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.

JGP Tallinn Ladies Recap

Does Tallinn have one “L” or two?

Eh, whatever, I’m going with two. (I am beginning to see a pattern of not being able to spell the names of JGP host cities.) Spelling aside, this was a great event! Here’s what went down in Estonia (that I can spell!) this weekend.

1. Polina Tsurskaya

Lady Polina Tsurskaya, Grand Duchess of Triple Lutz, was nothing short of sublime in Tallinn.

(I looked it up, and “Grand Duchess” was, indeed, a real term for Russian royalty, so I went with that instead of the cooler-sounding “Empress Dowager,” which applies to several Asian countries but would not actually have been used in Russia. Ya learn something new every day!)

Both of her programs were nearly perfect (some missed levels and a small turnout were the closest thing to mistakes in either of her programs), and her vastly-improved artistry was even better than in Saransk. Polina has this regal quality about her this season that’s just incredible to watch: she’s cool, confident, poised, and never looks fazed. Everything from her facial expression and costumes to the way she transitions out of jumps (the high leg position on her landings is EVERYTHING) is just…well, queenly. Okay, so maybe I’m going overboard with the royalty metaphors, but why not? It only takes one viewing to get what I’m going for. This young lady just blows my mind.

2. Elizaveta Nugumanova 

It was probably apparent in my JGP Russia recap that I love me some Liza Nugumanova, so I was thrilled to see her improve on that performance here. Her “Malaguena” SP wasn’t as good as it was a few weeks ago -she underrotated her 3Lz-3T kind of obviously-but it’s an ingeniously-choreographed little gem and I loved her performance of it. The free skate was much stronger than her last one; underrotations were much less of an issue than they were at Saransk, and she landed everything well. With a silver and a bronze, Liza has a chance of getting into the final, but it’s by no means a guarantee. I’ll be crossing my fingers for an Alisa Fedichkina-in-2015 situation (refresher: Alisa made the final with a silver medal and a 4th place last year) to get her in.

3. Mako Yamashita 

I will admit it, Mako Yamashita doesn’t really excite me all that much. Her skating is kind of bland. But she has admirable qualities: her jumps are great-her technique is a lot like that of fellow Japanese juniors Kaori Sakamoto and Rin Nitaya, with tight air position, fast rotation, smooth landings and good height-and so far, she’s been pretty consistent. With two bronzes, she could make the JGP Final, although it’s an outside shot; it would require Gubanova and Konstantinova to bomb drastically at their second event next week. But stranger things have happened…

 

4. Rin Nitaya 

I was really critical of Rin when I recapped JGP France, but I won’t be this time: I don’t know if it was a change in her skating or just a change of opinion, but I really enjoyed her mature presentation. (That’s what happens when you stay down in juniors at 18: your maturity looks 85x more impressive than it would in seniors, simply because you’re competing against 13-year-olds.) Some of the jumps weren’t there in the free skate, and it looked like she was getting tired towards the end, but it was a solid effort and really enjoyable to watch. With a bronze and a 4th place, she’s probably not looking at a chance at a Final spot, but it would be nice if she ended up being an alternate. She brings something different with her maturity and smooth jumps, and I appreciate that.

5. Tessa Hong 

Okay, pause.

I have been waiting five weeks to be able to recap an American skater in one of these. It’s actually kind of sad, but Tessa was a deserving first-American-in-a-recap. She struggles with URs, but everything else about her skating is absolutely exquisite. Her musicality and interpretation are a cut above for a 14-year-old, and she has an elegance to her skating that I love. But, like with many other skaters, her URs were her undoing here. She landed all of her jumps in both programs, but many of them were UR’d obviously enough to see in real time (that’s when you know it’s bad). There were bright spots: both of her programs were beautiful, and she actually landed things, including 3-3s in both programs. But she needs to get a handle on her UR problem or she won’t be able to reach her full potential. Sigh…another beautiful, artistic skater with a UR problem. 😦

And, a 15th-place program you need to watch anyway because it’s awesome 

This program featured nothing harder than a 3Lo and wasn’t the cleanest, but in terms of entertainment, it was one of the best programs of the event (in my opinion). Danielle’s energy and excitement are really infectious, especially in the StSqs (which were both awesome). Just plain fun to watch.

Also, is it just me, or does she look like she could be Gracie Gold’s long-lost sister? I feel like they look very alike.

JGP Saransk Ladies Recap

You know it’s finally skating season again when you miss an event that happened while you were asleep and wake up to approximately 8,900 pages of questions, comments, and concerns about the judging of said event on the Internet forums.

Wouldn’t be the same without them, really.

This time, it was no different, and the online judging critics were in full force – with good reason. Here’s a shake-down of what all happened at JGP Saransk.

1. Polina Tsurskaya 

Polina Tsurskaya was the overwhelming favorite to win this competition, despite having recently recovered from an injury. On that front, she didn’t disappoint. Her SP was phenomenal, earning a well- deserved junior world record score of 69.02. I’m not a huge fan of the droning, monotonous music or the choreography (as with many of Eteri Tutberidze’s students’ programs, there is a lot of miming), but her jumps were fantastic and her interpretation has improved greatly. I also couldn’t help noting that it seems she looks more like an adult this year than most of the seniors. Polina’s FS wasn’t her best, with two pops (a double lutz and a single Axel), and again, I thought the music was a little boring, but the choreography was much better, the rest of her jumps were excellent, and – shallow note – her dress was beautiful (actually, both of them were). Overall, this wasn’t Polina’s best competition, but it was an excellent return to competition. She likely just needs a little more time to get her feet back under her.

Fun random note: my phone tried to correct “Eteri” to “arteries.”

2. Stanislava Konstantinova

This was possibly the most controversial part of the competiton.

With a FS featuring two falls, Stanislava beat both Elizaveta Nugumanova, who was clean but underrotated several jumps, and Yuna Shiraiwa, who fell once but executed most of her other elements cleanly. I personal thought Elizaveta should’ve gotten the silver medal and Yuna the bronze, with Konstantinova in 4th, but there is some basis for what the judges went with. Stanislava had a clean SP that left her with a cushion of about three points going into the FS. While her jumps were clean, I felt like it was a bit frantic and unpolished; however, I can see why she was in second. The free skate, though, was a different story. I didn’t think the program itself was anything special (I was kind of bored) and she fell twice. I really can’t see the logic here-even if the judges wanted a Russian sweep, it could’ve happened with Stanislava in 3rd (which I thought was more fair). But there’s no point in arguing about that now. I try to find something I like to highlight about every skater I write about, so for Stanislava, I think that quality is that she’s different. In a field dominated by copy-and-paste Tutberidze pupils, any kind of uniqueness is refreshing, and I like Stanislava’s quirky style.

3. Elizaveta Nugumanova 

I’m not going to lie, I thought Liza was robbed of the silver. But she has a rather serious UR problem that I was previously not aware of, so it makes sense that that held her down. That aside, I thought her programs were the best of the event. Her spunky “Malaguena” short is a delightful little gem, not to mention impeccably choreographed, and her “Romeo and Juliet” free skate has an innocent sweetness to it that Liza pulls off very convincingly. (Another shallow note: I love her FS dress!) Unfortunately, she raked in UR after UR on her jumps, and while one wouldn’t have mattered much, four of them had an impact on her scores. She still managed to score very well (her SP score was fair, and her FS was slightly overscored), but the placements didn’t shake out in her favor. I hope she can get her jumps fixed up, because her spins, SS and interpretation are really great for such a young skater.

4. Yuna Shiraiwa 

Yuna Shiraiwa went from a nobody to a rock-solid contender for major medals last season; I was expecting her to continue that momentum. But, due to an injury, that wasn’t to be (at least, not here). She actually skated quite well, with a clean SP and one fall in the FS, but for various reasons (you know which reasons…), she missed out on the podium. Her “I Got Rhythm” SP was really well-skated and could be a very fun program if she can add some spark to her interpretation, which was a bit flat. The FS, to an instrumental medley of pieces from “Notre Dame De Paris” (which, for reasons I will never understand, didn’t include “Danse Mon Esmeralda”), is a powerful program that could either bring out the passion in her skating or showcase her weaknesses-hopefully the former. It looked as if she was exhausted towards the end of the program, and she fell out of the last jump, a 3L0. Maybe her stamina has taken a hit since her injury, or it was jet lag, but it seemed like a fluke mistake and I expect Yuna to be back to her usual, consistent form by her next competition.

5. Kokoro Iwamot0

I didn’t actually watch Kokoro’s programs during the competition, so I’m watching her free skate in the post draft and writing about it as I go along. First off, dress on point. I love the combination of gold and white, and it’s a great cut and style. Based on the protocol, her FS was clean except for an edge call (I just saw the flip that got called, and it was 0n a very obvious outside edge, even in real time). Her jumps are pretty good-they look labored, but she gets all the way around, and the height is nice. Her axel technique scares me. Spins are pretty nice. Expression could be better. So, now that I’ve finished watching it, Kokoro seems like your run-of-the-mill-top-5-JGP-skater: pretty good technically but nothing extraordinary, and not the best artistry, but gets the job done. For a JGP debut (I think?), she did really well.

And now I have to go write the U.S. Classic post! Yay…

JGP Ostrava Ladies Recap

JGP Ostrava is a wrap, and from the looks of it (I haven’t gotten to watch a lot of the men’s and dance programs yet, but I saw the results), it was a much stronger competition across the board than the first event. Despite a lot of lackluster free skates and some truly insane scoring inflation in the ladies event, it had its strong points, too. Let’s get started!

1. Anastasia Gubanova, Russia — 185.59

What Happened: Coming into this competition, a lot of people (myself included) had their eyes on Anastasia. She’s one of the most watchable skaters I’ve ever seen: her balletic carriage, gorgeous use of her hands, wrists and arms, and beautiful extension make her skating about as aesthetically pleasing as it gets. However, her jumps…are another matter. Her technique would make my coach cry, and her 3-3s are terrifyingly unstable because of her hold-onto-your-hats 3T takeoff. She reminds me of Yulia Lipnitskaya in almost every way: refinement, expression, extension, spins, and some reeeally sketchy jumps. However, despite falls in both programs, Anastasia’s polish, spins, and the jumps she did land were enough to squeak out a win by the narrowest of margins. This gives her a great shot at the Final, and I can’t wait to see her at her next event.

The Programs: Her short program to “The Swan” is kind of exactly what you’d expect someone like Anastasia to skate to-soft, elegant and balletic. Not exactly a creative choice, but it’s gorgeous. (She does need to look up more, though. My coach would be all over her for looking at her skates throughout the whole program.) I really love her “Romeo and Juliet” FS: it uses my favorite version of that music, shows off her best qualities, and really brings out the passion of the music. (Random: sometimes I’ll see a junior do an R&J program and think, ‘he/she’s too young for that music,’ but then I remember that in the play, Juliet was 13…and then I slowly die because it freaked me out when I first read it and it STILL FREAKS ME OUT.)

2. Rika Kihara, Japan — 185.51

What Happened: Rika was another skater everyone was looking at coming into this competition. A video had recently surfaced of her landing a perfect 3A-3T, and it was rumored she would unveil her 3A here, so fans were anticipating the possible debut of the Triple Axel That Was Not (sorrynotsorry, spoilers!). Her SP, despite not having the 3A, was impeccable, and she lead by a healthy margin. Most of her FS was good, too, except for the Triple Axel That Was Not™: she fell hard, and I didn’t look at the protocol, but it definitely looked <<. Still, gotta give her props for trying. She missed the win by only .07 points-possibly the smallest margin between medalists I’ve ever seen.

The Programs: eh…not sure how I feel about either. Both of them (the SP to “Tzigane” and FS to “Rhapsody in Blue”) are polished, well-choreographed programs, but I don’t feel like she was really “living up to” the very serious, well-known classical music she used. I’m all for juniors using classical music, and “Rhapsody in Blue” was a nice choice (I think that’ll be a nice program when it’s gotten more mileage), but “Tzigane” seemed…too heavy for a junior. Something lighter, like a waltz, or something up-tempo and fun, like “Czardas”, might have been better choices for someone Rika’s age who wanted to use classical music.

3. Alisa Lozko, Russia — 162.28

What Happened: Ted Barton of the JGP Live Stream said it best: Alisa’s a “spinner from heaven.” But her jumps…yikes. She fell in the FS, and through both programs, she racked up so many URs I lost count. It might have been partly because she is better at -3Lo combos than she is at -3T combos, which she had to do her because of the 3Lo being a required solo jump, but those were far from the only things hit with <. However, there were bright spots: I loved her footwork in both programs, and her spins are some of the best I’ve ever seen. (I tried to do something like her biellman variation, where she grabs her knee while spinning in a nearly-split position, at practice the other day, and I almost fell on my head. And it didn’t look an eighth as pretty.) Sadly, if she can’t fix her awful jump technique, she’ll probably get buried in the constant stream of Russian juniors.

The Programs: I’m not really sure how I feel about the music to Alisa’s “Pavlova” SP, but the program itself is really nice. Her “Milord” FS could be really fun, but she isn’t really engaging in it. She has wonderful musicality and uses the music well, but almost no expression, which makes it somewhat hard to connect with her skating.

4. Yuna Aoki, Japan — 155.79

What Happened: Yuna is a category-five headcase, and her leg wrap in jumps drives me crazy, but she is beautiful to watch. She has lovely polish and grace, and her interpretation is top-notch. However, she can’t seem to get through a program without falling or singling something, so I have no idea how she will hold up as a senior.

The Programs: Her “Meditation from Thais” SP is elegant and gorgeous and a joy to watch. The FS (“On My Own”) is nice, if a little generic.

5. Ha Nul Kim, Korea — 149.25

What Happened: essentially, URs kept Ha Nul out of the top five in the SP, and she came back with a fairly strong FS. She’s a nice skater, and her presentation is improving, but I still don’t really get anything out of her skating. Nice, but not anything earthshaking.

The Programs: her SP (forgot the music, but it’s something by Caro Emerald) is really fun, but the FS is nothing special. Since I’m too lazy to go into a long statistical analysis of why I think this, I’ll just leave it at that.

JGP France Ladies Recap

The season has begun! (Finally!) The first major event of the season, Junior Grand Prix St. Gervais (abbreviated to “JGP France”), just concluded. Some disciplines were weaker than others (the dance field was wide open, and the men’s event was a splatfest), but the ladies event featured some fantastic skating that I can’t wait to recap!

 

1. Alina Zagitova, Russia — 194.37 (68.07/126.30) 

As is the case at virtually every event, Eteri Tutberidze’s latest wunderkind, Alina Zagitova, won this event by quite a bit. Her SP, set to “Samson and Delilah”, included a fantastic Rippon 3Lz-3T, 3Lo, and 2A (her axel technique is exponentially better than most of her coach’s other students), strong spins, and a fast, dynamic step sequence that I really enjoyed. Her free skate (random note-I’m pretty the costume is Evgenia Medvedeva’s 2013-14 SP dress) to “Don Quixote” was not quite as strong-a couple of jumps had slightly scratchy landings-but still excellent, with a very nice 3Lz-3Lo and 2A-3T. Again, I thought her StSq was very well-choreographed and enjoyable. Alina has some areas she could work on-in particular, her expression could be a bit less blank-but much of what she would need as a senior is already there. Either way, she’s clearly very talented-she ended up winning the competition with scores that would’ve won last year’s Junior Worlds. Because, y’know…that’s totally normal result in your first international competition. 

2. Kaori Sakamoto, JPN- 178.86 (64.12/114.74)

Kaori had a pretty good competition here, with two near-clean programs. Her SP, a fun, energetic program to “The Artist,”  featured a 3F-3T, 3Lo, and 2A. She’s improved a lot as a performer over the summer: she used to skate a little bit blank-faced but this performance was really fun and engaging. Her FS isn’t my favorite – it’s set to music that kind of bores me (something called “The Color Purple”) and I find the choreography a little generic – but she turned in some strong elements. She didn’t get a planned 3T onto her opening 3F-3T, but made it up later in the program with two 2A-3Ts. Her biggest mistake other than that was an edge call-not perfect, but overall a great competition for Kaori.

3. Rin Nitaya, JPN — 175.01 (60.94/114.07) 

I vaguely remember seeing Rin last season and thinking she was kind of “meh,” so I wasn’t expecting much here. Suffice to say it that she exceeded my expectations! Rin skated a clean short and a near-clean long (her only mistake was a popped axel) to place 3rd. She landed an excellent 3Lz-3T, 3Lo, and 2A in her “Red Violin” short program, and although I found her expression a bit nonexistent bland, she delivered the technical content and was duly rewarded. In the free skate, she utilized what I call the Satoko Layout: two 2A-3Ts in the second half instead of a 3-3. I really enjoy watching her jump: unlike most juniors, her landings are dang solid and smooth as butter. No scratchiness or turnout, ever-which I love, considering how rare it’s becoming. She’s not the most engaging skater, but she deservedly placed really well here.

4. Ye Lim Kim, KOR — 157.79 (55.11/102.68)

Coming into this competition, people were expecting a lot of Ye Lim. Her jump layout was crazy-difficult and she had been looking consistent, so she was a medal favorite here. But it began to unravel in her “Donde Voy” SP: she two-footed her 3Lz-3T, which was downgraded and given mostly -3s in GOE. Combined with her lack of strength in PCS relative to her competition, that was enough to get her off the podium after the short. Her FS was better, but still had some iffy landings and kept her off the podium in 4th. She kind of tripped (not sure how to explain it because I’ve never seen anything like it…) out of the 2Lo in her 3Lz-3Lo-2Lo, which was downgraded, her 3Lz-3T was underrotated, and she got an edge call on her 3F. And to top it all off, she didn’t seem to be connecting to her music at all (I’ll give her a pass because both pieces were very ill-suited for someone of her age and style, which I blame on the choreographer.) She has a lot of potential, but this was just not Ye Lim’s competition.

5. Emmi Peltonen, FIN — 150.00 (53.41/96.59)

Emmi Peltonen was a nice “discovery” at this event: I’d never seen her, but she is a gorgeous skater with gigantic jumps and I think she has a lot of potential. In her short program, she landed a massive 3T-3T and a great 2A but singled her 3Lo. I really enjoyed the program, which was very well-choreographed with a very convincing tangoey flair. Her StSq was great. The FS was also a lovely program, but three pops and a fall did her in. She badly needs consistency (she appears to be the latest in a long line of artistic Finnish headcases), but she could be one to watch for.

Honorable Mentions: 

6. Alexia Paganini, USA: her short program was gorgeous except for a doubled jump, but two falls in the FS kept her from finishing any higher.

7. Julie Froestcher (sorry for spelling), FRA: her reaction to her score was great. 🙂

 

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

8

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

12

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

12

12

12

12

12

12

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. 

 

In Retrospective: 2013-14 Junior Grand Prix Final-Ladies Free Skate

Here is the final installment of my first “In Retrospective”! This will cover the Ladies Free Skate from the 2013-14 Junior Grand Prix Final.

6. Angela Wang, USA-86.89/131.58

Music: “Nights in the Gardens of Spain”

Program Execution: 3lz(forward)-3T, 3F, 1Lo, 3Lz (fall), 2T-2A sequence, 3S, 2a-2T-2T (fall)

Costume Assessment: pretty, but kind of generic. Not much to see here.

What I Liked About This Performance: like I said when I discussed Angela’s SP, she has very nice polish and finishes her movements. Her spins are nice, too, and the 3S came out of nowhere. I like it when jumps come out of nowhere. 🙂

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: the falls.

Wuzrobbed?: …isn’t it obvious?

5. Alexandra Proklova, Russia-106.50/157.77

Music: “Bahrein-Oriental Medley”

Program Execution: 3Lz-2T, 3F-1Lo-3S, 3Lo, 2A-3T, 3F, 1Lz, 2A

Costume Assessment: honestly, it was kind of garish. I don’t know what this program was supposed to be about, but I can’t think of any theme/narrative that would require a “leopard in a paint factory” dress.

What I Liked About This Performance: her energetic footwork, fantastic spins, and the absolutely gigantic 2A-3T. Plus, her commitment to selling this admittedly bizarre but kind of cool program. But mostly the 2A-3T. *Grabby hands*

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: it was a weird and slightly confusing mix of an attempt at a “fun program” and an attempt at a “serious program,” which meant it didn’t make much sense. A let-down, especially considering that her short program flawlessly pulled off both.

Wuzrobbed?: a little.

4. Polina Edmunds, USA-113.57/161.71

Music: “Peer Gynt”

Program Execution: 3Lz-3T, 3F-1Lo-3S, 2A, 3F, 3Lz, 3Lo-2T, 2A

Costume Assessment: I liked this dress for Polina in that it was youthful and age-appropriate, but still sophisticated enough to appear mature. Even the hair jewelry isn’t too bad-I actually kind of like it. (Present-day Polina should be reminded that she wore this next time she goes to the dressmaker’s.)

What I Liked About This Performance: well, first of all, it was clean. And I really liked the way it used her arms-I mean, if you have arms as long as hers, you might as well make them look nice. The light, dainty choreography suited her very well.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: there wasn’t much, but if I had to pick something, it would probably be her sit spin, which has never been particularly pretty.

3. Evgenia Medvedeva, Russia-104.93/163.68

Music: “La Califfa,” “Never Gonna Miss You”

Program Execution: 3F-3T, 3Lz, 3F, 2A-3T (stepout), 3S-2T(‘tano)-2T(‘tano), 2A

Costume Assessment: I like this dress a lot, but the gloves were majorly distracting. The dress was great-great color, great sparkle, great back-but the gloves were nearly the length of her arm and it looked very weird. She wears gloves with a lot of her costumes, so she might need them for some practical purpose, but the kind she had for this year’s free skate-matching her costume, but not long-were much better.

What I Liked About This Performance: Evgenia’s extension is really nice here, and all of her choreographic movements and footwork match the music very well.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: that 2A-3T was the one of the scariest jumps I’ve ever seen, and the flying sit wasn’t very aesthetically pleasing, but nothing major.

Wuzrobbed?: no.

2. Serafima Sakhanovich, Russia-112.30/172.86

Music: “Closed School”

Program Execution: 3F-3T, 3Lz, 3F-1Lo-3S, 2A, 3Lo, 2A (stepout), 3Lz-2T

Costume Assessment: serviceable, but very bland.

What I Liked About This Performance: I thought Serafima’s interpretation of this music was good, and she gave quite a bit of face. Her speed was also excellent.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: again, the scary jumps. I’ve figured out what it was that scared me about her landings: she lands with her chest down and her knees rather stiff and bends them sharply on impact, which is both jarring to watch and very likely terrible for her joints.

Wuzrobbed?: no.

1. Maria Sotskova, Russia-115.46/176.75

Music: “Pina” Soundtrack

Program Execution: 3Lo, 3Lz-3T, 3F (shaky landing), 3Lz, 2A-3T-2T, 3S-2T, 2A

Costume Assessment: the dress could have been okay-not great, but okay-if not for the shredded stuff on the shoulders. It looks like a cat got at her dress. Otherwise, it’s okay, but nothing great. I did like her hair, though.

What I Liked About This Performance: “Pina” is a very quirky piece of music, and Maria’s choreography and interpretation definitely showed that. In general, this was a very well-choreographed program. Her spins were great, too.

Wuzrobbed?: no.

 

In Retrospect: 2013-14 Junior Grand Prix Final-Ladies SP

I’m trying a new thing! *Jazz hands*

“In Retrospect” is a thing I will occasionally do spontaneously with no predictability. Essentially, I pick a past competition (at least two seasons ago, or, 2013-14 and before) and a discipline and write two posts-for the SP and FS-in which I talk about the top 5 (6 in case of GPF, obviously) skaters’ programs. And since I’ve been wanting to watch more of Serafima Sakhanovich lately (for reasons I don’t really know), I chose the 2013 Junior GPF for my first post.

Skaters are discussed in placement order. Here goes!

 

6th. Angela Wang, USA-44.69

Program Execution: Fall on 3Lz, part of intended combo; 2A clean; Popped 3Lo (mandatory solo jump) into 1Lo-invalidated

Costume Evaluation: I like this dress a lot. In some of the up-close shots, you can see the elaborate beading/crystaling/sparkle-ing on the top of the bodice-it’s very “wow” even from far away, but up close, it is very elaborate and gorgeous.

What I Liked About This Performance: Angela, particularly in this program, has a lovely refinement and finishes all her movements very nicely. It makes for a very polished, mature look that most of her competitors lacked.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: duh…it was a headcasey disaster.

Wuzrobbed?: No. Even though the next-worst performance had a fall and no combo, Angela didn’t get credit for a combo OR a solo jump. Her PCS was a little bit low, but I can understand that, given the execution.

5th. Polina Edmunds, USA-48.20

Program Execution: Shaky landing and no combo on 3Lz; fall on 3Lo; 2A clean

Costume Evaluation: first of all, there is a reason that neon yellow color is not found in nature. It simply isn’t flattering. But, given the theme of the program, it worked pretty well. (Read: in the context of a cha-cha program, I didn’t hate it.)

What I Liked About This Performance: Polina has had two seasons of subpar programs that not only did not showcase her newfound maturity, but gained her a reputation as being boring as tar. It is easy to forget that it wasn’t always like this: way back in Polina’s repertoire are gems like this one, programs that played up her strengths and entertained the audience. I love the way this program uses her long limbs (arm choreo!!!), excellent twizzle variations, and balletic grace. It’s kind of sad that she seems to have artistically regressed since the 2013-14 season, because if this is any indication, she could have become an amazing performer.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: again, headcasey disaster.

4th. Alexandra Proklova, Russia-51.27

Program Execution: 3Lz-turns-3T; slight turnout on 3Lo; clean 2A from spread eagle

Costume Evaluation: I like this dress a lot! Though I’m not a huge fan of the fishnet-ish sleeves, the tutu skirt is fabulous enough to make up for it. (If you’ve ever read my blog, you’re probably acquainted with my love of skating tutus and should’ve seen this coming. :p)

What I Liked About This Performance: a better question might be, what didn’t I like? This tiny child was amazingly refined and all of her elements and movements were beautifully polished. The 2A was one of the nicest I’ve seen from a Russian junior, and out of a really cool spread eagle transition. Her layback and Biellman are Yulia Lipnitskaya-quality. The footwork was to die for. And that twizzle sequence with the leg movements that mimicked (I think) a fouette turn? Brilliant. It is incredibly freaking sad that Alexandra has been injured so often since then. *Sulks off to cry in a corner*

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: there was only one thing I could find fault with here. Throughout the program, Alexandra did at least four extremely pretty spirals that were held for approximately a millisecond. Nooooo, that is not how you choreograph your program if you have an amazing spiral! I understand that she was using them as transitions, but couldn’t one of them have been held?

Wuzrobbed?: Probably not, considering the mistake on the combination, but I liked her the most.

3rd. Evgenia Medvedeva, Russia-58.75

Program Execution: clean 3F-3T; clean 3Lo; clean 2A

Costume Evaluation: I also loved this dress. The color was lovely on Evgenia, it has a tutu, and the gold accents looked really good on red.

What I Liked About This Performance: Evgenia’s musicality was on point in this performance-she hit every accent perfectly, and it made a noticeable difference. She had a very nice lightness over the ice and it actually sort of looked like she was floating. Oh, and no ‘tanos!

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: her layback spin was not pretty.

Wuzrobbed?: heck to the yes. I actually decided to include a “wuzrobbed” category because of this. She was cleaner than Serafima, and I didn’t see any noticeable difference between them artistically (I preferred Evgenia’s interpretation and program, but that’s just me). Totally robbed.

2. Serafima Sakhanovich, Russia-60.56

Program Execution: landed but forward/swingy 3F-3T; clean 3Lo; clean 2A

Costume Evaluation: fine, but a little generic.

What I Liked About This Performance: she was very connected with her music, her speed was excellent, and there were many Ina Bauers/spread eagles used as transitions  (as there should be).

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: all of her jumps were insanely swingy and, frankly, terrifying. And I feel like she might’ve been giving the performance a little bit too much-my main complaint with this, besides scary jumps, was that I felt like her interpretation wasn’t subtle enough. (I feel bad about this, because I really have liked all of her recent programs, and because she was only 13, but it had to be said.)

Wuzrobbed?: no.

1st. Maria Sotskova, Russia-61.29

Program Execution: clean 3Lz-3T; clean 3Lo; clean 2A

Costume Evaluation: This costume can be summed up as “Renissance Court Jester-Slash-14th-Century-Plague-Doctor.” Possibly the court jester part was intentional-she was skating to Vivaldi, after all-but I still don’t like it.

What I Liked About This Performance: all I could think while I was watching this was Baby Carolina Kostner! Maria’s speed, long lines, polish and big, tidy jumps reminded me a lot of a young Carolina, and that is definitely a compliment. Her haircutter was amazing, too.

What I Didn’t Like About This Performance: the costume, and that is literally it.

Wuzrobbed?: she won, so…no.

Part 2, the Ladies FS, will probably be up sometime this weekend. Hope you enjoyed! If you have a request for a past event you would like me to cover in a future “In Retrospective,” please leave a comment. That was a very enjoyable post to write and I’ve only been following skating since Sochi, so…poll time!

A Few of my Favorite Things, 2015-16: Costumes (Ladies)

So, after writing my first two season recap posts in two days, I took a break from blogging because I was going to use up the whole series in a week and then be upset that I had nothing to blog about. But now I’m back, with probably my favorite topic to blog about: costumes!

Since this is a very broad category, I’m splitting the favorite costumes segment into two posts. This one is for ladies, and the next one will be for pairs and dance. (I didn’t really like any of the mens’ costumes, so there will not be any in this.) This is structured somewhat the same as the programs posts: a certain number in each discipline, depending on how many I can remember that I liked.

Best Ladies Short Prorgram Costumes 

  1. Evgenia Medvedeva (“Melodies of the White Nights”)

This is as close to a perfect dress as I saw this season: the color, cut, crystals, and overall design were absolutely gorgeous, and it looked fantastic on Evgenia. Age-appropriate but stunning. I’ve raved about this dress approximately 95 times already and I’ve probably said it all by now…

2. Adelina Sotnikova (“Besame Mucho”)

IT HAS A FRINGE SKIRT, GUYS. Costume aside, I could not get enough of Adelina’s programs this season, and she has officially vaulted onto my top-5 list of ladies skaters (somewhere in between Gracie/Elena/Yulia/Mao). Спасибо, Adelina, for being awesome.

Okay, I kind of only put that in because wanted to show off my Russian, but of the smattering of Russian I have yet memorized-Спасибо, Вода, Да, Нет, Где, собака, молоко (water, yes, no, where, dog, and milk)-that seemed the least nonsensical. LOL.

3. Elena Radionova (“J’Taime”)

Yes, I know this hides the front of her dress, but the back is my favorite part, and none of the pictures that showed the front showed the back, so I went with the back. I love the orange beading and the flowy orange pieces of fabric coming off the back-they looked like flames when she moved. She may have had some serious costume failures this season (the watermelon dress at Worlds…), but this one was great.

4. Gracie Gold (“El Choclo”)

From the front, this looked like a practice dress, but the back and underskirt were fabulous. I am also running out of ideas. I would use juniors’ costumes for this, but I already committed to doing those in another post…gergh.

5. Gabrielle Daleman (“Mr. Paganini”)

It’s so PURPLE and SHINY…I like things that are purple and shiny. 🙂

Top Five Ladies Free Skate Costumes 

  1. Tyler Pierce (“Danse Macabre”)

I discussed Tyler’s free skate costume here and am too lazy to write it up again. Random note: there are far more good pictures of this costume floating around Google now than there were after Junior Worlds, so apparently I need to wait two months if I want any good pictures of a costume.

2. Mao Asada (“Madame Butterfly”)

Mao is basically the queen of impeccable costuming (possibly only rivaled by actual rival Yuna Kim and the famously fashionable Kiira Korpi), and this season’s dresses were no exception. I preferred this one because it was more unique-I saw nothing else like it except for that one dress that looked like a ripoff of this one. Having the entire costume made of mesh gave it lovely movement, and the butterfly appliques were a nice touch. Everything about it was gorgeous, but if I had to pick a favorite thing about it, it would be the sleeves. Mesh bell sleeves are right up there with sparkly sweetheart necklines and ombre on the list of things I am a total sucker for.

 

3. Ashley Wagner (“Moulin Rouge”)

Okay, whoever thought to put gold beading/crystals/whatever on bright-white fabric was a fashion genius. The “sparkly stuff” (don’t know if it’s crystals, glitter or beading) really stands out against the white bodice. The faux-necklace neckline was very cool as well. If a top skater wears a white dress, I will inevitably become obsessed with it-examples: Anna Cappellini’s SD dress, Rachel Parsons’ SD dress, Victoria Sinitsina’s SD dress…and this one. I would go so far as to say this costume kept the program “fresher” than it would’ve been if she didn’t change the costume. Then again, maybe it was just that I liked staring at this dress. 🙂

4. Rika Hongo (“Riverdance”)

Rika’s sadly-replaced original “Riverdance” dress was one of my favorite dresses this season. It was suitably Riverdance-y without being the “WOOHOO I’M RIVERDANCING AND THIS IS A RIVERDANCE PROGRAM SO TOP O’ THE MORNING TO Y’ALL!” kind of Riverdance-y. (It was a lot prettier when she was moving – still photos don’t show the actual color well.) The green underskirt and well-placed green crystals added a little color so it wouldn’t look too somber, but the extremely dark color made it more refined than if it had been the typical emerald-green. This season was really a breakout season for Rika in terms of programs, and her costumes-especially this one-definitely did them justice.

5. Mirai Nagasu (Selections from “The Great Gatsby”)

If you have read certain things on this blog, you probably know that I love 1920’s-themed anything in skating, so Mirai Nagasu’s fabulous 20’s-inspired free skate dress was bound to end up on this list. I loved the subtle blush color, which is not a color you often see skaters wear, and the very “directional” crystal placement (by which I mean it was clearly meant to be shaped a certain way). The crystal “straps” and the chevron pattern in the cutout were very nice touches-no detail was spared with this dress! The headband was a cute addition. Fresh and youthful without looking too young.