Friday, February 26, 2010

30 Hours Ago…

Two weeks ago…. I was sipping coffee.

One week ago… I was having a bowel movement.

Four days ago… I ate chicken salad.

Two days ago…I had tilapia for dinner.

Seventeen Hours Ago… My power went out.

Now…I’m writing my review.

Breathe. The competition at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games is now behind us. I believe I am starting to see some gray hairs emerge. One of the most memorable nights in Olympic Figure Skating history took place last night and it was truly a mixed bag and somewhat of a freak show. I felt the urge to scream at Dick Ebersol and take out my rage. My power even went out twice and I experienced the gay panic that only someone who temporarily misplaced Madonna tickets could understand.

I was supposed to watch the ladies final with Drunksana, but the snowstorm prevented it. That might have been for the best, as our diametrically opposite views sometimes cause me to restrain myself from committing bodily harm. (Drunksana baits me and then squeals like a little schoolgirl when hit.)

Thanks to the snowstorm, this girl was worn out. The snow was much too heavy for my snow blower, so I was tired when I came inside and slept before the final. I was woken up for Tugba and found myself dozing throughout her performance. I assure you that it was the exhaustion and not her poor performance.

Christopher Bowman: Who is Tugba fucking to get on TV?

My mother: She seems really slow…

Scott made a genius remark about how Tugba has become a Canadian in recent months. I could not agree more, as she skates like a third-ranked Canadian lady.

It was not the performance of someone in their second Olympic Games.

Ebersol has been screwing with us during the ladies competition. He has them show one performance of a nobody and then subjects us to hours of crap because we don’t have any true medal contenders.

I will say that watching Julia Mancuso pretend to like Lindsey Vonn has amused me to no end the past few nights. Given what a press whore Vonn is and the fact that Mancuso is much more attractive, it is understandable that she would be frustrated by having Vonn’s injury curtail her race when she was on gold medal pace. Vonn supposedly broke her thumb. There is really nothing this girl does better than get injured. She is AMAZING at it. Mancuson had some genius line about “we got here in very different ways.” Julia… me. I WANT to talk to you. I’d love to hear it all.

Then NBC returned to figure skating for a hot second. I believe there was a drag queen in Indian garb named Cynthia Phaneuf. The Canadian ladies really are showing off their shoulders this year. I will admit to being jealous of their muscle definition. Bezic blamed the “exquisitely exotic skater’s” mistakes on a growth spurt that occurred years ago. There was a 1 ¾ axel performed during that long program.
Triple Loop, Double Salchow, Triple Toe+Double Toe

My Dad: Is Scott in the bathroom? Where’s the AAAARRRGGHHHHH?

NBC then left skating because it was too much to handle and proved to us that “O Canada” may be the best beer drinking song ever. It’s a good time.

And then it happened. You saw it. Don’t pretend that you missed it. Mary Carillo went logging in flannel and work boots. Mary looked more at home than in her dress clothes. She was quite a natural at chopping down those trees. People say that Johnny is over-the-top about being “out” without “being out,” but this put Johnny to shame. God Bless TiVo. Mary earned a gold medal for that performance.

Ebersol toyed with us yet again by pretending that we might see a decent amount of skating coverage. He decided to show us a highlight film from the 1988 Olympic Games. I haven’t seen Charlene Wong’s performance in a while and it was nice to see, but some intern mislabeled her as “Chelzie Lee.” Charlene fell on a triple toe, but landed two questionable triple salchows. She is a pleasant skater to watch when you accept that she is never going to medal.

Korpi skated well, but NBC didn’t show it. They thought the public would prefer aerial skiing and the Nordic Combined instead of the Games’ glamour event. Check plus, Dick Ebersol. Check plus.
Al Trautwig isn’t that awful as a commentator when he respects the sport. Of course, I have no idea what goes on in the Nordic Combined.

NBC had planned on showing us the final two groups, but the penultimate group of ladies was chacked for the first time in recent history on American television.

I missed Leonova and can’t say that I am broken up about it, but I did manage to get my online stream working in time for Akiko Suzuki. There was a rumble in streets of Tokyo and Akiko was in the middle of it. Akiko landed some shaky triples, but did a stunning triple loop. She isn’t my favorite lady, but there is something about Akiko that grabs your heart. She is a total Lifetime movie and was in dire need of a fluff piece. Akiko skated off with tears of joy and I felt quite emotional for her.

Frank Carroll dumped Carolina Kostner for refusing to do full run-throughs and Kostner’s performance validated Frank. Kostner arguably outdid her long program from the last world championships. The Carobomb never fails to be a momentous occasion. Three 1.00 deductions and two downgraded triples buried Carolina in the standings.

Lovely Laura Lepisto was next and landed some gorgeous triples and actually did her triple toe-triple toe. Fans will debate forever whether or not she deserved to finish ahead of Rachael Flatt, but she is a quality skater. It is a bit like watching Alissa Czisny with better technique and fewer falls.

Ksenia Makarova deserves an award for getting rid of her hideous brown and gold dress. The new dress looked lovely and matched her performance. With more political support, Ksenia would’ve finished several places higher. This girl is the real deal and has a triple lutz+triple toe combination in the works. Ksenia typified Galina’s students always having a slightly off moment when she pulled a Johnny and landed gorgeous jumps and was tripped up by a spin. Of course, we didn’t see any of this. Why show a Russian lady who isn’t a tacky mess? The girl even has a gorgeous spiral. Surely she is an android.

NBC did finally return to show little sexpot Elene Gedevanishvilli interpret Carmen. Oh Elene, when Dick Button was expressing relief that Tara Lipinski’s growth spurt and maturity went strictly to her legs, you are what he feared for her after meeting her mother. Elene deserves +6 GOE for landing any triples with those DDs. The program was a disaster technically. It was bad to the point where Robin Wagner didn’t even entertain us in the Kiss and Cry. She knows when the cameras were on her and seemed like she wanted to distract attention from herself. This Carmen died. It is important to note that she has come a long way from where she was two years ago, but it just didn’t happen. And I’m sorry, but your spiral actually needs to include an arabesque where your leg is extended behind you without being held. That dog squatting by a hydrant spiral position NEEDS TO GO.

NBC didn’t even show Elene’s marks because they wanted to erase it from our memory. Focus on the good ones. They tried to make up for subjecting us to Nordic Combined by showing us an uninterrupted hour of skating, but it wasn’t enough.

Miki Ando sported yet another costume. Mirai’s makeup made her appear like she was crying yet again. That girl needs Zoloft. I feel for Rachael Flatt because she is going to look back at her program in twenty years and notice how awful that dress fit her. It was not a cute dress and many have tried to get her better costumes. Yu-Na’s dress is so sophisticated, simplistic, elegant and refined that she just looks like an Olympic Champion. That has to subconsciously influence the judges.

Who made that fluff piece at NBC? I have liked almost all of their features, but the ladies final group intro was bizarre. Two months ago…Ten minutes ago…Now…

And that commercial with Mao looking 11 was three months ago?! That screams kiddie porn fetish to me and really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Based on the warm-up, it was obvious that everyone was just on. The first skater determines the energy for the final group. When the first lady does well, it is going to be a good event. For as awful as the ladies final in Torino was (and really the entire Olympics was a disappointing mess), Vancouver provided us with so many wonderful moments that we will rewatch for ages.

NBC did win back a few points for showing photos of the ladies medalists over the years, but that streak was surely about to end despite what the former American champions were told to say.

The warm-up ended. It was time for the moment of truth.

Like clockwork, Tom Hammond delivered. “Rachael spent the day doing homework. She was going to ask for an extension, but felt too guilty when everyone was texting her about how difficult the assignment was.”

First off, Team Flatt shoves this academic image down our throats to the point where it comes across as though they are trying to force us to like her. Who is Rachael the person? I’d like to get to know her. I hear she is a great kid. Too bad they try to impress us with her academia.

Second of all, her friends were obviously texting her to kick some ass. If they were texting her about an essay, she needs to stop hanging with the uber-competitive nerds.

Rachael’s program Flattlined as usual. She “landed everything” but was downgraded on two triple flips. I’d only downgrade the second triple flip, but I’d take a close look at the first triple queef. Code Blue has clearly worked hard at trying to be artistic, but not hitting your ina bauer position on the crescendo makes your entire artistic ability appear learned and somewhat disengaged. They keep calling “the rock,” but I don’t think that is a favorable nickname for someone whose skating is sluggish and somewhat heavy. The jumps don’t get off the ground and she skates across the ice at Zhang speed. I was moderately stunned to see her placed behind Lepisto and while I suspect that the European judges banded together to prop up their skaters, I do give the judges some credit for marking her in comparison to the rest of the final flight. Drunksana finds her skating academic, like papers on literary theory and I’d have to agree. 117.85/ 2nd place.

Then came Miki Ando, a personal favorite of Sandra Bezic. Miki and The Zhangs hold a special place in Sandra’s heart. She didn’t even wait for the first note of music,
“Miki doesn’t care a whole lot about the choreography; it’s all about jumps.”

It is really sad when you consider that her coach is a choreographer. Who was less emotionally engaged, Flatt or Ando? It is a tough call, but I think Rachael actually hears her music. I suspect Miki needs hearing aids or is in desperate need of having fluid removed from her ears. She is never on beat that Krylova texted me that “Ando is swinging a sausage between her legs.” Ando didn’t go for her hardest jumps. I’m sorry, but praying for a meltdown isn’t good enough. The judges have held up your PCS scores for long enough and finally let you have it. You NEVER deserved to be world champion. Remember when you withdrew at Worlds? That may be my favorite long program I’ve ever seen you give.

My Dad: “It certainly doesn’t feel like a Cleopatra routine.”

Elizabeth Taylor was downing more booze and painkillers than usual watching that performance. Holy hell. 124.10/ 188.86

I should’ve been requiring an oxygen tank, but I felt oddly calm. Kim Yu-Na gave Orser a bit of a wink as she skated away from the boards and it was obvious that she was about to nail it before she even took center ice. Apparently she wrote some book of essays about pressure, but I can’t believe she skated as freely as she did given the insane expectations of her country. After her huge triple lutz+triple toe and solid triple flip, it was done. There was no way she was missing a thing. Yu-Na restrained herself and yet gave an utterly delightful performance. The Gershwin program is very flirtatious and fun, but it isn’t emotional like her Scheherezade or The Lark Ascending. Still, Yu-Na absolutely toyed with the audience and it was an unreal Olympic performance. It blew Boitano out of the water. There wasn’t an edge out of place.

It was extremely touching to see how much this meant to Yu-Na. She has been so solid and so composed for the past two seasons, but this meant the world to her. There were genuine tears of joy and relief. It was the reaction I wish we saw from Nastia Liukin in Beijing. Brian Orser was thrilled and they had this Zen-like calm in the Kiss and Cry. I knew that whatever score she received was going to be so massive that people would immediately scream that she was overscored. Yet, when you look at her GOE and PCS, the judges really weren’t on the Yu-Na crack the way they pleasured themselves with Voir’s free dance scores. 150.06/228.56

Poor Mao. There was not even a remote chance that she could win and the girl had to know it. She was dressed in a hideous costume and skating to horrendous music. If that was the same cut of music Tarasova gave Kwan, her withdrawal from the 2006 Games was a total blessing in disguise.

The Vampire Whore went out there and delivered two monstrous triple axels. It was an Olympic moment made of total win. Mao gave it everything she had last night. She delivered that Tarasova program even though it is obvious she didn’t believe in it. The girl slapped herself on both cheeks and did her best to be demonic. Unfortunately, an underrotated flip and an omitted triple toe put her in danger of losing the silver medal.

I’m a bit perplexed by Mao’s reaction to her performance. She was somewhat pleased as she bowed, but she was far from overjoyed. The reaction of her gold- medal-hungry Russian coaches made it certain that first place was out of the question. I’ve never seen Tarasova so reserved at the Olympics. I can’t really remember her losing a big battle either.

As Mao saw her marks, she sat there with a blank stare, looking like a pissed off clown. Immediately, I was worried for her and felt that she needed to be under a 72-hour hari kiri watch. The Japanese are all about gold or nothing. You know a nation is effed up when their athletes have to apologize about losing a gold medal at the Olympics. Mao has Yamada to thank for her beautiful triple axels and Tarasova to thank for absolutely nothing. Kim Yu-Na is unlikely to continue competing after Worlds, so Mao needs to relocate to Toronto and have the power gays put some life back into her skating. 131.72/205.80

Joannie Rochette was next with a heart-warming performance, but her Samson and Delilah program is an obvious letdown to anyone who saw Davis and White or Jeff Buttle skate to this music. She gets bonus points for channeling Yamaguchi. I am not a huge fan of the choreography, but you just had to will Joannie to stay on her feet as you watched last night. Step outs were fine. Just don’t fall down!!! There was a huge ovation for her and it was wonderful to see her medal, but she wasn’t as moved as after the short program. In many ways, she just seemed drained by the entire experience. This competitive performance (short and long) is about the best she could’ve ever hoped for, so she should be thrilled with herself. 131.28/202.64

And then came Mirai’s moment. Frank told her to “smile” because that is what he is paid $140/hr for. Her jumps were higher than nationals and fully rotated. How fitting was it that Mirai rotated all of her jumps and clearly defeated Flatt after so many felt she was robbed at Nationals. Mirai is the absolute future of US skating. Flatt has maxed out. 126.39

This report may not have its usual zing, but please understand…I feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders. I could not take having to listen to commentators talk about another skater being “the best to never win gold.”

For anyone in Vancouver, keep an eye on Mao. Girl needs a hug.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Finally, it is time for the premiere event. It is always bittersweet when the ladies event arrives, as it is a sign that the most anticipated event is upon us but it also means that the Games will soon end and that the attention brought upon our sports will soon return to normal levels.

The Ladies Short Program is an event that is six years in the making, as Kim Yu-Na and Mao Asada finally faced off on Olympic ice. It is so rare that two rivals who were pitted as being 1-2 so many years ago would remain healthy and at the top of the sport. Mao and Yu-Na likely would’ve finished 1-2 in Turin and it is so rare to see an Olympic re-match in figure skating. It just doesn’t happen.

After a dreary Grand Prix season that saw Miki Ando atop the podium at two events, the short program had the potential to be one of the ugliest nights in Olympic history. Thankfully, it was anything but.

NBC opened their coverage with Cheltzie Lee, which was a bit curious as not many people outside of the absolute diehard crazies even know who she is. Cheltzie performed a Triple Salchow+Double Toe combination. Let’s break this down, you had to perform a Triple-Double combination with a double loop as one of the jumps in 1988. This is why per-country rules irk me to no end. It is extremely unfair to the skaters who just missed out on qualifying for their teams. Cheltzie did make up for it by having on one of the nicest skating dresses in recent memory, but I need to see a few more jumps if you’re going to be the Olympics.

Tugba was also shown on NBC yet again. It is always fun to watch her, but she did not have her best skate by any means. The music really could’ve been better, but she does have a nice spiral and packages herself well. Her jumps were underrotated, but her parents did finally get to see her perform.

It was a bit odd for NBC to start off with two low ranked skaters and get our hopes up like that, because the peacock pretty much showed skiing until 11:00 PM. One would think that they would’ve jumped at the chance to show Johnny Weir near the boards for Ksenia Makarova, but she was chacked from the broadcast. Ksenia finished 12th in the short with a great skate, so there is hope that we will see Ksenia, Galina and Johnny on NBC for the long program.

NBC did return to show us Mirai Nagasu. They didn’t show us the restaurant fluff they seem to be waiting to show us, but they did bring it up and mentioned that her mother is suffering from cancer. Panasonic sponsored Mirai and got her parents to Vancouver, so it was great to see them sharing her Olympic debut. Mirai has actually done quite well in the short program at her Grand Prix events and she delivered yet again. Her triple lutz+double toe was a bit shaky and garnered negative GOE, but she had a spectacular double axel and triple flip. Her jumps were high and the landings were strong. The speed that Mirai generates is unreal. Of course, NBC mentioned that she never hits a bad position as they were showing her layback, which has a ways to go before it reaches Nikodinov-level. More point of the toe, better free leg! Mirai was awarded 63.76 for a program that was so badass that she ended with a bloody nose. Her spiral sequence was easily one of the best of the entire event. Her score would prove to be critical, as it got her in the top group. It was too low PCS-wise and she definitely should’ve finished ahead of Rachael Flatt. This is one time that reputation clearly played a role, as Mirai’s elements are infinitely better than Rachael’s in the short program. While Rachael may have a triple-triple, the GOE on every other element and each program component score should’ve vaulted Nagasu ahead of Ms. Flatt. Total Bullshit. I’d even considering putting her ahead of Ando, but one can understand that Miki has more power.

Tracy Wilson was brought on TV to explain downgrades to anyone and did an excellent job of conveying what an underrotation is to the lay person. Notice that this is the fourth event and the only time that NBC even has to discuss them at length. Can Tracy Wilson commentate aboot my life? She is such a gem. Can we please have her interviewing the skaters and showing things on the monitor again?

NBC didn’t show us an epic effort by one of the triumphant Canadian ladies. What a tradition! Cynthia Phaneuf had a good program going as she hit her jumps, but went down on footwork. Even Ioana, who is a sweet apologist for all European ladies and the skaters beloved by FSU, texted me to say “WTF is wrong with Canadian ladies?!”

David Michaels also deserves a special place in hell for deciding to air the nasty fall Yu-Na took on her triple flip in practice. As if I wasn’t nervous enough already, I was having to practice my breathing in order to get through the rest of the night. It was a total, Nastia eating mat on her back 1 ½+rudi in the AA warmup moment.

I’m rather surprised that NBC didn’t show everyone’s favorite skater, Elene Gedevanishvilli, or her fame whore of a coach. Is Robin attracted to the Katarina Witt-sized adornments that Elene sports? She delivered an incredible short program for her and even hit her triple toe+triple toe, but she was totally weighed down on her triple lutz and pitched forward accordingly. Robin was quite pleased, but she didn’t propose to Elene yet. Robin Wagner knows when the cameras are and are not on her. Elene’s spiral sequence could be so lovely, but we have the IJS to thank for whatever the hell those positions are that she does. One of the positions looks like what a dog does over a hydrant. Her ‘’Fever’’ program really isn’t as sassy or as exciting as it could be, but it is very much a music issue. 61.92 She will be the last skater in the penultimate group, so hopefully her Carmen will make the broadcast.

After 80-90 minutes of sleeping with my eyes open, NBC aired one of the coolest fluffs ever. Subject: Kim Yu-Na. I would like to go on the record as saying I would TOTALLY buy anything she sells and even want to purchase that fridge after seeing that adorable commercial. Was it really necessary to show her popping all of those triple loops? I like to imagine that she never misses a jump in practice.

Margaret Thatcher, a long-time Mao Asada fan and worshipper of Machiko Yamada, called me during this time and was extremely on-edge. His Ambien hadn’t kicked in yet, and he could not deal with his adopted daughter being minutes away from taking the ice.

Margaret Thatcher: “Do you have any idea how horrible Mao’s short program is aside from the triple axel?! I’d sue Tarasova myself, but I don’t think I have jurisdiction in Russia!”

Around this time, Aunt Joyce was experiencing nervous issues like Anna Liukina and requiring Chardonnay like Tanya Lysacek. Where is my safe place?!

Laura Lepisto, former European Champion (such a prestigious title, how many times did Surya win ?!) performed a triple toe+double toe that was executed far better by Katarina Witt in Lillehammer. Laura’s double axel and triple loop were nice, but this girl just needs to get some jumps in order to be taken seriously. One of the most precious moments in television occurred when Scott Hamilton criticized Laura for tucking in her chin while she skates. Um, what about everything Rachael Flatt does and her horrible posture?! Lepisto did have a slight hook on her camel spin, but she recovered well. 61.36 NBC tried to make up their horrendous coverage to us by not showing commercials between Laura, Mao and Yu-Na.

NBC introduced these ladies with another fluff on Yu-Na, this time joined by Mao Asada and Rachael Flatt. I’m sorry, on what crack-smoking planet does Flatt deserve to be part of a fluff with only Mao and Yu-Na. Oh yes, they’re all teenagers. NBC seemed to forget about Rachael during the fluff piece and focused on Mao and Yu-Na. I was a little frightened by Mao’s rage during that one commercial, but I approve of her kicking a little ass (preferably Miki Ando’s.) Of course, Tom Hammond ended this feature with a voiceover that raised my heart about 55 beats per minute “Superstars Must Win Gold.” STOP IT. WE KNOW. I KNOW. Visions of the Yunabomb were filling my brain.

I was brought back to Earth by a horrible dress being worn by Mao Asada, Seriously, worst-dressed skater ever. What, is Armine her dressmaker? Sandra pointed out that the short program isher weakness and that Mao is approaching it like a long program, Um, okay? It doesn’t really work like that. Whatever. Remember Sandra’s choreography….remember Sandra’s choreography….breathe….Lu Chen at 1996 Worlds….

Okay, Mao’s Olympic moment arrived and her entire Olympic hinged on her triple axel combination. She nailed it and tacked on her double toe, but the combo was VERY Irina Slutskaya, meaning it had a lot of pop but absolutely no flow out of it. The combo pretty much came to a dead stop and only garnered 0.60 GOE despite including an enormous triple axel. Mao landed her triple flip and double axel, but she really wasn’t feeling Masquerade Waltz or bringing any drama. She looked so thrilled after the triple axel that she wore an “I’m So Happy”-Midori –Ito- in- an- English –interview facial expression and didn’t interpret the music. Why did she even keep this music? It isn’t as though last year’s long program was such a gem that it needed to be brought back in another capacity. Yu-Na Kim was visible during the program, as she was standing behind the open curtain but didn’t appear to be paying attention. We can only hope that Yu-Na pulls a Katarina and stares her down during the long program. Tarasova practically pushed her assistant out of the way and stole the limelight at the boards and in the Kiss and Cry. “GOOOD GIRLL!” Tarasova was so pleased and ready to take all of the credit for Mao again. She could be seen willing Mao’s program along from the boards. I worry about Tatiana’s blood pressure during these events.

Kim Yu-Na skated to center ice and it was just obvious that she was going to own it. Some friends had IMed me warning me that she was going to bomb, but she delivered a fantastic short program that was just begging for GOE. I believe she may have had a bit for fire in her performance at Skate America, but I do agree with her score being 4.5 points ahead of Mao (as did the Eurosport commentators.) This “Bond Girl” program is going to be one of those iconic Olympic moments that is shown in commercials for years to come in the way Witt is shown skating to Carmen. 78.50- New World Record. You can’t really compare scores from event to event. The international judges are now getting more comfortable pushing into the 9s and 10s for program components, so the scores have been higher in general over the last few months. There seems to be a push for World Records at the Olympics.

Margaret Thatcher: You will get yours in hell.

Yu-Na's lead is big enough that she could basically skate through her triple flip jumping pass in the long and still win. Maybe she should...

Akiko Suzuki was shown next, but I was still on a high from Mao and Yu-Na. Akiko put her hand down on her triple flip, so she added a double toe to her triple loop.

Margaret Thatcher: Doesn’t Akiko have really weird eyes?!
Aunt Joyce: This, coming from a Mao worshipper? What, are you required to have eye issues or bang Morozov in order to make the Japanese Olympic Team?

Then came one of the most emotional Olympic moments. Joannie Rochette, who was in tears as she skated to center ice, delivered a beautiful performance and landed all of her jump passes cleanly. She skated the program well and the audience was really behind her. I think everyone was crying after that performance. Joannie deserves points for even skating and even extra points for channeling Yamaguchi and using her old music for both programs. 71.36

FYI: NBC later apologized during late night because the man they kept showing in the stands wasn't actually Joannie's father. It was one of her relatives.

Then it was time to for Julia Sebestyen, who landed a huge triple lutz+double toe but then followed it up with a 2.5 flip. Margaret Thatcher was glad that Granny had a new wig.

And then it arrived. D-Day. Would Rachael Flatt-line? It was a total Code Blue performance. I am not being mean. It is honest. My mother’s coworker (who is a fierce, fabulous Jew) called me up to ask: “What was with that American girl? She is so boring! That is the best we have to offer? Really? I thought that little Asian girl was much better than her. They say she is some brainiac and got into Stanford, so she should just go to school and stop having this as her hobby. She isn’t any good. Really. She is so boring.”

NBC decided to make us all go into diabetic shock by airing a home video of baby Rachael on ice skates. Because all of these skaters haven’t been skating forever.

Christopher Bowman: Unfortunately, little Rachael has way more charisma than teen Rachael.” (And he is a Code Blue trauma nurse with his support of the girl.)

Peggy and Dorothy sat together to console one another about what they were about to witness. The triple flip+triple toe was extremely tight and both jumps were low and questionable. Then it came: the weird triple lutz technique. I’ve never seen a triple lutz quite like Rachael’s. She didn’t get the memo about the jump being approached from a long back outside edge. Instead, she approaches with a long back inside edge, then pushes her ass to the left and briefly rolls on an outside edge as she picks in. She almost falls to the left while doing it. There is a term for that ‘special’ technique: it was a total Triple Queef.

Her Triple Queef was landed so tight (looked like some sort of landing issue) and kind of puttered out in such a way that Scott and Sandra actually shut up and didn’t even respond. I was waiting for one of Scott’s AAAUUUHHHRRRGHHHHH moments but the screamer remained silent (I can only imagine the noise he makes when he gets that one nut of his to perform.) She certainly sold her supposed ‘cuteness’ and yet it failed to win over anyone. 64.64. Peggy Fleming went on the news this morning to say that she thinks the US ladies have a great chance for a medal. For the record, the USFSA likely paid her to be a spokesperson.

Kostner was next in her wretched Valentines Day dress and we learned that she never does full run-throughs. Well, we could certainly tell after her long program at Worlds last spring. Caro landed a triple flip+double toe, but put her hand down on a 63.02. The judges clearly wanted to put her in medal contention in order to get behind ANY European lady, but she was out of the final group with her 63.02. (Total gift.)

Then, there she was, our girl, the one Elvin Walker considers ‘an artist,’ dressed in a new dress with a giant glittered cross. Because Nikolai is just so religious. Sandra delivered her “pure athlete” moniker to Miki, which was her first subtle way of letting us know that she considers her to be in the same category as the Zhangs. (I’m certainly not disagreeing.)

Then she went her for TRIPLE LUTTTTTTZZZZZ+ TRIPLLLLLE LOOP (Severely underrotated) and she likely underrotated her triple flip, but they gave it to her. Her double axel was fine. We then witnessed SUCH an inspired spiral sequence and a Nancy Kerrigan layback spin. Somehow, they gave her a 64+ and she is in fourth place. I’m calling it now, Nikolai and Miki will break up in the Kiss and Cry when she fails to medal on Thursday.

As we wait for the big moment, the weight of South Korea is on all of our shoulders. Pray. Pray. Breathe. Let’s get this baby over with. I am starting to see some gray hairs after what these Olympics have put me through.

I would like to leave you with the beautiful words of Margaret Thatcher who sent me an email this morning:

“I love the beautiful Peggy Fleming and depressed flakey Dorothy Hamill in the audience together looking on critically at Rachael Flatt. What is it that Dorothy is doing to “mentor” Rachael—as we so often hear Sandra Bezic say that Dorothy is doing? I would think Rachael is more likely to need to mentor Dorothy on life management skills. In some ways Rachael reminds me of Dorothy in her competitive years without the cuteness and without the coach who can orchestrate her votes.”

Ladies Final Group Draw:


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Last Dance

This year’s Olympic Ice Dance competition may go down as the best Olympic Ice Dance event ever. And how fast was your heart racing when NBC aired the intro to the final four?! The level of skating in all three portions of the competition was so beyond our wildest dreams. Skaters always regurgitate those corny lines, “I just hope everyone does their best,” but this is one time where it actually happened. The skate gods have spoken.

Prior to the most orgasmic hour in television since the season one finale of Desperate Housewives, we had a warm-up act that was sometimes pretty, sometimes laughable and often times downright weird.

Aunt Joyce became an old whore yesterday, so some non-skating friends were over to celebrate the occasion and to offer their ‘’expert’’ opinions on ice dance. Really, what could make for a better birthday? We decided to forgo our Galina Zmievskaya Pomegranate Martinis in order to fully appreciate the hot mess in front of us.

Let’s navigate through the early skaters as painlessly as possible.

Crone and Proieier- Muzak Bohemian Rhapsody.

“He looks like he is twelve and showing off his pasty man cleavage.”-Clare

The young Canadians displayed wonderful skating skills and promise. It was one of those performances where you just wanted to reach out your hand and say, “Congratulations. You have talent. Now go kiss Marinia Zoueva’s ass and making something out of it.”

Clare, who likes to be known as my original Grace Adler, really enjoyed Crone’s hair, which looked like it had clips in it that one would wear to prom circa 1999. They have wonderful dance spins, but Tracy Wilson picked out the slowest part of their program to note their speed and power.

NBC aired a preview of the ladies event next. My dad decided to let everyone know that he has read about that Kim Yu-Na and she is the Elvis of Korea. He has become quite the skating expert over the years.

My phone started blowing up with text messages about the ladies.

Margaret Thatcher: I certainly rule the Americans out.

It looks like NBC is about to deliver the fluff we’ve all been waiting for: the Mirai Nagasu sushi restaurant/ my room is covered in Hello Kitty goodness we knew would come sooner or later.

Joannie Rochette is supposedly practicing better than ever. I was so ready to have fun with her performances, but I find myself rooting for her to embrace the moment and kick ass this week. Suddenly, North America is on a first-name basis with figure skaters for the first time in a decade. Joannie is the new tragic heroine. Rooting against Joannie would be the equivalent of supporting Michael Vick.

Samuelson and Bates have improved their costumes greatly, but does it really matter with this free dance? They picked the most boring Sarah Brightman song ever. This team needs some new choreographic direction if they hope to remain ahead of the up and coming Shpilband teams.

Evan Bates looks like Tim Goebel the Ice Dance plus extension and posture. For the record, Tim Goebel says Evan Bates is quite attractive.

NBC gave their token, “this is all about experience,” comment after they performed. To be completely honest, my friends started talking during this performance and it felt like we forgot they were even skating as we stared blankly at the TV screen.


NBC keeps pimping out Tracy Wilson’s ice dance credentials, but I’d certainly like to forget her free dance costume from Calgary. Did anyone notice that Sarah Silverman appeared to be her assistant in the broadcast booth?

As two friends left and two more arrived, I ran upstairs and eventually had to rewind my DVR to see the next two performances. I knew I was in for a good time when I got a text message from a dear friend.

Romanza: “You KNOW Sinead Kerr was a Clydesdale in a former life…”

The Kerrs’ Linkin Park program is appealing, although there isn’t a real discernable theme going on. I am glad Sinead displayed the butchest of her qualities by seriously lifting her partner during the program. The twizzles were off and she tripped a bit after lifting him, but they had good lifts and smooth edges throughout. It was pleasant, but what is with the makeup on his cheek?


Pechalat and Bourzat were good, but messed up a lift and were not pleased following their program. It was a pretty forgettable performance overall for a good team.

They were really a warm-up act for Delobel and Schoenfelder, who skated to “The Impossible Dream.” What an apt title for the chances of me liking this program. Delobel and Schoenfelder told the media that they hoped to challenge for the gold medal in Vancouver. Oh dear, Didier is not THAT much of a miracle worker. It isn’t like we ever had to live with Surya Bonaly being crowned world champion.

The “story of their careers” was taken WAY too literally. I really could’ve done without the kid voices in the music. It wasn’t voidy. It wasn’t cute. The dance was seriously unpolished and it was only good in a , “it isn’t as bad as your other two skates” way.

The most interesting aspect of their program was the random striptease during their program.

I was texting Hoi Polloi during this, asking why the French skaters are always trashy when they’re supposed to be a superior, sophisticated culture.

Hoi Polloi: This from the country that gave us the pencil mustache, the cigarette holder, and who only pronounce 30 percent of the letters in their words…

My dear friend Dawn noted, “This song doesn’t seem like it would help anyone win.”

This team just didn’t have enough time to deliver their forgettable performances. How old are there? Delobel ‘s feet were aching her to the point where she had to take her skates off during the Kiss and Cry.


Khokhlova and Novitsky skated their “Firebird” program, because it is somehow supposed to be superior to their equally awful “Russian Soul” free dance that amused us during the Grand Prix season.

Let’s cut the shit, Jana had flames shooting out of her ass with that costume. They epitomized the reason people consider ice dance to be a huge joke.

Tom Hammond called Jana a bitch in NBC’s favorite way to put, “She has a fiery personality.” Hey, isn’t that why you said about Sasha Cohen in Salt Lake City?!

Notvitsky looked like the musician from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Oh how I hope we don’t have to deal with the Russians holding up this team over the next four years.

Tracy let us know that Sergei is a total Margaglio by saying, “he often gets left behind.”

The program was nothing short of a giant flaming peacock and the performance was certainly from the fires of hell.

“Have to like what they try to do!” Ouch Tracy, OUCH!!!

Finally it was time for the final flight to emerge for their warm-up. Tessa Virtue sported a gorgeous new dress, while Belgosto still wore their heinous Elvis/Church Whore costumes.

Alex Forrest:”If Tanith Belbin is a representation of Christianity, that is a religion I need to be a party of!”

Margaret Thatcher is rude whenever Meryl Davis comes on screen because Maggie claims extreme loyalty to Tanith Belbin. People either find Meryl stunningly gorgeous or not cute, and you can guess which side MT is on.

Margaret Thatcher: "Meryl Davis looks like an insect because she has one eye on each side of her head."

Marlie never fail to deliver under pressure. They are serious competitors and went after the program to the point that Charlie looked ready to pass out at the end even though they do run-throughs of each of their programs every day in training.

There are many who will think that Marlie deserved the first place in the free dance last night. It was the equivalent of a 5-4 split and I think both teams recognize that. Had they not held a lift for slightly too long (and a 1.00 deduction), it would’ve been a much closer event. Still, I ultimately believe that the order of 1-2 was justified and correct.

You know that a team and a program is beyond amazing when you watch a program performed to overused music for the thousandth time this season and it still moves you. They really delivered. Perhaps they were a bit freer at Nationals, but it was clean and captivating. Unfortunately, the skating order may have hurt them a bit they way it hurt Michelle Kwan in Nagano.

They are likely on their way to winning the World Championships this year and will make history of their own. It will be incredible to watch them grow and continue to innovate over the next four years. With a little more polish and extension, they will become legends.

I have a strong feeling that things may have turned out differently had they skated their Samson and Delilah program after Virtue and Moir skated last night.

Faiella and Scali’s “The Immigrants” was a serious letdown after Phantom of the Opera. It was a bit of a bathroom break between the top two teams.

“Skate faster, we have reservations!”

The program last the audience the same way the team lost their speed during their footwork sequences. Federica’s gimmicky Krylova eyes KILL me. Her open mouth made her appear to be a scary clown catching flies.

Faiella is a terrifying version of Olive Oil with that eye makeup and just needs a Popeye to complete the picture.

I’d appreciate this team more if they weren’t amidst such an amazing group of performances. Word is they will be on the podium at Worlds.


Then it was D-Day, Virtue and Moir’s Mahler Symphony No. 5 on Olympic Ice in Canada. Dawn was already captivated by Voir as they skated to center ice.

“He is either in love with her, or he is gay. Look at how he is talking to her and looking at her!”

To me, this performance was the most magical of the games thus far. This music is difficult to skate to and they were breathtaking. Tessa and Scott skated full out and really pushed all three of their programs to the edge and were legitimate gold medalists in an artistic way that “Love Story” was not.

Scott Moir is hysterical for telling Tessa that they were second in the Kiss and Cry, followed by, “Just Kidding. We won the Olympics!”

Oh how I would like to be their agent right now! I certainly hope that they won’t go professional. Given the state of professional skating, I don’t think Stars On Ice could compete with the type of money Skate Canada and its sponsors could offer them to continue.

The night was won on GOE and PCS because the top two teams had identical technical levels. Virtue and Moir had 4 10.0s and 43 +3s compared to 1 10.0 and 35 +3s for Marlie.


Belgosto delivered their best Ave Maria of the season and deserved the bronze medal, but it was noticeably behind the top two teams. It just wasn’t on the same level. I believe they were robbed, but I am not quite crying for them because they have won their fair share of questionable medals.

Tanith and Ben had a nice moment by themselves in the Kiss and Cry. Tanith knew that they weren’t going to medal and really handled herself with a ton of class. We’re going to miss them.


Domnina and Shabalin skated their free dance with their bullshit belt-aided lifts and drug one another around the ice at a glacial speed. Their swatting of one another was pathetic compared to the sophistication of the Shpilabnd/Zoueva teams. Their footwork was slow and failed to keep up with the music, they were off on their twizzles and just didn’t captivate anyone last night.

I seriously live for Shabalin whining that they didn’t win given how weak they have been for the last two seasons. When was the last time the Russians admitted to deserving a silver medal?


Last night’s event was one of the most incredible nights in skating history. It was legitimate. It was honest. It was mesmerizing and will inspire a new generation of North American figure skaters.

Aside from the amazing medal ceremony moment, one thing stuck out to me:

Why did the flower bouquets look like broccoli?!

Check out the detailed scoring from last night.

Monday, February 22, 2010

One of a Kind

Last night's Original Dance competition provided us all with a mixed bag of truly unique eyesores, innovative masterpiece(s) and a plethora of hokey bullshit. I will admit that I was vehemently opposed to the ISU bringing this theme back for the Olympic season, but the couples have certainly done their part to make it a year to remember.

Delobel and Schoenfelder opened the NBC broadcast with their French Can-Can. While I like that Delobel was smoking on the ice, I did not care for her matronly tan skates with the black and pink outfit. Tan skates are an ice fashion don’t. They scream, “I’m 40 and making an Olympic comeback.” They really did not seem very polished at all. They were really ‘saving’ this masterpiece for the Olympics, ahem, they weren’t ready for Europeans and look like they only learned this dance a week ago. The Can-Can did not have any life to it and was devoid of French fabulousness and seriously lacked energy. Look, I understand that your kid is probably keeping you up at night and you probably aren’t getting any sleep, but you need to take a red bull or something. While this team relates to one another, they never appear to really look at the audience or engage with them. They are good skaters and can be aesthetically pleasing, but they just don’t rip my heart out the way you’d expect based on all of the hype that they receive. DelSchoes hit their twizzles but were really just conservative and slow throughout. The program has soft knees, but it just didn’t live up to the music. I’ve seen livelier can-cans in ShopRite commercials.

58.68/ 96.67 Not a great score and may have even been a bit generous.

I adore the Tanith Belbin commercial for Secret. Tanith is wearing a gorgeous dress (why couldn’t she have worn it on Friday or Sunday?) and I really get a kick out of Secret failing to acknowledge that Ben Agosto is a part of the team even though he is actually in the commercial. Tanith, I’m seriously going to miss you.

The Kerrs

I am so not a fan of brother-sister teams. I only enjoyed the Stieglers because I only ever paid attention to Tiffany. People seem to go crazy over the Kerrs. Margaret Thatcher claims that people love the Kerrs because the UK sucks at everything and the British just go nuts whenever they have someone in the top 10. Sinead Kerr may be the butchest thing since Jayne Torvill and I enjoy how she is totally the man in this partnership. My grandfather was a huge Johnny Cash fan, so I should be supportive. I’m also a bit of an Anglophile. They are such a fun team to watch despite any of the jokes I make about them, but him steering her is a bit much at the end. This was the least hokey of all the North American country dances. While nothing will ever be as heinous as Belgosto’s Cotton Eyed Joe (or be as begging to be left off the podium), I found all of the country dances to be trite, simplistic and really lacking in terms of character and sophistication. If you’re going to wear short shorts, you need Domnina legs. They were a bit off and is that a fake tattoo on her back?

55.76/ 93.78 Held down a bit, but they will certainly move up the ladder at Worlds.

Faiella and Scali were next and skated a Tarantella. These two need a makeover because I find them seriously difficult to look at. Jeremy Abbott was with Drew Meekins and became a single man so he could date Massimo? Seriously?! Federica is the real issue with her laughable batshit crazy eyes. It is such a shame that their expression is typical Eurotrash, because they are so strong technically. It seems that this team will be on the podium at Worlds, but I’d like to buy her a flat iron before then. It is difficult to appreciate this team because they’re just not cute.

60.18/ 100.06 Could’ve been higher based on what we were about to see.

Domnina and Shabalin. Wow. This team has made my life. I am obsessed. That is never a good thing. They are such a hot mess that I can’t decide whether I’m offended by how tacky they are or just amused. I can’t even muster the will power to be offended because the program does that for itself. Sandra Bezic always mentions the Russians wearing garish costumes to distract from whatever is happening on the ice. It must not be a mere coincidence that Shabalin is a cripple and they’re wearing costumes with leaves and vines hanging off of them. Thank you for taking the cake with ridiculousness. Tom Hammond is still reeling over Anissina and Peizerat’s free dance and now you put him through the Aborigini Tribal Dance.

It is bad when my dad is watching a program and says “this is stupid choreography.”

During the program, I received a bevy of first-rate text messages.

Two of my favorites came from Romanza:

1. I love when aboriginal people beat each other primitively over the head.
2. Dave, will you please punch me in the face and pull me around by my ponytail?

The program is comical in a “holy shit” way at best, from the dragging around by the ponytail, to the slapping, the costumes, the facial expressions and the Eskimo kisses. It is such a shame for Domnina, because she is capable of performing such a better program than this. The footwork, holds, lifts and transitions are simplistic at best. One could really be harsh with their scores and have them way down in the standings. There are those who thought they should’ve been about fifth at Worlds last year and it is obvious that they have regressed since then. Unfortunately, they are a shadow of their former selves.

Christine Brennan said it best: When your performance is worse than your bad costume, you know it’s bad.

62.84/ 106.60 Way too high, but the Russians are already going to leave this competition without a gold medal. It is a sad way for this team to go out.

For the record, DomShabs received an 8.8 for interpretation.

In contrast to the offensive Aboriginal Tribal Dance, Davis and White’s Bollywood program was the cleanest it has been technically all season. They skated with attack in terms of technique, but I felt that they were slightly reserved in terms of their performance. Meryl and Charlie wanted to be clean and they delivered. They had the program of the year last season with “Samson and Delilah” and this original dance is the best program in skating this year. The intricate details are all there, as are the nuances and the difficulty. Their midline step sequence is just bad ass. It should be noted that Marina Zueva has really improved the speed and stamina of North American Ice Dance teams. Their couples do not die out like Naomi and Peter used to. This program has been trained and perfected in a way only Yamaguchi and Lysacek could appreciate.

67.08/ 108.55

Pechalat and Bourzat are really emerging as strong contenders for the future, but I just can’t stand the hokey country dances. This team is capable of much more and really could’ve delivered a program worthy of their technique. Their program is high energy and was delivered in a more convincing way than the Kerrs’ program, but it just lacks sophistication when performed directly after Marlie’s masterpiece. With a bit more maturity, they will be right in contention.

The Zaretskis- As Della Bella said, they share a face and it looks better on him. I’ve seen this program in person twice and though they are good skaters, it is a lame Hava Nagila. The music cut is all wrong and Tracy Wilson deftly pointed out that their midline footwork sequence slows down as the music picks up. It was rushed and their unison was way off. It makes me laugh when brother-sister teams have unison problems because they know one another so well. It was a mess. They are capable of so much more, but their programs only emphasize their Jewishness. They do not display their solid skating skills. I really question whether a coaching change is in order, because they really need to be going in a different direction. I love their Schindler’s List, but this dance could’ve been so much better than it is. While they likely wanted to take the audience to their own bar mitzvah, I found myself wishing that I were sitting through a haftorah instead of being subjected to this sloppy performance.

Virtue and Moir- Their flamenco has improved every time I’ve seen it, as have their costumes. Tessa and Scott radiate attractiveness on the ice, both as people and as skaters. Their line and flow gives them a refined quality that Marlie is missing. Voir just have a regal quality. I went into the night expecting to like Marlie’s Bollywood program the best, but I found this program to be smooth and skated lights out in a Tara Lipinski in Nagano way. The innovative curve lift after their twizzles is just made of total win. It absolutely won the program over. Their program has appeared sloppy in the past, but they absolutely nailed the flamenco. Everything was so crisp and sharp. They skated with more attack than Marlie in terms of technique and performance. It was just a moment on the ice. Marlie’s Bollywood program is probably better ninety percent of the time, but this just came together in a magical way.

They are going to win tonight, but they better not retire. The world needs Marlie and Voir to have one of the greatest rivalries of all time. Marina and Igor are absolutely moving ice dance away from its Eurotrash past and transforming it into a sophisticated event.

One team that should regret leaving Marina and Igor are Belgosto. Their Moldavian Folk Dance is gimmicky and a mess. While Gennadi has improved Tanith’s technique, their overall skating is weakened by Natalia’s choreography. Where is her head this year? Ever? The only thing that is impressive about this woman is her ability to manipulate judges for Mother Russia. I do not believe for a second that Grishuk and Platov’s “The Feeling Begins” was her doing. They may have selected the music together, but that program is all Tarasova. This is a woman who produced the Aboriginal Tribal Dance, Moldavian Hell and the Dancing Cats this season.

Ever notice that Tanith barely even interacts with Natalia? She is always talking to Gennadi. They probably commiserate about how poorly she treats them both. Technically, Tanith and Ben were solid, but I’d feel much worse about them being off the podium if I didn’t hate this program so much. To make it worse, their costumes went from bad to absurd. They looked like a deck of cards out there. Amtrak is probably embarrassed to be the ones who got those messes to Vancouver. That is one thing I wish the blizzard prevented from happening. Their head movements and flailing is just too much and they never connect with the music. Passing off a bird to one another is lame compared to Marina and Igor’s programs. As predicted in the art of international politics post, Linichuk has thrown them under the bus in favor of DomShabs. A Russian is a Russian is a Russian.

62.50/103.33 They lost ground on their training mates. It is all over for Belgosto. No going away present. The judges will probably do one of their favorite things tonight and put Belgosto third in the free but fourth overall. We wouldn’t want the results to appear predetermined.

Random Observation: Has anyone noticed that NBC is always showing close-ups of Tanith, but only shows Ben on screen when it is a wide shot of the two of them?

Marlie skate first tonight in the final flight. They are followed by Faiella and Scali. Then Virtue and Moir, Belgosto and finally, Domnina and Shabalin.

The moment has finally arrived. Will Europe implode?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It Takes Two To Tango

The compulsory dance began last night and it was quite the exciting event...there were deep edges, Wendy Williams-sized curves, rhythmic knee bend action and lots and lots of killian holds.

Okay, well maybe that wasn't quite how it went, but it was a most interesting event. I have found myself most intrigued by ice dance this year as I have found that I have matured in my skatenastics fandom.

The draw of Tango Romantica excited me, as it is far much more interesting to judge and write about than the waltz. I mean, look at that girl's waltz hold, what a hooker.

The compulsory dance is most interesting because you really are able to see the strengths and weaknesses of each team up close and personal.

Samuelson and Bates delivered a good compulsory dance technically. Emily's extension and toe point is divine, but there isn't any great sexual tension between them. Their Russian coaches need to do what Russian coaches do with their other couples when they get them wasted on Svedka and encourage them to mate. You can't be just "technicians" in ice dance. They have a tendency to be curlers at times. Their costumes could've been more dramatic as well. There just wasn't be romance.

Delobel and Schoenfelder's return to competition was tentative at best. They have the most curious tango as she appears to be wearing the pants in this team and showed off her Joannie Rochette shoulders. DelSchoes absolutely looked like a middle-aged team returning to competition for the first time in over a year at the Olympic Games. One can't cram Olympic Preparation. It doesn't work like that. Their compulsory dance wasn't smooth, refined, nuanced or emoted nearly as well as the other top teams. There have been many who found them to be even a bit overmarked. This team needed to get out to a strong start to be in the competition and they are well behind.

Marlie actually appeared much sharper with this dance than they have in the past. Given Meryl's lack of height and extension, they didn't appear as mature as the top two teams. Technically, they really delivered. They emoted well and there was that "romantic, sexual quality" between them. One can never tell if Meyrl is really pleased after the dance because of how she exhales and looks with her eyes, but they seemed satisfied with their performance. Meryl gained a few brownie points with me when she was adamant that "Some may see us as being in Tanith and Ben's shadow, but that is NOT how we see it."

Domnina and Shabalin were expected to deliver in the compulsory dance and boy did they ever. This dance is all about Oksana's legs and her statuesque sensual Russian quality. She is almost cougarish with how she seduces the audience in this smooth and sensual tango. They definitely deserved their scores, but this is their strongest portion of the competition and a lead of 1.02 may not keep them on the podium. DomShabs and Linichuk wore blankets from the First Nations in one of the most choreographed Kiss and Cry moments ever. Apparently they are all friends and everything is good now... DomShabs' tango did display the best of their skating qualities, but it is really unclear whether they could've made an noticeable improvements since Europeans. Fusar-Poli expects them to finish around sixth place based on their performances in practice.

Then came Tanith...

We've come a long way together, haven't we? Tanith, you've learned some technique from Gennadi. Ben isn't dragging your boney ass through compulsories anymore. Your footwork was almost Russian. Oh how you have grown since that compulsory at 2008 Worlds. Belgosto's dance was most aggressive, but they skated with the attack of a team that was afraid of not making the podium. They had not competed this dance yet and it was a bit evident. While they certainly play up the tango element, they certainly didn't appear romantic with one another. Tanith and Ben supposedly had a story line where they were fighting during the dance and then made up, but it all appeared rather spastic and forced. This dance lacked the smoothness of the other couples. This is definitely their weakest portion and they are three points out of the lead. There is room to make a move and it should be a good showdown between Belgosto and DomShabs. They need to nail the next two portions and I hope they do. Was that a zit or did Tanith paint on a beauty mark? I couldn't tell.

Tessa and Scott sell the tango well, as he appears to be such a gentle soul and she appears to be the diva. This dance really had smooth deep edges and flowed better than the two Americans. It lacked a bit of the finesse of Domnina and Shablin, but was simply wonderful. They lack a bit of the maturity of DomShabs, but were really magnificent and miles ahead of the other teams. Meryl Davis displayed a bitchtastic eye roll upon seeing the scores which she told friends was out of disgust that Tessa and Scott were placed behind Domnina and Shabalin.

I'm glad we have a day off between the compulsory and original dances, because I need a good smoke.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Art of International Politics

Evan Lysacek told reporters that his gold medal is as much Frank Carroll’s as it is his. All personal taste aside, Evan is right. Frank is a master politician. His former skaters will all attest to this after Frank learned a hard lesson in international politics at the 1980 Olympics. Frank was outplayed by an East German machine that didn’t even need to prop up their own skater in order to defeat Linda Fratianne.

“Figure skating is so political, how can you watch it?” is something I often field from coworkers who say they prefer sports with a definitive winner. A time clock is boring. To understand how Evan Lysacek was able to beat Evgeny Plushenko, one must understand that it did have a lot to do with their performances, but it also was a match between Frank and the North American machine against Mishin, Piseev and Didier. It is important to note that the North American machine often doesn’t involve Canada, as Skate Canada is notorious for failing to cooperate with anyone. Lysacek did outskate Plushenko and most will recognize that his gold medal is deserved, but it is a major victory for Frank that Evan wasn’t hosed.

There has always been the perception that the Russians win medals due to bags of money being exchanged. Tarasova once pointed out that it isn’t even that difficult to work judges. It is all rooted in psychology and this time, the Russians lost at their own game of chess.

In recent weeks, there has been a discussion of an email sent out by Joe Inman asking judges to apply their own rules and stop giving blanketed high PCS marks to skaters who don’t have actual programs or transitions. The French and Russian Federations spoke out about this as though it was some awful crime against their skaters. What is interesting is that they picked a quote from one of Inman’s notorious emails that is rather innocuous. Apply your own rules. How awful of you, Joe. How dare you.

Frank Carroll knew that Evan Lysacek would not be trying to quad at the Olympics the moment he fell on it at Nationals. It has always been an iffy jump for Lysacek and one he isn’t even certain to be credited for. Carroll made the subjective political argument all about “the program” and “transitions.”

According to a former judge, (we’ll call the judge Angelika Krylova), “They went with the argument about transitions and edges because there are no points awarded for style in the new system. People need to realize that Lysacek would have artistry that isn’t contrived if it was necessary. It was not. They judge whether or not you have choreography now. That is what the component is for. It doesn’t matter if it is genuine or has heart.”

Krylova recognized the political game being played out in the press and noticed a flaw in the Russian logic. Krylova made it clear to me that Evan Lysacek would win if he skated well before the event began.

“The Russians made a fatal error in how they chose to attack Evan Lysacek. They went after the fact that he doesn’t perform a quad. That is an objective argument. There are points awarded for quads and it is all on paper. Political battles are won with subjective arguments. If the Russians wanted to win, they should’ve gone after Lysacek’s triple axel takeoff and say that it was cheated and harp on the edge change going into his lutz. It would’ve been easy to get inside Lysacek’s head by saying his triple axel is cheated. It isn’t technically cheated, but it is the worst triple axel in men’s figure skating. They could’ve gone after his lutz as well and had Evan lose confidence in his jumps. Grades of Execution are subjective. If the judges had any reason to doubt Evan’s jumps, they would’ve been much more likely to.”

Carroll has a political machine in place and he is rather good at it. He is amazing on the National level, but he has learned to wage war with the Russians. One of Carroll's allies is Joe Inman, an American and International judge who is well respected and even holds seminars on the International Judging System for the International Skating Union. He is also someone who has a relationship with Frank Carroll's skaters. He provides advice for them and it becomes more of a team effort. Journalists get their information from coaches and judges. Christine Brennan regularly quotes Inman and has a longtime respect for Frank Carroll. She even tweeted about it being his gold medal last night. The television media is as politically invested as anyone else. Scott Hamilton is Evan Lysacek’s mentor, a friend, the owner of a tour for which Lysacek is a major draw, and is a trusted voice for the American public. Whether or not they knew it, they played a vital role in Lysacek and Carroll’s political victories against American skaters.

Example: The Defeat of Jeremy Abbott

Evan Lysacek made it clear at the US Nationals that he wasn’t planning on peaking there and that it wasn’t an indication of how he’d perform at the Olympics. While Lysacek wasn’t expecting to fall and lose at Nationals, it didn’t even matter. Jeremy Abbott performed two of the best programs in recent memory at the US Nationals. Before NBC even signed off, Hamilton was already saying that he was concerned that Abbott left his best performances at US Nationals. Wait a sec…didn’t it rain 6.0s on Boitano and Kwan before they took on the world at the Olympics? Didn’t Kristi Yamaguchi precede her Olympic Gold Medal by the performances of her life in Orlando in ’92?

Figure skating is one big head game and Carroll having Hamilton as Lysacek’s mentor was crucial. They got inside Abbott’s head and he was a non-player in Vancouver long before the event ever began. Lysacek wasn’t worried about Abbott. Ironically, they were able to use a victory against Lysacek against Abbott, the victor at Nationals. By winning, he had already lost the next battle.

Example: The Defeat of Johnny Weir

Ever since skating moved to NBC, it has been all Evan all the time. Yes, Johnny Weir is a character used to make broadcasts interesting, but it is always all about Evan. Johnny beat Evan at 2008 Skate America, but you’d have thought he finished third behind Kozuka and Lysacek based on the commentary. Even Hamilton thought Weir had likely beaten Lysacek at 2008 Nationals, but the argument made there was all about Weir’s work ethic and how reliable Lysacek is…(hence, who can get us a medal at Worlds?) They judges went with the safe bet. Weir delivered in the short program beyond belief. Skaters have to deliver in order for politics to be effective. The differential became the long program and neither skater was perfect. Another victory for Frank.

Example: Michelle Kwan’s Invincibility

Back when skating was on ABC, Peggy Fleming was a Kwan cheerleader, as was Dick Button. ABC built Kwan up as an invincible superhero. Lipinski was never the one being touted.

According to Krylova, “Frank had all of his chess pieces in order to win in Nagano. They made it about the presentation mark. Unfortunately, on that night, the energy in the building went against them and Tara pulled it off. Barring the skate order and the fluke nature of how things went, Michelle Kwan would’ve easily won that gold medal.

Frank is already deft at defeating national rivals, but he has waged war with the Russians before. The Russians were able to gain significant ground on Michelle Kwan during the Grand Prix series by focusing on Slutskaya’s improved artistry.

“Slutskaya was horrible artistically, but she was far worse than Tonya Harding her first few years on the scene. She was never close to Kwan, but they were able to focus on how much she had improved. She had improved a great deal and the judges were able to recognize that. Judges were also able to get to know a skater’s personality off the ice back then. Slutskaya brought her bubbly persona on the ice and smiled and the judges rewarded her. Kwan’s programs were said to be “the same” and “stale,” even though Slutskaya was no artist. Butyrskaya was the artist, but they went with the technician. I remember thinking that there was no way Kwan would be able to pull off a victory against Slutskaya in Salt Lake City, even with the pairs situation,” says Krylova.

Kwan’s marks at the 2001 Worlds were good, but not unbeatable. It came down to the performance and Slutskaya did not deliver her clean triple-triples as advertised.

Look at 1-2, but always look lower.

If one looks at the men’s podium, they can see that Japan won a medal that easily could’ve been given to someone else. Johnny Weir skated a magical performance, but was buried. He was the only skater who delivered a performance that could've kept the Japanese off the podium. Had he been fourth, there would be heavy scrutiny about him being kept off the podium. They buried him below Patrick Chan and kept him out of it.

“People always fixate on one and two, “says Krylova. “It doesn’t matter how someone skates in order to give them the bronze. These judges make their decision and then will go back to their desks and write a brief supporting their decision if they need to. “

Japan gives a ton of money to the ISU. The Wall Street Journal gave a historical analysis of judging and said that the American judges have always been fairly easy on the Russian skaters. Another country they’ve always had good political relations with is Japan. Japan and the US tend to be fair to one another’s skaters and the historical results definitely show that. Japan was one of the four judges to award a first place ordinal to Kerrigan in Lillehammer.

Quid Pro Quo

If Japan got something out of the men’s event, they would owe someone something. By burying Weir and making him a non-factor, it would appear that they owe the Americans something. With wars being raged in ice dance with the US in contention for gold and the possibility of two ice dance medals for the US, it will likely come in that event.

The question becomes, is a men's bronze medal enough for such a strong skating country? Absolutely not. There is a battle being waged between Korea and Japan for the ladies gold. A few weeks ago, the focus was on Mao Asada attending Four Continents while Kim-Yu Na did not. Ottavio was not pleased and mentioned repercussions against Korea for her absence because she is such a big draw.

Unfortunately for Japan, they have two horses in this race: Ando and Asada. Ando is skating well in practice and Asada is seen as back in the medal race after back-to-back solid competitions. Having to split support or choose horses could be what delivers gold to Kim Yu-Na. Orser is new to politics and isn’t perceived as having the expertise. Look for two Japanese ladies on the podium next week.

“It is important to remember that all political strategies start with the coaches.”

While Shpilband likes both Marlie and Virtue and Moir, their decision to throw support behind one team or another could come down to the percentages that they will earn from victories. A Virtue and Moir victory in Canada would be tremendously profitable, but a Marlie victory is also doable given their reception among the international judges.

One reporter in Vancouver reports that Linichuk and Shpilband are certainly out politicking, but Shabalin’s knee is badly injured and the emperor has no clothes.

Two Shpilband teams will be on the dance podium. The battle then becomes for the third spot.

“Linichuk would throw Belbin and Agosto under the bus for a Domnina and Shabalin victory in a heartbeat. A Russian is a Russian is a Russian. Would she throw Belbin and Agosto under the bus for a silver for Russia? Probably not. If it comes down between Belbin and Agosto and Domnina and Shabalin for bronze, Linichuk will go with the Russian team,” says Krylova.

As was evinced in Salt Lake City, it all comes down to the skate. There would never have been any doubt if they Russians hadn’t stumbled.

Shen and Zhao were going to win the pairs gold. That Chinese support went behind them and the Germans and Russians failed to deliver.

For what it is worth, Lysacek is the best all-around skater given the current judging criteria. If one looks at the historic roots of figure skating, Weir gave the beautiful performance everyone is talking about and likely will remember. The soul and magic Weir is so good at was an important factor under the 6.0 system, but it isn’t rewarded as much as one would think under the IJS. As much of an asshole and admitted Weir hater that Stojko is, even he is saying that Weir was hosed and should’ve finished higher. Stojko thinks Plushenko should’ve won and is still adamant that Weir deserved to finish ahead of Patrick Chan at the very least. Weir was only given a 7.8 for Performance Execution vs. an 8.3 for Lambiel who had several shaky landings and small stumbles. Lambiel got an 8.7 for Interpretation while the performance of the night only received a 7.85 for Interpretation.

Now, all that is left is Plushenko saying he was the rightful winner and whining that a victory without a quad is mere ice dancing. Plushenko’s program was empty and Carroll waged a subjective battle vs. an objective battle and won.

Point Frank.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gayer Than Glitter

The rhinestones, the feathers, the sequins, and the illusion mesh…oh what a night of men’s figure skating.

We knew that God would retaliate after delivering a Shen and Zhao gold medal. We’ve wanted it too badly for too long and he had to pull some Sarah Hughes bullshit to make up for the fabulous coronation of Kim Yu-Na. The world wouldn’t be able to handle too much fantasticness all at once. The world would come off a high and would commit mass suicide by Tuesday like when people come off their weekend of taking Ecstasy.

It happened and I hope you mentally prepared yourself for it. I certainly resigned myself to it months ago so that it would just be humorous. I knew that between Weir and Abbott, one would be a thrill and one would implode. I’ve been predicting a medal for one and a 10th or 11th place finish for the other. It certainly looks like a possibility.

Here is how Aunt Joyce and friends called it:

Florent Amodio:
Just such potential and such fantastic performance ability. He is a keeper and was on far too early. He actually skated before Viktor Pfeiffer. The only thing noteworthy about Viktor is that my mom said that he was dressed like a girl. She started her comments with Viktor…and she knew Johnny was still to skate. I reminded her about her Johnny rant at Nationals, “He looks like a girl! Looks like one and acts like one. And I don’t even like how he did his makeup!”

There is something so intriguing about watching skating with my family, because no matter whether or not they are paying attention, they always ask what country a skater is from mid-performance. It took a good minute to explain to my dad why they were talking about Russia when Johnny was skating. He was very confused by Tom Hammond. For the record, my parents also ask what country the skaters are from during US Nationals.

Vaughan Chipeur was next and looks like a good Catholic boy from the front, but he is a total party in the back. Vaughan sticks his ass out like Michael Solonoski and has a costume explosion on his backside.

When Vaughan was skating, all I could think about was how much I wished I were watching Shawn Sawyer instead. Then Sandra brought up that Kurt Browning choreographed his footwork and that made me think about how much better Kurt would’ve been performing that program (Obviously not at an Olympics, because it’s Kurt Browning…)

NBC introduced Plushenko with another film of someone driving, because they are just so fucking creative. They have one good idea and just RUNNNNN with it. Plushenko talked about his competitors hating him. (He forgot that people with eyes do too.) He kept talking about everyone being afraid of him, but they’re really only afraid of exactly how much money the Russian mafia will funnel to the judges. Jamie Sale needs to be excused for Love Story and the IJS because her comments about Plushenko have always been A-MA-ZING.

"I don't love his skating, I don't believe him when he skates," said Sale, the 2002 pairs champion in Salt Lake City.
"I thought in Torino they (the judges) were extremely generous with Plushenko's second mark (for presentation)," she said.
"(I thought) he was just throwing his arms up in circles in the air all the time, there's nothing there.
"He wasn't doing anything quality on the ice ... but by throwing his arms around, they (judges) were like 'oh my God, he's amazing'," added Sale, who had been in the Italian city as a commentator.
"I'm like, 'no, I'm not buying it'. That's not skating. There's no edges. There's nothing to his programme.
"All he does is quad (jump), then skates around in a circle, then a triple Axel and then skated down the ice and did a triple Lutz and his programme was done.
"Was it a balanced programme? No. But they still gave him the mark for this quality and for that and I thought (the officials) were not sticking to their word here (to be fair with the revamped scoring system).
"With the second mark (for presentation) ... he was like 10 points ahead of everyone else, just to separate him so much so that no one could touch him. That was so obvious. He was not that much better."

In terms of Plushenko’s performance, he destroyed a Kwan masterpiece, shit all over the ice, flailed about, landed a S.L.O.W. quad-triple, and had Sasha Cohen landings on all of his jumps.

Even my mother said, “Doesn’t he know a mullet is not in style? His skating is really kind of…gross almost?” The pseudo transition on the axel was wonderful?

Christine Brennan is my hero for asking him if a 6.8 for transitions is too high for a man who admits to not having any. Plushenko's coach replied that he didn’t understand English.

Scott Hamilton was as eloquent as ever, with his reaction to Evgeny’s skating:
“Ughhh Arrrrghhh Uhhhhhhhh” Just as insightful as Dick Button.

Dick Button went on an epic tirade with Bob Costas that made Bela Karolyi’s outbursts appear wimpy. “There wasn’t the same extravagant thrill, the same chutzpah . Pay attention to the circular steps, the skating skills just aren’t there. He likes to slam dunk and slam fast. It isn’t gorgeous. He likes looking like an evil character. I’d certainly cast him as a (minute later of trying to explain…) evil villain.”

Evgeny did say he wanted to be a two-time Olympic Champion like Dick Button and Uncle Dick just sort of sat there with his mouth hanging open (I wanted to get a bib and wipe the drool because he resembled an adorable Gerber baby.) Then Dick started complimenting him after having his ego stroked. Dick just keeps delivering during these Olympics.

Daisuke Takahashi was shown next (Fuck NBC for chacking Denis Ten) and had his hair gel in place and was adorned in a beautiful costume designed by Liberace and Sigfreud and Roy. It was absolutely the performance of the night.

Sandra Bezic: That was hot!

He only scored a 90.25 and wound up in third. He was only given a 7.5 for transitions when Plushenko scored a 6.8! Plushenko did not look pleased to have Daisuke on his tail. Don’t worry Evgeny, there are more elements for the judges to prop you up with in the long program!

Joubert showed an exceptionally gay run back stage but was not shirtless. Then Johnny walked in with his purse and looked bemused.

Lambiel took to the ice next and they showed my sister’s favorite clip of him swinging the flag during Opening Ceremonies. My sister thought he was gayer than Johnny and was not surprised to hear the rumors about the two of them from way back.

Sandra instructed us all to LOOK PAST his costume and focus on his skating. Oh Sandra, touché. The crowd ate up Lambiel even though he barely hung on to his quad toe+double toe combination. He only performed a double axel and was honestly held up by the judges a good bit. (84.53) I'm not surprised at the errors after the way he has been skating this season. He hasn't looked consistent by any means. Did anyone notice that Joubert was clearly watching his program backstage and looked amused by his mistakes? Oh karma...

Nobunari Oda brought his Totentanz to the table and delivered his jumps, but his short program is a snooze. He forgot to perform at all and really seemed weighed down by an over-abundance of hair gel. Nobu should’ve just gone for the quad in the short, because it is a joke that he is ahead of Weir given his lack of performance ability.

Sandra: He doesn’t have the detailed choreography or sophistication of Takahashi.

Then she went on to say that he was still young at 22. Um, Johnny (who must think he is female) went on and on about being ANCIENT at 22.

There is a great commercial about Kristi Yamaguchi bitching about taxes for TurboTax and showing her bitch side, but it was counter-acted by having to sit through that Rachael Flatt commercial for AT&T.

Mary Carillo was back talking about skating and this time it was for a piece about Patrick Chan. We got to see his Asian eyelid surgery up close and I’m thinking his OCD coach might have been the one to inspire him to get it…to improve his presentation?

Mary brought up the fact that no Canadian man has ever won Olympic Gold in Men’s Figure Skating. Mary may officially be the biggest lesbian in skating since Cathy Casey. I sure hope Mary is back for the compulsory dance, because we all know she is a huge fan. I love how they make Mary a lipstick for the broadcast, because she does NOT dress like that off camera. P.S. Her voice is much deeper than Patrick Chan’s.

Brian, “I’d like him better in porn” Joubert was next and had a disastrous performance. His arrogant attitude caught up with him and Didier, as he turned out of his quad toe and then ate shit on a 2 ½ Lutz. Tom Hammond said it was “painful to watch.” Our girl Christine Brennan said that no tears were shed in press row over that performance. 68.000 Heaven.

Kozuka was next with music that is as cool as his skating skills, but his performance ability just can’t match it. I want to like the adorable gaysian, but he suffers from “I like your coach better than you” syndrome. He won points with me for making Uncle Dick smile by blurring that back scratch spin at the end of his program. Girl just needs more attitude. “Walk like it’s for sale and the rent’s due tomorrow!”~Miss Jay Alexander (79.59)

Samuel Contesti- Oy! I feel about him the same way I feel about the deep south. 3Lz+3T (Tight), 3A (Overrotated slightly), 3F (fall). He actually had dirt stains on his overalls…and on his ass. Based on his skating, I don’t think he sat in a mud pie.

Patrick Chan couldn’t sleep in the Olympic Village. It just doesn’t meet his needs. Chan noted the Joubert and Plushenko would be trying to intimidate him with the quad in practice, because it is really all about Patrick. He had three costly errors: step out on triple axel (now there was a real shock…), tripped during footwork and went overtime. 81.12. Oh darn. I live for Johnny making the final group over this egomaniac given how irritating the rest of the skating world finds him. Oh how I miss Jeff Buttle!’

Johnny Weir was swatting away his new Taylor Jacobson bangs before his program. Galina was in her matching mink. His combo was a little tight on the lutz and his lip was a little scratchy, but the judges really had him a place too low and possibly two. His costume was sparklier, as was his performance. Sandra gets points for noting that his program is as front-loaded and transitionless as Plushenko’s. I also caught Johnny making a few new Tanith Belbin faces. Peter Carruthers has been a total condescending asshole about Johnny on Universal Sports, so I was really glad that he delivered. He has been landing quads in practice. Sandra did jinx him by saying he respects the IJS now. (82.10)

Alex Forrest predicts that Johnny will miss a medal by .6 due to leaving out a double toe on a planned three-jump combo.

I will agree with Scott Hamilton that I envy him rooming with Tanith. I’d like her to be my beard. She is good at it.

Sandra brought up that Johnny calls the program “I Love You, I Hate You” in order to recognize both aspects of his personality. I love him in general, but I certainly get those split feelings about him when it comes to competition.

There is no way he should be behind Lambiel.

Two friends, both non-skating fans, texted my about Johnny. He was the #1 trending topic on twitter, worldwide, so it is only fitting.

My buddy Dan goes way back with Johnny. He watched Johnny win 2005 Nationals with me in my dorm room and has been amused by him ever since.]

Dan: Is Johnny Weir actually a woman?

Then, my coworker Erica sent a text from a bar where she was watching with her boyfriend (Rob---just think of him as a lumberjack).

Erica: Rob says the only way Johnny could get gayer would be if he actually had a dick in his mouth. And said comparatively, he made you look like, well him (Rob).

Suzanne Bonaly got home late from seminar and was eating during the Evan/Abbott fluff piece. SB is livid for NBC’s insensitivity because plenty of people could’ve been trying to digest food while Evan was on screen.

I really lived for Evan running around in Rocky-esque shots. I expected him to charge through the Meat-Packing District at any moment.

KVDP landed his jumps in some odd skeleton costume that was missing a spine.
Alex Forrest: Too bad he didn’t draw a bone where one should’ve been.
Sandra Bezic: Good for him. He just isn’t in the same league.

Verner gave another typical performance for himself this season. Double Toe, Triple Axel (Sashasplat), 3Lz+3T
His bulge in his pants was the nicest thing about the performance.

As Evan took center ice, a number of texts came my way.

My favorite came from Suzanne Bonaly (a noted Catholic): “I’m have VERY un-Christian thoughts right now and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday!”

Scott Hamilton was fanning himself over Evan yet again. “He is so beautifully trained.”(Whatever that means.)

Evan did lay down the jumps. Those melodic first tones of Firebird chimed in and we knew to look away because the flailing was upon us. I did live for Evan queening out and crying after the program…only to hide his tears with his feathered gloves. It was even better than him fixing his makeup in the Kiss and Cry after his short at 2009 US Nationals. (90.30)

I cannot bear for him to be Frank Carroll’s first Olympic Champion and God will owe us MAJORLY if it happens. He let Khorkina be fucked over and Kwan succumb to the devil twice. Be afraid. Be very afraid. It shouldn’t happen, but Plushenko’s knee could always fall off.

There was one last hope for the night, and it was Jeremazing. Unfortunately, what so many of us have feared came to transpire. Jeremy caught the Czisny. That shit is contagious. 3F+3T, 1A, 2Lz. He had been having axelitis in practice (it always happens at his big events). Jeremy needs to look at who he surrounds himself with :Czisny, Browning, Sato… Can you say…bad Olympic karma? Hopefully he will have a miraculous World Championships.

He did say there was a good chance he’d be back next season if all his dreams don’t come true in Vancouver…

Brezina ended the night well, but I was too upset over Jeremazing. I tried to mentally prepare, but I had such hope that he would have a Paul Wylie moment. There is just something so off about Abbott skating to center ice with his “Deer In The Headlights” look and his self-pitying “Pigs Can Fly” fan club. It is one of those things you just can’t put your finger on, but you know is slightly off. Don’t “OWN” being a head case. Go to a sports psychologist.

Evan was shown talking to Fusar-Poli (who winked at all of us) and then cried during his interview while he pretended not to know that it was close between him and Plushenko (even though he was in the Kiss and Cry and could see the scores and placements.)

Margaret Thatcher summed up the night best: “I feel like I have to go wash off the gay orange tanning lotion that Evan got all over me.”