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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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. 😦

This Thing is Nuts: A “Highlight Reel” of TCC

Despite its many logistical flaws, the fist day of the Team Challenge Cup won me over. Great skating? Check. Cute Kiss-And-Cry antics from the teams? double check. TWO RATIFIED QUAD FREAKING FLIPS? Triple check. (Should that be quad check? Probably.) Prom-posals? Yup, it had those, too. The fun camaraderie of this event won me over.

(No, seriously. This thing is like World Team Trophy times 500.)

So, here are my top 10 highs/lows of this event. I did not get to watch pairs or dance, so those will probably not be in this.

10. Highlight: Promposal 

 

No, this program was not the highlight. (It was a bit rough.) Skip to 6:15 for one of the iconic moments of the competition, in which Nam Nguyen asks Polina Edmunds to prom in the kiss-and-cry. Literally EVERYONE was talking about this-the commentators mentioned it, like, eight times throughout the event-and yes, in case you hadn’t heard, she said yes: https://twitter.com/PolinaEdmunds/status/724065223053733888. 😉

9. Low Point: Boyang Jin runs out of Quad-Power™

Official #Quadster (I made that up and I don’t care :p) Boyang Jin had a remarkable start to his season and continued that form, on and off, throughout the season, culminating in a surprise bronze medal at Worlds. However, it would appear that end-of-season exhaustion set in here, and he had mistakes on nearly every jump pass. When Boyang’s jumps aren’t working, there is really nothing to hold the program together, so this was really depressing.

Side note: Boyang confuses me because he can be such a showman in exhibitions (I was at the Worlds ex and the crowd went ABSOLUTELY BERSERK when he skated), but he shows so little personality and expression in competition. Why? Clearly he can be a great performer, with the right vehicle. Hoping he gets some better programs next year, preferably to more upbeat music. Heck, even his techno ex could be the inspiration for a new SP. (Minus the bouncy ball juggling, obviously.)

8. Highlight: Denis Ten Doesn’t Die 

Denis Ten seems to have remarkably bad luck with injuries almost every season, but this one was particularly bad: he only competed three times prior to Worlds (which he bombed) because of various injuries. Lack of training time combined with his all-over-the-place inconsistency was, understandably, a recipe for disaster – until TCC. He put out a perfect short program, which I didn’t get to watch because I was in the car, but I read the protocols and I’m sure it was lovely while it lasted. Which it didn’t. He reverted to his usual ways in the free skate.

7. Low Point: Elena Radionova Loses It 

Even while going through a growth spurt, Elena Radionova has managed to put out an admirable number of clean programs this season. Even if she didn’t skate clean, she never truly melted down (I think her worst skate prior to this one was her GPF FS, where she fell once). But whatever happened – exhaustion, growing even more and not being able to adjust, fill in the blank – Elena just couldn’t hold it together in her SP here. She missed the opening combination (due to a scratchy landing on her 3Lz) and I thought she would be fine because she is always so good at tacking combinations onto solo jumps when she misses the first one. But when she tried to put a 3T on her solo 3F, she went down and it clearly spooked her because she opened up and popped her 2A (not just into a single, but forward and on two feet). It was kind of a mess and she was clearly mad at herself. I don’t know what exactly happened, but I really hope it was not an indicator of how she will be skating come next season.

6. Highlight: Small but Mighty Tursynbaeva’s Flawless SP 

Elizabet Tursynbaeva, or “Bitty Betty,” as I like to call her ;), has really made a case for herself this season. In her senior debut season, she medaled at four Challenger Series events and placed 4th and 7th at her GPs, 3rd at the Youth Olympics, 5th at Junior Worlds, and 12th at Senior Worlds. She’s also competed more than almost any other skater, skating in ten events. So it’s rather incredible that she still has enough energy to put out clean programs at the end of the season! Her sassy, charming “I Got Rhythm” short is much better suited to her style than the first one she had this season, and when skated clean (like here), is quite a lot of fun to watch.

5. Highlight: New SP & two Personal Bests from Jason Brown

Jason Brown sat out most of the season due to a back injury and made his highly-anticipated return to competition here. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this SP (which is new); I think I like his lyrical programs more than most of his upbeat ones, which (while excellent when done well) can come off as slightly cheesy.

Also, I could not believe that he wore a plain black shirt (blouse?) in competition. Dude, please don’t bedazzle that. It went very well with his understated program.

4. Highlight: Evgenia Medvedeva Breaks More Records

While I was not ever fully convinced that Evgenia’s first world record was merited, congratulations to her for breaking it. Even being skeptical of the merits of said record, you can’t deny that she is ridiculously amazing. Also, I really want her to skate to Valse Triste next year.

3. Highlight: In Which I Enjoy a Program I Previously Said I Didn’t Like

I have said some rather harsh things about Ashley Wagner’s short program on here before. However, I take them back after this performance, which I think was one of her best ever-in either segment. She got really into it, and the crowd got into it even moreso; at one point she even started clapping along to her music in a spin. That is how you engage and audience! Even though I’m getting tired of Moulin Rouge by now, at least I can now appreciate this program properly. 🙂

2. Quad Flipping Leprechaun is Numero Uno

Shoma Uno made history as the first skater to land a ratified quad flip in competition, landing one in his SP and one in his FS. Both were spectacular, but I prefer the FS, and the leprechaun reference would not make much sense if I didn’t include a picture of his green FS outfit, so I chose to highlight the FS. Also, 3A-1lo-3F has got to be one of the coolest combinations I have ever seen.

1. #TheFirebirdRises

Gaaaaah, I am a blubbering mess…Gracie really needed this after Worlds and I’m ecstatic that she was able to put out a near-perfect program to end the season. I’m actually sad to see this program go – #TheSquat will be sorely missed. 😉

 

And now, I must face the reality that the off-season is upon us. GAAAAH! For this reason, don’t be confused if gymnastics and/or Summer Olympics-related posts start popping up in the summer. It’s just a coping mechanism. Expect many season recaps, lots of inane skating fashion posts, and possibly some random raving about Melitina Staniouta. 🙂 

Beantown Beat: The World Championships Extravaganza, pt. 2

I have not written any blog posts since I left home. *Scampers away ashamedly*

When I have not been at the rink, I’ve been sleeping/walking around to historical sites. So I haven’t really had time to write (considering that I get back from the arena at about midnight).

But now it’s raining, so I don’t have to go to historical sites, so I’m going to write more blog posts!

The Last Three Events from the Perspective of a Non-Fan 

I am at this event with a person who is most definitely not a skater, or even a fan (unless fan is defined as “will tolerate it”). So I wanted to get his opinions on everything to see what this event would look like from a non-skater’s perspective. He did not remember enough names to have this completely nailed down, but here is what he thought of the ones he did remember:

Free Dance 

Papadakis/Cizeron: thought they were boring. Did not “get” their skating, if you will.

Shibs: thought they were good & exciting enough for his tastes.

Chock/Bates: liked them as well. He seemed impressed by some of their elements but didn’t say much else.

Cappellini/Lanotte: he said they started out slow but liked them by the end. I told him I would get married in her dress, he wondered if I said “married” or “buried”, and this got turned into a string of ridiculous puns that lasted the entire program. If the lady sitting next to us (who hasn’t said a single word through the three events we’ve been to) is reading this, I am incredibly sorry.

Weaver/Poje: Loved their costumes, but didn’t say anything about their skating.

This was all I remember him saying, besides that Stepanova/Bukin’s music was horrific.

Pairs Short 

Sui/Han: impressed by their elements and liked their costumes, but didn’t say much else.

Duhamel/Radford: liked their music. I don’t remember if he said anything else.

Volosozhar/Trankov: very impressed by their triple twist. Apparently, he really likes twists.  Didn’t like the costumes.

Savchenko/Massot: loved them. Was completely blown away by their twist, loved their costumes, and thought Aliona was pretty. (I tried to get his opinions on people’s actual skating, but he didn’t really remember most of them…except the twists.)

Stolbova/Klimov: he liked them for reasons he could not really describe, but he did remember that he liked Ksenia’s haircut. In his own words, “it matches her personality when she skates.”

Tarasova/Morozov: hated Vladimir’s outfit, but he liked their twist and the program itself.

Men’s Free 

Javier Fernandez: liked that he had personality, and that he skated clean.

Yuzuru Hanyu: was a bit disappointed that he wasn’t the perfect supernatural being I made him out to be. :p I went a little overboard with the “Yuzuru never makes mistakes and is probably an extraterrestrial” thing, and he bought it…but I think he enjoyed it somewhat?

Boyang Jin: was getting food during his program.

Mikhail Kolyada: didn’t have much to say about him.

Patrick Chan: thought he was boring and didn’t like his music.

Adam Rippon: liked his music, that he skated clean, and that he was American and skated clean. Also, he liked his shirt “except the sheer back”, as he put it.

Shoma Uno: indifferent, except that we’ve met him. Agreed that the faceplant looked painful.

Now, Onto the Actual Skating: Free Dance Highlights 

So, Papadakis/Cizeron defended their title, and I liked them better than I have before but I still didn’t love this program. A little boring, and not emotionally moving (for me) at all. I agree with the results-they definitely deserved to win-but this performance did not deserve a world record.

I hyperventilated violently/convulsed/almost fainted.

Literally.

I gotta say, this program has really grown on me. I love Rach 2 but never thought it would work for a free dance; however, by the end of the season, Chock/Bates sold me on this.

I cannot properly express my love for this dress, but I can definitely express my appreciation of this program. It’s good to have a few good free dances that are more lighthearted to offset all the serious ones, and this fit the bill. It was really well-performed here; “frothy” is the word that comes to my mind to describe it.

I still don’t love this program, but I could better-appreciate how technically difficult it was in person. Very intricate, with a lot of difficult transitions. Still boring, though. #GetWeapoABetterFreeDance2k16

More Actual Skating™: Men’s Event Highlights 

In which another 2015 World Champion defends their title. This was really fun to watch in person-he has so much personality and the crowd got really into it. (Whole sections of spectators started screaming whenever he skated by…now that’s performance quality! 😉 Anecdotal bit: one of my close friends is a massive fan of his (we have nicknamed him “Suavier” :p) and wanted updates, so I filmed little bits of this and sent them to her. When I sent her the one of his scores, she went BESERK; this enhanced the experience, obviously. I think we brought him luck. *Wink wink*

YUZURU, YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE A PERSON!

I think I cursed him with my constant “Yuzuru is a Supernatural Extraterrestrial Robot” talk. Oops. Remind me not to say that about Evgenia. (She may not have three quads, but she is reaching robotic levels of consistency and I don’t want to curse her.)

This was a very boring program, but the quads were exciting! Very exciting. He is Quadmaster™. *Nods approvingly* Maybe he should do ice dance to work on his artistry…it would make him unstoppable. LOL.

I think Maxim Kovtun has FINALLY been bumped from the Russian #1 spot. I like Mikhail. He is a good performer, has a biellman, and there is something new and innovative about his style. He’s very quirky, if you will, and his programs are unique and unlike anyone elses’. So I am glad he made such a strong debut here. (Now we just need to get Adian Pitkeev on next year’s world team!)

He may not have gotten onto the podium, but this was a bit of a disaster and I think it was overscored. However, his SS are remarkable in person.

In which the skaters of #Murica actually feed off the hometown advantage and skate well!

See above.

I have to say, this was one of my favorite performances of the event! Yes, it was clean, but it was also very ARTISTIC and PRETTY and all-around extremely enjoyable to watch. THIS is what an alternate is supposed to do (*clears throat* Nam Nguyen): go out and slay in a higher-ranked skater’s absence. Grant definitely succeeded on that front, and I might actually rewatch this performance (I never rewatch men…).

I like things that make me laugh, so I liked this program.

Voiceover: “if you jump, I jump too!”

Jorik: *does jump*

Me: *does single of same jump for lols*

Now, Pairs

In which the Boss Queen and her loyal Bodyguard are the embodiment of perfection.

I honestly cannot wait for their free skate, because they are sassy and fabulous and we ALL need Boss Queen Wenjing Sui in our lives.

The amplitude of their elements was very impressive, but following pairs like Volosozhar/Trankov, Stolbova/Klimov and Sui/Han, their lack of expression and performance quality was extremely obvious.

Maxim’s outfit was a bit distracting (mostly it was all the loose fabric flapping around), but this was a really fun program. They performed it very convincingly, and the crowd really liked it. And now I’ve seen 3 of the 4 reigning Olympic champions in person! (I have got to see Adelina so I can finish my set!)

I am a better person for having seen Savchenko/Massot’s twist. BLESS.

This wasn’t a perfect skate, but Ksenia is an incredible performer so it’s always interesting to watch her do things. :p “I Put a Spell on You” was a fantastic music choice for them because they put a spell on…well, most of the audience.

The Coach Pair™ (get it? :p) was one of my unexpected highlights of the event! I love Irish-themed programs and they did theirs really well. Gorgeous 3Tw, good energy and convincing interpretation-this is another example of what alternates are supposed to do.

I cannot think of anything else to write except that Gracie Gold had an awesome short program that I couldn’t watch because I was on a plane. So until next time, I’m out. 🙂 

“Hungary” For Gold: Bits & Pieces of Jr. Worlds (Pt. 1)

The men’s event at the 2016 Junior World Championships just finished, and it was one that will likely go down in history as one of the weirdest free skates in figure skating history. Why?

Well, first off, none of the top three skaters after the short program medaled.

And secondly, the medalists placed 9th, 8th and 6th in the short program.

I’m pretty sure that, like, never happens.

But the men’s event wasn’t the only unexpected happening at this event (which isn’t even over yet), so I opted to do an IceNetwork-style recap with anecdotal bits and pieces from all of the events, on-and-off ice. So here goes!

 

Men’s Event Mayhem 

While the men’s short program at this competition was cited all over the internet as one of the best-quality events in recent years, it wasn’t the main point of interest. But when a skater pulls up from 9th to 1st with a record-breaking free skate, a skater who failed to qualify for the free skate at last year’s junior worlds wins silver and singlehandedly getting Canada’s three spots back, and the bronze medalist was an alternate and not even going to compete until someone withdrew, anything else seems bland.

Naturally, I needed to blog about it. So here is a play-by-play of how it all went down:

The first medalist to skate was Daniel Samohin, who placed an extremely disappointing 9th in the short program and skated first in the second-to-last group. Clearly, none of this had any effect on him, and he smashed the junior men’s free skate scoring record-165.38 to the previous top score, 163.06 (held by Shoma Uno at last year’s JGPF). His lead held for the rest of the event and he became the first Israeli skater to win a junior world title.

The next medalist in the start order was Canadian Nicolas Nadeau, whose placement was especially remarkable when you consider that he didn’t even qualify for the free skate at last year’s Junior Worlds. It was also payday for Skate Canada: his medal secured three spots for Canadian men at next year’s Junior Worlds and, while I’m not sure how many, quite a few more JGP slots than they had last year.

Dmitri Aliev of Russia, one of the favorites for the title, was the next contender to skate. His fantastic SP set him up well to win or at least medal, although his lead over compatriot Alexander Samarin was extremely small, and enough contenders bombed that it looked likely he would win. The possibility of a win went out the window when he doubled his opening quad, and he made enough mistakes on other jumps to take him out of the medals. Random note: he does one of the coolest transitions I’ve ever seen into his 3F.

The next skater, Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia, was also on the podium after the short (3rd). However, like Aliev, his free skate took him out of podium contention, with three underrotated jumps and a pop. The underrotated jumps were some of his most valuable-both 3As and a 3Lz-and he didn’t do a quad, which ultimately caused him to fall from 3rd to 8th.

It seems that doubled 4Ts were the order of the day here, and American Vincent Zhou was no exception. Though he completed two quads, several messy landings and the popped quad dropped him from 4th to 5th. It wasn’t a terrible placement, but he definitely could’ve done better. (And here you see American bias in its natural habitat! Hehe. Compared to someone like Kevin Aymoz, he did okay, but I’m sure he wanted to do better than that.)

 

The other American, Tomoki Hiwatashi, skated next. Considering that he was not even supposed to compete here until gold medal favorite Nathan Chen withdrew, nobody was expecting much of him. When he did well in the short program, placing 6th, many people were hopeful that he would place high enough to get three spots for the American men next year, but he did one better and medaled! He smashed his personal best in the free skate by 16 points, landing all of his jumps (although his second 3F was invalidated because he did too many jumping passes) and capitalizing on everyone else’s bombfests while flying under the radar in a low-pressure situation.

Alexander Samarin had a great short program, placing an extremely close second to teammate Dmitri Aliev, and many were expecting him to medal. But in the true fashion of the event, he fell over and died. This was a very depressing performance with unnecessary amounts of Oda O in it. (Does he think that is going to make him look more artistic? All it makes you look is ridiculous.)

France’s Kevin Aymoz-a Max Aaron lookalike who skates much like Florent Amodio-closed out the event with ANOTHER dramatic implosion. Spoiler alert: he cries at the end. I would not recommend you watch this performance, but if you must, brace yourself and enjoy his Florentish showmanship (and costuming :p).

Ice Dance Never Fails To Bring the Drama…and Neither do ISU Bios 

The French ice dance team of Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac may have placed 3rd with a stellar performance in the short dance yesterday, but lurking in the depths of their ISU bio was a little gem that caused loads of speculation on the internet forums:

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I choose to believe the writer of this bio has been doing some light shipping lately

According to their ISU bio, Marie-Jade & Romain are actually married! While not improbable (they’re 19 and 20), nobody on the message board I belong to (including me) has been able to find any other sources that mention their “marriage”. So for now, even though ISU bios are supposed to be accurate sources of information, it is safe to assume that this is some kind of prank or misunderstanding.

(Side note: I have thoroughly enjoyed coming up with ways this could have happened-did they somehow accidentally get married, or are their training mates pranking them?-no matter how unrealistic they are.)

Year of the Small-Federation Junior World Champions 

I have already mentioned that one of the world champions who have been crowned so far-Daniel Samohin of Israel-is the first junior world medalist for his country, but his title wasn’t the only national first: the Czech Republic got its first junior world title when Anna Duskova & Martin Bidar won the pairs event. I have attached their free skate for you to enjoy, and hope you like it as much as I did! 🙂

Tie In the Ladies SP

The ladies SP this morning was a dream come true for me because the unimaginable happened: my two favorite junior ladies tied for 1st! Although Alisa Fedichkina (Russia) is counted as the winner of the event because her TES was higher, Marin Honda (Japan) won the PCS, and they both scored 66.11. I think this was ultimately a good decision on the judges’ part: I love both and thought they were about equal. Alisa had harder jumps and backloaded her 3-3 and solo triple jump, but they were equal in every other aspect: both are superb spinners, and very artistic, with similar styles-both are graceful, lyrical, expressive skaters. Both skaters are absolutely delightful to watch, and definitely have the potential to be future stars. Who knows? This might be the start of a career-long rivalry! (That would be awesome…) I wish them both the best in the free skate!

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!