I can’t figure out what boggles my mind more – it’s already the week of Thanksgiving+Christmas craziness, or the extreme insanity that was Cup of Russian this past weekend.
Without doubt, I was out of it last week, in a big way. But even if I wasn’t feeling 100%, I was coherent enough to sit and scratch my head after things wrapped up from Moscow thinking, “Now….what just happened again?”
It seems the madness of the ice dance event was the perfect storm at the end of an already complicated event. I fear it would take all day to try to explain everything that had me in head-scratching mode, so we’ll keep it to a minimum here with a quick recap of each event.
For the ladies, it was Miki Ando once again making a statement, but this time, less with the security of her jumps than with the enormous (and entirely visible) bandage/wrap on her back. She’s said she is battling back spasms, but she competed in Russian in hopes of securing a place in the Grand Prix Final…which she did, despite a short program that landed her in 5th place. Still, she’s the veteran competitor and she ticked off the jumps in the long program, one by one, and her score not only held up for a medal, but for a 5-point victory over fellow Japanese star, Akiko Suzuki (who has a FAB long program, might I add!)
Poor Miki could hardly stand up straight when she finished, but even if she was – as even a commentator noted – looking for sympathy points by wearing a dress with a big keyhole cut out in the back, revealing the entire bandage, she still laid it on the line and said, “Okay, that’s what I’ve got…now you try to beat it.” And for the 2nd time this year, no one could.
Kudos to Ashley Wagner for her best long program of the season. Minus the fall at the end, she skated with confidence and passion…and I love the attitude she brings out of the choreography!
It was a tough weekend for Ksenia Makarova, the sweetheart from Russia. Maybe the pressure of skating at home got to her? Or the expectations from her great start to the GP season? Regardless, I just wanted to give her a hug after she skated her long. Hang in there, girl. You’ve got what it takes!
As for the men? Where to start…
Patrick Chan’s flawless, amazing, spectacular quad toe-triple to combo in the short? Or, speaking of shorts, Tomas’s brilliant “Singing in the Rain” program and Jeremy’s technically ridiculous Tango choreography?
Or should we skip to the long where everyone – and I mean everyone faltered?
I’ll start with Tomas who came off that short with arguably his BEST short program ever, only to follow it with an absurd combination of Michael Jackson songs and moves that didn’t show off his polish, line, or personality, but instead made him awkward and, for me at least, extremely hard to watch? To his credit, he landed the jumps. And, it turns out, that was all that anyone needed to do.
Jeremy’s long program is still one of my favorites of the season. I love how the elements are so carefully integrated into the choreography…each move is all a part of the story, not just a judged element put in for the sole purpose of gaining points. That said, this was not his day. He’s struggled with consistency in the past, but hopefully this was just a one-time thing. The Final is in question for him, as it will depend on the results from France this weekend, but regardless, this is his best GP season to date, and he should be proud.
Then there’s Patrick Chan. He presents such a strange situation for me. I adore him and his skating. When/if he skates his Phantom program cleanly, it will likely be the skate of the year. He’s so brilliantly choreographed, and he makes every move a million times better by the attention and passion and joy he holds when he skates. But those jumps! You can’t go down as one of the best if you consistently fall 3 times in a free skate. In his two GP competitions, he’s fallen 8 times total…and taken 1st or 2nd in each one. I’ve defended him many a time in the past, because I truly appreciate the difficulty of everything he does around the jumps, but as much as I love him and what he does throughout a program, I think the COP system fails athletes a bit when a program with 3 falls is regarded as one of the best. Sorry Patrick, I love what you do, but you’ve GOT to find some consistency if you ever want a non-controversial win.
Quick shout out to Samuel Contesti for nearly spoiling the party at the top with a score that held up for a long time! He’s a charmer, too.
The pairs competition was not much of a contest, but there were still a few standouts, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig being one of them.
Now, I tweeted just after their program saying that it was too bad about the fall on the side-by-side jump, but it was otherwise still a great skate. I then began to see several people talking about how it was too dull, too slow, and too shaky to be considered great.
Okay, it wasn’t the best pairs program I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t the cleanest, it wasn’t the most demanding. But Amanda and Mark aren’t World Champs…they’re still finding their way among the big kids. They’ve competed long enough that they know what to expect, but never as the #2 team in America. That puts them on a whole new level. I wasn’t expecting them to come out in Moscow and win the whole shebang, and perhaps they stood out more because the teams that finished below them floundered big time, but they skate with the most pure joy and the biggest hearts…they suck you in, if you let them, and show you why skating is as wonderful as they believe it to be. And that, to me, is great, because it’s not something everyone can do. They didn’t have the skate of their lives, it wasn’t without error, and it didn’t catapult them to the top of the podium, but in my eyes, what they did was beautiful, heartfelt, and strong. And for me, it was great.
That said, the moment of the night (perhaps of the GP series for pairs thus far) belonged to the Russian team of Yuko and Alexaner (aka Sasha). This is a team that’s been oh-so-close before (they are the current World bronze medalists, after all). But here, they were the class of the field in every way. She looked gorgeous, he was strong. Their lines were elegant, their every move engaged with the music. It was understated, subtle and captivating. They were, for me, the best part of this stop in the series, by a mile. They saved the event, not only for me, but for Team Russian as well! Until the ice dance event, anyways.
Oh, ice dance. This was where the meltdown really happened. Just before the free dance, three teams withdrew due to injury, leaving three Russian teams, a team from Hungary, and one from the Czech Republic to battle it out for medals. And it still wasn’t pretty! No one was perfect, but Bobrova and Soloviev finally gave the crowd what they were waiting for – a return to the top of the ice dance podium.
It was a crazy few days from Moscow, but it was very telling of the strain on the athletes this far into the season. Whether it was injury or fatigue, it was, perhaps, the sloppiest event thus far…not a good thing for a competition determining so many Grand Prix Final spots!
We’ll see how things are finalized with the competition in France this weekend, and then it’ll be off to Beijing for the Final. Can you believe we’re almost there already?
Speaking of believe it or not, ABC will roll out it’s new Dancing with the Stars spin off tonight, as the spotlight shifts to center ice. I’ll be there, watching anxiously, to see if they can pull it off, or if it’s Skating with Celebrities all over again. I will say, I’m excited about the cast and crew (Johnny Weir, Dick Button and Tanith Belbin? It’s got to be at least entertaining!).
Follow me on Twitter as I watch tonight, and tomorrow I may post a short blog (video blog?) with my initial thoughts.
Good luck to all the skaters and the stars!