Here we are with Round 2 of the Grand Prix- Skate Canada! Some of my favorites are competing this week so I am very excited for this event.
Like the pairs, Canadians Weaver and Poje are easy favorites to win here. I am very interested to see their brand new short dance after they scrapped their original Elvis one from earlier in the season. Truthfully, that music was far below them and I think it was the right decision to switch. Returning to the ice after an injury last season, Russians Bobrova and Soloviev are my pick for silver, just because Maia and Alex’s scores suffered so much at the beginning of the season. The Shibs are always underscored in my opinion, and I am sadly expecting so see some residue of that in their scores here. I would love to see them make it to the final, though, so hoping for silver for them, but expecting bronze. Monko/Khavalian are my pick for fourth, though it could be a close race between them and Guignard/Fabri.
So, this field is tough, you guys. Not necessarily because all of the ladies are what you would call “heavy hitters”, but more because (outside of Tuktamysheva and her 3A) they all have about the same scoring potential. We know Elizaveta will attempt at least one triple axel, and on that reason alone, she’s my pick for gold. She hasn’t gotten off to the strongest of starts this season, so it will be interesting to see how she reacts to the pressure of being a World Champ.
My fave Ashley Wagner is a solid pick for second place. The Canadian audience and the Canadian judges tend to respond well to her, and she should have a good comfort level with her long program, which she’s kept from last season. I’m nervous about their plan to “downgrade” the jumps in her program, however. SHE HAS to rotate that full combo or she’s in big trouble, numbers-wise. A strong short is always the key for her and I am happy to see she has a sassy new SP that fits her well. PS check out the major upgrades she’s made to that LP!
For bronze, my pick is Canadian Katelyn Osmund, who had a strong debut in her preseason event and I think the audience will really be behind her and give her PCS a boost. However, there are SEVERAL other ladies that can easily podium here- Tursynbaeva, Leonova, Edmunds or Murakami. I’m gonna say Tursynbaeva gets fourth after a strong free skate, and that Leonova has a great short but falls to fifth after a bad free.
Here we are with Round 2 of the Grand Prix- Skate Canada! Some of my favorites are competing this week so I am very excited for this event.
The headliners here are of course Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan, whose “Olympic rematch” has been much talked about and highly anticipated. Personally, I think we’ll see a more quality battle between them at the end of the season, but I’m excited anyways- both are such musical skaters who are a beauty to watch. I am picking Hanyu to win gold, as he looked strong at the Autumn Classic and that short program is really stellar since he kept it from last season. You can’t forget about my pick for silver- Nam Ngyuen- whose consistency with those quads cannot be underestimated. I think Patrick will have a great short, but make mistakes in the long to fall to third. Adam Rippon should aim for a consistent competition- he just needs to start his season well with a technically strong competition- and finish in fourth. Murakami should easily be top five, but he could go higher if he goes really clean.
Home favorites Duhamel/Radford should have an easy coast to victory here, looking at the rest of the field. It will be interesting to see which quads they will attempt and which they will land. I’d like to see some more artistry from her in particular and I’m going to give their Hometown Glory free skate another chance. Russians Tarasova/Morozov are my picks for silver, based on scoring potential- they picked up some momentum at Worlds last season, and we’ll see if they can carry that through. I love Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran’s new partnership and I’m hoping they can get a bronze medal here. They need to get those SBS jumps under control to do that, though. Marchaei/Hotarek will be hot on their heels for fourth place and could easily steal that bronze if Castelli/Tran falter.
Up next- ladies and dance!
USFSA: (Crosses fingers and prays)
Tuktamysheva, Wagner, Osmund, Tursynbaeva, Leonova, Edmunds
Hanyu, Nguyen, Chan, Rippon, Murakami, Dolensky
Duhamel/Radford, Tarasova/Morosov, Castelli/Tran, Marchaei/Hotarek, Bazarova/Deputat, MT/Marinaro
Weaver/Poje, Bobrova/Soloviev, Shibs, Monko/Khaliavan, Guignard/Fabri, Paul/Islam
First ranking of the season is exactly where I started last season-98T with 2283 points. I got 6/12 picks correct, correctly picking 2/4 winners. Not terrible, not great. We’ll give it a go again this week and see if we can inch that up a little bit.
The Skating Lesson Fantasy:
For the first time playing this new fantasy challenge, I don’t think it went all that terribly- I am ranked #35 with 94 pts. I got 6/24 athlete placements correct and most of the bonus questions- not too shabby, if you ask me. This one is kind of fun to play, I’ll admit.
Part Four: Ladies
Kudos to all who picked Evgenia Medvedeva to win this event- I honestly did not see her preseason scores making her much of a threat. I hate that she backloads her programs and she goes a bit overboard with her hand over the head jumping, but I can’t hate on her too much for working a flawed system to her advantage. I do appreciate that she can interpret music and shows facial expressions when she performs. Minus the short program choker, her costumes and music are fine. Her jump technique bugs me, but she jumps so consistently that she’s hard to beat. Rostelecom Cup will be quite interesting, with Evgenia skating against Sotnikova and Radionova.
Like Evgenia, I think Gracie Gold was overscored here, but she solidly deserved second place. Overall, she held it together much better mentally than she has in the past, which has to be a moral victory for her. Dare I say I like this short program for her? I legitimately saw facial expressions and that is a much needed improvement. This is a much better start to her season than she got last year, and the most important thing she could take away from this event is confidence. She skates again at Trophee Bompbard, where she faces Tuktamysheva and Lipnitskya.
Always underscored in my opinion, Satoko placed third. I acknowledge her jump issues have some merit but her PCS are far too low for the elegant lines and graceful interpretation she has. Both of her programs are some of my favorites so far and I think the short in particular pushes her towards growth in her performance and interpretation. I think to get the respect of the judging panel, she has to keep working to clean up those jumps. I thought her World silver medal would help, but the judges apparently need more time. Her path to the Final is going to tougher now that she’s got a bronze, which is too bad. She faces a stacked field at NHK.
Elizabet Tursynbaeva came back from a rough short that left her in seventh to get fourth place. Seeing her small stature in person, it is amazing to see her rotate jumps so quickly. Overall, she has a lot of promise and I see what they are trying to do with her music selections, but she just needs more work before she can be a wow performer. She’s fairly consistent, though, which is what we have been seeing pay off for all the baby Russians. She has a short turnaround, as she skates again this week at Skate Canada.
I had a moment with Karen Chen during her short program spiral and she got a well deserved standing ovation at the end of that program. I love that she performs with facial expressions and interprets her music. Her double axel and layback spin are truly world-class elements. There is SO much potential here. She let nerves drop her to fifth after mistakes in the long program, which I am sure she’s kicking herself for. I love both of her programs and costumes. I cannot wait to see her at Nationals- I’d love to see her back on that podium. She skates next at Cup of China.
Compared to last season’s meltdown, Julia did okay here. She looked better than the preseason videos we saw and I am glad she is still out there competing because she is so talented. Obviously, compared to 2014, this skater is a shell of that person. Seeing her in person, though, really made me realize how different her body is- she’s had a lot of changes to adjust to. She’s not going to make it back to the top this season, perhaps, but I for one hope she can slowly build back up some confidence and some strong jumps. But that short program dress HAS to go. She seems to like the music, so I can live with it, but the rainbow outfit is a bad choice.
A huge shoutout to Nicole Rajicova for a fantastic free skate, where she scored her personal best score and vaulted from last place to seventh. She was a joy to watch in that program!
Part Three: Dance
In perhaps the most predictable of the disciplines, World silver medallists Madison Chock and Evan Bates ran away with the dance competition, winning by nine points. Madi and Evan have had a busy last couple weeks, having completely scrapped their old short dance and working on a new one. I loved Madi’s short dance costume- the color looks perfect on her, but I almost wish there was more going on with her free dance costume. They seem happy with their new short dance decision, and I think it will work well for them. They made some mistakes in the free, but they said they’ve neglected the free a bit to work on the new short, so that’s understandable. They compete next at Cup of China.
I was surprised by the second place finish of Sinistina/Kastalopov, but they skated well. They have a beautiful chemistry that comes across on the ice. I liked both of the costumes as well. They overscored their personal best by over 10 points and this was a great opportunity for them to win a medal- They have another chance to win one at their home event, Rostelecom Cup.
I had picked Gilles/Prioir to win silver, and they have to be disappointed that they did not place higher. A bronze makes it far more difficult to make it to the Final, but it’s not impossible. They skate next at Trophee Bombard, where the favorites are reigning World Champs Papadakis/Cizeron, whose training has been halted because of her concussion. Who knows what shape they will be in by then, but Gilles and Prioir have a good shot at a higher medal there. I am not sure what to say about their programs… I actually think that the free is unique and interesting, but that short is just too kitchy for me.
Props to Hawayek and Baker for a big improvement over their preseason competition. I thought they skated well here and I loved some of the moments in their free skate. They are such a small team, stature wise, but they are well matched with each other. To break onto that US podium, though, I need bigger interpretation. They have lots of potential, though.
One of my favorite free dances was Wang/Liu’s. The costumes were gorgeous, the music was exciting and I thought they did a great job with it.
Part Two: PAIRS
I was happy to see Sui/Han finish on top of the podium here. Their skating quality and the strength of their programs were most definitely the best in the field, in my opinion. I love both of their musical selections, though I am not sure fuschia is the right color for Sui’s SP dress. The botched spin in the short was the only thing keeping them from leading in the short and I they didn’t even do all of the quads they’ve been planning in their free skate, so there is plenty of room for this team to grow as the season progresses. They skate next at their home event Cup of China, where they’ll face off with Kavaguti/Smirnoff.
I am THRILLED for Alexa Scimeca and Kris Knieirm on their silver medal here. I was thinking they could scrape by for bronze, but this second place finish is huge for them. Watching Alexa’s face as they got their SP scores was so cute! They let nerves get the best of them in the free, but I hope they take confidence away from this event. I do like their programs this year, and I would love to see them continue to climb up the pair rankings. They have a tough second assignment, skating at NHK against Volosozhar/Trankov and Duhamel/Radford.
I fell in love with Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau this weeked. HUGE CONGRATS to them on their first Grand Prix medal. These two are an incredibly well matched team and I absolutely love the adoring way that they look at each other when they skate. Charlie has the best facial expression of any of the pair men that I’ve seen. I like their free skate and I am excited for them. They skate next at Trophee Bompard.
I am not sure what is going on with Stolbova and Klimov- but they better figure it out FAST. It’s incredible to watch them skate; they are so powerful and their speed across the ice is unparalleled by the other teams in this event. And then it’s frustrating to see them struggle because they are so talented. They will probably not make the final after finishing fourth here, so they need to do some good work before Russian nats. I don’t know if it’s Volosozhar/Trankov’s return that is making them nervous or the Euros debacle still haunting them, but they need to work this out.
Props to Tarah Kayne and Danny OShea for toughing out that long program. Overall, I think they have strong program selections this year, and I am happy to see them trying the quad. They need to have patience with themselves and just keep working. And I’ll say it- the POTO LP works for them. I’m excited to see the programs at Rostelecom in a few weeks.
Wang/Wang were beautiful to watch. Just another great Chinese pair!
Whew! It was such a fabulous weekend being at Skate America, but I still feel like I have so much left to process from the whole experience! But, alas, this is the Grand Prix and we have NO time to rest as Skate Canada will be happening on Friday! To that end, here’s my highlights and recap from Skate America 2015.
Part One: Men
HUGE congrats to Max Aaron on his stunning victory. Some called this surprise winner, but I did not. Honestly, you have to hand it to him for making the decision to improve his artistry this season and those quads are impressive. I think he still has more to do in the artistry department (especially facial expression) but let’s hope this is the start of big things for Max. His next event is Trophee Bompard, where he’ll see Shoma Uno again, a doubtful-but-possible Denis Ten, and Patrick Chan.
Shoma Uno stole the show with his free skate and I have to say he is SUCH a beautiful skater. He is a natural artist and those jumps are something else. If he would’ve had a cleaner event, I really think he was a gold medal threat. I think this was a great start to his senior Grand Prix career, and he has lots of potential to build on. He has a solid shot at making the Final, competing next at Trophee Bompbard.
Way to make a comeback, Jason Brown. I know I watched it, but I was shocked with his medal after being eighth in the short. This program was perhaps overscored. I think at this point Jason needs to be attempting the quad so I’m glad he tried it here. He’s not going to have a clean one for awhile yet, but I truly think he needs the whole package to be a World medallist. I think his short program is beneath his artistic level, but that free program had some absolutely gorgeous moments. He faces Yzuru Hanyu, Menshov and Kovtun at his second event- NHK Trophy.
Denis Ten- honey, please go home and rest. These programs can be stunning at Worlds, so go take care of yourself. Best wishes on a speedy recovery! I expect him to withdraw from Bompbard since his chances for the final are dashed. It’s sad we won’t see him there, but he needs to nip that injury in the bud.
Other Final hopes dashed include Konstantin Menshov and Takahito Mura, with fifth and eighth place finishes.
As my first experience watching skating live, I have to say that the skaters are amazing to see in person! We were allowed to sit wherever we wanted for practices, so of course- I had to sit front row. Being *that* close to the skaters was so incredible. I now have so much respect for the skaters after seeing what the practice atmosphere is like. With all of the people, cameras and distractions it is amazing that they can stay so focused.
MEN: I loved Brenden Kerry's music selection for his "secrets" themed long program. Alexi Bychenko looked unrecognizable with his hair cut, but he had a solid run through of Les Mis. Shoma Uno had a great, clean run through of his short program, including a solid quad. I am feeling confident with picking him to win at this point. Denis Ten had a few errors, but much better than I had feared he would be, considering his injury and boot issues of late. Brown fell on his quad attempt and an axel, but his program is beautiful. Hopefully he can land on the podium.
PAIRS: Sui/Han looked incredibly confident, and skated very well. All of their elements looked consistent and solid. Alexa Scimeca had a fire in her eye (and looked fabulous in her sparkly leg warmers) and they had a great quad twist in their run through. I'm hoping she stays fiery enough to grab that third spot on the podium. Kayne and OShea worked on a throw quad sal, that they plan to skate in the free. I thought Alexa and Chris looked more confident in comparison, but we will see how that translates to competition. Stolbova/Klimov had a few rough moments, including a random fall on a death spiral, but the bigger elements looked better than what we'd seen earlier in the season. Seguin/Bilodeau have a very apparent emotional connection and I really noted how much he connected to their music and emoted to it.
DANCE: Surprise, indeed-Chock/Bates have changed their short program music entirely from what we've seen at Nebelhorn. We didn't see much of it today, but their free run through looked very strong. I thought that Gilles/Prior also looked incredibly solid and it was fun to be so close to them- she has this way of looking at him in the eyes when they're skating and its very endearing. I really liked Wang/Lui's costumes and music- they were really lovely to watch. Hawayek/Baker had some great moments in their free run through. Can't wait to see that one live!
LADIES: I think Satoko Miyahara jumped more than other person in that rink- she was a little machine! She fell on her combo in her SP run through, but she really looked strong otherwise- just doing element after element. Gracie looked nervous to me in her runthrough with a couple falls. Her 3Lz-3T looked improved to me, though. It was much more controlled. I was surprised with how well Julia Lipnitskya skated- she looked much better than the competition video we're seeing. Who knows how that will translate to the competition, but honestly, she looked good. Miyu Nakashio looked dead on on all of her jumps as well- she had a great practice. Karen Chen also looked steady, she made a few mistakes, but honestly, she emotes better than most of the other ladies. Mariah Bell looked fabulous in her practice outfit, and she just looks so happy on the ice. I hope she can find some consistency with her elements.
Overall, I had a fabulous day watching! I can't wait for tomorrow!
About the Blog:
Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.