Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Skate America: OCD Overdrive
Goodness, pairs skating. I have found myself watching pairs skating this season. Perhaps doctors should up doses for the Grand Prix season? Watching some of these competitions makes me feel more than a little nutty.
First off, I think we all need to thank Kemp and King for flying all the way from Auschwitz to finish last in the pairs event yet again. It seems that they risk serious injury each and every time on the ice. Watching them at the Olympics sure had me rethinking the legitimacy of per-country rules. It is a good thing that he's cute, because I really don't know if I could take the pain otherwise. There is a special place in my heart for them...along with Alexe Gilles.
Felicia and Tay...
Oy. Note: I'm not saying anything that I haven't said (or wouldn't say) to them personally. After making it on the Grand Prix and having some success after about 17 months together, it seems appropriate to make an assessment of where things are going. Both Felicia and Tay have potential and they work hard, but changes are necessary.
It is easier to learn something the right way than it is to correct bad habits. That said, American pairs coaches have never been able to really compete internationally. Having decent unison and being relatively clean and conservative may have been enough for a bronze in the '70s and '80s, but it just doesn't work anymore. Teams need speed, difficult throws, transitions, and powerful stroking. Felicia and Taylor have spent time working with Elena Valova. Taylor's pairs skills were actually developed by Elena, which is quite evident in his skating. While it is convenient to take classes at UDel for many of the skaters, there are certainly plenty of formidable colleges in Pittsburgh. One needs to only look at the technique taught by Jeff D over the years to wonder if he is the right coach for this team.
Felicia and Taylor have acquired a great deal of skills. They both are able to jump, but haven't mastered jumping at the same time. Taylor is known as the more artsy personality between the two, but he needs Elena on his ass to get him to stop taking his sweet ass time to get in the air. While I'm glad that they're both landing the jumps, it is time to risk it and get in sync. (Or N'Sync ;) )
The programs are good programs for the team at this point. Their throws are quite solid. One issue the team has had is training time lately. While they've been skating clean programs in training, they've had interruptions leading into their Grand Prix debut. Felicia was away in Germany for a Junior Grand Prix recently. While making the JGP is an accomplishment, Felicia is a high school senior and there are realities about her singles career that they may need to face after this season. It is great that she has mastered the flip and the lutz, but her future is really in pairs skating. They could always incorporate her triple flip as a strong throw. It is time to really focus on pairs skating and taking this team to the next level. Peter Carruthers kept saying "too much, too soon" and it is true. Felicia and Tay need time to train and really become a pair as opposed to two singles skaters performing together. Even if they can't manage it full time, having a length Russian boot camp would benefit this team immeasurably.
One team that is packaged well is Castelli and Shnapir. Their pairs skills are to die for. Unfortunately, their extreme size difference will always make their side-by-side jumps a real challenge. Going for the throw triple axel is the right thing to do, as they will eventually become consistent with it. American pairs need to break out of the Throw Triple Salchow/ Throw Triple Loop comfort zone and take it to the next level. Avatar really works well for their free skate.
The Russians in one word: Meh.
Sui and Han cause my head and my heart to go to war. On one hand, they are somewhat adorable. On another hand, they skate with the same sophistication and polish as Tara Lipinski at Junior Worlds. City Lights is needing to be added to the banned music list. If you're not Elena and Anton, quit trying to be. Their athleticism is exciting and infectious, but their overall skating makes me long for the day that the judges would give them the 5.3s and 5.4s they deserve and be done with it. Ottavio's new system just doesn't take such things into account anymore. I worry that Yu-Na Kim has been loaning out her "pointed feet" to other skaters. Sui tries to perform the pearl position with a flexed foot. Fail.
Denney and Barrett are actually much improved compared to their previous Grand Prix assignment. Caydee's newfound fitness level prevents this year from being a Rhapsody In Moo situation. David Wilson deserves an Oscar, or a Grammy or a visit from Bob Mackie for making this team remotely interesting. Now if he could only get Caydee to trim off those split ends. John Zimmerman's years with Moskvina are helping to ameliorate his innate American tackiness.
Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are something else. How they manage to finish so well is beyond any of us. There is nothing overtly special about this pair, yet they always manage to skate just well enough to piss everyone off with their placement. When a good pair messes up side-by-side jumps, they always get screwed because one of them doubles their jump. When MTM mess up, they step out of their side-by-side Salchows in perfect unison and don't suffer in terms of base value. There is some positively RachaelFlattish about their sophistication, down to the way she lacks extension and even commits the cardinal sin of pulling her tights over the ankles of her skates. The one time Kwan tried that shit, the judges set her straight by placing Kostner ahead of her. They're managing medals on the Grand Prix, but I'm not overly concerned about them landing on the rostrum at Worlds.
Savchenko and Szolkowy maintain their position as a top two team in the World with their latest programs, no matter how tacky they may be. Technically, unless this team is performing their side-by-side spins, they are utterly brilliant. There is something very German and literal about Aliona and Robin. They didn't get the memo about the storyline of Send In The Clowns and now they seem to have confused Pink Panther for some of camel toe reference. Their lift positions are only slightly better than Pang and Tong, but I do believe they look on track to win back their World Title.
All in all, watching pairs makes us all need something to keep us from slitting our wrists:
Posted by OlympicEffect at 12:53 PM
Labels: Castelli and Shnapir, David Wilson, Denney and Barrett, GP, John Zimmerman, Kemp and King, Savchenko and Szolkowy, Skate America, Sui and Han, Zhang and Toth
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Oh Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze! Very few people have those naturally beautiful lines.ReplyDelete
Savchenko is drastically better than Pang in terms of lift positions, but she grabs her skate so damn much and gets in such weird positions that it can get ugly. Sui's legs are quite bent in lifts too.
I'm amazed you find Denney&Barrett interesting but don't like the Canadians. I find them very similar, right down to the blond haircut.
Castelli & Shnapir did a throw double axel for the longest time even as Seniors, so a triple axel was probably a much easier progression than starting over with the loop.
I think Felicia should do what makes her happy and is a fun challenge for her. Pairs in this country is just ehh, and having a triple lutz is a gift... Ladies is where it's at in America. No reason to give up singles unless something drastic happens.
AJ, I think you are in a bad mood. ;)ReplyDelete
You don't like Pink Panther at all? I think it's nice they try a different style.
HAHA love the Russian commentator saying that Castelli doesn't need to shout so much in the Kiss 'n' Cry.ReplyDelete
Barring any injuries, I can see Sui/ Han developing in the next 3 years and eventually winning gold in Sochi. Everything is there including charisma/ connection w/ audience, they just need more elan, speed, and polish in technique.ReplyDelete
Based on costumes alone, I hated Pink Panther, but after viewing it I see its function--to get them to loosen up and express themselves. Out of Africa was good for developing a softer side, too. PP would not be okay for an Olympic year, but for growth, good. If only they would learn about extension...sigh.ReplyDelete
Agreed w/ anon @ 4:14. Sui/Han are a joy to watch.ReplyDelete
Pink Panther is actually a damn grea for S/S. They've developed lots of innovative tricks in this pgroam. It suits them very well.ReplyDelete
It's laughable to think S/H have no skating skills. You can't do those transitions as they do with no skating skill. They're very fast and their choreography is very complicated. Basically they're S/S v 2.0 and they have the charisma.
But H's height is a major major concern.
Sui and Han are fun to watch and are absolutely adorable. They're in need of a lot of speed, polish and expression but that will come with a bit of maturity and a ton of work. These two and Iliushchekina/Maisuradze are climbing to the top and setting themselves for Sochi quite nicely.ReplyDelete
I didn't say S/H had no skating skill. I was talking about maturity, sophistication, etc.ReplyDelete
Sui and Han are little kids. The maturity part will come later. I don't think she is even 15.ReplyDelete
I loved the Pink Panther program and I think S/S are looking better than P/T so far this season.
I love their charisma, energy, and charm, but I'm worried about Sui and Han continuing to do that throw quad. It's fine now, but when she grows to a whopping 4'10", it's going to throw it off and I'm going to be scared for them. lol.ReplyDelete
Han dead lifts Sui and catches her over his shoulder on the twist like a rag doll. He is very, very short, and she's still the size of a 10 year old. Adjustments will need to be made as she grows, and they need to hope she doesn't become 5'4"+ like all the other Chinese pair girls are, because that's basically the size of Han. Plus, I'm interested to see how her tiny jumps evolve as she gets taller. Hopefully she will have more power and strength for them. And it will be interesting to see if they can develop a sophistication and polish to their skating once they are no longer baby cute.
Thank you for including that last video. It reminded me that pairs used to be my favorite discipline; for the past few years, I'd slowly been forgetting why. My wrists thank you too.ReplyDelete
Agree that P/T are regressing this season. Their programs are major freezer break.Canadian choreographers are simply booooooring to work with.ReplyDelete
In terms of 'sophistication', Sui/Han are miles ahead of all senior pairs except S/S. Their s/p is the future of pairs skating. It's basically ice dancing + jumps + throws + twists...
Of course they're kids. The Chinese federation is fabricating Sui's birth certificate. She is only 13.
Where did you hear she is 13?ReplyDelete
And I hope their crazy country hoedown is not the future of pair skating. lol
M-T/M benefit from a really weak field this season - but they may well establish themselves as the top Canadian team for this Olympic cycle, which would be good for them I guess. If we're talking about Sochi, we have to ask if Sui/Han can be the next Gordeeva/Grinkov? In some sense they can if they get really lucky and she stops growing and he grows another foot, but their skating is flashy but shallow to be honest - there will never be another G/G under this scoring system. I got bored with S/Sz a long time ago, but they still have the ability to get a reaction from me by being grating - which their FS is.ReplyDelete
S/H have great speed/ hard jumps but they seem so sloppy as though they are rushing to get through all the elements. this will hopefully change with maturity/polish as mentioned by many posters above. also she should stop over emoting, she looks like a scary babydoll when doing those faces.ReplyDelete
I like S/H and their SP is insane but can he please stop slapping his ass every 5 seconds?ReplyDelete
Lady Caliph is my favorite pairs program ever, and it still pisses me off that two judges placed it second behind Sale/Pelletier's empty Tango Jalousie at SLC. Much bigger scandal than anything that happened in the LP.ReplyDelete
As for this year's programs, blah. I admire S/S for trying different things (Ingo Steuer is really good at pushing them to explore new styles) but I loved Out of Africa and it's hard to let go of such a gorgeous program.
Sui and Han: OMG, the panda. It's as big as she is.ReplyDelete
Sui & Han remind me of a very very young Shen & Shao, except with personality. S & Z were VERY rough around the edges and skated very deadpan and introverted the first time they were on US television (and for a long time after that). But then there were throws and twists like I'd never seen. Not to say just anyone could make the spectacular artistic transformation that S&Z did. But much of S&H's roughness/overacting etc. is just youth.ReplyDelete
I think Pink Panther is very clever and the pink bodysuit is inspired (and Robin looks fantastic). P&T don't have any spark this season, yet--or they've lost it.
Anon @ 9:29, unless you have solid proof and not just prejudicial inclinations, please stop accusing every petite Chinese women gymnasts/ skaters as being younger than their stated age. Many Chinese women, especially athletes in these two disciplines, have small builds. Furthermore, our facial bone structures often make us seem younger than our age. I could still have passed for 14 when I was well into my 20s, I'm in my mid 30s now and I get carded without fail all the time.ReplyDelete
Polina Afagonova is 4'9" and has a baby face as well, do people accuse her of being 11 or 12? Yet it's perfectly normal for Western skating or gym fans to continuously accuse Chinese women athletes of being underage based upon physical traits only.
It's both sexist and verging on racist to regard Asian women and teens as child-like simply because we don't look adult enough in eyes of Westerners. I'm a trial attorney so I've had to develop an aggressive veneer just to fight this stereotype. The downside to this is that I now have to deal with another stereotype: the Dragon Lady. It's a fine line we have to walk, but when I read seemingly innocuous shit like equating small build with being a child, I extrapolate from it just how much subtle prejudices still exist in American society.
I like Castelli and Shnapir, but she seems a lot more expressive than he is. A part of me wants to see Castelli try skating with Drew Meekins. . .ReplyDelete
(Oh, heck, I am NOT Phil . . . stupid blogger/google had me signed in on a work-related account. Can't seem to fix. . .)ReplyDelete
A few of the Chinese gymnasts got busted for being about two years younger than they are. That's why the speculation transfers over to skating as well. It's not prejudice, it's reality because it does happen. Maybe not often, but it does. I have yet to see any evidence whatsoever of Sui being underage (or any Chinese skaters for that matter-- it's less critical for skaters to compete sooner since their careers are longer than gymnasts), but if she's only 13, if would make sense... It would mean that at age 12, she wouldn't have been eligible for the JGP, which, obviously, they were clearly ready for last year. Anyone who has followed their skating history pre-Junior would be able to give better proof of her actually be 15.ReplyDelete
It's not just in gymnastics. China faked Binshu Xu's age, as well, and that's fairly well known. I think that given China's history of faking ages, people are going to wonder.ReplyDelete
Mariusz Siudek must be eating a lot of minced pork. He has really blown up to the size of Poland.ReplyDelete
I think Felicia should focus on pair so she might have some chance to be among the tops in US. Single, no. She is not an expressive, exciting, and graceful skater and she is already 17.ReplyDelete
Anonymous @10:53 and @11:37, it's good that you guys spelled out the rules now. So it's up to the Chinese athletes to prove that they're NOT underage now is it? So one set of rules for one country, right?ReplyDelete
So as long we're going to racial profile a group of athletes, specifically Chinese women athletes, then what criteria are we to base our judgments upon? Child-like facial bone structure, small breasts, or small stature?
People are going to wonder....okay I'll give you that based upon their history as you say. However, in Sui's case I've yet to read any substantial basis except for the usual physical characteristics bullshit. That is totally different from suspicions sprouting from sketchy birth certificates and the like. Now it's just solely appearance related. Do you see the difference between the two or are you just excusing prejudicial thinking?
I have no problem with Chinese federation fabricating age. It's a stupid rule. Sui is obviously very very talented. If you can land a quad and monstrous throw 3f, you are doing much much more than the majority of thoese adult female pair skaters.ReplyDelete
I sure hope Sui stops growing and Han has to grow several inches!!!
By the way, G/G are so yesterday... S/S and S/H's pair skating is the future! Modern pair skating means transitions + big tricks!ReplyDelete
Those old pair skating is all about fake love stories, which are so yesterday!!
Actually, modern pair skating is about having a total package.ReplyDelete
Of course a quad is more than the adults do... she's a little kid who hasn't matured yet. Hence, the age rules. They won't do that quad their whole careers unless he magically grows 5 or 6 inches. But obviously, they can still be really good.
Anonymous at 4:25 PM... The Chinese skaters don't have to prove they are NOT underage if there is no evidence of them being underage. I merely meant that anyone who has followed the long-term career of Sui & Han (perhaps back when they skated novice level or below) would be able to tell us if their ages are indeed accurate. Likewise, I could look up Mirai Nagasu's results from back when she was a little kid to know that she's really her age (plus she attended public school, so her grade level matches her age). What grade in school is Sui? I actually tend to think her face looks 15 so I'm not making accusations. I'm just curious. Don't get so defensive.ReplyDelete
There is no novice level competition in China. It's laughable to compare the competition levels in the U.S. to China. There are ONLY over 200+ competitive skaters in China.Nobody knew whom S/H were 3 years ago. They were only been together for 3 years.ReplyDelete
Anonymous @5:50, the person using defensive arguments is yourself. Notice I did not call you defensive because I don't know you personally to make such an attack, so I will only say that your arguments are such.ReplyDelete
"Anyone who has followed their skating history pre-Junior would be able to give better proof of her actually be 15." This statement in itself is accusatory, passively so but still accusatory nonetheless. Why would Sui's age and eligibility needed to be proven in the first place without substantial evidence to the contrary?
"but if she's only 13, if would make sense... It would mean that at age 12, she wouldn't have been eligible for the JGP, which, obviously, they were clearly ready for last year." Were you only being curious here as well? I actually read it as someone surmising and making judgment, again without any basis or facts.
I'm not trying to pick on you personally. I'm just tired of this recent surge in careless accusations that often veer into racial insensitivity. I admit I'm not a p.c. person at all nor do I wish to be. Look, there are jokes and then there are inferences made with racial undertones, intended or unintended. I wish people would stop and think before making blanket statements regarding physical traits of young Asian athletes.
That girl has to be 15. 12, 13 year old girls may jump and spin well, but they would never have this kind of maturity and confidence in presentation. Just take a look at many top levelReplyDelete
Chinese American skaters here, you can tell a 12, 13 years old skater from a 15 years old one.
In response to this: "This statement in itself is accusatory, passively so but still accusatory nonetheless. Why would Sui's age and eligibility needed to be proven in the first place without substantial evidence to the contrary?"ReplyDelete
If you wanted to know more about Sui's background/birthdate, you could ask someone who has followed their skating history before they were on the JGP. This isn't accusatory... If someone asks me for more info about Mirai Nagasu's (or any skater) age, you can look up documents stating her age from many years ago. Not accusatory, just fact. Usually, these skaters do not just appear in thin air on the JGP... Usually they have competed before then.
In response to this: "I'm not trying to pick on you personally. I'm just tired of this recent surge in careless accusations that often veer into racial insensitivity."
I understand what you're saying... But honestly, I'm also tired of people who are so sensitive that they jump on anyone who dares to question the age of an athlete. People are not sitting here accusing ALL Chinese athletes of being underage... People are just talking about one girl in particular. Back in 2003, people questioned the age of Romanian gymnast Andreea Munteanu. This doesn't make people racist against Romanians... They were just talking about one athlete. You accuse people of making blanket statements about Asian athletes, but aren't you putting words in our mouths? Nowhere in these comments has anyone made wide-sweeping generalizations about Chinese athletes. I completely agree with you that that would be wrong. But unless you are Sui's friend or relative, I can't see how this could be insulting to you. She is just one person.
If it's stereotypical and prejudiced to wonder about one skater's age (I happen to think Sui looks old enough to pass for 15), isn't it stereotypical to believe that Asians are short and have smaller bone structures? I mean, there are plenty of tall, big boned Asians. Everything can be called "stereotyping" if you really think about it. I don't think "Asians are smaller" is a good argument about why someone in the proper age. Sui & Han competed at the Chinese Nationals three years ago... Did anyone see it? If she was 13 there, then she's 15 now.ReplyDelete
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