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. 

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The 2015-16 GP Programs Mega-Recap (SP)

Soo…hi!

First off, sorry about not doing a GPF recap. It was too depressing. It would’ve ended very badly.

Second, I am going to be doing something else instead: a giant mega-recap of all 30 programs from the top 15 ladies on the GP (programs themselves, not specific performances), starting with this, the short program recap.

So, these people:

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But wait, there’s more…these will be ranked from worst to best, not by the skater’s placement. And because why not, they will also be given a witty title thing…

 

15. Mesh and Sound Effects! (Elizaveta Tuktamysheva)

Music: Carmina Burana (Remix)

When I first saw this (now-defunct) short program, I actually liked it. I thought it suited her. But…butbutbut…two things.

  1. She never skated it clean (I’ve heard this is why she went back to her last SP); and
  2. She/her team decided to add spooooky! Sound effects (um…why?!?).

Also, this is really shallow, but the dress was entirely inappropriate and that did not help. But on the topic of the actual program, it had potential, but that potential got lost in translation…very lost.

14. The Subject of Tonight’s Lecture is Rhythm Annoying Repetitive Song Choices (Ashley Wagner)

Music: Hip Hip, Chin Chin by Club de las Belugas

I am not really a fan of samba-type programs, nor am I a fan of spoken voiceovers in programs, or repetitive music in general. So…heh. I really wanted to like this program, but I just don’t. However, I admire Ashley’s commitment to her performance in this program. It is obvious she really connects to it, so I suppose that’s what really matters…

Even if the music selection drives me out of my mind.

13. 50’s Nostalgia…ish? (Yulia Lipnitskaya?)

Music: Medley of songs by Elvis Presley

This was hard for me, I must say. I really love Yulia, but…this program…blergh. Suffice to say it’s not my favorite. And also, I was greatly conflicted on which of her GP performances to use for this: her good skate at TEB, or her marginal skate at Skate America featuring the fabulous cornea-burning rainbow dress of doom. (I picked TEB, to placate any Yulia fans mad that I put her this low.) But back on topic, it just doesn’t seem like she’s feeling this program. As much as I dislike it, this music is not the kind of music you can skate to with an “I will kill someone if I don’t win” face. This program doesn’t work if you’re not having fun with it, and I don’t think she is. Yulia, please get better programs next year! I want to love your skating again!

12. Well, this one was just meh…(Roberta Rodeghiero) 

Music: “He Sleeps,” “Pretty Woman”

I really didn’t dislike this program; it was just kind of, well…meh. Also, the music cut could’ve been done a lot better, to say the least. However, this was a very good skate, so there’s that. I just don’t have much to say about this program. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a world-contender-level program.

11. Nope, no feelings beginning… (Courtney Hicks) 

Music: “The Feeling Begins”

Again, there was nothing bad about this program, but it kind of bored me, which was disappointing, seeing as Courtney had one of my favorite SPs last season.

 

10. Copycat Mao (Yuka Nagai) 

Music: Madame Butterfly

If you’ve seen Mao Asada’s free skate, it doesn’t take long to figure out how similar the two programs are…except that one of them is markedly better than the other.

9. TBH: kind of sick of Tango de Roxanne (Kanako Murakami) 

Music: Tango de Roxanne

I like Kanako, and she really sells this program, but at this point I am very sick of Tango de Roxanne.

8. Just wait for the Free Skate recap… (Rika Hongo) 

Music: “Quidam” from Cirque De Soliel

The middle of this recap is the hardest part because I like programs 5-9 but I don’t absolutely love them, so I have to figure out how to order them fairly…and this is the quandary I am facing with Rika. Her skating is really improved this season, and this program is a good fit for her, but there are a lot of programs on this list I like better. I like Rika’s energy and commitment to the performance, but there are other programs I prefer.

7. Mixed Feelings (Satoko Miyahara) 

Music: “Firedance” from Riverdance

I like Satoko a lot, and I really admire how artistically proficient she is at such a young age. I’ve loved most of her programs in the past, but I haven’t really warmed up to this one. It’s very understated and that’s not really my thing. However, it is a very sophisticated program and well-suited to her, thus the fairly high ranking.

6. #BalletArmsFTW (Polina Edmunds)

Music: Moonlight Sonata

In my Glacier Falls recap (one of my first posts, actually), I said I “loved this program to death.” I can’t exactly say that anymore, but I still like it a lot. It still amazes me how much more refined Polina is this season than she was last season; the aforementioned “ballet arms” are a reference to that.

5. An Abundance of ‘Tanos (Evgenia Medvedeva) 

Evgenia has grown on me a lot over the course of the season. When I saw the videos of her at the Russian test skates, I thought she was boring as tar; now, I can at least say I like her, even if I’m not a huge fan. Her refinement and softness is very refreshing in a country whose current crop of skaters are mostly known for over-the-topness. As annoying as the backloading and constant ‘tanos are, she has a lot of redeeming qualities. Evgenia seems to really feel this music, too, and I cannot stop raving about her dress. I really can’t write anything about her without mentioning it, LOL!

4. J’Taime indeed (Elena Radionova) 

Music: “J’taime” by Lara Fabian

It pains me to have to put Elena out of the top three, but it was for good reasons: she’s behind two world-class programs and a sentimental favorite. A lot of people don’t like this program, but I did; it suits Elena better than a lot of people give it credit for, and it’s great that she’s branching out artistically. However, it wasn’t enough to crack the top three.

3. The epic debut (Karen Chen) 

Music: Nessun Dorma from Turandot

I got to see this performance in person.

It was about the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced. That spiral into the music? Actual tears. *Sigh* It was so perfect…

2. Please Leeeet Me Explaaain! (Mao Asada) 

Music: Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen

This program shows a side of Mao she hasn’t really shown before: #SassyMao. 🙂 Considering the programs she’s done in the past, I didn’t think this program would be a good fit for her, but it has quickly become one of my favorite of her programs. (The others are Nocturne, Fantaisie-Impromptu and Czardas, so that was a very high bar!) She’s never skated it entirely clean, but if she ever does, I can’t even imagine how awesome it would be. (World record for sure…)

1. *Air quotes* “Didn’t see that coming…” (Gracie Gold)

Music: El Choclo by Angel Villodo

This is it, folks. This is what it looks like when Gracie has a program that actually fits her.

*Whispering dramatically* It’s majestic. 

 

Hopefully I’ll be back with my FS recap before Russian Nationals on Wednesday. Thanks for reading!