Rostelecom Cup Ladies Recap

Because I have failed miserably at reliably getting out top-10 posts, I’m just going to stick with what I know I will actually get done. Thus, a ladies recap…again.

1. Anna Pogorilaya

Clearly, that world medal last year did wonders for Anna’s confidence-she has been skating like a champion ever since. So it wasn’t really a surprise that she blew away the competition at Rostelecom to take her third Grand Prix title. She started off with a foot-perfect performance of her “Por Una Cabeza” short, which I think is hands-down the best program she’s ever had, and followed up with a clean free skate. I’m not much of a fan of the free-it’s a little incoherent-but she definitely got the job done. The short program, on the other hand, is simply fabulous. It’s got the passion and fire she has sometimes lacked in the past and really shows her polish and maturity (the flawless execution of this particular short didn’t exactly hurt, either). At this point, I would say that Anna is the clear world #2. Evgenia’s still got the top spot locked up, but other possible contenders have not been making strong statements, and Anna has-which is exactly what she needs to do to build momentum leading into the Olympic season.

2. Elena Radionova

I feared the worst for Elena when I saw her messy programs at the Russian test skates, but, as she has done time and time again, Elena proved at this event that the reports of her metaphorical death were an exaggeration. She wasn’t perfect-she fell on a 3Lo in the free skate and a lot of her landings were sketchy-but she fought tooth and nail to stay on her feet, and it was enough for a silver medal. Her programs this year are, overall, pretty well-done; Elena’s “Porgy and Bess” SP is wonderfully sassy and spirited, showcasing her newfound maturity, and her “Turandot” FS, while unpolished, is a step up from her previous interpretations of classical music. She doesn’t really have the polish or subtlety for a piece like Turandot, but she does have passion, and no shortage of it. If she would just add some transitions, stand up straight, and tone down the “Oda O” a bit, it could be great.  And she hasn’t lost her jumps, which is both surprising and incredibly impressive. She’s got grit to go around, that’s for sure. Her landings might not be pretty, but they’re landed and rotated, and that’s what really counts. Hopefully she can keep it together for the rest of the season.

3. Courtney Hicks

If there’s anything Courtney is good at, it’s capitalizing on other skaters’ meltdowns. She always seems to do best at Grand Prix events where at least one heavy favorite falters, which was exactly what happened here. She didn’t have a perfect competition, but it was good enough for bronze, and she stayed on her feet. Her “Maleficent” SP was one of the best I’ve seen her do. The FS (to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”-I sense a Disney theme here) wasn’t as clean, as some of the combinations didn’t have the correct number of rotations, but most of her jumps were clean, her spins have improved a lot, and the powerful music brought out her artistry nicely. Both of her programs this year really suit her, actually. Courtney’s huge jumps make it hard to predict how she’ll do at any given competition, but once in a while, they come together-and it’s surprising who she can beat when that happens.

4. Zijun Li

It’s getting to the point where it honestly scares me to watch Zijun skate, which is odd, because I actually love her skating. She just seems so…flimsy. She always looks winded, and I’m afraid her legs will snap every time she goes into a jump, but she has some really wonderful qualities. Although her speed and stamina are just as lacking as they were last season, Zijun managed a clean SP and a near-clean FS, both of which I really enjoyed. Her SP to a tango I forgot the name of featured a great 3T-3T and an enjoyable step sequence, although at some points I felt that the music overpowered her skating. Zijun’s FS, set to what I think I read is a popular Chinese love song, was a bit more her speed. Aside from a 3Lz popped into a double, her jumps were strong, the spins were great, and the program itself is beautiful. She could use a little more expression and passion, but it suits her elegant, delicate style, and I loved the choreography and use of spread eagles and Ina Bauers (which I always enjoy). Zijun has all the goods, but I  have one, and only one, piece of advice for her coaching team: get this girl on a treadmill, stat! Her stamina is so weak that it’s seriously painful to watch her long programs. I don’t really know what the cause of that issue is, but it definitely needs to be addressed.

5. Elizabet Tursynbaeva 

Elizabet suprised me with such a strong finish here: somewhat like Elena, I was really worried about her after a disastrous first competition at the U.S. International Classic, but that proved to be a fluke. I’d venture to say her form is even stronger now than it was last season. She nailed her jumps, and she’s really quite a lovely skater. Elizabet’s “I Got Rhythm” SP is fun and endearing, and her “Princess Mononoke” FS is beautiful, if only because of the gorgeous music. Girl is made for epic step sequences; in that department, she’s like a mini Mao Asada. The difficulty of her transitions and steps is one of my favorite things about her. I can even overlook her awful air position (nobody’s feet should be that crossed!). She’s got so much potential; only time will tell whether she’ll be able to deliver on it. Superficial note: her FS dress is incredible, and I want to wear a street-wearable version (longer skirt, less power mesh) to some kind of ritzy social event.

In Other News: Yulia Lipnitskaya finished last after a disastrous free skate in which an old injury seems to have flared up. She fell, popped two jumps, and didn’t do a choreographic step sequence after injuring her knee midway through the program. In addition to the jump mistakes, she got a 5-point deduction for “Interruption in Excess.” It was really hard to watch-best wishes for a full and complete recovery.

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Nationals, a Love Story (Pt 4)

IT’S ALMOST TIME!

With the hours until the most wonderful time of the year ticking down, it’s time to end this blog series (which has actually been one of my best decisions of 2016! Yay) with a bang: the new, improved, nine-piece chicken nugget combo meal US Figure Skating Championships Preview Series Senior Ladies Analysis! Woot woot!

I have discovered that writing a long-winded paragraph about why I think each skater will place where I put them is far more fun that a report card, so I shall do that (it’s also faster, which is imperative because I have things to do and this can’t take three hours to write). And so it begins/ends!

 

1. Gracie Gold 

 

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Age: 20

Skating Club: Wagon Wheel FSC

Accomplishments: 2014 US Champion, 2014 Olympic Team Member (4th), two-time GP gold medalist, 2012 Junior World Silver Medalist

Why I placed her here: Now that she’s uninjured and not trying to defend a title, Gracie is in peak shape. Aside from the GPF, she’s had a good season so far, and in every even-numbered year since 2012, Gracie has taken a  US title (junior in 2012 and senior in 2014). Okay, that’s a lame reason, but if she is clean or near-clean, she’s unbeatable. She finally has programs that fit her, so that gives her an additional PCS boost. However, if she isn’t clean, Ashley will likely win. It all comes down to putting two clean programs together, which she has only ever done at-wait for it-Nationals.

Also, I am completely biased because I love her and at this point, it’s so unsure that everyone is just picking whichever lady they like better to win. I’m going with Gracie.

 

2. Ashley Wagner 

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Age: 24

Skating Club: SC of Wilmington

Accomplishments: three-time US Champion, 2014 Olympic Team Member (7th), 2012 4CC Champion, two-time World Junior Bronze Medalist, four-time GP gold medalist, three-time GPF medalist (silver-2012, bronze-2013 and 2014)

Why I placed her here: A lot of people are expecting Ashley to win her fourth US title, but I’m not so sure. With the exception of NHK, she’s had a stellar season so far, but from past experience, I’m pretty sure the one thing that gets to her like nothing else is having to defend a National title when she’s the favorite. (See 2014.) Yes, she could win,  but she would have to skate clean. Like, really clean. I’m not sure if she will, but Gracie isn’t exactly a model of consistency either, so it could go either way.

 

3. Courtney Hicks 

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Age: 20

Skating Club:

Accomplishments: 2015 NHK Trophy Silver Medalist

Why I placed her here: Courtney has had a very strong season, winning a silver medal at NHK Trophy over not only Ashley but Mao Asada(!). She’s technically excellent, and her programs this year are pretty decent. If she lands all the stuff, she will definitely make the world team. When Courtney is on, she’s electrifying to watch.

4. Polina Edmunds

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Age: 17

Skating Club: Peninsula SC (not to be confused with Peninsula FSC)

Accomplishments: 2014 US Silver Medalist, 2014 Olympic Team Member (9th), 2015 4CC Champion, two-time JGP gold medalist

Why I placed her here: Polina seems like the obvious third-place pick after solid skates at Rostelecom Cup, but her underrotation issues seem to be getting worse and she’s had a few incidences of sit spins being invalidated (Now there’s a problem you never hear about…). She has more potential than most of these ladies and she’s fixed her flip edge, but despite that, I don’t think she’ll get on the team. Underrotations are deadly, and hers are not improving.

5. Karen Chen 

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Age: 16

Skating Club: Peninsula FSC

Accomplishments: 2015 US Bronze Medalist, 4-time JGP Medalist

Why I placed her here: Karen is a truly special skater and I love her to bits, but she has yet to live up to her Nationals FS last year. (Her SA SP was very good, though.) She has all the goods…except consistency, as usual. And she tends to underrotate and pop jumps. I really hope she proves me wrong, but I just can’t be sure. (She would be my personal pick for the third Worlds spot.)

6. Mirai Nagasu 

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Age: 22

Skating Club: Pasadena FSC

Accomplishments: 2008 US Champion, 2010 Olympic Team Member (4th), four-time GP medalist, two-time junior world medalist

Why I placed her here: Mirai is absolutely capable of at least a bronze, but her trademark inconsistency and tendency to underrotate jumps have kept her off the podium several times. She is probably the most traditionally “artistic” of the US Ladies and her technical content is up to par with the rest of the field, but she hasn’t executed it cleanly in a very long time. However, her great performances at NHK give me hope that she will finally step up. Placing her this low was a precautionary step because she could revert to her old ways, but I have a good feeling about this.

7. Mariah Bell 

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Age: 19

Skating Club: Rocky Mountain FSC

Accomplishments: 2013 US junior silver medalist, JGP medalist

Why I placed her here: Mariah showed that she can compete with the best with a 6th-place showing last year, but she has had a very rocky season so far. Two dismal Challenger Series showings left me worried, but she came back with a decent GP debut at Skate America (8th). Mariah is a lovely skater and person (I’ve met her and she is very gracious and friendly, so I’m kind of partial towards her), so I hope she does better than this, but she has not been very consistent.

8. Tyler Pierce 

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Age: 17

Skating Club: All Year FSC

Accomplishments: 2013 US Novice Champion, 2014 US Junior Silver Medalist, two-time Challenger Series medalist

Why I placed her here: Tyler looked very strong on the Challenger Series, with two bronze medals and solid scores (60+ SPs and 105+ FSes), but her recurring inconsistency could return. Until we know what form she is in, this is the highest I’m comfortable placing her.

9. Angela Wang 

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Age: 19

Skating Club: Salt Lake City FSC

Accomplishments: three-time JGP Medalist

Why I placed her here: Angela has shown vastly-improved consistency this season, and she can be technically excellent when she is on. However, I wouldn’t put her in the top 10 yet, considering her low Nationals placement last year (15th).

So, this is the end! I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope to do something like this in the near future. Au revoir, until the events start! 

 

The 2015-16 GP Programs Mega-Recap (SP)

Soo…hi!

First off, sorry about not doing a GPF recap. It was too depressing. It would’ve ended very badly.

Second, I am going to be doing something else instead: a giant mega-recap of all 30 programs from the top 15 ladies on the GP (programs themselves, not specific performances), starting with this, the short program recap.

So, these people:

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But wait, there’s more…these will be ranked from worst to best, not by the skater’s placement. And because why not, they will also be given a witty title thing…

 

15. Mesh and Sound Effects! (Elizaveta Tuktamysheva)

Music: Carmina Burana (Remix)

When I first saw this (now-defunct) short program, I actually liked it. I thought it suited her. But…butbutbut…two things.

  1. She never skated it clean (I’ve heard this is why she went back to her last SP); and
  2. She/her team decided to add spooooky! Sound effects (um…why?!?).

Also, this is really shallow, but the dress was entirely inappropriate and that did not help. But on the topic of the actual program, it had potential, but that potential got lost in translation…very lost.

14. The Subject of Tonight’s Lecture is Rhythm Annoying Repetitive Song Choices (Ashley Wagner)

Music: Hip Hip, Chin Chin by Club de las Belugas

I am not really a fan of samba-type programs, nor am I a fan of spoken voiceovers in programs, or repetitive music in general. So…heh. I really wanted to like this program, but I just don’t. However, I admire Ashley’s commitment to her performance in this program. It is obvious she really connects to it, so I suppose that’s what really matters…

Even if the music selection drives me out of my mind.

13. 50’s Nostalgia…ish? (Yulia Lipnitskaya?)

Music: Medley of songs by Elvis Presley

This was hard for me, I must say. I really love Yulia, but…this program…blergh. Suffice to say it’s not my favorite. And also, I was greatly conflicted on which of her GP performances to use for this: her good skate at TEB, or her marginal skate at Skate America featuring the fabulous cornea-burning rainbow dress of doom. (I picked TEB, to placate any Yulia fans mad that I put her this low.) But back on topic, it just doesn’t seem like she’s feeling this program. As much as I dislike it, this music is not the kind of music you can skate to with an “I will kill someone if I don’t win” face. This program doesn’t work if you’re not having fun with it, and I don’t think she is. Yulia, please get better programs next year! I want to love your skating again!

12. Well, this one was just meh…(Roberta Rodeghiero) 

Music: “He Sleeps,” “Pretty Woman”

I really didn’t dislike this program; it was just kind of, well…meh. Also, the music cut could’ve been done a lot better, to say the least. However, this was a very good skate, so there’s that. I just don’t have much to say about this program. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a world-contender-level program.

11. Nope, no feelings beginning… (Courtney Hicks) 

Music: “The Feeling Begins”

Again, there was nothing bad about this program, but it kind of bored me, which was disappointing, seeing as Courtney had one of my favorite SPs last season.

 

10. Copycat Mao (Yuka Nagai) 

Music: Madame Butterfly

If you’ve seen Mao Asada’s free skate, it doesn’t take long to figure out how similar the two programs are…except that one of them is markedly better than the other.

9. TBH: kind of sick of Tango de Roxanne (Kanako Murakami) 

Music: Tango de Roxanne

I like Kanako, and she really sells this program, but at this point I am very sick of Tango de Roxanne.

8. Just wait for the Free Skate recap… (Rika Hongo) 

Music: “Quidam” from Cirque De Soliel

The middle of this recap is the hardest part because I like programs 5-9 but I don’t absolutely love them, so I have to figure out how to order them fairly…and this is the quandary I am facing with Rika. Her skating is really improved this season, and this program is a good fit for her, but there are a lot of programs on this list I like better. I like Rika’s energy and commitment to the performance, but there are other programs I prefer.

7. Mixed Feelings (Satoko Miyahara) 

Music: “Firedance” from Riverdance

I like Satoko a lot, and I really admire how artistically proficient she is at such a young age. I’ve loved most of her programs in the past, but I haven’t really warmed up to this one. It’s very understated and that’s not really my thing. However, it is a very sophisticated program and well-suited to her, thus the fairly high ranking.

6. #BalletArmsFTW (Polina Edmunds)

Music: Moonlight Sonata

In my Glacier Falls recap (one of my first posts, actually), I said I “loved this program to death.” I can’t exactly say that anymore, but I still like it a lot. It still amazes me how much more refined Polina is this season than she was last season; the aforementioned “ballet arms” are a reference to that.

5. An Abundance of ‘Tanos (Evgenia Medvedeva) 

Evgenia has grown on me a lot over the course of the season. When I saw the videos of her at the Russian test skates, I thought she was boring as tar; now, I can at least say I like her, even if I’m not a huge fan. Her refinement and softness is very refreshing in a country whose current crop of skaters are mostly known for over-the-topness. As annoying as the backloading and constant ‘tanos are, she has a lot of redeeming qualities. Evgenia seems to really feel this music, too, and I cannot stop raving about her dress. I really can’t write anything about her without mentioning it, LOL!

4. J’Taime indeed (Elena Radionova) 

Music: “J’taime” by Lara Fabian

It pains me to have to put Elena out of the top three, but it was for good reasons: she’s behind two world-class programs and a sentimental favorite. A lot of people don’t like this program, but I did; it suits Elena better than a lot of people give it credit for, and it’s great that she’s branching out artistically. However, it wasn’t enough to crack the top three.

3. The epic debut (Karen Chen) 

Music: Nessun Dorma from Turandot

I got to see this performance in person.

It was about the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced. That spiral into the music? Actual tears. *Sigh* It was so perfect…

2. Please Leeeet Me Explaaain! (Mao Asada) 

Music: Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen

This program shows a side of Mao she hasn’t really shown before: #SassyMao. 🙂 Considering the programs she’s done in the past, I didn’t think this program would be a good fit for her, but it has quickly become one of my favorite of her programs. (The others are Nocturne, Fantaisie-Impromptu and Czardas, so that was a very high bar!) She’s never skated it entirely clean, but if she ever does, I can’t even imagine how awesome it would be. (World record for sure…)

1. *Air quotes* “Didn’t see that coming…” (Gracie Gold)

Music: El Choclo by Angel Villodo

This is it, folks. This is what it looks like when Gracie has a program that actually fits her.

*Whispering dramatically* It’s majestic. 

 

Hopefully I’ll be back with my FS recap before Russian Nationals on Wednesday. Thanks for reading!

Recap: Nebelhorn Trophy Ladies Event

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

Let’s start with the winner (duh :p):

1. Kaetlyn Osmond, Canada-179.41

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

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

2. Alena Leonova, Russia-165.61

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

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

3. Courtney Hicks, USA-162.85

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

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

4. Alaine Chartrand, Canada-161.35

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

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

5. Mirai Nagasu, USA-159.67

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

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

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

This concludes the recap. 🙂

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