Saturday, April 7, 2012

The 2012 World Figure Skating Championships Recap



The 2012 World Championships in Nice were a moderately successful event.  It is baffling that an arena on the gorgeous French Riviera is so lacking in bathrooms for crowds and uncomfortably warm for the skaters.  Things haven't changed much with the arena since the Worlds were last bestowed upon the flamboyant French people, but the sport has certainly taken a nose dive in popularity and prize money.  Seeing so many empty seats in the arena during the short programs was another indication that despite the push for a 'more objective' judging system by obsessive compulsive purveyors of the sport, audiences are increasingly bored and alienated.  In order to create interest in a sport, there needs to be media interest.  Skating used to be a wonderful sport to write about because it was easy.  Athletes landed jumps, got marks from judges from countries and were given ordinals.  "It rained 6.0s" was something easy for sports editors to employ and attention-grabbing for readers.  No one can keep track of what a 200 or 210 means in the sport anymore, especially when the scores have no correlation from year to year.  Yu-Na Kim's scores in Vancouver are utterly meaningless, as elements come and go, jump values change and the sport remains a tragic joke.

While they are going on, the World Championships have a way of being dramatic and seeming vitally important.  Looking back, there are some things to take away from the event.





1.  The Germans won a fourth world title with one of the most interesting free skates.  Savchenko and Szolkowy began the season with a program that half-worked, but it grew over the course of the year.  Unfortunately, their victory was marred by sloppy mistakes.  Training the throw triple axel caused Aliona to suffer a groin injury.  Their spins (both pair and side-by-side) were visibly hampered and that throw triple axel was never as good as intended.  Being a ferocious, scary competitor, Aliona landed her jumps, but Robin could not.  We can always blame his gorgeous large rump for his mistakes.  Lord knows Aliona will be blaming him for almost costing them the event.



2. Volosozhar and Trankov do not have the chemistry or choreography of the Germans, but they do have impeccable lines, wonderful unison and an ability to lay down clean long programs at the end of the season.  If not for a fluke mistake on a death spiral, the Russians would be the victors.  It may be a blessing in disguise, as last year they came on strong, this year they provided the scare as chief challengers and next year they are certainly set up to win.  This pairs rivalry is one to pay attention to.  We need to dig up more about the Ukrainian twins who have shared partners and coaches along the way.



3.  Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir reclaimed their position as the best ice dancers in the world.  Purists adore this team, while others push for Marlie's more innovative programs.  Whichever way you fall on the spectrum, it is clear that Team Canton made itself a giant target by experiencing too much success last season.  The European coaches, commentators and judges made it a mission to cut down the Shibutanis whenever possible after their bronze-medal-by-mistake at last year's World Championships.  They were the easiest team to drop and the judges seemingly had a field day with Alex's twizzle errors in both programs.  While much of the rhetoric was from coaches/commentators like Sasha Zhulin saying he understood why the top teams were ahead, the Shibs were juniorish.  Things changed at Worlds when Marlie's lead over the rest of the field was cut down to size.  This is notable, as there is a big push for Ilynikh and Katsalapov going on.  They may have the lines and beauty of Usova and Zhulin, but they have yet to master the skating skills.  If there is a team that was ever in need of two brilliant programs to keep ahead in the ice dance world, it's Meryl Davis and Charlie White, as they are the next team to be attacked before Sochi.  Marina Zueva and Igor Shpilband need another Bollywood-type moment to reignite the buzz for this team.  The traditional romantic route isn't going to even pan out to Tessa and Scott levels.



4.  Mao Asada needs a change.  It has been years since we've seen a happy Mao, but it is hard to see her struggle with confidence and consistency.  Changing her jumping technique only changed her level of belief in herself, as her ability to rotate or do a true lutz has not improved in the past two seasons.  While the Satos are venerable coaches, they don't exactly have a track record of coaching World Champions.  Yuka went to Canada to train when she ascended to the top of the sport.  It is imperative that Mao, who was recently left off the team for the World Team Trophy, find her fire and confidence before she falls to Fumie-Suguri-levels of obscurity.



5.  Carolina Kostner finally pulled off a victory at Worlds with the season of her life.  Whether or not she will continue next season is anyone's guess.  Like Jeff Buttle, I don't exactly see her situation repeating itself.  Ottavio must be breathing a sigh of relief that all of his politicking has finally worked.  He has spent eleven years trying to maneuver another gold for Italy and the stars finally aligned.  Now would be a perfect time for him to retire...

Kostner's programs remain the best work Lori Nichol has done in over a decade.  Positively brilliant.




6.  Patrick Chan's boo-infested victory has been a long time coming.  Patrick seemingly peaked at Canadian Nationals and was back to his sloppy, unfocused ways in Nice.  By being overscored in both programs, his victory is easier to defend for Canadian commentators and supporters.  Should the situation repeat itself in Sochi, Skate Canada will be on the other side of a political firestorm.  It is amazing that the scoring systems may change, but shoddy politics are forever.  Skate Canada, the official ass-kisser of the ISU, has their entire skating establishment on board supporting this victory.  Back in the days of Plushenko and Yagudin, a champion couldn't land two quads and then proceed to defecate on the ice for the rest of their performance.  A waxel would be deadly.  Daisuke Takahashi can find solace that being the people's champion is oft better than being the one with the medal.  Just ask Janet Lynn and Trixi Schuba.




7.  It is clear that the American men present in Nice are incapable of ever competing on this level.  It is a shame that two of the sport's greatest artists are irrelevant, but it is true,  Watching the final flight, it was obvious that the judges just want semi-masculine men to skate with power and speed and land big jumps.  They don't care about innovative choreography, wonderful line, Rippon-lutzes or gorgeous extension.  Performing a program for the third time at a World Championships didn't hinder Brian Joubert's results.  Neither did a lack of components or skating skills.  The judges don't care, especially if you're European.  If judges believe that you will be consistent, there is somewhat of a boost that will eventually find its way into your scores.  Adam and Jeremy lack consistency, especially with the big jumps.  Jeremy's biggest issue is his 'deer-in-the-headlights' stare at the beginning of his programs.  It is a sorry situation.  Jeremy often gives sound bytes about wanting to claim his rightful position in the sport, but then he makes the outdated decision to leave out the quad in the short program.  If Jeremy Abbott ever wants to compete, he needs to make the quad just another element in both programs and do it all season.  He needs a Quad Toe+Triple Toe in the short and two quads in the long if he has any prayer of contending with the likes of Chan, Takahashi or Hanyu.  Hitting at least one quad could help with whatever mistakes he makes later on in the program and provide a buffer that he's currently missing.  It has been two years since Vancouver, yet it doesn't appear that Abbott has made much progress with his technical content or mental game.

Adam Rippon may just be the most wonderful stylist since John Curry, yet his skating lacks the power and masculinity seen of the top competitors.  The lack of power makes his Triple Axels a bit unimpressive, even when landed, as we've seen more impressive jumping passes from Tonya Harding and Midori Ito.  It is a shame that Adam is buried in the penultimate group, yet it is a fact that is unlikely to change between now and Sochi.  That said, it remains criminal that his Rippon Lutz is not listed as a separate jump in terms of base value.



8.  Alissa Czisny's woes are difficult to watch.  The skater mentioned coming back next season, yet one needs to wonder when her parents will say 'enough is enough.'  A history of second place finishes has been known to torment competitors later in life.  One needs to wonder the effects (and the true causes) of Alissa's downward spiral this year.  Ever since she held onto a tentative victory at Skate America, Alissa's confidence, consistency and soul have evaporated on the ice.  It is interesting to see the 'blame the coaches' mentality on twitter, when they were just praising the coaches two months back for a strong showing at the U.S. National Championships.  If Alissa was too injured to compete at the Grand Prix Final, having her go out and bomb was a questionable decision for a girl easily-shaken by the pressure of remaining on top of the skating world.  It is beyond heartbreaking that such a beautiful, talented and graceful young woman is continually burnt by the heat of the competitive skating world.



9.  Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez have bright futures.  If anyone is going to challenge Chan artistically and technically, it looks to be these two.  Both are capable of powerful quads and beautiful artistry.  Competitive consistency is the only hurdle left to overcome between now and the Olympics.



10.  Weaver and Poje's free dance remains the most wonderful program of the season.  Krylova and I cry every time we view such majestic skating.

24 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Same opinion here towards interesting videos, always looking for for such kind of post, about ice skates figure video, form your this i attain good tips..

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  2. Nothing about Wagner?

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    1. I think aunt joyce is taking the 'if you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all' approach for a change :p I don't know why he dislikes Wagner so much. She was awesome!!!

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  3. I thought Tran and Takahashi were the biggest surprise of the meet and quite elegant. Garnering a medal in their first senior worlds is impressive, considering all the hype of the other teams. And it was Japan's first pairs medal ever. They remind me of Meno and Sand: fragile, but nice to look at, when they deliver. Plus, Narumi's expressions were refreshing. There's a fire in her that finally came out.

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  4. Thanks so much for coming back to the blog and writing this - it is much appreciated!

    That is a very interesting observation about how changing the scoring system may be effecting the popularity of figure skating.

    My favorite moment of the event was when Takahashi and Tran won the bronze and seeing her reaction in the kiss and cry. Her finally landing jumps in this event made me appreciate more than I had what lovely skaters they are.

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  5. did you take your coach's advice and watch weaver/poje's fd w/o music? just wondering bc i, someone who knows nothing about ice dance, was really struck by the dance... i think in part b/c the music was just awesome. is it still great without it, do you think?

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  6. Did Trixi Schuba have better edges than Chan? She certainly did better figures...

    I don't see Fernandez challenging Chan for the top of the podium anytime soon. His skating skills just aren't that good, and he has work to do on the spins. He does have a fabulous 4S, but quite a few of his elements lack polish. I'm saying this as someone who likes Fernandez and has for years - but really, the same criticisms that you've mentioned re the other Europeans certainly apply in his case. Hanyu, I think, is the real deal, and he has the JSF to push him.

    Marina and Igor do need to lay off the romantic stuff for D/W. That's not their strength.

    Why did Carolina Kostner get lower PCS than Patrick Chan? Her programs were better and certainly her skating skills cannot be faulted.

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    1. I think Orser will do everything in his powers to get Javier to the top :)

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  7. Great recap--so good to see you back. I also thought of Janet Lynn and Trixi Schuba when Chan beat Takahashi in France. Figures were eventually dropped because the audiences didn't understand. Will the same thing happen with COP?

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  8. OMG! and Ashley, Akiko and Péchalat/Bourzat???? They gave us amazing moments !!!

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  9. Anon 11:09 PM:

    You make that comment as if Patrick Chan is winning gold medals because of the high quality of his skating.

    If Fernandez is straight (or willing to pretend he is), can get in the rotations for quads (as Chan has proven, landing them is secondary) and Spain throws $$$ the judges way, he's good to go.

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  10. Oh, I think we all know why Chan is winning - it's a combination of actual talent, excellent code-whoring, and Nichol and Skate Canada politicking for him like there's no tomorrow.

    Fernandez can be competitive for podium placements, but his skating currently lacks the polish and some of the skills to seriously contend for the top of the podium, and I seriously doubt his federation has the power to get him there at his current level - which contrary to what some suggest is not superior to that of the other top Europeans.

    But I'd certainly rather watch Javi than Patrick.

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  11. The JSF is probably the richest of all the federations now with the huge popularity of figure skating in Japan. But I do wonder why they don't throw more $$$ at the ISU to politik for Daisuke Takahashi? Or are they saving all that cash for Hanyu? Who knows...

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  12. They may be too late (with politiking for Hanyu) with only one world championship left before Sochi.

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  13. Fernandez won't challenge for the podium no matter how much politicking the Spanish Federation does because he hasn't got enough stamina to do a clean free, and won't have it unless he stops smoking and going out drinking the night before a competition.

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  14. I think Chan's skating is incredible: his steps are intricate with a lot of variety. It's too bad he doesn't skate cleanly more often. When he skates cleanly, there is no question that he is the best....

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  15. I've never seen you talk anything nice about chan. i see you HATE HATE him. it's always funny to see how much you hate him. you are meaner than mr. grinch. you are just so mean. you will just hate him whatever he does. that's who you are. you are a chan hater.

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  16. jettasian, please go see psychiatrist already.

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  17. This was by far one of the most boring World Championships I've seen. Maybe THE MOST boring.

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  18. Fantastic blog covering with valuable information, I really like video, person who want to learn skates they can enjoy with these video..

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  19. Good recap! I disagree that it was boring (alright fine, the women's competition was a bit...bland). But the men's competition was exciting. And yes Patrick Chan. What a joke. He has gorgeous flow and edges on a good day, but he only won in Nice because he landed two quads. -.- His artistic quality was clearly inferior to Takahashi's during this even. It's unfathomable how high Chan's PCs scores were higher than Takahashi's in WTT.
    The dark horse of the event, who really surprised me, was Yuzuru Hanyu. His Romeo and Juliet skate was simply breathtaking. The program wasn't flawless but there was just something so captivating about it...
    I look forward to your commentary on the 2012-2013 season!

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  20. I believed Tran and Takahashi were the greatest shock of the fulfill and quite stylish. Earning a honor in their first mature planets is amazing, considering all the buzz of the other groups. And it was Japan's first couples honor ever. They tell me of Meno and Sand: delicate, but awesome to look at, when they produce. Plus, Narumi's movement were relaxing. There's a flame in her that lastly came out.




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