Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Make It Or Break It: As The Giant Swings

As our girls gear up for their big finale, it is only appropriate that I get my ass into gear and discuss the d-r-a-m-a of the past few episodes. Even for this sometimes corny show, the drama is impressive and has me wondering how it will all go down during tonight's summer finale.

Let's break it down, girl by girl.

Oh yes, big girls have dreams too. Payson is in the midst of becoming an 'artistic gymnast' and has been overwhelmingly inspired by Coach Sasha Belov. My third arm was feeling a bit inspired when I saw him at the ballet bar in tights, so I can understand Payson's crush. But poor Payson...she has his photo on her wall, wears his gold medal to bed, brings him dinner and even kisses him during practice. I get that he exudes the confidence of a well-endowed man, but Ms. Keeler needs to tone it down a notch. She is becoming borderline Fatal Attraction (or Swim Fan for some of the less cultured readers), or is posting John Mayer lyrics in her facebook status at the very least.

Ridding herself of her inner P.E. teacher hasn't been all that simple for Pay. Sasha has had to work overtime with this one to teach her how to walk in heels. While she is in desperate need of a few Sex And The City DVDs to tap her inner fabulousness, Sasha came up with the curious idea of having Payson close her eyes, hold bottles of paint and create a painting based on her feelings. It was perhaps the most cringe-worthy scene in the series that we've witnessed in a while. Of course, Payson's canvas was supposedly inspired and rife with color. In reality, it looked like one of those paintings made by an autistic child that would sell for thousands of dollars at some yuppie benefit.

Payson's mom ran for President of the Rock but was defeated by the evil Lord Voldemort (Steve Tanner.) It is yet to see how the Keelers will respond to this, as Payson's Olympic dream is hanging on by a thread.

The girl from the other side of the tracks has been getting in touch with her issues lately. We've seen her stubborn "I don't take no charity" attitude come through after Ellen Biels plotted to make sure she found out that the ''business group" funding her charity was actually Steve Tanner. Emily forced Steve Tanner to take her money from "the shack" and the family now can't even pay their electric bill. It is amazing how quickly the Kmetkos are always able to fall on hard times.

Being the goodie two shoes bad ass that she is, Emily stole two pills to combat her brother's seizure, even though she left the money for them. Our girl was arrested and has been trying to keep it on the D.L., but you know Lauren will get her hands on that mugshot any second.

Lately, we've seen Chloe getting dressed up for her "new office job" that somehow has evening hours. While I do have dreams of seeing her walk on the corner or work a pole, we'll probably see her singing atop a counter at some '50s theme restaurant. Will Steve come to the family's rescue and represent Emily? Is he a lawyer? WTF DOES he do?

Because this is Emily, men have been barging into her life lately. The Rocker (Damon, I think, I'm giving up on the names) returned despite having some pact not to see each other for two years. Teenagers just take those things so seriously. He returned for some obvious product placement for an anti-smoking PSA and visited Emily. Razor led him to believe something was going on with him and Emily and trailer trash was too dumb to open her mouth and tell him otherwise. She is capable of robbing a store yet never can open her mouth when she needs to. The Y+R fan in me likes to imagine that Emily robbed the pharmacist at gun point and then raped him, but this is a family show. World Trials are coming up and surely her legal troubles will play a role.

The Danielle Staub of the series has been raising hell all over the place. After terrorizing Chloe, her father's girlfriend stupidly decided to cut her a break and gave her the option of telling him she was having sex or else she herself would. Lauren, always "misunderstood," took the opportunity to have Summer tell her father for her and make him think that Chloe knew about it all along. Steve summarily dumped Chloe after being unable to forgive her, even though she forgave him for having a psychotic daughter, lying to her family and being a selfish asshole.

Lauren dumped Carter after convincing herself that all her cared about was not getting kicked out of the Rock, but she appears to be over it. We did learn that Lauren's mother has been trying to see her, but was scared off by Steve. It is unclear whether we're supposed to feel bad for Lauren now that her mother died in a car crash.

Ms. Evil saw a tape of Payson kissing Sasha and sent a screen grab to Ellen Biels. It is unclear why Lauren hates Sasha, but she wants him out of the Rock because it will somehow help her make the Olympics. Realistically, she just wanted to humiliate Payson and raise hell.

While we haven't seen her have any apparent interest in her own career, Lauren is desperate for 'control of the rock.' Now that Steve is present, he, Lauren and Ellen should become the perfect trifecta of bitch. It is only a matter of time before they become one happy family.

Kaylie's eating disorder is SERIOUS. She hasn't actually lost any weight, but Kaylie has been hiding all of her meals in her gym bag. While her illness hasn't quite lived up to the frenzy of Jesse Spano's caffeine pill addiction, we have seen her become quite testy over being offered food. Hungry and bitchy. Hungry and bitchy.

Kaylie was ready to bitchslap Sasha when he actually took a few minutes to coach her. Of course, Ellen Biels, the only realistic elite coach, told her that her diet and body are perfection.

The was one delicious moment to open last week's show when Kaylie said "Mom, I'm flipping eight hours a day. Does that really sound like someone who has an eating disorder?" Apparently Kaylie isn't familiar with any of the World or Olympic Champions over the last forty years.

For an added incentive to watch tonight's finale: there will be all sorts of revisionist history where Bela Karolyi is always positive and never yelling at his gymnasts for being fat or lazy. Hell, we'll probably even see him feeding Kaylie mac and cheese.. This is one episode NOT to be missed.

An Adopted Daughter's JGP Debut

Ah, the budding potential. We've already seen Nina get rid of the lean in her jumps. Once she gets the lutz in her program and all of her jumps consistent, she will be something to watch in the senior ranks. Love the skating skills, the speed and the expression. Her coach is pacing her well. She appears to in the midst of adjusting to her latest growth sport and is performing admirably.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Eight Skatenastics Splits To Live For

In the world of skatenastics, drama is rampant. Just when we were getting on edge about the new season starting already, Yu-Na Kim and Brian Orser heated up the dog days of summer with one of the most shocking coaching splits in recent memory. It has been so deliciously dramatic that it is amazing Russians weren't somehow involved.

Just as comeback provide endless entertainment (both the good and the bad), coaching changes are something that every longtime skatenastics fan lives for. Portrayed as an angel with archangels by her side, it is unfathomable that Queen Yu-Na does not indeed shit rainbows and ice cream.

Yu-Na's supporters have been quite upset over the split and overwhelmingly dramatic everywhere they're able to leave a comment. They want the accusations to stop! Um, bitch no. You just arrived in the skating scene and will likely leave the second Yu-Na retires and a new fad emerges. For the rest of us, we live for the ongoing fanning of the flames, as coaching splits are a car crash that we just can't manage to control ourselves from staring at.

It is not unusual for a skater or gymnast to split with their coach after an Olympic Games. Dorothy Hamill and Carlo Fassi went to court over a contentious split, while Debi Thomas told Alex McGowan exactly where he could shove it.

Here are a few notorious splits we salivated over in the past.

1. Kwan-Carroll-Nichol-___________
In recent memory, the only skater as revered as Kim was the beloved Michelle Kwan. After four long years of waiting to right the wrong of Nagano, Kwan shocked the world when she announced that she was firing Frank and "going it alone" for the 2001-2002 season. You mean she's coachless? What? Why? How? WTF? Heads exploded around the world, as Kwan, Carroll and Nichol had been described as the perfect union. With Kwan's performances inconsistent as all get-out in the fall of 2001, panic had set in. Given that Michelle was so famous and beloved, the press were beside themselves with the news but had to manage a delicate balance between reporting the shock and not upsetting Power Agent Shep Goldberg.

Team Kwan developed one of the most curious (and now laughable) PR statements of all time. "Every skater is alone on the ice..." That is what we were left with. Given how revered the Kween was, the world was just expected to accept this as a real reason. No contract disputes were mentioned, nor were any concerns over the direct of Kwan's skating. As Michelle's flip technique failed her golden quest, we were all left to cry and wonder why. As she skated over to give him a hug in the Kiss and Cry, we knew where to shift the blame: Danny Kwan. Frankly, I need a valium just thinking about it.

2. Klimova and Ponomarkenko- Natalia Dubova- Tatiana Tarasova
Among the three Ice Divas, Natalia Dubova was the coach du jour of the early nineties. With Klimova and Ponomarenko the favorites for gold in '92, Usova and Zhulin quickly emerged as fan favorites who K+P felt Dubova preferred. After two world titles, the luster of K+P began to fade in '91. Seemingly around forever, the judges felt that they had seen it all and it appeared the Dubova was ready to move on as well. When Marina failed a drug test, they felt a lack of support from their coach. Given that the coach is the chief politician in Ice Dance, it was beyond embarrassing for a Russian Stalwart to lose to a team of French-Canadian Siblings at the '91 Worlds. Even worse, the Duschenays has slapped together a "sequel" to their previous year's free dance in a matter of weeks, wore the same costumes and still came away victorious. K+P called their coach "conservative, " while Dubova preferred to call her longtime pupils "negative" and "lazy."

As with all of Tatiana Tarasova's tales, her initial discussions with K+P were wonderfully heartfelt and melancholy. She simply "couldn't do anything" for the team and refused coaching them countless times. Finally, she could see the seriousness and intensity in their eyes and agreed, but only if they listened to her every word. Before long, Tarasova crafted an iconic program and worked the judges to such a frenzy that she was able to take all credit for the fruits of someone else's labor. In Russian revisionist history, Tatiana is the one who 'made' Marina and Sergei and she's clutched their embrace ever since.

3. 9/5/99
In the early days of online fandom, 9/5/99 is a day which will live in infamy. Back when OOBN was the place to be and miserably slow, email lists were the preferred method of speculating wildly about people we live vicariously through and slandering others anonymously. On that day, my email exploded. For anyone who ever had to wait for their emails to be downloaded, they will remember it well: Vanessa Atler announced that she was leaving Beth and Steve and it "wasn't about the bar routine."

If ever there was an over-hyped and poorly managed gymnast, it was Vanessa Atler. Her team was a perfect storm of crazy, with her pesky agent and internet-obsessed stage mother at the helm. After losing yet another title due to bars, Steve Rybacki chewed into Vanessa on-camera and it is what we didn't hear that was apparently most delicious. After he refused to speak with her, Vanessa's father handled the split. Secretly, Sheryl Shade and the Atlers had met with Bela Karolyi at Nationals and discussed a coaching arrangement. Speculation ran rampant within minutes but the loose-lipped Atler was alarmingly quiet. With no coach on the immediate horizon, Atler lost her drive and appeared out-of-shape at her anticipated World Championship debut. As the wheels fell off her balance beam routine, Karolyi was MIA and quickly accepted a position at National Team Coordinator. Leaving Atler high and dry, he sought gyms for her, with many refusing. He twisted the arm of Valeri Liukin and placed a magnifying glass on the converted shopping center in Plano.

Meanwhile, Jamie Dantzscher, who had been flip-flopping between Charter Oak and SCATS for several months, made a pact with Beth and Steve to restore the Olympic Dream of their talented but inconsistent bridesmaid. In a move that will live in bitchtastic infamy, Dantzscher returned for the Olympic push with her former frenemy's floor music, signature mount and her spot on the Olympic Team. It was now Jamie who basked in the hysteria of Beth Rybacki. "It's just*sob*nice*sob*to have*sob*a relationship like that.*Smile*Cry*Smile*Cry*Smile.*

4. The Coach-hoppers
Just as some people are serial dates, some skatenasts are serial coach-hoppers. Such is the case for Nicole Bobek, Kerri Strug, Kristy Powell, Alecia Ingram, Marie Fjordholm and every Japanese skater in the post Nagano era.

While coaches should know what they are getting into in advance, many cannot resist getting their hands on raw talent and being 'the one' to mold it. While almost every coach enjoyed espousing Bobek tales, the same could not be said for Tom Forster during Kerri Strug's brief tenure at Colorado Aerials. The moment Bela appeared with Dominique Moceanu, Tom knew his days were numbered. Desperately desiring to be an Olympic Coach, Tom asked all the shy and nervous Strug all sorts of questions about 'what to expect.' After spending time with Karolyi at '95 Worlds, Strug fulfilled her role as a battered wife (aka former Karolyi student) and returned to the ranch for more punishment. While she felt that the Forsters were nice, she cited their "inexperience" and "lack of intensity" as the reasons for the split. A budding famewhore on the brink of losing his most talented students, Forster told NBC "one thing we knew for sure is that Kerri certainly displayed the ability to leave."

5. Bowman The Showman
If ever there was a skater to bring out the cranky in Frank Carroll, it was the shit-show named Bowman The Showman. Christopher had been with Carroll since he was a small boy and they'd traveled a long and winding journey together. By the 1990 World Championships, Bowman and Carroll appeared like two old quarreling queens in desperate need of divorce.

After another World Medal, the two split and Bowman showed up on the doorstep of the divaish Toller Cranston. As Toller tells it, he and Bowman got in a car wreck on their first day together, a metaphor of things to come. After showing up coachless and woefully out of shape at 1991 Skate America, Bowman emerged victorious but soon found himself the victim of a "mugging" with seriously dark overtones. Mr. Nicks was just the man to take Bowman off Cranston's hands and earned him another National Title en route to a return trip to the Olympics. While the story lacked a fairytale ending, it was a wild and titillating ride for us all.

6. Hong v. Fong
While few were shocked when Ivana Hong failed to make the Olympic Team, it didn't prevent a glorious parting of the ways. Injured Ivana was forced to train on a fractured ankle, but Fong claimed she gave up. Unusual practice session antics between Fong and Hong weren't initially seen as unusual from a coach with blood on his hands.

While Mama Hong is notoriously intense, Fong is even more. Fong reportedly gathered up his athletes to ask them "mirror, mirror on the wall, whose the stupidest of them all?" She is! With the US team in desperate need of a bar worker, the blame rests with Fong who could've rested the ankle and fixed her fractured technique.

7. Sasha Cohen
With Sasha Cohen, the tempestuous starlet, talent was everywhere. So was Sasha's controlling mother. Galina Cohen, lover of all things Russian, used a cross-country trip to have Sasha's 2002-2003 programs choreographed by Morozov and Tarasova as an opportunity to test the waters of a new coaching union. It wasn't long before the Cohens were swallowed by one of Tarasova's many furs and Sasha was on the way to a 'surely eventual' World Title.

Following a celebratory shopping trip in Paris, Cohen came down with a cold and failed to recover. Tarasova desired to pull Cohen out of an upcoming pro-am, yet Galina refused to budge as she signed a contract with the USFSA to make Cohen the federation's newest television darling. With the fall season having gone well, the cold-stricken Cohen fell three times during a nothing event and again at the following week's Grand Prix Final. Displeased, dismayed and disheartened, Tarasova and Galina had it out, leaving Cohen with no choice but to seek out the help of Robin Wagner.

The certifiable coach of Sarah Hughes readily took Cohen into her home and her unending world of crazy. Not known for being warm and fuzzy, Cohen and Wagner's honeymoon stage of BFFness quickly came to an end after a World Silver Medal that should've been gold. When the controlling coach desired to choreograph the next season's programs, Cohen's sanity emerged and the relationship was on the rocks. Injured and upset over her parents' impending divorce, Wagner accused Cohen of a poor work ethic. (And would repeat the comment at every available opportunity.) It wasn't long before Cohen jetted back to Costa Mesa, brought Nicks out of retirement and was losing National Titles to Michelle Kwan like nothing had ever happened.

8. Arkayev vs. the 2000 Olympic Gold Medal
Following a series of second-bests, Mother Russia was primed to take its rightful spot at the top of the gymnastics world at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Fresh off a team victory at the European Championships and armed with a bevy of stars, it would seemingly take an idiot to steer the team away from victory.

Given the numerous times we listened to Arkayev bitch about his salary, it isn't unthinkable for him to take an opportunity to earn a little more cash. With the Russian government awarding prize money to the coaches and athletes for every gold medal, Arkayev looked to cash in on his upcoming medal haul.

Of the four top stars (Lobaznyuk, Produnova, Zamo and Khorkina), only one would be credited to Arkayev. While Produnova was the product of other coaches, Arkayev soon became her official coach upon moving to Round Lake and she was soon named to countless World and European squads. After injuries are turmoil, Kuznetsova, Dogopolova and Kovalyova no longer enlisted Leonid as their primary coach. Given their mastery of their routines and sterling performances at the Russian Cup, spots on the Olympic Team seemed likely.

But Arkayev had other plans. Banking on the success of his primary stars, Arkayev filled the final slots on the team with two no-name gymnasts of his own. With his hubris and greed getting the best of him, Arkayev suffered the fate of every Shakespearean King: his athletes inevitably fell, as did his stature in Russian Gymnastics.

A Confounding Moment

As a young American boy, I did not comprehend the magic or intricacy of ice dance during my elementary years. I was first introduced to ice dance via the gold medal winning performance of Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko. Their striking program and look was rather frightening for a mama's boy like myself. Frankly, Marina had a Dracula vibe going on that caused me to hide under the pillow like I did when the Nazis raided the convent in The Sound of Music.

"Freidrich, stop!" "Marina, stop!"

One of the most frightening and confusing moments occurred at the World Professional Championships. While Olympic ice dance was difficult to grasp, professional competition were beyond comprehension. Initially glad to recognize a team, I was startled to see Marina and Sergei's rendition of "Romeo and Juliet." Why were there candles?! Why is the man with the long red hair dominating the other one?! Why doesn't this program ever end?! Why does watching this program make me feel like I'm lost in a run-on sentence?! Years later I'd learn about Marina's failed drug test and everything made sense. I also did not realize that they were merely giving an homage to the Globe Theatre production where feminine boys portrayed all of the female characters.

Known for their lifts, Marina and Sergei spend so much time lifting one another that it is difficult to see the story of the program. Juliet sure spent a lot of time falling on top of Romeo during the last few minutes. The girl was leaning like it was last call at a club after having been bought far too many drinks. Juliet's death is so drawn out that I believe this program is still being performed somewhere, incapable of reaching a climactic ending.

This and That

Polina Shelepen continues to represent all that hate about Mishinish skating. While he is not her coach, his influence is readily apparent. The gangly stork lacks any positioning throughout the program and makes no effort to be aesthetically pleasing. She can jump and will likely earn high PCS scores one day as the result of being a strong jumper and born in Russia. "Swan Lake" is much more akin to "Stork Swamp" and her homage to a Russian Jewish Fantasy program makes Slutskaya's look positively brilliant by comparison. Her speed and edges aren't even noteworthy, which makes one wonder what positive things Sandra Bezic will ever be able to say about her skating when she inevitably reaches the upper echelon due to her jumps and powerful federation. Even her storied jumps lack flow and are rather ugly in appearance.

She skates even fuglier than last year. At times like these, we really need Dick Button in the commentary booth.

Other Skaters:
Rosa Sheleva- SP, FS
Yretha Silete- SP, FS
Yasmin Siraj- SP, FS

Andrei Rogozine- SP, FS
Jason Brown- SP, FS
Max Aaron- SP, FS

GoldenSkate has a new feature posted about Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.

Marlie held court as the HBICs of Champs Camp.

Champs Camp update on Mroz, Rippon, Hochstein, Chock and Zuerlein and Joubert.

Caroline Zhang told Lynn Rutherford that she is working hard on the areas of criticism in her skating. She has been working with Tammy Gambill on the high kick in her jumps, adding speed to her double axel, improving the speed of her skating and correcting the take-off edge of her lutz. She notes that there is a difference, which one of her former training partners has confirmed for Aunt Joyce. That former training partner also noted that Zhang and her mother have a much more agreeable and mature attitude in the rink. As an added plus, she is not using Lori Nichol for choreography this season. Zhang has gone back to Tom Dickson for her short (Libertango) and is using David Wilson for her free skate (Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B Minor.) Failing to make the Olympic Team looks to have smacked reality into the former phenom.

Chinese Nationals Event Finals

Sui Lu captured gold on beam and floor.

Balance Beam:
Zhou Jiabei (coached by Ling Jie)

Floor Exercise:

Parallel Bars:

Adi Pop visiting the Chinese National Training Center to work with the girls on choreography in July:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This and That

Mary Beth Marley delivered a kick ass long program at the DuPage Open. She has recently been taking her pairs tests and is officially the new partner of Rockne Brubaker. Mary Beth will compete in both disciplines. The 2009 Novice Silver Medalist is loaded with moxie and speed. She is typically a consistent competitor and is built wonderfully for pairs skating.

Cassie Whitcomb's broken leg turned out to be a 'cracked' leg with a sprain. She is using a bone stimulator and still hopes to compete bars at the selection camp.

Ksenia Makarova won the Moran Memorial with a clean short program and her first ever triple lutz in competition in the long.

Jason Brown's free skate from the JGP Courchevel.

Sui Lu won the AA at Chinese Nationals. Jiang Yuyuan was second and Huang Qiushuang was third.

Huang Qiushuang- VT, BB, FX
Jiang Yuyuan- VT, UB, BB, FX
Sui Lu- BB, FX

Aliya Mustafina won bars and was second on vault at the Russian Cup. Tatiana Nabieva won vault and was second on bars. Ksenia Semenova was third on bars.

The USA's team for Pan Ams was announced:
Gabrielle Douglas
Brenna Dowell
Sarah Finnegan
McKayla Maroney
Kyla Ross
Sabrina Vega

Florent Amodio performed an exhibition at the JGP Courchevel:

Friday, August 27, 2010

This and That

Cassie Whitcomb broke her leg while practice a 2 1/2 Twist+Layout Front on a dead floor at CGA. Understandably, MLT has done her best to keep the injury quiet. This is the third injured elite within two months at CGA. MLT only coaches six gymnasts (she only coaches elites), so that is not a great rate...even for elite gymnastics. Cassie may or may not go to the selection camp to do bars, but it is unlikely that she'd be chosen. Martha generally does not take injured athletes unless they are adding a full point or so on Uneven Bars, as she likes to forget that she petitioned both Betty Okino and Dominique Moceanu onto Olympic Teams with much success. There is speculation that Whitcomb will switch to a gym where her mother coaches in Kentucky. It is unclear whether this will be the end of her elite career.

Ksenia Makarova won the short program at the Moran Memorial with a clean program. She performed a Triple Toe+Triple Toe, Triple Flip and a Double Axel.

Polina Shelepen is off to another strong JGP season after winning the Courchevel event with a long program that featured seven triple jumps. Yasmin Siraj moved up to second place after skating a program with five triples. Nina Jiang finished in fifth place after popping a triple loop and falling on her opening triple flip, which is a new jump for her. Her PCS were extremely high and she beat all but Siraj on the second mark. Nina did attempt a Triple Toe+Triple Toe in the short, but the second jump was underrotated. After only including the Triple Toe and Triple Salchow in her programs at the 2010 Nationals, Nina has made vast upgrades to her technical content over the spring and summer.

Alissa Czisny claims that Yuka and Jason have completely changed her jump technique (how many people has she claimed have done that now?) She has two new programs. The real question is whether or not she underwent a lobotomy during the offseason.

Jeremy Abbott had his short program reworked last week. He says it is like a new half-program. Hopefully, some of his arm movements and facial expressions have been reigned in.

Marlie announced that their new whimsical Amelie program allows them to show off a whole other aspect of their skating. Lynn Rutherford posted several tidbits from Champs Camp.

Steliana Nistor was asked to join the Romanian National Team at a recent training camp, but the former fugly champion only lasted a week. She wanted to compete two events, but her hand and back problems resurfaced.

Maia Shibutani grew at least two inches since Junior Worlds. The siblings made a point to repeatedly mention this to reporters because there has been increasing buzz that their future seemed hopeless due to their inordinate height difference.

Kristal Uzelac is claiming that she is training again. There has been talk for quite some time that she has been training, but she said she backed off. It seems that Kristal's interest and training waxes and wanes. Dominique Dawes is quoted extensively in the article and says that she will give her a pep talk when she visits Uzelac's gym on Sunday. Dawes talked up Uzelac emphatically, which obviously has nothing to do with her giving a paid appearance at the gym. Kristal can definitely do bars, but she always tended to choke at the ranch when her best was no longer guaranteed to win.

The Utter Brilliance of Uncle Dick

The greatest rant ever by Dick Button. This rant took place at the World Skating Federation press conference held during the 2003 World Championships.

More gems by Dick were granted during the Q+A. His reaction to the question about the elimination of ice dance is stellar.

This and That

Aliya Mustafina retained her Russian Cup crown and Ksenia Afanasyeva finished second for the second year in a row. The Russian Cup used a scoring system with bonus points added for innovation, so the scoring is not relevant to what they will be scoring at worlds. Ksenia Semenova was third. Tatiana Nabieva dropped in the standings due to a disastrous beam routine.

Teng Haibin won the qualifying round in Zhouzhou at Chinese Nationals. Zou Kai was the top qualified on floor (15.850) and high bar (15.900/ 7.5 D score). Chen Yibing was third AA after being plagued by a foot injury for the last several years. He revealed that the injury is still bothering him, but he remains king of the still rings.

Tim McNeill is taking over as the Head Coach of Cal's Men's Gymnastics Team. This is a huge opportunity for McNeill and Cal, which has been plagued by serious fundraising issues. McNeill has a large task ahead of him with regards to fundraising and recruiting for a team that is in jeopardy of not being around in a year. What hasn't been discussed is Tim McNeill's elite plans. While no word on them (he was out this summer due to a grave family situation), he spent the time working as the interim coach at Cal and will likely plan on continuing; however, given the gravity of the situation at Cal and the time and energy required to be a head coach, it is unlikely that McNeill will be able to train at the level necessary to make an Olympic Team. There are only so many hours in the day, and it is almost unthinkable that he'd be able to train enough and devote enough time to a head coach's responsibilities in and out of the gym. This is especially significant given his strength on Pommel Horse, the weakness of the American men on horse, and his overall strength in the all-around.

David Wilson said that he was unaware that Orser would reveal Kim's music during his interviews. While AT Sports is using terms like "outraged and flabbergasted," his statement appears to be rather matter of fact, with slight annoyance. Wilson works with a myriad of skaters, most of whom have revealed their music for the upcoming season. While it was certainly an error on Orser's part, it was unlikely intended to"hurt the skater" as AT Sports claims. Yu-Na's long program to "Arirang" is now the most highly anticipated program of the season, easily eclipsing anything Marlie or Voir will do. There is increasing speculation that Orser's decision to work with Japanese junior skaters this summer contributed to his fraying relationship with Team Kim.

Denney and Barrett are at champs camp this week but will be visited by choreographer David Wilson when they return. Being coached by Zimmerman and Fontana could certainly help their styling and packaging, but medal hopes likely remain just that.

Stephen Carriere will not be skating at Champs Camp this week due to having a cyst removed. He is currently in a boot but will be back on the ice in about a week. Mirai Nagasu will also not be skating. We knew that she was injured when she had to pull out of The Ice, but her injury was not disclosed. Mirai has been off the ice for six weeks due to a stress fracture in her foot and appears quite impressed with her tan. She is eager to return to the ice on September 1st and knows that Frank Carroll will be kicking her ass into gear.

Felicia Zhang officially passed her senior test at Champs Camp. Felicia and Taylor spent last week working with Elena Valova, who is one of Taylor's first coaches. They are actively seeking to add some Russian influence to their skating in order to become a top pair.

Wu Jiani spoke to Gymnastike about Anna Li's elite aspirations. Her blunt demeanor and sense of humor is refreshing. She may just be the Chinese Caroline Manzo. Kelli Hill, who is blunt in a more intimidating way, spoke to Gymnastike about Kytra's bubble position for the World Team selection. Her fear of overrotating easier tumbling passes could be interesting when it comes to designing her collegiate routines.

Adopted Daughter Nina Jiang is in third after the short at the JCP in Courchevel. Yasmin Siraj is in sixth. Polina Shelepen is second behind Yretha Silete of France. Jiang actually had the highest PCS scores...which is a definitely bitchslap to the Russians who assume vast superiority in that area. Max Aaron and Jason Brown are second and third behind Canadian Andrei Rogozine in the men's event.

History Lesson: The Original Asian Wonder Child

In recent years, Asian-Americans have made figure skating the new piano and violin. The phenomenon is nearing its 30th anniversary this spring. It all began with a Chinese-American named Tiffany Chin who inspired the likes of Kristi Yamaguchi and coaches everywhere.

Tiffany Chin was initially developed by Frank Carroll and Janet Champion. Training alongside Linda Fratianne and Christopher Bowman, one can only imagine the level of budding talent on display at the rink every day. Armed with a brilliant triple toe and trademark Frank Carroll edges and flow, Tiffany charmed the world at the 1981 Junior Worlds.

The on-set of Tiffany's career also brought about a new phenomenon: The Asian Skating Mother. Stage parents and skating mothers are an everyday occurrence in the sport, yet the Asians have taken it to another level with their drive, focus and unabashed obsession with winning. Given that Frank was already dealing with Christopher Bowman's teenage antics, it says volumes that the talented Tiffany Chin was the first famous student he had to "fire" and it was due being unwilling and unable to deal with 'The Dragon Lady' any longer.

While leaving Frank Carroll is rarely a good sign for one's career, Tiffany made a brilliant coaching move to John Nicks. Due to years of experience with pairs, Mr. Nicks knows all about showcasing the lady. He took her amazing Frank Carroll basics and added stunning positions, illusion spins and arm movements. Mr. Nicks, that sly fox, knew just how to make the audience salivate. Tiffany's skating is the perfect marriage of Nicks and Carroll, an obvious gay dream.

Based on pure skating, Tiffany Chin was worthy of the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. Free from pressure due to being buried by the judges in compulsory figures, she gave the one inspiring ladies free skate in the event.

Skating is all about taking one's turn, and Tiffany took hers at the 1985 US Nationals. Skating cleanly but conservatively, Chin captured gold but showed signs of tentativeness that did not bode well for defeating Katarina Witt at the World Championships.

Katarina Witt has the evil East German ability to intimidate anyone and one can feel that Tiffany sensed her presence while on the ice at the 1985 Worlds. The Dragon Lady was not pleased with her daughter or her coach and soon switched coaches to Don Laws. Convinced that something was wrong with Tiffany, the Dragon Lady took her to doctors who found a bizarre muscle imbalance that continues to confound doctors and coaches alike.

Neither Chin's confidence nor her jumps would ever be restored. While we'd never see the same brilliance, the Chins did give us a gift: a fluff piece at the 1986 Worlds. It is this fluff that may have been her greatest performance. The brilliance of this fluff makes us all wish cameras were a constant presence in the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club this summer.

Chinese Nationals: Team Finals

Margaret Thatcher's adopted daughter is back in earnest. She is even appearing more comfortable on balance beam!

He Kexin (time is ticking)- VT, UB, BB, FX
Huang Qiushuang- VT1, VT2, UB, BB, FX
Jiang Yuyuan- VT, UB, BB, FX
Sui Lu- VT, UB, BB, FX
Yang Yilin- VT, UB, BB, FX

I know you all love to play Martha, so what is your World Team looking like? In the great Chinese Tradition of yore, this team appears to have the ability to win gold on their best day or seventh or eighth should one of them fall and trigger the domino effect. They may have DTYs, but they're um... not quite Cheng Fei material.

In other news, you know your life is a complete joke when you wake up to a message like this on your computer screen:

Miss Honey, I just watched JYY's bar routine from prelims, and let me tell you, I am greatly offended by the fiasco that is her stalder 1/1...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This and That

The Orser-Kim drama is not stopping, and frankly...pass the popcorn! After being contacted about being called a liar by Yu-Na and AT Sports, Brian Orser provided Phil Hersh with a copy of an email he sent to Yu-Na on April 25th about the rumors surrounding him being contacted about coaching Mao Asada. This comes on the heels of another report from The Star stating that Yu-Na was seen in tears at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club and left before taking the ice for her afternoon session.

We also learned that Yu-Na's new competitive long program is set to the music of Arirang.

The Qualifying competition took place at the Russian Cup. Aliya Mustafina led the field with a 59.821. Tatiana Nabieva was second with a 59.151. Ksenia Semenova was third, Daria Elizarova was fourth and Ksenia Afanasyeva was fifth after mistakes on bars and beam. Afanasyeva performed a double layout and two whips through to a triple twist for a 15.700 on floor exercise. Mustafina and Nabieva both competed Amanars on vault.

Anna Pavlova finished sixth in qualifying and tied Nabieva for the high score on balance beam (14.500). She announced that 2010 will be her final year competing.

Both Viktoria Komova and Anastasia Grishina sat out this meet. The Russians are reportedly aiming to keep their juniors fresh and healthy for 2012. They aim to win gold as a team at Worlds.

A list of the competitors for this weekend's Moran Memorial has been posted.

The top skaters in the country are arriving in Colorado Springs for Champs Camp. Unlike previous years, this year's camp will feature more than meetings and seminars. Skaters will perform their competitive programs for a monitoring committee.

This and That

Yu-Na Kim responded to Brian Orser on her official website and accused him of lying in his interviews. It is unclear whether or not Yu-Na is being the victim of manipulation by those controlling her. AT Sports continues to bring up the rumors surrounding Brian Orser coaching Mao Asada, but he immediately rejected the offer. Brian Orser is the new enemy of Korea for daring to comment on the situation and Kim's mother. Somehow skatenastics is seen as being different from baseball, basketball or any other competitive sport where the reasons for high profile hiring and firings are discussed in the media. As Bart Conner says, "somehow these girls are seen as being vulnerable when they are fierce competitors." Brian Orser spoke to CTV about the decision. This will further piss off Korea. In the lily-white skatenastics world, Park Mi-hee clearly had a ''job transfer.'' There were also comments made in my previous post that Brian is somehow announcing this the same day in order to sabotage All That Skate LA. Um, this is America, we love drama and divas. This is a good thing and will only increase the publicity and exposure for the event.

The cast for All That Skate LA has been confirmed. Yu-Na Kim and Michelle Kwan will co-headline the event. It is MK's first performance in the US since 2006. The event is significant, as Yu-Na shows tend to be giant spectacles in Korea. It remains to be seen whether figure skating can still command a large audience in the US, as Stars On Ice has continuously struggled at the box office over the last decade. While the 2009 Worlds were a success, shows have not been. If Korean-Americans come out in droves, the next event will clearly be held in Old Tappan, New Jersey.

The cast for All That Skate LA includes: Ashley Wagner, Belgosto, Brian Joubert, Savchenko and Szolkowy, Shen and Zhao, Stephane Lambiel, Johnny Weir and Voir.

It is amazing how Mishin and Plushenko continue to state that he will compete despite his banning by the ISU. They did not appeal the initial ruling. Alexei Mishin gave a fabulously defiant and matter-of-fact Russian interview to World Figure Skating about the situation. Unless they know something we don't (and one many never comprehend the broadness Mishin's political power), the situation continues to appear more and more entertaining by the day. Given that the Figure Skating Federation of Russia provided the ISU with evidence to revoke his amateur status, this is Russian Drama at its finest.

Kristen Maloney is the new Assistant Coach at UNH.

The Chinese have been dominating diving at the Youth Olympics. Qiu Bo won the 10 meter platform. Compatriot Liu Jiao captured the women's event.

The FIG gave Marian Dragalescu a warning for failing to comply with the out-of-competition doping regulations.

The list of competitors for the Nebelhorn Trophy has been posted. As rumored, Ashley Wagner will begin her season at the Senior B event.

Mother Russia's young bad ass divas with weapons captured Youth Olympic gold in the Rhythmic Gymnastics Team event.

Shockingly, a Russian also won the individual rhythmic event. Alexsandra Merkulova is the new HBIC.

The new Workout Wednesday on Gymnastike features Macko and Bridgey Caquatto.

History Lesson: Tracey Wainman

Given that I was not born at the time and am American, I was rather ignorant of Tracey Wainman until a friend sent me an article about her earlier this week. Tracey is the classic example of a child star who didn't fulfill her promise as a senior, but boy was she a joy to watch.
As a 12-yr-old, Tracey was an extraordinarily talented skater and according to Toller Cranston "had the charisma of Michelle Kwan and Katarina Witt combined." (I think that is being a big hyperbolic on Toller's part, but we must consider the source.)

Like Toller, Tracey was coached by Ellen Burka. She had unreal speed but suffered the affliction of Slutskaya posture during some aspects of her skating while brilliant in others. Tracey's star was on the rise and the Canadian media did its typical exploiting of this girl. They anointed her the 1984 Olympic Champion right away.

Weakened by the flu, Tracey Wainman was unable to defend her title at the 1982 Canadian Championships. She began to lose confidence following the loss and was written off by the CFSA.

A year later, she retired.

Tracey came back a year later and it took her about two years to get to her peak ability. She captured the 1986 Canadian Championships with one of the most '80s short program of all time.

For fans of the skating boom, Tracey became a bad ass and the bride (and ex-wife shortly after) of Jumpin Joe Sabovcik. She is the mother of Blade, Joe's long-haired look alike frequently exploited by CBS and FOX.

Tracey currently coaches and her entire fascinating story can be read about here.

Chinese Nationals Training

The Olympic Team Champions had podium training at Nationals. Their performance was a mixed bag. He Kexin, the little alien Uneven Bars dominatrix, is looking quite sluggish. Aside from Cheng Fei (who was powered by inner PE Teacher qualities), these girls do not age well. Sixteen is not so sweet for most of them.

Jiang Yuyuan, their great hope according to Lu Shanzhen, is improved but still landing her somersaults like Kristie Phillips.

There is hope for Nastia, as the Chinese coaches have starved years of maturity off of Yang Yilin's body.

Overall, their sudden floor abilities have subsided and they now look more like the Chinese teams of old.

He Kexin- UB, BB, FX
He Ning- FX
Huang Qiushuang- UB, FX
Jiang Yuyuan- UB, BB, FX
Sui Lu- FX
Wu Liufang- UB, FX
Yang Yilin- UB, FX

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This and That

The Yu-Na Kim--Brian Orser---Crazy Ass Park Mi-Hee drama is heating up and I must admit that I'm LIVING for every second of it. If there is one part of skating that we can all agree on, it is that parent-coach-skating coaching drama is off the hook.

Orser has spoken to The Star and Phil Hersh about the situation.

Helen Choi, a representative from AT Sports, has now refuted Orser's statements.

(Somehow, Orser comes across as far more credible.)

Tony Wheeler spoke to an unnamed Canadian source about the split.

Let's look at the players involved:

Brian Orser: Successful coach. Managed Yu-Na's hip and back injuries, fixed her flip technique, led her to Olympic Gold after the pressure looked to be getting the best of her last season.

Yu-Na Kim: Skater. Star. And frankly, a business. Where Yu-Na goes, the money goes with her.

Park Mi-hee: Mother who admittedly writes down all of her successful jumps, missed jumps, falls and pops during every practice session. She moved away from her husband, forgot his birthday and their anniversary and admittedly stifled her other daughter's fabled dreams of being a singer. In other words, she is a fabulous crazy ass Asian skating mother of the first order.

There were two warning signs that shit was about to go down and they were:

1. Rumors surface that Orser has been approached about coaching Mao Asada. Obviously, there is always going to be drama whenever the Japanese Skating Federation is involved. Orser smartly declined and saved himself a lot of gray hair. It is likely that the JSF assumed that Yu-Na's competitive days were over.

2. Yu-Na's mother and her agent (who travel with Yu-Na everywhere) split with IB Sports and form their own agency. While she may have birthed a gold medalist, the entire situation reeks of her being the Korean (and female) Dmitri Moceanu.

We should have known that things were getting good, but everything was kept under wraps over the last few months. What led many to think that Yu-Na was retiring from competition now looks to have been the awkward relationship between Orser and AT Sports.

In Brian Orser's interview with The Star, it is clear that Park Mi-hee is the one making all decisions and likely being influenced by Yu-Na's agent.

Orser has made it very clear that this is not about money. He has only ever charged Yu-Na his standard fee of $110 an hour. (This is much cheaper than Frank Carroll's $140 an hour + %-age of earnings) While he has gained notoriety in Korea and been included in commercials and published an autobiography, there has never been a financial agreement between them and he has never been under contract.

“It was very much a surprise,” said Orser. “There was really no valid reason. I still don’t understand why they did this. I don’t know. It came out of the blue. They sat down with me and Tracy and said we’re not coaching her anymore. And that was that.”

Orser and Wilson got the news from Kim’s mother at a meeting on Aug. 2 — the skater wasn’t present. He said he waited three weeks before issuing a release Tuesday because he thought there might be a change of heart and things could be worked out.

Orser, a former world champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist, found the reasons for their dismissal given by Park Mi-hee rather lame.

“They just felt that we had not given much attention to Yu-na, but at the same time she was kind of talking out of both sides of her mouth.,” he said, “She had told us to move forward with other students.

“We were just waiting to get our orders from the mother because that’s what we always did. She always told us when they were ready to move in a certain direction and we had a meeting and we got pen and paper out and we did a plan. We never got to that point.”

Kim’s management company AT Sports later released a statement saying relations between the skater and coach have been “uncomfortable” since May.

Orser said that’s not the case.

“I spoke with her the other day … She seems confused about what’s going on. Because of all this turmoil with her mother, she doesn’t know what’s going on. Nor do I. That’s what I said to her, ‘I’m a little confused, but it’s been a great four years,’” said Orser.

“We just needed to have a little chat with her before I did this (went public), that the last four years were really magical and we had such a great thing and we support her in whatever direction she wants to go. She wasn’t part of any of these decisions about letting us go.”

Orser said he got the blessing from Kim’s mother to work with other skaters during the summer. Orser said she told him not to make any time for her daughter because they were unsure of their plans for the off-season.

Orser was left out of the loop all summer, including when Kim went off to Korea in July to do some shows. He read on the internet that she was pulling out of the Grand Prix events for this coming season but planned to compete at the world championships.

“I thought it was a little unfair that I had to read it on the internet, that they never consulted with me at all,” he said. “I kind of figured there was something up there.”

He further suspected something when he got a telephone call from former world ice dancing champion Shae-Lynn Bourne telling him that she would be choreographing Kim’s short program this season.

“It’s fine, but I wasn’t consulted on that, either,” said Orser. “I sent numerous emails to both her agents and to Yu-na when they were in Korea in July and I didn’t get one single response back from them.

“I was asking them what’s going on and saying I’m getting some media interest so I need to know what to say. There was literally not a single response, not one ‘Here’s what to say,’ or ‘We’ll talk to you when we get back.’ I even emailed at the end of it: ‘When are you coming back to Toronto?’ There was not even a response there. It was really kind of pathetic.”

Yu-Na has still been skating alone at the Toronto Cricket and Skating Club, but Orser feels that it is now an untenable situation and would likely be best if she left. The other skaters are feeling the tension. Min Jung Kwak is also no longer working with Orser, but it is important to note that she is also managed by AT Sports. Min Jung gained notoriety as being Korea's next promising skater and has been paid to skate in many of her shows. (aka YNK is her meal ticket) Basically, she doesn't have her own leg to stand on, even if she did want to stay with Orser.

There has now been some sort of tweet from Yu-Na, but it is unclear whether she wrote it (or her mother.) As with everything controversial on twitter, they will likely claim that her account was hacked, as it has now been deleted. The broken English is notably fabulous.

@Yunaaa Would you please stop to tell a lie, B? I know exactly what's going on now and this is what I've DECIDED.

In other news:

Adam Rippon gave Ice Network a sneak peak at his costumes for this year. He sounds very excited for the season ahead. While this is not exactly related to the Yu-Na post, it is notable how happy Rippon and Gao seem under Orser and how Yu-Na always seemed. Given the enormous pressure on Yu-Na, he managed her injuries and kept her healthy and sane.

Adam posted photos from a photo shoot on his official site.

New details have emerged about Evgeny Plushenko's eligibility via Ice Network. While no one with a sane mind has expected him to continue competing, his batshit crazy agent is saying that Evgeny still wants to compete and will meet with Alexei Mishin and the Figure Skating Federation of Russia to discuss his plans. Yet, the FSFR is the one who provided the ISU with evidence for forfeiting his eligibility and also spoke in interviews about their strained relationship with Plushenko during his comeback. It is important to note that Plushenko (via batshit crazy agent who 'translated' for Khorkina on The Rosie O'Donnell Show) previously cleared his intention to compete at the 2010 World Championships after the Olympics, but then immediately scheduled shows that prevented him from doing so. As always, there was talk of his poor injured knee, but he was skating again in a week's time.

The entire National Team (minus Va Zam) will be present at the first World Selection Camp. It is important to note that Amanda Jetter has successfully petitioned to the camp.

Ashley Wagner has posted a new vlog.

Always one for attention, child star Dominique Moceanu has posted a montage and video of her speech from her Hall of Fame Induction.