Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships-- Predictions Pt. 2

Predictions continue with Senior Dance (SP starts at 6 PM ET on the evening of Friday 1/20):

GOLD: Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani
SILVER: Madison Chock/Evan Bates
BRONZE: Kaitlyn Hawayek/Jean Luc-Baker

DARK HORSE: Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus

Yeah, I shook this up a little. Not at the top, where I think the Shib Sibs will keep a steady presence and C/B (who had a rough GPF, you’ll recall) will stay at 2nd. But where’s Hubbell/Donohue (who outscored C/B at said GPF)? I’ve got them being edged out of the podium by way of Hawayek/Baker… not because of their respective free dances (both of which I’m quite fond of), but because H/D’s short dance. I appreciate the “history of hip-hop” theme, but even with the changes made since the start of the season it still feels like a frantic lesson… and if the judges happen to agree, it could be the point or two difference between 3rd and 4th.

And finally, predictions for the Men (whose SP starts at 8:30 PM ET, just after the SD)

GOLD: Nathan Chen
SILVER: Max Aaron
BRONZE: Jason Brown

DARK HORSE: Vincent Zhou

Because if Chen doesn’t win it this year (with a skating-while-injured Brown, and no Rippon at all), it’s gotta be because zombies attack him in the locker room or something.

But after that, who…?? Brown suffers from a stress fracture, and even though it wasn’t diagnosed until December I’m still wondering how much it might have impacted his very “off” NHK performance. So I’m looking for Aaron to repeat as silver medalist this year. And teenager Zhou’s got the goods to shake up the podium, especially if Brown is unable to deliver.

I’ll post more after U.S. Nats are over! Till then, I’m @KLBSt8ofSk8 if you want to chat or follow on Twitter.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships- Predictions Pt. 1

Predictions start with Senior Pairs (SP starts at 5:30 ET on the evening of Thursday 1/19):

GOLD: Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier
SILVER: Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc
BRONZE: Tarah Kayne/Daniel O’Shea

DARK HORSE: Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran

Both Cain/LeDuc and Denney/Frazier have been bringing it competitively this season better than most U.S. teams, but I’m leaning Denney/Frazier for gold because they have more to draw on in terms of experience (Cain/LeDuc just formed over the summer).

In any case, keep an eye out for the team of Deanna Stellato/Nate Bartholomay… he’s formerly of the 2014 Olympic team (w/Felicia Zhang), she formerly of the singles skating world—if you remember skating at the most recent turn of the century, that is. Persistent injuries took her out of the sport at age 17, but 16 years later—yes, age 33 now—she’s back! I’m not sure of their chances this year, but then again, the good thing about the always-fluid state of U.S. pair skating is that that Nats podium often appears wide open…

Pairs are followed by Senior Ladies (SP starts at 9:05 ET Thursday evening, right after the Opening Ceremony):

GOLD: Ashley Wagner
SILVER: Mariah Bell
BRONZE: Gracie Gold

DARK HORSE: Amber Glenn

Wagner because it’s hers to lose this year.
Bell because it’s time for her to make a big move up the ladder. Skate America and the silver medal she earned there proves she’s got it in her; the injuries keeping Edmunds and Pierce out are paving the way as well.
Gold for bronze because she’s had a rough year thus far and while recent reports indicate she’s ready to claw her way back, I don’t trust that she’ll be all the way there yet.  

Glenn over Mirai Nagasu for that Dark Horse slot because she was a better competitor so far this year. Mirai’s programs this year I like better than any other recent season, and I’m always rooting for her to put it all together, especially at Nats, but… well… we’ll see.

2017 U.S. Championships Preview: Senior Men

MEN at a glance…

Jimmy Ma (SC of New York) age 21, 3rd time at Seniors, best finish: 16th (2016)

Oleksiy Melnyk (Washington FSC) age 19, SENIOR DEBUT, 5th in Juniors last yr

Emmanuel Savary (University of Delaware FSC) age 19, 2nd time at Seniors, best finish 13th (2016)

Kevin Shum (SC of Boston) age 19, SENIOR DEBUT, 2nd in Juniors last yr

Alexander Johnson (Braemar-City of Lakes FSC) age 26, 7th time at Seniors, best finish: 6th (2016)

Jordan Moeller (Northern Ice SC) age 21, 2nd time at Seniors, best finish: 13th (2015) Withdrew due to injury in 2016 

Sebastian Payannet (Rocky Mountain FSC) age ??, 3rd time at Seniors, best finish: 14th (2016) xx

Dennis Phan (Birmingham FSC) age 31, 7th time at Seniors… best finish: 10th (2008!).

Pacific Coast
Scott Dyer (All Year FSC) age 25, 5th time at Seniors, best finish: 10th (2012)

Daniel Kulenkamp (Sun Valley FSC) age 21, 2nd time at Seniors, best finish: 10th (2016)

Shotaro Omori (Los Angeles FSC) age 21, 3rd time at Seniors, best finish: 12th (2016)

Sean Rabbitt (Glacier Falls FSC) age 26, 6th time at Seniors, best finish: 9th (2016) 

Max Aaron (Broadmoor SC) age 24, 6th time at Seniors, best finish: 1st (2013)

Jason Brown (Skokie Valley SC) age 22, 6th time at Seniors, best finish: 1st (2015)

Nathan Chen (Salt Lake Figure Skating) age 17, 3rd time at Seniors, best finish: 3rd (2016)

Timothy Dolensky (Atlanta FSC) age 24, 4th time at Seniors, best finish: 7th (2016) 

Tomoki Hiwatashi (DuPage FSC) age 16, SENIOR DEBUT, 1st in Juniors last yr 

Grant Hochstein (SC of New York) age 26, 8th time at Seniors, best finish: 4th (2016)

Ross Miner (SC of Boston) age 25, 7th time at Seniors, best finish: 2nd (2013)

Andrew Torgashev (Panthers FSC) age 15, SENIOR DEBUT, 1st in Juniors 2015 (out w/injury all last season)

Vincent Zhou (SC of San Francisco) age 16, 2nd time at Seniors, best finish: 8th (2016)

Most trips to Seniors: Hochstein… this is Senior Nats #8 for him.

“Most Senior” (aka oldest): Phan (31)

“Least Senior”: Torgashev (15)

Withdrawals: Reigning champ Adam Rippon is the only one I know of. (Had Rippon been competing, this would be Senior Nats #9 for him.)

Rookies: Melnyk, Shum, Hiwatashi, Torgashev

(Don’t Call It A) Comeback: Five whole years before Rippon won Junior Nats, Dennis Phan did the same (in 2003). Then came six years at the senior level. Now—seven years past that last appearance—Phan has qualified to compete yet again. Respect!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2017 U.S. Championships Preview: Senior Ladies

Here is my first batch of notes about U.S. Nats...


From Eastern Sectionals…
(all groups are in alphabetical order, not order of finish at Sectionals)

Franchesca Chiera (Panthers FSC) age 19, 4th time at senior nats, best finish: 12th (2016) 

Katie McBeath (Westminster FSC of Erie) age 23, 3rd time at seniors, best finish: 13th (2016) 

Rebecca Peng (SC of Boston) age 17, SENIOR DEBUT… 4th Juniors 2016 

Megan Wessenberg (SC of Boston) age 18, SENIOR DEBUT… 3rd Juniors 2016 

From Midwestern Sectionals…
Amber Glenn (Dallas FSC) age 17, 2nd time at seniors, best finish: 13th (2015) 

Tessa Hong (Broadmoor SC) age 14, SENIOR DEBUT… broke ankle in November 2015 

Hannah Miller (Lansing SC) age 20, 5th time at seniors, best finish: 7th (2016) 

Ashley Shin (Dallas FSC) age 19, 2nd time at seniors, best finish: 20th (2015). Did not qualify last year. 

From Pacific Coast Sectionals…
Paige Rydberg (All Year FSC) age 17, SENIOR DEBUT… 10th Juniors 2016 

Livvy Shilling (Sun Valley FSC) age ??, SENIOR DEBUT… never qualified for Junior Nats. 

Angela Wang (Salt Lake Figure Skating) age 20, 6th time at Seniors, best finish: 8th (2012) xx

Caroline Zhang (All Year FSC) age 23, 9th time at Seniors, best finish: 3rd (2009)

Bye (automatically qualified based on 2016 results)

Mariah Bell (Rocky Mountain FSC) age 20, 4th time at Seniors, best finish: 6th (2015)

Karen Chen (Peninsula SC) age 17, 3rd time at Seniors, best finish: 3rd (2015)

Gracie Gold (Wagon Wheel FSC) age 21, 5th time at Seniors, best finish: 1st (2014 & 2016)

Courtney Hicks (All Year FSC) age 21, 5th time at Seniors, best finish: 4th (2013)

Mirai Nagasu (Pasadena FSC) age 23, 10th time at Seniors, best finish: 1st (2008)
Bradie Tennell (Wagon Wheel FSC) age 18, 2nd time at Seniors, best finish: 6th (2016) 

Ashley Wagner (SC of Wilmington) age 25, 10th time at Seniors, best finish: 1st (2012, 2013, 2015)

Most trips to Seniors: both Wagner and Nagasu are marking their 10th time this year.

“Most Senior” (aka oldest): Wagner (25)

“Least Senior”: Hong (14)

Withdrawals: Both Polina Edmunds and Tyler Pierce (2nd and 5th last year, respectively) are out due to injuries.

Rookies: Peng, Wessenberg, Hong, Rydberg, Shilling

(Don’t Call It A) Comeback: Zhang has been on the same timeline as Wagner and Nagasu, but missed all of last season after undergoing hip surgery. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Preview to the 2017 U.S. Nationals Preview


And here my blog sits, still without a GP Final review from December. SHAME…

What I’ve BEEN DOING: working up both a GPF review that incorporates what happened last month with what’s been happening to the respective skaters since then…

What I’ve also BEEN DOING: researching as many of the senior U.S. competitors as time will allow with regards to age, number of senior Nats appearances, best finish to date, and any other pertinent stat stuff like that.

What I WILL DO NEXT: put the GPF review on hold until February (don’t worry, I’ll still make it relevant!) so I can share some of my Nats research with you.

And predictions, of course! Speaking of which… if you’d like to go on record with your own predictions, please post them in the Comments!

In the meantime… HERE is the schedule for the remaining events at U.S. Nats (Senior-level skating starts Thursday).

AND just because I think it’s awesome… here is a young guyskating to music from Hamilton (Philip Baker, who won bronze in the Intermediate Men’s division earlier in the week with help from this free skate).

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 NHK Post-Mortem: Last Stop before Marseille

(NOTE: Hi! Yeah, I know it's January and this event happened around six weeks ago. But keep reading... I think I've made it relevant to more "current" events.)

At 2016 NHK...

In PAIRS I predicted Duhamel/Radford to win, rising stars Peng/Jin for silver, and perennial sometimes-medalists Wang/Wang for bronze.

In reality: I got this one right all the way down the ticket—a feat that would’ve been more impressive if there had been more than 7 teams in the whole event, and more than half of them had a shot at the podium. BUT—Du/Rad were not particularly sharp here, and as we know by now the quality of their skating took another hit by the time GP Finals rolled around.

Know who was looking better, though? Kayne/O’Shea of the U.S., who skated as clean in their FS as I’ve seen all season—even though they somehow did not manage to top their SkAM FS score (they received 173.50 at SkAM; 172.20 at NHK). I’d like to think this gives them good momentum towards their next major event (Nationals), but I guess I still see it as anyone’s game in this era of so-so throw jump content and side-by-side triple wipeouts in the States.

In DANCE I predicted Papdakis/Cizeron to defeat Virtue/Moir, with Cappellini/Lanotte bringing in the bronze.

In reality: V/M set a new World Record with their score, and I walked back my hopes that Papa/Ciz can outskate them—at least this season. They’re just so damn good…

Also noteworthy at this event was the US team of Hawayek/Baker, whose “Liebestraum” FD netted them 104+ points and contributed to them finishing 4th… just a hairsprayed hair over Sinitsina/Katsalapov. Even more noteworthy: two weeks later, at Golden Spin of Zagreb, H/B pulled down a score of 107+… putting them in the same virtual air as the current U.S. bronze medalists (Hubbell/Donohue) who were pulling down 107+ over at the GP Final. Come Nationals, it appears the battle for US dance bronze will be just as fierce as the one for dance gold.
In LADIES I predicted Anna Pogorilaya to win, Satoko Miyahara for silver, and Wakaba Higuchi for bronze.

In reality: Two out of three ain’t bad?? I got Pogo and Miyahara right, but Maria Sotskova claimed bronze over 4th-place Higuchi.

Speaking of Sotskova—what do you think of her, a newcomer to the senior scene that did well enough at NHK (and Trophee de France) to make it to the GP Final at age 16? Obviously it’s not that unique an accomplishment, considering Evgenia Medvedeva just did the same thing a year ago. Arguably, Sotskova is not particularly close yet to the skater Medvedeva is; the case could easily be made that Sotskova only made it to the GPF because of a few surprises (Wagner at Cup of China, or Tutkamysheva at Skate Canada, or Gold at anything). But the thing I’m going to keep in mind about Sotskova is the fact that she is 1.7 meters tall… or, in U.S. terms, 5’7” (according to Wikipedia, which gets its info from her ISU bio). That’s around 5 inches taller than Medvedeva OR Tutkamysheva, and she’s landing her triple/triples consistently in competition. So unlike many of the so-called “baby ballerinas” who lose a critical part of that jumping magic if they grow beyond 5’3”, Sotskova seems to be over that hump. If she can build on her artistry as she matures, and continue to perform under pressure, even as that grip of pressure (and expectation) tightens… so yeah, I’m keeping my eye on her.

In MEN I predicted Yuzuru Hanyu for gold, Nathan Chen for silver, and Jason Brown for bronze.

In reality: See previous “in reality” statement (got gold & silver correct; bronze went to Japan's Keiji Tanaka).

You’ve probably heard it up the wazoo since NHK-- and the GP Final, more importantly-- about Chen, so let me instead throw in a few words here about Brown. 

(Yeah, I know, Tanaka’s the one who medaled… and although he was down in 7th at Rostelecom Cup, he in fact just earned silver at the Japanese Nationals, behind Shoma Uno but well ahead of Takahito Mura (Hanyu had the flu and didn’t compete). So he may be having a breakout year of his own. But it was Brown’s “off day” (more like off days) at NHK that took me more by surprise. It’s not that Jason hasn’t had problematic performances before, but NHK was kind of unprecedented—with multiple poor landings, underrotations, and doubled triples (in the FS). Was he sick? Is his back bothering him again? Was he having a crisis of confidence in the wake of all the quads being thrown down by Hanyu and Chen alone? Was Johnny Weir correct in his on-air assessment that the most physically flexible skaters (like Brown) tend to become inconsistent with their toughest jumps because their hips aren’t “closed” enough? I wonder these things because, as Lipinski said on-air in that same performance, Brown used to be as known for his jump consistency almost as well as he was for his off-the-chart skating skills. Has that changed since being sidelined most of last season? Maybe it’s still too early to say… save for NHK he’s had  a pretty good year so far (2nd at SkAM, 2nd at Lombardia Trophy, 1st at U.S. Int’l Classic). All the more reason to think he was ill, or otherwise not at 100%... but I haven’t heard anything to that effect. Guess we’ll have to hope he brings 100% of his A-game to Kansas City in a couple weeks.

Much like the hope we hold for Adam Rippon, who didn’t deliver at the GP Final quite as we’ve grown accustomed to this season. But I’ll get to my notes from that event next time.