Thursday, March 31, 2016

When the World(s) Came to Boston: World Championship predictions pt. 2


GOLD: Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
SILVER: Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
BRONZE: Elena Radionova (RUS)
Dark Horse: Mao Asada (JPN)

Best U.S. finish: Gracie Gold, 4th

Here is the difference, in my book anyway, between someone I predict to finish 4th and one that I cast as the “Dark Horse”: the latter is a wild card. In this case... if Asada can put things together like she has a hundred times before, she’s a definite threat to the podium. If she skates like she has most of this season... different story.

As for our chances of “ending the drought” in terms of U.S. medals in this discipline? Yes, I think we have a chance. But I went ahead and predicted Wagner for the podium last year, and she ended up 5th. So I’m swinging the opposite way this time... simple as that J

So yes, I’ve got Medvedeva on top like so many others. I DO think there is upset potential via Miyahara, whose skating I admittedly prefer to Med’s. But any potential errors aside, I know Miyahara still has smallish jumps that are starting to (have been??) get tagged for edge calls and underrotations. She’s consistent as can be, but this may not be her year. On the other hand, Med has been on fire all year as if she knows her “moment” will expire in a few short months... and as Russian skating dynamos go, that could prove to be true. (Looking at you, Maria Sotskova.)

GOLD: Volosohzar/Trankov (RUS)
BRONZE: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
Dark Horse: Stolbova/Klimov (RUS) and Savchenko/Massot (GER)

Top U.S. placement: Kayne/O’Shea, 7th

This is so hard!! I feel a lot more familiar with Du/Rad and Sui/Han currently than Volo/Trank (and especially “newbies” Sav/Mass), so my reasoning on this predictions goes like this:

1) Volo/Trank have about as solid a reputation as can be had in this sport (oh, and an OGM too)
2) Sui/Han looked breathtaking at 4CC a few weeks ago.
3) Du/Rad had had a tumultuous year, sometimes through no fault of their own
4) Sav/Mass fought long and hard to get the right to compete... but above all else, they’re still quite new compared to the other names mentioned here.

And FINALLY... a small wish list of things I’d really like to see in Boston
(Aside from, you know, everyone skating their best followed by fair, honest judging)

1) For Wagner to shred that SP (and Asada with her FS) like they did the first time competing with it.

2) For U.S. pair teams to land their SBS jumps.

3) For U.S. men to Find A Way to three spots again.

4) For at least one of the top 3 men to “skate like we know they can” so we’re not needing to explain the podium to our friends all off-season long

That’s all I’ve got! As usual, look for me on Twitter @ KLBSt8ofSk8!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When the World(s) Came to Boston: World Figure Skating Predictions Pt. 1



Are you ready?? I’m not. I mean yes, I’m ready for the season-climaxing, wall-to-wall coverage that I’ve heard about both from IceNetwork and NBC Sports (if you have NBC SN, that is—and yeay, I do). But I don’t have the times embedded in my brain yet... I haven’t read a ton of practice notes... I don’t even know what color Adam’s hair is!! (No, that’s a lie. It’s brown. Still brown, pretty much like at Nationals. I think. Whew.)

For better or worse, I haven’t even looked at others’ predictions for the podium. So if these guesses I’m making for DANCE and the MEN (both of whom get started on Wednesday) look eerily like another blogger/writer/fan’s, we’re just going to have to live with it. OK? OK. Let’s get to it...

GOLD: Papadakis/Cizeron (FRA)
SILVER: Weaver/Poje (CAN)
BRONZE: Shibutani/Shibutani (USA)

Dark Horse: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)

Let me be clear: I would enjoy a Wea/Po victory here very much... especially with the Virtue/Moir comeback looming. But seeing how exceptional the Pap/Ciz work is again makes me think they are destined to be more than one-hit wonders. As for the Shibs in the bronze spot, repeating what they did in their debut season at this event... they are ON FIRE. I want them to medal. Very, very much.

But with Cappellini/Lannote and Chock/Bates at their heels (and yes, I prefer to think of it that way than the other way around!), it won’t be easy!

Assuming I’m somehow right about the podium (the teams if not the order), I will guess Hubbell/Donohue to end up in 8th place (they were 10th last year), and Chock/Bates to take a dip down to 5th. FIFTH?? Yeah, maybe.

But if I’m wrong, remember... I go all on instinct with this discipline. (Translated: I don’t know nuttin’ ‘bout dance.)

GOLD: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
SILVER: Javier Fernandez (ESP)
BRONZE: Patrick Chan (CAN)

Dark Horse: Jin Boyang (CHN), Denis Ten (KAZ)

Best U.S. Finish: Adam Rippon, 6th

This discipline has the biggest ‘can’t wait’ moments as far as I’m concerned. Armed with so much risk/reward... and so much artistic excellence... that I’ve got (arguably) the best jumper in the event with only an outsider’s chance at medaling! But on the “risk” side is a whole mess-o-quads and triple axels (and more!), so you know as well as I do that this could go many different ways. I think I’m choosing this particular way based on the variety and consistency of performances we’ve seen this season. And I say the following to Chan in particular: keep it together, Pat. There are some highly worthy guys who might keep you from ANY spot on that podium if you blow up the SP this time. (I’m including Rippon on that unseen list... especially if he’s able to nail a quad lutz like I’ve seen and heard about in practices! Ooh that would be sweet... Sigh. But I digress.)

By the way, I’m figuring Max Aaron somewhere in the 7th-10th range and Grant Hochstein placing 11th-14th . I hope they prove me wrong and (at least) go all top 10!

More predictions (and maybe a Worlds Wish List) tomorrow!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Five Observations from 2016 Four Continents

We’re still four weeks away from Worlds, so I’m declaring I have not yet exceeded the statute of limitations for a Four Continents review!! Hooray! Here we go...

Five Observations from Four CC 2016

1)The “Chan-pion” gets the last gloriously skated laugh... for now.
One of the biggest complaints about Patrick Chan is that he typically misses out, at least in part, on that “skating to one’s full potential” thing. Of course that’s what happens when one’s full potential is so freaking HUGE, right? But he delivered at 4CC. Mercy, did he ever. I mentioned he got his competitive groove back at Canadian Nationals, but even then, the 2nd triple-axel-in-the-free-skate thing eluded him—this, after acknowledging he needs additional content to stay competitive among the Hanyus, Jins and Fernandezes (Fernandii?) of the skating world. At 4CC, he nailed EVERYTHING, which was precisely what was necessary to come back from a 5th place SP to squeak a victory over increasingly stunning Boy Jumper Jin Boyang.

And that’s what’s notable as well: completely glorious as Chan’s FS was here, the score he received for it (203.99) still can’t touch Yuzuru Hanyu’s transcendent GPF performance from December. This is where the sport is at right now on its best days—untouchably special.

2) The U.S. guys are at it again. Or not...
The men’s SP wasn’t even over yet and I could see the tweeted headlines before they were even written: THREE SPOTS AT 2017 WORLDS FOR U.S. MEN? NOT LIKELY. And, unfortunately, they’d have a point. Max Aaron looked pained each time he finished a program at 4CC, and somewhat humiliated each time he awaited the bad news in the K&C (ultimately finishing 7th). Not a disaster—that dubious honor was reserved for Ross Miner, particularly his SP—but Aaron’s total of 220.94 would have only been good enough for 13th place at last year’s Worlds. And his score was the best of the U.S. guys in attendance; Grant Hochstein apparently fell victim to one of the strains of illness plaguing a number of competitors (see below) and skated well below his season average to finish just behind Aaron, in 8th.

So all we need by the start of Worlds is for Hochstein to get healthy again... for Aaron to relocate whatever sent him to the top at Skate America earlier in the season... and for Adam Rippon to keep doing what he does and add a consistent quad lutz to the mix.

Easy-peasy, right??

3) The Nagasu Mystique
It’s often a maddening thing to root for Mirai Nagasu. A high-ranking SP will beget a lackluster FS. A “pretty good” program will leave you wondering why it wasn’t a “great” program. And what seems like a showstopper performance will suddenly slam on the brakes when the judges have their say about edge calls and under-rotations. But here—kind of like at Nats, but even moreso, and without the pesky ripped-boot issues(!!)—Nagasu found her groove and skated right on with it to win silver behind Satoko Miyahara (who gave yet another pair of stunning performances). And for those of you wishing Nagasu could somehow find her way to the Worlds team from here, consider this factoid: in her nine years of competing at the senior level at Nats, Nagasu has only made ONE Worlds appearance to date (2010, where she finished 7th).           
4)Falls from Grace(ee).
I know that’s not how you spell her first name, but I guess I drew the short straw this time for having some headline fun with part of her name. Anyway, Gracie Gold’s downright miserable SP (and some subsequent references to her “not feeling fully prepared” for 4CC) leave one to wonder a number of things about this event. Anything from Will the timing of this competition EVER line up well with U.S. Nationals? To timing-schmiming; will Gracie EVER skate well enough long enough to build up any international momentum? I’m glad she rallied as well as she did in the FS, and I don’t really see this affecting what she does at Worlds (after all, she has yet to make it to the 4CC podium in three attempts). All I’m saying is that if the top U.S. ladies could just take a sip or two from the Mirahara (or Medvedeva, for that matter) Well of Consistency, that would be GREAT.    

5) All the highest-ranked U.S. skaters faltered, except...
Now let's see... Gold had a miserable SP, Aaron had a handful of miserable mistakes scattered across his programs, and Kayne/O’Shea were ill-at-ease all event long (or, we learned later, just plain ill in Tarah Kayne’s case). The exception to this year’s 4CC rule? The Shib Sibs, of course. I say “of course” because they appear to be riding a wave unlike any they’ve seen since maybe their first season as seniors. They did more here than hold their own; more than defeat Chock/Bates again... they defeated EVERYONE, giving Canada’s Weaver/Poje (who won bronze, behind Shibs and C/B) a disappointing end to what had to be an unsettling week... you’ve heard that Virtue/Moir plan to return to competition next year, right?

I wouldn’t have said this with much confidence in December, but can Maia and Alex be anything BUT Worlds podium contenders now?