Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Beer, Brats & Skate America: A Milwaukee Roundup (Dance & Men)


+      According to the total scores at the most recent Worlds (if not a consensus of skating fans), less than five points separates the reigning gold medalists, Papadakis/Cizeron of France, from reigning bronze (Canada’s Weaver/Poje). In between the two are Chock/Bates, who won this event last season with scores remarkably similar to what they won with this time (70.56 for the SD; 102.66 for the FD)... though most I heard from agree that C/B continues to grow and refine themselves as a team in this, their fifth season together. Incidentally, this current FD (to Rachmaninoff selections) is their first time using classical music since going with Chopin in their initial season.

+      What a difference a season makes for Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov! Last fall they were a newly-minted, post-Sochi dance team that was still finding its feet. They fared so badly at one event—NHK Trophy—that Katsalapov, a reigning Olympic Bronze Medalist (with Elena Ilinykh), had the dubious honor of receiving the lowest free dance technical score of any team in the GP series that season. But he and Sinitsina made dim memories of all that with last weekend’s performances (particularly with their “Io Ci Saro” FD). Yes, they were still a good 11 points behind Chock/Bates; nonetheless, silver had to look pretty fine overall.

+      Meanwhile, Canada’s Gilles/Poirier—who did no worse than 2nd at the GP events last year—had to settle for bronze behind the Most Improved Russians. As firmly as C/P is now embracing the quirk in each and every program, I have to wonder if they will find themselves “settling” (and thinking they deserved better) more and more often. Quirky ice dance history suggests the odds lean towards that conclusion... but I DO hope they keep it up, as I enjoy them most of the time.* *Except for their Sgt. Pepper-inspired SD costumes—yikes. Keep it on the album cover, kids.

+      A very Honorable Mention to the two other U.S. dance teams at SkAM, both of whom, interestingly enough, are doing FDs this year that pay tribute to famous men as they become afflicted with hearing loss (Beethoven, for Cannuscio/McManus) and ALS (Stephen Hawking, for Hawayek/Baker).


+      MAX! There probably hasn’t been this much attention on Max Aaron since he won his “surprise” U.S. title in 2013. Back then, it was for marvelous quad jumps and the fact that he had one or two of them and no other American man really did (at least, not as consistently). As for now... remember when Peggy Fleming routinely cited a couple of skaters each season, saying “And this is what ____ has really been working on this year... the artistic side...”? Well, it applies exponentially to Aaron from what I’ve heard—and now seen. John Curry he may never be, but Aaron’s own brand of artistry is really starting to come through. Hopefully that gold medal he earned last weekend is also providing a much-needed sense of validation. We’ll see how it goes when he competes at TEB in a few weeks.

+      UNO! He has the power of Hanyu, the knees of Oda, the emerging style of Takahashi... or is it the power of Takahashi, the grace of Hanyu... ah, whatever. He’s seventeen. SEVENTEEN! With (hopefully) miles to go until his skating career sleeps, so he can take his time emerging as whatever kind of athlete he wishes to be. For now, silver at his GP debut is a pretty good start.

+      BROWN! I predicted him for bronze, but wasn’t sure he’d finish anywhere near it after seeing his 8th place SP. Kind of a mixed bag for him here... yes, his components/artistry are everything we’re coming to expect, but the slip in jump consistency is a little concerning, considering he’s at a disadvantage. Yes, he’s getting closer on his quad-in-competition, but in the meantime his absolutely-must-have triple axel (not to mention triple axel/triple toe) still seems shaky half the time. Hopefully Brown’s persistently upbeat nature will keep him moving in the direction he belongs.

+      KERRY! (As in BRENDAN!) You may not have seen much of him before—this was his GP debut. And you may not see much of him again for several months—this was his only GP appearance. But the 20 year-old Australian threw down one of only a few successful quads in the SkAM Men’s free skate, and earned himself an ISU personal best score that was good enough for 8th overall.

+      TEN?? I didn’t expect Denis Ten to skate well in Milwaukee, but that’s because he never does well in the GP events (with only one GP medal to his name in 7 seasons of competition). What we know now is that he skated with at least one or two injuries, and probably left his FS with at least a few more. He’s already indicated he might scratch from his other GP assignment (TEB); at this point, I’ll be downright alarmed if he does show up.

+n      MINER? AMODIO? Both men have had their moments in the GP sun from time to time—two bronze medals for Ross Miner, two bronzes and a silver for Florent Amodio. Both men are now in their mid-20s. Their respective styles couldn’t be more different, but it’s their technical content—or lack thereof—that they also have in common of late. For Miner (finishing 7th here), he’s not skating badly per se—but his once semi-reliable quad salchow is AWOL, and he doesn’t have the triple/triples, let alone the Brown-esque artistry, to rise above the pack as he has in the past. As for Amodio (down in 11th), whose last significant top 5 finishes happened three whole seasons ago—aaugh! Every performance is a technical roller coaster with more plunging lows than hopeful highs, leaving us (and surely him) feeling rattled and asking “what just happened??”

That’s it for Skate America in review... Skate Canada is up next! I’ll bring the preview and predictions sometime before the SPs get underway.

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