Thursday, November 19, 2009

Skate America: The Ladies

Note: I've gone back and watched the coverage to refresh my impressions of everyone and mainly to hear how Tara Lipinski commentates. Much to my surprise, Tara is extremely knowledgeable technically to the point where she seems like she'd be a good coach because she can spot issues with three turns, picking, etc. As expected, she put on her fake bubbly "I'm so nice" persona and the constant positivity is annoying. Peggy and Dorothy were never afraid to point out when someone wasn't skating well. Even if someone was struggling in practice, Lipinski said that she thought they were really going to come out strong. Tara knows that that isn't true. She competed on the international stage quite a bit and knows which skaters are going to really struggle. Therefore, much of her commentary doesn't seem genuine. If she can stop trying to be so positive, it would be more interesting to listen to her. Tara was one fierce competitor, which makes her commentary interesting; however, I always want to smack her and tell her that she was never a better skater than Michelle Kwan. Ever.

The Ladies:

Emily Hughes looked good in practice and in warm up. Her body is more womanly than four years ago, but she is skating much better than she did in the fall of 2005 when she was getting over meningitis. If she keeps working, anything can happen with the crap field of US ladies. Emily is large and in charge and has real presence on the ice. Her speed is good, layback and spirals are solid. It comes down to the jumps with Emily. Lipinski pointed out that Emily's jumps look so off because she slows down her rotation throughout the jump and thus, underrotates. Her flip is likely always going to be underrotated unless she fixes this issue. If Emily can consistently rotate 5-6 jumps, she is going to be a real threat on the team. The triple lutz is one of her best jumps but she doesn't appear to have the stamina to do two in a program. With two months, anything is possible for the Hughes family. God has given them more miracles than one family typically receives. They must've been amazing in their past lives. David Wilson does a good job of choreographing for Emily and makes her look sophisticated on the ice. Before, she had an almost out of control and sloppy quality. Her skating hasn't changed much, but the way she carries herself has. Given her Hughes competitive genes, I was shocked to see her pop the lutz. The lovely Della Bella said that Emily was showboating in the warm up and that she saw it coming. Her confidence seems to be improving, as she fought back in the long. I expect her to be in the final group at Nationals because I've learned never to count out the Hughes matter how much we'd all want to.

Alexe Gilles needs some of that Hughes family competitive ferocity. Her career is lost. Alexe's technique continues to be inconsistent and she is the slowest among Tom Z's students. That is quite the distinction. Alexe struggled in practice before her first Grand Prix, but pulled out a solid performance. She struggled at home before Skate America and just didn't pull it off this time. It is frustrating to see Alexe be where she is because the potential is obvious. God gave her long legs and a gorgeous look. The speed just isn't there and she really needs to get the hell out of Colorado Springs. Tom Z has a ton of students and he clearly isn't making her a priority. Word is that her mother doesn't want to be in the Springs much longer and this competition should make the decision to leave that much easier. I was one of many people who felt Alexe should've been sent to Worlds over Katrina Hacker, but she just isn't making the most of her opportunities. Alexe's changed her programs but they still aren't great and her serious lack of speed only exacerbates the current lack of excitement in her skating. My advice to Alexe would be to get a real master coach (Rafael, Morozov...maybe even try Yuka since her siblings are in Detroit. There are a ton of resources in the Detroit area.) She is also lost in a way Nikodinov was in 2000. A major change is needed or else she is just wasting time and money.

Tugba Karademir doesn't have consistent jumps, but she has such a performance quality and actually has choreographic nuances. No matter how she skates, her performance is always enjoyable and the crowd gets behind her. Tugba even has little Baiul moments but she also has the inconsistency that comes with that. She only did a double flip+double toe in the short. Her spiral is impressive and her layback has potential, but needs more stretch everywhere. Tugba is likely never going to be a top skater, but she is someone who is always a treat to watch at competitions. She is one of the few ladies who didn't catch the cancer and skate like absolute shit.

Sarah Hecken was absolutely depressing in the short. It was great that she eeked out a trip to the Olympics but she is another example of the frustrating aspects of per country rules. She is not at an Olympic level. Let's not kid ourselves. Sarah has a Nancy Kerrigan layback. Her competitive ability is up there with Claudia Leistner.

Elena Glebova had the nerve to skate to East of Eden. And she had the nerve to wear a high voltage lime green dress. What the fuck?! How do you get lime green from East of Eden? Her dress was out of Kristie Phillips' wardrobe. Elena has good speed but really owns her European tackiness. She does that hideous upright spin and her version is particularly hideous. Her spiral wasn't held in her short program. Glebova completely missed her flying sit at the end of her short program but I can't say I was too devastated. Her long program dress looks like something out of Jana Khoklova's closet. Her triples are somewhat solid and definitely are better than some of the other ladies.

Romanza: Doesn't quite live up to Michelle eh?
Aunt Joyce: Not quite?! NOT AT ALL!

Susanna Poykio was also offensive. WestPalmBitch kept reminding me that she was third at though that is an actual accomplishment these days. Her short program dress was more suitable for a baton twirler than a figure skater. Her triple lutz was underrotated and her spiral was really lacking in the stretch department. It was just unfortunate uninspired skating. I could actually see her trying to count points in her head.

Joshi Helgesson really could've done more with her cool short program music. Her layback was ugly and particularly offensive. She flutzes, has weak spiral and her short program footwork has absolutely nothing to do with the music.

Fumie Suguri is never going to go away. I'm convinced that she is going to be out there at 85 and still skating at about the same level. Fumie plateaued in about 2003 and has stayed there ever since. She medals when others mess up. Period. She now gets to incorporate the Mishin hideousness into her skating. Her short program was solid but just isn't competitive when other ladies skate well. There is nothing memorable about Fumie's skating anymore. Her edges are still nice but other skaters have nice edges. Her short program dress is a knock off of Cohen's 2003 long program dress that looked like she peed on the bottom. Her Spartacus dress is an improvement but nothing is going to save that program. I'm at the point where I don't care what her music is. She needs to retire and go into coaching. The only fun part of watching Fumie is seeing who she is going to cut off in the warm up and practice sessions. Rachael Flatt was a bit of a new target for her but she still focused on Yu-Na. On what planet is Fumie ever going to even be competitive with Yu-Na. If she is going to try to unnerve someone, she should go for someone like Julia or Rachael who she could actually beat if they imploded. WestPalmBitch, being an MKFer with a Got Kwan? shirt, was a major Fumie apologist---remember they all liked her because she liked MK. Anyways, even he had to admit that it was more than a coincidence that she was stuck to Yu-Na like velcro. Without edge jumps, Fumie is never going to make the Japanese Olympic Team. Suzuki has too much potential and they need to stop investing in Fumie the way the USFSA needs to stop investing in Bebe Liang. It's never going to happen....and whatever potential was there happened already.

Elene Gedevanishvili needs a breast reduction if she is ever going to be competitive and get her triples back. She had Witt's ta-ta's on a much tinier body. Robin is clearly training her but the jumps just don't have the ability to be consistent. When she lands, the ta-tas are always bringing her forward. I live for her Oksana vamping to kill time in the long program. Her 'Fever' should be more interesting than it is. She is a total sexpot and needs to OWN IT. It is sad to watch Elene because she is so enigmatic and you want her to be farther along than she is at this point in her career. She is fighting nature and gravity...and it doesn't seem that all of the great technique in the world could help her to be consistent. Still a wonderful performer. Love her. She has real quality to her skating.

Julia Sebestyan's height, power and speed is so damn impressive after a field of ladiezzzzzzzz. Her Secret Garden/ Libertango music edit is about as classy as Tonya Harding's. Her triple lutz+double toe is monstrous. She needs to hit two lutzes in the program. She should do them back to back a la Cohen under Tarasova, because she is going to lose focus and stamina in the long. We know it. She knows it. Get the points and move on. The potential bonus is never going to happen. Julia looks stronger than she has in the past but she is still the same short program skater. Can't we do something to package her better? She is somewhat attractive and could look better with the right makeup, a brighter hair color, better hair cut, lack of split ends, and dresses that don't out glitz her on-ice personality. Julia looks about 40 on the ice and that isn't helping her with the judges. I definitely think the USFSA should take her on as a technical coach if she can teach our disasters how to lutz like her.

Speaking of USFSA disasters.... Okay, I will admit that I am tough on Rachael Flatt. She is not our worst skater but it does offend me that she is our best skater. I admire that she is really making an effort to be less boring. Her "Sing, Sing, Sing" has moments but then she loses it when she goes to telegraph her jumps. Her triple flip+triple toe wasn't happening in practice on Saturday and didn't happen in competition on Saturday night. I was impressed that she landed it in warm up and competition on Sunday. Rachael really tries. You can tell she is a great person and can't do much about her utter lack of flexibility and body type. That being said, she needs to think outside the box and really get a unique choreographer who can work with and around her body's limitations. Kawahara used Bebe's weird body to make interesting programs and I think she could really help with Rachael. Even David Wilson worked with Yu-Na's awkwardness and used it to their advantage. I look forward to her getting into Stanford and working with someone like Christy Ness or Linda Leaver if she continues skating. The transformation isn't going to happen under Tom Z. He's gotten her about as far as he can get her. Rachael is a better skater and competitor than he is capable of training her to be. Her ugly ass 'looking for change' catch foot variation needs to go. I get that it gets the points, but it makes me absolutely hate her skating. Flatt even does a variation where she puts her hand next to her face as though she is trying to make the spin pretty. It doesn't work. Her long program is definitely less boring than it was in China. Rachael was really getting excited and was feeding off the crowd getting behind her. She put down a long program and Martha would already have given her a spot on the Olympic team. She has proven her readiness. My criticisms of Flatt are about getting her onto the international podium. Wilson or Kawahara. Wilson or Kawahara. Lori's lack of imagination and effort under the code isn't helping her. She has too many students to really work at defining Rachael's style or giving her one period. Dorothy has done a ton to help package Rachael. I like the color of her long program dress and the cut of her short. I wish we could combine them. Her black practice dress is my favorite look on her. Her agent, Tara Modlin, came by to see if we knew where the back of the dress was from. We didn't and were ashamed. Johnny Weir immediately knew that the back was from Carrie Bradshaw's Vogue photo shoot. I definitely do want to work with Rachael and turn her into a diva performer. She has more personality now and just needs to carry it all the way through her short program. She can't let up. Scott Hamilton went up to her and told her that people crave her personality. I don't know if I'd go that far, but her short really is an improvement. I confess: I did stand for Rachael after her free skate.

Yu-Na Kim is simply sensational in person. There are no words. She was struggling with the consistency of her triple flip in practice the morning of the short program but didn't even miss one in the short program warm up. She went out there and gave a clinic. it had to have been intimidating for the other skaters. Yu-Na skates as fast as Ekaterina Gordeeva and every other skater is aware of her and how amazing she looks. Her short warm up was Waltz Jump, 2 Axel, 2 Axel, 3 Lz+3 Toe, 3 Lz+ 3 Toe, 3 Flip, 3 Flip, 3 Lz+ 3 Toe and 3 Flip. I really respect her decision to up the difficulty of her combo and work on correcting her flip during an Olympic season. It is gutsy and should keep her from peaking too soon. These challenges will help her. She has even improved her layback and spirals. Her James Bond short is a classic the way Danse Macabre is. It's just a very different program. Yu-Na has such versatility and I can't wait to see her own World Tour after she wins Olympic Gold and captures everyone's heart and imagination. I also respect how well she does given the immense pressure she is under. Her fans make the women who stalked Kwan look tame. They fill up the arena and cheer so loudly that it has to be distracting for her. They need to let her focus. Their chants shake the arena and they were up in the nosebleed section. They clearly could've moved down given the tons of open seats, but didn't. (We never sat in our assigned seats. There was no need to.) Her fans are amusing because they flew over to cover the arena in Yu-Na banners that were all professionally printed. (Muse of Gershwin, Queen Yu-Na, Flying Angel, etc) We were able to find people in the stands based on which Yu-Na poster they were sitting by. You'd think that her fans would want to watch the competition if they came all the way to bumblefuck Lake Placid, which is no easy feat. But no, they only watch the ladies event. I'm not convinced that figure skating will last in Korea after the Yu-Na crack is over. Her tour should keep it active for a while and perhaps they'll develop pro competitions for her to kick everyone's ass in.

Also: Why is Andrea Joyce trying to curse Yu-Na by asking Brian if she is unbeatable?! That is really asking for a meltdown. Andrea can really go fuck herself. I know David Michaels is pissy at me for my blog, but Andrea is such a tool and it really needs to be mentioned. I miss Beth Ruyak interviewing people. Granted, this is the network of Tim Daggett, John Roethlisberger and Al Trautwig. Where is Terry Gannon or even the CBS team? Tracy Wilson was great at interviewing skaters and wasn't a complete twit. Andrea deserves to have those horrid convos with Evan Lysacek loving himself.

The Yunabomb was absolutely shocking in person but you could sense it coming from her warm up. Her legs were so under her during the short warm up in a way that they clearly weren't in the long. The timing of her 3 Lz+3 Toe seemed though her legs were just sluggish. Everything seemed a little labored and difficult for her. Nothing was clicking. I actually love her long program dress in person. The color doesn't translate nearly as well to television. Her program absolutely has potential to be a masterpiece if she continues to grow it at the Olympics. Her best performances are yet to come and I suspect that she is the type of skater to go home and fix whatever went wrong before it happens again. She shook her head in disbelief after her program as though to tell the audience to stop going wild. It is easy to forget that she is human. Drunksana is such a negative bitch and just looooved that the internet was blowing up in shock after her meltdown. It wasn't as bad as Kwan's at '97 Nationals, but it sure felt like it watching it live. Yu-Na lost confidence and it was startling. Luckily, she came back in the exhibition a few hours later and appears to be shaking it off. I am devastated that we're going to have to hear about Rachael Flatt beating her in the long program forever. She still won by 13 points.