Thursday, November 3, 2016

2016 Skate Canada Post-Mortem: 6 Canadian Medals and a Comeback Begins...

PREDICTION POINTS UPDATE: I did a little better on my SkCAN predictions than I did with Skate America… 6 points for the men, 5.5 for the ladies, 7 for the pairs, and 5 for dance. (That adds up to 23.5 points vs. 20 points for SkAM)

Since I shortchanged the Dance and Pairs disciplines when I recapped Skate America last week, I’ll start with them for this Skate Canada review…

DANCE: Hey, did’ya hear who won the free dance portion of SkCAN? That’s right, a couple of former champions… from the U.S. (psych!)

About Virtue/Moir: Yep, they’re back, and they look great, and they’re in it to win it (again), and their SD is to Prince music, and yes, just when we’ve all committed to new leaders for a post Davis/White era… here they are making things interesting again.

But I mentioned this on Twitter, and will bring it up again here: the back half of V/M’s FD is to the acoustic version of “Latch”. It’s lovely, it’s moving, it’s great to dance to… and I thought all those things (and more) about 2 ½ years ago, when Meryl Davis used it in her final, mirrorball-winning performance with Maksim Chmerkovskiy on Dancing with the Stars. Sure, it could be a kooky coincidence. Or it could be V/M throwing down a little Sam Smith-shaped gauntlet, silently saying Bet we can do it better, human Disney princess.

Or not. I’m just sayin’.

Behind V/M at SkCan came an important threesome of pairs (if that makes sense):

Chock/Bates, who are clearly Having a Moment with this “Under Pressure” FD… if they weren’t already, that moment began when they saw their SkCan score in the Kiss-n-Cry.

Gilles/Poirier, who have medaled on the GP before but I’m not sure they’ve ever beaten Cappellini/Lanotte before, so… another Moment. But as much as I enjoyed their FD tango (and I did, more than I expected I would)… their disco SD may prove to be my favorite in a sea of very cool hip-hop SDs. Mostly because Poirier is so committed to the look and energy of the era. It goes beyond the mustache-- way beyond!

Speaking of Cap/Lan… this team has competed on the senior GP since 2006—throughout Anna Cappellini’s twenties and then some, to put it in perspective. And while I’m always the first to say I don’t know as much about ice dance as I should, my prevailing thought during their Chaplin FD this season is that it’s quite charming. My second thought, though, is that I’ve seen charming on this particular team many, many times by now. You know how they first got my attention? With the dark, edgy FD about addiction they skated in 2009-10. They (very appropriately) used music from Requiem For a Dream for that one, and based on how much we heard THAT for the next five years, I’m certainly not saying they need to resurrect that particular program. But as this pre-Olympic season progresses… and this veteran team surely looks to the PyeongChang podium with a half-dozen others… I’ve got to wonder if Charming 4.0 is the best way to demonstrate their growth as a team.

They’ll be competing against V/M AND Papadakis/Cierzon (current World Champs) at NHK, their other planned GP event. It’ll be very interesting to see where they end up—or, assuming we have a good guess on that already, how close the scores are.

PAIRS: Duhamel/Radford were a lock for gold; the fact that they didn’t skate anywhere close to their best in the FS, yet still won the event by over 16 points, cements that theory.
LOVE their “Killer” SP this year; the Edith Piaf FS (with the dusty rose costumes that someone on Twitter said looks like Silly Putty in person—ha!) is not my favorite of theirs yet. But I’ve run hot and cold with their programs for years, and I was fond enough of last year’s “Hometown Glory” to know that’s a tough act to follow.

The early verdict on China’s latest pair-up (Yu/Zhang), for me at least, is pretty simple: it works better than Cheng/Zhang did. That team certainly gave it a go, but in four years the 4th place received at 2014 Worlds was apparently the peak of their work. Yu/Zhang could go further—there’s not as much of a child-bride vibe, which helps—but someone clued me into the way the commentators at British Eurosport gushed and GUSHED about how perfect they were together, how Zhang seems to “cherish Yu like the delicate flower she is”, etc. Um… yeah. Maybe. But calm down, guys. I know very few teams at this event were hitting their side-by-sides AND throws, but we don’t need to immediately anoint those that do. At least I don’t. They had a very good debut; let’s see how they do at Cup of China (where they’ll be up against the flipside of this exchange, AKA Cheng/Jin) and go from there.

Quick notes on the SkCan Men…

Yeah, kind of a mess. But Patrick Chan got most of it right, and I guess we need to give him props for trying to add a quad salchow to his repertoire (remember the days when he didn’t have consistent quads yet and indicated he didn’t really need them due to the caliber of his overall skating?). Yuzuru Hanyu, meanwhile, remains one quad ahead (if/when he nails them all, that is) but that also increases the margin for error, as we saw at SkCan. But he has less to prove right now in a battle with Chan, so while I’m sure he’d like to get over this little SkCan hump that’s growing in his path… NHK is most likely where we’ll see him shine. (And interestingly enough, his toughest quad competition at that event might be found in USA’s Nathan Chen.)

Oh, and kudos to Kevin Reynolds for rising above the fray (as well as the issues that have kept him out of the bigger events in recent years) and snagging a bronze medal on home ice! Unfortunately he is not scheduled for any additional GP events so it might take an injury or other WD for him to get another opportunity.

Even quicker notes on the SkCan Women…

Evgenia Medvedeva’s FS choice (with roots in the 9/11 attacks, complete with audio news clips) deserves more conversation than I can give it right now. In short: her skating is fine… the theme is questionable, particularly for someone as young as she is… but it’s the pantomime choreo that I just cannot get into. (No phone calls during the FS, please!)

Satoko Miyahara’s got the FS I prefer this season, and fortunately she skated it well enough to put her on the podium even after technicalities took her SP to 5th place. But I really hope her coach has a plan in place to put some Canadian-like power behind her jumps!

Kaetlyn Osmond—daaang, girl. Glad she’s back. Next step—do it all again at Cup of China!

Mirai Nagasu—No words. We’ve been here with her before, the only difference for me is that I like her programs better this year so I find myself wanting her to do them well all the more. We’re scheduled to see her next at NHK.

Rostelecom Cup is coming Friday (starting at 7:45 ET), so the predictions are headed your way soon!

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