Highlights/Low Points: US International Figure Skating Classic

Wow, this was some competition! Lots of great performances in all disciplines. I can’t wait to share my favorite and least favorite moments with y’all!

Update: a week later, here’s a very short post, because most of it was already in my drafts and I wanted to at least put up what I had.

1. Highlight: The Name On Everybody’s Lips Is Gonna Be…

…Mariah!

Yes, Mariah’s free skate was cleaner (she fell out of her 3Lz-3T here), but I am in LOVE with this program, so I had to include it. After a wildly inconsistent 2015-16 season, Mariah is on a major upswing so far this season. She won Glacier Falls in style with two clean/near-clean programs, including her first landed 3Lz-3T in competition, and continued that form at the US Classic with two more fantastic performances. And speaking of performance, this program is a masterclass in selling a program. Her delightfully sassy “Chicago” SP is the mostest fun! (I feel like “mostest” is the only adequate word, or rather, non-word, to describe how awesome this program is.) As someone on a skating forum said about a skater (not her) here, she “sells it like the rent is due), and the choreography is first-rate. When she lands her jumps, this program lights up the arena. I can’t wait to see how the crowd would react if she skated this clean at Nationals! Major congratulations on a deserved silver medal here.

2. Low: The Meltdown of the Event 

I do not know what happened here, but it was a heartbreaking disaster. But a video just surfaced of Elizabet landing a quad salchow, so she must not be losing her jumps too badly. Whatever this was, I hope she can get it sorted out soon.

3. High: What Even?

All I can say is wow. 

Madison and Zach’s short dance is half hot mess and half creative genius. The “evolution of dance” (if I remember correctly?) theme takes a blues or hip-hop song from each decade from the 70’s (?) to the 2010’s and attempts to smash them all into a coherent program. And it actually worked! The over-the-top, sometimes-awkward choreography, and their total commitment to selling this mess, made it interesting and fun to watch. It left me laughing hysterically in parts, grinning like an idiot in others, and just generally questioning the meaning of life all the way through. So, a slightly-incoherent mess? Yeah, pretty much. But fun? Oh, heck yes.

5. High: Finally 

It seems like, every season, Karen Chen has one phenomenal performance and basically bombs most of the others. Nationals in 2014-15, Skate America last season…it’s irritating, but I’ll take what I can get. So I was thrilled that what we got here was high-quality. Her SP was disastrous, but she rebounded with a strong FS (although it was not technically up to her usual standards-she did not attempt any 3-3s or even a 2A-3T). I really like her new tango FS-it’s powerful and dynamic, and she has the speed, power, and presence to pull it off. When the jumps are working, she’s a fierce little firecracker. We got mixed messages from Karen’s performances her (one very bad, the other very good), so I don’t really know how that bodes for her season, but hopefully, she can work out whatever was getting to her last season.

This was supposed to have ten items on it, but I didn’t get to see enough of it to find that many. My priority right now is to consistently get out recaps of the JGPs, so this was kind of on the backburner. 

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JGP Ljubljana Ladies Recap

First off, I hope I spelled that right. I should probably have just written “JGP Slovakia,” but I didn’t, because I like to live dangerously. :p

This event was really something, so sit back and strap in for a wild ride.

1. Rika Kihara 

I wasn’t a huge fan of Rika’s skating after her first event, but after watching her skate here, how can you not be? Little Miss Triple Axel absolutely stormed the place with two exquisite programs to win the event. She begun her campaign with a very strong performance of her “Tzigane” short program, which, I must say, I liked a lot more here than I had at her last event. I felt like she was more into the performance this time. And I can’t say enough good things about her free skate, but may we briefly pause to recognize:  TRIPLE. FREAKING. AXEL! 

I could stop there, but I won’t. Not only did Rika land a perfect 3A, becoming only the second junior lady (after compatriot Mao Asada in 2004) to do so, but all of her other elements were clean, and when she’s hitting the jumps, her performance quality really shines. Simply put, Rika was on fire this morning. Although the 3A has been hit-or-miss in competition so far, she’s shown that she can land it in competition, which is huge. If she does it again at any of the big competitions, all I can say is good luck. 

2. Marin Honda 

In hindsight, Marin didn’t have a prayer of winning this event, not after what Rika did. But she didn’t go down without a fight. As is becoming her norm, Marin’s short program was not fantastic: her intended 3-3 became a 3-1 and was invalidated. She was in fourth after the short, and if she was to beat Alina Zagitova, who was leading her by over ten points, she had to be perfect in the free skate. She managed to beat Alina, but still had to settle for silver. Solid, yes. But perfect? No. She nearly fell out of her 3F-3T and popped an intended 2A into a single. I love Marin, and her “Romeo and Juliet” FS, as much as anyone, but I felt like she was overscored here. She got about 120 with a near-fall and a pop, and I though she lacked the spark, and the sparkle, that she had at her first event. The placements were fair-Alina made several costly mistakes, and Alisa UR’d herself half to death, so she was definitely deserving-but the scores were ridiculous. I thought Rika’s score was fair, given her insane technical difficulty and cleanliness, but the rest were slightly nuts. But regardless, I’m glad she did well enough to give herself a decent shot at the final. (Two silver medals usually makes it.)

3. Alina Zagitova

I haven’t exactly discussed it with Alina, but I’m 99% sure that her uncharacteristically bad free skate was because she was freaked out that she had to follow Rika Kihara. Poor girl got the Gracie Gold Curse of having to skate after a showstopping performance. But I can’t feel too bad for her, because her SP was perfect, and she lead by a healthy margin with it. She was a favorite to win coming into the competition, and after the SP, but several big mistakes in her FS more than undid her SP lead. A fall and a downgrade on her second 3Lz, a couple of turns between the jumps in her 3Lz-3Lo, which also got downgraded, and URs on all three jumps in her 3F-2T-2Lo combo had her fourth in the FS and a disappointing third overall. The good news? She’ll probably still be able to make the final. Alina has a lot of potential, which we saw at her first event, so I hope she can get back in form and that this really was just a fluke attack of nerves after having to follow Rika.

4. Alisa Lozko

Sigh…Alisa continues to frustrate me. Her spins are magical, her musicality is fantastic, and I like both of her programs, but her jump technique is maddening. This free skate got her four underrotations and a downgrade, and I’m sorry to say I expected it. She needs to do something-maybe a coaching change, maybe a season off to rework her jumps, fill in the blank-about this, or it’s going to hold her back for the rest of her career. It would be a crying shame if that Biellman spin never got its day in the sun…

5. Eunsoo Lim

Eunsoo had a pretty strong JGP debut, finishing 5th in a very deep field: she fell on the 3Lz-3T in both programs, but other than that, was clean. I didn’t actually see her short program, but from the looks of the protocols, it was clean other than the fall on the combination. In the free skate, she started the combination with a gorgeous 3Lz, but she was very close to the boards and slammed into them on the landing of the 3T. It was a pretty dramatic hit: she smacked straight into the boards and plopped down as if she was being thrown into a chair. Needless to say, it was very jarring! She recovered well, though, and the rest of her program was beautiful. Eunsoo has really nice performance quality and airy jumps, and (shallow note) her costume was beautiful. She has lots of potential, and I hope to see her compete again soon!

Closing note: I’m sorry I never put up the U.S. Classic post. It’s in my drafts, but I didn’t get to watch very much of it and the videos I wanted weren’t uploaded yet. I’ll see if I can finish it, but no guarantees. 

 

Summer Competition Feelings: Skate Detroit

This weekend, skating fans got one of their first looks at the new season with Skate Detroit. One of the more prestigious club competitions, this year’s event featured many notable American and Canadian skaters and gave us a sampling of new programs. Naturally, I have feelings about this. They will be a bit random and unorganized, but here are some skaters/programs I thought were notable.

Emy Decelles 

Going into this event, I barely knew who Emy Decelles was and did not expect her to win it at all. But she surprised me: while not at the level of the Canadian Ladies Triumvirate™ of Osmond, Daleman and Chartrand, she was in impressive form here.

Emy’s FS is quite the hodgepodge of music, with about 85 songs from The Great Gatsby, and there was a but too much two-footed skating (essentially, it lacked transitions), but she landed things, and there was some fun 20’s-inspired choreo at the beginning that I liked. Also, her dress is nice. She was mostly notable, though, because she was rock-solid compared to her competition.

Mirai Nagasu 

Mirai’s performances weren’t particularly impressive at this event (totally understandable, seeing as she’s only had her programs for a few weeks), but I loved both of her programs, so she’s going on the list. Her FS was my favorite of the two:

She sure has had a lot of depressing autobiographical programs, but they are, bizarrely, her strength. Take her Demons SP, and now this: she pulls them off with conviction and maturity, and I usually like them. This was no exception. Elegant and mature, with a lot of heart; if the jumps ever get there, it’ll be straight-up breathtaking.

 

Nicolas Nadeau 

Space Elvis.

All has been said.

Emily Chan 

Emily Chan, our my favorite artistic headcase, headcased with her usual flair at Skate Detroit, but she has a remarkable gift for performing a program that’s gone totally haywire and drawing you in anyway. I really admire that about her, and it doesn’t hurt that her programs this year are fantastic. Though her “Je Suis Malade” SP is my favorite, I couldn’t find a video, so here’s her (also awesome) “Bohemian Rhapsody” FS:

Aurora Cotop 

The reigning Canadian novice champion really caught my eye here. Lovely interpretation, fantastic 2A-3T, gorgeous dress, very original but tasteful music choice-there’s a lot to like here. Definitely looking forward to watching her on the JGP.

Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier 

*Sobs uncontrollably*

You guys.

They’re back.

They’re the reason I started watching pairs. (Yeah, I’m a noob…lol.) And they skated clean (the 1A sequence was planned, according to Twitter), to one of my favorite soundtracks, and their artistry has improved SO MUCH, and it’s MAGICAL.

Aaaand the power just went out. Cutting it off here because no wi-fi. Sorry that was so random and short; oh well.

JGP Saransk Ladies Recap

You know it’s finally skating season again when you miss an event that happened while you were asleep and wake up to approximately 8,900 pages of questions, comments, and concerns about the judging of said event on the Internet forums.

Wouldn’t be the same without them, really.

This time, it was no different, and the online judging critics were in full force – with good reason. Here’s a shake-down of what all happened at JGP Saransk.

1. Polina Tsurskaya 

Polina Tsurskaya was the overwhelming favorite to win this competition, despite having recently recovered from an injury. On that front, she didn’t disappoint. Her SP was phenomenal, earning a well- deserved junior world record score of 69.02. I’m not a huge fan of the droning, monotonous music or the choreography (as with many of Eteri Tutberidze’s students’ programs, there is a lot of miming), but her jumps were fantastic and her interpretation has improved greatly. I also couldn’t help noting that it seems she looks more like an adult this year than most of the seniors. Polina’s FS wasn’t her best, with two pops (a double lutz and a single Axel), and again, I thought the music was a little boring, but the choreography was much better, the rest of her jumps were excellent, and – shallow note – her dress was beautiful (actually, both of them were). Overall, this wasn’t Polina’s best competition, but it was an excellent return to competition. She likely just needs a little more time to get her feet back under her.

Fun random note: my phone tried to correct “Eteri” to “arteries.”

2. Stanislava Konstantinova

This was possibly the most controversial part of the competiton.

With a FS featuring two falls, Stanislava beat both Elizaveta Nugumanova, who was clean but underrotated several jumps, and Yuna Shiraiwa, who fell once but executed most of her other elements cleanly. I personal thought Elizaveta should’ve gotten the silver medal and Yuna the bronze, with Konstantinova in 4th, but there is some basis for what the judges went with. Stanislava had a clean SP that left her with a cushion of about three points going into the FS. While her jumps were clean, I felt like it was a bit frantic and unpolished; however, I can see why she was in second. The free skate, though, was a different story. I didn’t think the program itself was anything special (I was kind of bored) and she fell twice. I really can’t see the logic here-even if the judges wanted a Russian sweep, it could’ve happened with Stanislava in 3rd (which I thought was more fair). But there’s no point in arguing about that now. I try to find something I like to highlight about every skater I write about, so for Stanislava, I think that quality is that she’s different. In a field dominated by copy-and-paste Tutberidze pupils, any kind of uniqueness is refreshing, and I like Stanislava’s quirky style.

3. Elizaveta Nugumanova 

I’m not going to lie, I thought Liza was robbed of the silver. But she has a rather serious UR problem that I was previously not aware of, so it makes sense that that held her down. That aside, I thought her programs were the best of the event. Her spunky “Malaguena” short is a delightful little gem, not to mention impeccably choreographed, and her “Romeo and Juliet” free skate has an innocent sweetness to it that Liza pulls off very convincingly. (Another shallow note: I love her FS dress!) Unfortunately, she raked in UR after UR on her jumps, and while one wouldn’t have mattered much, four of them had an impact on her scores. She still managed to score very well (her SP score was fair, and her FS was slightly overscored), but the placements didn’t shake out in her favor. I hope she can get her jumps fixed up, because her spins, SS and interpretation are really great for such a young skater.

4. Yuna Shiraiwa 

Yuna Shiraiwa went from a nobody to a rock-solid contender for major medals last season; I was expecting her to continue that momentum. But, due to an injury, that wasn’t to be (at least, not here). She actually skated quite well, with a clean SP and one fall in the FS, but for various reasons (you know which reasons…), she missed out on the podium. Her “I Got Rhythm” SP was really well-skated and could be a very fun program if she can add some spark to her interpretation, which was a bit flat. The FS, to an instrumental medley of pieces from “Notre Dame De Paris” (which, for reasons I will never understand, didn’t include “Danse Mon Esmeralda”), is a powerful program that could either bring out the passion in her skating or showcase her weaknesses-hopefully the former. It looked as if she was exhausted towards the end of the program, and she fell out of the last jump, a 3L0. Maybe her stamina has taken a hit since her injury, or it was jet lag, but it seemed like a fluke mistake and I expect Yuna to be back to her usual, consistent form by her next competition.

5. Kokoro Iwamot0

I didn’t actually watch Kokoro’s programs during the competition, so I’m watching her free skate in the post draft and writing about it as I go along. First off, dress on point. I love the combination of gold and white, and it’s a great cut and style. Based on the protocol, her FS was clean except for an edge call (I just saw the flip that got called, and it was 0n a very obvious outside edge, even in real time). Her jumps are pretty good-they look labored, but she gets all the way around, and the height is nice. Her axel technique scares me. Spins are pretty nice. Expression could be better. So, now that I’ve finished watching it, Kokoro seems like your run-of-the-mill-top-5-JGP-skater: pretty good technically but nothing extraordinary, and not the best artistry, but gets the job done. For a JGP debut (I think?), she did really well.

And now I have to go write the U.S. Classic post! Yay…

Things I Like + Things I Don’t: Russian Test Skates & Lombardia Trophy

There was a LOT of skating going on this weekend, and I’m not even going to try to cover it all in one cohesive post, so I’m splitting it up: a simple, informal like/dislike post for Lombardia (a Challenger Series event) and the Russian Test Skates, and one of the JGP posts I normally do for JGP Japan (which works because the JGP isn’t over yet). Word of warning: I only watched ladies at the Test Skates and a little bit of the men’s SP (FS is tomorrow) at Lombardia, so this is going to be about 85% ladies.

Things I Like 

TEST SKATES 

Evgenia Medvedeva’s SP

I started off last season not really being a fan of Evgenia, but she slowly grew on me, and by the end of the season, I really liked her. But with this program, she’s likely to become one of my favorites. I’ve really come to appreciate her style; it’s quirky and offbeat, but combined with her polish and expression, it works. In the beginning of the program, it looks like she’s portraying a little girl (isn’t everyone portraying a little girl in Ilya Averbukh’s programs?) playing hopscotch, or something like that. The first half kind of follows that theme; her interpretation is rather playful and, I think, supposed to convey childlike innocence. In the second half, the music changes to a more serious piece, and her interpretation becomes more passionate and soulful. I’m not sure what this is supposed to represent (complicated storylines are another trademark of Averbukh programs), but if I had to guess, I would say it was probably about growing up/the transition from childhood to adulthood. If I’m right, that is very fitting for Evgenia at this point in her career. But whatever it is, she did it remarkably well.

Yulia Lipnitskaya’s SP

This was the moment Yulia Lipnitskaya’s fans (me included!) had been waiting for for two years: a clean, confident, solid performance in competition. Not only do all of her jumps look significantly more stable, I love the program! She’s not the little teeny-bopper who captivated the world in Sochi anymore, and this is a showcase of what she’s become: one classy lady. 😉 I love her subtle, nuanced interpretation of this music and I’m really impressed with her maturity. She’s always been a mature skater, but this is the first time I’ve seen her really skate like an adult. When most of your competition is under the age of 17, that’s a very striking quality.

Maria Sotskova’s SP 

With only one top Russian junior making the switch to seniors this season, I had high hopes that that skater, Maria Sotskova, would be this year’s obligatory Russian Phenom De Jour. I mean, we’ve had one every year since the Olympic season…Yulia in 2014, Elizaveta in 2015, Evgenia in 2016. They’re almost always just out of juniors, with the exception of Elizaveta, who had been a senior for a few years but was coming off a rough season, so Maria seemed like the most likely candidate for that position. And she’s looking fantastic. It looks like she’s finally adjusted to her height; her jumps are much more stable than they were last season, and they don’t look nearly as labored. On the contrary: I thought they looked very light and easy. Some areas of her skating need work, like her speed and spins (which were painfully slow here), but the jumps look great, and I like this program a lot. The music a relatively unknown (in skating) Alfred Schnittke piece called “Story of an Unknown Actor”, which is kind of repetitive but has enough variation that there’s something to interpret. That works well for Maria: it allows her to be expressive, but doesn’t demand constant or over-the-top emoting. It’s cleverly choreographed and dynamic-perfect for a senior debut. So, Maria Sotskova for Russian Lady De Jour 2017? I think it just might work out.

LOMBARDIA TROPHY

Wakaba Higuchi’s SP

Now for the Lombardia portion of this post! The other high-profile debuting senior this season, Wakaba Higuchi, made her debut at Lombardia with this fantastic SP. (Unfortunately, her FS wasn’t as good, but she still won.) It’s a big change for her: “La Califfa” is quite different from the energetic and/or heavy music she usually skates to. In this case, it worked out. Her expression has improved a lot over the summer, and this music was great for bringing that out. I was impressed with the amount of emotion she showed in this program; I like Wakaba, but I usually think of her as kind of a stonefaced skater. Her jumps and speed were as good as they always are. Unfortunately, she couldn’t maintain that form in the FS, but overall, Lombardia was a promising senior debut for Wakaba.

So Youn Park’s SP and FS 

Class-five headcase So Youn Park, for all her issues, always seems to have great programs. She does something different artistically every season: her passionate, dynamic “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” in 2014, soulful “Romeo & Juliet” in 2015, and sassy “Black Orpheus” in 2016 were all fantastic, but very different programs. This year’s programs continue that trend, exploring new areas and genres. The short program is her first foray into jazz, and the SP kind of continues what she started with “Black Orpheus”: somewhat-serious, somewhat-sassy Spanish programs. She pulled of both pretty well! The short was a lot of fun (and clean!), and the free was very sassy and mature. So Youn struggled with some jumps in the FS, but this was one of her better competitions in a while.

Shoma Uno’s SP 

First off: I admire Shoma’s commitment to literal costuming. His music is from the soundtrack of “Ladies in Lavender.” Lots of room for literal interpretation there. And, what do you know, he shows up in a bedazzled drapey lavender shirt. Way to go, Shoma. 😉 (Actually, I don’t really like the shirt, but I gotta hand it to him for being literal.) Slightly ridiculous literal shirt aside, I loved this program! It was serene and fluid and his upper body movement was on point (that’s gotten a lot better over the summer). His 4F still scares me out of my mind, and I feel like he’s going to break himself, but…um…pushing the envelope! *raises fist*

On The Fence

Elena Radionova’s SP

I like Elena’s new SP a lot, but I’m worried about her jumps. After she managed to keep them through her growth spurt last season, I thought she was out of the woods, but she really struggled here. Of course, that could mean nothing (it is only September), but it’s just not like her to miss two jumping passes in a short program. The program itself is great, though. After a season of overdramatic ballad programs ft. arm flailing, she’s back to what she does best. Elena, charismatic little sassmonster that she is, sells the heck out of this program, and it’s a lot less arm-flaily and more polished than her programs last season. It would be so sad if she lost her jumps the season she finally gets good programs again…so let’s all cross our fingers she gets whatever was happening here worked out.

Mirai Nagasu’s FS 

I have only one problem with this program, and that is that it could be incredible. But it’s not quite there, though, and I shall explain why.

It’s pretty simple, actually. This song, “The Winner Takes it All,” is very emotional. And Mirai skates to it with far too little expression. The choreography is good, the jumps were (mostly) good, but it lacked emotion. She has to sell this thing until the place blows up if she wants to pull it off. Otherwise, it won’t work. Fingers crossed that was just a result of early-season-jump-concentration…

I’m lazy, so I’m going to stop there. Bye! 🙂

 

JGP Ostrava Ladies Recap

JGP Ostrava is a wrap, and from the looks of it (I haven’t gotten to watch a lot of the men’s and dance programs yet, but I saw the results), it was a much stronger competition across the board than the first event. Despite a lot of lackluster free skates and some truly insane scoring inflation in the ladies event, it had its strong points, too. Let’s get started!

1. Anastasia Gubanova, Russia — 185.59

What Happened: Coming into this competition, a lot of people (myself included) had their eyes on Anastasia. She’s one of the most watchable skaters I’ve ever seen: her balletic carriage, gorgeous use of her hands, wrists and arms, and beautiful extension make her skating about as aesthetically pleasing as it gets. However, her jumps…are another matter. Her technique would make my coach cry, and her 3-3s are terrifyingly unstable because of her hold-onto-your-hats 3T takeoff. She reminds me of Yulia Lipnitskaya in almost every way: refinement, expression, extension, spins, and some reeeally sketchy jumps. However, despite falls in both programs, Anastasia’s polish, spins, and the jumps she did land were enough to squeak out a win by the narrowest of margins. This gives her a great shot at the Final, and I can’t wait to see her at her next event.

The Programs: Her short program to “The Swan” is kind of exactly what you’d expect someone like Anastasia to skate to-soft, elegant and balletic. Not exactly a creative choice, but it’s gorgeous. (She does need to look up more, though. My coach would be all over her for looking at her skates throughout the whole program.) I really love her “Romeo and Juliet” FS: it uses my favorite version of that music, shows off her best qualities, and really brings out the passion of the music. (Random: sometimes I’ll see a junior do an R&J program and think, ‘he/she’s too young for that music,’ but then I remember that in the play, Juliet was 13…and then I slowly die because it freaked me out when I first read it and it STILL FREAKS ME OUT.)

2. Rika Kihara, Japan — 185.51

What Happened: Rika was another skater everyone was looking at coming into this competition. A video had recently surfaced of her landing a perfect 3A-3T, and it was rumored she would unveil her 3A here, so fans were anticipating the possible debut of the Triple Axel That Was Not (sorrynotsorry, spoilers!). Her SP, despite not having the 3A, was impeccable, and she lead by a healthy margin. Most of her FS was good, too, except for the Triple Axel That Was Not™: she fell hard, and I didn’t look at the protocol, but it definitely looked <<. Still, gotta give her props for trying. She missed the win by only .07 points-possibly the smallest margin between medalists I’ve ever seen.

The Programs: eh…not sure how I feel about either. Both of them (the SP to “Tzigane” and FS to “Rhapsody in Blue”) are polished, well-choreographed programs, but I don’t feel like she was really “living up to” the very serious, well-known classical music she used. I’m all for juniors using classical music, and “Rhapsody in Blue” was a nice choice (I think that’ll be a nice program when it’s gotten more mileage), but “Tzigane” seemed…too heavy for a junior. Something lighter, like a waltz, or something up-tempo and fun, like “Czardas”, might have been better choices for someone Rika’s age who wanted to use classical music.

3. Alisa Lozko, Russia — 162.28

What Happened: Ted Barton of the JGP Live Stream said it best: Alisa’s a “spinner from heaven.” But her jumps…yikes. She fell in the FS, and through both programs, she racked up so many URs I lost count. It might have been partly because she is better at -3Lo combos than she is at -3T combos, which she had to do her because of the 3Lo being a required solo jump, but those were far from the only things hit with <. However, there were bright spots: I loved her footwork in both programs, and her spins are some of the best I’ve ever seen. (I tried to do something like her biellman variation, where she grabs her knee while spinning in a nearly-split position, at practice the other day, and I almost fell on my head. And it didn’t look an eighth as pretty.) Sadly, if she can’t fix her awful jump technique, she’ll probably get buried in the constant stream of Russian juniors.

The Programs: I’m not really sure how I feel about the music to Alisa’s “Pavlova” SP, but the program itself is really nice. Her “Milord” FS could be really fun, but she isn’t really engaging in it. She has wonderful musicality and uses the music well, but almost no expression, which makes it somewhat hard to connect with her skating.

4. Yuna Aoki, Japan — 155.79

What Happened: Yuna is a category-five headcase, and her leg wrap in jumps drives me crazy, but she is beautiful to watch. She has lovely polish and grace, and her interpretation is top-notch. However, she can’t seem to get through a program without falling or singling something, so I have no idea how she will hold up as a senior.

The Programs: Her “Meditation from Thais” SP is elegant and gorgeous and a joy to watch. The FS (“On My Own”) is nice, if a little generic.

5. Ha Nul Kim, Korea — 149.25

What Happened: essentially, URs kept Ha Nul out of the top five in the SP, and she came back with a fairly strong FS. She’s a nice skater, and her presentation is improving, but I still don’t really get anything out of her skating. Nice, but not anything earthshaking.

The Programs: her SP (forgot the music, but it’s something by Caro Emerald) is really fun, but the FS is nothing special. Since I’m too lazy to go into a long statistical analysis of why I think this, I’ll just leave it at that.