Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two As One: A Pairs Final Report

Last year, I posted a rambling youtube video discussing my utter disgust for the discipline of pairs skating.  I wanted my money back for being forced to suffer through it for much of the last decade (aside from a few brilliant programs.)  This season, the pairs turned up the heat.  I made the executive decision to sleep in this morning.  Basically, my ass wouldn't get out of bed to watch any of them.  I figured I would stay in bed and watch the pairs with full attention.  And I'm glad I did.

I woke up in time for Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig.  With all of their additional experience, one may have hoped that they would've brought it and delivered at Worlds this season.  All of their experience was for naught, as their program was a disaster.  As I've said before, the Americans do not have the same difficulty, quality or basic ability of the other pairs.  Amanda and Mark have to go clean and hope that the other teams make mistakes.  (It is the wait for China to implode in gymnastics strategy.)  Unfortunately, they could not hold it together.

When SBS Triple Toes are your big jump element, it is important to hit them beautifully.  They didn't just fall on their triple toes.  That would've been an improvement.  Mark managed to do a 2 1/2 Toe Loop+Swan Dive into the boards.  That is not something one sees every day at a World Championship.  That is something one would expect at an early morning session after a weekend of partying.  Then, Amanda missed a Throw Triple Lutz and their SBS Double Axels were <<.  When your big elements fail you, there is no hope (especially when you're American an barely have any big elements.)  Amanda and Mark are a good pair, but they just aren't going to be competitive at this point.  It just needs to be better.  To make matters worse, their program switches from Tosca to Turandot for no reason.  There need to be deductions for tacky, nonsensical music edits.  Mark was very upset coming off the ice.  Luckily, the feed has a camera and microphone right where the skaters get off the ice.  It. Is. Heaven.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch really have to be the tackiest pair in this championship.  Their Les Miserable costumes are beyond anything ever seen in The Cutting Edge.  Let's take a moment and remember that they are coached by the Wirtzes.  Does anyone remember them?  They were just a hopeless mess.  Now they're coaching people just like themselves.  They are good for a North American team, but Rachael Flatt the Canadian Pairs skating is a bit much to swallow this early in the morning.  If you're not even going dress in a manner that isn't embarrassing, don't get on the ice.

Now, for some good people.

Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford are fierce as hell.  He skates through breaking his nose and she is just ferocious.  They managed to do SBS Triple Flips with leg wraps.  Genius.  Their program was going along swimmingly.  Throw Triple Flip in the bonus and a Throw Triple Loop earlier.  She managed the only real error in the program by doubling a SBS Triple Toe.  They shouldn't be this good for being together such a short amount of time.  The potential is outrageous.

"I can't believe I messed it up on the easiest element."- Megan Duhamel coming off the ice.

Megan is a chatterbox in the Kiss and Cry.  And it is refreshing.  Eric didn't say much, so she kept on talking.  And talking.  (114.20/ 173.03 Total)  It wasn't their season best, but Megan kept reassuring her partner that that is good.  Maybe she felt REALLY badly about that Triple Toe?

Takahashi and Tran, The Canasians skarting for Japan, did not have the good fortune of the Canadian breeding stock.  She fell on a SBS Triple Salchow and a Throw Triple Salchow.  Coached by Seigfried and Roy, they really whip out an impressive Natalia spin at the end that is far better than anything Yuko Kavaguti could ever dream of doing.  They were also << on their SBS Triple Toes, so it was NOT a good day.  Narumi looked shellshocked in the Kiss and Cry.  (100.94/ 160.10)  Good for my fantasy team, but bad for Japan.

Then it was time for Kavaguti and Smirnov.  She is about a big as one of Kate Middleton's legs and Vera Bazarova is the other one.  Before they start, let's be honest: her freakish diet is not working for her body.  When she trained in the US, there were reports of her insane diet making her body as seemingly deformed as it is.  Her intensity is noted and appreciated, but even after all these years, she is NOTHING like Elena Berezhnaya.  Not at all.  Looks shouldn't matter, but they do because she is the 'flower' of the pair.  Her facial expressions are also bizarre, which makes it so difficult to get into this pair.  Try to remember how freaked out you were when you first saw her a decade ago.  I don't think that feeling ever goes away.  

Their Claire de Lune would be a Moskvina Masterpiece on any other team.  I'm sure they work hard and that Moskvina tries every trick in her vault, but it is so painful.  The lift positions alone boggle the mind and make us hope Moskvina has a fierce junior team to end her coaching career with.  The program was about as smooth as a Masha Butyrskaya performance: they willed everything to happen and never felt secure.  She finally fell on a Throw Triple Loop, but the viewer (and judges) never felt a sense of security.  That detracts from an otherwise lovely program.  There are so many Moskvina moments that one can pull out with their basic stroking and transitions, but all of the work just seems to be for nought.  

Moskvina called Alimzan Tokhtakhounov herself for their marks (124.82/187.36)  She got the number from Mrs. Anissina.

Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin skated out amidst Russian excitement and immediately set the mood of Ave Maria before they took their opening pose.  It worked.  The program went along swimmingly.  Yesterday, I said that they are the best American pair in a decade.  Not in history--in a decade.  They proved that today.  Their program was effective and deserved its high marks.  The only visible flaw was that Caitlin put her hand down on a Throw Triple Salchow.  It is now time for them to upgrade their program.  They need more speed and more difficulty.  Not only do they need a harder throw, but they need to place their throws in the bonus.  Adding in another SBS Triple Toe would help.  They have learned how to compete consistently this season.  Now they need to up the difficulty.

I'm totally fine with them keeping this program for their rest of their lives like Petrenko (89-92) or Wylie (88-91.)  Otherwise, they need to keep working with Marina Zueva (Katia taught us that spelling in the mid '90s and I refuse to adopt this new Canadian spelling of 'Zoueva.')  They need to not be like Jeremy Abbott.  Everyone ADORED Jeremy's short program by Shae-Lynn Bourne (even the judges), so he decided not to work with her again.  Look at where that got him.

Caitlin and John have the potential.  Now it is time to keep the consistency and not rest in Meno and Sand complacency.  (117.18/175.94)

And then the final group took the ice.

Savchenko and Szolkowy opened the final flight.  Their Throw Triple Flip was bigger than ever.  Then they nailed their SBS Triple Toe+Triple Toe sequence.  After the death spiral, a miracle happened: they maintained unison on their SBS Spins.  No me digas.  Es un miralgo.  After a huge twist and SBS Double Axels out of spread eagle, it was time for the final element: Throw Triple Salchow.  They nailed it.  While the Russian crowd did not appreciate any of Ryan Bradley's Scott Hamilton Schtick, they ate up the Pink Panther.  It was clear that Vancouver scoring would rain down upon them.  It was the best performance they've likely ever skated.  Ingo looked to possibly be wiping away tears.  (144.87/217.85) A World Record.

Pang and Tong.  Our old friends.  Alex Forrest once made the mistake of referring to them as Rice and Tang (her diet.)  It is a comment that will stick with you forever.  They're simply lovely.  Oh how they've improved over the years.  It is impossible not to root for them to do well.  Unfortunately, Tong popped the first double axel in their 2 Axel+2 Axel Sequence and put his hand down on the second.  Then, he double a planned SBS Triple Toe.  It is important to note that they never gave up.  Pang came back with the vengeance of Shen Xue and nailed every throw with zeal.  The twist was gorgeous.  Their lifts aren't that pretty, but the overall program is simply lovely.  You wish they could redo the first forty seconds, as the overall program was very very nice.  (130.12/ 204.12)  

With that, China only qualifies two pairs to Worlds next season.  Pang and Tong will not be allowed to retire until that third spot returns.

Bazarova and Larionov skated third in the final flight.  Her SBS 3 Toe seemingly never left the ice, while he fell on his. Kate Middleton's left half is a gorgeous skater with beautiful lifts and lines, but I have a bone to pick.  One skating blogger went as far as say that this pair reminds her of Gordeeva and Grinkov.  Now, I am trying to be less brutally honest on Twitter so I restrained from replying.  I am aware that the few skating bloggers on Twitter tend to be cut from the Peggy Fleming mode minus the bitchy comments in the '80s.  This particular blogger proclaims herself #TeamFlatt.  Enough said.  Katia, I apologize for not going on a rant.  Lent just ended and I'm really trying to be kind.  I may make a lot of snarky comments in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but I'm rarely ever actually kidding when they're made during the stress and excitement of actual competition.  (122.49/ 187.13)

Volosozhar and Trankov closed the show with their rendition of Romeo and Juliet.  Granted, this program has little to do with Shakespearean tale.  It tends to be about Russian crosses: a total tribute to Gianni Versace.  I'm fine with it.  I love them together so much that I'm starting to root for an affair.  They're simply heaven.  He covered up his turnout of their SBS Triple Salchows like Svetlana Khorkina dancing out of a tumbling pass, but the rest of their program was spot on.  Thank goodness her husband decided to retire.  Their lifts are even pretty (a rarity in these troubled times.)  At this point in the season, this pair is actually starting to relate to one another.  Unfortunately, their costumes are a blah blend of beige and gray.  Not very suitable for the Royal Wedding.  

Tatiana Volosozhar is a clone of Aliona Savchenko who can only be distinguished by her particular shade of tacky eyeshadow.  With time, I predict we will discover even more fierceness inside of her.

The Russians went apeshit for this pair despite their slow final spin.  Thin Tarasova was applauding wildly with her Barbra Streisand talons.  It was quite the scene.  Trankov held two fingers up at the end and they did manage to earn the silver medal.  (140.38/210.73)  It has been a LONG time since Russia has had a pair this good and everyone in the arena knew it.  They lost their shit and I lost my own.

This final was right up there with the best sex I've ever had.

Now: Tatiana Volosozhar and Aliona Savchenko have shared coaches and partners.  Are were priming ourselves for a battle of the clones?


  1. Interesting read AJ! And now men free skate?

  2. Vera Bazarova is scary thin. If someone gave her some carbs occasionally, she would be much better. The Eurosport guys also detected a Katia resemblance - based on what, I've no idea.

    I was shocked that Savchenko and Szolkowy managed to do synchronized SBS spins. Truly a day to remember. They were fab, Ingo has done a great job getting them back on track this year. V/T were amazing as well, and I must say that Tatiana can also be distinguished from Aliona by her superior positions in lifts and spins. She is lovely. But both of the Ukranian girls are seriously talented. Pairs will be great if this level of skating continues!

    I enjoyed the pairs much more than the men's. No need to discuss anyone but Kozuka, as far as I'm concerned...

  3. I think I just peed my pants laughing. Thank you. Bahahaha...still laughing. Now do mens. Hurry.

  4. yay for Aliona and Robin! So happy for them.

  5. Top two were amazing. I was happy for Savchenko and Szolkowy but I went batshit crazy for Volosozhar and Trankov and gave them a standing ovation in my living room. I'm kind of with you on wanting an affair.

    Oh and you definitely should have let rip on twitter about that Katia Gordeeva comment for Vera Bazarova. Our COMMENTATOR made it too. I wanted to jump into my tv set and throttle him (between that and his love of Kavaguti and Smirnov - and wanting bloody Plushenko to come back - I'm finding him hard to take.)

  6. Hilarious!!!! Loved every word.

  7. I'm so excited that Y/C finished 6th place with a good competition. They seem eager to improve so I hope they work this summer to up their levels.

  8. AJ, I don't always agree with you (although I do more often than not), but I'm always completely entertained by your write-ups. Thank you!

  9. Bazarova's face may look a little like Katia's, but she doesn't remind me of her at all skating-wise. With a little strength to her, maybe she could actually handle learning better jumping technique, but for now, her and Yuko Kavaguti seem set on having the contest for most broomstick looking skater ever. I dislike both pairs, but appreciate some of the elegance of B/L. But seriously, take a lesson from Volosozhar and EAT SOMETHING. Put a little muscle on you.

    Top two were awesome. And Duhamel/Radford are tough as nails!! And yes, she never shuts up in the kiss and cry. I love it, she's intense and loves the sport. Great finish for Yankowskas/Coughlin. The thing is-- they have found such consistency because they've scaled back on the difficulty... They get the harder throw out of the way really early, skate slower, etc. It will be a challenge to improve the difficulty while maintaining consistency, but they seem up for the challenge. LOVE their persistence, a quality a lot of American pair skaters lack. I don't think they are the most talented recent American pair, but I think they have easily shown the best persistence. Congrats to them!

    Oh, and poor Mark Ladwig. He's obviously capable of rotating a 3T. I know they are an older pair, but I would like to see them continue and get to end on a better note.

  10. Better late than never. Dalilah Sappenfield should have taken this approach with Y/C as well as McLaughlin/Brubaker years ago... Young pairs need programs they feel absolutely comfortable with, not necessary full of difficulty right away. Both of her teams were inconsistent, and it wasn't because they couldn't do they elements, they were just trying too hard. Kudos to Sappenfield and Y/C for "figuring it out". If only Mc/B had gone down a similar path in terms of program construction. What could have been. Now that they're confident, it's the time to up the difficulty for Y/C! But for now, this top 6 finish must feel great for them.

  11. I love the Pink Panther! So awesome to see S/S do well.

  12. What's bothered me most over the years is not even that S/Sz (who are acutely talented individuals) have put out more grating, tacky, unnecessary programs than a junior sectionals; it's that they're apparently the sort of folk who can practice a program like that for an entire season without developing severe, severe depression. You need a lobe missing to do that - having heard Alyona talk that seems about right. They make me feel absolutely blessed that props are not allowed in competition and silly hats unwieldy.

    Still, at this championships they held my attention for longer than twenty seconds (in the free at least). Perfection hasn't visited them in a while, but when it does it goes a long way toward neutralizing the tacky. Here, every forced shoulder shrug, facial contortion, and ass swivel hit on the music exactly. It worked. Finally.

    K/S make me sad, so I continue to like them. This program is indeed genius; it smacks of pre-IJS more so than anything I've seen in the last few years out of pairs. I'm willing to watch it over and over again because despite tenuousness, falls, scary yuko, it's still genius. Moskvina has some hand in Artur Dmitriev's current junior pair, but the elements are not coming unfortunately.

    V/T are wonderful. Remind me of Totmianina/Marinin before they learned to relate to each other. Kudos to Nina Mozer and double kudos if she can teach the otherwise yummy Trankov to stop over-emoting.

    B/L have the potential to be a legendary pair - there's something special there. I don't think G/G are the model though, maybe B/S. Actually, a common mark of great pairs is that they don't really look like anything that has come before, maybe that's it. They may very well squander this potential though - Vera needs a sassy gay friend to tell her to eat something or she's not going to make it to Sochi: she a hungry bitch.