Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TEB: Final Thoughts

The sixth Grand Prix event has come and gone.  The finalists are named.  And now I'm getting around to writing about it.  As far as Grand Prix events go, this one was very much a mixed bag.  There were good, bad, ugly and indifferent performances.  More importantly, we now know where the skaters stand as we head into the championship portion of the season.

Most Improved Skaters:
It is a tie between Takahiko Kozuka and Florent Amodio for the men.  Prior to this season, both were extremely talented and inconsistent as could be.  Takahiko is landing Triple Axels and Quads.  He may not look up from the ice, but everything he does is technically precise.  I still don't enjoy his skating.  I appreciate it.  If Takahiko would look at the audience, emote and tell a story, he'd be the most sensational skater on the planet.

Florent Amodio and Takahiko Kozuka each have what the other needs.  Florent is the most engaging skater I've seen.  It is as though glitter rains from the sky when he steps on the ice.  Florent Amodio's long program is such a crowd pleaser that I stop giving a rusty hoot that it is extremely unbalanced, doesn't showcase his skating skills beyond a 7-range and involves all sorts of Galina Zmievskaya-style vamping.  Nikolai Morozov designed the program so that Florent would learn how to compete consistently.  While he can do a Quad Salchow, they are focused on making sure he lands two Triple Axels every time out.  Nikolai is typically able to train his skaters to be consistent.  Once Florent learns this, he can add the quad and more difficult transitions.  The program is made of such WIN that it is really a flaw of the judging system that there isn't a place to reward him aptly for his unique performance, charisma, interpretation, yet deduct for compositional issues.  There may be space for in PCS, but the judges don't actually differentiate among the individual component scores.

Brandon Mroz's skating is improving.  'On The Waterfront' was much more convincing this time, but the slowness of his skating and lack of emotional engagement disconnects him from the audience.  Brandon's upper body needs to exude emotion, as does his face.  The masculine nature of his program works for him.  It is now time to accentuate it.  A few days spent with Sandra Bezic would do him a world of good.  It could be a tough Nationals all around if Brandon, Jeremy, Adam and Armin all skate well.

Kevin Reynolds shouldn't advertise that Shae-Lynn Bourne did his choreography.  Shae-Lynn did what she could with him.  Her other work is much more impressive.

Brian Joubert withdrew after bombing his short program and practice session the day of his free skate.  He may very well have had stomach issues, but we've seen athletes complete with the flu and severe injuries.  His summer training was not great and it is worrisome that his skating is becoming inconsistent.  Perhaps the dizziness and nausea is what causes all of those Level One spins?  Pretty soon, the judges will stop holding him up.  After two Olympic Games during his prime years, Brian's best days may soon be behind him.  Without jumps, he doesn't have anything going for him aside from his looks.

Mirai Nagasu actually won a long program on the senior international circuit.  Unfortunately, it wasn't by enough to guarantee her a gold medal.  To be honest, Mirai's programs have not matured her on the ice.  She continues to look to be a skater who needs to grow into her height.  Mirai has lovely moments marred by slight sloppiness.   The improvement in just a few weeks was dramatic.  Frank has clearly been forcing her to train, but her technique still needs improvement.  The flutzing was more pronounced and there were downgrades creeping in.  Like Mao Asada, she is not someone who rotates quickly.

Like Brian Joubert, Mao Asada is struggling.  She is never strong early in the season, but her skating tends to plummet a bit deeper each time.  The struggle becomes greater.  Mao is reworking her technique.  While some of the commentators question why a World Champion would do such a thing, it is important to realize that Mao has been fighting a losing battle with Yu-Na Kim due to not having a full arsenal of triples.  Her programs are built around triple axels because she desperately needs the jumps to gain points.  Mao is not someone who can do a Triple Flip+Triple Toe due to her slow rotation and inconsistency with toe jumps.  She does have the Triple Salchow back, which she has needed.  Mao's left points on the table for some time.  If she didn't rework her jump technique, it would've just been another year or so before a junior lady came up who could rotate her jumps and skate with command.  It is just painful to watch.  Even Mao's program is not up to par.  It is a lot of pretty Lori Nichol arm movements, but the program doesn't build or go anywhere.  It is nice in the sense that it would be hard to make Mao look heinous, but it just doesn't accentuate her best qualities.

Kiira Korpi has never looked better.  The judges adore her and gave her a somewhat controversial win.  Under any system, she does deserve higher component marks than Mirai at this time due to the strength of her programs, her maturity on the ice, and her overall performance.  It doesn't hurt that she is gorgeous.  Some may point to Mirai's age as a reason for her immaturity on the ice, but plenty of skaters have won Worlds and the Olympics at a younger age.

Alissa Czisny has qualified for the Grand Prix Final and is performing marginally better.  During a normal Grand Prix Season, it is unlikely that she would've had the same success.  Everyone learns at a different speed.  Perhaps Alissa is just the slowest learner in history?

I'm still not a fan of the Pink Beaver for a competitive program, but Savchenko and Szolkowy are looking to be in top form.  Whether they will ever learn how to spin in unison remains a major question mark.  It mars the overall perfection of their skating.  At most, the Pink Beaver should be a cute short program.  Sadly, there are four minutes to endure.

Pechalat and Bourzat are on a mission this season.  It should lead them to a World medal.  Their maturity on the ice is unmatched.

For Chock and Zuerlein, they have taken a major step forward in seniors now that they've been able to train and their coaches have spent considerable time on their programs.  They are perceived to be slightly behind the Shibutanis, but they remain contenders.  Greg put his guyliner on and he doesn't look like he'll be taking it off now that he is emoting to the audience and winning Grand Prix medals.

The Grand Prix Final may not have the strongest field in history, but there will be interesting story lines.

Will Meryl and Charlie hold it together and win gold again?

Will Patrick Chan fall four times and still win?

Will will shoot ourselves if Rachael Flatt manages to win?


  1. AJ, can you post a list of the qualifiers for the GPF?

  2. You ruined a wonderful post by mentioning Chan. Boo.

  3. The answer to your question is YES.

  4. @Robin - I think the Rinkside Cafe has posted the list on their blog:

  5. I was at TEB this year, and I have to say that Kozuka's connection with the audience was much better than I'd expected and his LP was sensational - I'm really happy I got to watch it in person. Amodio: I don't think transitions are all that matters in skating by any means, but the constant stopping, posing and mugging for the audience was beyond annoying; if I wanted to see an exhibition program, I'd have paid for gala tickets. Morozov has ruined him for me. Brandon Mroz put me to sleep.

    Joubert actually received good levels on his spins and footwork this time. He has competed while sick and injured in the past, so I'm inclined to believe that he really was in no shape to attempt a long program.

    Savchenko and Szolkowy's Pink Panther worked much better for me as a live program than watching online. Even her costume wasn't as offensive.

    The answer to your second question is that Chan can't beat Takahashi and his World Champion bonus with four falls.

  6. Mao has only done 3F-3T during one season. Her staple combo was the 3F-3Lo. If she were to bring a 3-3 back, I think it'd be this one, although loop combos are more prone to downgrades. Miki never seems to get hers ratified now.

  7. Loved Kozuka's LP. I tried my damndest to NOT smile during Amodio's LP - because it really is shit - but he's just too damn cute. I appreciate the rationalization of Morozov's plan, AJ. Mroz's music is too big for him, and I think he's even more boring than Rachael Flatt. He had some elements placed at accents on the music (like the loop and butterfly/back sit) but somehow they still didn't have any impact.

    I love how some people are trumpeting Alissa Czisny's improvement. Her LP was worthy of an Angela Nikodinov award - except she didn't even manage clean doubles after the fall.

    I'm wondering if it's time for Lori Nichol to call it a career. Mirai's LP lacks emotion and depth. Even though there are some lovely steps and moments, it still feels like she's just connecting dots. Kostner's "Faun" LP is abysmal. The editing is wretched and, despite a couple of interesting positions, it's as bland as tomato soup. (Aside: I know Nichol's "recycling" of music has been mentioned before. I would love to see how the "Faun" program she did for Nikodinov that never saw the light of day compared to Kostner's.)

    The point-based judging system has been around long enough now that coaches and choreographers should not be able to use it as a scapegoat for crappy, forgettable, bargain-basement programs incapable of moving an audience. It IS possible. Nichol and David Wilson are capable of brilliance, but I wonder if too many skaters are spreading them too thin.

  8. Chock & Zuerlein are tons more enjoyable and engaging than the Shibutanis. Just wait until the Shibs run out of Standards/platonic programs and the awkward choreo commences. C/Z would have been alternate # 1 had Madison not fallen in the FD at TEB. I expect Nationals to be

    C/Z or S/B (wildcard)

  9. Everyone learns at different rates. Mirai doesn't yet understand the sophistication or interpretation of music. it will come as she gets more experienced doing different types of programs. Still, it was great to see her improve her previous GP outings here.