Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TEB 2011 and the Not-So-Funny Comedy of Errors

For better or worse, it seemed those in charge of the World Feed coming out of Paris (for this past weekend’s Trophee Eric Bompard) were aiming to be a little more artistique with their efforts than other countries. From that giant glowing light bulb-o-color behind the skaters in the Kiss-n-Cry, to the split screen of skaters and coaches occasionally shown during replays (such as with Nobunari Oda—oy!—but I’m getting ahead of myself), to the s-l-o-w dissolves most often employed as an athlete sat and watched the highlights/lowlights of their performance.

Unfortunately, many of those blips on the radar of creativity were overshadowed by storms of wild errors, disappointing placements, and widespread discontent by the time this penultimate GP qualifier was history.

But let’s start with the bright and/or anticipated bright spots of TEB…

+ Liza Tutamysheva, who I’d like to begin calling Liza With A Lutzzzzz if that’s okay with you… we’ve only seen her compete once before at the senior GP level, but I’m not at all surprised that she came away with her second gold of the season—especially when her two closest competitors had slightly flawed performances. Her ease with triple-triples may or may not survive the onset of puberty… but for now, she’s got what most other GP ladies don’t. And she’s got just enough grace and musicality to back it up.

+ Song Nan, whose name I’d like to say in that particular order from now on (and will try to remember to so with other Chinese skaters from here on out). I kept Song in my (predicted) top 5 for this event, not at all sure he’d be able to repeat the sort of jumping success he’d had at Cup of China but figuring he’d do pretty well even if he hit 60% of his CoCH jumps. Next thing I know, he’s sitting comfortably in 2nd place throughout the event, with the only one ahead being the reigning WORLD CHAMPION. How cool is that?

+ The entire dance lineup, meaning the placement of all who competed in ice dance at TEB. Virtue/Moir for the win, Pechalat/Bourzat for silver, Cappellini/Lannotte for bronze, the New Team (Chock/Bates) down in 5th, the first-ever-on-the-circuit Spanish dance team (Hurtado/Diaz) bringing up the rear… all eight teams staying in their same placement throughout the event; all eight teams separated by fairly healthy margins. Did we see it all coming (especially V/M)? Probably. Did we enjoy the event any less? Probably not. And to see (Fabian) Bourzat healthy again (and bronchitis-free) was likely worth the price of admission for those in attendance…

Which brings us to Patrick Chan, who fans would likely pay to watch drive the Zamboni these days, let alone skate. Yes, he won again—no surprise there. Yes, he won substantially despite multiple mistakes… no surprise there either, to be honest. It was the mistakes themselves that were the surprises: 2 flip-outs on jumps considerably simpler than his 2 quads or triple axels (although the axel was doubled; yet another mistake), and a freak fall during a footwork (or simply a transition?) sequence. Should he still have won with all these errors… plus a missed quad in the SP? In this case, yes. But if something similar happens on a night when, say, a Takahashi or Kozuka is in top form… I guess we’ll find out at the GP Final, huh?

Of course, Chan was hardly the only skater to suffer from the freaky-deaky mistakes at TEB…

+ Volosohzar/Trankov had a trip/fall immediately after their successful triple twist. Didn’t really interrupt the program, but I don’t think I’ve seen a fall like that before…

+ Madison Chock took an odd tumble on twizzles when Evan Bates seemed to stop traveling with his twizzles, and she crashed into him. But really, if twizzles are truly “the quads” of ice dance (as commentators in the know like to say), the real oddity is that this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often.

+ Duhamel/Radford had side-by-side falls, a throw jump fall, and they accidentally collided at one point while skating with their backs to each other. “Three falls and we get a 115??” Duhamel said incredulously in the Kiss-n-Cry. Somewhere in that arena, you’ve gotta think 4thplace Evora/Ladwig (who fell only once) were wondering the same thing.

+ Carolina Kostner, who has an interesting rivalry brewing with Czisny this season. They’re very compatible on components now, so it’s repeatedly coming down to the jumps… and as with Czisny, Kostner typically has a flaw or two. This time Kostner’s included a membership in the Footwork SPLAT Club; fortunately for her, it prompted little more than embarrassment on her part.

+ The same cannot be said for Nobunari Oda, as I mentioned earlier. The guy had almost as many “mishaps” as all the other TEB competitors put together. By my count: 1) a popped toe loop on the end of his first combination, 2) a doubled triple (lutz?) that also prompted a step out, 3) popped triple loop, 4) a fall during a footwork sequence that was followed by him skating around for at least the next 10-15 seconds trying to figure out where to resume the program, 5) an incomplete triple axel that had him landing forward and falling a second time, 6) a fall on a triple lutz, and 7) a waltz jump (which, while quite lovely, is no replacement for a triple jump in a Grand Prix program). But while you can’t blame the commentators for wondering out loud if he’d injured himself… those of us who remember oddly disoriented programs from Oda as far back as 2006 (Four Continents, anyone?) knew all too well that he probably hadn’t.

+ Maybe he should’ve taken a page from Kevin Reynolds’ TEB experience… where his SP scores apparently made him so sick he developed stomach flu and had to withdraw from the event...

Let’s hope Rostelecom goes a little better for everyone!

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