Before you say it, I know. I missed NHK Trophy all together here at From the Boards. I hate that it happened that way, but last week was simply one of those weeks. Too many things on my white boards “to-do list,” and not enough hours in the day to get them all done. Something had to give. I’m sorry that it was here, but hopefully you caught my Fantasy preview at icenetwork.com or usfigureskating.org.
Since I can’t go back to NHK now, we’ll just take a glance back and this weekend’s even in Paris — Trophee Eric Bompard.
I always loved this event (especially when it was Lalique) because of the fancy Kiss and Cry designs. Nothing too extraordinary this year, though. However, the trophy given to the winners was pretty spectacular!
But I digress…
The Pairs and Dance events went off mostly as predicted.
Russian stars Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov proved themselves human with errors in both the short and the long, but the overall quality of their skating and the non-jump elements pulled them through. They’re going to need to regain the element of perfection, though, in the Final and as they head on to Worlds.
Their teammates Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov snagged the silver after the cleanest of the free skates. There seems to be something missing from them, though. The spark from the other top couples is greater, despite B/L’s strong, classic lines. Most times I just don’t feel, well, anything from them as they skate through well choreographed programs (albeit, to overused music!).
One of the highlights of the entire event was Meagan Duhamel’s reaction to their scores after a well presented but poorly performed free skate. See, Duhamel and Radford are on that Grand Prix Final bubble. They needed to finish no lower than third with a score of 113.58 to give themselves a chance. She had her fingers crossed, watching the scores go up.
“Is it enough? Is it enough? I’m not getting too excited yet…”
But she knew it was enough. Despite three falls.
“115 with three falls, Eric?” she added.
These two improve with every event. I’m looking forward to seeing how they stack up at Worlds.
Again, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig were haunted by the side-by-side jumps. Their programs are stunning, but she just can’t seem to stand up on those jumps. Another fourth place finish isn’t what they were looking for, but here’s hoping we see these programs skated cleanly at Nationals.
In dance, there was no question who the champions were.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir remain a cut above the rest (though they have yet to face their stiffest competition in Meryl Davis and Charlie White). At the risk of being called a “hater,” I have to say, their “Funny Face” free dance is far from my favorite of theirs. I understand the concept, and I think it really shows off Scott’s skill and charm, but I don’t think it highlights their best qualities. That said, they are still superior to anyone else in this field.
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat came back to competition with great confidence and poise in front of a hometown crowd. They put together two very strong skates. However, they will not match up to Virtue/Moir or Davis/White at the final. Again, I’m afraid we have programs that don’t show off their strengths.
I must say, Anna Cappellini and Luca LaNotte were standouts for me. I wasn’t crazy about their free dance at Skate Canada (although their short dance is one of my favorites!), but here, it had a whole new level of polish and poise and character. Really well done!
The best free dance, though, for me belonged to Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Yes, they have a ways to go to be top competitors. But their chemistry is, as I described it in the moment on twitter, captivating. Just listen to the EuroSport announcers call attention to it — “They see each other!”
The Ladies and Men’s events got a bit wacky.
With Carolina Kostner, Alissa Czisny, and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva all vying for their second GP win, it was bound to be a struggle.
Alissa, as I’ve said, has a magical short program. Here, however, she simply missed. She struggled on all the jumping passes, digging herself a five-point whole headed into the long. The free skate, however, was solid enough to earn her the second highest ladies FS score of the season (behind Mao Asada). The 121+ was enough to win the long, but it was up to the other two to determine her overall placement.
Kostner has looked strong, confident and happy all season. That’s a refreshing change after her struggles in the past few seasons! I’ll admit, I’ve been one to question the scores she receives for flawed and simplified programs. But, kudos to her for crafting two strong, well choreographed programs this year that, skated cleanly, are actually worthy of solid marks. Her free skate, too, had an error — she doubled one jump — and it’s true, she doesn’t do the hardest triples. But, the jumps she does do are done very, very well. She actually finished third in the long program, but not by enough to move Czisny up overall.
Then there was Liza. Little Elizaveta Tuktamisheva who seems to have gone from little girl to beautiful woman in a matter of weeks. In a season filled with missed jumps and even more missed opportunities, she stood once again poised to strike gold. The girl with the easy triple lutz-triple toe proved that she’s not a one-hit wonder. Jump after jump, spin after spin. Now, she did double a jump herself. But there was no denying she had the strongest event overall. Her new season’s best free skate total of 120+ puts her just behind Czisny on that season-high list and gives her a well-deserved spot in the Final.
The men’s event found controversy of its own. Though not new, the presumed “over-scoring” of Patrick Chan (that I, myself, have referred to as “Chanflation”) gave the title to a flawed skate.
Patrick Chan isn’t to blame for this, first of all. All he does is create — and skate — programs packed with technical content (that includes far more than just jumps). His skating skills are phenomenal. His artistry draws you in. His transitional elements are anything but simple. Ultimately, his programs are just that much better than the guys around him.
It’s hard to see him fall on a quad attempt and stumble yet again on a footwork sequence and believe he was really the best on the night.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective!), that’s the way the system works. Overall, he’s the better skater with better programs that rack up higher points in far more ways than a 1-point deduction will hurt.
Not debated, though, is the second GP medal for China’s Nan Song. He is a delight to watch. He doesn’t always have the polish I’d hope for, but he has strong jumps and well thought out programs. Oh, and he stood up in both portions of the event! He has much to be proud of this season already.
Then there is Michal Brezina. He has charm that is undeniable. And, he always has interesting choreography. Personally, he seems far too sloppy to be considered a medal favorite. He doesn’t often do all the jumps he has planned, doubling them or falling. But, twice now, he’s done just enough to put himself on the podium. And for that, he deserves credit.
It was another near miss from Adam Rippon in Paris. He beat Brezina in the free skate by .65, but troubles in the short cost him a medal by .71. He seems to be struggling this year, and I hate to see that. Since he won’t make the Final, he’ll have some time to work out the kinks by Nationals.
Speaking of strugglin, Nobunari Oda had a disaster of an event. We can only hope this was just a side effect of something else that week (word is the stomach flu was making the rounds…) and not a sign of things to come for the talented Japanese star.
And then there was one.
The 2011 GP Series wraps up Thanksgiving weekend with the Rostelecom Cup from Moscow, Russia. Several superstars will be looking to finalize their spot in the Final, and that can only mean one thing — more drama! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.