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? ;)