Sunday, January 30, 2011
US Nationals: The Ladies Free Skate
Watching the ladies final at the US Nationals is a tradition. In many ways, it is a holiday. I claimed I had a wedding to go to in order to ensure I had the night off from work, because no matter how shitty our ladies are at times, I don't miss US Nationals for the world. There is something about seeing Frank Carroll and John Nicks put out little divas in pretty dresses that makes us all stop and watch. As always, it was a year to remember.
The night before the ladies free skate, Margaret Thatcher called me in a panic. "We need to get Agnes out of Colorado Springs immediately. How many pieces of shit can Tom Z coach?!" I agree. Rafael. Morozov. Hell, have Frank fire someone and take her on. Frau Muller was supposed to join me for Nationals, but is suffering from illness. I watched Nationals with Mommy Dearest and Father Knows Best. When the tweets started pouring in, it felt like the Olympics all over again. No matter what, the ladies excite us. Everyone has an opinion.
No matter how many jumps Melissa Bulanhagui landed in the third-to-last group, I suspected that the penultimate group would bomb. They are always the ladies most effected by the cameras and live television broadcast. For years, ABC Sports showed a group of dreadful skaters (most of whom were coached by Kathy Casey.) Kristiene Gong also skated well in the third-to-last group, but her use of Salome had me throwing a gay fit.
The broadcast began with Alexe Gilles. Prior to her program, my friends took bets on how many falls and popped jumps Alexe would have. For the record, I said one fall and three pops. Sadly, we didn't think to take doubles into account. Alexe suffers from that weird twin issue where they are incapable of surviving without one another. I imagine Alexe and Piper have some weird special language like Tara Lipinski and her friends who burned candles on the roofs of million dollar townhouses. Mommy Dearest immediately noted that Alexe "didn't look like the other skaters" and she wasn't just referring to her height. Sandra noted that Alexe has struggled with "inconsistency" over the past two seasons. One could argue that she is consistent...you can always rely on her for a last place finish at a Grand Prix. Alexe is actually quite amazing in training. Week after week, she shines at the Broadmoor skating shows. The USFSA attends and she still manages to jump well. After a swing Triple Lutz to open the program, she fell on a Double Axel. Sandra said that her issue is following up a good jump with a fall. After she mustered a Triple Flip(2 ft)+Double Toe, the program went to shit. I'd never accuse it of going to shit quickly, because Alexe simply stopped moving across the ice and made it a very long four minutes. It was painful to watch in a way that made several people mention wanting to mail college applications to her home. Mommy Dearest declared Alexe ready for retirement at several points. The jumps and skating skills weren't the only issue. Her spins were S L O W. Alexe lost the fight in her program. Luckily, NBC had mercy on her and didn't show her marks.
My father had a important point: Why are there so women wearing flags? Isn't everyone American?
Caroline Zhang was next and despite her improved flip technique, she has not improved in the manner that Scott and Sandra would like you to believe. Mommy Dearest was a big fan of her costume, but found her skating to be quite slow. This was after Mommy Dearest was weirded out by a lesbian scene in The Kids Are Alright, so she was in rare form. Triple Flip+Doublt Toe followed by a fall on a Triple "Lutz." Fall on an underrotated Triple Salchow. It all went downhill very quickly. Mommy Dearest was quite insightful last night. "I guess you can't jump if you have no speed, right?" Catty Comments, when watching Richard Dornbush, became outraged at Caroline when she learned that she had left his coach. "Have I mentioned lately that Caroline is fucking stupid and pissing her career away?" Well said. After a number of jumps with questionable technique and slow stroking across the ice (to pretty music), Caroline ended the pain with a gorgeous layback spin. It was the one element of the program deserving of positive GOE. "She's on her way." Um, what? Suzanne Bonaly did chime in via text, "She's getting better. She will get thin with Peter and Karen, or she will eat their children."
Joelle Forte was next. They mentioned she has a degree in Psychology, which may be the only bachelor's less useful than Journalism. After two jumps, it was clear that Joelle had done enough to beat Alexe and Caroline. Hell, she could've stopped skating. Joelle wound up landing more triples than anyone except maybe Alissa Czisny. Her goal was to have fun, which perhaps should've been the goal for the two who preceded her. I want to scream at her for putting the tights over her skates---it screams junior lady coached by Elaine Zayak. There is nothing classy that ever comes out of Monsey. Joelle's music was nice, but the choreography was SO Peter Burrows. I could've come up with something better with five minutes and a box of crayons. Mommy Dearest did NOT recognize Elaine Zayak and wouldn't shut up about it (it is a local thing.)
Yasmin Siraj was next and we finally learned out what exactly her heritage is: Half-Iranian, Half-Saudi Arabian. My life suddenly feels complete. Yasmin has really improved her presentation, but Bela Karolyi would be screaming at her to "smooooooth it out." Her lines and fluidity need tons of work, as do her skating skills. The talent is there, but she needs to spend a summer with John Nicks to really work on her positioning and beauty. She could learn a Russian split while she's at it. Yasmin made a big jump up to Senior Ladies and it was a big risk. Luckily she raised her game, but a few mistakes due to the enormity of the event wound up preventing her from having any shot at the Junior World Team. The girl certainly has guts. She went for a Double Axel+Triple Toe (UR-fall) and never gave up on the program or the performance. Mark and Peter teach decent consistency, but they are not going to give Yasmin the kind of skating skills to take her to the very top. The girl is made of competitive mental win. Her final four jumping passes (Triple Salchow, Triple Lutz, Triple Toe, Double Axel+Double Toe+Double Loop) proved that she is a serious competitor and someone we will undoubtedly here about in the future. She just needs to push through those big knees of her and find some speed.
Random Tidbit: It appears that all ladies at the Skating Club of Boston now learn the Kerrigan spiral.
NBC decided to help me lose the winter weight by showing a clip of Rachael Flatt practice her Betty Boop impression backstage.
Morgan Bell was next and proved why it was her first trip to Nationals. Mommy Dearest labeled her "tattoo girl" for her costume (among other things.) Morgan appears to have a brilliant future in synchro skating. After one of her falls, Mommy Dearest (half asleep by this point) declared, "well we saw that coming."
I was worried that I would be the only bitch to call out Ashley Wagner on her SP errors. I realize that she has the flu, but I also know that she's been skating well in practice from all the reports. Luckily, Sandra Bezic came right out and said it. Sometimes it is nice not having to feel like Skating Hitler. Ashley's bitchface was ON and Priscilla was prepared with a matching scarf for good luck. Once again, Ashley left the boards by hugging both coaches---it is a move that screams headcase and scared shitless. Not the best move for the mental game. I may be a bit different than the flag-wearing Southerners in the crowd at Nationals, but I prefer feisty Ashley to fake-happy Ashley on Universal Sports. (Whatever did happen to Ask Ashley? That's ME!) Ashley started off with a Triple Flip+Double Toe (3-3 never gonna happen) and followed with a Double Axel+Triple Toe (UR and 2ft...Ashley is clunky under pressure.) The girl did not stop fighting. She landed a Triple Lutz and hit the second half with a Triple Loop+Double Toe+Double Toe, a Triple Salchow and another Triple Loop. Ashley popped her last triple, but it didn't matter by that point. She put together a solid effort. Her face was red and winded from the illness, but she kept it together. There was positively NO flight in her flying camel. Dick Buttonn was having a fit wherever he was. I'm a fan of feisty Ashley. Yes, her skating is overdone and she's never going to get much better, but there is something fun about her bitchy personality. I dig it. Her gay brother deserves a special mention. I'm not outing him---Ashley did that herself by tweeting photos of his shoe collection that he brought to Nationals. (110.73, 165.36 overall- 1st at that point.)
Finally, it was time for the final flight of ladies. The USFSA is always smart about never scheduling a resurfacing before the final group; they know the penultimate group will wipe it up for them.
Sandra declared Mirai an "artistic" being during the warm-up. Basically, she called her a temperamental hot mess and who I am to disagree. I always like imagining what kind of wine Sandra Bezic is sipping while commentating. She always sounds as though she is sporting a designer evening gown and a hundred-year-old glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wise Tracy Wilson whipped out the Alissa Czisny Nationals career trajectory graphic: 7-3-9-1-10-? That is always a fun line graph. Alissa looked on in warmup. I wasn't even feeling nervous about her, which made me think I was living in an alternate universe. After the men's event, I'm certain of it.
Fun Fact: Amber Czisny was the better twin until they hit puberty.
Tracy Wilson did lie to us by saying that Mirai has never won a competition when leading after the short program. It is something that seems true, but actually is not. Mirai won the 2008 US Nationals after winning the short program. I didn't even have to look that up. Then again, I've been in therapy for years.
Vanessa Lam started off the final flight dressed in a hot pink dress with black gloves. It is an outfit that brings out all sorts of opinions. Fun fact: Vanessa is coached by the main rival of Dorothy Hamill. It is the same rival that allegedly had her mother try to run Dorothy down. Then again, Dorothy is an ''artistic'' being and such a statement cannot be verified for historical accuracy. It is important to note that Vanessa Lam is a Californiasian NOT coached by Frank Carroll at all. We do not know how long that anomaly will last. Her jumps are eerily similar to a young Tara Lipinski or Jenny Kirk. I'm not even sure if Vanessa leaves the ice at times, but she is thin and rotates at light speed. Triple Lutz+Double Toe+Double Loop, Triple Flip+Double Toe, Triple Flip (turn out), Triple Loop (turn out and hung on for dear life), Double Axel+Double Axel, Triple Lutz. Sandra Bezic declared the program "business like." It was skated with the expression of Miki Ando. All about the jumps. Vanessa is a good spinner, but she fell on her final jump, an underrotated Triple Flip. It was very Sasha Cohen-2000 Nationals, minus the charm and charisma. Vanessa managed a standing ovation for her short program, but I am thinking the music and Southern hospitality may have had a lot to do with it. The technical caller was clearly having a field day with some of those jumping passes. 162.91 was her total, which was good enough for second place at that point.
Ashley Wagner was shown lounging around on the big orange couch like a diva. Wouldn't it be fun if we got to kick them off of that thing?
Agnes Zawadzki finally took the ice and we got a shot of her beautiful Polish mother. Apparently, Mrs. Zawadzki sleeps on a couch. Given that Agnes has a bright future, I hope we see a fluff piece with her sleeping on it. It reminds me of an ironic situation where a '90s skater slept in a closet while her mother was not-so-secretly dating her female coach (while married and living with her father---fun times.) Agnes' Polish thighs give her height on her jumps that would make Nancy Kerrigan jealous. Unfortunately, she hasn't been the most consistent long program skater this season. That is likely due to nerves, as Agnes never had issues last season. Double Axel+Triple Toe, Triple Flip-HUGE. Going after Vanessa Lam made Agnes' jumps look positively Herculean. Zero to hero baby. While the lutz has typically been one of her best jumps, Agnes had a shaky edge entering her first Triple Lutz and intelligently decided to do a double. For being known as a jumper, Agnes does have decent spins. Contrary to Scott Hamilton's declarations that she is the new Oksana Baiul and has no weaknesses (consistency was never an issue for that orphan), Agnes' stroking is a bit slow. It may not be terrible compared to his other students, but he hasn't had that many years with her. It remains curious that she doesn't perform her Triple Toe+Triple Toe in both programs, as it might help her with her consistency. While I was getting concerned after the first lutz, Agnes came back and nailed an enormous Triple Lutz+Double Toe. It was sick. Poland should be begging her to compete for them. She won't even have to train next to a concentration camp like our favorite pair from yesteryear. Agnes entered the Triple Loop a bit slowly and fell. This jump has been as issue for her this year and it looks like it has to do with the placement of the jump in the program. It was very consistent for her when she opened her program with it last season. The technique is sound, so I wonder if she needs to pull a Kwan and get that beast over with. Her Triple Salchow followed and was again disgustingly sick. She turned out of her final Triple Toe, but tacked on a Double Toe+Double Loop. The judges ate Agnes up. There was positive GOE flying all around. She now faces the challenge of Adelina Sotnikova at Jr Worlds, but a solid program will certainly content with the Russian starlet. Agnes just needs to hit. Sandra Bezic commented on her musicality. It does exist, but her lack of speed hurts it. There are moments when she goes in and out. Her Tom Dickson short program is far better than the snooze Lori Nichol charged her 10 grand for last night. Agnes' fierce Polish mother was happy---I know firsthand that those full-blooded,opinionated, domineering women are difficult to please. (112.30, 173.84 overall-1st at that point.)
Christina Gao took the ice next. Laetitia Hubert called me to point out that Brian Orser has most definitely been eating his feelings since Yu-Na left. He looks grumpier than usual. Someone must've brought up the sting of two Olympic silver medals. Mommy Dearest, never one to miss a beat, declared him looking "bloated in the face. He doesn't look good like Boitano. He needs to skate every day like Brian." I don't know what offends me most: the bangs, the Fresh-Off-The-Boat music choice or the random extra skirt fabric in the back. It looks very junior. I was not shocked when they mentioned her being from Kentucky. I could see it. That said, her presentation is improving. Christina has the thin Asian-David Wilson thing going on like the Olympic Champion, but she is beginning to form her own style and sort out those limbs. Like Tara Lipinski in '97/98, Christina is trying to downplay her growth spurt. The commentators called her out on it and declared that she grew four inches, as opposed to the "inch or two" that she currently admits. Dick Button would like to point out that is went all to her legs and is "just fine." Christina opened with a Yu-Na-worthy Triple Flip-Triple Toe. Mommy Dearest put it best when she remarked, "I guess Scott liked it." Christina followed up with a Triple Salchow and then just about hit the boards on her Triple Lutz+Double Toe+Double Loop. The camera angle made it mighty difficult to note whether or not she took off from the correct edge. I was looking. Triple Loop. Double Axel. She fell on an underrotated Triple Flip and then appeared to trip on footwork. The voice of Dick Button reminded me that "the National Championships is the toughest event. It is against your peers." Her Triple Toe was tilted, but landed. Christina really hit the accents of the music well. She needs another 18 months to really get her style together and adapt to her long limbs. There is a playful quality to her skating that is really beginning to develop. I was glad to see that my adopted daughter was frustrated by her mistakes in the Kiss and Cry. Her biological parents raised her well. (108.77, 2nd place)
Alissa Czisny looked calm and confident as she took the ice. Miss Val is going to love what Jason Dunjen said about ninety percent of competition taking place between six inches---the distance between your ears. Yuka Sato and Jason deserve a raise for what they've accomplished with Alissa this season. With each program, we are learning that this recent success is not a fluke. They are tweaking her technique and managing her nerves. Both of them have tons of experience---good and bad, as competitors. Yuka got it together once she moved away from home and took control of her skating, which it appears she has encouraged Alissa to do as well. The crowd absolutely loves Alissa and wants it for her. Triple Lutz+Double Toe, Triple Flip, Triple Toe+Double Toe+Double Loop. Who knew she could pull off a three-jump combo? Alissa has always had good skating skills, but her programs really show off her deep edges and fluidity this season. Her long program draws me in like a Kwan fan and takes me with her from winter into spring. Alissa managed to hang on to a Triple Loop that she would've missed any other year. It was an effort that showed us just has far she has come. There is a fight there that was never there before. She's a believer. There is beginning to be a feisty, hungry tiger beneath the Audrey Hepburn exterior. Triple Lutz+Double Toe, Double Axel, and landed a tilted Triple Toe that also would've been a splat any other year. Who knew that Alissa Czisny would go on to win more National Titles than Sasha Cohen? Insanity.
"I think I just fell in love with a woman."- Frau Muller
No one skates with the subtle beauty of Alissa. Yu-Na has the drama, but that beauty just isn't there. (128.74, 191.24- 1st place)
Mirai took the ice and looked ready for another crying scene. Frank Carroll is getting feisty and is losing his regal austere a tad. There is no talking about clouds with Mirai. "You're the best skater in the world. Go out there and do it."
Mommy Dearest: Her dress is very Chinese-looking.
Aunt Joyce: She's Japanese and skating to Memoirs of a Geisha.
Mommy Dearest: Her dress is very Japanese-looking.
Mirai fought for her opening Triple Lutz+Double Toe, but it was instantly obvious that she was not going to catch Alissa Czisny. The fight was to determine whether or not she'd make the World Team. Double Axel+Double Toe (supposed to be a Triple Toe.) In the words of Dick Button, "she receives no marks off for reducing the number of rotations in that jump. She will just not receive the same technical merit." Triple Flip (UR?), Weird, bizarre music cut for the layback. WTF Lenore Kay? This program has little to do with a Geisha after a while. It is not a magical vehicle for Mirai. It is time for Frank to kick Lori's ass to the curb after giving Rachael "East of Eden." Triple Lutz (UR). Triple Toe+Double Toe+Double Loop(UR) Double Axel (Turn out.) Mirai needs to go to David Wilson or someone with a clue. Even Wagner's choreographer would be an improvement. Mirai was injured this year, but in the words of Laetitia Hubert, "Skaters who have what it takes find a way to get it done for Nationals." Mirai missed a flying sit spin and it made the entire program appear hairy. Perhaps they were too busy working at the restaurant, but Mirai's parents have failed her as Asians. After reading Amy Chua's book, I'm convinced that they accepted four-year-old Mirai's poorly-constructed cards she made them for their birthdays. Being a good Asian parent is all about imparting your child with an inferiority complex that drives them to Kwan-like success.
Suzanne Bonaly was shocked that Mirai "wasn't thin enough" and wanted to have a word with the prima ballerina sitting next to Frank and Mirai in the Kiss and Cry. Most curious was Frank's venom after the program. He was not having it. "Well, you gave it away. Sorry!" It was as though she was Tim Goebel and he was taking out his rage after Michelle kicked him to the curb for demanding too much money. Frank and Mirai need cameras following them 24/7 at competitions.
Frank always manages to get hit in the head by something. He was hit by a stuffed animal in the Kiss and Cry and it appeared that Mirai was lucky that it happened in order to ease the tension.
Rachael Flatt closed the competition. She declared that she will major in Chemical Engineering at Stanford and it explained everything we needed to know about her "artistry." Unlike Mirai, she is an engineer. No one has ever accused her of being an "artistic being." Rachael skated two "clean" long programs in Greensboro, so it was surprising when she opened her program with a Double Axel+Triple Toe(UR). Rachael sported a constipated "oh wow!" look to start the program and piss me off sufficiently. Rachael appears to have lost some of her confidence. A year ago, she wouldn't have missed a jump. The fight is gone and I question whether she'll push through both skating and school at Stanford. The speed was just not there. Double Lutz. Triple Flip, SLOW skating, Triple Lutz+Double Toe. SLOWER. Triple Flip+Double Toe+Double Loop. S L O W. It appeared that she was just trying to be steady and stay on her feet. Triple Loop. The cutesy, Betty Boop footwork didn't draw the crowd in with her because unlike the flailing short program steps, this sequence lacked speed in a serious way. Triple Salchow (Turn out.) Sandra declared that it "looked like work," which was true. Her performance ability has improved a tad, but she is still just a bore. Even her ending Ina Bauer didn't receive the intended audience reaction. Lori gave her music that is a known "no-no." Skaters have never won using that music. The story isn't well-constructed and it appears that Lori has really just lost it. While the commentators raved about her AP classes a year ago when they couldn't muster anything complimentary besides "consistent" about her skating, they just mention her 'sassy' new hair-do. Did the Flatts describe it as such in her media bio? Plenty of people beg to differ. Her cutesy act needs to go. Have some self-awareness and emphasize your strengths. Don't draw attention to your weaknesses. You don't see Aunt Joyce trying to star in heterosexual porn. (121.06, 2nd place. Ew)
"Lori is a choreographer, not God. There isn't much to work with besides big thighs and bad hair."- Suzanne Bonaly
"You know, I think Rachael's a sweetheart, but could that haircut get any worse? She looks like a lesbian lumberjack."- A Peacock Network News Producer
The USFSA announced the World Team after the competition: Czisny and Flatt
Four Continents: Czisny, Flatt, Nagasu (Wagner is the alternate)
Junior Worlds: Zawadzki, Gao, Hicks
This may be the final kick in the pants Mirai needs to get her shit together and compete like a champion. If not, Frank needs to fire her in favor of Agnes.