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. 

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!