Things I Like: Skate America

This is exactly what it sounds like. ūüôā

 

  1. The Rise of Biolguin

I can’t remember the last time someone whom I wanted to win but was sort of an outside shot actually won. Oh, wait…it was last night.

I love Julianne and Charlie to pieces, and have since I saw them live at Skate America last year. Their joy and connection to each other are truly special. As someone on an online forum once said, “anyone who doesn’t like them must also not like puppies and ice cream.” Pretty much sums it up. Both of their programs this year are great fits for them: the SP is jazzy and upbeat and fun, and the FS is more soft and romantic, but not in an angsty way. And they were¬†on.¬†Charlie missed the SBS 3Lo in the short, but they came back with a vengeance in the FS and it was¬†glorious.¬†Every element was pristine. And it doesn’t hurt that they were¬†preciously adorable.¬†(Full disclosure: I 800% ship them after this.) If they’re not in the mix for the podium at worlds this year, I am going to bang my head on a wall in rage.

2. This is How You Capitalize on A Meltdown, Y’all!

I have been incredibly impressed with Denney/Frazier’s comeback from a possibly-career-ending injury, but this was beyond my wildest expectations. They’ve done well in both of their previous competitions, so I thought they could be in the top four, or maybe even get the bronze if someone melted down. But silver? Never would’ve guessed. They had their share of luck (Tarasova/Morozov melted down in the free skate and dropped to 3rd despite leading by seven points after the short), but they certainly did their part: they had a few near-misses on SBS jumps, but no falls in either program. I am not sure how I feel about their SP: it’s nice, I suppose, but the music is not my taste. The free skate is by far my favorite of their programs. I might be somewhat biased because my orchestra is currently playing¬†Somewhere in Time,¬†but it’s a great program in general. It’s gotten mixed reviews-some think it’s generic, and others enjoy the lyrical, dreamy quality it has-but I love it. And it makes me immensely happy to see an American pair ACTUALLY LANDING THINGS. They won the silver medal, and what a statement that was.

3. Another Surprise Silver

I do not want to talk about most of the ladies FS, but what a competition this was for Mariah Bell! To go from 11th in the country to second at a Grand Prix in only a few months is almost unheard-of. Mariah’s recent coaching change has done wonders for her consistency and jump technique, but she’s still getting the best of her former coaching setup: it appears that she’s still working with her choreographer, Rohene Ward, who did both of her programs this season (both of which I love). She won the FS here, smashing her previous PB. I have a feeling Mariah will be on the world team this year.

4. #BollywoodRuslena

Full disclosure: I understand that they missed some levels, but I still thought that Elena and Ruslan’s free dance was totally underscored. It was jam-packed with interesting, innovative choreography and transitions, and it’s a really engaging program. They both got really into it, especially Elena (she’s not¬†the #unofficialqueen for no reason!). That, and the unique choreography and elements, made it a lot of fun to watch! It’s got some of the coolest transitions into and out of elements I’ve ever seen. I highkey want to see this program at worlds.

5. I Can’t Even…And Yet, I Can

I literally could not keep the giant stupid grin off my face while I was watching this. You’ve got to watch it to know what I’m talking about. (Also, I’ve never seen it, but I read somewhere that the voiceover that segues from the blues section to the hip hop section is from Blades of Glory. I don’t know, but that’s kinda hilarious if it is.)

Costumes I enjoyed, described in less than ten words

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Mariah Bell, SP to Chicago (“Roxie” and “All That Jazz”):¬†IT HAS A FRINGE SKIRT, GUYS. Also, sparkles.

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Seguin/Bilodeau, SP to “Skokian”:¬†More fringe skirts! + Is that a lime-green pocket hankie?

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Ashley Wagner, FS to “Exogenesis Symphony”:¬†Ombre and sparkles are always a good combination. Very elegant. (No, equals signs do not count as a word. :p)

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Mao Asada, FS to “Ritual Dance”:¬†I would wear this to a ritzy Hollywood awards ceremony.¬†Gold_FS_htjlpiqr_jodq6uxs.jpg

Gracie Gold, FS to “Daphnis et Chloe”:¬†both the dress and program were stunning…in opposite ways. ūüė¶

Finlandia Trophy Ladies Recap

I have not been good about covering the Challenger Series events. That is going to change! Long intros are overrated, so I’m just going to get right to the point with this. Here goes! 

1. Kaetlyn Osmond 

Kaetlyn Osmond has not had the smoothest comeback, so I was thrilled to see her have such a strong outing. I’ve always liked her skating, but this is the first time I really noticed what a brilliant performer she is. (Landing all of her jumps certainly didn’t hurt her cause. ūüėČ) She performed her near-clean Edith Piaf SP to sassy, spunky perfection; it may have been planned, but if not, her only mistake was doubling the last jump of an intended 3F-3T combination. Kaetlyn seems to be really into this program, and her enthusiasm and energy were infectious. Her free skate to “La Boheme” was a change of pace, but equally clean. It was a little more subdued and slow-paced; I enjoyed it as well, although it didn’t top the SP. Even with a slower program, her performance quality really shone, and all of her elements were excellent (with the possible exception of a 3F-3T with several turns in between the jumps). She’s got two excellent vehicles, and if she can keep skating like this…watch out, world. 

(On a superficial note, I loved both of her dresses.) 

2. Mao Asada 

Mao seems to have scaled back her technical layout a bit, but, seeing as she went clean, it seems to have been a good choice. And it didn’t distract from what makes her special: interpretation and expression. Both of her programs (set to different parts of the same piece of music, “Ritual Dance) are exquisitely choreographed, unique, sophisticated, and nuanced, and she pulls it off convincingly in a way that, out of the current field, only she could. If she ever skates these programs with her usual technical content, they will be nothing short of spectacular. 

3. Anna Pogorilaya 

Anna has really been on an upswing since winning a world bronze medal. Her new programs are both fantastic, her artistic qualities are improving dramatically, and her jumps are a lot more stable than they were last season (a whole competition with no Pogo-Splat!). Anna’s “Por Una Cabeza” SP is wonderfully fiery and really showcases her maturity, and her FS, which I don’t know the music to because I watched it with no sound, looked great, too. It seems like she’s developed a propensity for forward landings and hands down, but anything is better than Pogo-Splat. Since her artistry has always been her weakest area, I’m very happy to see how much she’s improved it. And no falls is just the cherry on top. 

Well done, Anna! ūüėĀ

4. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva 

I have never been the biggest fan of Liza (understatement), but she’s starting to win me over. I actually enjoyed both of her programs here-the SP is very sassy (something she does well) and a lot more choreographically complex than anything she’s had before, and the FS, while sort of empty, is a good fit for her. She makes an excellent Cleopatra; all that one needs is more choreography. And her jumps are a  lot more stable than they were last season. Overall, I think this was a good outing for Elizaveta, and I am excited to see these programs again (I love it when skaters I irrationally dislike start growing on me!).

5. Nicole Schott

I have very little to say about Nicole, so…here’s a video?
Random, irrelevant, but noteworthy: Nathan Chen did five quads in his FS. (And a 4F and 4Lz-3T in his SP.) And I’m over here like…*jaw unhinged*

JGP Germany Ladies Recap

It’s been a whirlwind JGP season, and after seven competitions, it’s finally come to an end. With that, the JGP Finalists have been announced. In order:

  1. Anastasia Gubanova, Russia – 30 pts. (1/1)
  2. Polina Tsurskaya, Russia – 30 pts. (1/1)
  3. Rika Kihara, Japan – 28 pts. (2/1)
  4. Kaori Sakamoto, Japan – 28 pts. (2/1)
  5. Alina Zagitova, Russia – 26 pts. (1/3)
  6. Marin Honda, Japan – 26 pts. (2/2)

I’d say that’s a pretty solid line-up. We’re in for a treat. (Grand Duchess of Triple Lutz Polina vs. Mini Miss Triple Axel Rika vs. a bunch of other great skaters? Count me in!)

But I still have to explain what actually happened here. So…here goes.

1. Anastasia Gubanova

Anastasia punched her ticket to the Final in style, with two clean performances and a second gold medal. Not too shabby for a first-year junior! (Fun fact: Anastasia was the only debuting junior to do so, and one of only two skaters who won both of their events-the other being Polina Tsurskaya, as we all expected.) Her jump technique still makes me want to avert my eyes until she’s safely on her feet, but I can overlook that because she has so many wonderful qualities. Her spins, interpretation, lines and extension, and overall polish are astounding for a junior. Even with a UR problem and some seriously sketchy 3-3s, Anastasia is a great addition to the final, and it’s awesome that she was able to qualify in first.

2. Yuna Shiraiwa 

Yuna didn’t have her strongest SP here, but she rebounded with a rock-solid FS to earn the silver medal. Unfortunately, it was just barely too little to make the final (a gold probably would’ve done it), and she wound up third alternate. However, there was lots to like here: her expression seems to be improving, which made her programs much more enjoyable, and she had a fantastic, clean free skate. Yuna’s jumps are solid, but she still lacks the “spice” or special something she needs to distinguish herself from the throngs of decent bronze-medal contenders. A little more consistency would do it-most junior ladies aren’t all that consistent (Polina Tsurskaya is an outlier who I¬†eliminate from all data for being the exception to literally every rule ever), and that would help her a lot. It did just that last season, but unfortunately, she seems to have lost a little bit of that. I think her current programs set her up well to find an artistic je ne sais quoi,¬†but even if they do, she needs to regain her consistency if she wants to keep climbing the ladder.

3. Eunsoo Lim 

Eunsoo is an absolute delight to watch, and her gorgeous SP had people online jumping on the “next Yuna Kim!” bandwagon. I agree that she has loads of potential, but that…is premature. That kind of pressure would likely do her more harm than good, so it’s probably best to lay off the hype until she gets a little more experience. However, she did have a perfect SP and a strong FS, and I really enjoyed both of her programs, so I can see where they’re coming from. She’s also the only non-Russian-or-Japanese skater to medal in ladies on the JGP this season, so props for that. Eunsoo has all the potential in the world, with gorgeous, high jumps and strong technique, good spins, and nice interpretation and presentation; she just needs to a) not jump so close to the boards (her board-hugging 3-3s are terrifying) and b) not let the pressure of people jumping to premature conclusions get to her head.

4. Stanislava Konstantinova 

Stanislava didn’t have her best competition here. She couldn’t capitalize on her silver medal from Saransk to get to the final, but she still managed to snatch an alternate spot (she’s second in line), so that’s a plus. As I said in my JGP Saransk recap, I’m not the biggest fan of Stanislava’s skating, but I do admire that she brings something different. A lot of juniors seem sort of copy-and-paste, but not Stanislava. She has a very unique, quirky style, and while it’s not really my cup of tea, I appreciate that she’s bringing something different to the table.

5. Yuna Aoki 

Lovely skater, horrible competitive nerve: we’ve seen it a million times, and Yuna is no exception. This was one of her better competitions in a while, with only two major mistakes. In her SP, she somewhat inexplicably popped her 3Lz-3T into a 3Lz-1T, and in the FS, aside from a 2A-3T that she didn’t do, her only mistake was a fall on her 3Lz-3Lo (understandable, as far as mistakes go). She’s a really pleasant skater to watch, albeit one with a very distracting leg wrap in her jumps, so it was nice to see her have a fairly strong outing here. But her inconsistency makes me cry. (I legitimately think it’s some of the worst headcasery I’ve ever seen, and this is coming from the world’s most overzealous Gracie Gold uber…)

You Might Also Like…(I Certainly Did!): Holly Harris¬†

Holly Harris of Australia is a JGP debutante who I knew nothing about prior to this competition, but wow, she is an absolutely gorgeous skater! She placed 11th here. She doesn’t have all of her triples yet, but her polish, artistry and obvious dance training make for a really watchable skater.

I can’t believe the JGP is already over-it flew by! The Senior GP is only a few weeks away, and there are Challenger events, but I’m going to miss it. But, I hope you enjoyed my coverage, as I really tried to get it out as often as I could. (Still kicking myself for not getting JGP Japan…ugh!)¬†

JGP Tallinn Ladies Recap

Does Tallinn have one “L” or two?

Eh, whatever, I’m going with two. (I am beginning to see a pattern of not being able to spell the names of JGP host cities.) Spelling aside, this was a great event! Here’s what went down in Estonia (that¬†I can spell!) this weekend.

1. Polina Tsurskaya

Lady Polina Tsurskaya, Grand Duchess of Triple Lutz, was nothing short of sublime in Tallinn.

(I looked it up, and “Grand Duchess” was, indeed, a real term for Russian royalty, so I went with that instead of the cooler-sounding “Empress Dowager,” which applies to several Asian countries but would not actually have been used in Russia. Ya learn something new every day!)

Both of her programs were nearly perfect (some missed levels and a small turnout were the closest thing to mistakes in either of her programs), and her vastly-improved artistry was even better than in Saransk. Polina has this regal quality about her this season that’s just incredible to watch: she’s cool, confident, poised, and never looks fazed. Everything from her facial expression and costumes to the way she transitions out of jumps (the high leg position on her landings is EVERYTHING) is just…well, queenly. Okay, so maybe I’m going overboard with the royalty metaphors, but why not? It only takes one viewing to get what I’m going for. This young lady just blows my mind.

2. Elizaveta Nugumanova 

It was probably apparent in my JGP Russia recap that I love me some Liza Nugumanova, so I was thrilled to see her improve on that performance here. Her “Malaguena” SP wasn’t as good as it was a few weeks ago -she underrotated her 3Lz-3T kind of obviously-but it’s an ingeniously-choreographed little gem and I loved her performance of it. The free skate was much stronger than her last one; underrotations were much less of an issue than they were at Saransk, and she landed everything well. With a silver and a bronze, Liza has a chance of getting into the final, but it’s by no means a guarantee. I’ll be crossing my fingers for an Alisa Fedichkina-in-2015 situation (refresher: Alisa made the final with a silver medal and a 4th place last year) to get her in.

3. Mako Yamashita 

I will admit it, Mako Yamashita doesn’t really excite me all that much. Her skating is kind of bland. But she has admirable qualities: her jumps are great-her technique is a lot like that of fellow Japanese juniors Kaori Sakamoto and Rin Nitaya, with tight air position, fast rotation, smooth landings and good height-and so far, she’s been pretty consistent. With two bronzes, she could make the JGP Final, although it’s an outside shot; it would require Gubanova and Konstantinova to bomb drastically at their second event next week. But stranger things have happened…

 

4. Rin Nitaya 

I was really critical of Rin when I recapped JGP France, but I won’t be this time: I don’t know if it was a change in her skating or just a change of opinion, but I really enjoyed her mature presentation. (That’s what happens when you stay down in juniors at 18: your maturity looks 85x more impressive than it would in seniors, simply because you’re competing against 13-year-olds.) Some of the jumps weren’t there in the free skate, and it looked like she was getting tired towards the end, but it was a solid effort and really enjoyable to watch. With a bronze and a 4th place, she’s probably not looking at a chance at a Final spot, but it would be nice if she ended up being an alternate. She brings something different with her maturity and smooth jumps, and I appreciate that.

5. Tessa Hong 

Okay, pause.

I have been waiting¬†five weeks¬†to be able to recap an American skater in one of these. It’s actually kind of sad, but Tessa was a deserving first-American-in-a-recap. She struggles with URs, but everything else about her skating is absolutely exquisite. Her musicality and interpretation are a cut above for a 14-year-old, and she has an elegance to her skating that I love. But, like with many other skaters, her URs were her undoing here. She landed all of her jumps in both programs, but many of them were UR’d obviously enough to see in real time (that’s when you know it’s bad). There were bright spots: both of her programs were beautiful, and she actually landed things, including 3-3s in both programs. But she needs to get a handle on her UR problem or she won’t be able to reach her full potential. Sigh…another beautiful, artistic skater with a UR problem. ūüė¶

And, a 15th-place program you need to watch anyway because it’s awesome¬†

This program featured nothing harder than a 3Lo and wasn’t the cleanest, but in terms of entertainment, it was one of the best programs of the event (in my opinion). Danielle’s energy and excitement are really infectious, especially in the StSqs (which were both awesome). Just plain fun to watch.

Also, is it just me, or does she look like she could be Gracie Gold’s long-lost sister? I feel like they look very alike.