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. 

2016 U.S. Nationals Recap: Ladies

So, this is late, and it has been bugging me since the event ended. So I’m finally writing this! (For this event, I’m doing all of the events but men’s, which I really don’t care about.)

Now for the recap!

5th Place: Tyler Pierce 

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A breakout performance

Scores: 62.45 (third), 126.05 (fifth), 188.50 (fifth) 

Tyler was, dare I say, the breakout star of this year’s Nationals, with two near-clean programs. She had one of the only clean SPs of the ladies event, hitting one of two clean 3-3s done in the event. Her FS was less clean, with a fall on a 3F, but it was a strong skate and I like her “Danse Macabre” FS a lot. (Also, her dress was gorgeous). She has great jumps and spins, and her performance quality is good (could use work, but she’s young). All she needs is consistency, which is something she’s lacked in the past. She has been assigned to Junior Worlds (an event she’s come in 14th and 19th at in the past), so hopefully she’ll be able to redeem her dismal Junior Worlds performances last year and skate well-she has the programs and difficulty to contend.

 

4. Mirai Nagasu

Redemption for Mirai

Scores: 59.64 (5th), 129.20 (4th), 188.84 (4th) 

Mirai has had one of the most up-and-down careers I’ve ever seen, and the last two years have not been her best. So I was extremely happy that she was able to medal here! Her SP was almost clean-she landed her 3Lo and 2A, the only mistake being a doubled 3T on her combination-but she tore part of the stitching on her skate, leading to concern as to whether it could be repaired before the FS. Luckily, she was able to get it fixed and went on to skate one of her best free skates ever-landing and rotating(!) all of her jumps. Her FS was enough to medal (at most national competitions, a pewter medal is awarded for 4th place), and she was named to the Four Continents team after Ashley Wagner (3rd) withdrew. And the fact that it all went down in the city she won Nationals in in 2008 was just the cherry on top! After several bad seasons, I am absolutely thrilled that Mirai is back to her top form and I hope she skates well at 4CC.

3. Ashley Wagner 

Not Ashley’s best, but not too bad

Scores: 62.41 (4th), 135.47 (3rd), 197.88 (3rd)

Ashley’s Nationals performances last year were her best ever, and she won the title by over 20 points. Coupled with a fairly strong early season, many expected her to defend her title, but it was not to be. In the SP, she fell and downgraded the 3T on her 3F-3T combination, leaving her in 4th. Her FS was good aside from a singled lutz, but because it was the same program she had an iconic moment with at last year’s Nationals, it lacked the “wow factor” it would otherwise have. It certainly wasn’t a horrible competition for Ashley, but it was by no means a great one. The pressure of defending a title got to her, it seems.

2. Polina Edmunds

A surprise silver medal and two great skates

Scores: 70.19 (1st), 137.32 (2nd), 207.51 (2nd)

Polina had arguably her two best skates ever at this event, and it almost won her a US title; however, her 7.5-point cushion didn’t hold up to Gracie Gold’s fantastic FS. Her SP, however, was incredible: all of her jumps were clean (no UR or edge calls!), and her presentation was superb. Her balletic softness was on display here, and it was lovely. She came out of the SP with a commanding lead of almost eight points, and delivered a clean FS (with the exception of an underrotated triple loop) as well. While her “Gone with the Wind” free skate is not particularly memorable, she skated it as well as she could’ve. This was definitely an event she can be proud of, and it speaks volumes about her mental toughness. Overall, a job very well done!

 

1. Gracie Gold 

That face says it all

Scores: 62.50 (2nd), 147.96 (1st), 210.46 (1st)

After failing to defend her US title last year, Gracie earned it back with a subpar SP and a spectacular FS despite being 7.5 points out of the lead after the short. Surprisingly, the element Gracie flubbed in the short program was not the 3F she’s popped twice this season; it was her money jump, the 3Lz (part of a 3-3 combination that she did not complete). She added a 2T onto her solo jump, the 3F, to save her score, but it was a disappointing skate overall. Many thought she would continue the trend and bomb her free skate, but she delivered when it counted (and following an amazing performance from Polina…) and it was a small miracle. She hit all of her jumps, proving that she can deliver under pressure and leaving us all to wonder why she doesn’t do that more often. It was a spectacular skate, and if she can do that at worlds, watch out, Evgenia: you could be facing some incredibly stiff competition.

Also, her exhibition program was fabulous and I must provide it for your viewing pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWSz8PWEmio

 

Also, the “disappointingly not in this post” list:

  1. Karen Chen, who missed her combo in both programs to finish 8th
  2. Courtney Hicks, whose plethora of various falls left her in 9th
  3. Mariah Bell, whose SP was good but sunk her chances with a subpar FS (11th)
  4. Angela Wang, who actually wasn’t too bad but had a few errors and finished 10th
  5. Bradie Tennell, who was actually great and finished 6th but I was too lazy to put her in
  6. Hannah Miller, who also did great and finished 7th but I was also too lazy to put her in

I shall be back with dance and pairs sometime soon. But until then, adios! 

Nationals, a Love Story (Pt 4)

IT’S ALMOST TIME!

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

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

 

1. Gracie Gold 

 

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Age: 20

Skating Club: Wagon Wheel FSC

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

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

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

 

2. Ashley Wagner 

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Age: 24

Skating Club: SC of Wilmington

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

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

 

3. Courtney Hicks 

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Age: 20

Skating Club:

Accomplishments: 2015 NHK Trophy Silver Medalist

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

4. Polina Edmunds

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Age: 17

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

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

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

5. Karen Chen 

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Age: 16

Skating Club: Peninsula FSC

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

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

6. Mirai Nagasu 

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Age: 22

Skating Club: Pasadena FSC

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

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

7. Mariah Bell 

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Age: 19

Skating Club: Rocky Mountain FSC

Accomplishments: 2013 US junior silver medalist, JGP medalist

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

8. Tyler Pierce 

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Age: 17

Skating Club: All Year FSC

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

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

9. Angela Wang 

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Age: 19

Skating Club: Salt Lake City FSC

Accomplishments: three-time JGP Medalist

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

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

 

Recap: Nebelhorn Trophy Ladies Event

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

Let’s start with the winner (duh :p):

1. Kaetlyn Osmond, Canada-179.41

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

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

2. Alena Leonova, Russia-165.61

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

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

3. Courtney Hicks, USA-162.85

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

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

4. Alaine Chartrand, Canada-161.35

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

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

5. Mirai Nagasu, USA-159.67

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

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

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

This concludes the recap. 🙂

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