Sunday, April 25, 2010

Should They Stay Or Go: Men on the Frozen Bubble 2010

It occurred to me I’d better post my specs on the men before retirement announcements start to go out over the next few weeks (don’t they have to declare intentions soon so that the GP schedule can be assembled properly?)

Should these five guys stay or go? (in alphabetical order...)

1) Samuel Contesti, b.3/4/83, ITALY

On Senior circuit since: 2004 (I think)

Most significant titles (Wiki): He originally competed for France, then switched to Italy after the 2006-2007 season. He is the 2008-2010 Italian national champion and the 2009 European silver medalist. At the 2009 World Championships, Contesti placed 5th, his best finish to date in that event.

Most recent performances: The second half of the 2008-9 season proved to be a breakout time for Contesti, who must’ve thought his decision to leave France was the best he’d ever made for himself. The past season, though, was something of a backslide: no better than 4th at a GP event, 5th at Europeans, and 18th at the Olympics (though he rebounded a bit with a 7th place finish at Worlds).

Stay or go? GO. I get the feeling he isn’t really done, but I’m thinking about two things: 1) His technique problems, and 2) His age. His inventive skating makes him fun to root for, but he doesn’t seem to have many solid jumps in his repertoire…and at age 27, I suspect he’s already hit his athletic peak. I guess we’ll see.

2) Brian Joubert, b.9/12/84, FRANCE

On Senior circuit since: 2001

Most significant titles (Wiki): He is the 2007 World Champion, a three-time (2004, 2007 & 2009) European champion, a six-time (2003–2008) French National champion, and the 2006 Grand Prix champion.

Most recent performances: As we all know, he had an especially cruel time in Vancouver (finished 16th), which is even more stunning when you consider his world championship consistency-- making the podium 6 out of 7 times since 2004, including a bronze medal finish this year.

Stay or go? STAY… for one more year; maybe two. But not four. Some of the finest skaters of all time have faltered at Olympic time, and Joubert is now a charter member of that club. But he seems determined to stick around a little longer anyway, and has a second World title in his sights. I’m not a big fan of his, but somehow these past two appearances of his have me hoping he can find at least one victorious season—if Florent Amodio doesn’t overtake him, that is. (I DO think Joubert will have to at least pretend to take some of the CoP transitions love to heart in order to get it done. And who knows how willing he might be to play that game?)

3) Kevin van der Perren, b. 8/6/82, BELGIUM

On Senior circuit since: 2002

Most significant titles (Wiki): He is the 2007 & 2009 European bronze medalist and a six time (2000-2004, 2007) Belgian national champion.

Most recent performances:
Up until Worlds last month, van der Perren was having as mediocre a season as he’s ever had, including a 17th place finish in Vancouver (and an unfortunate decision to revive his “skeleton” SP costume). But he rallied like never before in Torino in March, landing the first ever quad/triple toe/triple toe combination and finishing in the top 10.

Stay or go:
GO. Sure, the free skate was a cohesion-less jumping show, but it was the best he had, and he skated it with heart… the way everyone should hope to do. Now he needs to put the period on this sentence and move on. Everyone should be so lucky to go out on a note like that.

4) Tomas Verner, b. 6/3/86, CZECH REPUBLIC

On Senior circuit since: 2002

Most significant titles (Wiki): He is a six-time (2002-2004, 2006-2008) Czech national champion and 2008 European Champion.

Most recent performances: The season started out quite well for Verner with a 2nd place at Trophee Eric Bompard, but somewhere between that high point and a long bout with the flu, he fell apart… losing Nationals to Michal Brezina, coming in 10th at Euros, and crumbling to 19th at the Olympics.

Stay or go: STAY. This is a toughie… I can’t think of another guy in recent memory who fluctuates so insanely and so repeatedly with his placements, yet is so insanely talented as well (he’s still landing a quad through many of these abysmal skates). He’ll only be 24 next season… and obviously he has a fierce challenger in fellow Czech skater Brezina. It won’t be easy for him to climb back, but I truly hope he does. I hate to see him go out this way. But please, Tomas, heed these two words if you haven’t already: SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST.

5) Johnny Weir, b. 7/2/84, USA

On Senior circuit since: 2001

Most significant titles (Wiki): He is a three-time U.S. National Champion (2004–2006), the 2008 Worlds bronze medalist, a two-time Grand Prix Final bronze medalist, and the 2001 World Junior Champion.

Most recent performances: Depends on whether you mean Weir’s skating season or post-skating TV appearances… On the ice, he held fairly steady with the past few years, with his sixth-place finish in Vancouver ultimately more satisfying than his “disappointing” 5th place in Torino. Off the ice, whether in his reality series or his countless appearances on the talk-show circuit, he’s become something of a cult hero.

Stay or go? GO. Or should I say GONE? He claims he won’t leave everyone hanging with his decision, but if he’s already got a release date planned for his long-discussed book, how can he possibly intend to keep competing? And that’s fine… despite his press statement about wanting to work on his technique in the off-season (I’m paraphrasing), I think he peaked a few years back as an athlete. As a celebrity? Time will tell.

I couldn’t find Verner’s FS from 2008 Euros, but here is his SP as the Clip of the Day. He upset Joubert for the win that year. Who’d have guessed they’d both be scraping the bottom of the Vancouver barrel a mere two years later?

1 comment:

Meri said...

Not only is Verner quite familiar with sports psychologists, rumor has is that he actually wants to be a sports psychologist once he's done with skating. Of course, that doesn't mean he can apply this to himself. Too bad, he is so good and doesn't have the hardware to show for it, while less talented skaters do.

Brian Joubert has said repeatedly that he will stay through 2012 Worlds in Nice. My guess is that his future success will depend on his health (he didn't have an injury-free season the entire Olympic cycle) and on what the ISU does with the scoring system. His strengths aren't really rewarded under the current rules.

Weir is done. Van der Perren might show up at Europeans, next season or in 2012 (it'll be in the UK & his wife is British).