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
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?