Thursday, January 27, 2011

US Nationals: The Ladies Short


The ladies short program just finished and we were subjected to another night of Tonia Kwiatkowski's horrendous commentary.  It may be the only thing more painful than listening to her skating.  Tonia is a giant apologist for all of the crappy skaters and headcases, probably because she wishes she had one for all of her own terrible performances.  When she commentates, Tonia brings up what it is like not to make the final flight of ladies.  Heaven only knows, there were countless times I certainly wished she didn't make the televised flights.

The first skater was not good.  I'll be nice and omit a few of the poorer skaters..  To quote Center Stage, "who let that disaster in here?"  This was a LONG short program, so one gets a bit testy about sitting through Triple Toe+Double Toes during the senior ladies.



Felicia Zhang was second.  Now, Felicia has been injured, burnt out and off the ice from doing pairs and singles.  I love Felicia, but her own Level 4 Skating Mother seems to think that her future is in singles after her JGP Assignment.  Love Felicia, but she is 17 and a high school senior.  While she may look young, she is a bit old to only have two triples.  She does have a wonderful future in pairs, but would be better off not burning herself out.  It has become a situation akin to Kristi Yamaguchi in 1990, where skating so many sessions a day plus driving 90 minutes each way to the rink is taking its toll.  Mrs. Zhang turned down an opportunity for Felicia to work with Elena Valova on pairs for two weeks over the holidays while UDel was booked with hockey for much of the day.  The coaches want her to work with a pairs coach who can teach her technique.  Unfortunately, Felicia hasn't been able to train run-throughs.  She is clearly excited about competing as a US Senior Lady and is generally a hard worker, but the lack of training showed.  It is a bit curious to show up in singles when she withdrew from pairs, but that is certainly leading the buzz that she will make the wrong decision and quit pairs over singles.  This is the case of one JGP assignment giving someone false hope.  She is a lovely skater, but it isn't going to happen in singles.  Felicia happens to have a gift for landing throws, which is uncommon.  Lord knows many American pairs skaters wish they had that ability.  Also, having Jeff D be your singles coach is just asking for bad technique.  Jenny Kirk's Double Axel= Jeff D.  Sarah Wheat and Sarah Hughes' underrotations= Jeff D.  Tara Lipinski's cheated jumps in juniors= Jeff D.  I just don't see those coaching fees paying off under IJS.

Triple Lutz+Double Toe (shaky), Triple Toe (Fall), Double Axel  22.36+19.87 -1.00 = 41.23

Alissa Czisny is a changed woman.  Moving away from her bad coaches and negative mother has done wonders for her skating career.  Keeping her at home until the last minute was a genius move by Yuka Sato.  That coach needs a raise for managing two head cases at once.  Alissa was delightful, but her scores were quite conservative.  The USFSA seems to still be feeling her out.  They've supported her in the past, but they look tentative.  With each good performance, she is slowly proving herself to them.  Putting Mirai in first gives her a slight buffer, as she is unlikely to win the free skate (It's Mirai.)

Triple Lutz+Double Toe, Triple Flip, Double Axel (fought for it.)  Alissa's new confidence is a delight to see.  Her short program is the most beautiful of the competition, but it doesn't compare to her amazing free skate.  Audrey Hepburn received conservative, bullshit PCS scores of only 29.69 to match her 32.81 for TES.  Her spins deserved more credit.  She is definitely a skater who is hurt by the elimination of the spiral sequence.  With the spiral, Mirai and Alissa would have a greater margin over the unfortunate '60s Soccer Mom.  62.50.  I'd anticipate a huge score for her free skate if she proves herself once again.


Christina Gao delivered a solid short program.  Ms. Gao is growing into her limbs and appeared far less awkward than she did at the Grand Prix Final.  Even her coach admitted the apparent awkwardness at the GPF during his recent interview with Ice Network.  Her Triple Flip+Triple Toe and Triple Lutz are HUGE.  Double Axel was shaky, but she showed great fight.  33.10+25.33= 58.43   (Too close to Czisny.)  She was NOT pleased with her Double Axel, which was refreshing.  I wasn't pleased with it either.

Kristiene Gong is a delightful young cherub.  Her Flamenco Fantasy is not.  Her Triple Lutz+Double Toe had no speed or flow out of it, which is a huge pet peeve of Frank Carroll's.  Her Triple Flip was underrotated.  She just needs more time with Frank to compete with the other top senior ladies.  Frank was not pleased.  24.09+20.03= 44.12

Alexe Gilles told us that she has five poodles (and two triples) during the warmup intro.  She tells us that she has added tricks to her program.  After her last place and second-to-last finishes on the Grand Prix, it was a shock to see her pull off a Triple Toe+Triple Toe.  She seems to be one of those sad twins who can't function without their other half.  Apparently she isn't the dominant, leader twin.  Then, the Alexe we all know returned.  Her Triple Lutz came and it was a TIMBERRRRR  moment.  Her spit spin was S L O W, as is her general lack of flow across the ice.  Tom Z is one fine ass coach.

In the words of Laetitia Hubert, "So boring... almost as boring as Rachael!"

26.60+22.15 - 1.00= 47.75


Agnes Zawadzki, the blonde who stole Tom Z's attention away from Alexe, was next and delivered ENORMOUS jumps.  Triple Toe+Triple Toe, Nancy Kerrigan Triple Lutz, and Double Axel.  She definitely needs to roll her hips in the slow section.  It may be time to allow her to have a hint of a social life, because her presentation could sure be aided by a boyfriend.  And a prom night.  "She needs better hair and much more pep."- Laetitia Hubert

34.12+27.42=61.54


Caroline Zhang was in the house, showing off her new 'synchro skater' physique.  Her Lori Nichol programs are difficult to distinguish from last season.  Nice of Lori to phone it in again. She was perhaps one mile per hour faster than last season.  It clearly threw off her jumps.  Her Triple Flip was not even close.  She doesn't check her shoulders, which results in a lazy, labored takeoff.  Corkscrewed Triple Loop+Double Toe and a Double Axel.  Her layback may have been the only element deserving of positive GOE.  Tonia Kwiatkowski wishes she had Caroline's layback, or an element anyone liked.  Period.  She seems happier, which is unfortunate.  If she's not going to entertain us with her skating, she could at least entertain us with her bitchy personality.

26.94 + 22.54 - 1.00 = 48.48

Elle Kawamura stopped eating and improved her line.  Triple Toe+Double Toe, Underrotated Triple Loop, Double Axel     25.28 + 19.91 = 45.19



Mirai delivered a solid short program that vaulted her ahead of Alissa Czisny, which probably wasn't deserved.  Frank is mighty powerful on home soil.  Mirai did a great job with her Triple Lutz+Double Toe, Triple Flip and Double Axel after not having brilliant practices.  Her elements are all there, but the program is weird Lori Nichol bullshit.  It makes Jenny Kirk drawing a heart on the ice look like a practical work of art.  The Witches of Eastwick program makes little sense and no one can tell what she's doing when she is supposed to be tossing petals in a "he loves me, he loves me not" fashion.  Frank loves her today.  And so do his friends on the judging panel.  32.94 +30.41 =63.35

It is probably good that she is in first after the short, as it could take a buffer in the long to get her on the world team.

A wonderful skater by the Midwestern name of Katy Jo somehow made it out of Novice Regionals and into the Senior Ladies.  It was an obvious mix up.

Musademba looked fit, but struggled with her Triple Flip.  One wants her to do well, but her future is not looking bright.  She just didn't deliver.  Triple Loop, Triple Flip (Fall), Double Axel.  The talent is there, but I don't thick Derek Delmore is going to get it out of her.  It was interesting to hear Tonia be honest about her own mental weaknesses and inability to get past mistakes.


Keli Zhou performed a 2.25 Loop.  Enough said.


Vanessa Lam- we have found a new Asian.  She has tiny jumps, but rotates with the speed of Jenny Kirk and Tara Lipinski.  Her "Time To Say Goodbye" program is a delight, as is her overall packaging.  This Californiasian is one the audience enjoyed.  They gave her a deserved standing ovation for her Double Axel, Triple Lutz+Double Loop and Triple Flip.  She finished in sixth place.

Joelle Forte landed her jumps, but still had the packaging of a junior skater with her tights over the ankles of her boots.  Her jumps are still cheated.  Everything about Joelle is decent, but there is an obvious reason why she needed to resort to competing for Azerbaijan.  I know we're supposed to feel sad about them mixing up the paperwork, but the truth is that she never would've made it otherwise.  Not even in Canada.

Ashley Wagner was next.  It is important to know that while she has the flu, she's been skating well in practice all week.  Ashley was landing Triple Flip+Triple Toes.  This is important to note, because everyone is going to blame her poor short program performance on the flu.  The truth is that Ashley messes up her short program every year.  The pressure was on and her bad habits returned.  Triple Lutz (Two Foot)+Double Toe, Fell out of a Triple Flip, Seriously cheated Double Axel (takeoff and landing.)  Like Evan Lysacek early in his career, she struggles with the pressure of the short program at Nationals.  27.27 +27.36= 54.63  One amusing aspect was that the media guide still had her Led Zeppelin program listed, though she has gone back to her unfortunate "Once Upon A Time In America" short program and competed it all season.

Yasmin Siraj was next.  Her speed and gangliness has improved, but she still dodged a bullet by not facing off against Courtney Hicks.  Yasmin would not have won Juniors this year.  She is the type of skater who has about five elbows and three or four knees, but she appears to be adapting to her growth spurts.  This is a lot of talent there, but it will take time to develop it.  (49.91)


Then it was time for the gag-worthy short program of Rachael Flatt, who was dressed like a soccer mom in a '70s-colored dress (somewhat similar to the color of faded kitchen wallpaper.)  Notice that the media guide doesn't list her AP courses, so every article and commentator mentions her haircut.  That is because they have nothing to rave about when it comes to her skating.  They lied and said she is the most accomplished American lady of the field, but with Alissa's win at the GPF and Mirai's fourth place finish in Vancouver, it simply isn't true.  Rachael has never won an international event.  Alissa won two this season.  She does have greater flow on the ice in this program, but she now flails her body around and it isn't in time with the music.  Her footwork sequence was particularly ridiculous, but the audience ate up the subliminal Kwan memories and were willing to stand for her.  if you looked at some of the stereotypical-looking fans in the audience, their Standing O shouldn't have shocked anyone.  It was all very corny.  Triple Flip+Double Toe, Triple Lutz, Double Axel.  The fact that she has the highest PCS of the night makes us wonder if Tom Z is stepping out on his wife.  31.55+30.77=62.32   She is one skater who should never have a dress with an open back.  It only emphasizes her width.  It was an improvement over her last short program, but remember that improvement is all relative.  Going from a D- to a C+ is "improvement."

Mel B closed the night with her Hot Pink Tango.  Her Triple Flip had a turn out, but she managed to tack on s double toe.  She saved a Triple Lutz despite saying she dropped her right side.  Her double axel was solid.  Melissa really has fun with her choreography, especially with her arm movements and facial expressions,  She is in 15th, but should move up with more jumping passes in the free skate.

Danielle Kahle also skated, but didn't embarrass herself.  I wonder if her Yoga coach made the trip?

53 comments:

  1. Flatt got the highest PCS scores of the night. Okay, then.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Geesh, Felicia is allowed to pick the discipline she wants. Pairs can be scary. Not everyone wants to do it. Have you seen Z/T's triple twist? It looks like a potential injury every time they do it. Pairs can be brutal. Maybe singles is less taxing on her body? I feel bad judging Felicia's singles performance when she's clearly injured and lacking in preparation time. I think she is capable of attempting more than two different triples, but I'm not sure.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Alissa Czisny is my hero!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Flatt actually sold the heck out of that program.

    I love the top 2! We don't need a long program, just stop now!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your Alissa review gives me so much joy. I haven't seen the programs yet, but I was so anxious about her performance.

    ReplyDelete
  6. HOW CAN WE AMERICANS WATCH OUR OWN AMERICAN SKATERS? SOMEONE PLEASE HELP US AND PROVIDE VIDEOS! I CAN, AND HAVE WATCHED EVERY JAPANESE AND RUSSIAN SKATER I HAVE WANTED AT THEIR NATIONALS! HOW CAN I WATCH MY OWN SKATERS WITHOUT GOING BROKE?! SOMEONE HELP!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Alexe landed a 3-3 in a GP too I think. Not sure what was up with the lutz. I think she misses her twin too.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Felicia's decision is not "wrong" if it's one she likes. Her singles could improve without pairs, if that's indeed what her plans are (she may not know her plans yet). It's about working hard and enjoying the skating. If pairs hurts her body too much, then singles works. I think she had to change her 3T timing to match Taylor's? It could be causing inconsistencies with that jump.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I thought Caroline looked WAY fitter than at the GP..which isn't saying much..but still. And she didn't keep her programs from last season, unless you count this last GP series last season.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Aunt Joyce is the only one being honest about her lack of a future in singles.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love Zhang...but I honestly question her future in either discipline. *shrugs*

    No comment on RF, Auntjoyce!?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Author of this blog post: "The first skater was not good. I'll be nice and omit her. To quote Center Stage, "who let that disaster in here?"

    How odd that you would decline to say anything specific about that skater, yet decide to make specific comments about ones who did much worse (not just in my opinion, but also that of the judges). If I didn't know any better, I might think that someone missed the beginning of the competition.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "Hello Kitty"

    Why are you such a douchebag?

    ReplyDelete
  14. The Hello Kitty nickname was earned due to her 2008 Short Program dress.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "Why are you such a douchebag?"

    Well, don't have a clue about the author, but often times people who write like this are bitter about their own failure. Maybe he's a skater and the judges never recognized his brilliance or maybe he's a wanna-be skating groupie (or skater in training, lol) who wishes he could do what skaters do? Who knows?

    In any event, this blog doesn't really preach truth or even a snarky version of the truth. For example, as much as I don't care for her skating, I gotta admit from a skating point of view that Flatt did a very good job tonight. The choreo was horrible, but that's basically expected when one attempts to get a high level on footwork under this judging system. Instead of focusing on that, he comments on the way the audience looked. That tells you all you need to know.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Mirai is tossing things into the potion to make a witches spell!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Aunt Joyce does not like Rachael. Clearly. So I wouldn't recommend reading this blog if you're seeking praise for that program.

    That said, I liked it. I will get stoned by anti-Rachael folks. But whatever.

    ReplyDelete
  18. "It was all very Southern."

    What's that supposed to mean!?

    ReplyDelete
  19. I don't love Flatt, but she's certainly not big even by skating standards and doesn't deserve these types of comments. I love snark, just not when it's about things like this. She is shorter than a Czisny or Mirai, so it's normally for her to be more "squatty".

    Everyone's been saying how ridiculous her footwork was. Was it spastic? I want to watch so bad but can't justify the Icenetwork expense!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Like Southern hick? I was under the impression that most attendees of Nationals are from out of state anyway. Apparently they have people from all 50 skates and multiple different countries there.

    ReplyDelete
  21. all 50 STATES* hahah I've watched so much skating today!

    ReplyDelete
  22. What the hell, @8:55. Are you new here? Nothing in a personal blog is OHMIGOD THE DEFINITIVE FIGURE SKATING TRUTH. Nor does AJ present the content as such. Who are you to evaluate a person's life based on what he writes in a fan blog? I'm actually embarrassed that you would waste your time publishing a comment on a site that you consider so insignificant.

    ReplyDelete
  23. The first skater definitely did not skate the poorest tonight. There were some weaker skates. Hopefully they can do better in the long... It's a very cool accomplishment just to qualify for this!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I love that the top 4 are separated by a thread! Long program decides all! Everyone better watch on Saturday!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Some of these commenters are special.

    ReplyDelete
  26. anon at 9:00 pm asking about southern--

    it was a reference to the southern hospitality (everyone's welcoming, receptive, appreciative of a clean performance, even if it was flatt's).

    however, it seems the post's been edited to "it was all very corny." either way, it pretty much means the same thing.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Including the one at 9:10 who felt compelled to post about it.

    ReplyDelete
  28. "Flatt doesn't deserve these types of comments."
    I do agree. Comments are totally not fair. This's so ridiculous, AJ.

    ReplyDelete
  29. It's always like that at Nationals... they will stand for just about anything that doesn't contain big mistakes or catastrophic disasters. Let's face it, Rachael's music is gripping even if she isn't. Still, I think she sold it, maybe even too much in the footwork.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Well, I was trying to be optimistic about Rachel new short but the step sequence made me laugh. Let say it was strange experience.I didn't see Alissa and Mirai. Does anybody know when it'll be available on demand?

    ReplyDelete
  31. AJ, there weren't any soccer moms in the 60s. Kids (make that boys) played Little League baseball, not soccer. I think Rachael has more of a 70s feel to her. She wears those garish colors and her hair looks kind of like Florence Henderson's on the Brady Bunch.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I also found myself laughing during Rachael's step sequence. I'm not trying to be mean, I just couldn't help it. It's crazy, comes out of nowhere, doesn't match the music, and she's trying waaay too hard.

    ReplyDelete
  33. not your best article, AJ.

    p.s. caroline is in MUCH better shape than during the grand prix

    and

    i think rachael's sp may have moved even the most ardent of kwan fans.

    ReplyDelete
  34. What exactly does Mirai have? Is it that Flatt does not have? What exactly is it?

    ReplyDelete
  35. Mirai has charisma, personality and attractive lines. She is aesthetically pleasing. So is Alissa. Rachael Flatt is not.

    ReplyDelete
  36. To anon 9:42

    Artistry, musicality, elegance, charm and ease of execution

    ReplyDelete
  37. And flexibility... And a fast layback with unusual positioning. Her leg isn't very high, but she has a deep arch in her back and pulls it up to a nice Biellman. Flatt just doesn't have the same quality.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Rachael's old agent actually wanted her to work with Shae-Lynn Bourne on her choreography, but Jody Flatt wouldn't leave Lori Nichol. I think Shae-Lynn really could've helped breathed some life into Rachael.

    ReplyDelete
  39. @9:45 10:14 Seriously? That's it? I do not agree with U. Anyway, then, why doesn't Mirai act in movies?

    ReplyDelete
  40. I remember my urine had same color as Racheal Flatt's new costume, after taking multivitamin.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I like that Rachael Flatt wore sleeves though. It's a great look on her.

    Icenetwork commentators are terrible. Just shut up during the programs! Everyone paying for icenetwork is a diehard fan.. We don't need you to talk non-stop through everyone's program and explain everything.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Re: Flatt. When you are the US Ladies' Champion and you skate two clean programs at the Olympics and can't finish higher than 7th, you should get the damn message. It isn't going to happen. Why exactly did she defer Stanford again? If the judges have any sense, they will hold her down in the long program. Alissa and Mirai could medal at Worlds. Rachael Flatt will not.

    Then again, a Worlds team of Alissa and Mirai will probably give me stress ulcers.

    ReplyDelete
  43. i told my student who's currently spectating at nationals that i would teach him for free for a month if he could find the icenetwork booth and club tonia over the head with her own microphone.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Flatt said tonight she deferred Stanford because she wanted to breathe a little and not have to immediately think of school again. And, she likes skating, and wants to pick a new training location near Stanford and didn't think she had enough time to do so before the fall.

    Flatt didn't skate the best she could at the Olympics.... I don't think she did her 3-3s, and she had downgrades. And even if she had skated her best there, who cares? Maybe it's not just about the medals for Flatt...Maybe she actually likes skating. It's irritating when idiots like Phil Hersh think they should determine what Flatt should be doing. If she makes the World team, good for her. If she doesn't, she at least came close. Good for her. You never know who will medal at Worlds. For christs sake, CZISNY is the GPF Champion.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Mirai kicked ass! I disagree AJ; Mirai deserved 1st. Alissa was beautiful and clean but she was waaay too reserved. She usually performs with more emotion and energy even though it's a slow piece. She was clean but there was nothing special about the performance b/c you could tell she was being careful.

    Mirai on the other hand went balls to the wall! She was much faster than Czisny, her jumps were bigger and she skated with energy and pizazz and I think that's what made the different. Also her transitions were better than Czisny as well as her footwork. They both got dinged on the flip and their spins were on equal footing as well...so I say the less than a point lead is about right...

    Rachael on the other hand is the one who got held up. I'm an uber-Kwan fan and I can admit that. I was pissed when I found out Flatt was skating to EOE b/c of MK but I decided to just let it go and watch the program. My eyes hurt from her dress, haircut and general appearance but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. The program was okay: jumps were decent, the ina bauer was very lovely...and then she went BATSHIT CRAZY! That footwork was AWFUL! I literally burst into laughter watching her swing her arms and flip her hair and flail and generally look like she was having a conniption fit. The frantic, insane, frenzy step sequence killed the whole program for me and the fact that the judges rewarded her with +3s on that element made me wanna pull my hair out. Her PCS should have been several points lower than what it was but we'll chalk that up to the judges trying to give Rachael a leg up for the long.

    I'm hoping Mirai comes out and lays it down in the long. She's due for a good clean long and if she skates like she skated last year (minus the URs) there's no one who can beat her. I'm worried about the effect of her long program but her SP is proof that when performed well, even a sucky program can be good. I want Alissa to hang on and have a decent skate as well. She can skate cleanly; she did it at the GPF. The only question is can she do it again? As for Rachael, her Slaughter on 10th Ave long leaves me hopeful b/c no one has ever won gold with that music so I'm hoping history repeats itself here. I want her to skate well but I want Mirai and Alissa to skate better and get those 2 spots...mostly because I don't think I can stomach suffering through watching Rachael perform that SP again...

    ReplyDelete
  46. I doubt if Rachel moved most Kwan fans. What I'm getting is that most are baffled by that crazy footwork. It was kind of hilarious. It came out of nowhere.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Yikes. If Rachael hadn't gotten a Level 1 for her layback she'd be in first.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Once again the judges go crazy over someone jumping up and down flailing about. Hopefully the international judges won't fall for it. Have another one hit wonder on our hands.

    ReplyDelete
  49. That footwork got a bunch of +3s, yet from what I'm reading, it seems like it was very spastic? Hahaha, I can't wait to see this!!

    ReplyDelete
  50. That was your typical (awful) COP step sequence, maximum effort, minimal thought. That said, Rachael sold the hell out of that program.

    ReplyDelete