Friday, November 20, 2009

Skate America: The Men

The gays had an up and down competition at Cancerous Skate America. The short programs were hot messes, but the divas got in bitch mode and really attacked their free skates. I applaud the drama of it all, but the shorts were really quite pitiful.

Igor Macypura competed and is 'coached' by Karen Kwan. This guy actually has potential but he is competing at the level of Karen when she went away to Boston University. It is just a mess. There is some obvious Russianish jumping technique in there, but he isn't going to realize his potential at the East West Ice Palace. He will continue to stagnate like Caroline Zhang if he keeps that up. Karen went out to dinner with Igor after the event and they actually seem to have a good relationship. I'd pay Karen to coach me if it meant I was that close to Michelle. Do you think Karen's business card reads, "I'm Michelle Kwan's sister....she's in my phone?" Both of his performances were in the vein of Bebe Liang. We felt that same level of frustrating watching him.

Andrei Lutai deserved to be arrested for his costumes alone. Mishin's packaging of skating is up there with Khokhlova and Novitski. Not sure if either os his costumes had anything to do with the music or if they were even intended for his current programs. Lutai has enormous potential. Given that he is Russian and has already been arrested, I think he has the potential to be the next Yagudin. Lutai's skates were lost all week and his free skate really displayed his lack of practice. You have to wonder if he was drinking away his sorrows and blacked out. That performance had to hurt his chances of getting the second spot on the Russian Olympic Team. One has to mention how amazing Russian triple axels are. Even though he is the king of tackiness, all of the American coaches need to own Mishin's books, his jumping devices and teach their skaters to jump like the Ruskies. Hell, give them the Vodka too if it helps those jumps.

Ryan Bradley is a total show skater, was born to be a professional, and is really fun to watch. Ryan really goes after the quad and is probably the most consistent American quad-jumper. His leg position during rotation is actually not that tight. His big muscular ass and thighs give him insane height on his jumps. We need to fix the mullet. I can't support it. No matter whether or not I'm planning on it, I always wind up rooting for Ryan. He wiggles his hips in both programs and is a total ham. Ryan deserves to be the next Steven Cousins on Stars On Ice. His free skate is hysterical when he's hitting. His facial expressions are so engaging when he's confident. Landing both quads was hella impressive, but we were most impressed that he landed his triple axel. His take off was not very tight at all and even Ryan seemed surprised to land it in the long program. I knew it would be close between him and Verner in the long but he managed to eek out ahead of him given the strength of the opening of his long program. He lost a bit of focus at the end of his program and double a three jump combo. He also popped a salchow but threw a nice triple toe and hit it. You have to respect how hard Ryan fights when he is out on the ice. He doesn't give up. Love the little ribbon around his neck in the short.

Tomas Verner really had the ability to challenge Evan Lysacek for the title but he was suffering from the flu and it really showed. Tomas fell on an underrotated quad in the short and then doubled his triple axel and doubled his triple lutz. I don't really approve of him wearing jeans for Zorba the Greek. It just looks like he forgot part of his costume. Tomas is so talented and amazing to watch. He was absolutely the best skater at the event. His Godfather costume would absolutely leave him sleeping with the fishes due to its glitter, but I really like the program for him. His jumps are so pure and impressive. Tomas really came back in the free skate and I found myself hoping he could pull off a miracle. Tomas equated his short program to performing a program without any jumps. He didn't manage to pull off a quad in the long, but his triple axels were really strong. He lost a few points by doubling the salchow at the end of his program but the performance was impressive given his illness and disastrous short program.

Kevin Reynolds- I'm so glad that Rachael Flatt's brother got a hair cut. His long program costume is nice and reminds me of Yagudin's 'Man In The Iron Mask." Reynolds needs to be sent to Morozov because Nikolai could really turn him into a champion given his jumping ability. The footwork really needs work. I was shocked at how weak it was given that he is Canadian and probably ice skates on the way to school. I think they're born with ice skates already on their feet up there. His quad salchow is really impressive. He doubled his quad toe attempt but came back with a 3 Axel+2 Toe, 3 Loop+ 3 Toe, 3 Axel (x), 3 Salchow (x), 3 Lutz (x) and 3 Flip+3 Toe+2 Loop(x). The man can rotate in the air. Get him to Morozov. STAT.

Shawn Sawyer- He is such a delight on and off the ice. Has anyone ever noticed that Sawyer's coach smacks him on his butt before he competes? I would too if it meant he would skate as well as he did in his free skate. David Wilson choreographed a wonderful program to an Amadeus/Mozart medley. He turned out on his first triple axel but was very excited to rotate it. He kept cookin and delivered a 3 Flip+3 Toe, 3 Lutz, Split Jump+3 Loop, 2 Axel (step out), 3 Axel, 3 Salchow+2 Toe+ 2 Loop. Sawyer has the amazing Canuck edges going on and has a spiral with even more extension than Drew Meekins. Shawn is so charismatic and told us that he used to stretch his leg in door frames as a child. So glad he did. He warms up in colored wife beaters and always looks like an adorable gay. He told us that his wifebeaters always match his underwear. Guess he was wearing aqua the night of the free skate. He better stick with that color. Shawn has a tattoo of a Maple Leaf with the Olympic Rings and is dying to add 2010 to it. He does such a fantastic impression of David Wilson choreographing a program. The entire Dancing Bears restaurant gave Shawn a standing ovation when he entered and everyone kept buying him champagne and drinks. Evan came in later but he didn't receive one tenth of the ovation (honest.) Peggy Fleming always says that this sport is very revealing...guess people see what a gem Shawn Sawyer is. Our crazy new Ice Dance girls smothered Shawn all night and he loved it. Sweet guy.

Brandon Mroz had his second meltdown of the Grand Prix season. Word is that things are rough at home for Mroz, so I will go easy on him. I'm not a fan of skaters who are cocky tools and lack even a hint of artistry. He delivered a quad and triple axel in the short, but his long was as disastrous as his short program in Russia. If the USFSA didn't hate Johnny so much, you'd have to think that Brandon seriously damaged his Olympic chances. The long program costume really looks a bit ridiculous on him. He doesn't give off the poofy collar vibe to me. When his jumps go, he really doesn't have much to rely on. Mroz popped and doubled almost every jumping pass after he fell on his opening quad toe. Brandon was very upset and extremely deflated following his performance. Can't say I blame him.

Florent Amodio really has the French eurotrashiness going on and I love it. He is such a joy to watch and I agree with those who find him reminiscent of Eliot Halverson in terms of looks and personality. I lived for Scott and Sandra calling him "very French." His music edits appear to have been done by Tonya Harding and I applaud the randomness of it. His Amelie program is an absolute joy and had he not fallen on footwork, he would've medaled. The shrug of his shoulders after the fall was extremely charming. The entire crowd got behind him. His jumps have serious spring and his future is bright. Love Love Love watching him skate. WestPalmBitch would've thrown his panties at him had we let him.

Adrian Schultheiss is an utter drugged out mess and I'd love to go to Amsterdam with him. He actually skated to Smack My Bitch Up in a straight jacket. It happened. Loved the program. Sandra may not have been kind to him but you have to love him. It takes balls to skate to a program like he did. Luckily, the judges have less room to be stodgy than they used to. I really want to know how he jumps in that free skate costume. Love it.

Evan Lysacek- I've seen Evan skate in person before (I was there for the Tosca debut) and I can't say that I like him any better than I did back then. Evan's World Title appears to have made him cockier and even more of a douche. He probably considered his performance at Skate America courageous given all of the immense pressure on him...having one of the only decent short programs. His triple axel continues to be swingy with his arms and was obviously underrotated in the short. His arm flailing has gotten worse and he now adds these leg kicks and throws his head back a ton. The guy has a nice sit spin position and works hard, but his personality really comes across when he skates and it isn't pleasant. His Scheherezade is lacking the unique music edits that were promised. Both costumes are ridiculous in person. I don't know if I have more issues with Vera for the costumes or Lori for allowing him to flail about like that. How does Frank support that?! I've never met a skater who liked Evan's skating or him as a person. He really came across as cold to his family when he was at the table next to us at dinner. We didn't stand for his programs and definitely didn't ask him for a photo or autograph. Evan seemed much more interested in his agent than his parents after the event. His proud mama thinks he just gets better and better. I can't agree----I think his flailing gets worse and worse. I really hope he puts out his quad at Nationals, underrotates and falls because that is the only thing that is going to keep him from winning another National Title. He lacks any emotion in his long program until he goes into his ''passionate'' step sequences. He could really put his long lines to Johnny Curry use but doesn't. Not a fan. At all. Ever. He was somewhat promising before the 2006 Olympics. That promise went the wrong way. I have serious questions about Frank going senile.

Jenny Kirk was in Lake Placid interviewing fans for Universal Sports and was looking gorgeous. One of Evan's ELFFS was talking Jenny's head off for twenty minutes before they could film us. (They asked us.) This old lady was explaining every aspect of her sweatshirt and was going on and on about every competition she has ever seen Evan skate in. Jenny was doing her best skater face to keep from laughing but the guy holding the boom microphone looked like he wanted to stab her...or himself. I found myself eyefucking Jenny Kirk while we were waiting to talk to her. Now I know her and she is lovely, but it is impossible to get over how effing pretty she is in person. Jenny looks healthy, happy and is really thriving. Have to love her. The producers asked us to be snarky and we delivered...well I did. WestPalmBitch was PC for the most part but even he said that he didn't find Evan's skating to be genuine. We know Jenny secretly agreed. They said that they would definitely use our clips because everyone else was so YAYYY SKATING.

Lake Placid was fun and wasn't that bad for being impossible to get to and a small town with little to do. Found out about Sasha Cohen endorsing pepto while we were there, but some things speak for themselves. I have no words. She doesn't even need the money. My Dad said, "Well, Kathy Griffin said to never turn down a job."

In the Evan short program warm up video, you can hear the Baltimore Sun writer talking about the 'doughnuts' on his arms. We didn't laugh but she kept repeating herself as though we didn't hear it. We tried to explain the joy that is the drama of Sasha Cohen to her. She was slightly more fab than Lynn Rutherford...who doesn't know about the costumes but she really likes Evan's programs. (I wish you could her her faux-pretentious accent when she's pretending to be on par with Christine Brennan and Phil Hersh.)

We didn't manage to spot Lipinski or her 'dental work.' The only blemish on a great weekend.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Skate America: The Dance

With so much focus on underrotations and edge calls, it is such a welcome relief to watch quality skating, choreography and performances. It also helps that the true divas tend to flock to dance. Case in point: Tanith Belbin's Men's Health photo spread. I don't think we have to comment on them. Those photos speak for themselves. I will say that it amusing how the USFSA is so uptight about gays but willing to tarnish its Al-American Image for a magazine on par with Maxim in terms of classiness.

We missed the compulsory dance competition. I'm not that sad about missing the Golden Waltz but it is notable that Belgosto scored the highest score on that dance in the world this season. They had a sizable lead and have now competed the dance twice this season. It is the compulsory dance that will be skated at Nationals. Marlie have not competed the Golden Waltz on the Grand Prix. If Belgosto are to be held up at Nationals, the Golden Waltz is where the judges will distance them from the rest of the field. Funny how the compulsory dance could save them for once.

We also missed much of the first group of the OD due to WestPalmBitch being the diva of the trip. I did re-watch the dance competition on Icenetwork.

Chock and Zuerlein: Madison Chock is a heartbreaker. She is a star and old for her age the way Britney and Christina were at seventeen. Madison Chock is that girl in your high school class who was dating the twenty-five-year-old music producer. She is also packaged in heavy makeup that makes her look far older than her baby-faced partner. The British Eurosport commentators are taken with her for good reason. Unfortunately, they are now seniors and it would help if Greg could look a bit older. His haircut isn't helping. I know all of the Detroit male ice dancers have their signature hair, but 'do makes him look like an emo high school sophomore. It would also hep if he lifted a bit more, broadened those shoulders and skated with a bit more posture and confidence. He is always smiling at her and presents her well, but they just don't have the romantic tension between them given that she looks a good five years older than him.

Skating on the senior circuit should help with the confidence. There are moments when this team is absolutely mesmerizing with their performance quality. There are also times when they look like little kids going to a dance for the first time. There are strong opinions all over the map about this team. It is true that they benefit from Igor Shpilband's enormous political influence. It is also true that they benefit from his technical expertise and attempt some serious difficulty. I feel that their free dance is good but it definitely has moments where they look like little kids trying to go to a ball. I questioned the decision to place them above Navarro and Bommentre, but they do have the coaches with pull. They are definitely competitors and attacked this dance. Madison has been battling tendonitis and they were unable to practice run-throughs between Cup of China and Skate America. Madison didn't even skate for a week after returning from Beijing. Their performance was impressive and their confidence level is growing. Time, competing at Four Continents, growing up and more attention from Igor and Marina is what they need right now. Marina will need to get some more inspiration from scarves and will have to muster all her creative energy to package them properly. This is a team that should stick together and work through the growing pains. It will be difficult not to win any competitions this season, but they will be much better off in the long run. Their free dance is stronger than their original dance. The OD is good but it just looks a bit sloppy and ragged in areas. His posture and their confidence needs to improve because they aren't OWNING the dance like one needs to. White kids from Middle America need to perform with a ton of conviction and confidence if they are going to pull off an Afro-Cuban Folk Dance.

Xiaoyang Yu and Chen Wang- The Dancing Cats. We need to talk about it because it happened. It can't be ignored. I can't get over their free dance. I'm not sure if they should be thanking Natalia Linichuk for giving them that program or hating her. They definitely deserve to have animosity toward their costume designer. That goes without saying. I can't decide if their program is a tacky hideous hilarious mess that should be ripped a new asshole or if it a brilliant Linichuk strategy to make this forgettable team memorable. Their OD is a snooze but you can't ignore the way they hiss, scratch and claw at one another throughout their free dance. I wonder which character each is portraying from Cats. Luckily there isn't a slow section to Memory. You have to credit them for really performing their free dance full out all the way through. They never break character and it is rather amusing for the audience...who is laughing with them or at them...not quite sure. I stood for them, but I was the only one.

Navarro and Bommentre- His costume is a bit of a mess in the OD. The concept is cool but his costume is distracting and could be hindering their performance. I am glad she is letting her hair down in their free dance and channeling the Bulgarians. I absolutely love their free dance. Granted, this team has absolutely no political pull and their loss to Chock and Zuerlein means that they have absolutely no shot at making the Olympic Team. I'd love to see them be fan favorites in shows the way Hough and Ladret were. Unfer the old system, they never would've lost to Chock and Zuerlein given their maturity and quality of skating. Mary J Blige works for ice dancing. You can feel the spirit of Mary in the room when they skate to One. Maybe they should stick around one more year to go to Worlds after Belgosto move to the pro ranks?

The Zaretskis- Hava Nagilia AND Schindler's List?! They are seriously the most Jewish team ever. Della Bella has forever clouded my vision of them. She is known to be sweet but as they skated their warm up she pointed them out and said, "Everyone says that they have the same face but it looks better on him." I can't stop looking at them and agreeing. That being said, I love my Jewishness but I cannot support their Original Dance. Hava Nagilia has such potential and would make an amazing Morozov-short program for Sasha Cohen, but their rendition is all wrong. It is too slow when it should pick up and then it is too fast. Their costumes are hokey and they look frantic and unpolished; It was just a bit of a mess. But, their Schindler's List program was performed so well. I love the details on their costumes. The back of her dress is made to look like barbed wire. I hate brother-sister teams, but I enjoyed their performance and was very happy for them when they found out they won the bronze. Their unison was off in the OD but it was together in the FD the way one would expect from two people who have skated together their entire lives.

Cappellini and Lanotte- I want to be analytical and talk about their performance, but I can't get over how attractive these two are. Luckily, their skating matches their looks. The ice dance crazies we were with say that there is just too much pretty in one pair. Their free dance to Lux Aeterna is captivating and their costumes, looks and personalities only enhance the number. Everything they do, they do with quality, flow, good edging and speed. This is a team that is just going to continue climbing the podium. They aren't going anywhere. I live for some of their transitional lifts. They don't make the code of points look like work.

Khokhlova and Novitski are even more hideous in person than they are on television. Their costumes look like they were designed by someone fired from Cirque du Soleil for excessive drug use. Their choreography and execution is pretty much the same for this generally held up Russian team. You know their Russian Soul free dance is bad when the judges actually had the nerve to drop them to fourth place. The program alternates between split jumps be her and then flexibility tricks that never actually hit a beautiful position. I'm sure she's great in bed but she isn't a Sasha Cohen type....or photogenic at all. Jana tore Sergei's costume in practice that morning but they appeared to fix it by the competition. I actually heard a mixture of gasps followed by cheers when it was announced that they finished in fourth place. No one seemed to like either of their programs...but the Russian Soul program was definitely received even worse than their batshit crazy original dance. A Russian team is really bad when they can't even be held up. And that's bad considering how hard the judges have to work to hold up Domnina and Shabalin.

Belgosto- They were clearly the class of the field. Their speed and presence is beyond the other competitors. Tanith is definitely eating and keeping food down for once and it appears to be helping her skating. Their programs are probably the best they've ever had but I do think that Marlie's Original Dance is just better. The Bollywood program is more innovative, imaginative and intricate. Then there is the issue of twizzles. I used to automatically blame all twizzle issues on Tanith because she only passed her senior dance test a few weeks ago, but Ben is actually the one whose timing goes facacta when they switxh from forward to backward twizzles. He continues to almost crash into her. Tanith's edges and time remain solid throughout. I live for their Ave Maria/Amen free dance and think it has the potential to be a gold medal program, but there are lots of little dirty spots. They lost a bit of the speed and impact during their last footwork sequence. I wasn't as drawn in as I should've been during the climax of the program. They just need to really tweak the levels, polish the program and make sure they're ready to defeat Marlie and Virtue and Moir at the GP Final...otherwise their national title is really in jeopardy. Linichuk isn't using her influence to pull out big scores yet and it is time to get a bit concerned. Their free dance score went down from Cup of China to Skate it probably should have. It is time for them to twizzle in unison. They've skated with each other for long enough. With the other top teams in jeopardy, it is time to own it. I've noticed that Tanith has become Russian over the summer. She now has that possessed look in her eyes that you only see from a scorned woman from Moscow. Tanith was definitely not pleased with their scores or the program. We should all be glad that they fought Linichuk over her idea of giving them a Michael Jackson program. Given the dancing cats program, we can only imagine that she was going to embarrass them in a way reminiscent of Bourne and Kraatz.

Side note: I love Ben Agosto's skating but I just don't find him that attractive. People are very split on him. Some find him dreamy as hell. Others don't see it at all. I'd take Luca Lanotte. Just saying.

Dancing is going to get INTERESTING when these top teams face off and when/if Domnina and Shabalin and Delobel and Schoenfelder return.

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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Skate America: The Pairs

I apologize for this delay. The drive back from Skate America wore me out (as did the lack of sleep) but the pairs definitely brought me back. I haven't been a fan of pairs for a few years other than a few select performances. I found that the extension, artistry, passion and intention was missing. It is definitely a discipline that needs to be seen in person to be properly appreciated, but it has lost its way. There were brights spots and there were dirty spots. It also became quite clear why the American skaters simply aren't competitive with the rest of world.

Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski displayed temporary promise when they won the Indy Pairs Challenge over the summer. Unfortunately, this pair just doesn't have 'it.' Their lack of fight is obvious in competition. There is no attack from either of them and if both of them ever landed SBS triple salchows cleanly, it would be nothing short of a miracle. She'd fall in warm up while he'd hit one. Then she would double and he'd fall. Then she'd do a triple and he'd pop. The opening up on their throw triple flip was also telling. It is obvious that they are coming back from injuries and lost time, but their current lack of training is also apparent. To be blunt, they skate at Zhang speed. No, not THE Zhangs (they only wish), I mean Caroline Zhang. While their short program has some fun flirtatious moments that display good chemistry between them, their free skate to Claire de Lune is far too soft and only enhances their lack of attack and fight. Watching them in competition, one wants to stand at the boards in a fur and scream at them like a crazed Russian coach. PUSH. STROKE. MORE! MORE! They give off a quality similar to Angela Nikodinov in 2000---their career is so lost and in desperate need of direction. It is as though there are two Todd Sands skating together when it comes to the jumps and throws. I'm actually feeling sluggish and tired just thinking about them.

Question: Is it positive GOE when both skaters open their triple salchows at two and a half rotations? It should be. They had perfect unison in the short program.

Another Question: Why don't any Americans go for SBS Triple Toes? It is not worth as much, but edge jumps are far more difficult to time together without fucking up the technique. Shen and Zhao aren't even going for SBS Triple Salchows. If Shen and Zhao aren't going for them.... Landing SBS 2 Axels would be an accomplishment for this team at this point. Maybe even double flips.

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig dress in somewhat off-the-rack costumes and their programs are pretty much the same. They are decent skaters who deliver far more than Castile and Okolski, but their programs and skating appear to have little intention. Their Piano Concerto No. 2 just kinda 'is' and you begin to wish that you were indeed watch Mishutenok and Dmitriev or Sasha Cohen. They are a pleasant pair and definitely pleasant to look at, but they are just not in the same league as pairs who compete at the World Championships.

Speaking of out of their league, it is a crime that Kemp and King are going to the Olympics over the seventh or eigth best Chinese or Russian pair. He's cute, she's um..not and she leg wraps like a mofo. It makes Nakano's wrap look like nothing. I'll never get used to pairs skating to Linkin Park (my how the times have changed) and I can't believe how weak the pairs field has actually become under the international judging system. They're bad in a way that Karen Courtland and Todd Reynolds were bad. Their footwork makes me seriously wonder if they'd be able to pass the gold moves in the field test. I know I should root for them because they train in Poland and all, but I literally see absolutely no hope for this team. One can see why their country hasn't sent a pair to the Olympics in sixteen years.

It is easy to see why Keauna and Rockne are National Champions. The potential to be an Ina and Zimmerman-caliber pair is obvious. Switching to John Nicks was a brilliant move but you really have to wonder what will happen to them after this season. Tai Babilonia, their mentor, convinced Mr. Nicks to take them on and is a strong advocate for sticking with your partner through rough seasons. This pair continues to grow together each season and are finally starting to look like a unit. Mr. Nicks has polished and packaged them brilliantly. "Unchained Melody" and the "Cirque/Slumdog Millionaire" programs feature inventive choreography by Sarah Kawahara. The programs are actual interesting to the viewer, which is unique on the international level and absolutely stands out domestically. Given their relocation to southern California, I'd like to advocate that they spend time with Rafael Arutunian refining their jump technique. Rockne Brubaker is hot as shit---as a person and a skater. Keauna does not have her jumps together and is holding them back. There are plenty of girls who would love to skate with Rockne and one can sense that Keauna is aware of this. The confidence on her jumps just isn't there. After a popped SBS Triple Salchow in the short, their SBS Triple Salchow+Double Toe combo was impressive. They almost had the double axels as well, but she turned out. She also got lost in the air on the throw triple salchow and opened up early in Yu-Na Kim fashion. The throw triple loop was good but two-footed. This team needs to stay the course and continue the effort they have obviously put into their skating since their dismal showing at the World Championships. They have great unison, greats lifts, a great split triple lutz twist, and are now with a true coaching master, which the American pairs desperately need to get to the next level.

The Zhangs are obvious tricksters. Their style leaves much to be desired. Her extension is beyond hideous and is one of the reasons I've hated pairs skating over the last eight years. Their lift positions are shockingly bad. All of the height in the world on the throws and twist cannot make me like this pair. Like Pang and Kavaguchi, she is so thin that it is scary. Funny story: we were talking to a male competitor at a restaurant on Saturday night and he told a story about one of the top Chinese pairs eating in the commissary at a Grand Prix event. When they got up, they left behind a bottle that wound up reading "To lose X kilos, take X number of pills every two hours." It is straight up 1986 in the USSR. Apparently one of the federations took the bottle as evidence.

Duhamel and Buntin: All that stands out to me is that they never should've even gone for the program. She obviously injured herself during warmup and appeared hurt and shaken. Not exactly safe when throws are involved. The fall on the throw was not surprising at all and her head really whacked that ice. She came off the ice saying something was numb. I couldn't believe he was even skating back and forth to the ref because it was obvious to anyone with a degree of sanity that they should not continue the program (the way it is obvious that Kavaguchi is going to be the next Elena Mukhina if she keeps doing the throw quad salchow.)

Volosozhar and Morozov are strong in a Soviet pair kinda way, but she is better than him by a mile. WestPalmBitch is convinced that Aliona Savchenko was cloned and I tend to agree. Elena Tchaikovskaia agrees that she is far better than he is. The revered coach was overhead saying far bitchier things than I was saying and our new skatenastics girls heard her say "He can't even walk. Why do they let him skate?!"

Shen and Zhao- They are simply amazing. There is nothing else to say. Seeing their short program was well worth the ticket I received on the way to Lake Placid. They're amazing and delivered a Yu-Na Kim style performance and are my obvious favorite for gold in Vancouver. Time spent in the professional ranks has given them even more of a performance quality. You can't believe they are the same team who competed in Nagano. I may be alone here, but I am absolutely obsessed with their violin rendition of ''Who Wants To Live Forever." It really fills up an ice arena and is voidy in a Masha skating to Sarah Brightman kinda way. Their two insignificant errors in the long can easily be fixed and should prevent them from peaking too soon. The Germans may have more difficulty, but they are going to win based on GOE and PCS. No one has their level of quality. This comeback is very G+G '94 and I pray that they achieve the same end result.