Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What's Left After Lethbridge: Skate Canada 2015 in Review (Ladies/Pairs)

Skate Canada International is in the books for 2015, with Canada taking three of four available titles and four medals in all. It was a competition with, perhaps, more than its share of surprises due to equal parts comeback misfires and what-just-happened? moments... and in some cases, a little of each. Here’s what caught my attention with regards to ladies and pairs:

+  I got a whopping FOUR of 12 predictions right this time—a slight upgrade from being 3-for-12 at Skate America last week—and one of them was Duhamel/Radford for gold. But it’s hard to imagine anyone predicting anything else... at this event at least, there was D/R and then there was the rest of the pack. Even at less than their best—and they were surely that, with at least one subpar SBS 3lutz and an imperfect SBS 3Toe combo—they proved majestic and unbeatable.

+ Unfortunately, my pick for bronze (Marchei/Hotarek) became more noteworthy when they withdrew from the event, apparently because Hotarek had suffered a concussion in practice that “got worse” after the SP. As you might know, this is at least the third concussion suffered this season by a big-leagues skater; reigning World Champ ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis and Team USA’s Josh Farris were the first two. I can’t help but wonder if the new attention given to head injuries (thanks, American football!) has raised awareness across the board for sports... or is there just a lot more head-banging going on lately?

+ The journey continues (pun intended) for USA’s Castelli/Tran in their second season together, and it appears to be making them stronger. In fact, they were neck-and-neck at SkCAN with another sophomore-season team (Canada’s Moore-Towers/Marinaro), with the latter edging the former for bronze by less than two points.

+  Honorable mention to Russia’s Bazarova/Deputat—not for their placement (a distant 5th to Cas/Tran’s 4th) or Bazarova’s costume, which looked more like it came from the set of The Dukes of Hazard than the Beatles era from which their music hailed. No, the “honor” came in Deputat’s nose getting bloodied during the FS, presumably from a collision with Bazarova mid-program. Last time I saw that happen was at a GP event (maybe this one?) during an early season of the Duhamel/Radford partnership. I’m guessing that’s way, way in the past for them now.

+  What an up & down weekend for the dozen that turned up in Canada! I’ll start near the top of the final standings with Liza T (Elizaveta Tuktamysheva), who overcame a circa 2013 GP performance in the short program (a.k.a. the season she finished 10th at Russian Nats) to win the free skate and finish with the silver medal.

+  But she was hardly the only one on a performance roller coaster. Also with weak SPs and much stronger free skates were Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman (5th overall) and Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Turnsynbaeva (7th overall)... while the reverse was true for Japan newcomer Yuka Nagai (bronze overall) and Sweden’s Joshi Helgesson (9th overall).

+  YIKES, and maybe a sympathetic pint of Haagen-Daz,  is about all I can offer for Kaetlyn Osmond’s rough return to the GP circuit. She got it started after having sustained some sort of ankle injury in practice last week, then fell no less than seven time (2 in SP, 5 in FS) combined to put her in second-to-last place overall. She was spared from the bottom spot mostly because her first two jumping passes in the SP—prior to the literal gut-punch of that death-drop crash—were superb.

+  Given all the above, the number of consistent-between-both-programs ladies—for better or worse—was relatively small. But you know which lady wasn’t anything but up up UP all weekend, right? That would be Ashley Wagner, who exceeded even my silver-medal expectations with back-to-back great skates, winning her fourth GP gold medal (and fifteenth GP medal overall) in the process. Take note, especially, of her new “Hip Hip, Chin Chin” SP. I know it’s early, but there are certain short programs that stand out all season long (think Javier Fernandez’s “Black Betty” from last year). I call them “IT” programs, and Wagner is on it for sure. Can you think of others (from this current season) that you’d put on such a list?

+  Finally, a little note about Polina Edmunds, who skated consistently enough but finished a disappointing 6th... I know her technical score on both performances was brought down some degree by UR (underrotation) calls on many of her jumps, but as I understand it she received zero points on one of her SP spins because the judges claimed she did not hit a low enough “sit” position?? I took another look, and still this decision surprises me. I assume this might be something that has changed, ever-so-slightly, for her as she’s gotten older... and taller. But how bewildering it must be for Edmunds to know that, on top of all else, she may need to adjust a spin she’s been doing “correctly” for more than a decade? Tweak the jumping technique, yes. But spins? We’ll see how much things change for her by the time Rostelecom Cup (her next event) rolls around.

Men and dance wrap-up will follow soon!

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