Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Shanghai Shenanigans: 2015 Cup of China in Review (Men & Ice Dance)

My first site of the Cup of China Men’s Final did NOT involve a guy with his head swaddled in bandages this year. And that’s a good thing. Even if the Men’s Final was lacking in terms of excitement—or excitement per capita, at least, given the amazement surrounding one particular competitor. (And big-time underperformance of my longshot pick—Elladj Balde—for bronze. Ugh!) Let’s get into it—

+  U.S. Guy #1 (Richard Dornbush, finishing 7th) had muddled his quad toe attempt but was surely looking forward to nailing the rest of his SP ) had muddled his quad toe attempt but was surely looking forward to nailing the rest of his SP when YIKES!!! Along came one of the worst (or best, depending on your viewpoint) case of waxelitis I’ve ever seen. He caught his toepick on the launch, and instead of being up in the air for a triple axel he was skidding across the ice on his hands and knees like a speed skater breaking hearts at the Olympics. Zero points. Non-element. Which had at least something to do with Dornbush trailing far behind...

+ U.S. Guy #2 (Grant Hochstein, finishing 4th). Kind of like Stephen Carriere at last year’s Skate Canada, Hochstein went from being a GP also-ran to someone who more than made the most of his spot on the comeback. His quad wasn’t there (he doubled it), but his triple axels and the rest of his repertoire was solid and polished. Yes, it helped that much of the competition was quad-poor and overall meh—particularly with 3rd and 4th place SP’ers Sergei Voronov and Song Nan falling to 5th and 9th, respectively—but hopefully this finish will give Hochstein a nice boost as he trains for Nationals.

+ Yan Han (of China, winning bronze) was half of last year’s warmup collision (the half that did not sport a head wrap later) and he ended up in 6th overall... quite a difference from the gold he was able to grab at this event in ’13. This year he split the difference and came away with bronze—which I’m happy about, as I’m fond of his skating—but it wasn’t a gangbusters event for him. In fact, his overall score here was about 6 points below his Skate America score from a few weeks ago (where he finished off the podium). Seems strange to say this, but at age the ripe old age of 19 (!!) I hope he can get his “youthful” mojo back sooner than later.

+  Is Yan intimidated in any way by Jin Boyang, a.k.a. the hotshot who wheeled off quad lutzes last weekend like they were waltz jumps? Frankly, I think it’s a little soon to name Jin as heir to Javi’s (or Yuzuru’s, or Chan’s) throne. Yes, he can jump. Nearly 100 TES points (!!!) underscored that at this event. But he can also bungle a jump or two. And get sloppy. And had only the 6th best artistic score (and some would call that generous). Bottom line? He’s barely 18 years old, just out of Juniors, and just over 5’1” at this point. It’s exciting that he’s raising the quad bar, but as with so many other things... time will tell. (So will NHK Trophy, where he’ll appear next.)

+  As for our reigning World Champ Javier Fernandez, there is good news and bad news. The good—I love both his programs this year (as opposed to just his SP last season). I don’t know if that was the majority opinion or not, particularly with Guys & Dolls (his FS, highlighted with Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady”), but I’m quite fond of that show—and its music—and appreciate seeing it here on the ice, skated with David Wilson’s fine choreography. The bad news? He’s in the same sort of GP shape he’s been in for the past few years. Which is to say... not so great. The last 90 seconds of his FS looked like he was running on fumes, with his final spin in danger of grinding to a halt and toppling him over. The difference is that now he’s World Champion... a title that some might say he only won because Patrick Chan wasn’t there and Yuzuru Hanyu wasn’t 100%. I guess I’m saying I wish he’d live up to the title a little more. We’ll see what he’s got at Rostelecom Cup in a couple of weeks.

+  A Chinese team (Cong/Sun) withdrew before the dance event got underway, and an American team (Hawayek/Baker) withdrew before the free dance was complete due to Hawayek suffering from food poisoning (!!). So only six teams finished this event, and the three that reached the podium are collectively loaded down with World and Olympic medals. So, not much of a challenge there. But their placement on the podium? Another story...

+ Cappellini/Lanotte (winning 1st) have been on the GP circuit since 2006, finishing everywhere from 8th to 2nd and making the Final three different times. This was their 11th GP medal, and the first gold one. With this new FD—a Fellini medley, skated with a lot of charm and character and cool straight-line lifts—they are clearly poised to get back on the podium they missed at Worlds last March.

+ Were they better than Chock/Bates (winning 2nd)? I don’t have the expertise to take a crack at ice dance; I can only tell you from an error standpoint that Chock had a small mistake on the first round of twizzles in the SD, and I read that they got a couple of “level 2s” in some part of this competition. For me, their Rachmaninoff FD flows like one long scarlet ribbon rippling through the winter sky—and their over FD score was actually a little better here than at Skate America, where they did win 1st. So they presumably just need to keep doing what they do as they head towards the GP Final (for which they’ve now qualified).

+  Ilinykh/Zhiganshin (finishing 3rd) made it especially interesting with their SD choices for a waltz tempo (Queen’s “Somebody to Love”) and a march (Queen again with “We Will Rock You”), both of which worked quite well. But their FD to the Frida soundtrack was a bit underwhelming for me. The judges may see it differently, though: the 95+ points they earned for it at CoC rivals the score they got for their FD at the end of last season (at Worlds). (But for those keeping score with her former partner, I/Z finished 4 points behind Sinitsina/Katsalapov’s silver-medal FD score at Skate America in October.

I’ll talk about CoC Ladies and Pairs soon! 

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