignard/Fabbri (ITA)—154.61 @Euros

If nothing else, this mash-up confirms that Papa/Ciz could very well cap off their breakout season with World Gold. Should they? I enjoy their skating very much this season, but I’m no ice dance expert, so whether or not their skyrocketing scores (compared to last year, where they finished 13th at Worlds) are justified, I cannot say. And while it’s wonderful that a team no longer has to “wait their turn” if their performances are undeniably top-notch, I have to wonder... is it possible that, in the struggle to determine The Next Big Ice Dancing Thing in a post D/W and V/M era, the judges have opted to reach around the cluster of heirs to the throne (Weaver/Poje, Cappellini/Lanotte, Chock/Bates, and even Ilinykh/Zhiganshin, though their FD at Euros was a mess) and start fresh with Papa/Ciz?


Just a thought; perhaps not a very sound one at that. What’s your take?

1 comment:

sara.raju said...

I don't think Papadakis/Cizeron will win Worlds, and I don't think they should either. I think its high time for Weaver/Poje to take a medal at worlds and hopefully a gold.