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

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

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

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

Oh, gosh, this was an interesting dance event.

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

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

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

Seriously, what. Is. This. Music.

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

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

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

While skating to Daft Punk, I might add!

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

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

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

This is just sad.

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

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

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

8. Highlight: Selena Zhao’s Free Skate

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

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

7. Low point: Mariah Bell Falls Apart 

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

This is where it all went wrong.

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

Ouch.

6. Highlight: Elizabet Tursynbaeva Proves Herself as a Senior 

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

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

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

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

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

This happened.

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

4. Highlight: Daniel Samohin’s Free Skate 

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

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

I dearly love Karen Chen.

Like, a lot.

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

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

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

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

2. Satoko Miyahara Continues To Be Our Favorite Tiny Arteeste

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

Nice classical music? Check.

Exquisite choreography? Check.

Costume on point? Check.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaaaaand…out. 

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

Leave a comment to let me know! Bye all! 

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