Tuesday, December 14, 2010

GPF: Only The Lonely


It is a rare occurrence when a ladies competition is close or even remotely watchable, yet five of the six ladies brought their A Game to the Grand Prix Final in Beijing.  For skating fans, the field was initially a letdown without Mao Asada, Yu-Na Kim or Joannie Rochette.  It was a forgone conclusion that Miki Ando would plop down five triples and take gold, but it didn't quite turn out that way.




Alissa Czisny has turned her career around.  Once a punch line in the sport, Alissa has earned the biggest title of her career to go along with gold and bronze medals at the individual Grand Prix events.  The win at Skate Canada could've been a fluke.  The fact that she didn't completely implode in Paris was step in the right direction.  Leading after the short program in Beijing, the skating world held its breath.  Czisny delivered one of the best performances of her career.  'Winter Into Spring' is becoming a signature number Czisny and it brings with it touches of Janet Lynn and Yuka Sato.  The edges are pure.  The choreography is inspired.  Yuka and Jason are doing masters with Alissa's technique and confidence.  The Alissa Czisny of the Grand Prix Final fought for every jump and presented with more soul than ever before.  Confidence is blooming.


On the other side of the American picture is Rachael Flatt.  For the past several seasons, Flatt has finished well by performing her programs without major mistakes.  There are technique problems, a lack of speed and an overall pedestrian nature to her skating, but she has been the one to stand up.  It has long been said that the measure of one's skating ability can be ascertained when they skate without jumps.  Flatt may be trying harder than ever to present, but her skating is simply misguided.  It is uncomfortable to watch Flatt try to be 'cute' in a Betty Boop way.  If one doesn't have the ideal body for skating, they need to find a way to be dynamic.  Someone like Kawahara could find a way to infuse some life into this girl.  Flatt claims her injury is no longer an issue but that she lost training time.  Even if she landed her jumps, the judges were going to place her last at the final.  Her score was lower than it would be simply for missing the number of jumps she did.  They judges have no esteem for her footwork, spins, transitions, etc.  Rachael keeps speaking about a Triple Lutz+Triple Loop combination.  The combination is rarely ratified by the callers no matter who is attempting it.  For a girl with issues rotating her jumps, the attempt appears utterly futile.  Phil Hersh encouraged Rachael to move on with her life.  While I agree that Rachael will never become a star, one would think it would be better for her to go out on a positive note.


Miki Ando landed her jumps but was unable to pull up from fifth place.  The judges ranked her first in the long by a smidgen.  We learned that Miki will be taking next season off.  I think we could all use a rest from watching her.


Akiko Suzuki provided one of the most inspired and still under-marked free skates.  There were a few mistakes, but the overall performance was imaginative and of the highest quality.  Unfortunately, Akiko is being judged as her country's third-ranked skater and not by the merits of her competition efforts.


Kanako Murakami continues to make a splash with her sensational speed and soaring jumps.  Artistically, she needs a new direction.  There won't be much more artistic growth under the direction of Yamada, but her elements continue to become stronger and stronger.  She skates with the effervescence of Lipinski and that is all that is really required under the IJS.


Carolina Kostner continues to delight judges with her tribute to the 1987 Worlds.  I miss that era as well and applaud the fact that Carolina isn't embarrassing the European judges who cheat for her.  Unfortunately, there is little justification for holding her up when she only performs four triples and none of them are very difficult.  Her Chanlike PCS scores are an obvious gift from an angel by the name of Carlo Fassi.  That level of cheating takes skill and experience.


The men's side felt like the fruition of the inevitable.  In case you've missed what is happening this season, Takahashi is coming apart at the seams after putting off his knee surgery to compete at the Tokyo Worlds.  His landings are as solid is Jill Trenary's and his quad flip is about as believable as Nikki Childs' triple full.


Nobunari Oda continues to focus on jumps at the expense of his performance.  It doesn't work unless he actually lands his planned content.  Nothing more, nothing less.


Patrick Chan's upcoming world title has been a long time coming and is simply inevitable unless he manages to fall five times.  The judges are hot for Chiddy and it may be best to just get it over with.


Florent Amodio proves that working with Morozov is a struggle when he fails to arrange for his multiple skaters to compete at the same Grand Prix events.  Chasing him around the world and being forced to work with substitute coaches doesn't work for his athletes.  Nikolai's absence was evident in Amodio's skating.  He fought through his program, but the consistency, timing and security was lost.


Tomas Verner's 'Michael Jackson' program may be lame and his glove may be mysteriously blue, but it is a pleasure not to see him embarrassing himself technically.


As always, Takahiko Kozuka's skating is appreciated but not enjoyed.  If he doesn't want to look up at the audience, why should we look at him?

The Grand Prix Final proved to be a respectable event, but it felt like skaters were missing.  Rippon, Abbott, Kim, Asada, Virtue and Moir and crazy ass Russians are needed in order to keep this sport from feeling like an engineering course at a Japanese University (at least when Ando and Oda are skating.)

12 comments:

  1. It's true that Daisuke is putting off the surgery to get the screws out of his knee for Worlds, and has been having at least one mistake per freeskate thus far this season, but I'd hardly call that falling apart at the seams. It seems like the majority of his problems at the GPF resulted from the crash he had in practice. As long as he takes time to heal,trains well, and doesn't psyche himself out, I don't see any reason why he shouldn't skate well at Worlds.

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  2. Daisuke hasn't skated with the assurance he did 3-4 years ago (or even last season.) He was much more consistent under Morozov than he has been without him.

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  3. "The Grand Prix Final proved to be a respectable event, but it felt like skaters were missing. Rippon, Abbott, Kim, Asada, Virtue and Moir and crazy ass Russians are needed in order to keep this sport from feeling like an engineering course at a Japanese University (at least when Ando and Oda are skating.)"

    haha, agree completely!

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  4. Takahashi was much more consistent under Morozov than he has been without him? Lol :))

    He also won his two major titles _after_ he left Morozov.

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  5. I thought Akiko should've won the LP. As much as I adore Kanako for her cuteness, Akiko's performance was a lot more polished and sophisticated. The glowing look of confidence she had on her face before her LP made her mesmerizing even before she started her program. I sincerely hopes that she can maintain her spot in the top 3 for Japanese women despite the rise of Kanako Murakami. Personally, I'd be willing to give a spot reserved for the Canadian women (and I'm Canadian) for another Japanese woman. It'd make the World championships a bit more entertaining to watch (or a bit less painful depending on your level of optimism/pessimism).

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  6. We should know PCS isn't same with Artistic Impression in 6.0 judging system. Skaters have to skate for taking more points with difficult technics and polished them. It is getting like gymnastic. Who does deliver face expression at gymnastic competition? It is sad but this is current figure skate's situation. Sorry people. However, I felt sadness and desperate from Kozuka's skating not his face. If his music were Concerto pathétique by Freire Liszt, he definitely could delivery his emotions this time.

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  7. If Alissa can carry this momentum into nationals and through worlds, she'd easily end up at the top or near the top of the podium every time. Despite her win at SC, she had a bad SP but made up for it with a good long. She held on for bronze in France. In Bejing, she went for and earned everything. If she can manage to skate like that at nationals then it's a wrap.

    The judges just don't like Rachael and they let her know that every time she gets on the ice. From placing her behind Kostner at NHK to placing her behind Kanako at SA; the judges will use any excuse not to give her gold. She started off strong but seems to be fading. IDK, but I'm predicting Alissa and Mirai will make the world team. Despite Mirai's Rachael-esque programs, the judges have been kinder to her than to Rachael and Mirai's looking like she'll be peaking at the right time again.

    Poor Rachael...

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  8. Where is all of the outrage about Takahashi being "held up" by the judges? He did no elements in his free and still scored 81 for PCS. I remember several days of complaints about Chan's PCS scores this fall. Pathetic...

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  9. Anon at 2:09: "no elements" in Takahashi's free? We must not have been watching the same program.

    Takahashi was docked points off his PE, which was deserved (since he usually gets mid-to-high 8s in this category) but on categories like IN and CH he still deserves to beat the rest of the field even on an off night.

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  10. Anon @ 2:09: How did Daisuke not place where he deserved to?

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  11. "Patrick Chan's upcoming world title has been a long time coming and is simply inevitable unless he manages to fall five times. The judges are hot for Chiddy and it may be best to just get it over with."

    Made me laugh and cry, it's so true. What is it about seeing a skater apparently over-scored (relative to other competitors) again and again? Patrick was one of my favorites when he first burst on the scene. Appreciate his great edges and attack, but he is not the second coming of John Curry OR Yagudin--yet. I wouldn't begrudge him those PCS if other skaters who seem equally strong on some of them (e.g., Jeremy on Ch, IN, and transitions) were equally rewarded.

    As much as Phantom "works" as a competitive piece, it has started to feel so predictable after a second season...

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