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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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! 🙂

 

Recap: Nebelhorn Trophy Ladies Event

Hello, readers! The second event of the Challenger Series, Nebelhorn Trophy, finished yesterday, and I’m going to be recapping the ladies event.

Let’s start with the winner (duh :p):

1. Kaetlyn Osmond, Canada-179.41

This was Kaetlyn Osmond’s first competition since the 2014 World Championships, as she sat out last season due to injury. I have to say, I was very pleased with this! In the SP, her opening combo fell apart, but the other jumps were GORGEOUS and HUGE…the total opposite of the winner of the last CS event, LOL. I like this program, even though this recording of “La Vie en Rose” is awful. I also love her costume. 🙂

I actually doesn’t watch this program, but the score was good, so good for her.

2. Alena Leonova, Russia-165.61

Alena kept this program from last year, and, while I used to rather hate it, it’s grown on me a lot. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that she’s selling the heck out of this. However, this costume must burn.

No video was available of Alena’s FS, which is fine because I did not watch it…hehe. *Awkward silence*

3. Courtney Hicks, USA-162.85

Courtney finished pretty much how I expected her to. There were a few small mistakes, but the programs are miles above her programs from last year. This program was pretty strong technically, and it fits her, so yay. Good job, Courtney.

Confession: I am shamelessly obsessed with this program. It is awesome. Next.

4. Alaine Chartrand, Canada-161.35

This was an excellent showing for Alaine, and I LOOOOOVE this program! ❤ It’s so sassy and fun-it’s the “where have you been all my life?” program that forces you t0 take notice of a skater. Alaine underrotated her 3lz-3T, but otherwise, this was a perfect skate. I can’t say enough good things about this program and I can’t wait to see it again!

This was a shaky program and unfortunately took her off the podium, but I like this program as well. And yes, I like this “Gone With the Wind” program better than the other one we’ve seen. 🙂

5. Mirai Nagasu, USA-159.67

Mirai, ever the heartbreaker, started her season with this.

Oh, Mirai, this program is so beautiful-stop ruining it with 3A attempts! She started the program with a downgraded triple axel that threw off the rest of the program. She popped her triple loop and fell on a combination. I just wish she could take out the 3A and get it together because this is a beautiful program.

In the FS, Mirai rebounded very well (her only mistake was a UR on something), and, while I’m not a huge fan of the erratic music cuts, the program has potential. (Also, her dress is amazing.) Good for you, Mirai, but you need to take out the 3A. It’s throwing off the performance and you aren’t going to make teams with SPs like that.

This concludes the recap. 🙂

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment-I’d love to hear them!

Recap: Highlights & Low Points of the 2015 US International Figure Skating Classic

As fellow skating fans may know, the Challenger Series (a circuit of small senior internationals occurring from September to December) began this week with the US International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City. It was a really great event, and I luckily got to watch most of it, so I am going to recap my 10 favorite moments/programs/discoveries of the event!

There will be at least one highlight from each discipline, thus why I didn’t do a traditional recap of just ladies.

10. Highlight: The unofficial Year of Strange Ice Dance Music Selections begins 

Oh, gosh, this was an interesting dance event.

Namely, several teams used music I would never have thought I’d see in an ice dance program, and even stranger, a lot of it actually worked. This was my favorite of the odd-music-choice-programs:

Elisabeth Paradis & Francois-Xavier Ouellette’s FD, set to “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” was a far better use of folk-type music than the following:

This program skated by Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen of Denmark, and I cannot.

Seriously, what. Is. This. Music.

Guys, I loved you last year, and I actually liked this program at first, but I now realize this is not as great as I wanted to make myself believe it was.

And the oddest one of all, belonging to Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue:

YOU GUYS, MADISON IS WEARING MOTH WINGS ON HER DRESS. MOTH WINGS!!!! IN AN INTERNATIONAL ATHLETIC COMPETITION!!!

While skating to Daft Punk, I might add!

*Sigh* This is so awful it’s funny. They can kiss their spot on the world team goodbye if this is how they are going to be skating this season. (Um, that score was, for lack of a better word, dismal.)

In the end, this is a highlight because it amused me so much to see ice dancers in moth wings skating to Daft Punk, and all kinds of Folk-y Whatsit, and all manner of things you’d never expect to see. At least it’s not Carmen.

9. Low Point: What is happening to Shoma Uno?!?

This is just sad.

Shoma, coming in as the reigning Junior World Champion, was expected to win this competition easily, but an absolutely abysmal short program made that impossible. His TES score was 19.25, comparable to a middle-of-the-pack Junior ladies’ score.

His free skate was much stronger, but a few mistakes kept him off the podium, in 5th. (Bonus points for using Nessun Dorma, the Overused Music De Jour…;)).

Shoma, you are so much better than this! What is happening to you?!?

8. Highlight: Selena Zhao’s Free Skate

Prior to this event, I’d only heard of Selena Zhao because I remembered she didn’t make the free skate at Junior Worlds. This was an excellent show of how far she’s come since then! Selena placed an excellent 5th in her senior international debut, beating out favorites like 6th ranked US lady Mariah Bell and Kanako Murakami, a 2014 Olympian who’s placed as high as 4th at worlds. This was a lovely use of one of this season’s major warhorses (skating community slang for an overused piece of music), Nessun Dorma, and was the 3rd-best free skate of the event, pulling her up four places.

Also, she had one of the best costumes of the entire competition.

7. Low point: Mariah Bell Falls Apart 

Before we plunge into Mariah’s bitter heartbreak of a free skate, I want to talk about her short program, which was actually very nice. Set to an Irish piece called “Storm Cry,” it is what I like to call ‘subtle Riverdance’ and is a really lovely program. It was a pretty respectable skate, and she did an okay 3Flip-3Toe (not clean, but landed). So this was a pretty good outing. On the other hand…

This is where it all went wrong.

I really love this program, and I was hoping she would skate it well enough to pull up a few places. But that was not to be. She melted down totally, and it was seriously painful to watch.

Ouch.

6. Highlight: Elizabet Tursynbaeva Proves Herself as a Senior 

Elizabet Tursynbaeva caught a lot of fans’ eyes when she placed 4th in a stacked field at the Junior World Championships this year, and many thought she’d be in the top 5. However, I doubt many people thought she would do this well!

This short program had her in a respectable 4th place, but that was not all we were going to see of Elizabet.

In a free skate where everybody was falling, Elizabet capitalized on the poor quality of her competitors’ performances to pull up to second place. This free skate was one of the standouts of the event, and proved that this small child (who many remarked looks like a 12-year-old) is ready to butt heads with the seniors.

5. Low Point: Kanako, You’re Supposed To Place Higher At Senior Bs Than You Did At Worlds! 

Kanako Murakami started this competition with a short program that was an instant hit with the fans. Many people had very good things to say about this program (and costume, for that matter), though it left her in fifth place-disappointing for a medal favorite and multiple-time world competitor. I thought she was going to pull up in the long, but…

This happened.

This was not Kanako’s fines hour-er, three minutes-and it left her in 7th, below skaters she easily could’ve beaten. (For goodness sakes, there was only one other person here who even qualified for 2015 Worlds, where Kanako came in 7th!) I hope she skates better than this in the future, because I know she can.

4. Highlight: Daniel Samohin’s Free Skate 

Though still a junior (he won a silver medal at the Junior Grand Prix in Colorado Springs and is assigned to another one), Daniel proved here that he can compete with the seniors any day. This was a great skate for him-and it didn’t hurt that this program is one of my favorite men’s programs of the season so far.

3. Both a Highlight and a Low Point: Karen Chen Fails Beautifully

I dearly love Karen Chen.

Like, a lot.

And this program is really fantastic. (That spiral into the music change is perfect!!! <3) Seeing as this is the third “Nessun Dorma” program on this list, it’s evident how overused that piece is this season…but, IMHO, Karen did it best.

The technical side was okay aside from a doubled 3T, but that didn’t last.

Another perfect program. Just…yes. (Also, costume on point.) But the jumps were a whole different story. Two pops (both of them singled), a fall, and two URs…what happened there?!?

I suppose the altitude might have had something to do with it, but you never know. She’s also apparently had boot issues lately, so that might be it. I don’t know, but I really hope this headcasing thing doesn’t last.

2. Satoko Miyahara Continues To Be Our Favorite Tiny Arteeste

Satoko Miyahara won this competition convincingly with two relatively clean, exquisitely-choreographed programs (as have become her trademark), and that sets her up well for the season ahead. I was worried about growth-related jump issues, since she’s young and might grow more and has tiny jumps, but that was no problem at all here. (Her jumps are still tiny, though.) This short program was very different from anything she’s done before, but, with a hint of Satoko’s signature Tiny Arteeste charm, it worked. However, I like the free skate much better:

Nice classical music? Check.

Exquisite choreography? Check.

Costume on point? Check.

Yes, this is definitely a Satoko Masterpiece in the making. Watch out, Miss Saigon-this program might well give you a run for your money. 🙂

1. Best Highlight of the Entire Event: My Pair Wins a Thing 

To start off, I have about five pairs I consider “my pair” and the phrase will probably be used for all of them. So…yeah. This is not an exclusive term, LOL. But, to get to the actual point:

MY PAIR WON A THING!!!!! *Insert the confetti emojis not available on my laptop*

I like Tarah & Danny’s short program better than their free, but I loved both programs. This one’s giving me subtle Paso vibes, and I like it! It’s different for them, but it works very well. (This skate had them in 3rd after the short.)

Their Phantom of the Opera free skate (last year’s Warhorse De Jour) was the soft, romantic fare we’re used to seeing from them. (It’s quite similar in style to their short program from last season.) It was a nice program, and suited them very well (also, their costumes were my favorites of the event :)), but I prefer the short. I have a feeling it will grow on me, though…

Anyhow, CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FIRST INTERNATIONAL WIN!!!!!

Aaaaaand…out. 

Have anything to say? Did I miss one of your favorite highlights? 

Leave a comment to let me know! Bye all!