Thursday, December 30, 2010

Skating Updates

Ryan Bradley wishes you a Merry Christmas!
 Merry belated Christmas and any other holidays that any of you have been celebrating!

There hasn't been a whole lot of skating news going around this holiday season (aside from various countries nationals), but there has been a few items of note.

Jeremy Barrett proposed to Amanda Evora on Christmas Eve. While I'm not particularly in love with either of their respective pair teams, I'm really happy for them - I do have a bit of a soft spot for Amanda ever since I saw her reaction to being put on the Olympic team. Congratulations to the happy couple!

Marie-France Dubriel and Patrice Lauzon celebrated the birth of their first child, also on Christmas Eve!

Yu-Na Kim's management is demanding an apology from a Japanese tv crew for filming Yu-Na's training without permission. Here is Universal Sports take on the situation. Honestly, I find the whole thing rather ridiculous. If Yu-Na is in decent shape by the time Worlds comes around, she'll certainly be in the mix for a medal, so why even bother spying on her?

Miki Ando won the ladies title at Japanese Nationals in a convincing fashion, finishing with 202.34 points, while short program leader Mao Asada won the silver medal with a total of 193.69 points overall. Kanako Murakami finished in third with 187.52 points and Akiko Suzuki fourth with 175.96 points. Congratulations to Miki on her first National title in quite awhile and to Mao for fighting back after a dismal Grand Prix season.

Miki, Mao,and Kanako have been selected for the Japanese World team, while Akiko will be competing in place of Kanako at 4 Continents. My one regret for the ladies? That Akiko isn't on the World team. The three girls selected probably do have a better shot of medaling there than she does, but it's still a shame after seeing her consistently underscored on program components throughout this season, despite the fact that she is easily one of the more expressive ladies currently competing. Well, c'est la vie I suppose. On the brightside, Akiko has stated that she is planning on competing next season, so there is still hope yet!

As many others have stated (though I'm not sure it can be stated enough), Japan needs more than 3 spots for Worlds in singles!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Japanese Nationals - Mens Results

1. Takahiko Kozuka
2. Nobunari Oda
 3. Daisuke Takahashi
4. Yuzuru Hanyu

The World team is Takahiko Kozuka, Nobunari Oda, and Daisuke Takahashi. 4 Continents is assigned to Takahiko, Yuzuru Hanyu, and Daisuke.

Freeskate Protocols
Freeskate Results
Overall Results

Congratulations to Takahiko on his first National title. It is a shame that he couldn't have won with a performance that he'd be more pleased with (I heard he disagreed with his score for the freeskate, thinking it too high), but it's still a big accomplishment.

As you could see from my post the other day day, I am extremely proud of Daisuke for pulling through and skating his best freeskate all season (and the performance of the night) to finish second in the freeskate and third overall. Here's to hoping that he takes a well deserved rest for a few days, and that his injury heals soon. After that, I think his focus should be getting the levels on his spins up (level 4's probably would have gotten him at least silver here), and obviously getting at least one of the quads consistent again. If Daisuke can do those things in the month and a half that he has until 4 Continents, he should be in much better stead. Sending my prayers that he'll be healthy and ready for Worlds!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Best Christmas Present This Year

Many, many thank yous to Daisuke, for a Christmas present that I'll remember for quite awhile. I knew I believed in you for a reason. =D

Friday, December 24, 2010

Japanese Nationals - Men's Short Results

Well THAT certainly didn't go as expected! 

1. Takahiko Kozuka 87.91
2. Yuzuru Hanyu 78.94
3. Nobunari Oda 77.48
4. Daisuke Takahashi 74.78
5. Tatsuki Machida 73.75
6. Takahito Mura 72.33

From what I've gathered online, here is a summary how the top 4 skated. (If anything is wrong, I'll correct it once I've seen it and can confirm it.)

 Yuzuru Hanyu landed a clean triple axel, triple lutz-triple toe, and a triple flip.( Very good! It's nice to see him skate so well, he's definitely one to keep an eye on. Fuji TV's camera work was... interesting. It made it look like his donut spin was all over the place.)

Daisuke stepped out of his triple flip-triple toe, and had a shaky triple axel, but had a triple lutz that was fine. I didn't expect him to be under Yuzuru based on how Yuzuru was scored on the Grand Prix. I'm thinking he had something called underrotated or downgraded. (Upon watching, it is pretty evident Daisuke was not himself. None of the jumps were very secure and even the spins had trouble. It did look like he had the axel ,though maybe slightly underrotated, but then he flipped out of it. The second half of his combo looked underrotated in the replay too. In a Japanese article he said he's in a better condition than at the GPF, but his coach has alluded otherwise. :-/)

Takahiko landed a triple axel, triple lutz-triple toe, and a triple flip, all cleanly. (After watching... Holy cow! Those jumps were GORGEOUS! Definitely among the best I've ever seen him do. Good for him! I do still find it shocking that he hit 87 without a quad, but I've heard that he got level 4 on all his spins and the step sequence, and I guess the GOE was through the roof on the jumps, deservedly.)

Nobunari fell on his quad attempt, which was supposed to be his combo. He landed a clean triple axel and triple lutz-triple toe, but lost his balance and fell during the footwork sequence. (Ouch. Well, he did think on his feet this time and salvaged some points by making the lutz his combo.)

Unfortunately, it is definitely going to be an uphill battle for Daisuke to keep his title. Takahiko has over 13 points on Daisuke, so Daisuke's going to have to skate near perfect, sell it for everything it is worth and likely hope for mistakes by at least Takahiko.  Nobunari has his work cut out for him as well, if he wants the title, as he is 10 points behind the leader as well. 

As much as I love Takahiko, you can bet that I'll be praying for a Christmas miracle for Daisuke. :P

EDIT: Links added! Thank you to whoever sent them to me. 

P.S. Merry Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas to all of my readers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Japanese Nationals - Schedule & Starting Orders

My sister was kind enough to convert the schedule from Japanese time to Eastern Standard time. =)

Friday, December 24th

Pairs Short 2:00 AM - 2:15 AM

Mens Short 2:20 AM - 6:30 AM

Short Dance 11:00 PM - 11:20 PM

Pairs Free 11:20 - 11:35 PM

Ladies Short 11:50 PM - 4:10 AM

Saturday, December 25th

Mens Free 4:05 AM - 8:00 AM

Pairs & Men's Awards 8:00 AM

Sunday, December 26th

Free Dance 1:00 AM - 1:20 AM

Ladies Free 1:30 AM - 5:30 AM

Ladies and Ice Dance Awards 5:40 AM

World's Team Announcement 7:00 AM

Monday, December 27th

Medalist on Ice Exhibition (Guests Stephane Lambiel and Evgeni Plushenko) 3:00 AM - 6:00 AM

Check on ontd_skating for streaming times (not live though).

Practice Videos 


(Sorry, I tried to embed them but they turned out huge and messed with the page a bit.)

Daisuke Takahashi, Takahiko Kozuka, and Nobunari Oda all seem to be in good condition - Daisuke told the press that his quad toe is inconsistent right now, but he might still go for it , but that if it is too unstable, he may try the quad flip instead. He does attempt a quad flip in one of the videos above and while I'm not sure it was fully rotated, I think it may have been more rotated than the attempt at the Grand Prix Final (though still two footed). Reportedly, the rest of his jumps are fine.

Also notable is that Mao Asada did land a triple axel in practice, but on the video it does look at least a little bit cheated.

Starting Orders
Mens Short
1Ryuichi KIHARA
2Yukihiro YOSHIDA
7Fumiya ITAI
8Hiroki HABU
9Ryujyu HINO
14Koshin YAMADA
15Keiji TANAKA
17Junki SANO
18Naoto SAITO
21Yuzuru HANYU
22Takuya KONDO
23Kensuke NAKANIWA
25Hayato ODAJIMA
26Takahiko KOZUKA
27Daisuke MURAKAMI
28Tatsuki MACHIDA
29Takahito MURA
30Nobunari ODA
31Yasuharu NANRI
32Tomoyuki KORIYAMA

Ladies Short
1Saya UENO
2Haruna SUZUKI
4Haruka INOUE
11Risa SHOJI
14Hikaru NASUNO
17Miyabi OHBA
18Roannasari OSHIKAWA
19Eri SETO
21Mutsumi TAKAYAMA
25Haruka IMAI
26Miki ANDO
28Akiko SUZUKI
30Fumie SUGURI
31Ayumi GOTO
32Yuka KOUNO

Pairs Short

Short Dance
1Cathy REED/Chris REED 

Universal Sports Article

I'm so excited!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

30 Days of Skating - Day 19 & Day 20

Day 19: If you could marry any figure skater, who would it be?

I plead the fifth. ;)

Day 20: Favorite Olympic Moment?

My favorites rarely seem to actually win the Olympics or even medal sometimes, but this past Olympics was better in some ways, yet in others, still extremely disappointing. Despite that though, my three favorite Olympic moments are from Vancouver and they are..

Johnny Weir skating two solid programs after the disappoint of Torino. I had high hopes for him 4 years ago and he was SO close, yet after the free... so far. I think I'll probably forever be irked by the fact that he never won an Olympic medal (so, so much potential), but I was really proud of him for skating so well in Vancouver and that was his last competition, it's a fantastic way to go out.

Daisuke Takahashi winning the first Olympic medal for any Japanese man in figure skating. Considering Daisuke's knee injury and subsequent surgery causing him to have to take all of the '08-'09 season off, coming back and winning the bronze in Vancouver is a truly amazing accomplishment.

And finally, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao FINALLY getting their much deserved Olympic gold medal. I thought that after their 2006 bronze, they'd retire and never get their gold, and I was so, so glad to see them get it in Vancouver.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

30 Days of Skating - Day 18: Favourite figure skating music

I actually don't have a whole lot of favorite skating music. I mean, I tend to really like Raul di Blasio and Camille St. Saens, but as long as it is pretty and the skater is interpreting it well, I'm not that picky.

Of course, my least favorites are just ones that are heavily used in skating such as Carmen, Firebird, etc. There's also some pieces that I feel should just be left alone (unless you're capable of making it a masterpiece), because a skater has made it their own (instances such as Michelle Kwan and the music Tosca... whenever I watch another skater use it, I end up picturing Michelle and wish I was watching her instead.).

One thing I'd really like to see is a skater using music from Star Wars effectively; some of the music is just so powerful and some is really beautiful. I know that plenty of skaters have used it, but I don't really remember the programs very well and I'd love to see one that really stands out (in a good way!).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Skating Updates

It is that time of year again - Christmas AND many countries national figure skating championships. While many have been going on, the most notable thus far (at least, to me) would be France's Nationals and the Czech Republic's (for the men, of course).

At the Czech Championship, Tomas Verner took the gold with 221.20 points after winning both programs, while Michal Brezina, whom is recovering from a fairly recent stomach surgery finished second with 202.76 points.

At the French Championship, Nathalie Pechalat (coincidentally, Verner's girlfriend), and Fabian Bourzat won the ice dancing title to no one's surprise, and by a margin of over 20 points. They finished with a total of 166.44.

In the men, Brian Joubert claimed the title with 231.85 points after Florent Amodio made several significant errors in the short program and found himself playing catch up. Florent did win the freeskate, but not by enough to overcome the 10 point difference between himself and Brian and he finished in second place with 222.55. Alban Preaubert and Chafik Besseghier finished in third (213.90) and fourth place (202.94), respectively. Even more surprising than Brian's victory may be the fact that he did not attempt a quad in the freeskate, although he reportedly did in the short.

While the U.S. Nationals are still a month away, the American men aren't being ignored - Jeremy Abbott recently talked with Universal Sports and talks about the Grand Prix season and Nationals, among other things. I would have to agree that Jeremy is the frontrunner for the men at U.S. Nationals, but I'm afraid that his mentioning that and feeling like he is the leading man in our country may jinx him, as there are certainly some others in the mix, such as Adam Rippon, Brandon Mroz, and Armin Mahbanoozadeh. (Though I don't, by any means, feel that Jeremy is getting arrogant.)

Speaking of Adam, Mr. Rippon has recently spoken to Lois Elfman for Ice Network about his holiday plans and has also written a new blog on his website with some insight about his experiences at Skate Canada and Skate America.

Don't forget, Japanese Nationals is coming up this week and along with it, plenty of excitement and many questions. How will Mao fare? Will Daisuke be back to normal? And how well the youngsters Kanako Murakami and Yuzuru Hanyu perform? I'm really looking forward to seeing the answers to those questions and more!

P.S. Anyone who happens to find/upload youtube videos of Japanese Nationals or comes across any interesting news about it or even the results (as it can be extremely difficult to find results online for other countries' nationals, though I think I know somewhere I can find them for this particular event), please feel free to share in a comment here or tweet me. Thanks!

EDITED 12/21: Practice groups and event schedules are up on U.S. Figure Skating's website and much to my surprise, Ryan Bradley has been listed in Practice Group B for the Senior men. I had no idea he was competing!

Grand Prix Final: Men's Freeskate

Florent Amodio (France): Good triple axel at the beginning, followed by his triple axel-double toe combo - he had to hold the axel, but he got it done. A attempted triple loop that looked off from the takeoff was crooked and doubled. Good footwork, albeit with some moments where he just stands and dances, but what actual content was there was good. A flying sit spin with a cannonball variation was okay. Triple salchow-triple toe, the latter of which was at least two-footed, but otherwise done. Triple lutz, fine, and a triple flip that was great, except the wrong edge yet again. I definitely hope he works on that edge in the future; he pretty consistently does a flip on the outside edge, and that results in deductions. Triple lutz-double toe was alright,  as was his last jumping pass, a double axel. Second footwork sequence was cute, and skated well enough. Combo spin was alright, but some of the positions could have been better, and the final sit change sit was okay. Not his best skate, but it really wasn't bad, and it was a pretty decent comeback from his short program.  Florent just has a way of making people smile when he skates; it is evident that he really enjoys performing, even if he wasn't at his best at this competition. He also further endeared himself to me by  pretending to eat a stuffed ice cream cone in the kiss and cry. =) 70.40 TE 69.86 PCS ; 140.26 FS = 201.90 Total (6th)

Tomas Verner (Czech Republic): Started the program with his first quad toe attempt of the season - unfortunately, it was popped into a triple. He got it back together with a good triple axel-double toe combination shortly thereafter though, and a good triple loop. His first footwork sequence was alright, but as noted before by myself and others, while Tomas does the footwork well, his skating skills aren't as polished as the other men competing at the GPF; maybe not even as polished as Florent's. Flying sit spin was okay I guess, followed by a good triple axel. Lovely triple lutz after that; he got a full point extra on GOE. Great triple salchow and a triple flip that was on the wrong edge, but otherwise good. Stepped out on his triple lutz-double toe combo, but he did get credit for it as a combination and not a sequence. Slowish sit change sit spin, another footwork sequence that was fine, if unremarkable, and an okay combo spin to finish up.  I don't think that Tomas had his usual energy and spark artistically that he sometimes has, but it was pretty good technically. Like Florent, he also messed around in the kiss and cry, haha. 74.35 TE 73.92 PCS ; 148.27 FS = 213.64 Total (5th)

Takahiko Kozuka (Japan): The choreography at the beginning of the program always seems to highlight how beautifully he moves his body while skating. Opened up with a quad toe attempt that was two-footed and called underrotated; I do think I agree with that call.Triple axel was a little bit tight looking to me, but still good. Triple lutz-double toe was fine, followed by an alright combo spin that was clearly the best up to that point. First footwork sequence was gorgeous; I was really captivated this time around. Triple axel-double toe was managed, but he decided against using it as his three jump combination like he did in Paris. Triple flip was alright, if tentative. Triple lutz-triple toe was again tough at the ending. After that, a triple loop that was fine and a triple salchow that was kinda scratchy looking to me, but it actually garnered positive GOE... maybe I saw wrong? Nice death drop and very nice footwork, followed by an alright combo spin, which had a pretty nice and well center scratch spin at the end. Not as good as Paris, but still a good skate. His main problem was just having landings that didn't have a whole lot of flow coming out of them. One has to wonder if Takahiko was affected by his crash with Daisuke a couple of days prior; everywhere I've read has said that he has apologized multiple times and really feels bad about the incident, so I wouldn't rule it out. 82.25 TE 77.64 PCS ; 159.89 FS = 237.79 Total (3rd)

Daisuke Takahashi (Japan): Surprisingly, he started with a quad flip attempt, which was two-footed, severely underrotated and consequently downgraded by the technical specialists (By the way, anyone wondering why Daisuke would attempt this while not feeling his best: when his quad toe isn't reliable, he feels like it is a safer bet to go for the quad flip, because even if he doesn't rotate it, it's worth more than a downgraded quad toe and he falls on it less.). Really good triple axel, which received two points extra on GOE! After that was a triple loop that was okay, maybe a bit rough. Flying sit spin combo was fine, and the first footwork sequence was good, but not as great as usual. Stepped out of a triple flip-triple toe combo, the latter of which was downgraded and a bad fall on his second triple axel attempt, looked underrotated. Flying layback spin was alright, and then a good triple lutz.Triple salchow, maybe underrotated a bit. Fall on the second triple lutz, also underrotated, but I had a bad feeling about that one from the preparation; he really didn't have much speed going into it. Second footwork sequence was definitely slower that usual, but okay as far as the normal standard goes, and the final combo spin was just okay.For some reason two spins were only level 1; he's probably going to want to work on that.

Poor Daisuke. He seemed really tired in the second half and I'm sure he's extremely dissatisfied with his performance. Even the artistic quality to his skating didn't shine through as well as usual. I still think it an admirable effort though; here he was considering withdrawing and then he goes for a quad flip, haha. But, ah well, there'll be other competitions and really, I think the biggest hit to his technical score was that he only could complete one combination; his two falls were on his second attempts on the triple lutz and triple axel, rendering them sequences and causing him to be unable to add any more combos and salvage more points. It seems he's learned from Nobunari's past mistakes; thank God someone has. Here's to hoping that he recovers well from whatever injury he received in the crash and will be ready for Nationals and Worlds.
58.20 TE 81.00 PCS -2.00 Deductions ; 137.20 FS = 219.77 Total (4th)

Patrick Chan (Canada): Opened with an okay quad toe and an alright triple axel-double toe combination. Nice triple lutz and good footwork too, as well as a pretty good death drop. Fallout on the second triple axel, as well as the second triple lutz-half loop-double toe. Good sit change sit spin and he held onto a triple flip-triple toe combo. Nice triple loop and a good double axel. Finished up with good footwork and a good combo spin. Loads better than his other freeskates this season and if he had to win, I'm glad it was pretty clean , but I don't really have much else to say besides ,"Oh, now you don't fall" :P. Oh, and huge scores... too huge, in my opinion. 86.94 TE 87.22 PCS ; 174.16 FS = 259.75 Total (1st)

Nobunari Oda (Japan): He started off by dashing my hopes with a fall on his quad toe (deemed underrotated, though I disagree with that one). He came back soon after with a very nice triple axel-triple toe and a gorgeous triple flip-triple toe. His first footwork sequence was alright, and the flying camel combo spin was nice too. Great triple lutz (though, alas, edge called), followed by a lovely triple axel. The followed triple loop was alright and then a triple salchow-double toe-double loop that lost speed, but was okay. Good double axel, but much to my chagrin, he fell on the landing edge (I think he said he hit a rough spot?) and then missed part of his footwork sequence after. He finished off with a pair of pretty good spins. Ugh. He's an extremely maddening skater. First the combo counting issues, and now this fluke fall on a double axel.79.58 TE 78.64 PCS -2.00 Deductions ; 156.22 FS = 242.81 Total (2nd)

Freeskate Results
Overall Results

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's going on with Daisuke Takahashi?

That is what some of you might be asking yourselves, and I'm going to do my best to summarize what I've read and heard for you here.

Word is that Daisuke hurt mainly his neck muscles in the crash with Takahiko Kozuka. A Russian newspaper claimed it hurt the vertebrae in his neck too. Unfortunately though, we don't really know how seriously Daisuke is injured - he has mostly just simply stating that he is alright, but his team has been a bit more forthright about the injury. Apparently he did consider withdrawing, and a doctor even recommended to, but in the end he decided to compete. Eventually, Daisuke admitted to having some pain and bruising in his neck and lower back, but absolutely refuses to blame the injury for how he competed and says it isn't so serious an injury, even saying, "I had the chance to win the final but I blew it and this has made me painfully aware that I'm not a good enough skater. I've just got to regroup and put in the work in practice."
As to why he has been saying okay while still injured, it's probably a mixture of not wanting to make excuses for how he skates and trying not to make Takahiko feel any more guilty than he already does. Takahiko has apologized several times and in every instance I've heard of, Daisuke has accepted the apology and told him not to worry about it, that he was okay, but the former still feels bad about it - last I heard, he promised that it wouldn't happen again.

Hopefully, what Daisuke has said is correct and he isn't injured badly enough to effect the rest of his season; if it's any indicator, he skated in the Grand Prix Final Exhibition and landed a triple axel (albeit, not perfectly) and a triple flip, and he didn't seem as uncomfortable as he did in the competition. My main concern right now is that Japanese Nationals are in less than two weeks and I'd rather him not risk aggravating the injury by training too hard for it and competing while still injured. Worlds are his obvious goal this season, and if he isn't well enough to compete at Nationals, I think that the Japanese Federation is more than likely willing to give him a bye to Worlds. It sounds like Daisuke is still planning to compete though and has said that he is hoping to have more consistency on his quads by then.

Thank you to Daisuke's Forum for some of this information and translations.

Check back for my post on the men's freeskate at the Grand Prix Final - it IS coming!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Grand Prix Final - Men's Short

*Before I get started, I should note that as many of you may have heard. Takahiko Kozuka and Daisuke Takahashi collided in practice the day before the short program, during Daisuke's freeskate runthrough. Both have said that they are okay and Takahiko was apologetic about the incident. Daisuke seemed rather good natured about the ordeal, appearing to laugh moments after hitting the ice.

 Florent Amodio (France): Rushed the triple axel and popped it into a huge single :-/. That's unusual for him, he's been clean in the short all season. Triple lutz-triple toe was okay and the triple flip was on the outside edge, but okay other than that. Flying camel slowed down toward the end, but the step sequence was alright after that. Good spin on the combo spin and the final sit change sit was okay, not his best. His jumps weren't nearly as good as usual and his performance quality wasn't really there today. I guess Florent was feeling the pressure and it showed. He's clearly unsatisfied with his performance. 28.38 TE 33.26 PCS = 61.64 (6th)

Nobunari Oda (Japan): Really nice speed almost instantly. Nobunari shocked me by going for a quad, and surprised me again by landing it beautifully AND adding a very nice triple toe to the end. I had no idea that he had that planned, but I guess he thought he needed it to be competitive. Solid triple axel after that and a good flying camel with a rather graceful catchfoot position, especially for a man. A little bit much speed and looseness going into the triple lutz - it ended up being pretty good, but it was a little wild (he was understandably very excited). Good combo spin, aside from that hated A-Frame position. He's actually emoting today; this performance was full of energy and excitement, though it calmed down towards the end with an alright footwork sequence and good sit change sit. Nobunari was absolutely thrilled with how he did and who can blame him? That was awesome! I wish that he skated with that kind of life all the time... it really does make a difference. 48.06 TE 38.53 PCS = 86.59 Total (1st)

Tomas Verner (Czech Republic): I'd hate to have to follow a performance like Oda's, so I don't envy Tomas right now at all. Good triple lutz-triple toe to start off, and then he proceed to pop the axel into a single. Ugh. Good triple flip after that at least. Flying camel wasn't very good, but the footwork was alright, maybe a little stumble in there somewhere though. Combo spin was fine and the sit change sit was kinda good. 28.76 TE 36.61 PCS = 65.37 Total (5th)

Patrick Chan (Canada): Lots of speed, as usual. Held onto the quad, maybe a bit underrotated? (It was indeed marked for it.  Okay triple axel - I'm kind of surprised that he landed both that and the quad. Good combo spin and pretty good triple flip-triple toe. Flying sit and camel change camel were also good. Finished up with a nice footwork sequence. Cleanish short for Patrick this time.43.77 TE 41.82 PCS = 85.59 Total (2nd) Probably raked in postive Grade of Execution marks on the spins, etc.

Daisuke Takahashi (Japan): Triple flip-triple toe to open, pretty good. Big triple axel, good! Flying layback was pretty good, though a bit of a delay between landing and hitting the position. He's really selling this program today, the crowd is going nuts. Good triple lutz to finish off the jumps. Sit change sit slowed, and he tripped on the footwork a bit, but kept it going pretty well after that. It looks like he is literally dancing out there. Final combo spin was okayish... he's done better. Pretty good overall, not exactly his best but the elements were there and Daisuke had great facial expression in between the elements - he makes it look fun.
 40.57 TE 42.06 PCS = 82.57 Total (3rd) Most likely lost some Grade of Execution on the steps this time, he usually gets high marks on that.Also, while I guess that I understand why Chan got higher technical marks, I think they could have had more of a gap between his components and Takahashi's. That might just be me though O-:-).

Takahiko Kozuka (Japan): Triple lutz-triple toe - both were rough, maybe an underrotation on one or both. Held onto that triple axel; it doesn't look like it's his day. Good death drop and triple flip. Camel change camel was alright, slowed down on the final rotations on either foot though. Footwork was good, but near the end of it by the boards he slipped after he stopped and bumped into the boards. Final combo spin was alright. Definitely not how Takahiko had planned on skating this program. Either he was still rattled from the practice collision the day before, or he just let nerves get the best of him. Here's to hoping that he gets it together for the freeskate. 39.43 TE 38.47 PCS = 77.90 Total (4th)

P.S. Thank you to the kind folks of Daisuke Takahashi's fan forum for providing links to the protocols.
Short Program Results
Men Protocols 1
Men Protocols 2

Thursday, December 9, 2010

30 Days of Skating - Day 17: Least Favourite Skater

 As far as just the skating goes, Evgeni Plushenko. Don't get me wrong - I used to be a big fan of his pre-Torino, but starting that season I really lost interest in his skating. The arm flailing doesn't cut it as far as artistry and footwork go, and it's really a shame, because I thought in some years prior that he had at least some semblance of artistry in him, but from 2006 onward it was just jumping and flailing of the arms. Of course, Evgeni probably had some of those problems before that, but I don't think they were as noticeable. I'm sorry to say that he was pretty fortunate to get what he did in Vancouver; most skaters who had had that many scratchy or barely there jumps would have been placed lower than he did, especially if their programs were as empty as his transitionally (swiveling of the hips don't count as transitions or choreography ;) ). That said, Evgeni deserves a lot of credit for even making it to this past Olympics. It was certainly an admirable comeback after 3 years without competing.

This is one of his programs that I do enjoy.

Haha... that never gets old!
P.S. If you're a newer fan, you might not know about Phillipe Candeloro, a French figure skater who placed 3rd at the Olympics twice and had a penchat for taking his shirt off  in skating exhibitions. In the video above, Plushenko is doing a parody of that and other "macho men" skaters.

Who are your favorite skaters and their favorite programs?

Other than Takahashi, I love Stephane Lambiel (2007 Worlds programs), Jeff Buttle (Naqoyqatsi, Ararat, Adios Nonino, Go the Distance), Johnny Weir (04-05 Otonal), Michelle Kwan (Tosca, The Feeling Begins, Arajuez), Shen and Zhao (Nutcracker, Turandot), and Adam Rippon (last years FS, this year both programs and his EX). There's more favorite skaters, but I haven't picked favorite programs for all of them.

30 Days of Skating - Day 16: Your Dream 2014 Olympic Medalists

...Like you didn't see that coming after you read the title. ;) This one is so much easier than predicting who I think will win!

For the ladies, I'd like to see something like this...

Gold -Mao Asada
Silver - Mirai Nagasu
Bronze -Christina Gao/Akiko Suzuki

Mao is a lovely skater and wants it (Olympic gold) so badly, and I appreciate that she is trying to relearn her jumps in order to have proper technique and a full set of triples. It's hard to correct something when you have the wrong way to do it in your muscle memory from doing it that way so long, and I think it's great that Mao is working on her weak points and trying to make her skating the best it can be. Mirai has a personality that really grabs your attention and when at her best, you can see it in her performances. Christina Gao stood out to me in the splat fest that was US Nationals last season, so I'd like to see her grow and hopefully be an Olympic medalist one day. And finally, Akiko Suzuki, because she skates with heart; you can see she enjoys skating and I love that she brings you along for the ride.

For the pairs... well. I don't see nearly as many anymore, but from what I do...
Gold - Pang/Tong (though in reality, I kinda doubt they'll stay in)
Silver - Savchenko/Szolkowy
Bronze - Barazova/Larionov

I have a soft spot for Pang and Tong after watching them for so long and I'm basically a sucker for a good pairs love story. I enjoy their lyrical style and it's always a pleasure to watch Chinese throws and twists. Savchenko and Szolkowy impressed me at the 2010 Olympics - I really loved their freeskate, and I find it a bit of a shame that their Olympic season didn't go quite how they had hoped (although never would I EVER wish that Shen and Zhao hadn't won in Vancouver) , and I think it'd be great if they stayed in and improved on their placement in Sochi. Barazova and Larionov have a beautiful style, and if they continue to improve and avoid injury, they could definitely be serious contenders at top competitions. I'd definitely like to see that, so long as she works on her jumps (they lack height and possibly rotation).

For ice dance, I'd like...
Gold - Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani
Silver - Meryl Davis/Charlie White
Bronze - ?

Although I have no idea who I'd like to have the bronze at this point in time, I'd love to see the Shibutanis and Marlie go 1-2, in either order (after all, the Shibutanis will still be pretty young for ice dancers). I really enjoy both teams, and how amazing would it be for America to win two Olympic medals in ice dance at one time?!?

For the men...
Gold - Daisuke Takahashi
Silver - Adam Rippon/Takahiko Kozuka
Bronze - Florent Amodio

Yeah, yeah - my pick for gold is extremely predictable, but what can I say? Daisuke is my clear favorite and he wants the gold so badly. I really feel that as amazing of a skater that he is and considering what he's overcome to get this far, that he deserves to be the first Japanese man to win the Olympic title in figure skating. For silver, I can't bring myself to decide who I want it for more at this point, Adam or Takahiko, especially because both will be about the same age and might be thinking of retirement by then :-/. Finally, for bronze, I'd like Florent to have it, although by then he might really be challenging for gold if he continues to develop the way he has been.

Hopefully at least a few of my dream picks will come true - the Olympics aren't exactly my favorite skating competition. There always seems to be a skater who misses out on a medal that really deserved one and either were judged poorly or they succumbed to nerves and robbed themselves. Also, sometimes a skater just happens to get lucky and skate well on the right day, but overall their skating isn't worth an Olympic gold and the recognition that comes along with it. I'll take the World Championships over the Olympic heartbreaks any day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Grand Prix Final - The Preview

After the marathon that is the regular Grand Prix season, it's always strange having this small lull in the action while the skating world waits for the Grand Prix Final to take place. This season is certainly no exception. So far, surprisingly, there have been no withdrawal announcements (although there are still a few days left for that). With the lineups the way they currently stand, the event has the potential to be rather interesting and in the case of the ladies (and the men to some degree), unpredictable. All that said, here are my thoughts.

 Ice Dance Qualifiers
1. Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA)
2. Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat (FRA)
3. Vanessa Crone/Paul Poirier (CAN)
4. Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
5. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN)
6. Nora Hoffmann/Maxim Zavozin (HUN)
7. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA)
7. Madison Chock/Greg Zuerlein (USA)
8. Ekaterina Riazanova/Ilia Trachenko (RUS)

I think the battle for gold here will most likely be between Davis/White and Pechalat/Bourzat. I'd still give the edge to Davis/White, but the French have come much closer to their point total than anyone expected before this season started. In all honesty, it seems like everyone else will just be fighting for the bronze.And my personal hope? Simply that a team will withdraw so that the Shibutanis get a chance to compete at the GPF this year and so we get a last chance to see them compete before Nationals.

Pairs Qualifiers
1. Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy (GER)
2. Qing Pang/Jian Tong (CHN)
3.  Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov (RUS)
4.  Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch (CAN)
5. Lubov Iliushechkina/Nodari Maisuradze (RUS)
6. Wenjing Sui/Cong Han (CHN)
7. Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran (JPN)
8. Caitlin Yankowskas/John Coughlin (USA)
9. Paige Lawrence/Rudi Swiegers (CAN)

 As in the ice dancing event, in pairs the top two teams are the clear frontrunners. Savchenko/Szolkowy and Pang/Tong should be the teams to watch here, but if either team really falters, Barazova/Larionov are the most likely to crash their party. Sui/Han will also be looking to place well in their home country and might be a threat for bronze if all of their tricks are there. Also, a fun fact: Sui/Han also qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final this season, but chose to compete in the Senior event instead (which I feel is definitely a wise choice), and the first alternates Takahashi/Tran also qualified for the JGPF. 

Ladies Qualifiers
1. Miki Ando (JPN)
2. Alissa Czisny (USA)
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA)
4. Kanako Murakami (JPN)
5. Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
6. Rachael Flatt (USA)
7. Kiira Korpi (FIN)
8. Mirai Nagasu (USA)
9. Ashley Wagner (USA)

As I previously stated, the Ladies event is likely to be the most unpredictable in Beijing, which could be exciting or just disastrous. I'd normally say that Miki Ando has possibly the best chance at gold here, but she got injured at Cup of Russia and was skating in pain during the freeskate. How she places will probably be determined by how well she has recovered. If Miki is healed enough to rotate and land her jumps well, it might just be enough for the title. Carolina Kostner will likely still be skating with watered down jumping content but if she lands what content she has, the judges are pretty likely to reward her with a medal. Alissa Czisny is as inconsistent as can be, and while her spins and spirals are very pretty, I really doubt that the jumps will be there for her and consequently am not convinced that she'll manage more than a bronze, if that.

I also think that Akiko Suzuki has a clear shot at a medal if she just lands her jumps and is just a lovely skater to watch; I'm definitely hoping that she can put all the elements together at this event and claim the title. Kanako Murakami and Rachael Flatt are each a bit of a question mark here; Kanako is lively and vivacious, but not necessarily the most consistent jumper, and I still find her rough around the edges, while Rachael is somewhat the opposite; consistent, but never exciting, and the judges haven't been doing her many favors lately (compared to other ladies).

Mens Qualifiers
1. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
2. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
3. Patrick Chan (CAN)
4. Tomas Verner (CZE)
5. Nobunari Oda (JPN)
6. Florent Amodio (FRA)
7. Jeremy Abbott (USA)
8. Brandon Mroz (USA)
9. Adam Rippon (USA)

As has been the case all season, the men look to be the highlight of the competition. All of these guys have the potential to be on the podium, so this event is somewhat hard to predict, though there's one or two that I find more likely to be on the podium than the others. Patrick Chan may have a harder time getting away with big mistakes in a field this deep, but I have a feeling that he's likely to medal even with those mistakes unless his competitors skate lights out. Daisuke Takahashi hasn't been as clean as he would've liked thus far this season, but his freeskate has been getting stronger at each event, so hopefully it will come together for him here. If Daisuke is clean, that along with his high (deservedly so) component scores will likely give him the win, and even if he has a couple of minor mistakes, he'll probably still be in the mix for a medal. Takahiko Kozuka, the surprise top qualifier for the Grand Prix Final,, will find himself in good stead if he skates as consistently as he has at his two Grand Prix events; if Patrick and Daisuke really fall short, Takahiko potentially could beat both of them and win his first major ISU championship. Even if he doesn't win, he has an excellent shot at medaling.

Nobunari Oda is also a possible medal threat - when he's on, he's great, and he always garners a lot of positive Grades of Execution on his jumps. He'll need to keep track of his combinations in this field though; it might be a close contest and he can't afford to give away that many points. Tomas Verner and Florent Amodio are the wild cards of sorts here; if either skate flawlessly, they could find themselves on the podium, but it may take mistakes by others to make that happen. Also, neither of them have attempted a quad in competition so far this season and if the other guys land theirs, that might end up being the difference between 3rd and 6th. Tomas plans to put a quad in at some point this season, possibly at the Final, but Florent has no such plans (his coach Morozov is leaving it out in attempt to build consistency and thus far, it is working).

Overall, the Grand Prix Final looks like it could really be a good competition, with some of the top skaters facing each other for the first time this season. The action starts Friday morning at 4:15 AM, Eastern Standard time.

Grand Prix Final Entries
Grand Prix Final Live Streaming Times

Friday, December 3, 2010

30 Days of Skating - Day 15: Predict Gold Medalists for 2014

 It's really not possible to predict that at this point - we're not even quite halfway through this skating season, and the 2010 Olympics were just 10 months ago. But if I had to attempt an educated guess as to who will win in Sochi, I'd say...

Men: Daisuke Takahashi (if he stays in and healthy), Patrick Chan (the judges ADORE him), or maybe Florent Amodio, Adam Rippon, or Takahiko Kozuka. (I would have put Nobunari Oda as well, but he'll probably do too many combinations or something *sigh*).

Ladies: Hahaha... that is probably the hardest one to predict. But if Yu-Na Kim gives it another go, she'd probably have an excellent chance, maybe Mao Asada if her jump technique tweaking pays off, Kanako Murakami, or one of the young Russian girls that are still in juniors (since everyone is raving about them.).

Pairs: Savchenko and Szolkowy seem like a good bet at this point, especially because I don't believe that Pang and Tong will keep competing for that long (I really thought that I heard they were retiring after this past Olympic season!). Sui and Han might be in the mix, as well as a handful of up and coming Russian teams and Kavaguti and Smirnov.

Ice Dance: Davis and White are definitely one that I can see winning gold in a few years (with good programs, of course.). They haven't dominated in quite the fashion people thought they would this season, but they have several years to work out any kinks in their skating and they are still young for a top ice dancing team. Virtue and Moir, the reigning Olympic gold medalists, can't be counted out either, if they decide to stay in and her surgery pays off. I'm also keeping my eye on the Shibutanis, Crone and Poirier, and Weaver and Poje.

All in all though, these are all just guesses on recent seasons and this one thus far. I'm sure we'll see quite a bit of up and comers taking names, especially in ladies and ice dance.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

30 Days of Skating - Day 14: 5 Favorite Dance Teams

I don't watch nearly as much ice dancing as I should, but I do have a few teams that I really like.

Based off of the last half of last season and the beginning of this season, my current favorites are Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

The Shibutanis have really impressed me this season; even with my incomplete knowledge of ice dancing's technical aspect, they seem like they really have a handle on all of the elements they attempt (their twizzles especially are ridiculously good.). More than that though, I really enjoy how they perform. They make ice dancing look fun, easy, and beautiful, and skate so ethereally that it looks like they are skating on air. I really, really hope that they make the World team this season.

Davis and White and Virtue and Moir both really impressed me at the Olympics and Worlds. Both skated lights out, and it's really interesting to see this changing of the guard in ice dancing take place, after beginning a few years ago. It'll be interesting to see how they shape up against each other once Virtue has fully recovered from her surgery.

I also used to like Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto a lot, but they lost their luster for me after the 05-06 season ended. I suppose they were attempting to move onto "more mature" programs, but I don't think what they choose fit their style very well and they began to bore me (which was a factor in my watching ice dancing less).

I know that's only four, but those are the only ones I can list even somewhat definitively, haha. Who are your favorite ice dancing teams?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Trophee Eric Bompard: Men's Freeskate

Today, two men qualified for the Grand Prix Final in an extremely impressive fashion, and I really don't think I could be much more excited! Takahiko Kozuka and Florent Amodio were the clear standouts on a day where most performances were uninspired. However, those two MORE than made up for it.

Zoltan Kelemen (Romania): Started with a fallout on a triple axel that also looked underrotated, though it wasn't marked that way. Triple lutz-triple toe, the latter of which again looked underrotated, in addition to being two footed. Good triple loop and a rather nice sit change sit - that really surprised me. Fall on a triple lutz, followed by a triple flip-single toe-double toe combo that had a weird fallout. Some footwork that was okay, but not great, and an underrotated triple flip-double toe. The triple salchow after that was fine, as well as a combo spin with decent speed. A good double axel for the final element. That was probably one of the most empty programs I've seen in a good while. I think I saw maybe one transition, and there didn't really seem to be much choreography. Didn't really care for the music either, but the crowd really seemed to like him. 58.10 TE 51.58 PCS -1.00 Deduction ; 108.68 FS = 161.70 (9th)

Anton Kovalevski (Ukraine): Why are they showing a judge on the screen when Anton is beginning his program? Weird... Fallout on an underrotated triple axel at the start, but came but with an alright triple lutz-double tano toe. His flip and lutz techniques are odd though (I've probably mention it before), he seems to stick his free leg out to the side a bit before picking in. Okay triple flip, and a cool double axel with the tano arm; I've only seen that a couple of times. The triple loop was really crooked in the air, but landed somehow  (little underrotated though). His flying sit spin with a twist variation was okay, and the first footwork sequence was kinda good. Oh gosh, the music changed and there was a random gunshot in it and it made me jump so high! I can't believe I forgot that from Russia. Triple toe-double toe-double toe combo was eeked out somehow and the triple salchow after that was good. Another flying sit with a variation and an okay, but rather blase footwork sequence. Finished up his freeskate with a decent double axel-double toe combo and an okay combo spin. Anton's spins and artistry could definitely use some work, and he could also work on rotating some of those triples more. Fixing the lutz and flip technique wouldn't hurt either. Overall though, he was much better than he was at Cup of Russia. 60.41 TE 57.72 PCS ; 118.13 FS = 173.92 Total (8th)

Nan Song (China): Opened with a triple axel-triple toe that was alright (I was surprised he pulled it off, since the axel wasn't really great), and a triple lutz-double toe-double loop that was okay, but the lutz was a little too big (he didn't control it well). A sit change sit that could have had better speed and positioning, but a good double axel after that. Singled an attempted triple loop and had a slow sit spin with a variation. Held onto that second triple axel, but the triple flip after that was good, but wrong edged. First footwork sequence was okay technically, but there's zero connection to the music or the audience.  Singled a flip after that, but held onto a triple salchow and tacked a double toe onto it. Second footwork sequence... meh. Nice spread eagle into a combo spin, which ended up traveling and being really slow. Not much stood out about this performance, and as far as interpreting the music, it may as well have been a practice session. I'm beginning to think that skaters that lack artistry should take acting classes... couldn't hurt, right? 61.73 TE 56.92 PCS ;118.65 FS = 181.53 Total (6th)

Kevin Reynolds (Canada): Again, the dang camera is fixate on the crowd instead of the one actually skating! Finally, back on Kevin, then he goes for a quad salchow; looked a little underrotated to me (otherwise fine though), but it received full credit. After that he went for the second quad, a toe loop, which he fell on after underrotating it. Triple axel (maybe underrotated)-triple toe was alright - I definitely wasn't expecting him to land that. I like the position in his change foot upright spin that is similar to a layback. Triple loop was fine, but he singled the second triple axel attempt. Tough triple lutz afterwards, also deemed underrotated. Flying sit was alright, but I don't really like the over the top movements in the footwork, especially the way he was using his head. Nice triple salchow, though the triple flip-triple toe-double toe was kind tight. Second footwork sequence was much better than the first, to me at least, and he finished with a combo spin with a bit of traveling, but it had some nice positions. Kevin has nice lines in some of the movements in this program; I think they should emphasize that more. He could probably place really well if they worked more on his spins and components (I've heard that Kevin's been working on it, but I'm not seeing much still). Maybe he'll get the whole package together eventually. 70.42 TE 64.58 PCS -1.00 Deduction ; 134.00 FS = 200.13 Total (4th)

Peter Liebers (Germany): Really great triple toe at the beginning, though it was probably a planned quad. Good speed into his first triple axel, but he fell out of it, and put a triple toe on it, but the latter didn't count. Walley into a tough triple lutz, but the footwork after that was okay. Flying sit was okay, but then a fall on a second triple axel attempt which was underrotated, though he didn't get dinged for that. Triple salchow-double toe after that was alright, followed by a tight triple loop. Combo spin was slow, with not so great positions, and then another fall on an underrotated triple flip. He wrapped things up with an okay double axel and second footwork sequence, but that last flying sit combo spin was so slow. That's a shame, I was hoping to see him skate at least fairly clean. This program could be so fun with some more interpretation. 54.37 TE 56.64 PCS -2.00 Deductions ; 111.01 FS = 177.54 Total (7th)

Chafik Besseghier (France): Huge reaction from the crowd was his name was announced. Quad toe attempt opened up into a scarily popped single, and the same thing happened for the first triple axel. I think he's letting crowd expectations get to him, but I can't really blame him - it's his first senior international and it's in his home country! Fallout on a triple lutz, but the footwork after that was done well, though it only received a level 1. Death drop was mostly good, and he held onto his second triple axel attempt and added a double toe to it. It seems like he's regained control of this performance, thankfully. Nice triple loop, followed up by a nice, albeit relatively simple triple toe-triple toe. Triple salchow was also nice, and the second footwork sequence was alright. Pulled off a double axel-double toe-double toe, though it was tight on the back half of the combo. Slow combo spin and a slightly better sit change sit at the end. Not too shabby of a skate, all things considered. Those pops in the beginning had me scared for his safety though. He might really be something with more experience. 55.34 TE 60.02 PCS ; 115.36 FS = 185.69 (5th)

Brandon Mroz (United States): Quad toe as his opening jump, which he leaned a bit forward on, but landed. Triple axel-triple toe was good, and then he landed a crooked triple lutz. Footwork that was nice, but appeared really slow on tv. Good triple loop, and a death drop that was fine. Brandon looks sleepy. Fallout on the second triple axel (it leaned a bit in the air). Triple lutz-double toe was alright, as well as a triple salchow. I really don't like most of the music in this program. Triple flip (edge called)-double toe-double loop, good. Camel spin with a donut variation, had a little trouble catching the foot, but okay other than that. Ended with another alright footwork sequence and decent combo spin. It was a good overall skate, but Brandon just doesn't do anything for me. 76.05 TE 65.80 PCS ; 141.85 FS = 214.31 Total (3rd)

Florent Amodio (France): Really great triple axel to start off, followed by a two footed triple axel-double toe, overall okay. Triple loop was a little rough, at least compared to how his jumps usually are now. The face he makes when he starts his footwork sequence is great - it's funny seeing a serious hip hop look on him, and the footwork was alright overall. Flying sit with okay speed and positions through, followed by an easy triple salchow-triple toe. Good triple lutz and triple flip, but the latter was edge called. Triple lutz-double toe-double toe was alright, and finished the jumps with a double axel. Haha, he was obviously happy after he landed that. Footwork good, (what I saw at least...cameraman went to Morozov. Gr!) and a sit change sit and combo spin that were both alright. That was really good! When Florent is on, his jumps really sing - they look so effortless. Not a whole lot going on transition-wise, especially in the latter half, but he performed it well and was technically solid. Unfortunately, the more I see this program, the more I see how much Morozov rehashed Takahashi's Hip Hop Swan Lake. This program is fun, but not a masterpiece, nor as good as Kozuka's. 77.26 TE 76.50 PCS ; 153.76 FS = 229.38 Total (2nd)

Takahiko Kozuka (Japan): He opened with a quad toe, which was two footed, but looked about rotated and it wasn't a bad two foot (clearly underrotated, scratchy,etc). First triple axel was a little held, but alright. Good triple lutz-double toe, followed by a combo spin that slowed, though it had good positions. Very pretty footwork that was really well done - his skating skills really are highlighted there. Triple axel-double toe-double loop was good, and a great triple flip. Triple lutz-triple toe, also good and really late in the program. Okay triple loop, and fine triple salchow, then a good death drop. Great footwork, again, rather beautiful to watch. Final combo spin slowed but picked up speed on his last scratch position. He's so excited about how he skated! He still could improve more on expression, but he has said he is working on it and I do believe it is getting better. I did see some facial expression starting to occur in this freeskate, and I think the artistry picked up more towards the end. Overall, beautiful performance (there were so many gorgeous movements!), and hopefully just what Takahiko needs to boost his confidence. 89.63 TE 80.80 PCS ; 170.43 FS = 248.07 (1st) Monster score! He couldn't believe it, and his reaction was absolutely priceless.

*Sidenote: Brian Joubert withdrew before the freeskate due to having a stomach flu. I wish him a speedy recovery!

Congratulations to Takahiko, Florent, and Brandon on their medals, and congratulations to the gold and silver medalists on their Grand Prix Final Qualification!

Freeskate Results
Overall Results

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trophee Eric Bompard: Men's Short

 Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone! I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday and made the most of it! I had a nice Thanksgiving with my family, and mostly just relaxed with them and went out for dinner. But onto the skating... this wasn't really the most spectacular men's short but it wasn't bad either. Let's get started!

Zoltan Kelemen (Romania): Double axel was just okay, and then a fall on the back half of a triple lutz-triple toe (likely downgraded or at least marked underrotated). The camel change camel spin was okayish, not really great speed but the position wasn't bad. Nice triple flip for his last jumping pass, then some decent footwork. Flying sit spin was okay, but the combo spin... meh. Overall Zoltan didn't really leave much of an impression on me, but it is nice seeing a skater from Romania (I can't remember any others). 28.32 TE 25.70 PCS -1.00 Deduction = 53.02 Total (10th)

Chafik Besseghier (France): Pretty decent speed across the ice. Really nice quad toe-triple toe combination, as well as a pretty good triple axel, though it looked a little weird to me in the air, but was landed nicely. I liked the twizzle transition, it was pretty cool. Flying camel was okay, but slow at the end. Slow combo spin after that, with not so great positions. Footwork and sit change sit were both alright. Surprisingly good performance for someone that's never competed at this level internationally. It seems that alot of skating fans, including myself, have never even heard of him! That said, while pretty impressive technically (at least on jumps), his spins and performance quality are still lacking. It also wouldn't hurt to change that costume... very 80's skating! :P
40.59 TE 29.74 PCS = 70.33 Total (4th)

Peter Liebers (Germany): Started off with a triple lutz-triple toe combination; the lutz looked easy, but he had to fight for the toe. Alright triple axel and then a flying camel with a donut position that made it rather slow. An okay Sit change sit with a hopover to change feet, followed by a walley into a triple flip that was really nice, except the unfortunate clear outside edge. I like this music, though Peter isn't selling it that well here. Pretty nice footwork, seemed to have good difficulty, to me at least. good combo spin until near the end, where is slowed. Better than I've seen him skate most of the time, so good for him. Hopefully the freeskate will go just as well. 36.24 TE 30.29 PCS = 66.53 Total (6th)

Anton Kovalevski (Ukraine): Opened with a triple axel that he put his hand down on, and looked at least a little underrotated. Decent recovery with a triple lutz-triple toe, though the latter was wonky. Hard fall on an underrotated triple loop. Flying camel spin, really sloppy. Actually, most of what Anton has done in this program has been sloppy to some extent. Footwork that wasn't particularly well done, but it probably got a decent level on it. Slow combo spin, but the sit change sit after was better. I really question this choice of music not just for him, but in general. He did at least attempt to interpret it though. 28.69 TE 28.10 PCS -1.00 Deduction = 55.79 PCS (9th)

Nan Song (China): Triple lutz-triple toe with a big space in between the jumps, but he eeked it out. Poor flying camel, but decent skating skills. Very nice triple flip, and the sit change sit was definitely better than the prior spin. Footwork was okay, but 'm not getting any kind of interpretation from this program at all. Finished with a combo spin that was alright. Jumps were pretty much there, but there's no zest to this program. 33.83 TE 29.05 = 62.88 Total (8th)

Florent Amodio (France): Beautiful triple axel at the beginning of the program, as well as good speed/basic skills. His triple lutz-triple toe was also nice, and an easy (but wrong edged) triple flip. Flying camel spin was okay, and I really liked the first variation where his torso is twisted upwards. Selling the footwork sequence, which was on the good side. Nice, fast sit change sit in his combo spin, though the solo sit change sit was slower.  Really good performance today; my only issue was the wrong edge on the flip, and Florent could probably sell it even more, particularly in the first half of the program. He kissed a little flower girl on the cheek while still on the ice... how cute. =) 39.52 TE 36.10 PCs = 75.62 Total (2nd)

Kevin Reynolds (Canada): Quad salchow-triple toe; the salchow looked like it may have been underrotated to my eye. Nice triple axel, but then a crash on the quad toe. Flying spin that had a really nice quality in the air and was okay for the rest of it. Slow sit change sit that got even slower at the end. Okay footwork, but not a whole lot of performance to it or this program in general. Ending spin was kinda good. All in all... Kevin needs all his jumps to really contend. Apart from that, not a lot about his skating really stands out to me artistically or technically. He looked confused at his scores - I'm thinking that they downgraded both quads or something. 35.02 TE 32.11 PCS -1.00 Deduction = 66.13 Total (7th)

Brandon Mroz (United States): Held onto the quad toe-triple toe, though both looked like they might be a bit underrotated. His triple axel was alright, but then the heel of his free foot hit the ice and he stumbled a bit. That was pretty weird. Slow camel change camel, but then a big triple lutz. Slow flying spin, and okay footwork. Combo spin at the end wasn't great, but it got better in the last parts of it. Brandon doesn't really do much for me artistically (or technically really), but it does seem like he is trying to be more expressive, at least in his face, and I appreciate the effort. 40.53 TE 31.93 PCS = 72.46 Total (3rd)

Takahiko Kozuka (Japan): Opening triple lutz-triple toe was a bit cautious, but fine. He held onto the triple axel, but the following flying sit was nice. Again, his skating skills are ridiculously good, and I love how he moves his body - it reminds me of how Lambiel moves, in a way. Nice triple flip for his last jump. Slow camel change camel, but the positions were okay. Really nice footwork, with fun crowd play thing at the end of the rink. An alright combo spin to end. Not Takahiko's best skate, but he got the job done, and most of the elements were good. I think his expression was a little better here than it has been previously; he did mention to the press that one of his goals this season was to improve on that aspect of his skating. 40.35 TE 37.29 PCS* = 77.64 Total (1st)

*So glad to see that Takahiko's components were scored higher here than they usually are!

Brian Joubert (France): Quad toe attempt, two-footed and badly underrotated. For some reason he tacked a single toe loop onto it. Fallout on the triple axel after that. Flying upright spin was alright, and I think it was different at Cup of China; maybe going for a higher level here? Good triple lutz and surprisingly good speed on the cannonball variation of his combo spin! Footwork was alright, much less frivolous movements than usual for him. Sit change sit at the end of the program got really slow at the end. Poor Brian. It seems like his quad has abandoned him the last couple of competitions, and I'm really surprised that he isn't even managed to rotate it. Artistically, he does the choreography in the program (obviously), but it doesn't really seem to mean anything; he isn't bringing any life to it. I might like it better if Brian put the zest he has occasionally had into this program.  30.84 TE 36.11 PCS = 66.95 Total (5th)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trophee Eric Bompard - A Preview

Only a couple more days until Trophee Eric Bompard starts! I've dying for this since about halfway through the men's freeskate at Cup of Russia, and I am really looking forward to what will hopefully be a much more exciting men's event. Here's the rundown on who to look out for.

In Pairs Savchenko and Szolkowy are easily favorite for gold - unless they explode entirely, I doubt anyone will be able to touch them. For the rest of the field it will simply be a fight for silver and bronze.

As for Ice Dancing, the heavy favorite is definitely the French team of Pechalat and Bourzat; it is doubtful that anyone will truly challenge them here, but Chock and Zuerlein will definitely be looking to follow up their bronze at Skate Canada with another medal here. Several of the other teams only finished 5th at their earlier Grand Prix showings this season, so it could be interesting to see how they stack up in Paris. 

The Ladies, contrary to the pairs and ice dance events, have no clear favorite for the title here.  Alissa Czisny, Mirai Nagasu, Kiira Korpi, and Cynthia Phaneuf seem to be the most likely candidates for a win here, but none of them are exactly models of consistency. Also, although I wouldn't place any bets on her (or more likely, Fantasy Skating picks), it wouldn't do well to count out reigning World Champion Mao Asada, even with her jump troubles as of late. I really hope Mao really get her feet back under her here; seeing her struggle the way she has is disheartening, especially because she is a much better skater than that. 

And finally, the Men. The men's event in Paris features Brian Joubert, Takahiko Kozuka, Florent Amodio, Kevin Reynolds, and Brandon Mroz. Mroz will be looking to build upon his silver medal win at Cup of China, and possibly qualify for the Grand Prix Final. Joubert, while not one to be counted out, usually doesn't skate well in his home country ( He's even admitted to disliking competing there!), so we'll see what he puts out this time. Also, if he wishes to really challenge for the title here, he better have worked on getting his spins up to a higher level of difficulty - all but one spin were deemed level 1 in the long program at Cup of China, which really cost him. Amodio is another one looking to build on success from his prior Grand Prix this season - his third place finish at NHK is a fairly impressive result, given that he was against Takahashi and Abbott there, and he even beat Abbott in the freeskate! If he can put the jumps together again here, that combined with his performance quality should be enough to get him on the podium. Reynolds, while having multiple quads with a good deal of consistency, isn't exactly consistent in everything else. He tends to land great quads, only to have mistakes on triple axels or simpler elements later on, so I'm not very convinced that he'll manage a medal here.Lastly, Kozuka is a definite threat here, after a solid win at Cup of China. His jumps, spins, and basics are all there - he could just use some more expression in competition (some does seem to come out in exhibition). However, when Kozuka is on, his skating is absolutely mesmerizing.  

All in all, I'm really looking forward to seeing how this event plays out and who the final Grand Prix Final slots go to. Here's to hoping that the skating is better than at Cup of Russia!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

30 Days of Skating - Day 13: 5 Favorite Pairs Teams

I'm a little out of my element with pairs (and even more so with ice dance),  so I don't have too many favorites as far as the pairs are concerned and so like with the ladies, I am only going to hone in on one favorite, which has to be Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao.

I think it is extremely impressive that they made the difficult transformation from being a pair that just had the big tricks to a pair that really captured the audience's hearts with their artistry. One performance of theirs that I particularly love is their freeskate at Worlds in 2004 - it is simply magical.

Also, as amazing as Shen and Zhao became as skaters, another reason that they're my favorite pair is their personal story *. The sacrifices they and their families made for them to get where they are now make their success all the more satisfying to see , and their love story is as close to a fairytale as true life can get. Their victory in Vancouver is definitely one of my favorite moments (if not THE favorite moment) of all the Olympic Games I have watched.

* There's no way that I can accurately summarize it here, as I haven't read the backstory in it's entirety for a good while, but the book The Second Mark features the detailed backstories of Shen and Zhao, as well Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze and Salé and Pelletier. I highly recommend reading if you have even a minor interest in any of those pairs or the 2002 Olympic scandal.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tomas Verner - Post freeskate interview at Cup of Russia

Tomas may not be my favorite skater, but he really is charming and just comes off as such a nice guy that I end up rooting for him to skate well, whether I intend to or not. Best of luck to him the rest of this season!

30 Days of Skating - Day 12: 5 Favorite Ladies Skaters

Well, sort of. I haven't had many ladies favorites for the last few years, as the discipline seemed to deteriorated in general and with the lion's share of skating coverage on the web (and when live, at strange times depending on where the competition is held), I haven't been watching it nearly as much as I used to. There are a few recent ladies skaters that are undeniably excellent (Yu-Na Kim, Mao Asada), but none of them have really captured capture me like the living legend that is Michelle Kwan.

I started watching Michelle when I was still really little - I was only 6 years old when she claimed silver in Nagano.  But as I have mentioned before, while I did watch some skating even then, I only became a die hard fan after the 2002 Olympics and unfortunately, by then Michelle had already started skipping the Grand Prix most of the time, so I don't remember as many of her performances as I would like. I know that naming Michelle Kwan as your favorite skater is really rather typical of a skating fan, but there's a reason she is so beloved; she truly skated with passion and heart. She consistently not only gave solid technical programs, but really gave you an honest, emotional performance. By doing that, Michelle engaged the heart of many of those watching, at home or live. I think that is what makes her so utterly unforgettable, more than her status as the most decorated American ladies skater of all time. I am not the crying type, but she's made me burst into tears during her performances so, so many times. There really is just some sort of magic to her skating. I think one of my few regrets about Michelle's career is that she never won that elusive Olympic gold medal; I can't think of any recent ladies' skater who has deserved it more than she does, and I am quite sure that I am not the only one who misses the days when she was competing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cup of Russia - Men's Freeskate

Somehow despite Cup of Russia having what was definitely what I considered to be the most lackluster men's event of the Grand Prix season thus far, Tomas Verner has managed to absolutely make my day by defying the odds and defeating Patrick Chan. Kudos to Tomas! That said, here are my thoughts!

Tatsuki Machida (Japan): Started the program off with a two footed quad toe attempt, also underrotated. Triple axel-triple toe combo; the axel was good, but I thought the toe was two footed. Triple lutz was okay and so was the footwork, but nothing really special about it. Flyin sit spin was alright, as well as the following triple flip. Unfortunate slip on the entrance to the triple loop had Tatsuki falling before really getting off the ice. Singled the following axel, which I can't really blame him for since it wasn't long after that fall, which I think may have knocked the wind out of him (or at least really shook him up.). Slow on a flying sit change sit spin, and it was sloppy in general. Triple lutz-double toe was well done and so was the triple salchow-double toe afterward. Second set of footwork was better than the first, but he could use some work on his camel positions in his spins, though the last combo spin was okay overall. That whole performance just seemed really tired, even down to his posture. No life in this program today, which is disappointing because it really seemed like Tatsuki had some connection to it at Cup of China. 60.80 TE 60.84 PCs -1.00 Deduction ; 120.64 FS = 177.01 Total

Anton Kovalevski (Ukraine): Leaned on the first triple axel in the air and fell. Fallout on the triple lutz, but put a double toe with a tano arm variation on the end for some reason (was counted as a sequence, with no credit for the toe loop). Second triple lutz was okay, as well as the triple loop, though the latter leaned in the air. Sit change sit spin with variations was okay. First footwork sequence was alright but half of it really didn't suit the music. There's really no oomph in his skating, at least not today. Triple toe-double toe-double toe, okay. Triple salchow was fine, but a not particularly impressive flying sit after that. Second footwork sequence looks labored to me. Geez, the music in his program is so random! And besides the randomness of it, the stronger parts of the music overpower his presence on the ice. Double axel-double toe was okay, then a sloppy combo spin. Meh. Anton has a strange lutz technique... he goes in without the outside edge and then switches onto it shortly before he picks in. I think some have said Rachael Flatt has the same technique? Either way, not really a fan of it. 56.19 TE 60.30 PCS -1.00 Deduction ; 115.49 FS = 175.54 Total

Ivan Tretiakov (Russia): An okay triple axel to start, followed by an okay triple axel-double toe. Triple flip-triple toe combo, but had difficulties on both jumps. Flying camel that was slow as sin... man. What the heck is this music? Nice triple lutz, then triple loop that he held onto. Alright footwork and a triple flip-double tano toe-double toe that was okay too. Singled the salchow, but a good double axel afterward. Second set of footwork was slow, as well as the last two spins. None of the positions were particularly nice either. Ivan's skating is relatively smooth, but it is slow. Overall, that was really, really dull.  There wasn't really a lot to be interested in but the jumps and most of those weren't even very impressive. 66.52 TE 57.72 PCS ; 124.24 ; FS = 189.85 Total

Samuel Contesti (Italy): Good triple axel at the beginning. Skating skills already better than the two prior Europeans.  A good triple flip and an alright triple lutz as well, followed by a slow camel spin with a change of foot. I kind of liked the first step sequence, it was smooth.  Okay combo spin and a good triple axel-double toe-double toe. Two footed the triple loop after that, but recovered with a nice double axel. This second footwork sequence is really slow for this section of the music. An alright triple salchow-triple toe combo and triple toe-double axel sequence, and a slow spin to end. Not bad, but I did think the score ended up a little high on technical.75.11 TE 66.50 PCS ; 141.61 FS = 207.30 Total

Javier Fernandez (Spain): Javier started the program with a quad toe, which he actually did land, but after he landed it he fell... it was really strange.  Pretty good triple axel after that though, but popped a triple lutz into a single in an odd looking manner. Okayish spin and then that drunken pirate footwork, which I thought was alright. Single axel-double toe and a single flip, followed by yet another popped jump, a double loop. His jumps are just gone today. Heard that he may have been injured though, so I'll keep an ear out for that. Recovered with a nice triple salchow-double toe-double toe combo, as well as a good triple toe-double axel sequence. Another set of alright footwork, but his performance quality is lacking today. Finished with a decent sit change sit and a rough combo spin. That was pretty much a mess. Poor Javier. It appears he maintained his sense of humor in the kiss and cry though. 52.68 TE 65.92 PCS -1.00 Deduction ; 117.60 FS = 184.06 Total

Konstantin Menshov (Russia): Another Michael Jackson program? Hm. Opened with a triple toe, which was most likely a planned quad. Triple lutz was alright, but it has the same weird technique as Kovalevski. Double toe loop. Music switched from Smooth Criminal to birds chirping. That's not confusing at all... anyway, held onto a triple axel, and did a spin that was actually kind of good. Weird triple salchow, but it was landed. The flying sit spin was okay, but got rather slow at the end. Footwork wasn't terrible but it did seem a bit labored. Just barely held onto to triple loop and fell on a triple toe. Double axel-double toe-double toe was okay, but a sloppy combo spin followed it and there was another footwork sequence that wasn't very good. 51.39 TE 63.42 PCS -1.00 Deduction ; 113.81 FS = 181.15 Total

Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan): Triple toe at the start, which was a planned quad toe. Good triple axel, maybe a tiny bit underrotated. I love how Yuzuru's jumps tend to float seemingly effortlessly through the air. It reminds me a lot of how Johnny Weir's jumps were under Priscilla Hill. Alright triple flip, though a little tight , but edge called again - that's something he should probably work on. Sit change sit traveled some but it had good speed and positions.Triple lutz-double toe was okay, not quite the usually ease that he has with the jumps. Footwork was alright, but not really stand out. Good triple axel-triple toe and triple lutz-double toe, but the latter didn't count (due to repeating the triple toe and triple axel already.). Good triple loop, but a little slow on the following combo spin. Random slip and fall at the beginning of his second footwork sequence, but the rest of it was fine. Good triple salchow and a sloppy combo spin to finish up. Not a bad skate at all, but he's capable of better. A lot of his jumps didn't quite have the usual ease to them - nerves maybe? 67.20 TE 66.22 PCS -1.00 Deduction ; 132.42 FS = 202.66 Total

Sidenote: I did the math and had Yuzuru managed the quad toe and thus had the second triple lutz-double toe count, it would have added 14.34 to his base value, which would put him at 217.00 total, just barely behind Jeremy Abbott (assuming the rest of the jumps were performed and graded the same as they were). And if Yuzuru had done the quad as well as he did at NHK (where it garnered an 1.29 in GOE) and/or gotten good GOE on the lutz combo, he very likely would have overtaken Jeremy for the bronze. Dang.

Alban Preaubert (France): Began with a fall an an underrotated quad attempt, but followed with a nice triple axel-double toe. Triple loop was fine too, along with an okay flying spin and footwork (those were only level 2's though). Another good triple axel and an alright triple flip-double toe. Doubled an intended triple lutz, and then did a rough triple salchow-triple toe-double toe. Footwork wasn't particularly good again and then a spin with decent speed, but traveled. One last decent triple flip and a much better combo spin at the end. Blah. I still like him better with humorous programs.68.32 TE 66.86 PCS -1.00 Deduction ; 134.18 FS = 204.68 Total

Artur Gachinski (Russia): Quad toe attempt popped into a double. Triple axel-double toe-single loop; the first two jumps of the combo were nice. Scratch on the landing on the second triple axel and an okay flying camel, but his donut position is either weird or simply poor. Good triple loop and triple flip. Some of the first footwork sequence was alright, but then it sputtered into simple, silly things. How did that get a level 3? Okay spin and then a doubled lutz. Triple toe was fine, as well as a double axel-double axel sequence. Second footwork sequence was exactly the kind of thing Plushenko does, unsurprising as he and Artur share the same coach (That got almost a point and half on GOE! O.O). Combo spin was so slow at the end. That program, in my mind, was a hot mess. All that was was a rehash of Plushenko on a 17 year old boy. The dramatic arms on landings and the sliding of the hands across the face are NOT artistry to me. I wish Artur's coach would put effort into giving him his own skating style instead of trying to clone Plushenko. 61.43 TE 69.16 PCS ;130.53 FS = 202.94 Total

Tomas Verner (Czech Republic): Triple lutz-triple toe for a nice start. Held onto that first triple axel, followed up with a good triple loop. Footwork was alright, as well as the flying sit. Some of the music cuts are abrupt, but I think this Michael Jackson medley suits Tomas pretty well. It's amusing and just seems to work well on him for some reason or another. Good triple axel-double toe and an alright triple lutz. Very nice triple salchow, but then a fallout on a double axel. Triple flip-double toe-double loop, good enough but got edge called. Decent spin and okay footwork that was fun. The part with the Thiller laugh cracks me up so much. An alright combo spin to end. Pretty good skate! Better than I expected, that's for sure. 78.09 TE 78.12 PCS ; 156.21 FS = 230.11 Total

Jeremy Abbott (United States): Fall on the opening quad toe and it was underrotated :-/. There went all hope of him winning this, unfortunately. Fallout on the triple flip after that too, but got it back together for a good triple axel-triple toe combination. Okay flying upright spin, then nice footwork sequence, followed by a nice double axel. Fallout on the second triple axel. Triple loop-single toe-tight double toe, the latter deemed underrotated. Sit change sit was alright, but the last variation was slow. Fall on the second triple lutz (underrotated). Ugh. The wrong Jeremy definitely showed up today. Triple salchow was good though, as well as the second footwork sequence. I really love that transition where he slides on his knee and turns and looks straight at the judges; it's exquisite. Nice combo spin to end. Poor Jeremy. He looks unhappy. He's way better than this, but I guess it's better than peaking too early again this season. I definitely hope to see a clean performance of this program at some point; it could be gorgeous.  64.26 TE 77.34 PCS -2.00 Deductions ; 139.60 = 217.21

Patrick Chan (Canada): Fall on the quad and it was also underrotated. Triple axel-triple toe was pretty good, tough might've been a little tough. Good triple lutz and footwork with great flow, but again, that highkick needs a break. Nice flying spin, but fell on the following triple axel and triple lutz. What a splatfest he and Jeremy are having today... not good. Okay spin and an alright triple flip.  Triple loop-double toe, good. Double axel-triple toe, with the latter being wonky, but it didn't count anyway because of the second triple lutz not having a combo on it. Alright footwork with the highkick again. Good ending combo spin. 66.95 TE 81.30 PCS -3.00 Deductions ; 145.25 FS = 227.21

So glad to see Tomas edge out Patrick for the title, even if it did take Patrick doing too many combos. I still don't understand why Patrick gets such good scores with so many errors, but I'm just relieved to see him not get gold for it this time - I was convinced he had it, with the scores he gets. Good for Tomas; hopefully this will give him confidence and help him keep getting more consistency under his belt. As for the event as a whole though... Let's just say that I'm already eagerly looking forward to Trophee Eric Bompard next week.

P.S. Something I noticed... in this very underwhelming men's event, there was one common denominator missing that all of the other Grand Prix's this season happened to have; that being that at least one of the top three Japanese men (Takahashi, Oda, and Kozuka) were competing in each of those events . Interesting, no? ;)

Freeskate Results
Overall Results