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.

A Few of My Favorite Things, 2015-16: Free Skates

So, you know how in yesterday’s post, I said I was going to try to spread this series out over several weeks?

I didn’t.

At least, not the first two posts.

If you read my last post, you will probably know how this works. I list my three favorite SPs and FSes in each discipline and say why I like them. It’s pretty simple. However, it is hard for me to remember all the programs I loved in each discipline. I frequently accidentally leave out one of my favorite programs and forget about it for about a day until I remember, slap myself, and promise to give it a shout-out in the next post. That being said, I left Alaine Chartrand’s short program out of yesterday’s SP post, despite it being one of the ones I knew I wanted to include when I came up with the concept for this series. Deepest apologies; I would have put it in if I remembered.

Okay, that was really long, and I didn’t mean for it to be that long, so here we go.

Top Three Free Dances

  1. Shibutani/Shibutani (“Fix You”)

When IceNetwork’s Twitter did its annual fan vote for best program in each segment of each discipline, the overwhelming majority of voters chose this as the best free dance. Not surprising at all. This is, in my very biased opinion, the single best program in any discipline this season. Just…ugh, it’s too perfect to be real. I got to see this program in person at Worlds and I nearly made myself sick and blew out my vocal chords because I was hyperventilating and shrieking until I could barely breathe. (If you were there and heard someone screaming “‘MURICA!” repeatedly after this performance in Loge 8, that was me.) The placement of the twizzle sequence, the lifts, the step sequences, everything about this program was amazing. I am in such awe of this program that I  have taught myself the twizzle variation (with the leg extended) that they do. LOL. 🙂

2. Cappellini/Lanotte (“La Dolce Vita”)

I like this free dance for most of the same reasons I like their short dance: it’s frothy, frivolous and fun, achieves #costumegoals status, and really stood out from the rest of the top teams’ FDs. Is it me, or were there a LOT of “look at us, we’re arteestick!” free dances this season? I feel like there were, so this was a very nice contrast. Also, I’m very predictable, because I put these in the same order as I did for the SDs.

3. Sinitsina/Katsalapov (“Lo Ci Saro”)

A lot of people criticized this program for being “bland,” but when I saw it at Worlds, I thought it was fantastic. I can’t really put my finger on what it was I liked about it, but I did, so on the list it goes.

Top Three Pairs Free Skates

  1. Seguin/Bilodeau (“A Whiter Shade of Pale”)

I warned you. 😉

Getting to see this program in person at Skate America was one of the highlights of the entire season for me. This program is truly wonderful: lyrical but passionate, delicate but powerful, emotional but subtle. They had SUCH a moment with it at the Grand Prix Final; I was very eager to see it at Worlds, and although they weren’t there, they had many memorable performances with it. It’s taken me from barely knowing they exist to a huge fan of theirs. As I said in the previous post, one of the things that I like most about Seguin/Bilodeau is their connection. This program showcases their connection beautifully.  Highlighting your strengths is one of my criteria for deciding whether or not a program is good, so this program passes with flying colors.

(It made me ship them. You don’t get any better than that.)

2. Sui/Han (“Samson and Delilah”)

When Sui/Han skated this program well, it was completely breathtaking. It’s intense and passionate and never stops building until the end, and when they landed things, the effect was extremely impressive. Everything about this program is BIG: the elements, the choreography, the emotion, Sui’s performance quality…I feel like this program, but especially this particular performance, could be described as “we’re here, we’re perf, and we’re going to leave y’alls in our dust.” A very accurate statement indeed. :p

3. Kayne/O’Shea (“Music of the Night”)

Admit it: this performance made you cry.

Kayne/O’Shea seem to have developed this lovely habit of completely slaying their FS at every competition, demonstrated by their showings at Cup of Russia, 4CC, and (mostly) Worlds, but most prominently at Nationals. There was just something about that particular performance that made it really special. So even though I liked this program a lot before that, it became something special after Nationals.

Top Three Men’s Free Skates

  1. Shoma Uno (“Turandot”)

Everyone’s favorite leprechaun made history at TCC by landing the first ratified 4F in competition, ending his season on a much-needed triumphant note. In addition, his free skate takes top honors in the Men’s FS category of this recap. It was maybe more of an “introverted” interpretation of Turandot (I feel like I’m saying that a lot), but a convincing one, with a lot of cool choreographic bits. (*eh ehm* CANTILEVER!) Gorgeously choreographed and interpreted, with a delightfully punnable costume.

The Leprechaun has his ups and downs, but, being a leprechaun, always ends up with a pot of gold. 😉

2. Grant Hochstein (“Les Miserables”)

This is another program that I basically chose because of one performance. His Worlds free skate was, IMO, the moment of the night (well, one of them). It blew the roof off the place; his interpretation is some of the best I’ve ever seen, actually. A lofty statement, but a deserved one.

3. Yuzuru Hanyu (“Seimei”)

How can I leave out the program that broke the world record twice? I don’t understand how this dude is even real. (However, I will stop saying that because I think it jinxed him at worlds.)

Top Three Ladies Free Skates

  1. Rika Hongo (“Riverdance”)

Rika Hongo’s transformation from a possible contender with poor posture and few standout qualities to a reliable, electrifying performer has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. I love the way she keeps up the high-energy, appropriately Riverdancy feel of this program throughout, and the ChStSq is one of the best I have ever seen-and that includes everything ever done by Mao Asada! I especially appreciate the Irish dance steps in both StSqs; they were very well-integrated into the program. This free skate has really made me take notice of Rika, and I am surprised by how much I have enjoyed watching her this season. I hope she works with Akiko Suzuki (who choreographed her programs) next season, and can’t wait to see her next programs!

2. Adelina Sotnikova (“Je Suis Malade”)

I might have questionable taste, but I am kind of obsessed with Je Suis Malade. Naturally, any Je Suis Malade program that comes to my attention will be lauded as a masterpiece with excessive hyperboles.

Okay, maybe that was a slight  large exaggeration, but I do typically like Je Suis Malade programs, and Adelina’s was a very good one. She gave it the over-the-top angsty drama it deserves, and I found the program to be very well-choreographed. I can understand why one might not like this program (I mean, if angsty drama isn’t your thing, there is a LOT of angsty drama going on here), but I happen to love overdramatic interpretations, so I enjoyed Adelina’s free skate a lot.

3. Gracie Gold (“Firebird”)

As you may know, I am kind of a noob as far as skating fans go. I have not been watching for very long (I obviously watched the 2014 Olympics, but other than that, my first experiences watching skating were on the 2014-15 GP because I did not have IceNetwork prior to that), so I have not seen very many of the “great” programs. Thus, the only Firebird program I had ever seen before this season was Anna Pogorilaya’s 2014-15 FS, and (no offense to Anna, who has improved a lot since then) virtually any rendition of Firebird would be an improvement over that.

Enter Gracie, the other prominent artistically-challenged blonde, who is actually quite like Anna: a headcase, and not a natural artist, but improving.

This is definitely one of the best programs Gracie has ever had, certainly the best free skate. First of all, The Squat. It is my favorite thing. I can often be found listening to Firebird and randomly squatting (with the correct arms, too :p). Also, I feel like this powerful music is easier for her to interpret than most of what she’s had before. It wasn’t perfect: when the jumps weren’t there, neither was the performance. But when they were, she showed quite a bit more fire and emotion than she ever has before. The style was a good fit for her, so I hope to see her continue to do things similar to this. (She also said many times that she loves this program, so that is always a bonus.)

Well, that’s a wrap…next up, one of the two “best costumes” ones. 

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

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

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

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

10. Highlight: Promposal 

 

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

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

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

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

8. Highlight: Denis Ten Doesn’t Die 

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

7. Low Point: Elena Radionova Loses It 

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Highlight: Evgenia Medvedeva Breaks More Records

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

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

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

2. Quad Flipping Leprechaun is Numero Uno

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

1. #TheFirebirdRises

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

 

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

Beantown Beat: The World Championships Extravaganza, pt. 2

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

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

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

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

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

Free Dance 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pairs Short 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men’s Free 

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

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

Boyang Jin: was getting food during his program.

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

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

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

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

Now, Onto the Actual Skating: Free Dance Highlights 

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

I hyperventilated violently/convulsed/almost fainted.

Literally.

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

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

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

More Actual Skating™: Men’s Event Highlights 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See above.

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

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

Voiceover: “if you jump, I jump too!”

Jorik: *does jump*

Me: *does single of same jump for lols*

Now, Pairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bean-Town Beat: The World Championships Blog Extravaganza, part 1

So, I loved writing the “Hungary for Gold” Junior Worlds series so much that I decided to use the same format to cover the World Championships, which I am going to tomorrow! But even though I’m not there yet, I have been following the action on IceNetwork-the SD and men’s SP, which concluded today-so I figure that warranted a post. 🙂

 

Men’s Event: I Can’t Skate, I Can’t Quad: a Tale of Headcasery, A World-Record Near Miss, and A Bunch of Shocking Free Skate Misses 

The men’s short program was not as high-quality as the one at Junior Worlds, or as dramatic as the JWC FS, but it held its share of chills, thrills and spills anyway. The top 5 most unexpected and/0r notable happenings are outlined here:

  1. Outside Looking In: Contenders Miss FS

 

The first shocking splatfest of the night belonged to Canadian Nam Nguyen, whose missing of the free skate (he finished 27th) was especially controversial because teammate Liam Firus gave up his spot on the world team to allow Canada a better chance to get three spots back. But with this performance (he singled the axel and fell on his quad) the alternate failed to qualify for the free skate and left the spot-getting to teammate Patrick Chan, who would have to win the silver or gold medal to get the spots back on his own. This is doable (Chan sits in 3rd), but not particularly likely. A shocking way to go for the 5th-ranked man in the world last season.

The other contender who missed the final was China’s Han Yan, who fell on his quad, stepped out of his 3A, and singled the lutz in his intended combination to finish 26th. He left teammate Boyang Jin in a similar situation to Patrick Chan’s predicament: he must finish 2nd or higher to secure three spots for China next year. Again, he could accomplish his-Boyang is considered a podium contender and sits 5th after the short-but it would be very difficult, and is probably not going to happen unless a lot of people bomb spectacularly. This was a real shocker and a shame, too, because Han can be a joy to watch when he doesn’t fall over and die. Wah wah waaaaaaaah…

2. Ironically Fitting Lyrics

As the lyrics of Maxim Kovtun’s short program music stated over and over, “I can’t dance.”
Classify skating as a kind of dance and apparently he can’t: he is known for zayaking and this competition was no exception. His opening 4S-3T and 3A were well-done, but he turned his 4T into a 3T, which was invalidated because he had already done a 3T with his combination. He should probably change to a less zayak-prone layout, but until he does, this will probably keep happening.

Note: he finished 13th.

3. One of the Only Completely Clean Skates in the Whole Dang Thing

Adam Rippon was the only American skater to skate clean on home turf. Props for that. Although he didn’t attempt a quad, going for easier content done well was clearly a good strategy. He placed 7th, and with teammate Max Aaron, gave the US a reasonable shot at three spots if they can both move up a spot in the free.

Also, I have dubbed this outfit “sparkly mesh Batman.”

4.  One of the Other Only Completely Clean Skates in the Whole Dang Thing

Skating in the first group was no problem for Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada, who placed a surprising 6th with a flawless SP. Yes, his shirt burnt my corneas beyond repair, but this was a fun program with well-executed content and you should definitely give it a watch.

5. World Record Near-Miss

Yuzuru Hanyu has always been one for breaking his own records, and I thought he had a decent shot at breaking his 110-point SP world record from the Grand Prix Final after this flawless short program. However, he missed it by .39-THIRTY NINE HUNDREDTHS OF A POINT FROM BREAKING HIS OWN SP RECORD FOR THE FOURTH TIME!

Is he even real?

I, for one, do not think he’s real.

Ice Dance: Early-Season Injury has Nothing on PapaCiz, Shibutani Siblings Throw it Back to 2011 in Event Chock-Full :p of surprises 

For the short dance, I will be doing the same thing I did for the men’s SP section.

  1. Weird is A Side Effect of Being Awesome

Not only did Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier do extremely well in their short dance, they changed the music around to make it even weirder! Whee! *Frolics Maniacally*

2. No Grand Prix, No Problem

I was not sure how Papadakis/Cizeron would fare at the big events this season after they had to skip the Grand Prix due to a concussion sustained by Gabriella. However, they won Europeans convincingly and look poised to do the same at Worlds, with a fantastic short dance under their belts. This scored a gigantic 76 points, and it isn’t even their stronger program this season! (I prefer their SD to their FD, but most people think the FD is the better program and so, apparently, do the judges.) After suffering head trauma, this is the best comeback they could hope for and I’ve found myself liking them a lot more this season than I did last year.

3. …Cappellini/Lanotte placed what? 

If you had told me before this event that Cappellini/Lanotte would be 5th after the short dance, I probably would’ve slapped some sense into you with a dumbbell.

But that would be wrong, because they actually did that. I like this program, and I like this team, and I wish they would’ve skated it better, but what can you do? Also, I love her dress and I want to try it on ASAP 😉 and my violin teacher made me play this music as a warmup in 5th grade so I am emotionally invested in this program even though I hated that piece with a burning passion.

4. The Continuing Adventures of the GPF-Peakers

Many people thought Weaver/Poje were poised to win their long-awaited first world title after a great GPF, and still others thought their underwhelming 4CC performances would motivate them to win worlds, but neither appears to be the case. They sit 4th after the SD and don’t look likely to win, with two free dances far stronger than theirs to contend with. (Of course, P/C placed 4th in the SD at Worlds last year and won, but that was with a FD that was miles better than W/P’s current one.) And I hate to be such a downer because I really do like this team, but they just plain need better programs. This one is okay, but their free dance has not been particularly well-recieved by the majority of fans. It’s kind of sad to see them skate a FD that’s such a step down from some of the fantastic free dances they’ve had in the past. This “artsy” stuff they keep trying to pull off isn’t working and they need to go back to the passionate character pieces they’ve done so well with in the past.

5. Now, a Happier Rant

I love the Shibutanis like no others (at least in ice dance…I doubt anyone I fan over can top my Gracie uberhood, but that is another story;) ), and they’re 89% of the reason I kept watching ice dance after D/W retired  “took a break from competition”. So I’ve been anxious for them to regain the results they had in their first senior season back in 2011. I remember obsessing over their paso doble short dance last year-the only paso I liked!-and wondering why their free dance wasn’t better received. (Still don’t know why-I know I liked it.) And I also remember watching them despairingly at Ondrej Nepela Trophy and thinking that I could just forget about them being a better season for them.

But at Skate Canada, Everything changed. They hit their levels, got good scores, and improved drastically on their ONT performances. At NHK, everything was even better. The GPF, where Alex had food poisoning, was a bit of a bump in the road, although they still skated very well. But Nationals put them back on their upwards trajectory. They won, we all cried, and many of us (me included) thought they might win their second world medal.

Come Worlds, they’ve set themselves up well to do it, sitting in second after the short with a comfortable two-point cushion in between them and 3rd place finishers Chock/Bates. I am thrilled for them, and this was a fantastic performance, and I have many emotions and will probably cry when I see their free dance tomorrow night. HARD. In public. And I will not care, because I have loyally ubered them through two of their worst seasons and they are finally getting the results they deserve and I am a hot, hot mess right now.

And I’m sure some of you are, too. 😉

 

I was feeling highly uncreative, so that is all I could come up with today. Bye, y’alls! 

“Hungary” For Gold: Bits and Pieces of Jr. Worlds (pt. 3)

Wow, what a competition!

This year’s Junior Worlds was full of surprises from start to finish. From dramatic comebacks in the men’s and ladies’ FSes to the Year Of Small Federation Champions to THAT ISU BIO and, most recently, a decisive victory by yet another powerhouse American ice dance team (it’s like the Russian ladies and I LOVE IT SO MUCH!), it was an event unlike any other and I’m sure I will come away from this with very fond memories of the craziness that went down here.

So, in the Grand IceNetwork Variety Post Tradition, I am closing the “Hungary” For Gold post series with a best-dressed analysis. 🙂 There will be one costuming winner in each segment of the competition-ladies SP and FS, men’s SP and FS, SD and FD, and pairs SP and FS-and winners in a few other random categories. (The skater’s placement is indicated in parenthesis.)

Best-Dressed in the Ladies SP: Marin Honda (1st) 

Marin Honda may have won the Junior World title, but that isn’t the only thing she won this weekend: she’s also the winner of the best-dressed award for the ladies SP. 🙂 I love the multicolored skirt (which seems to be designed to look like a flower, and looks awesome when she spins) and the pale pink color is very flattering on her. Very delicate and feminine, which went perfectly with her “Spring Sonata” short program.

Best-Dressed in the Ladies FS: Tyler Pierce (6th) 

It is a bit hard to see the smaller details on this dress in the picture (the only one I could find that was okay-quality and showed the dress in full), but wow, this is one intricate dress. It must’ve been extremely labor-intensive to make all those little jagged cutouts on the bodice, not to mention hand-applying the crystals (and there are obviously a lot of them)! But I think my favorite thing about it is actually the sleeves. For some reason, I am obsessed with colored mesh sleeves, and the grey mesh under the black fabric looked absolutely stunning. Also, the neckline is perfection. The whole thing is stunning, and as “Danse Macabre”-ish a dress as you could find.

Best-Dressed in the Short Dance: Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (2nd)

As is usually the case in ice dance, Michael’s costume is fine and suitably non-crazy, but it’s Rachel’s dress that catches your eye-and it’s gorgeous. The gold sparkly stuff (is it glitter or crystals? I’m not sure) looks amazing on the white chiffon, and the illusion mesh sleeves actually match her skin!!! The mock turtleneck was a nice touch. Really, everyone should be getting their costumes from whoever made these.

Best-Dressed in the Free Dance: Marjorie Lajoie/Zachary Lagha (

In addition to fringe skirts (see below), I am a total sucker for elaborate tutus (two words: Elena Ilinykh) and these costumes were really nice. Zachary is basically wearing your average paso doble SD costume (they’re skating to Don Quixote). But, again, it’s the girl’s dress that’s meant to catch your eye: the lacing on the sleeves was extremely cool and like nothing I’d ever seen before, and the tutu looked like it had sparkly butterfly wings on it…which somehow worked.

 

Best Dressed in the Pairs SP: Bryn Hoffman/Bryce Chudak (8th)

As you can probably tell from the costumes, this was a “Chicago” program, and these costumes are, indeed, very “Chicago”-y. The fringe skirt on Bryn’s dress looked really cool in flight (did that sound as weird as I think it did?) and the sparkly geometric details on the bodice were a fun touch. Bryce was wearing suspenders, which I will only accept in 1920’s-themed programs (which this was…obviously), but otherwise his costume was a bit boring…oh well. The pairs short didn’t have any particularly fantastic costumes, IMO, so I had to pick something and these were the best I could find.

Best-Dressed in the Pairs FS: Anastasia Mishina/Vladislav Mirzoev (2nd)

I was originally going to go with Borisova/Sopot’s costumes for this, but after actually writing it up I realized I had way too many criticisms of them and my little blurb sounded like a really long backhanded compliment. (However, I came up with an analogy that compared Dmitry Sopot’s shirt to the Nazca Lines that I felt that warranted a mention, so I’m mentioning it. 😉 ) I went with my safer option instead (these), and I realize now that I like them a lot more. Vladislav looks normal and nothing on his costume could be compared to oversized Peruvian petroglyphs, so that is a costuming success in my book. And Anastasia’s dress is very fun: a green fringe skirt and  a sparkly spandex bodice with a one-shoulder neckline sounds like it should be a major costuming misfire, but looks surprisingly great. Sassy and shiny and very 20’s-ish (if you haven’t already guessed, I love all things 1920’s in skating-fringe skirts, ice dance Charleston and Finnstep SDs, you name it…)

Best-Dressed in the Men’s Short Program: Deniss Vasiljevs (8th)

If I had to design a costume for a “Puttin’ on the Ritz” program, it would probably look somewhat like this. Very snazzy. 😉

Best-Dressed in the Men’s Free Skate: Daniel Samohin (1st)

I like men’s costumes to be interesting and colorful and fitting to the program without being weird or crazy. This is interesting, colorful and fitting to the music without being weird or crazy, so I obviously liked it. For some reason I particularly like the red satin collar and back of the vest. I legitimately have no idea why…also, any costume that manages to incorporate a cravat without making the skater look like a bad Mozart impersonator is doing something right. 😉

The Takahito Mura Award for the Best Costume That’s So Weird It Works: Maria Golubtsova/Kirill Belobrov (18th) 

I am glad I decided to watch the earlier groups of the FD despite the fact that they didn’t have any medal contenders in them, because if I didn’t, I would’ve missed these gloriously literal costuming disasters. This Ukrainian team whose names I can barely spell skated to the Super Mario Brothers soundtrack-as you probably guessed already-and apparently someone thought they needed to wear the most literal costumes imaginable. And they remind me of one of the reasons I love ice dance: in what other sport would you ever see someone competing with a rhinestone mustache on their chest? I almost can’t believe this exists, but it is for the good of humanity that it does. :p

Best Costume Featuring Bad Modern Art: Kevin Aymoz (9th)

As I once said of Ruslan Zhiganshin’s FD costume: “Give me one good reason you should ever have a face on your shirt.”

Actually, I am not sure this is even a face. It’s more like an eye and some weird squiggly lines…

I am officially out of ideas for awards to give here, so I’m going to wrap it up. Hope y’all enjoyed this post and the Junior Worlds series in general. 🙂 

“Hungary” For Gold: Bits & Pieces of Jr. Worlds (pt. 2)

The ladies event just finished up at the 2016 Junior World Figure Skating Championships, and though not as bizarre results-wise as the men’s event, it had its share of crazy. Add that to breaking news on the Suspicious ISU Bio Situation™, last-minute injuries, and the free dance about to begin, you’re in for an interesting wrapup.

 

Ladies FS: the Russian Streak is Broken 

Perhaps the most notable happening of the event was the breaking of the Russian winning streak. Russian ladies have won the Junior World titles more times consecutively than I care to count, but this year, one skater capitalized on the surprise withdrawls of two of the Russians (more on that later) and snatched the title out of Russian hands. (In 2nd place was Russian Maria Sotskova, so they were not far off, but still!)

14-year-old Marin Honda of Japan, the JGPF bronze medalist, won the title with a massive score and two pristine performances. Here is her free skate:

 

Russia’s Maria Sotskova won the silver medal with a mostly-clean performance:

Rounding out the podium was last year’s bronze medalist, Wakaba Higuchi of Japan, who fought back from a tough SP to defend her bronze medal:

In fourth place was the third Japanese skater, Yuna Shiraiwa, who also fought back from a lackluster SP:

Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva rounded out the top five, coming back from a short program that got a five-point deduction because it was interrupted by to a nosebleed:

In 6th place was American Tyler Pierce, whose Free Skate is not on YouTube yet. Major props to her for FINALLY breaking her Junior Worlds curse (she’s bombed and placed 14th and 19th there the last two years)!

Last-Minute Withdrawals

We were all surprised when Polina Tskurskaya, the gold-medal favorite in the ladies event, withdrew shortly before the SP because of an injury she sustained in practice, but that wasn’t the end of the Russian ladies’ bad luck. Teammate Alisa Fedichkina, who won the short program, withdrew from the free skate with yet another injury (this one from the off-ice warm up). No details on Alisa’s injury have been released; whatever it is, I wish both skaters a fast and full recovery.

Weird Free Dances (So Far) 

The free dance is currently underway, and I thought it was worth a mention that the first team skated to Super Mario Brothers (in literal Mario outfits…) and the second team skated to a rock opera about Mozart (the music was actually kind of cool, but a rock opera about Mozart?!?). It’s not even close to over yet, but I thought those two programs garnered a mention.

These variety pieces have been a lot of fun to write, so I hope I can get in one more before the events in and maybe even a few live from worlds! Hopefully enough weird things happen in the FD to warrant another installment. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Men’s Event Mayhem 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year of the Small-Federation Junior World Champions 

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

Tie In the Ladies SP

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