Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Skate America: OCD Overdrive
Goodness, pairs skating. I have found myself watching pairs skating this season. Perhaps doctors should up doses for the Grand Prix season? Watching some of these competitions makes me feel more than a little nutty.
First off, I think we all need to thank Kemp and King for flying all the way from Auschwitz to finish last in the pairs event yet again. It seems that they risk serious injury each and every time on the ice. Watching them at the Olympics sure had me rethinking the legitimacy of per-country rules. It is a good thing that he's cute, because I really don't know if I could take the pain otherwise. There is a special place in my heart for them...along with Alexe Gilles.
Felicia and Tay...
Oy. Note: I'm not saying anything that I haven't said (or wouldn't say) to them personally. After making it on the Grand Prix and having some success after about 17 months together, it seems appropriate to make an assessment of where things are going. Both Felicia and Tay have potential and they work hard, but changes are necessary.
It is easier to learn something the right way than it is to correct bad habits. That said, American pairs coaches have never been able to really compete internationally. Having decent unison and being relatively clean and conservative may have been enough for a bronze in the '70s and '80s, but it just doesn't work anymore. Teams need speed, difficult throws, transitions, and powerful stroking. Felicia and Taylor have spent time working with Elena Valova. Taylor's pairs skills were actually developed by Elena, which is quite evident in his skating. While it is convenient to take classes at UDel for many of the skaters, there are certainly plenty of formidable colleges in Pittsburgh. One needs to only look at the technique taught by Jeff D over the years to wonder if he is the right coach for this team.
Felicia and Taylor have acquired a great deal of skills. They both are able to jump, but haven't mastered jumping at the same time. Taylor is known as the more artsy personality between the two, but he needs Elena on his ass to get him to stop taking his sweet ass time to get in the air. While I'm glad that they're both landing the jumps, it is time to risk it and get in sync. (Or N'Sync ;) )
The programs are good programs for the team at this point. Their throws are quite solid. One issue the team has had is training time lately. While they've been skating clean programs in training, they've had interruptions leading into their Grand Prix debut. Felicia was away in Germany for a Junior Grand Prix recently. While making the JGP is an accomplishment, Felicia is a high school senior and there are realities about her singles career that they may need to face after this season. It is great that she has mastered the flip and the lutz, but her future is really in pairs skating. They could always incorporate her triple flip as a strong throw. It is time to really focus on pairs skating and taking this team to the next level. Peter Carruthers kept saying "too much, too soon" and it is true. Felicia and Tay need time to train and really become a pair as opposed to two singles skaters performing together. Even if they can't manage it full time, having a length Russian boot camp would benefit this team immeasurably.
One team that is packaged well is Castelli and Shnapir. Their pairs skills are to die for. Unfortunately, their extreme size difference will always make their side-by-side jumps a real challenge. Going for the throw triple axel is the right thing to do, as they will eventually become consistent with it. American pairs need to break out of the Throw Triple Salchow/ Throw Triple Loop comfort zone and take it to the next level. Avatar really works well for their free skate.
The Russians in one word: Meh.
Sui and Han cause my head and my heart to go to war. On one hand, they are somewhat adorable. On another hand, they skate with the same sophistication and polish as Tara Lipinski at Junior Worlds. City Lights is needing to be added to the banned music list. If you're not Elena and Anton, quit trying to be. Their athleticism is exciting and infectious, but their overall skating makes me long for the day that the judges would give them the 5.3s and 5.4s they deserve and be done with it. Ottavio's new system just doesn't take such things into account anymore. I worry that Yu-Na Kim has been loaning out her "pointed feet" to other skaters. Sui tries to perform the pearl position with a flexed foot. Fail.
Denney and Barrett are actually much improved compared to their previous Grand Prix assignment. Caydee's newfound fitness level prevents this year from being a Rhapsody In Moo situation. David Wilson deserves an Oscar, or a Grammy or a visit from Bob Mackie for making this team remotely interesting. Now if he could only get Caydee to trim off those split ends. John Zimmerman's years with Moskvina are helping to ameliorate his innate American tackiness.
Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are something else. How they manage to finish so well is beyond any of us. There is nothing overtly special about this pair, yet they always manage to skate just well enough to piss everyone off with their placement. When a good pair messes up side-by-side jumps, they always get screwed because one of them doubles their jump. When MTM mess up, they step out of their side-by-side Salchows in perfect unison and don't suffer in terms of base value. There is some positively RachaelFlattish about their sophistication, down to the way she lacks extension and even commits the cardinal sin of pulling her tights over the ankles of her skates. The one time Kwan tried that shit, the judges set her straight by placing Kostner ahead of her. They're managing medals on the Grand Prix, but I'm not overly concerned about them landing on the rostrum at Worlds.
Savchenko and Szolkowy maintain their position as a top two team in the World with their latest programs, no matter how tacky they may be. Technically, unless this team is performing their side-by-side spins, they are utterly brilliant. There is something very German and literal about Aliona and Robin. They didn't get the memo about the storyline of Send In The Clowns and now they seem to have confused Pink Panther for some of camel toe reference. Their lift positions are only slightly better than Pang and Tong, but I do believe they look on track to win back their World Title.
All in all, watching pairs makes us all need something to keep us from slitting our wrists: