Several top competitors took the ice this past weekend at the Finlandia Trophy, and I had a great time watching several of them compete for the first time this season. It's always good to get a look at these skaters before their Grand Prix events. Here's my comments on the top skaters:
Rika Hongo: Congrats to Rika on such a strong season debut! Her overall skating looks much better to me. She has upgraded some of her jumps, which was a necessary step up technically. Artistically, I felt she gave more in her performances than last season. I liked her short program music and costuming, but I think she needs more performance skills to truly pull off her Riverdance free skate. She was incredibly consistent here, though, and a great start to her season. With Mao back in the Japanese ladies ranks, Rika is going to have to be great all season to grab that third World spot for Japan.
Julia Lipnitskya: I was really hoping for a Julia comeback this season, but after this competition, I'm not sure that's going to happen. Her jump technique is THE KEY to success this season and it is still giving her major problems. You can tell that she's taller and more filled out and it is such a shame that her technique doesn't support her through these change. Her SP costume needs to be changed-STAT. (Please, I do not want to see that at Skate America!) and the music-to me- was a poor choice. The costume/music in the long is much better, but she seems to not connect with it at all. This makes Skate America so interesting...
Hannah Miller: First of all- God bless her for ditching Big Spender. Wise choice. I really liked her new SP music and her dress game in both programs was ON POINT. Hannah has a huge challenge in front of her this season, with getting two somewhat surprising Grand Prix assignments. She won't be a medal contender, but it's important for her career that she show two strong performances at Rostelecom and Cup of China.
So Youn Park- I was watching So Youn here in preparation to see her live at Skate America, and I really like what she's putting on the ice this season. Her dresses are gorgeous and I think both of her music choices were well selected for her. She's truly a beautiful skater and I hope I get to see solid performances from her at Skate America. She's one of the ones I'm really looking forward to seeing there.
Adam Rippon debuted his new programs here at Finlandia, on his way to a second place finish overall. I really like the direction that they've taken his skating this season. Both music choices are pushing him towards being a more expressive performer. He looked slow to me, and I think he was skating very cautious. I would love to see him GIVE these programs full out expression and energy. I truly think he can contend for the US title this season, but he has to get jump cleanliness down before then. He needs two strong GP events- he doesn't have to win or medal, but have two events where he jumps well to give him the confidence he'll need at Nationals.
Weaver/Poje: They won this event easily, with such a weak field, but Andrew made twizzle mistakes in both programs. I have to say that I think the Elvis music in the short is not the best selection- I feel they are far above that music and the whole program fell flat for me. Their free has some good potential and her dress was fabulous. Ice dance is certainly going to be interesting this season. I can tell that Kaitlyn *really* wants to win, but overall I feel like other teams have a stronger set of programs.
Hawayek/Baker: Another performance I am really looking forward to seeing at Skate America is their "Theory of Everything" free dance. I truly like the music and I think they do a great job of expressing it on the ice. They had some technical difficulties here, but these programs can build over the season. I like this team so much! Ultimately, you know that they want a spot on that US World team, but they have a tough road ahead to either beat Madi/Zach or Shibs out for a spot. Being a smaller team size-wise, I think they have to work extra hard on performing BIG.
One more preseason competition is left and that is the Skate Canada Autumn Classic. My next post will preview that event so stay tuned!
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.