Monday, March 08, 2010

Olympic afterglow

Now that the 2010 Vancouver Olympics have been over for a week, it's finally time to share my thoughts on the figure skating events.

I was thrilled that Shen & Zhao won! Their short program was a masterpiece, and unfortunately suffered for being the first one to be performed, before the crowd had filled in. I was concerned that Pang & Tong would overtake them in the free after they (P&T) skated brilliantly, and Sandra Bezic's anguished "aaaghhggHHH" during Shen & Zhao's slip on an overhead lift certainly did nothing to allay my fears, but fortunately the error was not as severe as Bezic thought, and S&Z were able to hang on to the gold. Savchenko & Szolkowy also had a lovely performance for bronze. I was not impressed with either Zhang & Zhang or Kavaguti & Smirnov, and the emaciated-looking Yuko Kavaguti has surely overtaken Qing Pang for the "eat a cookie, please!" award. While the American pairs did not finish high, they skated fairly well; it was especially nice to see Evora & Ladwig so thrilled with their personal best scores.

Despite his windmilly footwork and lack of quadruple jump, I think Evan Lysacek deserved the win. Plushenko's program was poorly constructed by comparison, his jumps, while clean, were often wonky in the air, and he didn't have the same flow as the other top men. I actually preferred Daisuke Takahashi's program to Plushy's, and I think a case could have been made for him to finish second. Lambiel and Chan are beautiful skaters, but were a little overmarked, IMO. Johnny Weir was wonderful aside from that one slip on a spin, and legitimately could have finished fourth or fifth. Jeremy Abbott redeemed himself somewhat from a rotten short and pulled up to finish in the top 10, but this was a disappointing Olympics for him.

A North American sweep of the ice dance medals would have been justified in my book. Both Virtue & Moir and Davis & White were wonderful, and either couple would have been a worthy champion. I dislike Belbin & Agosto's free dance, but it should still have beaten Domnina & Shabalin's for third place overall. It was nice to see Samuelson & Bates do well in their first Olympics.

Yu-Na Kim withstood the immense pressure on her and delivered two flawless programs. I think the scoring was a little OTT, but no question she deserved to win both the short and free. I'm not so high on Mao Asada's skating; she's clearly very good, but something about her style of movement or something just doesn't appeal to me. That said, it was quite a feat for her to hit three triple axels over the course of the competition, and her silver medal was well-deserved. Joannie Rochette's brave performances just days after her mother's sudden death brought a lump to my throat, and while I thought maybe Mirai Nagasu could have edged her in the free, Rochette surely earned her bronze medal with her intricate and mature programs. Nagasu skated brilliantly and definitely made her mark here; this was like her "Michelle Kwan at 1995 Worlds" moment. Miki Ando is totally the Japanese Irina Slutskaya. Good for her for avoiding a repeat of her Torino implosion, I guess. Poor Rachael Flatt looked a bit deflated to see that she wasn't even in first place after she skated a clean and solid free skate; I'm not so sure Laura Lepisto, lovely as she is, should have beaten Flatt, but what do I know?

Overall it was an enjoyable two weeks of skating, with inspired performances by so many of the skaters, and largely free of judging controversy, yet still drama-filled. Bring on Worlds!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Returning to my neglected skating blog to dish about the recent 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships that took place in Spokane. At one point I thought about attending the championships in person, but the event was spread across two weekends, and I didn't want to be away for quite that long. :P

Anyway, onto the skating... I'm pretty happy with how the results turned out for the most part. In pairs, Denney and Barrett were rocks. They still need some finesse, but have come a long way since last season. I could see how Inoue & Baldwin may have had a case for finishing 2nd overall and making the Vancouver Olympic team. (although I do like Evora & Ladwig who did come in 2nd). In dance, I actively disliked Belbin & Agosto's free dance, and I hope they can tweak it to make it more compelling before the Olympics (less-distracting costumes would help) because I think they have the goods to medal there. Davis & White were marvelous, and I especially like their Bollywood-theme OD. I was rooting for Navarro & Bommentre to take the third Olympic spot, but Samuelson & Bates came through with a really solid FD and deserved the third spot.

In the ladies' event, it was extremely frustrating to see Sasha Cohen blow another long program to finish 4th. Sadly, those who have followed Sasha's career could have predicted that she'd miss at least one or two jumps... she ended up making errors on at least four, and her overall program suffered greatly as a result. Meh. I like Rachael Flatt (moreso her competitiveness than her skating quality, although her programs this year are much-improved over previous seasons', particularly her SP) so I am glad she took the title. Mirai Nagasu is a spitfire, and definitely one to watch in the next few years. Too bad for Ashley Wagner; she skated a great LP but that fall in the SP really hurt her chances to make the Olympic team.

Kudos to Jeremy Abbott for successfully defending his title; I love his easy flow across the ice. I wish I liked Evan Lysacek's skating more, since he's from around here, but I really haven't enjoyed his programs for the last few seasons (he did deserve the world title last year though). Along with Jeremy and Johnny Weir, he's a definite podium threat in Vancouver. Really strong men's team this year.

Overall, I thought it was a solid event. No issues at all with the winners of each event, and while Olympic medal chances in pairs' and ladies' will be iffy, I think a U.S. medal (or even two) is likely in the mens' and dance. We shall see in a few weeks!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

2008 Skate America

I had the opportunity to attend part of the 2008 Skate America competition in Everett, WA, last weekend. I saw the ladies' short program and men's free skate on Saturday, October 25, and the free dance and ladies' free skate on Sunday. Here are my general impressions from the event:

  • Yu-Na Kim (KOR) who won the ladies event had a very large and vocal following in the arena! She skated well, although I was surprised that she won the short program by such a large margin considering she had a mistake on her double axel. Her long program was very good, marred only by a popped triple loop.
  • The Japanese ladies, Yukari Nakano and Miki Ando, who came in second and third place respectively, both had errors in the short but skated very well in the long. Coincidentally, both skated to selections of music from "Giselle" for their long programs; Nakano's had a lighter, more balletic feel, while Ando's program was more dramatic. I preferred Nakano's program.
  • The Americans, Rachael Flatt, Mirai Nagasu, and Kimmie Meissner, all have some work to do to be more competitive internationally. Meissner had the best "command of the ice" of the three, but she had disruptive falls on jumps in both programs. Nagasu has a sparkle that Flatt lacks, but Flatt skates with a bit more maturity.
  • The crowd was very supportive of all the skaters. Poor Annette Dytrt of Germany fell on her first three jumps in the long program and the crowd did its best to lift her spirits, and gave her a warm ovation at the end.
  • The men's event was very close, and I thought Evan Lysacek (USA) had done enough to win (and he certainly got the biggest ovation from the crowd), but he only ended up in third behind Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) and Johnny Weir (USA). Lysacek apparently had some jumps and other elements downgraded.
  • My favorite long program of the men's event was Shawn Sawyer's (CAN). Although he missed or scaled down a couple of jumps, he skated with a lot of style and his line and stretch were exceptional. Some of his spin and spiral positions would have made Sasha Cohen envious. ;)
  • Ice dancing is not my favorite discipline, but there were a couple of fun programs among the free dances here. Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates (USA) had the most entertaining free dance; they finished fourth overall but were third in the free. The winners, Isabel Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder (FRA) had an interesting free dance set to music by Pink Floyd, and I also liked the whimsical free dance of Americans Jane Somerset and Todd Gilles. Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto (USA) skated very well, winning the free and finishing second overall, but I found their "Tosca" free dance to be rather flat.

I took several photos from the Saturday evening events; my camera unfortunately broke just prior to the free dance, so all I have from Sunday's events are a couple of crappy camera phone pics. :P

In addition to the skating, I also had the pleasure of meeting some skating fans I previously only "knew" from online, plus one skatefan who I had met at 2006 US Nationals in St. Louis. This was the first international skating competition I ever attended and it was an enjoyable time overall. Here's hoping that this coming skating season will be more interesting than the last few have been!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

2008 Worlds

This post is very belated, but here are my impressions on the 2008 World Figure Skating Championships that took place last month:

  • Kudos to Johnny Weir for finally skating well enough to win a world medal and keeping the US team from leaving Gothenburg empty-handed! The other US men (Jeremy Abbott and Stephen Carriere) also skated well, and secured three places for the USA at next year's Worlds.
  • The US ladies, on the other hand, had their weakest showing in years. Still, Kimmie Meissner came back from her devastating performance at US Nationals with a solid SP and decent LP to finish 7th at Worlds. Bebe Liang managed to hang on to a respectable 10th place, while Ashley Wagner struggled a bit and finished 16th.
  • Jeffrey Buttle skated a gorgeous LP to win his first World title. I wasn't sure if it would be enough to stay ahead of an also-impressive program by Brian Joubert, but Buttle's more intricate program won it for him.
  • Bummer for Belbin & Agosto to finish 4th. Their free dance is one of the most beautiful ones I've seen in the past several years. It's too bad they struggled so much in the CD and OD.
  • I missed all of the pairs competition (oops).
  • It was a bittersweet end to ABC's run of covering Worlds. Hopefully whoever picks up the broadcast rights for the US will do as good of a job as the ABC team did.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lysacek withraws from Worlds

U.S. champ Evan Lysacek has withdrawn from the World Championships due to an injury suffered in training. He'll be replaced by Jeremy Abbott. Evan's withdrawal will put even more pressure on Johnny Weir and Stephen Carriere (as well as Abbott) to secure a high-enough placement for the U.S. to send three men to next year's Worlds. Let's hope they can step up!