Junior Worlds: Ladies Preview

As you probably know if you’ve read this blog, I love following juniors-maybe, at times, even moreso than seniors-so obviously, I am very excited for Junior Worlds! After following the full JGP season, I definitely have a better idea of who’s good, who I like, and how things should shake out. Thus, I feel like I can write a semi-realistic preview (emphasis on semi :p). So here it is: my Junior Worlds ladies recap!

Top Contenders: This year, the ladies event looks like it will be a battle between the Japanese and Russian ladies. Both teams’ frontrunners, Polina Tsurskaya and Wakaba Higuchi, are extremely talented jumpers and fairly consistent; I expect the title will go to Polina, but both are very strong skaters. Maria Sotskova of Russia is in the running for the title as well; Japan’s Marin Honda and Russia’s Alisa Fedichkina are both contenders for the bronze. However, I expect the medalists to be Polina, Wakaba and Maria.

Possible Surprise Medalists: Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva has something few other skaters here have: extensive senior experience. She competed at a plethora of senior Bs and two senior Grand Prix events this season, placing 4th at Skate America and 7th at Skate Canada. Yuna Shiraiwa of Japan is also a strong skater. Several skaters have a very small outside shot at a medal: Latvian Angelina Kuchvalska, another skater who has a lot of senior experience, who placed 4th at Europeans; American Tyler Pierce, a fairly consistent skater with a terrible JWC track record who medaled at two CS events earlier this year.

Predictions/Breakdowns: 

1. Polina Tsurskaya, Russia 

Why I Placed Her Here: Polina has two major qualities that make her nearly-unstoppable at the junior level: huge, textbook-perfect jumps and consistency. Her spins are not the best in the field, and I cannot really analyze skating skills (she does skate fast, though), but her performance quality is good for someone so young (13!) and her jumps score so high that it doesn’t really matter. She has really only had one semi-bad skate this season (YOG SP), and even that wasn’t that bad. When she’s at her best, which she usually is, 90% of seniors couldn’t beat her. (Case in point: she was 4th at Russian senior nationals, beaten only by completely-clean performances from three of the top ladies in the world.)

2. Wakaba Higuchi, Japan 

Why I Placed Her Here: Wakaba didn’t have a very good JGP-a 5th-place finish at her first event took her out of the running for the Final-but the rest of her season has been superb. She placed 2nd at Japanese senior nationals, beating the likes of Mao Asada(!), and won the Japan Junior Championships. She, like Polina, is an extremely talented jumper, with one of the hardest technical layouts being performed this season, and she’s learning to perform, too. She’s not exactly “artistic,” but her performance quality has improved exponentially since last season. In addition, her spins and speed are excellent. So if she can skate fairly clean, she will probably be 2nd, if not 1st.

3. Maria Sotskova, Russia

Why I placed Her Here: While Maria is not nearly as good a jumper as Wakaba or Polina, she has valuable qualities that they don’t: artistry, maturity, and experience. Her interpretation is far beyond most of the field-she’s been at the junior level for far longer, and it shows-and her spins are excellent as well. Of course, she’s not a bad jumper by any stretch of the imagination, but the field is crammed with great ones and hers are not quite at that level. She’s also a bit slow (much faster than last year, but still a little slow); however, she’s a consistent, experienced skater with good elements and arguably the most artistic junior right now.

4. Marin Honda 

Why I Placed Her Here: Marin has quickly gone from being (in my own words) “overhyped” to being one of my favorite juniors. She’s not a fantastic jumper, but her spins, interpretation, and programs are A+ and she’s consistent as well. (She was 3rd at the JGPF, so she is definitely competitive.) She’s been compared to a young Mao Asada and I don’t dispute that: Marin is a beautiful skater, entertaining to watch, and has a lovely lyrical quality to her skating. This field is so deep that I didn’t know where best to place her, so 5th it is.

5. Yuna Shiraiwa

Why I Placed Her Here: Yuna has an unusual layout: two 3-3s, one of them a rare but very cool 3S-3Lo, and a 2A-3T. Great content, obviously. However, I find her interpretation rather bland. It will probably come with time, but she is not a particularly artistic skater. Combined with “meh” consistency, I don’t see her doing better than 5th.

6. Elizabet Tursynbaeva, Kazhakstan

Why I Placed Her Here: Elizabet has heaps of potential, with fine jumps and performance quality and fantastic spins, but she’s not the most consistent skater and, in a field where most skaters are trying multiple 3-3s, she would need someone to mess up if she were to medal. However, she is one of only two skaters (if I remember correctly) in this competition to have competed on the GP, so she has experience on her side.

7. Alisa Fedichkina, Russia

Why I Placed Her Here: it pains me to do this-I really do love this kid-but her semi-inconsistency means she probably won’t medal. However, she is one of the more artistic top juniors, a fabulous spinner, and has great programs; the potential is there, if she can improve her jumps a little (they’re pretty small) and become more consistency. Her free skate is a national treasure (okay, it’s not, but it should be. ;))

8. Tyler Pierce, USA 

Why I Placed Her Here: Tyler has been pretty consistent this season and gotten good results-3rd at two CS events, 5th at Nationals-but she’s had awful showings at JW the last two years, so I wouldn’t count on it. You never do know, though.

9. Angelina Kuchvalska, Latvia

Why I Placed Her Here: she did really well at Euros.

Hope you enjoyed this preview! I decided to be lazy and didn’t put in anybody else, so if you think I missed anyone, leave a comment telling me who and why. 🙂 

The Comeback Series, pt. 2: Carolina Kostner

 

In my measly two years as a serious skating fan, I thought I’d learned pretty well what does and doesn’t usually happen. A ladies skater doesn’t (usually) medal at worlds without a SP over 70 points and a FS over 130. A new senior doesn’t (usually) get very high PCS. A good Grand Prix doesn’t guarantee a good Nationals or Worlds. A skater usually doesn’t return to competition at 29 after a two-year ban.

Apparently, I know nothing, because Carolina Kostner is doing just that. I’m excited, because it was unexpected (at least, for me) and I didn’t get to see much of her when she competed previously (only the Olympics and 2014 Worlds). So, like with Virtue/Moir in my last post, I plumbed the depths of YouTube to watch every short program and free skate Carolina ever competed at the senior level to compile this top-10 list. This was no easy task, seeing as that equates to 26(!) programs when you count mid-season program changes, but it was a lot of fun, and I got to discover new programs to add to my list of favorites!

10. 2003-04 SP: “Song From A Secret Garden” 

Young Carolina was, as many people have said, a bit coltish, in contrast to the subdued elegance she’s known for now, and I find this to be a good blend of the two. Also, it is insane how much speed she has over the ice-I’d never really noticed it before, but, as the commentator in one of the videos I watched said, “I wish we had a radar gun.” Wow…

 

9. 2005-06 SP: “The Mission” 

 

I will never not like a Mission program, and this is no exception. Everything is very well-choreographed and catches all the nuances in the music; also, I love the piano arrangement she used, which I’d never heard before. And I didn’t know it was even possible to do a combination spin as long as the one at the end of this program. That’s gotta be, what, ten position?

8. 2004-05 FS: “Piano Concertos No. 1 and 3” (Rachmaninoff)

There is something very youthful and exuberant about this program, which I didn’t expect in a Rachmaninoff program, but it really works. Combined with her insane speed, it’s a very good interpretation of a relatively hard-to-skate-to piece. Also, there is a lot of posing in this program. 🙂

7. 2008-09 SP: “Mujer Solo/Canaro en Paris”

There is something you should know about me: I am obsessed with “Spanish Hands.”

You know the ones. I know you do.

Carolina has some of the greatest Spanish Hands™ known to man. That is all.

6. 2006-07 FS: “Memoirs of a Geisha” 

Honestly, I don’t know what it is that makes this program appeal to me-it just works. 

5. 2011-12 SP: “Allegretto from Trio No. 2” (Shostakovich) 

This piece is not one I would think was particularly skateable, but Carolina does extremely well to interpret it in this program. It’s repetitive, choppy and doesn’t really ever build much, but it’s cleverly choreographed to use the music in a way that convinced me that it was, indeed, entirely skateable. A remarkable use of rather odd music.

4. 2005-06 FS: “The Four Seasons-Winter” 

While the opening choreography (#therobot) had me in stitches, this is actually quite a lovely program. I’m kind of obsessed with her arm choreography in this program, and I really like the cuts of the music she used. Sadly, she had several disastery (yes, I just said “disastery”) skates of this, and I couldn’t find a good performance of this to link here, but…oh, well.

3. 2004-05 SP: “Country” 

This program is very different from anything else she’s had, but I can’t really put my finger on why. But whatever the reason, this program feels very Grecian-inspired, and it was a perfect fit for her at the time: fast, dramatic yet playful, maybe a little bit bouncy. The footwork is incredibly enjoyable and well-choreographed, and her spins are very well-placed on the music.

2. 2013-14 SP #1-“Humoresque”

Well, first of all, how can I not list a program set to what was my favorite violin piece in elementary school? 😉 I really like the calm elegance it has; it was a light kind of elegant, with an almost bouncy feel to it that was unique to this program. I would’ve liked it if she kept it, although changing it definitely paid off (see below).

1. 2013-14 SP #2-“Ave Maria”

One of the things I remember most vividly about the 2014 Olympics was Carolina’s short programs in both team and individual events. The ethereal quality of this program is simply magical; I can easily see why it holds the SP PCS world record (37!). This, I feel, is the best display of her artistry that she’s done, and that is why it’s my top Carolina Kostner program of all time.

 

I am really loving these top-10 posts! Since there currently aren’t any more skaters scheduled to come back next season, I’m planning to feature skaters who came back this season (Mao Asada will probably be next), as I definitely want to keep doing these. Hope you enjoy them, too! 🙂 

2016-17 comebacks, pt. 1: Virtue/Moir

So, the last few weeks, two prominent skaters/teams have gone the way of Mao Asada and Patrick Chan and announced that they will return to competition next season. One is Carolina Kostner, returning from two seasons away after not being allowed to compete due to a very complicated, scandaly situation I won’t get into; the other, 2010 Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, are also returning from two years off. Virtue/Moir’s comeback has been speculated about by fans on the internet for several months now, and I frankly didn’t believe them,  but apparently I was wrong, and I have many feelings about this.

  1. I don’t really know what to think. Should I be happy that their return will likely raise the level of the ice dance field, or irked that they’ll likely bump off the teams who have risen to the top in their absence (and not specifically W/P, which is who most people have been focusing on)?
  2. I’m excited to see what programs they come up with. Because their Olympic FD was not their best ever, I imagine they’ll want a set of really strong programs for their first season back. And because they’ll be training under new coaches, they might be a very different style than anything they’ve done before. And, lastly, the SD pattern (blues) allows for a lot of creativity, so I’m excited to see what they’ll come up with for that, too.
  3. Many of us are wondering if they’ll be in top form when they return, and I am too. If so, they’d be virtually unbeatable (unless D/W also come back, which is highly unlikely), but even if not, it’ll be interesting to see how they shake up the standings.

A lot of that will remain unknown until they actually compete. However, it’s interesting food for thought.

Feelings aside, I wanted to write something in honor of their comeback, and hopefully something about Carolina and maybe even a few skaters who came back this season to make it a series. I was not a skating fan for most of V/M’s career, so I thought the most interesting thing to do would be to binge-watch a lot of their past programs and compile a top-10 list, which got turned into top 8 because I ran out of programs (I was trying to only use programs from the senior level, so that limited it somewhat). So, here it is! (Opinions are purely my own, so please do not get mad if I left your favorite program off.)

8. 2009-10 Original Dance-“Farrucas” (Flamenco) 

Flamencoes are probably the only Spanish dance patterns I enjoy watching (so much so that I’m skating to a flamenco piece right now, LOL!), and this is an excellent one. I love the intensity and total commitment to the performance in this program, which was one of the three programs that won them Olympic gold in 2010.

7. 2012-13 SD-“And the Waltz Goes On” (Polka) 

Tessa & Scott have done several waltzy programs, but this somehow feels different. It has a kind of quirky feel to it, which might sound weird, and some really cool choreographic bits and pieces. Slightly underrated, IMHO; it’s a very different, subtly fun piece.

6. 2011-12 FD-“Funny Face” 

This free dance is very “old school broadway.” It’s one of their most upbeat programs, and it really works; Tessa & Scott did not do many programs like this, so it really stands out despite being one of their less-appreciated FDs (from what I’ve seen).  But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. 🙂

5. 2013-14 SD-“Dream a Little Dream of Me” (Finnstep) 

Another of their more upbeat programs, I thought this was one of the best finnstep SDs of the season. I really like the placement of the step sequences/patterns/whatever the correct term is, and the jazzy style of this piece suits them very well. I feel like this didn’t ever get recognition as one of their best programs, but it should have. Probably my favorite of their SDs.

4. 2008-09 OD: “Won’t You Charleston with Me?” 

20’s/30’s programs are one of my greatest weaknesses, so of COURSE this was going to make the list. Most of their ODs are lesser-known, including this, but in my mind, it’s one of the best. I really like their fun programs-there weren’t many, but when they did them, they were always good. (I bet you can guess what I want them to do next season…;))

3. 2009-10 FD-“Symphony No. 5” 

This is definitely one of their iconic programs, and it’s easy to see why: it’s equal parts lyrical and powerful, performed with a lot of feeling, spectacular lifts, and great music. It is for them, debatably, THE PROGRAM that every legendary skater/team has. However, there are programs of theirs that I, personally, like more, which is why it’s not all the way at the top.

2. 2006-07 FD-“Valse Triste” 

Valse Triste is one of my favorite pieces of music, and this was a very good interpretation of it. It’s elegant, lyrical and refined, with lovely flow and great elements-the step sequences were well-choreographed and placed nicely on the music, and the lifts impressive. Not to mention incredible maturity, considering that they were only 17 and 19 when they had this program!

1. 2007-08 FD-“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”

If you haven’t, stop what you’re doing and watch this program. It speaks for itself, and I consider it their best ever.

That was fun! It was super cool to go back and see what they’ve done in the past. I hope you liked it, too! 🙂

4CC Randomness: The Recap

 

4CC just ended.

And oh, boy, it was a roller coaster.

Positives: #SuperbShibSlayage, Mirai finally rotated her stuff, Rika did well, American pairs didn’t suck (they did last year…), Sui/Han NAILED IT despite Wenjing’s head and ankle injuries (plus influenza), Shoma Uno had a pretty good SP, Patrick Chan became the third man to break 200 in the FS, and Grant Hochstein surprised everyone by leading the American men after the short.

Negatives: Gracie bombed the SP *sobs* and had a mediocre FS (is she cursed to bomb at 4CC forever?!?), Karen Chen bombed both programs, WeaPo were really lackluster, Seguin/Bilodeau and Polina Edmunds withdrew, Alaine Chartrand bombed the free skate AGAIN, Ross Miner and Kevin Reynolds (neither of whom I am particularly invested in, but whatever) both completely imploded, Shoma Uno had a bad FS and dropped off the podium *Cries*,and Max Aaron also imploded. (Besides S/B’s withdrawal, there luckily weren’t any in pairs.)

And on top of that, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir just announced their long-speculated comeback, which threw me on the emotional roller coaster all over again. So I’m going to use this post to A) vent and B) have some fun.

 

What was good: 

 

Wherein the Shibs finally win a Short Dance!

She landed all her things!

I love So-Youn’s skating, but the execution of such usually breaks my heart. I like to think of this as her official declaration of “NOT ANYMORE, SUCKERS!” (She also had an awesome FS!)

I love, love, love Rika’s “Riverdance” FS, and she skated fairly well here, so of course it was going on the list.

Level 4 quad twist! Landed SBS jumps! 140!!!! What a way to come back from two bad competitions!

Other than the fall, this was great. Grant has fantastic interpretation.

One of the best 3As in the business.

Patrick has joined the 200 club.

What wasn’t good: 

Excuse me while I find a nice closet to go sob in.

This was missing something-I can’t exactly put my finger on what, but you could just tell something wasn’t there.

 

I just do not like this FD.

It was just not this leprechauny child’s day. (Okay, he’s technically not a child, but he’s mini, so I can.)

And a bunch of other stuff. But I just realized I’d rather write a different post pertaining to a recent piece of skating news, so today you’re getting the cliffnotes and another post that I promise will be better.