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¶

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!)¬†

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.¬†

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…

JGP France Ladies Recap

The season has begun! (Finally!) The first major event of the season, Junior Grand Prix St. Gervais (abbreviated to “JGP France”), just concluded. Some disciplines were weaker than others (the dance field was wide open, and the men’s event was a splatfest), but the ladies event featured some fantastic skating that I can’t wait to recap!

 

1. Alina Zagitova, Russia — 194.37 (68.07/126.30)¬†

As is the case at virtually every event, Eteri Tutberidze’s latest wunderkind, Alina Zagitova, won this event by quite a bit. Her SP, set to “Samson and Delilah”, included a fantastic Rippon 3Lz-3T, 3Lo, and 2A (her axel technique is exponentially better than most of her coach’s other students), strong spins, and a fast, dynamic step sequence that I really enjoyed. Her free skate (random note-I’m pretty the costume is Evgenia Medvedeva’s 2013-14 SP dress) to “Don Quixote” was not quite as strong-a couple of jumps had slightly scratchy landings-but still excellent, with a very nice 3Lz-3Lo and 2A-3T. Again, I thought her StSq was very well-choreographed and enjoyable. Alina has some areas she could work on-in particular, her expression could be a bit less blank-but much of what she would need as a senior is already there. Either way, she’s clearly very talented-she ended up winning the competition with scores that would’ve won last year’s Junior Worlds. Because, y’know…that’s¬†totally¬†normal result in your¬†first international competition.¬†

2. Kaori Sakamoto, JPN- 178.86 (64.12/114.74)

Kaori had a pretty good competition here, with two near-clean programs. Her SP, a fun, energetic program to “The Artist,” ¬†featured a 3F-3T, 3Lo, and 2A. She’s improved a lot as a performer over the summer: she used to skate a little bit blank-faced but this performance was really fun and engaging. Her FS isn’t my favorite – it’s set to music that kind of bores me (something called “The Color Purple”) and I find the choreography a little generic – but she turned in some strong elements. She didn’t get a planned 3T onto her opening 3F-3T, but made it up later in the program with two 2A-3Ts. Her biggest mistake other than that was an edge call-not perfect, but overall a great competition for Kaori.

3. Rin Nitaya, JPN — 175.01 (60.94/114.07)¬†

I vaguely remember seeing Rin last season and thinking she was kind of “meh,” so I wasn’t expecting much here. Suffice to say it that she exceeded my expectations! Rin skated a clean short and a near-clean long (her only mistake was a popped axel) to place 3rd. She landed an excellent 3Lz-3T, 3Lo, and 2A in her “Red Violin” short program, and although I found her expression a bit¬†nonexistent bland, she delivered the technical content and was duly rewarded. In the free skate, she utilized what I call the Satoko Layout: two 2A-3Ts in the second half instead of a 3-3. I really enjoy watching her jump: unlike most juniors, her landings are¬†dang solid¬†and smooth as butter. No scratchiness or turnout, ever-which I¬†love, considering how rare it’s becoming. She’s not the most engaging skater, but she deservedly placed really well here.

4. Ye Lim Kim, KOR — 157.79 (55.11/102.68)

Coming into this competition, people were expecting a lot of Ye Lim. Her jump layout was crazy-difficult and she had been looking consistent, so she was a medal favorite here. But it began to unravel in her “Donde Voy” SP: she¬†two-footed her 3Lz-3T, which was downgraded and given mostly -3s in GOE. Combined with her lack of strength in PCS relative to her competition, that was enough to get her off the podium after the short. Her FS was better, but still had some iffy landings and kept her off the podium in 4th. She kind of tripped (not sure how to explain it¬†because I’ve never seen anything like it…) out of the 2Lo in her 3Lz-3Lo-2Lo, which was downgraded, her 3Lz-3T was underrotated, and she got an edge call on her 3F. And to top it all off, she didn’t seem to be connecting to her music at all (I’ll give her a pass because both pieces were very ill-suited for someone of her age and style, which I blame on the choreographer.) She has a lot of potential, but this was just not Ye Lim’s competition.

5. Emmi Peltonen, FIN — 150.00 (53.41/96.59)

Emmi Peltonen was a nice “discovery” at this event: I’d never seen her, but she is a gorgeous skater with gigantic jumps and I think she has a lot of potential. In her short program, she landed a massive 3T-3T and a great 2A but singled her 3Lo. I really enjoyed the program, which was very well-choreographed with a very convincing tangoey flair. Her StSq was great. The FS was also a lovely program, but three pops and a fall did her in. She badly needs consistency (she appears to be the latest in a long line of artistic Finnish headcases), but she could be one to watch for.

Honorable Mentions: 

6. Alexia Paganini, USA: her short program was gorgeous except for a doubled jump, but two falls in the FS kept her from finishing any higher.

7. Julie Froestcher (sorry for spelling), FRA: her reaction to her score was great. ūüôā

 

JGP Hype!: 10 Junior Ladies To Watch For This Season

IT’S ALMOST JGP TIME *weird excited dance*, which is THE BEST TIME, because juniors are amazing and I almost always end up ubering a 13-to-15-year-old and having to cross my fingers they never find this blog. (Lookin’ at you, Vivian. Speaking of which, she will probably not be in this because she’s competed as a senior at club competitions recently, so I have no idea if she is moving up.) It’s just a few weeks away, and you know what that means: preview time!

So, here are 10 junior ladies I think will make a splash this season!

1. Polina Tsurskaya, Russia

Why She’s One To Watch: Polina totally dominated the junior circuit last season up until her unexpected last-minute withdrawal from Junior Worlds due to an injury sustained in practice. She’s primarily a jumper: her textbook-perfect, freakishly consistent jumps are some of the best I’ve ever seen. But she also has strong spins and presentation. She’s very tall (5′ 6″ according to the ISU, but could be more) and, unlike most tall juniors, actually uses it to her advantage. I love the way she uses her long limbs to enhance the performance, if that makes any sense. When used properly, that can give you a commanding ice presence; Polina gets it right, and combined with her speed and powerful jumps, it does.

2. Marin Honda, Japan

Why She’s One To Watch: Marin was the suprise Junior World Champion last season after the withdrawals of Polina Tsurskaya and teammate Alisa Fedichkina, who she tied in the SP. She doesn’t pack the biggest technical punch: her 3-3 in the SP last season was a 3Lo-3T, which she will not be able to do this season due to 3Lo being the solo jump, and in the FS, a 3S-3T. If she skates clean, as we’ve seen, that won’t hold her back: her jumps are solid, her spins great, and her presentation some of the strongest in the field. But she’s not particularly consistent.  She’s able to keep up, though, and a lot of that is because of her stellar presentation. She has an easy grace and lightness to her skating that’s very pleasant to watch, and her interpretation is great. I call her Baby Mao because her artistic style reminds me a lot of Mao Asada as a junior. That kind of says it all.

3. Alisa Fedichkina, Russia 

Why She’s One To Watch: Alisa is, in a word, charming. Her lyrical, dainty style and adorable smolness (smol=new favorite word) are a delightful combination and she connects to both crowd and programs superbly. Her jumps are a little bit small, but she usually lands them; she’s consistent, though not robotically so, a la Polina. And her spins are excellent. Along with Marin, she’s one of the few juniors whose artistry stands out more than her technical content. Provided she can land things, she will definitely be a strong contender.

4. Elizaveta Nugumanova, Russia

Why She’s One To Watch: Liza is one of the debuting juniors that many people are expecting good things from, with good reason. She’s got it all: her jump technique is excellent (a hallmark of Alexei Mishin pupils, of which she is one), her spins are great, and her presentation is good. She’s not exactly the picture of artistic maturity, but her youthful interpretation really works and is a joy to watch. She makes excellent use of arm variations in jumps (they’re utilized but not overdone), which is good for the scores. And her 3Lo-backended 3-3s are truly gorgeous. Oh, and she’s also extremely consistent. Unless something changes dramatically over the next few months, I’m expecting her to win stuff. ūüôā

5. Ye Lim Kim, South Korea 

Why She’s One To Watch: Ye Lim recently won the Korean JGP Selection Event Thingy I Don’t Remember The Official Name Of with a truly impressive technical layout: in the FS, for example, a 3Lz-2Lo that looked popped and was likely intended to be a 3-3, a 3Lz-3T, and an improvised 3F-3T thrown in at the end. And she’s a truly astounding backloader: two of her three jumping passes in the SP are in the bonus, and SIX(!) of her seven jumps in the FS are after the halfway point. Her spins are strong, too. I’m a bit lukewarm on her programs and interpretation, and she could use more speed, but with a layout like that…wow.

6. Kaori Sakamoto, Japan 

Why She’s One To Watch: as far as I know, Kaori’s been on the JGP the longest of anyone on this list. This is her third season, so she has a lot more experience than most of these girls. Her jumps are her standout: solid but floaty, with that inexplicably satisfying “crack” when she taps in for a toe jump. She’s not much of a standout in spins or presentation, but she’s done well on the JGP in the past, so she’s going on this list.

7. Anastasia Gubanova, Russia

Why She’s One To Watch: another of the Russian debutantes, Anastasia is a very expressive skater with lovely lines, spins. Her jumps are great, too: she has a gorgeous 3Lz-3Lo. Anastasia’s issue is with consistency, unlike most of her teammates. Which is a shame, because she’s so strong artistically; her polish is very impressive for a junior. Hopefully, she can keep it together at her events.

8. Alexia Paganini, USA 

Why She’s One To Watch: Alexia has been doing very well at the club competitions she’s done this summer, with near-60 SPs and near-100 FSes. She’s also successfully added a 3Lz-3T to her short program and attempts two 3-3s, 3T-3T and 3S-1Lo-3S, in her free skate. Not on the level of the Russian girls, but strong content nonetheless. Her spins and presentation are nice, too, and she’s fairly consistent. However, she does not seem to attempt the 3F, which might hold her back a little bit (correct me if I’m wrong on this one).

9. Alisa Lozko, Russia

Why She’s One To Watch: yet another debuting Russian, Alisa boasts a great 3Lo-3Lo and one of the best laybacks in the business. She’s not really the greatest artistically, and sometimes her jumps are a bit sketchy, but she could definitely be up there.

10. Ashley Kim, USA 

Why She’s One To Watch: Ashley seems like an odd pick for this list because she’s never been to Nationals (at any level), but she’s had an extremely promising summer. She won the Freezer Aerial Challenge, a jump event, with stellar 3-3s, which also helped her mop the floor with her competition at various summer events. She’s also a strong spinner (her layback is especially fantastic). Her presentation is a bit frantic and unpolished, but she’s a very talented jumper (like many of her Dallas FSC training mates-winkwinknudgenudge). So, on the list she goes!

In Retrospective: 2013-14 Junior Grand Prix Final-Ladies Free Skate

Here is the final installment of my first “In Retrospective”! This will cover the Ladies Free Skate from the 2013-14 Junior Grand Prix Final.

6. Angela Wang, USA-86.89/131.58

Music: “Nights in the Gardens of Spain”

Program Execution: 3lz(forward)-3T, 3F, 1Lo, 3Lz (fall), 2T-2A sequence, 3S, 2a-2T-2T (fall)

Costume Assessment: pretty, but kind of generic. Not much to see here.

What I Liked About This Performance:¬†like I said when I discussed Angela’s SP, she has very nice polish and finishes her movements. Her spins are nice, too, and the 3S came out of nowhere. I like it when jumps come out of nowhere. ūüôā

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance:¬†the falls.

Wuzrobbed?:¬†…isn’t it obvious?

5. Alexandra Proklova, Russia-106.50/157.77

Music:¬†“Bahrein-Oriental Medley”

Program Execution: 3Lz-2T, 3F-1Lo-3S, 3Lo, 2A-3T, 3F, 1Lz, 2A

Costume Assessment:¬†honestly, it was kind of garish. I don’t know what this program was supposed to be about, but I can’t think of any theme/narrative that would require a¬†“leopard in a paint factory” dress.

What I Liked About This Performance: her energetic footwork, fantastic spins, and the absolutely gigantic 2A-3T. Plus, her commitment to selling this admittedly bizarre but kind of cool program. But mostly the 2A-3T. *Grabby hands*

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance:¬†it was a weird and slightly confusing mix¬†of an attempt at a “fun program” and an attempt at a “serious program,” which meant it didn’t make much sense. A let-down, especially considering that her short program flawlessly pulled off both.

Wuzrobbed?: a little.

4. Polina Edmunds, USA-113.57/161.71

Music:¬†“Peer Gynt”

Program Execution: 3Lz-3T, 3F-1Lo-3S, 2A, 3F, 3Lz, 3Lo-2T, 2A

Costume Assessment:¬†I liked this dress for Polina in that it was youthful and age-appropriate, but still sophisticated enough to appear mature. Even the hair jewelry isn’t too bad-I actually kind of like it. (Present-day Polina should be reminded that she wore this next time she goes to the dressmaker’s.)

What I Liked About This Performance: well, first of all, it was clean. And I really liked the way it used her arms-I mean, if you have arms as long as hers, you might as well make them look nice. The light, dainty choreography suited her very well.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance:¬†there wasn’t much, but if I had to pick something, it would probably be her sit spin, which has never been particularly pretty.

3. Evgenia Medvedeva, Russia-104.93/163.68

Music:¬†“La Califfa,” “Never Gonna Miss You”

Program Execution:¬†3F-3T, 3Lz, 3F, 2A-3T (stepout), 3S-2T(‘tano)-2T(‘tano), 2A

Costume Assessment:¬†I like this dress a lot, but the gloves were majorly distracting. The dress was great-great color, great sparkle, great back-but the gloves were nearly the length of her arm and it looked very weird. She wears gloves with a lot of her costumes, so she might need them for some practical purpose, but the kind she had for this year’s free skate-matching her costume, but not long-were much better.

What I Liked About This Performance:¬†Evgenia’s extension is really nice here, and all of her choreographic movements and footwork match the music very well.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance:¬†that 2A-3T was the one of the scariest jumps I’ve ever seen, and the flying sit wasn’t very aesthetically pleasing, but nothing major.

Wuzrobbed?: no.

2. Serafima Sakhanovich, Russia-112.30/172.86

Music:¬†“Closed School”

Program Execution: 3F-3T, 3Lz, 3F-1Lo-3S, 2A, 3Lo, 2A (stepout), 3Lz-2T

Costume Assessment: serviceable, but very bland.

What I Liked About This Performance:¬†I thought Serafima’s interpretation of this music was good, and she gave quite a bit of face. Her speed was also excellent.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance:¬†again, the scary jumps. I’ve figured out what it was that scared me about her landings: she lands with her chest down and her knees rather stiff and bends them sharply on impact, which is both jarring to watch and very likely terrible for her joints.

Wuzrobbed?: no.

1. Maria Sotskova, Russia-115.46/176.75

Music:¬†“Pina” Soundtrack

Program Execution: 3Lo, 3Lz-3T, 3F (shaky landing), 3Lz, 2A-3T-2T, 3S-2T, 2A

Costume Assessment:¬†the dress could have been okay-not great, but okay-if not for the shredded stuff on the shoulders. It looks like a cat got at her dress. Otherwise, it’s okay, but nothing great. I did like her hair, though.

What I Liked About This Performance:¬†“Pina” is a very quirky piece of music, and Maria’s choreography and interpretation definitely showed that. In general, this was a very well-choreographed program. Her spins were great, too.

Wuzrobbed?: no.

 

In Retrospect: 2013-14 Junior Grand Prix Final-Ladies SP

I’m trying a new thing! *Jazz hands*

“In Retrospect” is a thing I will occasionally do spontaneously with no predictability. Essentially, I pick a past competition (at least two seasons ago, or, 2013-14 and before) and a discipline and write two posts-for the SP and FS-in which I talk about the top 5 (6 in case of GPF, obviously) skaters’ programs. And since I’ve been wanting to watch more of Serafima Sakhanovich lately (for reasons I don’t really know), I chose the 2013 Junior GPF for my first post.

Skaters are discussed in placement order. Here goes!

 

6th. Angela Wang, USA-44.69

Program Execution: Fall on 3Lz, part of intended combo; 2A clean; Popped 3Lo (mandatory solo jump) into 1Lo-invalidated

Costume Evaluation: I like this dress a lot. In some of the up-close shots, you can see the elaborate beading/crystaling/sparkle-ing on the top of the bodice-it’s very “wow” even from far away, but up close, it is very elaborate and gorgeous.

What I Liked About This Performance: Angela, particularly in this program, has a lovely refinement and finishes all her movements very nicely. It makes for a very polished, mature look that most of her competitors lacked.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: duh…it was a headcasey disaster.

Wuzrobbed?: No. Even though the next-worst performance had a fall and no combo, Angela didn’t get credit for a combo OR a solo jump. Her PCS was a little bit low, but I can understand that, given the execution.

5th. Polina Edmunds, USA-48.20

Program Execution: Shaky landing and no combo on 3Lz; fall on 3Lo; 2A clean

Costume Evaluation: first of all, there is a reason that neon yellow color is not found in nature. It simply isn’t flattering. But, given the theme of the program, it worked pretty well. (Read: in the context of a cha-cha program, I didn’t hate it.)

What I Liked About This Performance: Polina has had two seasons of subpar programs that not only did not showcase her newfound maturity, but gained her a reputation as being boring as tar. It is easy to forget that it wasn’t always like this: way back in Polina’s repertoire are gems like this one, programs that played up her strengths and entertained the audience. I love the way this program uses her long limbs (arm choreo!!!), excellent twizzle variations, and balletic grace. It’s kind of sad that she seems to have artistically regressed since the 2013-14 season, because if this is any indication, she could have become an amazing performer.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: again, headcasey disaster.

4th. Alexandra Proklova, Russia-51.27

Program Execution: 3Lz-turns-3T; slight turnout on 3Lo; clean 2A from spread eagle

Costume Evaluation: I like this dress a lot! Though I’m not a huge fan of the fishnet-ish sleeves, the tutu skirt is fabulous enough to make up for it. (If you’ve ever read my blog, you’re probably acquainted with my love of skating tutus and should’ve seen this coming. :p)

What I Liked About This Performance: a better question might be, what didn’t I like? This tiny child was amazingly refined and all of her elements and movements were beautifully polished. The 2A was one of the nicest I’ve seen from a Russian junior, and out of a really cool spread eagle transition. Her layback and Biellman are Yulia Lipnitskaya-quality. The footwork was to die for. And that twizzle sequence with the leg movements that mimicked (I think) a fouette turn? Brilliant. It is incredibly freaking sad that Alexandra has been injured so often since then. *Sulks off to cry in a corner*

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: there was only one thing I could find fault with here. Throughout the program, Alexandra did at least four extremely pretty spirals that were held for approximately a millisecond. Nooooo, that is not how you choreograph your program if you have an amazing spiral! I understand that she was using them as transitions, but couldn’t one of them have been held?

Wuzrobbed?: Probably not, considering the mistake on the combination, but I liked her the most.

3rd. Evgenia Medvedeva, Russia-58.75

Program Execution: clean 3F-3T; clean 3Lo; clean 2A

Costume Evaluation: I also loved this dress. The color was lovely on Evgenia, it has a tutu, and the gold accents looked really good on red.

What I Liked About This Performance: Evgenia’s musicality was on point in this performance-she hit every accent perfectly, and it made a noticeable difference. She had a very nice lightness over the ice and it actually sort of looked like she was floating. Oh, and no ‘tanos!

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: her layback spin was not pretty.

Wuzrobbed?: heck to the yes. I actually decided to include a “wuzrobbed” category because of this. She was cleaner than Serafima, and I didn’t see any noticeable difference between them artistically (I preferred Evgenia’s interpretation and program, but that’s just me). Totally robbed.

2. Serafima Sakhanovich, Russia-60.56

Program Execution: landed but forward/swingy 3F-3T; clean 3Lo; clean 2A

Costume Evaluation: fine, but a little generic.

What I Liked About This Performance: she was very connected with her music, her speed was excellent, and there were many Ina Bauers/spread eagles used as transitions  (as there should be).

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: all of her jumps were insanely swingy and, frankly, terrifying. And I feel like she might’ve been giving the performance a little bit too much-my main complaint with this, besides scary jumps, was that I felt like her interpretation wasn’t subtle enough. (I feel bad about this, because I really have liked all of her recent programs, and because she was only 13, but it had to be said.)

Wuzrobbed?: no.

1st. Maria Sotskova, Russia-61.29

Program Execution: clean 3Lz-3T; clean 3Lo; clean 2A

Costume Evaluation: This costume can be summed up as “Renissance Court Jester-Slash-14th-Century-Plague-Doctor.” Possibly the court jester part was intentional-she was skating to Vivaldi, after all-but I still don’t like it.

What I Liked About This Performance: all I could think while I was watching this was Baby Carolina Kostner! Maria’s speed, long lines, polish and big, tidy jumps reminded me a lot of a young Carolina, and that is definitely a compliment. Her haircutter was amazing, too.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: the costume, and that is literally it.

Wuzrobbed?: she won, so…no.

Part 2, the Ladies FS, will probably be up sometime this weekend. Hope you enjoyed! If you have a request for a past event you would like me to cover in a future “In Retrospective,” please leave a comment. That was a very enjoyable post to write and I’ve only been following skating since Sochi, so…poll time!

A Few of My Favorite Things, 2015-16: All Things Junior

This is gonna be a good one.

In this fifth installment in the Favorite Things series, I will be revisiting my favorite programs and moments¬†on the Junior level this season. Since I am an avid follower of junior competitions and just generally love the juniors a lot, I can’t wait to take a look back at my favorite junior things this season!

Note: this was going to include costumes, but I did a costumes recap at Junior Worlds and I would just end up repeating myself.

Favorite Junior Programs 

Favorite Short Program (Junior Ladies): Marin Honda-“Spring Sonata”

I like to call Marin’s SP¬†the Mini-Mao Program‚ĄĘ because it reminds me a lot of some of Mao Asada’s early programs-which is definitely a compliment! Marin has a lovely softness and a naturally lyrical style that I love, which this program showcased beautifully. A lot of juniors seem to default to the “darke, heaviiy and dramatik!” type of programs, for some odd reason (which I will never understand), so the lightness of Marin’s short program was very refreshing. (That is also why I¬†enjoyed Alisa Fedichkina’s SP, which was of a similar style, but I felt that Marin did it better, so she got the nod here.)

Favorite Free Skate (Junior Ladies): Alisa Fedichkina-“Memory” (French cover)

In my Junior Worlds preview post, I called this free skate a “national treasure.” While we unfortunately didn’t get to see it there, that still stands true. Alisa is a ridiculously expressive skater, and this program was a¬†perfect¬†way to show that off. It’s dramatic and nuanced enough to show off her interpretation skills, without being so dramatic and nuanced that it drowned her. It allows her¬†to be youthful and exploit her cuteness while also showing mature expression and musicality. Really, there was nothing I thought this program was missing. It’s made me a fan of hers (and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one). I really want her to be the next Russian Wunderkind when she’s old enough for seniors because she has almost everything: expression, jumps, spins, musicality, polish and refinement…her consistency isn’t always great, but still! I really love this child. ūüôā

Also, whoever came up with the “kitty spread eagle” (yes, stupid name, but it gets the point across) should¬†be knighted.

Best Short Program (Junior Pairs)-Renata Ognesian/Mark Bardei-“The Race II”

The cheering sounds in the music. The step sequence. The huge triple twist. The literal race car costumes. It is so strange and I love it.

I have watched very little of the pairs at any junior events this season. Can you tell? #NotManyOptions

I¬†definitely did¬†might have liked this program because it’s something I can see one of the ¬†pairs in the fictional pairs skating universe in my mind doing. (If I ever see a junior pairs program to Requiem For a Dream, I’ll die, because that is this fictional pair’s signature program, which they did as juniors in my mind. LOL.)

Best Free Skate (Junior Pairs)-Anna Duskova/Martin Bidar (“La Leyenda Del Beso”)

This is actually where I got the idea for my current program, so of course I picked it. I might only like it because of the delightful surprise Junior Worlds win and the music, but I really don’t follow junior pairs, so don’t expect much.

Best Junior Short Dance-Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter (“Peer Gynt”)

In ice dance, there is usually very little space between “bland” and “freakily avant-garde.” I think that’s why I appreciate Lorraine and Quinn so much: they have a good balance of the two. This short dance got better feedback than most of the seniors’ programs did, mainly because it was so unique-I mean, who hears “waltz SD” and thinks “mountain trolls”? I loved it! Fun, quirky, and very well-done. They’ve got a really fantastic style that I can’t wait to see more of. I hope they go seniors and do some amazing weird blues SD, because I need that in my life.

Also, Lorraine gives SUCH FACE. Has she been taking lessons from Wenjing Sui? ūüėČ

(I just got a sudden urge to write a novel about that, actually. I’m very strange.)

Best Junior Free Dance-Anastasia Shpilevaya/Grigory Smirnov (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”)

Russian senior ice dance may be going through a bit of a crisis period, but their junior dance field is alive and well. Case in point: Shpilevaya/Smirnov, my favorite of their current crop of junior teams. They didn’t have a great JGP but went on to win the Youth Olympics and place an impressive 5th at Junior Worlds-with my favorite junior free dance of the season. They skate with such passion and abandon-if you were to clone Bobrova/Soloviev, fix their posture, make them skate very delicately, and put them through a Dramatic Facial Expression Enhancer, you would get something like this team. Their delicate skating and dramatic facial expressions are a bit of an odd combination, but I like it, and I will basically automatically adore you if you skate to Umbrellas of Cherbourg, so there is also that.

Best Free Skate (Junior Men)-TIE-Daniel Samohin & Roman Sadovsky

I didn’t like any men’s SPs, so I just chose two FSes. I like this one because it is kind of quirky and unusual but not too much so.

And I liked this one because it is very, um, elegant, I think. To be honest, I watched it once-at JGP Bratislava, EIGHT MONTHS AGO (okay, how did that happen)-and I remember liking it, but I’m too lazy to go re-watch it to remember what I liked. Hehe.

Favorite Junior Moments/Performances 2015-16

Emily Chan’s Short Program at the U.S. Championships¬†

Emily Chan, simply put, is a¬†gorgeous¬†skater. I could watch her spin and do step sequences¬†for an entire free skate and not even notice that she didn’t jump.¬†Her skating is always a pleasure to watch, but when she lands stuff, it’s downright magical, so her flawless short program at Nationals was a no-brainer when I was deciding what to put on this list.

Check this out, 13-year-old jumping machines:¬†it’s the late-bloomer advantage. You can jump, but they will out-spin, out-interpret, and out-footwork you.¬†They are coming.

Maria Sotskova’s Free Skate at Junior Worlds¬†

Junior Worlds was a bit of a soap opera for the Russian ladies: favorite Polina Tsurskaya withdrew the day of the short program, leaving teammates Alisa Fedichkina and Maria Sotskova to-hopefully-duke it out for the title in her place. Alisa emerged as the frontrunner, tying Marin Honda for the lead in the short program, but she injured her ankle on the day of the free skate, leaving only one competitor, Maria Sotskova, to secure Russia’s three spots for the next Junior Worlds. To do so, she would have to win gold or silver. It was possible-she sat in third after the short-but the pressure was on, and everyone was anxious to see if she would deliver.

Deliver she did. Winning the silver medal, she clinched the three spots singlehandedly, a feat many thought impossible. Maddest respect to Masha for managing to throw down when it seriously counted.

Vivian Le’s Short Program from JGP Bratislava

My favorite junior (#UnbridledPatriotism) did not have a particularly impressive second half of the season, losing the National title she was heavily favored to win and a chance to go the the JGPF when she bombed JGP USA, but three of her events-Glacier Falls, JGP Bratislava and Sectionals-were very good. And when she is on, she is RIDICULOUSLY good. This short program was perfection. I think she might be moving up (she won senior at a club competition with an amazing 71-point SP and a bombed 101-point FS), but I kind of hope she won’t because I really want her to make the JGPF. Senior at Nationals would be fine (it seems like the only way to make Junior Worlds in the US, lol), though. And I’ve gone off on a tangent again…well, you get it. I am kind of too obsessed with Vivian and I will take any chance I get to ramble on about her.

Duskova/Bidar’s Surprise Junior World Title¬†

Small-federation JWCs make me so happy…*sniff*

McNamara/Carpenter’s US Championships¬†Short Dance¬†

Any of Lorraine & Quinn’s short dance performances could’ve made this list, but I think this was their finest. #MountainTrollz #PleaseMoveUpWeNeedYouOnTheGP

Parsons/Parsons’ Junior Worlds Short Dance¬†

Literally nobody expected the Parsons to overtake McNamara/Carpenter at Junior Worlds, so this was a very nice surprise. Note: it broke the Junior SD scoring record.

And now I’m out of ideas. Will be back with the next post soon.¬†

A Few of My Favorite Things, 2015-16: Free Skates

So, you know how in yesterday’s post, I said I was going to try to spread this series out over several weeks?

I didn’t.

At least, not the first two posts.

If you read my last post, you will probably know how this works. I list my three favorite SPs and FSes in each discipline and say why I like them. It’s pretty simple. However, it is hard for me to remember all the programs I loved in each discipline. I frequently accidentally leave out one of my favorite programs and forget about it for about a day until I remember, slap myself, and promise to give it a shout-out in the next post. That being said, I left Alaine Chartrand’s short program out of yesterday’s SP post, despite it being one of the ones I knew I wanted to include when I came up with the concept for this series. Deepest apologies; I would have put it in if I remembered.

Okay, that was really long, and I didn’t mean for it to be that long, so here we go.

Top Three Free Dances

  1. Shibutani/Shibutani (“Fix You”)

When IceNetwork’s Twitter did its annual fan vote for best program in each segment of each discipline, the overwhelming majority of voters chose this as the best free dance. Not surprising at all. This is, in my very biased opinion, the single best program in any discipline this season. Just…ugh, it’s too perfect to be real. I got to see this program in person at Worlds and I nearly made myself sick and blew out my vocal chords because I was hyperventilating and shrieking until I could barely breathe. (If you were there and heard someone screaming “‘MURICA!” repeatedly after this performance in Loge 8, that was me.) The placement of the twizzle sequence, the lifts, the step sequences,¬†everything about this program was amazing. I am in such awe of this program that I ¬†have taught myself the twizzle variation (with the leg extended) that they do. LOL. ūüôā

2. Cappellini/Lanotte (“La Dolce Vita”)

I like this free dance for most of the same reasons I like their short dance: it’s frothy, frivolous and fun, achieves #costumegoals status, and really stood out from the rest of the top teams’ FDs. Is it me, or were there a LOT of “look at us, we’re¬†arteestick!”¬†free dances this season? I feel like there were, so this was a very nice contrast. Also, I’m very predictable, because I put these in the same order as I did for the SDs.

3. Sinitsina/Katsalapov (“Lo Ci Saro”)

A lot of people criticized this program for being “bland,” but when I saw it at Worlds, I thought it was fantastic. I can’t really put my finger on what it was I liked about it, but I did, so on the list it goes.

Top Three Pairs Free Skates

  1. Seguin/Bilodeau (“A Whiter Shade of Pale”)

I warned you. ūüėČ

Getting to see this program in person at Skate America was one of the highlights of the entire season for me. This program is truly wonderful: lyrical but passionate, delicate but powerful, emotional but subtle. They had SUCH a moment with it at the Grand Prix Final; I was very eager to see it at Worlds, and although they weren’t there, they had many memorable performances with it. It’s taken me from barely knowing they exist to a huge fan of theirs. As I said in the previous post, one of the things that I like most about Seguin/Bilodeau is their connection. This program showcases their connection beautifully. ¬†Highlighting your strengths is one of my criteria for deciding whether or not a program is good, so this program passes with flying colors.

(It made me ship them. You don’t get any better than that.)

2. Sui/Han (“Samson and Delilah”)

When Sui/Han skated this program well, it was completely breathtaking. It’s intense and passionate and never stops building until the end, and when they landed things, the effect was extremely impressive. Everything about this program is BIG: the elements, the choreography, the emotion, Sui’s performance quality…I feel like this program, but especially this particular performance, could be described as¬†“we’re here, we’re perf, and we’re going to leave y’alls in our dust.” A very accurate statement indeed. :p

3. Kayne/O’Shea (“Music of the Night”)

Admit it: this performance made you cry.

Kayne/O’Shea seem to have developed this lovely habit of completely slaying their FS at every competition, demonstrated by their showings at Cup of Russia, 4CC, and (mostly) Worlds, but most prominently at Nationals. There was just something about that particular performance that made it really special. So even though I liked this program a lot before that, it became something special after Nationals.

Top Three Men’s Free Skates

  1. Shoma Uno (“Turandot”)

Everyone’s favorite leprechaun made history at TCC by landing the first ratified 4F in competition, ending his season on a much-needed triumphant note. In addition, his free skate takes top honors in the Men’s FS category of this recap. It was maybe more of an “introverted” interpretation of Turandot (I feel like I’m saying that a lot), but a convincing one, with a lot of cool choreographic bits. (*eh ehm* CANTILEVER!) Gorgeously choreographed and interpreted, with a delightfully punnable costume.

The Leprechaun has his ups and downs, but, being a leprechaun, always ends up with a pot of gold. ūüėČ

2. Grant Hochstein (“Les Miserables”)

This is another program that I basically chose because of one performance. His Worlds free skate was, IMO, the moment of the night (well, one of them). It blew the roof off the place; his interpretation is some of the best I’ve ever seen, actually. A lofty statement, but a deserved one.

3.¬†Yuzuru Hanyu (“Seimei”)

How can I leave out the program that broke the¬†world record twice? I don’t understand how this dude is even real. (However, I will stop saying that because I think it jinxed him at worlds.)

Top Three Ladies Free Skates

  1. Rika Hongo (“Riverdance”)

Rika Hongo’s transformation from a possible contender with poor posture and few standout qualities to a reliable, electrifying performer has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. I love the way she keeps up the high-energy, appropriately Riverdancy feel of this program throughout, and the ChStSq is one of the best I have ever seen-and that includes everything ever done by Mao Asada! I especially appreciate the Irish dance steps in both StSqs; they were very well-integrated into the program. This free skate has really made me take notice of Rika, and I am surprised by how much I have enjoyed watching her this season. I hope she works with Akiko Suzuki (who choreographed her programs) next season, and can’t wait to see her next programs!

2. Adelina Sotnikova (“Je Suis Malade”)

I might have questionable taste, but I am kind of obsessed with Je Suis Malade. Naturally, any Je Suis Malade program that comes to my attention will be lauded as a masterpiece with excessive hyperboles.

Okay, maybe that was a slight¬† large exaggeration, but I do typically like Je Suis Malade programs, and Adelina’s was a very good one. She gave it the over-the-top angsty drama it deserves, and I found the program to be very well-choreographed. I can understand why one might not like this program (I mean, if angsty drama isn’t your thing, there is a LOT of angsty drama going on here), but I happen to love overdramatic interpretations, so I enjoyed Adelina’s free skate a lot.

3. Gracie Gold (“Firebird”)

As you may know, I am kind of a noob as far as skating fans go. I have not been watching for very long (I obviously watched the 2014 Olympics, but other than that, my first experiences watching skating were on the 2014-15 GP because I did not have IceNetwork prior to that), so I have not seen very many of the “great” programs. Thus, the only Firebird program I had ever seen before this season was Anna Pogorilaya’s 2014-15 FS, and (no offense to Anna, who has improved a lot since then) virtually any rendition of Firebird would be an improvement over that.

Enter Gracie, the other prominent artistically-challenged blonde, who is actually quite like Anna: a headcase, and not a natural artist, but improving.

This is definitely one of the best programs Gracie has ever had, certainly the best free skate. First of all, The Squat. It is my favorite thing. I can often be found listening to Firebird and randomly squatting (with the correct arms, too :p). Also, I feel like this powerful music is easier for her to interpret than most of what she’s had before. It wasn’t perfect: when the jumps weren’t there, neither was the performance. But when they were, she showed quite a bit more fire and emotion than she ever has before. The style was a good fit for her, so I hope to see her continue to do things similar to this. (She also said many times that she loves this program, so that is always a bonus.)

Well, that’s a wrap…next up, one of the two “best costumes” ones.¬†