Thursday, October 27, 2016

2016 Skate America Post-Mortem: 7 (!) U.S. Medals and Much, Much More

Before I get into my Skate America notes, a word about skating fantasy leagues… actually, four words: I don’t do them. I’ve looked at the basics of one league or another from time to time, and they look like a lot of fun—but they also tend to require more of my free time than I’m willing to give up. (And if you follow this blog with any regularity you know how difficult it is for me at times to simply keep this updated! I really shouldn’t be taking any other skating tasks on, should I?)

Having said all that, I present the little scoring system I’ve devised for my own predictions that may or may not be fantasy-similar (How is it that I haven’t done this before now??):

3 points per correctly placed podium name
2 points per correctly predicted podium name
1 point per Dark Horse that reaches the podium (1/2 a point if I listed 2 Dark Horses)

So of 36 possible points, I managed 20 with my SkAM predictions—4 for the men, 5 for the ladies, 4 for the pairs, and 7 for dance. Lots of room for improvement! And I hope to step it forward with my Skate Canada predictions, which will be out Thursday or Friday (the first event, the ladies SP, hits at 2:57 ET). But before we get there, here are some of the things that snared my attention at 2016 Skate America:


Jason Brown’s quad toe vs. Adam Rippon’s quad toe is an awesome conversation I didn’t expect anyone to be having, yet there it was, the comparison of Brown’s 1st-ever-in-competition 4T (deemed UR by the judges) with Rippon’s 4T-not-4Lz, on which he took a fall but was still deemed fully rotated. Jason DID score higher, but the lower base value made it only a 6.97 over Rippon’s 6.30.

But Shoma Uno had quad toes (and quad flips!!) and overall components that kept him well in charge of the SkAM title this year, so let’s instead savor the artistic value of both Brown’s “Scent of Love” FS (a holdover from last season, given that he barely got to use it), another lovely step in his maturity… and Rippon’s “Birdman” FS, which is not officially called “Birdman” but I’m going with it anyway. Remember when Akiko Suzuki became a bird via her 2012-13 free skate? Rippon’s program shows us the human male embodiment of birds is just as intriguing.  And in the SkAM field deep with quad jumpers of note (Jin, Voronov, Kovtun), Rippon still managed to skate his two successful quad-less programs all the way to his first GP medal (bronze) in three years and his fourth GP medal overall.


Ashley Wagner speaks often of how she prefers the underdog role in competition, but with a World silver medal now in her cache, being the underdog is bound to be tougher to come by. Fortunately she does well as a “favorite” too, as she proved over the weekend. No, she didn’t win the FS outright; that honor went to teammate and new rink-mate Mariah Bell, who made her 8th-place debut at last year’s SkAM a distant memory with her soaring “East of Eden” program, complete with a landed 3Lz and a 3Lz/3T. But Wagner’s far-above-average components are beyond dispute at this point in her career. “Exogenesis Part 3” might be forever connected to Jeremy Abbott, but Wagner is certainly making a beautiful case for the female representation of that music.

Bell is working with the same choreographer (Rohene Ward) as she had for last year’s FS, but left Kori Ade in the off-season to begin training in California with Rafael Arutyunyan (Wagner & Rippon's coach). One of the things that has held her from the top spots in the past was her inability to deliver her toughest jump—the triple lutz and its brutal cousin the 3Lz/3T—consistently. At SkAM, she landed them all with relative ease and a Cinderella story sprang out of nowhere. Has she turned the corner? There were Twitter rumblings that Bell should now be assigned to fill the Rostelecom Cup void created when Polina Edmunds withdrew, but that slot appears to be re-assigned to Armenian skater Anastasia Galustyan. Hopefully USFS has another scenario in mind…

As for Gracie Gold—there is more to say about her and her skating and her state of mind right now than I have time to address properly. But if you check out THIS British Eurosport coverage of her free skate, you’ll hear some good insight shared during the replays. And if you listen closely when Gold and Frank Carroll are awaiting scores (about 7:09 into the video to be specific) you’ll hear her speak even more bluntly about her perceived weight issues than she did in THIS USA TODAY article. She clarified a lot of her statements a day later via Instagram, and I’m hopeful the whole thing was more about her being very hard on herself than actually having a long-term body image issue. But for better or worse, the skating community is all the more likely this season to pay attention to what’s happening with Gracie both ON and OFF the ice. If her skating at SkAM didn’t put them on notice, her words certainly did. 

(I’m running out of time—out of practice with these quick Grand Prix season turnarounds!—so the pairs & dance notes will have to be very short this time…)


1)      I’m very glad Seguin/Bilodeau won (even if I didn’t predict it). Those two CLICK like few pairs teams competing these days, and I truly hope they’ll stay healthy and cohesive long enough to have a chance to take the reins once Canada’s Duhamel/Radford call it a day (post PyeongChang, I’m assuming).
2)      After so much grumbling about the state of U.S. pairs, I’m quite happy to have underestimated Denney/Frazier (who missed last season due to injury). They skated a solid pair of programs to earn podium silver when the higher-risk programs from France and Russia didn’t pan out. But D/F take on an arguably stronger field when they compete at Skate Canada this weekend, and they’ll need more difficult throws and SBS jumps if they want a shot at being competitive. (More about this when I post predictions tomorrow.)


The ShibSibs’ free dance was probably one of the more eagerly anticipated “reveals” of this early part of the season, especially since they opted to keep their musical selections to themselves as long as humanly possible! They had a Herculean task in creating an effective follow-up to “Fix You”, particularly since so many of us felt it was the first time they’d really been able to connect at a deeper level. And there may some winning-over necessary for some. I get that. Evolution (what they’ve named their new FD program) has a much quieter, more subtle kind of energy than “Fix You” possessed… and to some, it might be a let-down. But particularly when I think about what they’ve brought us in the past vs. what they can bring us now, I’m on board to watch this one… um… evolve.

No comments: