Figure Skating: From the Boards

I’m leaving on a jet plane…Nagoya bound! October 18, 2010

Okay, fine. I’m not leaving on a jet plane. Nevertheless, it’s here! The long-awaited Senior Grand Prix season is here! Competition starts this weekend, but the athletes begin today making the long trek to Nagoya, Japan for the NHK Trophy, and let me tell you, I couldn’t be happier.

Every summer it seems skating season will never come around again (I suppose I could say the same thing about winter and baseball season…). And sure enough, just when it seems like you can’t wait any longer, TA DA! The inevitable is upon us!

As we watched the juniors skate, the shows take place, coaching changes be made, last minute injuries halt competition plans, and more, we kept alive the countdown to the moment the senior competition began and the season truly felt underway. And if Twitter is any indication this morning, we’ve certainly made it!

@AlexShibutani Posted pictures from Nebelhorn Trophy. http://on.fb.me/aWRquu In other news, we leave for Nagoya tomorrow after skating!

@AshWagner2010 Leaving for Nagoya…see you at NHK!! I’ll be vlogging from the competition so stay tuned!

@rossminer staying up all night so I can sleep on the flight/last minute panic packing!!! yay!

@rossminer At the airport… I want sleep.

@CaydeeandJeremy Off to japan this morning to compete at nhk trophy! Follow on icenetwork.com or universalsports.com.

@JohnCoughlinUSA Off to NHK! I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated. Next time you hear from me, it will be from Japan 🙂 love u guys!

@JeremyAbbottPCF One session of figure skating and then, like Ross Miner, Jeremy Barrett and John Coughlin before me… Off to Japan today for NHK!

@JeremyAbbottPCF Leaving today for Japan. Be sure to watch on Universal Sports. Short program on Sat. Free Program on Sun. Nippon Aishitemasu! ^_^

…to list a few!

So with the first batch of international athletes headed for destination Nagoya, I thought it best to take a sneak peek at what this competition will look like.

First up, ice dance.

Competing in Japan are:

1. Kaitly Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN)
2. Xiaoyang Yu and Chen Wang (CHN)
3. Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak (CZE)
4. Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland (GBR)
5. Dora Turoczi and Balazs Major (HUN)
6. Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (ITA)
7. Cathy Reed and Chris Reed (JPN)
8. Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)
9. Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA)
10. Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (USA)

Certainly Davis and White are the stand-outs here, but the Canadians, Weaver and Poje, have been making their name known, as have the Reeds. The Italians are towards the top of my list as well. I may, however, be most excited tos ee Maia and Alex Shibutani in their senior Grand Prix debut. These two have always had a special spark, but this season that spark has become a mature polish, as seen in their 2nd place Free Dance at Nebelhorn Trophy a few weeks ago. Take a look for yourself:

This young team (he’s 19, she’s 16) train with the dominating forces of the Shpilband camp, so they certainly have mature, polished, experienced teammates to look up to! I’m excited to see how they stack up in this first Grand Prix.

Of course, I’m also excited to see what new masterpieces Meryl and Charlie have come up with. Their Original Dance last season was not only a skating success, but also an viral video sensation online! It’s always hard to come off of a stellar season (especially one where Olympic medals were won!) and try to top your best with a new best, but I believe they can do it. Their technical scores will keep them at the top here, even if their programs aren’t yet rivaling those of last season.

How about the pairs competition? The competitors include:

1. Qing Pang and Jian Tong (CHN)
2. Yue Zhang and Lei Wang (CHN)
3. Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende (GER)
4. Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran (JPN)
5. Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov (RUS)
6. Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett (USA)
7. Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin (USA)

So…looks like Pang and Tong are the odds-on favorite here. Besides the recent history of Chinese pairs dominance, they’re the most experienced in this field and everyone will be trying to catch them and their big tricks.

For the Americans, it will be an interesting test for the two young teams – Denney and Barrett the National champs and Yankowskas and Coughlin the talented team making their way up the standings.

Denney and Barrett may be the National champs and Olympic team members, but their international experience is limited, to say the least. The did compete on the Grand Prix Circuit last season, placing 4th at NHK and 5th at Skate Canada. They made that big coaching switch to John Zimmerman this summer, so I’m anxious to see how that’s paid off and how they have improved since Vancouver. They could be big players in this field if they keep up technically with the Chinese teams.

And how about the ladies. Always a highlight, eh? And the lineup certainly promises to keep things interesting:

1. Diane Szmiett (CAN)
2. Kiira Korpi (FIN)
3. Lena Marrocco (FRA)
4. Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO)
5. Jenna McCorkell (GBR)
6. Carolina Kostner (ITA)
7. Mao Asada (JPN)
8. Kanako Murakami (JPN)
9. Viktoria Helgesson (SWE)
10. Rachael Flatt (USA)
11. Ashley Wagner (USA)
12. Caroline Zhang (USA)

Phew! What a list that is! With some of the top names from last season not competing this year (Rochette, Kim), this is not a bad little competition here! Clearly, the headliner is Japan’s Mao Asada. Competing in her home country, she’ll have the crowd support, that’s for sure. The question will be her jumps.

“Her jumps?” you ask.

Well, yes. Her jumping ability has always been her go-to point getter. But last season, early on, her jumps seemed to abandon her. This off season, she’s been reworking some of her jump technique. And just weeks ago at the Japan Open, she finished last out of the 5 (I think – correction, she DID finish 5th, but out of 6, not 5) ladies who were there, only landing one or two triple jumps.

That said, having seen the video of her performance, I actually think the program itself may be one of  her best in years.

It appears she’s at least enjoying skating again, and this music seems to calm her into a really beautiful, graceful state. There is potential here, but the athletic performance in this video…well, there’s nothing really to say other than I hope she’s got this sorted out by this weekend!

Kiira Korpi of Finland has been skating well as of late. She one this summer’s Nebelhorn Trophy not too long ago. Look for her to make a statement.

Jenna McCorkell is a lovely skater whose name came up often last season. She had some work to do to be considered one of the gold medal contenders, so we’ll see as this season gets underway how much closer she’s come to the Asadas and Kims of the world.

Carolina Kostner is always a question mark. She can have flashes of brilliance, but her ability to skate to her potential has never really taken shape. She trained last season with Frank Carroll, thinking that would help her competitiveness, but it didn’t. She’s going to have to reinvent herself if she wants to stay among the top in the world.

Then there were three – Zhang, Wagner and Flatt.

This American trio is pretty solid, I must say. The National Champ, Flatt has consistency on her side. She hasn’t quite broken through internationally, but having her first test of the season be against Mao Asada, she’ll be able to quickly see where she stacks up. If her 3-3 is still consistent and if her program components have been improved, she has a shot here.

Wagner is a bit of a dark horse, I would say. We all know she’s capable of skating challenging, artistic, and exhilarating programs, but her ability to do that in both stages of the competition has been tested. She had a good Grand Prix season last year, so hopefully she comes back this season, after missing the Olympic team, and proves to herself that she deserves to be in the conversation with Flatt and Nagasu.

And then there’s Caroline Zhang. This will be a real test for her. Coming off of a terrible season last year, she, too, had to reinvent herself. Switching coaches, working on jump technique, finding her passion to skate…I believe this competition will tell her story very quickly. I hope she’s “back.”

Last but not least, the men. Check out the competition:

1. Kevin Van Der Perren (BEL)
2. Shawn Sawyer (CAN)
3. Jeremy Ten (CAN)
4. Jialiang Wu (CHN)
5. Florent Amodio (FRA)
6. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
7. Takahito Mura (JPN)
8. Diasuke Tahakashi
9. Denis Ten (KAZ)
10. Adrian Schultheis (SWE)
11. Jeremy Abbott (USA)
12 Ross Miner (USA)

Again, a quality field. The reigning World Champ, Tahakashi looks to be the favorite. But Jeremy Abbott, coming off of a disappointing Olympics but a stellar National Championship defense, is looking to step it up on the international stage. He spent the summer touring with Stars on Ice and I believe that will help him in competition. Just being out on the ice in front of a crowd has helped not only his performance standards, but also (hopefully!) his nerves.

The Canadian contingent has promise here, as well. Sawyer and Ten both have the talent to make a splash in Japan. If they keep it together technically, we could see them right up towards the top.

The Frenchman, Florent Amodio, may be a personal favorite here, though. Jump consistency has plagued him in the past, but his performance skills are superb. Whether he wins or fails to medal, I look forward to seeing him skate.

 

And there you have it. A “From the Boards” exclusive sneak peek at this weekend’s competition! So much to look forward to here as the season officially gets underway. I’ll be posting again before the competition begins, so hopefully we’ll have some practice reports, videos, news…all of that good stuff by Thursday. Then, it’s on to the real stuff – competition day!

Until then…

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8 Responses to “I’m leaving on a jet plane…Nagoya bound!”

  1. caseyedwards Says:

    are you sure you mean jenna mccorkell?

  2. Eric Says:

    Korpi won Nebelhorn, not Finlandia (she did get 2nd though behind Akiko Suzuki, so she is definitely skating well!)

  3. ppchiharu Says:

    Mao Asada didn’t finished last out of the 5 ladies that competed at JO, to correct you she finished 5th out the 6 ladies that competed there. She isn’t also just working on some of her jumps but ALL of her jumps from, edges, take off, and landing out of the many wonderful transitions in between those jumps, if I may say so. Mao’s go-go point getter is not just her jumps so you shouldn’t wrote that, check her protocols for the last 2 seasons, and you’ll find out that she shines on a lot of departments as well among all the ladies in FS, her spirals and footwork for instance are impeccable, not to mention her beautiful basics and flexibility. Some people just forgets how great a Skater she really is and refuse to appreciate her continuous desire for improvement. She ain’t an Olympic Silver medalist and reigning and two time World Champion if her strengths were only on the jumps like you proposed on here. It’s alright that you criticize her if you don’t prefer her, but please be accurate in your words because you are writing in public. Negative criticisms are most welcome as long as it’s not very-mean spirited.

    • I appreciate the correction…but there was no negativity intended in my comments. Mao is a lovely skater with many great attributes. But it’s no secret that her jumps have been emphasized. I believe she’s the one to beat this season and I commend her for going “back to the drawing board” so to speak with her jumps and making corrections and improvements, despite all of her success. If you notice, I complimented this season’s long program and claimed it to be one with outstanding potential. It’s the elements besides the jumps that make it so beautiful. It has great choreography which she skates with ease and elegance that is not overlooked. It’s the jumps that were lacking, not the rest of the pieces to what could be a stellar puzzle. She has a lot to offer and she’s a wonderful champion, but I dare say she’s not satisfied with what she’s accomplished yet – that’s why she’s still competing, still improving and working towards even greater success. I’m not too worried about the trouble she had on the jumps at the Open, because I fully believe she is a fighter and she’ll be ready for this weekend’s competition.

      (For the record, I never said I didn’t prefer Mao, nor were my comments mean spirited. But thanks for the correction on the number of skaters at the Japan Open.)


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