Monday, November 1, 2010

Remembering NHK Trophy Boys, Pt. 2

As we all attempt to make sense of our lives in the wake of Patrick Chan’s most puzzling, inflated victory yet, this time at Canadian Nationals 2010 Pt. 2 (in which skaters from other countries were also allowed to compete!), let us look back and take solace in the men’s event at NHK Trophy.

The standings heading into the freeskate were as follows:

1.)  Daisuke Takahashi
2.)  Jeremy Abbott
3.)  Shawn Sawyer
4.)  Florent Amodio
5.)  Yuzuru Hanyu
6.)  Denis Ten
7.)  Ross Miner
8.)  Jialiang Wu
9.)  Takahito Mura
10.) Adrian Schultheiss
11.) Kevin Van Der Perren
12.) Jeremy Ten

The first to skate after the second warmup was the gloved Kazakh diva-in-training, Denis Ten, who had switched to Frank Carroll after having trained with Elena Vodorezova and Tatiana Tarasova. Most impressively, Frank seems to have reigned in the oft-spastic Ten, who has a flair for the dramatic but a penchant for the overindulgent. Our little diva struggled throughout his free, performed to the non-Slutskaya version of Franz Liszt’s “Totentanz.” Early on, Ten fell on an off-axis triple flip and then again moments later as he tried to regroup. In what would set the tone for the rest of his performance, he would incur a three-point deduction and score a 102.94 to finish last in the free.

Reigning Junior World Champion Yuzuru Hanyu finished fourth in the free with a 138.41. Hanyu opened with a god-like quad, and skated with a style that Aunt Joyce and I agreed was rather Weir-like in its presentation. He times a triple flip in perfect synchronization with a string pluck in the music, and soon after the CBC commentators tell us that Hanyu’s inspirations are, in fact, Plushenko and Weir. This should come as no surprise, as he seems to have culled the best of both: Plushenko’s ease of jumps and Weir’s ease of movement. Unfortunately, he also seems to have inherited their love of screechy, recorded-off-the-AM-radio versions of his music. Kurt Browning thought he wasn’t quite ready to take on “Zigeunerweisen,” but thinks he shows promise. I concur, and with Hanyu’s FS he finishes fourth overall in his GP senior debut.

Doing his best Michael Jackson homage in the free was Florent Amodio, who dressed himself the part with a Dimetapp-colored shirt covered in paillettes, white suspenders and a pair of bum gloves. All that was missing was the entourage of 12-year-old boys. Choreographically speaking, Amodio eschewed convention as well and instead presented a program that most resembled a later round of MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew,” borrowing extensively from hip-hop dance moves before hip-thrusting his way to an orchestral version of MJ’s “Smooth Criminal” and “Thriller” that Lil' Mama would have adored but JC Chasez would have nitpicked to death.

The routine is, in some ways, reminscent of Stephanie Rosenthal’s SP from 2006 (pay close attention to the step sequence):

Kurt pointed out that Amodio better needs to camouflage his rest points and that some of the judges might not take to the largely upper-body nature of his choreography. Both legitimate points. But he is a fan of the performance (as am I), and the judges respond in kind: 143.76 for the free and 213.77 overall, which placed him second in the LP and third overall. It’s always a rather interesting guessing game: trying to figure out whether the allegedly stuffy, tradition-clung judges will take to a program skated to pop music, especially one in which bum gloves and purple paillettes are an appropriate costume choice. Last year, they certainly had no problem recognizing the brilliance of Jeremy Abbott’s Jeff Beck/”A Day In The Life” SP and Takahiko Kozuka’s Hendrix/”Bold As Love” SP, and thus far the judges have no problem in rewarding Amodio’s LP.

Shawn Sawyer slipped from third to fifth with an eighth-place finish (123.65) in the long program, skating as the Mad Hatter to Danny Elfman’s score to “Alice in Wonderland.”

Jeremy Abbott debuted his LP to the soundtrack of “Life Is Beautiful,” a gentle, melancholic score that, at first viewing, seems a better fit for Abbott’s reserved, introverted style. As a voice of dissent, his tango SP was a mismatch for his particular artistic sensibilities. He is not an outwardly emotive skater; there’s something very controlled and latently self-conscious about his movement, and his SP had a tendency to expose this flaw. The free, however, plays to his greatest strengths and as a result the detail of his transitions look smooth and intricate rather than gawky and labored. His is a stark contrast in styles to extroverts like Amodio or Denis Ten, the latter who could probably use a lot less abandon and more control in his movement. Abbott’s score of 143.57 placed him third in the free (popped axel and no quad) but second overall.

The final skater of the evening was Count von Count from Sesame Street, who performed a tango while posing as Daisuke Takahashi. With his Einstein SP hair now thankfully under control, Count managed to reign in the landings of his quad toe and triple axel (but popped a salchow and fell on a double loop) en route to his first GP victory of the season. Dai’s free was arguably more successful than not; he’s always naturally projected the confidence needed to convincingly execute a tango. Of course, on the flip side we’ve seen him do it before. As recently as his SP last season, Dai performed to a similar assembly of frenetic accordion music, so it could be argued that this program isn’t much of a departure for him. With a nearly seven-point lead over Abbott in PCS and a 156.75 overall for his free, it appears to matter little.

In some ways the breakdown of “the second mark” into PCS has made it easier to disguise blatant political scoring. When there were two marks and a nationality assigned to each set, there was a certain level of expectation that the second mark could only increase so much should a skater fail to deliver technically. When we look at Patrick Chan scoring the second-highest marks of the evening for performance execution, it’d be analogous to him scoring in the low-mid 4s for technical merit while receiving a string of 5.9s for presentation. While possible (the top dogs always saw a surge in the second mark to buffer low technical merit scores), such a discrepancy that we saw at Skate Canada seemed less likely under the ordinal system.

1.) Daisuke Takahashi             Japan             234.79            
2.) Jeremy Abbott             United States             218.19            
3.) Florent Amodio             France             213.77                         
4.) Yuzuru Hanyu             Japan             207.72            
5.) Shawn Sawyer             Canada            193.80                         
6.) Takahito Mura             Japan             191.85                        
7.) Jialiang Wu             China             189.58                         
8.) Kevin Van Der Perren             Belgium             189.41            
9.) Ross Miner             United States             186.62                         
10.) Adrian Schultheiss             Sweden             181.47                         
11.) Jeremy Ten             Canada             176.48            
12.) Denis Ten             Kazakhstan             171.68


  1. Sorry Aunt Joyce, but you're wrong about Patrick. I saw him skate live at Skate Canada, and the speed and flow with which he skates are breathtaking, not to mention the intricacies of his choreography. This probably doesn't come through as much on TV or the Internet, but it is truly amazing to see in person. No one else comes close in that regard.

  2. In Aunt Joyce's defense, he did not write this entry. I did. However, I don't know that he would think Patrick's speed and flow is so great that it would justify his marks for performance execution. Could be wrong, but I think not.

  3. I've seen Patrick skate live several times. His edges are impressive, but his presentation and artistry are not. I don't get a strong sense of interpretation...which is partially the fault of Lori Nichol. Patrick always looks to be taking his edges and speed to the point where he is lacking control.

  4. actully, makes sense now.
    too many hitz from die bong.

  5. Euphemism makes you sound smarter?

  6. When I was watching the 2002 Nationals, my then-roommate walked in just as Ann Patrice McDonough was taking the ice. She exclaimed, "Awwwww. How cute. I want one." I feel the same way about Florent. He's so damn cute and funny, it's impossible to hate him. That program, however, is a different story for me. With the shirt and suspenders he reminds me of an organ grinder monkey. I want to give him a tiny hat and throw a quarter in Morozov's jar.

  7. Thank you for the laughs, AJ! Count von Count indeed. I wondered why Dice-K had a vampire outfit on for a tango program.