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! 🙂

 

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