2016 NHK Trophy Ladies Recap

Well, the Grand Prix is over, and it feels like it went by in about five seconds. (Probably because most of the competitions were either at obscene hours of the morning or while I had something I was supposed to be doing…) And aside from another year of total Evgenia Medvedeva domination, it definitely did not shake out how I expected! (Two American men in the GPF, but no U.S. ladies? Kaetlyn Osmond and Maria Sotskova qualified? Approximately 8,000,000 withdrawals? Lots of surprises there.) But, regardless, it was quite an exciting GP season, and I can’t wait to recap the final ladies event for your reading pleasure…

 

1. Anna Pogorilaya

Just…wow. Anna is in true champion’s form this season. I know I’ve said it a million times  (#AccidentalSongLyricQuotationsFTW), but it keeps on getting reinforced with every competition. Anna has finally found her stride, both technically and artistically: she’s landing her things, which obviously needs to happen, but she’s also improved a lot in her interpretation and performance, due in no small part to her fabulous programs. I’m thrilled that she rebounded so strongly from a disastrous 2016 (except for Russian Nationals and Worlds, she basically fell over and died at every competition…), and I hope to see her on the podium at the GPF. She definitely has it in her, but most of the competitors, save maybe Kaetlyn, are very consistent: Evgenia, Elena, Satoko, and Maria all bank on clean skates and usually deliver them. Anna has an edge with her huge jumps  (underrotations are a problem for quite a few skaters in this group) and polish, but she’s got to be clean. Fingers crossed.

2. Satoko Miyahara

Ironic that just as Satoko is starting to really grow on me, she’s also getting judged more harshly/making more mistakes. (She did not previously get nearly as many UR calls as she has been getting this season, if I remember correctly.) Aside from an unfortunate fall in the SP and a bunch of URs, though, Satoko did an admirable job and, ultimately, what she needed to do to book a ticket to the Final. Her Musetta’s Waltz SP was, well, nice; pretty and palatable, but not particularly exciting. (Noteworthy, however, is that her upper body movement and arm choreography in this program are lovely. I know I probably talk about those things too much, but they look so nice!) I much prefer Satoko’s Star Wars/The Planets FS, which was also a stronger skate technically; it’s a strong and dynamic program and a departure from the light, elegant, “pretty” programs she often has. (Examples: this year’s SP, last year’s Un Sospiro FS, and her 2014-15 Magic Flute SP.) Since Satoko is not really a “big” skater, both in stature and amplitude, having a powerful program helps to establish a strong presence on the ice-which, ultimately, is why I think this program is so effective. I am aware that I’ve gone off on a tangent, but I tend to do that, and I don’t care. But, back to the point: she landed all of her things in the FS, and although they were not all rotated, it was a solid performance. Overall, this was a strong showing, I’m glad she was able to get into the Final.

3. Maria Sotskova

Maria is quickly becoming one of my favorite up-and-coming skaters. She really performs from the heart with an honest, sincere quality that I can’t help but love. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that she is quite consistent. Aside from the UR issues that have randomly materialized this season (did she get UR calls last season? I seem to recall she didn’t), Maria can almost always be counted on to land her jumps. Her weaker areas seemed to have improved here, too. One of her biggest problems has often been lack of speed, which seems to be improving (which is a very good thing, because slow skating has a way of slowly driving me insane…slowly). And I like her programs a lot! The Story of An Unknown Actor is a really great piece and I think Maria carries the driving intensity of the music well. Her FS, to another Schnittke composition, Butterflies Are Free, is not quite as impactful, but a lovely, heartfelt program. Again, very happy to see Maria in the Final. I don’t expect her to medal, but if she puts out two solid performances, there’s always a chance.

4. Wakaba Higuchi

Wakaba is another up-and-coming skater who’s really started to come into her own this year. She’s not quite as consistent as some of her competitors, but her jumps are as huge as ever and her expression and fluidity have gotten a lot better since her junior days. Her La Califfa SP is a great showcase of both of those qualities. Although she made one minor mistake, a small stepout on a 3Lz, it was overall a solid skate, and I was very impressed by the improvements she’s made in interpretation and upper body movement (I know, I know, here we go again!). Her Scheherazade FS is a good vehicle as well. Wakaba is known for her powerful jumps and just general powerfulness (yup, that’s a word now, and yup, I am aware that I am totally overusing parenthesis), so clearly, skating to powerful music is a good idea for her. I also love her FS costume. And…I have nothing else to say, because my brain is totally dead and I literally just tried to type “becaus’e.” Yes, “becaus’e,” with an apostrophe before the E.

I really need to go to sleep.

5. Mirai Nagasu

After Mirai completely bombed Skate Canada despite only falling once (URs are killer), I was happy that she was able to come back with a strong second event. Her SP was impeccable, if you can ignore a UR on the combo, which I did, because I didn’t pick up on it in real-time, and actually, so was her FS, if you ignore the four URs she got for that. I really enjoy both of her programs this year; Mirai’s Chopin SP is very elegant in a cold, formal sort of way that’s actually really convincing, and her The Winner Takes It All FS is emotional and raw and, no doubt, more than a little autobiographical. Not to mention that her dresses for both programs are drop-dead-gorgeous. (Look at the beading on her SP dress in the screencap! NO WORDS. Simply incredible, although I don’t even want to think about how long it must’ve taken whoever made it to hand-glue every last one of those crystals/little sparkly jobs onto the dress. Shudder.)

Well, that’s a wrap, which is good, because I need to go to sleep before I write something weird that I will forever regret. 

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