2016 NHK Trophy Ladies Recap

Well, the Grand Prix is over, and it feels like it went by in about five seconds. (Probably because most of the competitions were either at obscene hours of the morning or while I had something I was supposed to be doing…) And aside from another year of total Evgenia Medvedeva domination, it definitely did not shake out how I expected! (Two American men in the GPF, but no U.S. ladies? Kaetlyn Osmond and Maria Sotskova qualified? Approximately 8,000,000 withdrawals? Lots of surprises there.) But, regardless, it was quite an exciting GP season, and I can’t wait to recap the final ladies event for your reading pleasure…

 

1. Anna Pogorilaya

Just…wow. Anna is in true champion’s form this season. I know I’ve said it a million times  (#AccidentalSongLyricQuotationsFTW), but it keeps on getting reinforced with every competition. Anna has finally found her stride, both technically and artistically: she’s landing her things, which obviously needs to happen, but she’s also improved a lot in her interpretation and performance, due in no small part to her fabulous programs. I’m thrilled that she rebounded so strongly from a disastrous 2016 (except for Russian Nationals and Worlds, she basically fell over and died at every competition…), and I hope to see her on the podium at the GPF. She definitely has it in her, but most of the competitors, save maybe Kaetlyn, are very consistent: Evgenia, Elena, Satoko, and Maria all bank on clean skates and usually deliver them. Anna has an edge with her huge jumps  (underrotations are a problem for quite a few skaters in this group) and polish, but she’s got to be clean. Fingers crossed.

2. Satoko Miyahara

Ironic that just as Satoko is starting to really grow on me, she’s also getting judged more harshly/making more mistakes. (She did not previously get nearly as many UR calls as she has been getting this season, if I remember correctly.) Aside from an unfortunate fall in the SP and a bunch of URs, though, Satoko did an admirable job and, ultimately, what she needed to do to book a ticket to the Final. Her Musetta’s Waltz SP was, well, nice; pretty and palatable, but not particularly exciting. (Noteworthy, however, is that her upper body movement and arm choreography in this program are lovely. I know I probably talk about those things too much, but they look so nice!) I much prefer Satoko’s Star Wars/The Planets FS, which was also a stronger skate technically; it’s a strong and dynamic program and a departure from the light, elegant, “pretty” programs she often has. (Examples: this year’s SP, last year’s Un Sospiro FS, and her 2014-15 Magic Flute SP.) Since Satoko is not really a “big” skater, both in stature and amplitude, having a powerful program helps to establish a strong presence on the ice-which, ultimately, is why I think this program is so effective. I am aware that I’ve gone off on a tangent, but I tend to do that, and I don’t care. But, back to the point: she landed all of her things in the FS, and although they were not all rotated, it was a solid performance. Overall, this was a strong showing, I’m glad she was able to get into the Final.

3. Maria Sotskova

Maria is quickly becoming one of my favorite up-and-coming skaters. She really performs from the heart with an honest, sincere quality that I can’t help but love. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that she is quite consistent. Aside from the UR issues that have randomly materialized this season (did she get UR calls last season? I seem to recall she didn’t), Maria can almost always be counted on to land her jumps. Her weaker areas seemed to have improved here, too. One of her biggest problems has often been lack of speed, which seems to be improving (which is a very good thing, because slow skating has a way of slowly driving me insane…slowly). And I like her programs a lot! The Story of An Unknown Actor is a really great piece and I think Maria carries the driving intensity of the music well. Her FS, to another Schnittke composition, Butterflies Are Free, is not quite as impactful, but a lovely, heartfelt program. Again, very happy to see Maria in the Final. I don’t expect her to medal, but if she puts out two solid performances, there’s always a chance.

4. Wakaba Higuchi

Wakaba is another up-and-coming skater who’s really started to come into her own this year. She’s not quite as consistent as some of her competitors, but her jumps are as huge as ever and her expression and fluidity have gotten a lot better since her junior days. Her La Califfa SP is a great showcase of both of those qualities. Although she made one minor mistake, a small stepout on a 3Lz, it was overall a solid skate, and I was very impressed by the improvements she’s made in interpretation and upper body movement (I know, I know, here we go again!). Her Scheherazade FS is a good vehicle as well. Wakaba is known for her powerful jumps and just general powerfulness (yup, that’s a word now, and yup, I am aware that I am totally overusing parenthesis), so clearly, skating to powerful music is a good idea for her. I also love her FS costume. And…I have nothing else to say, because my brain is totally dead and I literally just tried to type “becaus’e.” Yes, “becaus’e,” with an apostrophe before the E.

I really need to go to sleep.

5. Mirai Nagasu

After Mirai completely bombed Skate Canada despite only falling once (URs are killer), I was happy that she was able to come back with a strong second event. Her SP was impeccable, if you can ignore a UR on the combo, which I did, because I didn’t pick up on it in real-time, and actually, so was her FS, if you ignore the four URs she got for that. I really enjoy both of her programs this year; Mirai’s Chopin SP is very elegant in a cold, formal sort of way that’s actually really convincing, and her The Winner Takes It All FS is emotional and raw and, no doubt, more than a little autobiographical. Not to mention that her dresses for both programs are drop-dead-gorgeous. (Look at the beading on her SP dress in the screencap! NO WORDS. Simply incredible, although I don’t even want to think about how long it must’ve taken whoever made it to hand-glue every last one of those crystals/little sparkly jobs onto the dress. Shudder.)

Well, that’s a wrap, which is good, because I need to go to sleep before I write something weird that I will forever regret. 

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.

Things I Like: Skate America

This is exactly what it sounds like. 🙂

 

  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. 😦

The GP Assignments Post

It’s that time of year again: that day we wait for for months, only for the announcement to be made four hours later than desired expected, and then become even more impatient for the season to start.

It’s Grand Prix Assignment Release Day/Week (#latetotheparty)!

So, here are my thoughts on this! Events will be covered in chronological order. For reference, here are the entry lists (copied and pasted from the ISU website, because I am supremely good at pilfering things so I won’t have to write them myself):

 

Skate America

Chicago, IL October 21-23, 2016

Skate Canada Int.

Mississauga, ON October 28-30, 2016

Rostelecom Cup

Moscow November 4-6, 2016

Trophée de France

Paris November 11-13, 2016

Audi Cup of China

Beijing November 18-20, 2016

NHK Trophy

Sapporo November 25-27, 2016

Julianne SEGUIN / Charlie BILODEAU CAN

Meagan DUHAMEL / Eric RADFORD CAN

Kirsten MOORE-TOWERS / Michael MARINARO CAN

Miriam ZIEGLER / Severin KIEFER AUT

Lubov ILIUSHECHKINA / Dylan MOSCOVITCH CAN

Meagan DUHAMEL / Eric RADFORD CAN

Wenjing SUI / Cong HAN CHN

Lubov ILIUSHECHKINA / Dylan MOSCOVITCH CAN

Julianne SEGUIN / Charlie BILODEAU CAN

Lola ESBRAT / Andrei NOVOSELOV FRA

Cheng PENG / Yang JIN CHN

Kirsten MOORE-TOWERS / Michael MARINARO CAN

Vanessa JAMES / Morgan CIPRES FRA

TBD CAN

Aliona SAVCHENKO / Bruno MASSOT GER

Vanessa JAMES / Morgan CIPRES FRA

Wenjing SUI / Cong HAN CHN

Cheng PENG / Yang JIN CHN

Kristina ASTAKHOVA / Alexei ROGONOV RUS

Xiaoyu YU / Hao ZHANG CHN

Valentina MARCHEI / Ondrej HOTAREK ITA

Camille MENDOZA / Pavel KOVALEV FRA

Xiaoyu YU / Hao ZHANG CHN

Xuehan WANG / Lei WANG CHN

Evgenia TARASOVA / Vladimir MOROZOV RUS

Nicole DELLA MONICA / Matteo GUARISE ITA

Kristina ASTAKHOVA / Alexei ROGONOV RUS

Aliona SAVCHENKO / Bruno MASSOT GER

Mari VARTMANN / Ruben BLOMMAERT GER

Sumire SUTO / Francis BOUDREAU AUDET
JPN

Madeline AARON / Max SETTLAGE USA

Vera BAZAROVA / Andrei DEPUTAT RUS

Ksenia STOLBOVA / Fedor KLIMOV RUS

Evgenia TARASOVA / Vladimir MOROZOV RUS

Nicole DELLA MONICA / Matteo GUARISE ITA

TBD JPN

Tarah KAYNE / Daniel O SHEA USA

Yuko KAVAGUTI / Alexander SMIRNOV RUS

Natalia ZABIIAKO / Alexander ENBERT RUS

Natalia ZABIIAKO / Alexander ENBERT RUS

Yuko KAVAGUTI / Alexander SMIRNOV RUS

Ksenia STOLBOVA / Fedor KLIMOV RUS

TBD USA

Haven DENNEY / Brandon FRAZIER USA

Alexa SCIMECA / Chris KNIERIM USA

Marissa CASTELLI / Mervin TRAN USA

Alexa SCIMECA / Chris KNIERIM USA

Tarah KAYNE / Daniel O SHEA USA

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8

8

8

8

8

Skate America

Chicago, IL October 21-23, 2016

Skate Canada Int.

Mississauga, ON October 28-30, 2016

Rostelecom Cup

Moscow November 4-6, 2016

Trophée de France

Paris November 11-13, 2016

Audi Cup of China

Beijing November 18-20, 2016

NHK Trophy

Sapporo November 25-27, 2016

Brendan KERRY AUS

Patrick CHAN CAN

Elladj BALDE CAN

Chafik BESSEGHIER FRA

Patrick CHAN CAN

Elladj BALDE CAN

Jorik HENDRICKX BEL

Liam FIRUS CAN

Chafik BESSEGHIER FRA

Romain PONSART FRA

Boyang JIN CHN

Nam NGUYEN CAN

Nam NGUYEN CAN

TBD CAN

Alexei BYCHENKO ISR

Ivan RIGHINI ITA

Han YAN CHN

Alexei BYCHENKO ISR

Boyang JIN CHN

Han YAN CHN

Keiji TANAKA JPN

Takahito MURA JPN

TBD CHN

Ivan RIGHINI ITA

Daisuke MURAKAMI JPN

Michal BREZINA CZE

Shoma UNO JPN

Sota YAMAMOTO JPN

Michal BREZINA CZE

Yuzuru HANYU JPN

Shoma UNO JPN

Daniel SAMOHIN ISR

Deniss VASILJEVS LAT

Denis TEN KAZ

Daniel SAMOHIN ISR

Keiji TANAKA JPN

Denis TEN KAZ

Yuzuru HANYU JPN

Artur DMITRIEV RUS

Artur DMITRIEV RUS

Daisuke MURAKAMI JPN

Sota YAMAMOTO JPN

Maxim KOVTUN RUS

Takahito MURA JPN

Mikhail KOLYADA RUS

Adian PITKEEV RUS

Maxim KOVTUN RUS

Mikhail KOLYADA RUS

Sergei VORONOV RUS

Alexander PETROV RUS

TBD RUS

Javier FERNANDEZ ESP

Alexander PETROV RUS

Adian PITKEEV RUS

Jason BROWN USA

Grant HOCHSTEIN USA

Javier FERNANDEZ ESP

Nathan CHEN USA

Sergei VORONOV RUS

Jason BROWN USA

Adam RIPPON USA

Ross MINER USA

Alexander MAJOROV SWE

Adam RIPPON USA

Max AARON USA

Nathan CHEN USA

TBD USA

Misha GE UZB

Max AARON USA

Misha GE UZB

Ross MINER USA

Grant HOCHSTEIN USA

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12

12

12

12

12

Skate America

Chicago, IL October 21-23, 2016

Skate Canada Int.

Mississauga, ON October 28-30, 2016

Rostelecom Cup

Moscow November 4-6, 2016

Trophée de France

Paris November 11-13, 2016

Audi Cup of China

Beijing November 18-20, 2016

NHK Trophy

Sapporo November 25-27, 2016

Isabella TOBIAS / Ilia TKACHENKO ISR

Piper GILLES / Paul POIRIER
CAN

Viktoria KAVALIOVA / Yurii BIELIAIEV BLR

Piper GILLES / Paul POIRIER CAN

Alexandra PAUL / Mitchell ISLAM CAN

Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN

Charlene GUIGNARD / Marco FABBRI ITA

Alexandra PAUL / Mitchell ISLAM CAN

Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE CAN

Lorenza ALESSANDRINI / Pierre SOUQUET FRA

Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE CAN

Marie-Jade LAURIAULT / Romain LE GAC FRA

Kana MURAMOTO / Chris REED JPN

Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN

Laurence FOURNIER BEAUDRY / Nikolaj SORENSEN DEN

Marie-Jade LAURIAULT / Romain LE GAC FRA

Hong CHEN / Yan ZHAO CHN

Gabriella PAPADAKIS / Guillaume CIZERON FRA

Rebeka KIM / Kirill MINOV KOR

Shiyue WANG / Xinyu LIU CHN

Charlene GUIGNARD / Marco FABBRI ITA

Gabriella PAPADAKIS / Guillaume CIZERON FRA

Shiyue WANG / Xinyu LIU CHN

Penny COOMES / Nicholas BUCKLAND GBR

Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV RUS

Laurence FOURNIER BEAUDRY / Nikolaj SORENSEN DEN

Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV RUS

Penny COOMES / Nicholas BUCKLAND GBR

TBD CHN

Anna CAPPELLINI / Luca LANOTTE ITA

Elena ILINYKH / Ruslan ZHIGANSHIN RUS

Anna CAPPELLINI / Luca LANOTTE ITA

Tiffany ZAHORSKY / Jonathan GUERREIRO RUS

Isabella TOBIAS / Ilia TKACHENKO ISR

Natalia KALISZEK / Maksim SPODIREV POL

Emi HIRAI / Marien DE LA ASUNCION JPN

Alisa AGAFONOVA / Alper UCAR TUR

Alexandra STEPANOVA / Ivan BUKIN
RUS

TBD RUS

Elena ILINYKH / Ruslan ZHIGANSHIN RUS

Victoria SINITSINA / Nikita KATSALAPOV RUS

Kana MURAMOTO / Chris REED JPN

Madison HUBBELL / Zachary DONOHUE USA

Federica TESTA / Lukas CSOLLEY SVK

Alisa AGAFONOVA / Alper UCAR TUR

Federica TESTA / Lukas CSOLLEY SVK

Alexandra STEPANOVA / Ivan BUKIN
RUS

Natalia KALISZEK / Maksim SPODIREV POL

Maia SHIBUTANI / Alex SHIBUTANI
USA

Madison CHOCK / Evan BATES USA

Madison CHOCK / Evan BATES USA

Alexandra NAZAROVA / Maxim NIKITIN UKR

Anastasia CANNUSCIO / Colin MCMANUS USA

Victoria SINITSINA / Nikita KATSALAPOV RUS

TBD USA

Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKER USA

Elliana POGREBINSKY / Alex BENOIT
USA

Madison HUBBELL / Zachary DONOHUE USA

Maia SHIBUTANI / Alex SHIBUTANI USA

Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKER USA

10

10

10

10

10

10

Skate America

Chicago, IL October 21-23, 2016

Skate Canada Int.

Mississauga, ON October 28-30, 2016

Rostelecom Cup

Moscow November 4-6, 2016

Trophée de France

Paris November 11-13, 2016

Audi Cup of China

Beijing November 18-20, 2016

NHK Trophy

Sapporo November 25-27, 2016

Gabrielle DALEMAN CAN

Alaine CHARTRAND CAN

Zijun LI CHN

Gabrielle DALEMAN CAN

Kaetlyn OSMOND CAN

Alaine CHARTRAND CAN

Roberta RODEGHIERO ITA

Kaetlyn OSMOND CAN

Roberta RODEGHIERO ITA

Laurine LECAVELIER FRA

Zijun LI CHN

Wakaba HIGUCHI JPN

Mao ASADA JPN

TBD CAN

Yura MATSUDA JPN

Mae Berenice MEITE FRA

Ziquan ZHAO CHN

Yura MATSUDA JPN

Mai MIHARA JPN

Rika HONGO JPN

Kanako MURAKAMI JPN

Mao ASADA JPN

TBD CHN

Satoko MIYAHARA JPN

Kanako MURAKAMI JPN

Satoko MIYAHARA JPN

Elizabet TURSYNBAEVA KAZ

Wakaba HIGUCHI JPN

Rika HONGO JPN

Elizabet TURSYNBAEVA KAZ

Angelina KUCHVALSKA LAT

Yuka NAGAI JPN

Angelina KUCHVALSKA LAT

Yuka NAGAI JPN

Mai MIHARA JPN

Alena LEONOVA RUS

So Youn PARK KOR

Da Bin CHOI KOR

Julia LIPNITSKAIA RUS

So Youn PARK KOR

Elena RADIONOVA RUS

Anna POGORILAYA RUS

Julia LIPNITSKAIA RUS

Maria ARTEMIEVA RUS

Anna POGORILAYA RUS

Alena LEONOVA RUS

Elizaveta TUKTAMYSHEVA RUS

Maria SOTSKOVA RUS

Serafima SAKHANOVICH RUS

Evgenia MEDVEDEVA RUS

Elena RADIONOVA RUS

Evgenia MEDVEDEVA RUS

Joshi HELGESSON SWE

Nicole RAJICOVA SVK

Gracie GOLD USA

Elizaveta TUKTAMYSHEVA RUS

Nicole RAJICOVA SVK

Maria SOTSKOVA RUS

Karen CHEN USA

Karen CHEN USA

Ashley WAGNER USA

Joshi HELGESSON SWE

Polina EDMUNDS USA

Gracie GOLD USA

Courtney HICKS USA

Polina EDMUNDS USA

TBD USA

Mirai NAGASU USA

Courtney HICKS USA

Tyler PIERCE USA

Ashley WAGNER USA

Mirai NAGASU USA

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Skate America 

 

LADIES

What I’m Excited About: firstly, Mao Asada! Super excited that one of her events will be in my time zone (not actually mine, but you get the point) so I will get to watch her live. I’m so glad that Serafima Sakhanovich got a GP after a dismal last season. Oh, and Yulia! And also Mai Mihara-I didn’t even know she was going senior, let alone getting two GPs, but I love watching the debuting seniors so I’m happy about it. In dance, I’m excited that the Shibutanis got SA because, well, Shibs. And I’m thrilled that one of my latest ‘discoveries,’ Tobias/Tkachenko, got this spot-I didn’t know if they would even get two spots, let alone this one! Oh, and Ilinykh/Zhiganshin! 🙂 In pairs, I’m really excited to see Seguin/Bilodeau back at Skate America-they had one of my favorite performances at last year’s event. And I love watching Aaron/Settlage. In men: Shoma’s back, which means my favorite skaters in each discipline (Shibs, Gracie, Shoma, Sui/Han) are going to be at Skate America…*drools*

What I’m Not Excited About: I feel like the Gracie-Vs.-Ashley dynamic in this event is going to mess with both of their heads and potentially knock one or both out of GPF contention. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be really interesting, but if the media milks it like they’ve milked the Ashley/Gracie “rivalry” at every recent Nationals, it could be really bad for both of them. Not a good move, USFSA. In pairs: what the heck are Sui/Han doing on this list?!? I love them to pieces, but Sui recently (last month) had ankle surgery that was supposed to have a four-month recovery period. That is barely the amount of time between the surgery and SA, and even though they reportedly already had programs, I feel like they will either show up super unprepared and bomb or show up still injured and make the injury worse. I seriously hope neither of these things is true, but it seems highly unlikely that something bad won’t happen. The Chinese Federation’s exploits continue…*hides in a corner*

TBA Spot Predictions: Ladies-Tyler Pierce; Men’s-Richard Dornbush; Pairs-Denney/Frazier; Dance-Cannuscio/McManus

Skate Canada 

What I’m Excited About: For starters, Evgenia vs. Elizaveta. Somebody get me some popcorn, because that’s gonna be a good one. (Provided Elizaveta is in better form than last season, which I think she will be-no source there, just gut feeling.) And we get to see Rika’s new programs, which look great in the clips I’ve seen. Alaine has another chance to not bomb and hopefully have programs as great as last year’s. In dance, the much-anticipated return of Virtue/Moir should be exciting, and I’m excited to see how Cappellini/Lanotte-who grew on me drastically last season-will do. And I cannot wait to see Hawayek/Baker, who perenially have some of the best FDs in the business. In pairs, I’m really excited to see Denney/Frazier back in competition. For the men, Daniel Samohin is making his senior debut and it’ll be interesting to see how he stacks up. Also, Grant Hochstein (does anyone not love Grant after that FS at Worlds?!?).

What I’m Not Excited About: There is a 90% chance one or both Canadian ladies currently in this event will headcase dramatically. And it’s really, really sad to see “Yu/Zhang” in print on any official document. Whyyyyyyyyyy?!?!?! (I was not even invested in either of them! Why am I so upset? One of life’s many mysteries…)

TBA Spot Predictions: Ladies-Veronik Mallet (is she ever not the SC host pick?); Men-Kevin Reynolds; Pairs-um, I don’t even know any Canadian pairs who aren’t on this list…hehe.

Rostelecom Cup 

What I’m Excited About: on the ladies side, this one’s got a lot of my favorites-Zijun, Nicole, Elizabet, Elena-and it’s always exciting/painful to see which Anna will show up (Scaryfalls McHeadcase or “This is Why I’m A World Medalist, Suckers!”). In dance, it will be interesting to see if Weaver/Poje will redeem their disappointing Worlds, and GP deubts-this time, Porgebinsky/Benoit’s-are just about my favorite thing ever. Pairs has Seguin/Bilodeau and also Astakhova/Rogonov, who-totally off topic-need to get some kind of award for coming up with the idea of making their free skate a sequel to their last one (I mean, I didn’t love their last FS, but how cool is that?!?). Stolbova/Klimov never fail to bring the drama and excitement-they’re wildly unpredictable, but never boring. In men’s-Deniss Vasiljevs’ senior debut.

What I’m Not Excited About: there’s not much about this one that I don’t like. 🙂

TBA Spot Predictions: men’s-no idea.

Trophee De France 

What I’m Excited About: GRACIE AND MAO AND WAKABA AND MARIA AND TYLER AHFIOWHFIOHFIORHOIRHIOWRHGOIHGIOHRGQEHGOHGIOQHGIOQHGIOHQIOGHQOG  THIS IS GOING TO BE SUCH A FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC LADIES EVENT OMG…

…I promise I’ve calmed down. I am just really excited about that ladies list.

In other disciplines, because they exist too: more of Tobias/Tkachenko and Ilinykh/Zhiganshin in dance, and also, the debut of #TeamSuspiciousBio! (I seriously got a kick out of debating the validity of the famous line in their bio-if you don’t remember, see if you can find it here-during Junior Worlds and it is literally all I can think about whenever I watch/read about them, but it’s made me like them more, so I guess it was a good thing?) Whew, sorry for the extreme run-on sentence. Nathan Chen is making his GP debut and if he doesn’t break himself again, I am excited to see how he factors in at the senior level.

What I’m Not Excited About: annoying people online with my constant blathering about Lauriault/Le Gac’s biography. :p JK, I never don’t enjoy bringing that up in totally irrelevant conversations. Whee! *frolics maniacally*

TBD Spot Predictions:  there are none…

Cup of China 

What I’m Excited About: Elena, Karen, Rika, and Zijun, in that order. Also, the GP debut of Vartmann/Blommaert, who I really liked at Nebelhorn last year. And the Shibs, because every situation is improved by  a touch of Shibness. (I don’t care that that’s not a thing.  I am going to make that a thing.) I have a bit of a (huge) soft spot for Cannuscio/McManus, so I’m excited about that, too.

(Also, in a very twisted way, I kind of am looking forward to Yu/Zheng vs. Peng/Jin. I know. I will go sit in a corner and think about what I’ve done.)

What I’m Not Excited About: …?

TBD SPOT PREDICTIONS: I know nothing about Chinese singles outside of Zijun Li, Boyang Jin and Han Yan, and even less about Chinese ice dancers, so…pass.

NHK Trophy 

What I’m Excited About: another Wakaba/Maria matchup! Why am I suddenly so excited about these two? I mean, I always liked both of them, but why am I going berserk over them getting the same GPs? Egh, obsessions are complicated. Hawayek/Baker and Virtue/Moir make nice highlights for the dance event. Wang/Wang are a lovely pair and don’t seem to get out of China all that often, so I’m excited to see them skate. And open TBA pair spot + no more Japanese pairs = maybe a spot for someone on the sub list that I like?

What I’m Not Excited About: nothing, really.

TBA Spot Predictions: pass.

 

Thoughts? I’m personally very happy with nearly everything on these lists. 

 

Grand Prix Assignment Speculation, Pt. 2: Ice Dance

The GP ladies speculation post was originally going to be a stand-alone, but I enjoyed writing it so much that it’s back. (This one’s for ice dance.) To see how it works, read this: https://salchowsandswarovskis.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/grand-prix-assignment-speculation-pt-1-ladies/

SKATE AMERICA 

  1. Medal seed: Shibutani/Shibutani, USA
  2. “Potato” (4-6) seed: Hubbell/Donohue, USA
  3. Ilinykh/Zhiganshin, RUS
  4. Tobias/Tkachenko, ISR
  5. Paul/Islam, CAN
  6. Gilles/Poirier, CAN
  7. Fournier-Beaudry/Sorensen, DEN
  8. Host pick: McNamara/Carpenter, USA

MY REASONING: the US has two medal seeds in dance and could go with either of them, but I think the Shibs will get this spot because they were the higher-placed team and won Nationals. Since the US also has a “Potato” seed (Hubbell/Donohue), I see no reason they wouldn’t send them. If McNamara/Carpenter move up, they’re practically guaranteed the host pick spot. And the rest are kind of just random guesses or people I really want to see.

SKATE CANADA 

  1. Medal seed: Papadakis/Cizeron, FRA
  2. Potato seed: Weaver/Poje, CAN
  3. Virtue/Moir, CAN
  4. Stepanova/Bukin, RUS
  5. Sinitsina/Katsalapov, RUS
  6. Coomes/Buckland, GBR
  7. Hawayek/Baker, USA
  8. Host pick: Edwards/Pang, CAN

MY REASONING: since Canada doesn’t have a medal seed, there was no obvious team to fill this slot. I went with Papadakis/Cizeron for no particular reason. Weaver/Poje are practically guaranteed the potato seed spot, and if Virtue/Moir do any Grand Prix events, this will probably be it. Most of the others were picked to fill top-12-at-Worlds/SB-mandated spots. If Edwards/Pang are back to competition by October, there is a reasonable chance they’ll get the host spot (that is, if the rumors about Paradis/Ouellette’s split are true).

CUP OF CHINA 

  1. Medal seed: Chock/Bates, USA
  2. Potato seed: Cappellini/Lanotte, ITA
  3. Guinard/Fabbri, ITA
  4. Sinitsina/Katsalapov, RUS
  5. Agafonova/Ucar, TUR
  6. Gilles/Poirier, CAN
  7. Bobrova/Soloviev, RUS
  8. Host pick: Wang/Liu, CHN

MY REASONING: since China has virtually no dance teams, all I gave them for their own teams was a host pick. to avoid back-to-back assignments, both Chock/Bates and Cappellini/Lanotte had to get this assignment (like last year). The rest were random fill-ins from the SB list.

ROSTELECOM/CUP OF RUSSIA

  1. Medal seed: Shibutani/Shibutani, USA
  2. Potato seed: Weaver/Poje, CAN
  3. Ilinykh/Zhiganshin, RUS
  4. Stepanova/Bukin, RUS
  5. Tobias/Tkachenko, ISR
  6. Coomes/Buckland, GBR
  7. McNamara/Carpenter, USA
  8. Host pick: Loboda/Drozd, RUS

MY REASONING: again, to avoid back-to-back spots, the Shibs had to get Rostelecom. It was between Weaver/Poje and Hubbell/Donohue for the potato seed and I went with Weaver/Poje. Russia gets Stepanova/Bukin, who needed two spots due to Worlds placements, and Ilinykh/Zhiganshin, plus Loboda/Drozd for their host pick because they aged out of juniors (I think) and are probably getting spots as JW medalists.

GRAND PRIX DE PARIS 

  1. Medal seed: Papadakis/Cizeron, FRA
  2. Potato seed: Hubbell/Donohue, USA
  3.  Lauriault/Le Gac, FRA
  4. Sinitsina/Katsalapov, RUS
  5. Guinard/Fabbri, ITA
  6. Cannuscio/McManus, USA
  7. Muramoto/Reed, JPN
  8. Host pick: Alessandrini/Souquet, FRA

MY REASONING: Medal seed: um…duh. Potato seed: felt like it. Lauriault/Le Gac aged out of juniors and are 97% guaranteed a spot at TEB, Alessandrini/Souquet are the only other French team I know of, and the rest needed their guaranteed spots somewhere.

NHK TROPHY 

  1. Medal seed: Chock/Bates, USA
  2. Potato seed: Cappellini/Lanotte, ITA
  3. Muramoto/Reed, JPN
  4. Loboda/Drozd, RUS
  5. Bobrova/Soloviev, RUS
  6. Kim/Minov, KOR
  7. Cannuscio/McManus, USA
  8. Host pick: Emi Hirai/Marien De La Asuncion, JPN

MY REASONING:

Seeds: only ones left.

Host-country teams: self explanatory.

The rest: needed spots.

Grand Prix Assignment Speculation, Pt. 1: Ladies

The release of the Grand Prix assignments is just over a month out, and due to the irritating lack of live results pages (the one thing the ISU always gets right) for RG events, I have no sports to follow. And what do we do when we have no sports to follow?

Speculate!

I have decided which ladies skaters I want to/think will be assigned to each GP and I am going to post it to relieve my boredom facilitate discussion. Or something? Well, here goes.

SKATE AMERICA 

Since Skate America and Skate Canada are the only events that are never at obscene hours of the morning/night in my time zone, I have a lot of opinions on who I want to see at them. Skate America should, in my mind, kick off the season with these skaters:

  1. Medal seed: Ashley Wagner US
  2. 4-6 seed: Elena Radionova USA
  3. Mao Asada
  4. Wakaba Higuchi
  5. Maria Sotskova
  6. Tyler Pierce
  7. Nicole Rajicova
  8. Da Bin Choi
  9. Zijun Li
  10. Alaine Chartrand
  11. Roberta Rodeghiero
  12. Host pick: Bradie Tennell

MY REASONING: the US finally has a medal seed in ladies, so Ashley seems like the obvious choice. Since I doubt they’d put Ashley and Gracie in the same event and Satoko went to Skate America last year, I chose Elena for the 4-6 seed. I chose some unseeded personal favorites-Mao, Zijun, Tyler, Maria, Wakaba, Alaine, Nicole-to make it interesting, and since SA always has some new seniors, it seems like a good Grand Prix debut for Wakaba and Maria. I chose Bradie as the host pick because she did very well at Nationals, and I’m pretty sure she’s going senior. The rest are…kind of just there.

SKATE CANADA 

Skate Canada is one of the more unpredictable events for ladies, IMO, so I am just going with my gut here.

  1. Medal seed: Anna Pogorilaya
  2. 4-6 seed: Gracie Gold
  3. Kaetlyn Osmond
  4. Gabrielle Daleman
  5. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
  6. Adelina Sotnikova
  7. Da Bin Choi
  8. Mirai Nagasu
  9. Rika Hongo
  10. Yuka Nagai
  11. Mae Berenice Miete
  12. Host pick: Veronik Mallet

MY REASONING: Evgenia, medal seed #1, is definitely getting Rostelecom, and I doubt they’d give Ashley back-to-back assignments, so that left Anna-which I though was kind of cool anyway because she won this event in 2014. Of the 4-6 seeds (I’m going to call them “potato seeds”), Gracie will probably get SC because the 2nd-ranked American at worlds usually does. Gabrielle Daleman has cemented herself as the #1 Canadian lady and will almost assuredly get a spot here, as will Kaetlyn Osmond. I threw in two unpredictable but potentially-competitive Russians-Elizaveta and Adelina-for interest, and rounded out the medal contenders at this event with Rika Hongo. I feel like the US might want to send Mirai here, so in she went. Veronik is literally always the SC host pick and I don’t think that will change. Again, the rest are just there.

CUP OF CHINA 

Cup of China is, traditionally, the GP that nobody wants, but last year it turned out to be one of the best events of the series. Since China has few ladies skaters, this could be kind of tricky, but I think I have an idea of who’ll go here.

  1. Medal seed: Ashley Wagner
  2. Potato seed: Satoko Miyahara
  3. Zijun Li
  4. Ziquan Zhao
  5. Elizabet Tursynbaeva
  6. Maria Sotskova
  7. Maria Artemieva
  8. So Youn Park
  9. Polina Edmunds
  10. Courtney Hicks
  11. Miyu Nakashio
  12. Host pick: Xiangning Li

MY REASONING: sending Ashley to this event was the only way to avoid having one medal seed do back-to-back events, which is exhausting and usually leads to meltdowns. Satoko will definitely get NHK, so I chose COC for her other event so she wouldn’t have back-to-back events. Zijun and Ziquan are extremely obvious choices and Xiangning Li (who I have never heard of) was the only other Chinese lady who even had a Wikipedia page, so I picked her for the host pick. Maria and Alena are here because almost nobody sends their top skaters to COC (sad but true)-same with Courtney and Polina (okay, maybe not so much Polina) and Miyu. Elizabet and So Youn, two of my favorite small-fedders, are in it for interest.

GRAND PRIX DE PARIS (Or whatever they changed the name of the one in France to) 

Two things: one, I don’t actually know the order of the events this year, so I’m just going by last year’s order. Two, I have no idea if I got the name right, only that it used to be Trophee Bompard and that it is now Grand Prix De Something. Hopefully I can be more accurate with my predictions than I was with my fact-checking…

  1. Medal seed: Evgenia Medvedeva
  2. Potato seed: Gracie Gold
  3. Mae Berenice Miete
  4. Laurine Lecavelier
  5. Adelina Sotnikova
  6. Rika Hongo
  7. Kanako Murakami
  8. Elizabet Tursynbaeva
  9. Nicole Rajicova
  10. Gabrielle Daleman
  11. Alaine Chartrand
  12. Host pick: Alizee Crozet

MY REASONING: to avoid back-to-back spots, Evgenia had to get this event. Gracie won it last year, so I sent her here for luck ;). Mae Berenice and Laurine are both 98% guaranteed to get this event. I don’t know if Adelina is going to do two GPs, but if she is, I can see her doing this one. I had Japan and Canada sending some of their top skaters to this as well. Alizee Crozet was apparently the 2016 French bronze medalist (thank you, Wikipedia), and I’d never heard of any other French ladies skaters, so in she went. Several of the other skaters are on

ROSTELECOM/CUP OF RUSSIA 

  1. Medal seed: Evgenia Medvedeva
  2. Potato seed: Elena Radionova
  3. Polina Edmunds
  4. Hannah Miller
  5. Kaetlyn Osmond
  6. Elizabet Tursynbaeva
  7. Angelina Kuchvalska
  8. So Youn Park
  9. Viveca Lindfors
  10. Ivett Toth
  11. Kailani Craine
  12. Host pick: Yulia Lipnitskaya

MY REASONING: Evgenia and Elena were fairly obvious choices, and I really want to see Yulia at Rostelecom. The rest are not particularly competitive, but I wanted at least one event where a bunch of lower-ranked skaters would get a chance to compete and this was it.

NHK TROPHY 

  1. Medal seed: Evgenia Medvedeva
  2. Potato Seed: Satoko Miyahara
  3. Mao Asada
  4. Yulia Lipnitskaya
  5. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
  6. Serafima Sakhanovich
  7. Mirai Nagasu
  8. Tyler Pierce
  9. Amy Lin
  10. Nathalie Weinzierl
  11. Angelina Kuchvalska
  12. Host pick: Wakaba Higuchi

MY REASONING: Satoko for the seed, Mao for the non-seed, pretty obvious. Wakaba for the host pick, fairly likely. I really want Yulia to get NHK and for Tyler to get anything other than an SA host pick. Many of these skaters are kind of only on here because their SB and the amount of age-ineligible juniors on the SB list got them a guaranteed GP. So…hopefully this was less of a failure than I think it might be.

 

 

Well, that’s a wrap. That was fun and I might do these kinds of posts for other disciplines.

Highlights/Low Points: NHK Trophy

Heeeeeeey people!

I hope I will be able to crank out this post in a semi-timely fashion after it took me four days to finish my Rostelecom post, LOL. So I’m going back to my dear friend the highs/lows recap, which I seem to be able to write with some degree of punctuality. #SayNoToProcrastination

BEFORE WE BEGIN:

It is of historical importance :p to note that all three standing records for men’s scores were broken at this event. The standing ones were set by Yuzuru Hanyu (SP-101) and Patrick Chan (FS and total-195? and 295). The new records were set by SP record holder Yuzuru Hanyu-106 for his SP, 216 for his FS and 322(!!!) overall. This was the first time a skater of any discipline broke 200 in the FS and 300 overall.

1. Highlight: Suprise GP Finalists! (Hubbell/Donohue-Short Dance)

At the beginning of the season (crazy to think we’re almost halfway through!), I thought Hubbell/Donohue were toast. All I’d seen of them was a very underwhelming, moth-wing-clad free dance at the US Classic, so I naturally didn’t think they’d be able to hold up to the ridiculously deep US dance field. But come Trophee Bompard, I was in for a shock: they actually managed to win a Grand Prix (ignoring the fact that they only skated a short dance and the field was pitifully shallow after Papadakis/Cizeron’s withdrawl). I couldn’t believe it-but then I watched their short dance.

It. Was. Breathtaking. And it still is. Another stellar performance of it at NHK secured them a spot in the Final (huge shocker!) and helped Team USA pull off something no country has ever done: qualifying three ice dance teams to the Final.

Hallelujah, indeed. 🙂

2. Low Point: This was no Skate Canada (Ashley Wagner-Free Skate)

 

There were no falls, and she still made the Final, but that was about the only redeeming quality of this performance. (That and the dress, which, by the way, is fabulous.) Her scoring protocol sheet was a minefield of carrots (AKA underrotation signs, AKA these things <) and edge calls. She also lost a lot of points in her spins and steps, only getting a level 4 on one (out of five). One element, a choreographic step sequence, only got a level 1. That, and the URs/Downgrades, proved her undoing, and she finished 4th-a disappointing showing after her personal-best performance at Skate Canada. Her gold medal from that event was able to save her spot in the Final, but she will need to step it up if she wants to medal there.

3. Highlight: An American in Pairs And Also the Final (Scimeca/Knierim SP and FS) 

 


 

American pairs are back on the map.

(Also, I’ve been waiting for a chance to use that pun for several months, so I hope you found it witty. 🙂 )

A U.S. Pair team hadn’t qualified for the GPF in eight years…until Friday. Scimeca/Knierim rose to the challenge, qualifying in 5th place with a silver (Skate America) and a bronze (NHK). This was not their best outing by any means (although their consistent scores in the high 60’s this season, which continued here, are very encouraging to see), but it was enough to hold on to the podium. And neither of them fell on an SBS jump, which was awesome (though several had wonky landings, hands down, etc.). I’m very excited to see what they’ll be able to pull off at the Final!

4. Low Point: UUUUURGGHHHHHHH. (Maxim Kovtun FS) 

 

I actually enjoy this program, so no, the ridiculous facial expressions and overacting are not the focus of this rant. (I find they amuse me greatly. *Sips tea formally*)

The focus of this rant is the multiple pops, stepouts, etc. in this program. Three pops, a Zayak violation (he did three 2As), and a whole lot of -3 GOEs is just plain unacceptable for a technically-proficient, top-level skater. Ironically, the program was the highlight: apparently over-the-top, goofy interpretations of classical music are Maxim’s forte (pun not intended) and he sold the heck out of this program. But it couldn’t make up for the technical errors, and he ended this competition in an embarrassing 10th place.

5. Highlight: Yup, she’s back! (Satoko Miyahara-Free Skate)

In an interesting plot twist, a diminutive teenager with no triple-triple (at least, in the FS) beat out a three-time world champ, the reigning GPF bronze medalist, and a bunch more solid contenders to win her first Grand Prix. Key to her success (besides all of her actual competition completely bombing, but I choose to pretend that never happened) was that she fully rotated almost all of her jumps, which she usually struggles with; of course, that was very exciting to see. Combined with maxed-out spin levels and excellent “PCS qualities” (interpretation, presentation, skating skills, etc.), this skate was more than enough to win and was the first time  she broke 130 in international competition. After a rather disappointing outing at Skate America, this was exactly what she needed to set herself up well going into the Final (her first ever). Well done!

6. Low Point: The (Literal) Fall of Mao Asada (Mao Asada SP) 

After her great performance at Cup of China, I though Mao would easily be the top skater this year.

Not so.

I’d actually prefer to pretend this never happened, but it did, and *sigh* I’m not so sure if she’s actually going to be that competitive if she keeps skating like this 😦

7. Highlight: WORLD RECORD Y’ALL! 

If you haven’t already, watch these programs now.

Done?

Good. Think about it. Reflect on it. Contemplate the meaning of life or whatever. Just commit this to memory, because it may never be topped-and certainly not for a very, very long time.

8. Low Point: The Pogo Slide™ (Anna Pogorilaya-Short Program) 

Anna Pogorilaya was once a consistent, robotic teenage jumping bean. But those days have gone by.

Anna’s artistry has improved, but in return, she’s become a class-five headcase mostly known for her terrifying wipeout falls (henceforth to be known as the Pogo Slide™-if you don’t get it, watch the video). And this was no exception.

She fought back valiantly in the FS, but it couldn’t undo the damage done by this 11th-place short program. I seriously hope she can fix whatever is going on with her before Russian nationals, because it is going to be a bloodbath for those three spots and if she skates like this, she could become this year’s Yulia.

9. Highlight: How exactly did this happen? (Courtney Hicks-Free Skate) 

If you’d told me before the Grand Prix started that three different American ladies would medal at GPs this year, I would’ve guessed the obvious Gracie, Ashley and Polina, or perhaps Karen Chen. But Courtney? …Never in a million years. So I was equally shocked and excited when I found out she’d won the silver! It only adds to the accomplishment that she did it in such a stacked field-if she can beat Ashley and Mao, I have no doubt she could get the third spot for Worlds if she skated clean at Nationals. Courtney’s (and Mirai Nagasu’s) great results here threw a wrench into my Nationals prediction; either could beat Polina if they skated like they did here, and there’s also Karen, Tyler Pierce, Mariah Bell and Angela Wang, who’ve done well on the Challenger Series/GP. Who knows?

The hunt for the Nationals bronze just got way more interesting.

1. Highlight: If they don’t win Nationals I’ll flip (Shibutanis FD) 

I love this program more and more every time I watch it, and the scores are going up with each outing. This FD scored them a personal best score of 106.35(!), which would have had them just a few hundredths of a point out of third at Worlds (in the FD). It’s not inconceivable to think they could be on the podium in Boston, and certainly possible they could win Nationals. Both they and H/D have scored higher in the free dance this season than Chock/Bates, who were, until now, the undisputed top Americans. They’re both in serious contention for the National title, which would’ve been unheard of only a year ago. And I am really, really excited to see how it all plays out.

On to the GPF!

Introducing the FS Fashion Series + The best and worst costumes at Cup of China

Every figure skating fan watches the sport for different reasons: some love the technical side and the athleticism, some enjoy the drama that often accompanies skating, some like to follow the fascinating personalities involved in the sport, and some enjoy skating during the Olympics but really don’t care about it the other three years of every quad. But nearly every group of fans agrees on one thing: costumes are a big part of the appeal of skating. While gorgeous, drool-worthy costumes can enhance one’s enjoyment of a performance, it can be even more fun when an unexplainably strange outfit appears in a major event. Costumes are one of the main things that set figure skating apart from other sports, and I think that’s why they are of so much interest.

So, as they’re certainly one of my favorite skating things, I decided to start a series focusing on the best and worst costumes at major events-beginning with Cup of China. (This will cover ladies and dance, as that is all I watched of CoC.)

DANCE 

BEST: Hawayek/Baker-Short Dance

United State's Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker compete in the Pair's Ice Dance Short Dance program during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating held at the Capital Gymnasium in Beijing, China, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Perhaps a bit much on the skirt (that much tulle is a bit overwhelming), but I loved the concept of these costumes. They’re fairly traditional ballet costumes (as they should be in a Nutcracker program)-I happen to like that. That shade of pink looks gorgeous on Kaitlin, and I liked the ombre bodice and gold details.

BEST: Chock/Bates-Short Dance

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Because Chock/Bates’ short dance was not a story/narrative program with characters to portray, they could’ve done pretty much anything with their costuming and, provided it wasn’t atrocious or tacky, it probably would’ve made sense. I really liked what they decided to go with. Yes, they probably could’ve shown up at prom in these, but I liked the colors, they moved very well on the ice, and there was just enough bling. 🙂 Interesting to note that Madison designs their costumes herself-I think these were a job very well done.

BEST: Chock/Bates again-Free Dance 

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Another excellent costume for this team-Madisom & Evan really hit the costuming mark this season! Evan’s costume is rather meh (at least it’s not encrusted in swarovskis…), but Madison’s is fabulous. I am a complete sucker for ombre, and I also loved the one-shoulder neckline. This was actually the second FD dress she’s had this season and I definitely like it better than the last one. I really hope they don’t change their costumes again because these ones are great!

THE ACTUAL BEST :P: Cappellini/Lanotte-Free Dance 

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I unfortunately couldn’t find a picture that fully showed these costumes (that’s why I used two-to show different angles), but take my word for it: they were some of the best ice dance costumes I have EVER seen! I absolutely loved Anna’s dress, and I usually hate black dresses because they’re usually boring-but this one wasn’t. The crystal-work was sublimely done and added a lot of interest, as did the “belt”, sweetheart neckline, and flared skirt. Luca’s understated costume was a fine complement to Anna’s: it wasn’t the stereotypical “I only wear black” men’s costume, but basic enough not to distract from Anna’s dress, which deserved the complete and undivided attention of the audience. :p I cannot wait to see these again…*heart eyes*!

WORST: Wang/Liu-Short dance

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Again, there were no good pictures of these costumes, and this is a screenshot of the YouTube video of their SD, taken on my iPhone-but even that should show the glaringly bright orangey pink color. ‘Cause a waltz year ain’t a waltz year until somebody shows up in neon. 😉 (Also, that side cutout needs to go.)

WORST: Ilinykh/Zhiganshin-Free dance 

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Give me one good reason you should ever have a face on the back of your shirt.

LADIES 

BEST: Mao Asada-Free Skate

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Mao is, in my mind, consistently one of the best-costumed skaters, and this dress was no exception. Lavender is a great color on her (and she’s had at least three lavender dresses I can think of), and I really like purple, so of course I was going to like this dress. 🙂 I really like that it’s made out of mesh-it gives it a much airier feel than other materials would, and it moves well (especially the bell sleeves, which are gorgeous). The butterfly appliques were a nice touch as well. The ombre effect on the sleeves and skirt were yet another cherry on top-there was really nothing I didn’t love about this dress

BEST: Hannah Miller-Short Program

It may have just been that I loved this program, but I thought Hannah’s Indian-inspired purple dress was just perfect for it. The gold details were a fun touch.

BEST: Zijun Li-Short Program

Zijun is another skater who always has beautiful costumes. I thought this one was particularly nice. The sparkle-factor was through the roof and I liked it! 🙂

Also-surprise! I found a gif! #WhyAreThereNoGoodPicturesOfAnythignFromThisEvent

BEST: Elena Radionova-Short Program

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Peach is one of my favorite colors. Elena is one of my favorite skaters. She happens to look amazing in peach. Of course I liked this dress. 🙂 The longer skirt really worked (it usually doesn’t) and the flowiness of the dress gave it a lovely, ethereal quality.

THE BEST: Rika Hongo-Free Skate

I will forever love the skater who made a Riverdance dress that is Riverdancy without being tacky, and Rika has done just that! A great dress to back up a great competition! I love the triangle thingies on the skirt and the flower appliques at the top of the bodice.

WORST: Courtney Hicks-Free Skate

Courtney, I love you, but this is hideous. Mustard yellow is nobody’s friend.

WORST: Nicole Rajicova-Short Program

This dress has one too many cutouts.

WORST: Zheng Lu-Free Skate

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Something about the cut of this dress was just not flattering.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, I’d love to hear from you! 

Recap: Skate Canada Highlights + Low Points

Hey people!

The second Grand Prix event (where has the time gone? *dramatic gestures*), Skate Canada, finished a few hours ago, and I’m going to do the highlights format I’ve used twice before. Let’s get started!

10. Highlight: Gabrielle Daleman finally lives up to her potential 

If you watched the video of Gabby’s short program before reading the explanation of why I chose this as a highlight, you may (rightly) be scratching your head. This short program would’ve been a low point if used by itself, but that’s what the free skate is for…right?

This is why I chose Gabby as a highlight.

She has always been a skater who had great potential but never lived up to it. The elements were there, but there was always something stopping her from doing them as well as she could, whether it was illness, nerves, or anything else. After a disastrous showing at the 2015 world championships, nobody was quite sure if she would ever be a real contender. Many wrote her off, and her short program only reinforced that. But this, one of her finest showings ever, was the complete opposite. She placed an impressive 3rd in the free skate and 5th overall-nothing to sneeze at for the 21st skater in the world.

9. Low Point: Kaetlyn Osmond makes a dramatic reentrance

Kaetlyn Osmond was the leading Canadian lady for several years until an injury forced her to miss the 2014-15 season. Her enormous jumps had placed her in the top 10 at worlds a few times, so many fans expected her to be a factor when she returned. When Kaetlyn recorded new personal best scores at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September, it seemed like they were right. And her short program at Skate Canada, while bad (she took a freaky, very painful-looking faceplant on a flying camel and another spill on her double axel), was scored high enough to leave her a chance of medaling. Many were anticipating a medal for her.

Heh…not.

I…don’t even want to talk about this. But this showing does not seem like a sign of good things to come.

8. Highlight: Timothy Dolensky’s Free Skate

This was my highlight of the men’s event. Just gorgeous. I hope he can continue to skate like this.

7. Low Point: Yuzuru Hanyu’s short program

Yuzuru Hanyu, as an Olympic and world champion, was the heavy favorite to win this event (despite his awful track record with Grand Prix events), and he almost did. But this short program did not start him off well.

I thought he had it in the bag after the gorgeous triple axel at the beginning of the program. But then my wi-fi spazzed out and IceNetwork refused to play the rest of his program…and when it came back on, he was in the kiss and cry getting scores that would land him in 7th place. I didn’t know how that happened, and I wondered how he could possibly get scores that low.

A quick consultation with the internet told me everything. Read: he doubled his quad toe and the triple toe on the back end of his 3-3. The doubled quad didn’t count because it was illegal. The doubled 3-3 didn’t count because it was a repeated jump (even the 3Lutz on the front end was invalidated). It was a mess, and I wasn’t sure if he could medal even if he skated perfectly. (I had nothing to worry about, but of course, I didn’t know that then.)

This was a prime example of losing the competition in the short program.

6. Highlight: New personal bests & a GP win for Ashley Wagner 

Didn’t see that coming.

If you told me before the event that Ashley would beat the reigning world champion at a Grand Prix event, I probably would’ve called you insane. But it happened, and this was hands-down her best short program ever. No underrotations! No edge calls! No lost spin levels! Even though I am not a huge fan of the program, I was super happy that she did so well (and luckily for her, Liza Tuktamysheva splatted, knocking out the only other skater who could’ve even come close to that score). She recorded a new personal best SP score of 70-point-something.

Ashley’s free skate was not quite as good as her SP, but it was still excellent and enough for both another personal best and the win. (131 is a great score-especially with two underrotated jumps and an edge warning on her lutz.) She kept the same program she had last year, which is equal parts smart (she knows it already) and questionable (she had some of her most memorable performances ever with it last season, so she has a lot to live up to), but it proved to be a good strategic choice here. This was a very good season opener and I hope she can build on this momentum.

Also, her new dress is gorgeous, so good job on that.

5. Low point: 50,000 music cuts of death 

No, it’s not this one. This program, while dismal in its own right-which was more the execution than the actual material-is just for reference in case you hadn’t seen it (as it’s most of the reason she placed so low).

Yes, this is what I was talking about.

If anyone could tell me what “Summertime”, “Jailhouse Rock”, and “Sing, Sing, Sing” have to do with each other, I would be very grateful as I have NO idea. This program falls squarely into the “What were they thinking?” category and that is an excellent question. That might have been slightly more forgivable if she had skated it well, but…she didn’t. Sigh.

I honestly think Alena is done for at this point.

4. Highlight: The rise of M-T/M 2.0 

After a rather poor GP showing last year, I was very surprised and happy that Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro managed to win the bronze here! Considering the field here, I didn’t expect them to pull that off-but they did, and in rather convincing fashion. I was impressed!

I was not a huge fan of this program as the repetitive music drove me nuts, but I love Kirsten’s sass and that can save virtually any performance.

This, I thought, was a much better program, no matter how overused the music-I think it’s a good change of pace from their typical bold, sassy programs. It was executed very well, and they’re vastly improved as a team from any of their outings last year. At this point, I would definitely have them as the third Canadian pair at worlds.

3. Low point: Marchei/Hotarek withdraw

Apparently, they had to withdraw due to a concussion sustained by Ondrej in practice. According to the glorious wasteland that is the internet, it happened when Valentina elbowed him in the face on a twist. If that’s true, girl’s got reeeeally strong elbows…

That aside, it was really disappointing that they withdrew-I like this team, and they had a shot at a medal (even if their music  was Moonlight Sonata with lyrics that were clearly not in the original, which was NOT okay. NOT OKAY! :p)

2. Highlight: Yuka Nagai’s triumphant deubt

Prior to this event, I had no idea who Yuka was. But when she skated on, I thought, “whoa, did this girl steal Mao’s Madame Butterfly dress?” and then she ACTUALLY SKATED TO MADAME BUTTERFLY and then I had to pay attention because this was a mini-Mao and I wondered if she was any good. She was! I was super impressed with her short program.

I didn’t actually watch Yuka’s FS, but she came in third, so it was probably good. Even if it wasn’t, major congratulations on a bronze in your first Grand Prix event! I expect good things from her this season.

1. SHIIIIIIIIIIIIBBBSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Shibs are my favorite dance team. I love them a lot. I will always love them a lot. But I must admit that I was very worried about them after a terrible outing at the Ondrej Nepela Trophy a few weeks ago. I wanted them to skate their best here but I wasn’t sure if it would happen.

But it did! And this happened, and it was epic! And amazing! And everything a short dance should be! And I cannot stop using exclamation marks!

Buuuuuut…

IT GOT BETTER!

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Eh-hem. Sorry. I will attempt to act dignified now.

This was awesome, ‘kay? They finally have a free dance that totally fits them, is capable of scoring very well, and can contend with any of the top teams. I could not be more thrilled with this performance and I kinda thought they were robbed, but I can’t exactly do anything about that. It looks like they should make the Grand Prix Final if they medal at their next event, so that’s good too.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Comments? :p I’d love to hear from you!

Recap: Live from Skate America!!!

Hi everybody!

First off, I apologize for not covering several of the recent Challenger Series events…my schedule has been rather hectic and I didn’t get a chance to watch them. But this time, you’re in for a treat!

We all know that the Grand Prix started this week with Skate America, and I was fortunate to be able to attend all the events in person. I had a blast and I can’t wait to give you the inside scoop!

Since I loved the format of the “top 10 highlights/low points” post I did for the US Classic, I’m going to use it because I have stuff I want to cover in every discipline.

10. Highlight: Just in time for Halloween…Gilles/Poirier continue to innovate

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are a very divisive team-you either love them or hate them and there is really no in between. I usually love them , and their short dance (shown here), set to an odd mix of Beatles songs and classical waltz music and featuring some of the oddest outfits I have ever seen, is so crazy it actually works. It’s a lot of fun, and a breath of fresh air from the nearly-identical Masquerade Waltz programs we’ve seen too many of (even for somebody like me, who loves classical waltzes and typically hates “edgy” modern interpretations). The free dance, however…well, it’s almost Halloween, I guess?

I really don’t even know what this is supposed to be…from what I’ve seen, the music is from a famous Norwegian film (a historical thriller-drama, if Wikipedia is correct), and their choreography looks very zombie-esque. I feel like they’re trying to emulate Zhiganshina & Gaszi, a famously wacky German dance team whose signature program was a zombie free dance (albeit more literal than this, but still…). This is a bit toned down from that, but it is a bit avant-garde for my taste…and what is up with those fake tattoos on her tights? Piper, who convinced you to wear this?!?

While I was not a fan of the free dance, I liked the short dance a lot and I have to give them props for trying something that’s not as “safe” as last year’s material. Innovation is rather rare in ice dance (most couples tend to copy programs that the judges liked in the past), and Piper and Paul consistently bring that to the table, which is really what makes them stand out as a team.

9. Low point: Denis Ten bombs an early-season event…as usual

Denis Ten has always been a late-season peaker, as well as ridiculously injury-prone (if he’s not injured, he has boot issues or the flu or some other unfortunate condition, it seems), so it was rather inevitable that he would not be at his (glorious-e.g. 2015 Four Continents) best at this competition. But what he actually did was so spectacularly bad it was almost impossible to watch.

The short program, while not even close to his best, left him with a small chance of a medal, so I was optimistic that he would at least be 4th (which would give him a small chance to make the Grand Prix Final). But no, it was not to be…

This might be the single worst program Denis has ever skated. After about four jumps, I had to look away (thank you, Twitter, for distracting me from this incredible meltdown), and that is never a good thing. *Sobs* HIS PROGRAMS ARE BEAUTIFUL…AND THEY DESERVE TO BE SKATED WELL…

*Sigh* Denis is an extremely frustrating skater to like.

8. Highlight: Nazarova/Nikitin get Mozart right 

Mozart programs have been all the rage ever since Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron won Worlds with their acclaimed Mozart free dance, but a lot of them have been extremely bland.

Not this one!

I never thought I would like a Mozart free dance because I didn’t really like Papadakis/Cizeron’s version (the original), but Nazarova/Nikitin’s version was gorgeous and far more interesting to watch than any of the other versions I’ve seen. This style is a complete change for them (last year, their free dance was an edgy, modern dance-inspired piece), but it suits them surprisingly well. And while their scores weren’t fantastic (that score would’ve put them in 17th at worlds, which is where they placed last year), the program has potential. I’m excited to see more of this team!

7. Low Point: Alaine Chartrand very nearly makes me cry 

Going by the short program alone, this seems like an odd choice for a low as, aside from some underrotation calls, Alaine’s short program was quite nice. (I really love this program.) She didn’t fall, her spins and footwork were nice, and she had great energy. Buuuut…

This also happened. Althought Alaine was in 6th after the short, this free skate was a Denis-level disaster. I really wanted her to do well here…but after that skate, her chances of a medal were, like her music, Gone With the Wind.

This was honestly depressing and I seriously hope she can get it together before her next event. Alaine has medaled on the Grand Prix before-what is she doing in last?!?

6. Highlight: Another silver medal! Scimeca/Knierim break through

Coming into this, I didn’t think that Scimeca & Knierim, the top American pair team, would place higher than 3rd. (And, according to Alexa’s Instagram, neither did they!) But in a field of relatively clean but unmemorable skates, they managed to lead after the short program, clearing their personal best by three points with a score of 69.69. I was not sure if their FS would be enough to keep them in the lead, but the fact that they were in first after the short was extremely exciting-I don’t even know when an American pair last did that!

This program was edgy, intense and mature, and their facial expressions were downright frightening (Alexa was giving us quite a bit of the infamous “Oda O”, while Chris was extremely blank in comparison), but it worked. They were very committed to the performance and Alexa in particular was selling the heck out of it.

Alexa & Chris’s free skate was not their best, but, fortunately, neither was anyone else’s, so they were able to hang onto the silver medal (despite placing fourth in the free). I like this program but it is a little bit flat at this point in the season-it should grow with time-but this was an excellent first outing and puts them in a good position to make the Grand Prix Final.

5. Low Point: Yulia ain’t lookin’ too good…

Ever since she burst onto the scene in 2013, Yulia Lipnitskaya’s emotional performances, maturity, and insane flexibility have made her a favorite of many skating fans (myself included). Most everybody was expecting great things from her until she hit a growth spurt, bombed at the Grand Prix Final, and, in a dramatic end to her season, came in 9th at Russian Nationals. And it hasn’t exactly been uphill from there.

Those of us who were wishing for an Elizaveta Tuktamysheva-type comeback from Yulia didn’t get one.

While this short program wasn’t terrible, it left her in 5th, which certainly wasn’t what she wanted. ( I really don’t like this program-I don’t like Elvis, and the costume looked like a 5-pack of highlighters threw up on it-which didn’t help matters any.)

The free skate was even worse.

I actually like this program, and it was lovely from a performance aspect, but the jumps just weren’t there. Her spins were superb and the interpretation excellent, but there were too many costly jump mistakes for her to pull up in the standings. She had to settle for 6th, and after this I’m left wondering what her future prospects are if this is the form she’s in.

4. Highlight: Hawayek/Baker prove that Finlandia was a fluke

After a rather dismal showing at the Finlandia Trophy, I was concerned about Hawayek & Baker’s outlook this season (which was rather worrisome as they’re one of my favorite teams). But they proved me wrong, and I’m incredibly relieved that they skated well here! Their short dance is lovely and deserves a good performance-which they had here.

Their free dance was what I was most worried about (they had one of their worst skates ever in the Finlandia free dance), so I was hoping they would skate it well enough to hold onto 4th. They did! This is a great free dance for them (very original but still fitting for them and of a similar style to the stuff they’ve done so well in past years) and, judging by the audience reaction and scores, the judges and fans like it. It was a huge relief to see them skate it this well, and I will be excited to see how their next Grand Prix goes.

3. Low point: I can’t even…

Florent, who told you this was a good idea?!?

Do I even need to say anything else?

2. Highlight: Chock & Bates unveil spectacular short dance

Okay, before I get into this, I heard that this was only the THIRD TIME they’d ever done this program in full.

Just let that sink in, because if they can skate like this the third time they do a program, I don’t even want to know what it’s going to look like at Nationals!

That aside, this short dance (their third this season) is absolutely spectacular. It was the only dance program of the event to get a standing ovation, it’s gorgeous, it’s powerful, it’s memorable, and (shallow note) the costumes were beautiful-this one’s a world-champion program if I ever saw one and I think it was a great choice to switch programs. I can’t wait to see this again at Cup of China and I expect it to be amazing.

1. Best moment of the event: Gracie Gold’s Free Skate

I wanted this to be Gracie’s year before it even began, but I didn’t know if it would be as she has a bit of a problem with inconsistency…but with better programs than ever, I was confident she could pull it off.

And pull it off she did.

While her short program was good aside from a doubled flip (which was invalid, as it was supposed to be a triple), it would take a lot to win, as she was five points out of first. I was extremely nervous watching her, but I had no reason to be-aside from a doubled salchow (apparently she pops jumps instead of falling now…), Gracie’s free skate was technically perfect, artistically much improved from any of her previous programs, and very crowd-pleasing. She got a personal best score of 137 (which was already a 9-point improvement from last year’s season best!) for a total of 202-good for second place. Not only did she show how much her consistency has improved, she’s now in a great position to make the Final.

I couldn’t have picked a better event to attend.

Thoughts? Did I miss anything? Leave a comment! Thanks for reading!