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 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. 🙂


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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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.


Altitude Sucks: A Recap

Today, the JGP USA concluded with the ladies free skate, and-spoiler alert-the altitude got everyone.

To put it in perspective: the winner fell, and all but one other skater in the top 5 had at least two falls, step outs, edge calls, URs, or hands down. That’s how bad it was.

For background, it was in Colorado Springs, the Land of High Altitude and Total Exhaustion At the Slightest Bit Of Physical Exertion. And I know this for a fact, because I’ve been there. I was literally huffing like a walrus after running up two flights of stairs, so I can’t even imagine what doing triple-triples in that would be like. But these girls’ performances left nothing to the imagination, and that is not a good thing.

Let’s discuss the winner.


1st place: Yuna Shiraiwa, Japan-164.50

Short Program: 

Yuna had a good short program, coming in 4th, but nobody expected her to win. Her charming Over the Rainbow SP won the hearts of many in the online skating community, but in the end, it was only a small glimpse of what she could do.


Free Skate: 

Yuna’s free skate, while the second-best of the night, easily secured her the gold, even with a fall. She dealt with the altitude surprisingly well! That and the lack of pressure (again, nobody expected her to medal) helped her win her first Junior Grand Prix. Great that she was able to prove herself here! A charming skater you should watch out for.


2. Marin Honda, Japan-156.44

Short Program:

Marin set herself up to win with a beautiful short program to Beethoven’s Spring Sonata. Technically almost flawless, she  lived up to the hype, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. However, the soft, youthful feel of this program suited her very well, and she gave us a look at what she could be in the future.

Free Skate: 

Like everybody else in this event, Marin crumbled under either pressure, altitude, or both. Two falls, two stepouts and several underrotation calls-yikes, this was not a good day for her.  However, the fun, quirky program was a joy to watch, and she’s shown herself to be quite versatile in her interpretation, which is very impressive for such a young skater.

3. Vivian Le, USA-156.08

Short Program: 

Vivian was the heavy favorite going into this event, and that, added to the altitude, was not good for her. She stepped out of her opening 3lz-3t, almost falling, and got an edge call on her triple flip (i.e. it was a lip). The rest of her jumps were successful, and two of her spins and her footwork got level 4s, but it wasn’t nearly enough for the lead.

Free Skate: 

Oh, gosh…this was depressing. A fall on her opening 3Lz made it impossible to complete her 3-3, and she missed a double axel as well. Not good. But the saddest thing is that she was so close to 2nd, and that could’ve gotten her into the Junior Grand Prix Final. Two bronzes probably won’t. Oh, well. Perhaps Bradie Tennell or Amber Glenn can pull off a freak upset?


My other favorite junior, Paige Rydberg, was in this event, and she had a fantastic 2nd-place short program. Unfortunately, a meltdown free skate knocked her down to 5th. However, that’s still a good showing for a first JGP, and her FS is my favorite of the juniors this season:

A bit like Gracie, no?


And, on another note, I have seen so many JGP programs to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” that I’ve memorized all the lyrics. 😐 Thanks for that, kids.


Well, that’s it! Bye!

JGP Bratislava Ladies Recap

Hi all! Quick recap here for you!

1 Polina TSURSKAYA, RUS, 189.50
2 Mai MIHARA, JPN, 179.36
3 Vivian LE, USA, 176.30
4 Rin NITAYA, JPN, 150.35
5 Valeriya MIKHAILOVA, RUS, 141.32


This was my first time watching Polina, and I was not as impressed as I expected to be. People online made me think she would be super artistic, and, well…her skating comes off a little cold to me (particularly in the FS). She is, however, an insanely good jumper-that definitely lived up to the hype. Absolutely insane. Still, her presentation needs work, and she looks like yet another arm flailer. Oh, joy.

MAI MIHARA, 179.36

This was also my first time watching Mai, and she is just lovely! She’s a good jumper, too, but her strength is her polish. She skates very maturely for her age. I enjoyed her very much, and she also had lovely costumes.

VIVIAN LE, USA, 176.30 

Vivian is the skater I was most looking forward to seeing in this event, and she did not disappoint. Though I thought she would get the silver, 3rd is no small accomplishment for your first JGP! Another lovely skater-and her Rippon 3lz-3t is PERFECTION.

RIN NITAYA, 150.53

Rin Nitaya may not have had the showing she was capable of, but she still stood out to me because of one thing: she has some of the most interesting combination spins I have ever seen! I loved that they weren’t the generic ones everybody does, and the timing was really unique-you’ll have to watch to see what I mean. Unfortunately, her FS was not available on YouTube at press time.


Tied with Vivian, my favorite of the top 5 here. I loved the music she used, and her step sequence in the SP was GOALS. Just GOALS. She’s a decent jumper and very light and smooth over the ice. On a side note, needs better costumes.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments of any kind? I’d love to hear them! 

2015-16 Junior Grand Prix Preview: Ice Dance

Hi! Back with my second set of JGP previews, this for my other favorite discipline, which is, of course, ice dance. And honestly, I don’t even know where to start.

This is going to be one interesting season.

Why, you ask? Well, a lot has to do with a pattern I’ve discovered in my weekend IceNetwork binge-watching. Most Olympic quads go somewhat like this: one year a dud, one year a statement where new stars emerge, one year where the stars solidify their frontrunner status, and the Olympic year.

If the 2015-16 season follows this pattern, this year will be the statement year, and that means it’s super important for juniors to bring it this season. With two years to go, they’ve got time, but they need to be on it this year to prove they can contend for their respective Olympic teams. And with most of the Junior Worlds top 5 moving up, there is no better time to win. Here are the four junior couples I most expect to do just that.

Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter, USA


Ages: 16 (Lorraine)/19 (Quinn)

Personal Bests: SD 59.10, FD 87.80, total 146.90

Claim to fame: 2015 world junior silver medalists, 2015 US junior champions

Why to watch: as the highest 2015 Junior Worlds finishers of the field, they’re clear favorites for the world title. They have lovely lifts (as seen above), and they get excellent speed over the ice. Their twizzles aren’t half bad, either.

Needs work: this is going to sound really catty, but their SD music last year was incredibly annoying, and their FD was to one of the most overused pieces of music in skating. They need better programs, and a little work on the presentation wouldn’t hurt.

Betina Popova & Yuri Vlasenko, Russia


Ages: 18 (Betina)/20 (Yuri)

Personal Bests: SD 59.91, FD 87.40, total 147.31

Claim to fame: 2014 JGP final bronze medalists

Why to watch: this team’s strength is in their line and positions. Betina is crazy-flexible and it allows them to do some really gorgeous lifts. The positions they hit are unreal in the best possible way, and their twizzles are decent.

Needs work: this team has a lot to prove after a dismal 11th-place finish at last year’s junior worlds. It’s going to take some medals to prove they’re still capable.

Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons, USA


Ages: 17 (Rachel)/19 (Michael)

Personal Bests: SD 59.54, FD 84.05, total 140.33

Claim to fame: 4th at 2015 Junior Worlds

Why to watch: they’ve always been a technically solid team, but this summer, they’ve worked a lot on PCS. They’re shaping up to be real contenders for the world junior title this season.

Needs work: While their current ones are not necessarily bad, they could use some better lift positions.

Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd, Russia


Ages: 16 (Alla)/19 (Pavel)

Personal Bests: SD 54.55, FD 82.59, total 136.31

Claim to fame: 2014 JGP Final silver medalists

Why to watch: Alla & Pavel are a very balletic team, and I really like that quality in ice dancers. (They have excellent arm and hand positions.) Also, their twizzles are some of the best in the (junior) business.

Needs work: Depth of edge. I also need to make a superficial comment: they need to fire their costume designer ASAP.

Agree? Disagree? Did I miss anybody? If you’ve got anything to say, I’d love to hear from you! Comments are always great! 🙂

2015-16 Junior Grand Prix Preview: Ladies

With the ISU Junior Grand Prix coming up in just two days, I thought there’d be no more fitting time to preview some of the ladies expected to make a splash this year. Of course, there are the obligatory Russians, who seem to be winning everything these days, but several Japanese ladies have been looking very strong, and a handful of American ladies hope to improve on the United States’ abysmal showing at last year’s Junior Worlds. Approaching the JGP, here are five names you need to know.

Serafima Sakhanovich, Russia


Age: 15

Nickname: Sima

Personal Bests: SP 66.58, FS 125.38, total 191.96

Claim to fame: 2014 and 2015 junior world silver medalist

Why to watch: She has a lovely presence on the ice that lends itself well to connecting with the audience and her music. She probably has the most complete package of all the Russian juniors. She’s also very fast and has good spins (except the biellman).

Needs work: Sima has a tendency to go into her jumps hunched over, and why must every jump be a ‘tano?!? Her biellman is also horrific. But those are pretty minor compared to something like, say, terrible inconsistency or no artistry whatsoever.

Wakaba Higuchi, Japan


Age: 14

Nickname: called “Wakababy” by fans

Personal Bests: SP 61.27, FS 124.30, total 187.57

Claim to fame: 2015 junior world bronze medalist

Why to watch: Jumps. That’s literally all there is to Wakaba. She is a phenomenal jumper, and she gets crazy height for someone as small as she is (4′ 10″).

Needs work: performance/artistry

Maria Sotskova, Russia


Age: 15

Nickname: Masha

Personal Bests: SP 62.28, FS 115.46, total 176.75

Claim to fame: 2013 JGP Final champion, 5th at 2015 Junior Worlds-and my favorite Russian junior 🙂

Why to watch: She’s one of the most experienced skaters on the JGP, so she knows the ropes better than almost any of her competitors. She’s a beautiful skater to watch and pretty expressive for a junior, as well as having good spins (especially her layback) and excellent flexibility.

Needs work: Maria is painfully slow, and it severely hampers her performance. She also has really small, sloppy jumps and a tendency to go into them bent over, which drives me insane.

Amber Glenn, USA 


Age: 15 (will be 16 in October, at the end of the JGPs)

Personal Bests: SP 56.84, FS 107.34, total 164.18

Claim to fame: 2014 US Junior champion, 7th at 2014 Junior Worlds

Why to watch: She has incredible jumps when they’re on, and her spins are good, too. When she’s having a good day, her skating is truly world-class.

Needs work: horribly inconsistent, Amber has the Gracie Gold Curse of having amazing jumps but not being able to get them out under pressure. She just needs to work on her mental toughness.

Vivian Le, USA


Age: 15

Personal Bests: None recorded in her ISU profile yet.

Claim to fame: At the recent Glacier Falls Summer Classic, Vivian won with scores that would’ve easily had her medaling at Junior Worlds and in the top 7 at senior Worlds. She also won the inaugural Freezer Aerial Challenge (a jump competition) with a 3lutz-3toe-3toe, and the 2015 US Junior bronze medal.

Why to watch: Incredibly impressive scores and gigantic jumps make Vivan one to watch this season. She may not have much experience, but she’s got what it takes to be right up there.

Needs work: more than anything, Vivian needs experience. She’s done so few international competitions that she hasn’t built up her all-important reputation, which impacts her PCS.

Marin Honda, Japan

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Age: 13

Personal Bests: None recorded yet

Claim to fame: I’m honestly not sure. To be honest, she seems kind of over-hyped to me, but everybody’s expecting her to do well, so…why not?

Why to watch: many people are expecting a lot from her, and she’s working on 3Axels and 4Sals. Marin can also entertain a crowd-she always has really fun exhibitions, and she really seems happy to be skating.

Needs work: She’s not even junior eligible, and she’s just up from novice, so what she really needs is time. Growth may knock her out of the running as she’s likely not even close to done yet. And, like Vivian, she needs experience.
Agree? Disagree? Did I miss someone? Have anything to say whatsoever? Then please leave a comment!