Figure Skating: From the Boards

Break it down: Skate America October 27, 2011

Yes, I know.

Skate America has been over for a week now. Skate Canada starts tomorrow (in fact, the practice ice is filled as we speak). But as much as I wanted to have a full preview and a full wrap up in the timeliest of fashions, sometimes life just says “NO.”

But alas, I can’t let the first Grand Prix event pass without any kind of comment at all!

So here we go. Better late than never, right?

The ladies event was all about Alissa.

Congrats, as well, to Viktoria Helgesson on her first GP medal!

Okay, Carolina has two of her best programs ever. She still only has a few triples actually in her arsenal, but she’s certainly making the best of it.  And after her taste of success last season, she set herself up as a contender.

But it was Alissa we were all wondering about. Would her magic from last season continue? Would she really pull off the triple-triple she had planned? How would she set herself up technically, considering the competitions he’ll face later in the year?

She wasn’t perfect. But who is at the first event?

She threw the triple-triple. Yeah, it was under rotated, but she didn’t back down.

But the biggest improvement Alissa made is in her head.

Call me crazy, but I always look at a skater’s eyes as they slip into their opening pose. Thinking back to Sasha Cohen — I could always tell when she was off by the fear (sometimes sheer panic) in her eyes. Alissa had a tendency to be the same way.

The change started last season. It wasn’t so much panic. But she was still trying to convince herself she could do what she wanted to do.

Last weekend in Ontario, I saw her as a competitor for the first time. The look in her eyes wasn’t uncertainty. It was fire. She wasn’t afraid, she was confident. There was no hesitation, only preparation.

Call me crazy, but it was different. For the first time, I felt like she was there because she believed she could win.

And win, she did.

I’m absolutely in love with her short program. Every second of it is classic Alissa, only better. It combines her new-found fearlessness with the class, elegance and musicality we’ve come to love. It’s gentle, but not soft. It’s charming, but competitive. And it’s the perfect vehicle to take her through this season.

Well done, Team Czisny!

The pairs event was interesting, mostly due to the debut of Caydee Denney and John Coughlin and the throw triple axel attempt by Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy.

Denney and Coughlin were marvelous. Under developed, yes. But the potential is stunning.

I don’t want to harp on the split between Coughlin and Yankowskas, but I did feel a twinge of sadness not to see Caitlin on the ice.

But that is all I will say on the subject the rest of the season.

Because Caydee is a delight. And these two clearly love every second they spend on the ice together. The joy in their faces — especially John’s — was enough for me to buy in to what they’re putting together. They finished off the podium here, but I fully expect them to make a medal push all season long.

As for the Germans, is there really anything better than veterans who continue to push the envelope? They won each event they entered last season with relative ease. But are they resting on their World Championship laurels?

Not a chance.

While the throw triple axel isn’t flawless yet, I applaud them for going after it, at the risk of a Grand Prix medal. Well, maybe not so much of a risk. Because they came back in the long and proved once again why they are the best in the world.

The men’s event was … well, unpredictable? I admittedly missed most of it, so I can’t comment too specifically on programs and performances until I have time to go back and watch. But kudos to Michal Brezina for taking advantage of the open door!

Props, as well, to Kevin Van der Perren for winning the free skate. This guy just keeps coming back for more, and while he may never be a World Champion, you have to admire his competitiveness, and the fact that he always tries to best his previous performances.

I was shocked by Armin Mahbanoozadeh’s placement at this event. I fully expected a top five finish. But, you know what they say — the ice is slippery. Hopefully he’ll recover quickly and be ready for his next competition.

The ice dance event was all but a given — Meryl Davis and Charlie White were clear favorites for a reason, and they did not disappoint. Skating to a two month old program, there was still clear room for improvement. But, at the same time, they proved that their skating — both technically and artistically — elevates the sport to a whole different level.

They seem happy, focused, and hungry for more, and just like Czisny’s short program, this challenging waltz is the perfect means for them to continue their winning ways.

In a totally different vein, poor Fabian Bourzat! I can’t imagine competing (and medaling!) with bronchitis.

These two always push the envelope choreographically. That said, I’m not sure this Egyptian free dance does them justice. Perhaps, as was said on the broadcast, it was more the costumes than the choreography or the music. It all seemed contrived. And after their stunning Charlie Chaplain program last year, it fell a little short.

Regardless, best wishes to them as Fabian recovers and they continue through the season.

And just because I can’t get enough, here’s that Alissa short program, one more time.

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