Monday, November 1, 2010
Skate Canada: The Ladies
Alissa Czisny is the 2010 Skate Canada Champion. Let's take a minute to let that soak in. Alissa Czisny is now a two-time Skate Canada gold medalist and a US National Champion. She will likely make the Grand Prix Final and then all sorts of disappointing articles by Phil Hersh will be written when she inevitably fails to make the World Team. Let's just take a moment to appreciate what occurred, as it is unlikely to happen again for another five years. Sadly, Alissa does seem to have Fumie Suguri tendencies.
This summer, Ice Network kept telling us about Alexe Gilles accompanying Rachael Flatt on a two-week vacation to Italy. Rachael Flatt told Ice Network all about how she adored the pasta and bread that the country had to offer. Goodness. I've been nice. I retracted my claws and let it alone and stored it for later use. Everyone deserves a vacation, right?
As a skating parent, there is no way in HELL I'd ever take my child to the carb capital of the world. I'd especially not take them carb-loading when they were off the ice for an extended period of time. If my daughter already was chided about her round form, I'd make sure that we holidayed in a spot where the water was not potable. That's just good parenting. (And yes, the carb-loading is evident in their fitness levels.)
Now it is a few months later and we see Alexe Gilles shake off whatever the hell that was that she was doing last season. Surely it wasn't skating! I feel for Alexe. She had one good free skate at 2009 Nationals and could never repeat the success. While she was the 2008 Junior National Champion, it wasn't exactly an impressive performance or a victory over a strong field. When your skating skills are notably weak and lacking in speed, performing to a muted Muzak version of Bohemian Rhapsody might not be a good life choice.
Alexe actually managed to start off her long program with a Triple Lutz+Double Toe combination. Instead of giving her confidence, that jumping pass would serve as the zenith of four minutes of misery. Her next pass was a brand new combination, one barely even fathomable at the senior international level: Waltz Jump+Triple Toe (fall.) The waltz jump was actually an improvement over Alexe's falls on single axels during the warm up. While Alexe is a gorgeous girl, there is not much that stands out about her skating. She doesn't have the spins or the spirals, or even the presentation. It is bad when Nancy Kerrigan's layback has a superior back position to your own. The program continued with a two footed Triple Flip, a fall on an underroated Triple Loop, and a fall on a 2.5 Lutz.
As Alexe skated off the ice, my inner Donna Strauss wanted to shake her!
"What is the purpose of that performance? Do you have any goals? Or are you just trying to make mistakes for attention? Was that even a try? Is there a such thing as a quitter's try?"
Sadly, I do not believe Alexe's meltdown has much to do with a poor attitude. Her coach, Tom Z, is noted at being a grand d-bag to his skaters and believes heavily in negative reinforcement. (See Ice Diaries and Jeremy Abbott's Kiss and Cry at the 2009 Nationals.) Even then, Tom's plate is full with Flatt, Zawadzki, Mroz, Johnson and even up-and-comer Lauren Dinh. One needs to wonder just where Alexe stands on the totem pole. Unfortunately, Alexe's options as a skater are rather exhausted. Her speed is too weak for dance and she's much too tall and shitty of a jumper for pairs. At this point, she may need to follow her sister into the acting world. Maybe she could give group lessons?
Valentina Marchei was a one-jump wonder. One spectacular triple lutz...and nothing else.
Now, you know you saw it. We can discuss the program. It happened. Fumie Suguri wore a blue version of Oksana Baiul's ''The Feeling Begins" and skated about as well as Oksana did during her drunken days on the Champions On Ice tour. Fumie...I really hope she LOVES skating because the rest of us are unable to draw that impression. Perhaps finishing just off the podium at two Olympics toyed with her and gave her a sense of false hope? Fumie didn't even fall in the program...she splatted. There are falls and then there are things that only Oksana Baiul does at Ice Wars when attempting a triple for the first time in a year. Fumie's hip swivel could not save this performance. We can only hope that she finishes nineteenth at Japanese Nationals.
WestPalmBitch hopes that Fumie finds a good dermatologist for botox STAT. The years of competitive stress are really showing on her face.
One of the glorious parts about the rise of the Japanese ladies is watching for the precise moment when they and the Japanese Skating Federation realize that they need to emigrate in order to work with Russian coaches and Canadian choreographers. Haruka Imai's costume told us all we needed to know. It won't be long until she is shelling out the big bucks for Lori Nichol and learning how to dress in something that wasn't last seen in Yamada's closet. Haruka is lucky that she is so effervescent and adorable, because her program was utterly worthless. Her jumps were landed and appreciated by my fantasy team. I am not encouraged by her usage of the Yu-Na camel. Now that Ms. Kim is taking a bit of a competitive siesta, we can stop pretending that it is an attractive position.
Amelie Lacoste did her best to recreate Michelle Kwan's Scheherezade. We were not amused. Amelie was looking a bit thick in her dress and decided to attempt the patented Smiral. As payback, the skate gods let Lacoste fall on her triple flip during the exact same strain of music as the Kween. It is ridiculous that this program even medaled. The Loop was a fail, as was the triple flip. Not cute.
Agnes Zawadzki looked like she had a medal in the bag, but it was not to be. This entire week in practice, Agnes has been struggling with her triple lutz. The triple lutz is Agnes' chief weapon and she may have lost a bit of her timing as she is working in earnest to master a Triple Lutz+Triple Toe combination. Unfortunately, Agnes lost all sorts of points, doubling two triple lutzes and falling on the double axel of an intended Double Axel+Triple Toe combination.
This performance can be deemed a 'learning experience.' Ms. Zawadzki has proven she can deliver under pressure. Now it is time to get her shit together on a senior level. First and foremost, Agnes needs to leave Colorado immediately. As the great Margaret Thatcher said, "The Broadmoor skaters a like a team of skating Parkettes!"
Their slow, labored skating is not going to get them any PCS. Agnes has the jumps and the potential. Arutunian, Morozov, Orser, Sato, etc would all be suitable choices. Her skating skills and speed need to improve, as does her presentation. Slapping together a Lori Nichol program just doesn't cut it internationally. Agnes is trying to develop artistically and sadly, what she does now is a giant improvement over last season. There are moments where she is interpreting and expressing the music, but those seconds are fleeting and she zones out while preparing for her enormous jumps. It is very Irina Slutskaya---never a compliment.
It is rather curious that Agnes doesn't stick with doing a Triple Toe+Triple Toe in both programs. This is her first year on the senior circuit and it would behoove her to develop an 'ol faithful to rack up some points. Pushing too many combos during her first year as a senior is risky. Presently, Agnes is extremely dependent on her jumps. If she misses them, the impact of the performance is gone. Her jumps are stratospheric with great checking landing edges. It is time to leave Tom Z and learn how to compete with the big girls.
Speaking of big girls, Zenyatta's biggest rival was not able to deliver a winning long program. Phanny the Manny delivered a stereotypical performance from a Canadian lady. The program looks like it's inspiration came from paying off a car payment. It is just DULL. The music is far too delicate for someone of Cynthia's style and stature. The Bells of Moscow would be more like it. There were simply no highlights to the program. Triple Flip-Fall, Triple Lutz- 2 footed and Fall, Single Loop- 2 footed, Double Salchow. It was exactly what we've come to expect from Cynthia.
Fashion Note: When you aren't known for having the body of Sasha Cohen or Alissa Czisny, it is best to avoid wearing all white.
Ksenia Makarova is becoming quite the reliable competitor. Her Triple Toe+Triple Toe is consistent, but the height just doesn't cut it when you're tall and Russian. Ms. Makarova brings a Jersey-Russian sass to Evita which is appreciated. David Pelletier noted that Ksenia's Triple Flips and Triple Lutzes are sometimes problematic in terms of shifting her weight from one leg to the other. This is evident on her toe jumps, which never achieve maximum amplitude.
Overall, this Evita is good but it needs much more DRAMA to contend at the top level. The music edit is forgettable. One is not reminded of the great Patti Lupone. Ksenia's line, presentation and jumps are all good, but it just needs MORE. The needs to be more drama, more height, more speed, more excitement. If she just adds more everywhere (and a more difficult triple-triple combination), Ksenia will easily become one of the top ladies in the World...just in time for her Junior compatriots to put on one hell of a bitch fight.