Thursday, December 8, 2016

State of the 2016 Grand Prix Final Predictions

Since the ISU Grand Prix Final happens in conjunction with the Junior GPF, the entire event—in Marseille, France this time) takes place over three days instead of two. Which means the pairs and men’s SPs are coming our way Thursday afternoon! (ET)

But first, a couple of announcements…

+      I finally got my Cup of China review up a couple of days ago, but the one for NHK Trophy is still at large. I’m hoping for next week, of course, as I’ll be too busy tracking this GPF to devote any other skate time to it.

+      You may have read that me and my book Skating on Air: The Broadcast History of an Olympic Marquee Sport are to be featured on an upcoming episode of The Skating Lesson (the brainchild of National and GP medalist Jenny Kirk and Dave Lease; currently anchored by Lease while Kirk focuses on law school). While I can confirm that I was interviewed at length by Dave a few weeks ago, I don’t yet have a date that the edited interview will be released. He was hoping for this week when I last checked. I’ll keep you posted! It was a fun interview, once I got over my being-on-camera nerves…

+      For anyone that was trying to keep track of my GP prediction accuracy—here are my point totals out of a possible 36: 20 for Skate America… 23.5 for Skate Canada… 24 for Rostelecom Cup… 28 for Trophee de France… 30.5 for Cup of China… 28 for NHK.

Now back to GPF predictions. As with last year, I’ve gone ahead and attempted to guess ALL the placements, though my 36 point scale still applies (No credit for correct 4-5-6 guesses though).


GOLD: Javier Fernandez (ESP)

SILVER: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)

BRONZE: Shoma Uno (JPN)

4th: Patrick Chan (CAN)

5th: Adam Rippon (USA)

6th: Nathan Chen (USA)

I don’t know if predicting Javi for the win is calling a full-blown upset (over Hanyu), but that’s how I’m calling it.


GOLD: Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)

SILVER: Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)

BRONZE: Satoko Miyahara (JPN)

4th: Elena Radionova (RUS)

5th: Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)

6th: Maria Sotskova (RUS)

Medvedeva is far from my favorite skate right now, but she seems pretty darn unbeatable right now.


GOLD: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)

SILVER: Yu/Zhang (CHN)

BRONZE: Peng/Jin (CHN)

4th: Tarasova/Morozov (RUS)

5th:  Seguin/Bilodeau (CAN)

6th: Zabiiako/Enbert (RUS)

With no Savchenko/Massot in the mix (she’s still injured from their French GP appearance), it looks like a pretty straight shot for Du/Rad to continue their domination.


GOLD: Virtue/Moir (CAN)

SILVER: Papadakis/Cizeron (FRA)

BRONZE: Shibutanis (USA)

4th: Chock/Bates (USA)

5th: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)

6th: Hubbell/Donohue (USA)

V/M has already proved they can outscore Papa/Ciz; I don't think that much will change in 2 weeks time.

The IFS page of GPF streams, links, broadcast times, etc. can be found here

And if you’re on Twitter, don’t forget to look for me @KLBSt8ofSk8!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

2016 Cup of China Post-Mortem: Chan Triumphs While Wagner Misses the Mark

I know we’re all grieving the fact that there was no GP event going on this past weekend to take our minds off of all the things we need to think about and/or would rather not think about, but I’m trying to use these two weeks to get caught up on that which I haven’t reviewed yet. Like Cup of China, which took place only 2 1/2 weeks back but might feel exponentially longer with each day that passes. In other words, I’d better get this going.

CoCh LADIES was where…

Elena Radionova and Kaetlyn Osmond finished 1-2 and punched their respective tickets to the GP Final.

Ashley Wagner didn’t appear at first glance to have the kind of competition that takes you out of the GPF (no falls, no abundance of flip-outs, step-outs or popped triple jumps), but times are tight—and the relatively small errors she made all added up in the end to… sigh… a 6th place finish (lowest of her career as far as GP events are concerned) and a 1st alternate spot for the finale. It's the first time she’ll miss the GPF since 2011. And for those who were wondering… a 5th place finish at CoCh still wouldn’t have given her enough points when all was said and done. (Rika Hongo edged Ash out for 5th place by less than ½ a point.)

Liza Tuktamysheva went back to last season’s Peer Gynt FS—something I was glad to see, given that I feel this year’s Cleopatra music (from the 1963 OST) is clunky and disengaging—and delivered one of the better performances in her post-World Champion era. The results gave her 2nd place in the FS, 3rd overall, and the 2nd alternate spot for the GPF (right behind Wagner).

CoCh MEN was where…

Patrick Chan had me realizing I’m rooting for him a little more than usual this year. Why? Because as more and more younguns come out of the woodwork (or, more accurately, the Junior ranks) with quad this and quad-triple that, Chan’s one of those guys who was a little late to the quad game and now he’s probably working harder than he ever expected just to stay near the top. Granted, some of that may be on Chan himself—isn’t he the guy who once declared he didn’t need a quad (and certainly not TWO quads!) to win Worlds/Olympics/whatever?—but maybe that gives a little more reason to be impressed with his efforts. FWIW, Chan’s FS (to music composed by Eric Radford of Duhamel/Radford) is another exceptional work of art.

Chan did win in China, but by just a little more than one point. Boyang Jin followed up a rough effort at SkAM (where he finished 5th) to shine a lot brighter on home ice with performances that included his decidedly playful La Strada free skate that looks to be some sort of shoutout to those who slam the young World Bronze Medalist’s immature artistry. I think it’s a pretty good decision for him, actually… so long as a(nother) Charlie Chaplin routine isn’t in store for us come Olympic season.

As for the top U.S. man at CoCh, Max Aaron—there is bad news, and good news, and more bad news, and actually-pretty-new news to report (!).  The BAD: he under-delivered (again) on his “Nessum Dorma” SP and went into 5th place. (Though to be fair, it was several ticks upward from his Rostelecom performance of it 2 weeks earlier.) The GOOD: his Lion King FS was judged 3rd-best of the day, bringing him up to 4th overall. The MORE BAD: he missed bronze (awarded to Sergei Voronov) by about one single point. But if you’re as tired of seeing Max do the “Nessum Dorma” as I am—he’s had it as his short program for 2 ½ seasons!—here’s the ACTUALLY-PRETTY-GOOD-NEWS: Max is tired of it too. Or so one would assume via coach Tom Z’s Tweet on 12/4:

New @MaxTAaron bullfighting SP by PMills to music by @sandovalarturo1 to debut @KansasCity2017

So, yet another something-to-look-forward-to come late January…


Since this was in China, I’m taking this space to clarify the different teams representing it these days…
--Yu /Zhang—the team that won here, was 2nd at SkCAN, and will consequentially be at the Marseilles GPF—features veteran Zhang Hao in the third FP partnership of his enduring career… and already seems to have much better chemistry (though still in that fatherly sort of way) with Yu Xiaoyu than he ever had with Peng Cheng.

--Peng/Jin—the team that came in 2nd here, 2nd at NHK (the review I’ve yet to post), and also will be at the GPF—is the other side of China’s partner switcheroo from the start of the 2016 off season. In other words, what used to be Yu/Jin and Peng/Zhang is now Yu/Zhang and Peng/Jin. And to watch Peng/Jin in these last couple events—particularly their megacute SP, to “My Drag” by Jimbo Mathus (formerly of Squirrel Nut Zippers)—is to wonder why they didn’t put these two together sooner.

--Wang/Wang—who came in 4th, as they have 3 out of the past 4 years at CoCH—were called up to this year’s event with about one month’s notice. They’re the ones that had an SP to “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” and a FS to “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” Of the top Chinese teams, this is the one I tend to forget about the most. (Harsh, perhaps, but accurate.)

--Which brings us to the best Chinese team of recent memory… Sui/Han… who were NOT competing this time (they were the team Wang/Wang replaced). Injuries (mostly affecting Wenjing Sui) have taken this still relatively young team down time and again; this time she is still recoveringfrom surgery and it seems the 2nd half of the 2016-17 season is still uncertain for them. Perhaps with next season culminating in Pyeongchang, it’d be best for them to sit it out. Surely Yu/Zhang and Peng/Jin can keep three spots for China come Worlds time…?


Since there were no real surprises at the top in CoCH dance—the Shib Sibs beat Weaver/Poje by a small but fair margin—I’d rather turn the attention briefly to “the Dirty Dancing couple”, AKA Kaliszek/Spodyriev. For a team that was 16th at Worlds this year (and 24th last year), they gained some pretty good traction so far this season. While the Johnny-and-Baby shtick may have a lot to do with it (Who doesn’t love that film for one reason or another??), their SD has nothing to do with the film and played a crucial role in their finishing 5th (of 9) in China and 7th (of 9) a week later at NHK. So here are a few quick facts about these potential rising stars Natalia & Maksym:

1)      They represent Poland, but he (Spodvriev) is actually from Ukraine. He received Polish citizenship this year, though, presumably so they can compete at the 2018 Olympics.
2)      According to his ISU bio, one of Spodvriev’s hobbies is skydiving.

3)      From the YEOW! Files (or more accurately, Wikipedia): “During training in early November (2016) they had a fall, related to poor rink conditions in ToruĊ„, that resulted in her blade cutting two of his fingers.SO… if you hear that little tale from Tanith and Johnny (or whoever) in Pyeongchang, round about 14 months from now… remember who stole borrowed it from Wiki first!