Figure Skating: From the Boards

Breaking it down: Rostelecom Cup November 28, 2011

It seems impossible, but the Grand Prix series for 2011 is over, save the Final in a few weeks. We’ve seen a little bit of everything this year, so I continue to expect the unexpected as we go forward through the GPF, Nationals, Europeans, Worlds, Four Continents … they’re really not as far off as they seem! In fact, the US Nationals competitors list was just released, if you’re interested.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s take one last look back at the sixth and final GP event of the season.

Meryl and Charlie … and everyone else

One of the more tender moments of their FD.

To be fair, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were fantastic. But there’s just no comparison to what the World Champs are doing.

Their free dance this year is, in its purest form, exactly what ice dance should be. It’s a waltz. And while there are times it could have a more waltz-y feel, what they do in this program is brilliant. I’ve said I don’t believe Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s FD shows off their strengths, but the opposite is true of Davis and White. Their polish is evident despite the complexity of this skate. And the crazy thing? There’s still room for improvement. I expect come Worlds, this program will be stunning. I’m excited to watch it develop. (And that’s not even mentioning their sizzling short dance! Charlie stumbled in this event, but they have the samba mood down pat.)

Weaver and Poje have one of my favorite free dances of the year. Yes, the falling strap can be a tad distracting, but you’d be hard pressed to find any dance team who pours as much emotion into a dance as these two. You almost feel like your heart is breaking along with Kaitlyn’s by the end! That’s powerful stuff. Plus, they skated it really well. They have always seemed to struggle to get the high marks from the judges, but they’re coming into their own and their confidence shows.

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev were quite the home crowd pleasers, but finished a distant third.

Nix the triple axel, take the gold

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy got me again. In their first match up with Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov (at NHK Trophy), I figured they had the upper hand. Problem was, they were determined to try their latest trick — that

Every element is sharp and clean and, well, perfect.

throw triple axel. It cost them when they couldn’t hit it cleanly.

I assumed they would continue that daring here, thus I picked Kavaguti and Smirnov. But no. The reigning World Champs went the “safe” route and stuck to more manageable throws. (You know, like the lutz and loop. “Easy” stuff!) The result?

Gold.

Good for them. They skated a fantastic free skate that gave them the top international score of the season from the other Russian stars, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov.

When these three end up at the same event (like the GPF), watch out. There will be fireworks!

Mao is back … mostly

Okay, so she wasn’t flawless, especially in the long program. But no one was. The ladies event has seen its share of sloppy

I don't think she STOPPED smiling. (And this program is fabulous!)

moments this season, and there were some here, too. But, her short program is fantastic. She’s smiling again. And her long program, although recycled from last year, is gorgeous. When she regains consistency in the jumps, this will be hard to beat.

Aleona Leonova isn’t quite ready to let these Russian newbies (Tuktamisheva and Sotnikova) knock her out of the race! She skated a fantastic short program to Pirates of the Caribbean, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her skate better. She was in control, she was charming, a little over the top, but strong. And kudos to her for holding up in the long.

Little Adelina Sotnikova …

She wants so badly to be the “it” girl of Russian skating (and the world, for that matter). But she’s not quite there. Perhaps it’s the pressure of competing with the “big guns” or something entirely different, but she’s not hitting like she is capable of, or like Liza Tuktamisheva has. I don’t think Adelina likes that.

The American girls had a rough go of it here. Christina Gao has two beautiful programs, but without the jumps, they’re not worth much. Rachael Flatt has, well, she’s just off this year. She’s dealing with a lot — Stanford, new coaches, new place — and it’s just not working. Agnes Zawadzki came out of last year as the new rising star, but she, too, has struggled to put together clean programs. US Nationals could be interesting…

Sometimes things just “fall” your way

What a men’s event, eh?

The short programs were fantastic.

Personality for miles! But ... I could do with a *tad* less suspender-ography.

Jeremy Abbott was strong and fast and charming. This program shows off a very endearing side of his personality, but it is also filled with technically demanding choreography. Plus, he’s finally getting strong program component scores.

Yuzuru Hanyu, as one of my twitter friends said, is the Japanese version of Johnny Weir. Light, smooth, graceful. And oh yeah, he has a quad. Boom.

Michal Brezina may just be the most consistent skater this season. Gold in his first event, bronze in the next, and he was third in both portions of the event here. Unfortunately, he just missed the podium. How, you ask?

Javier Fernandez.

This kid is for real. His quad toe is like butter, his quad salchow not far off. He oozes personality, but also has a new-found polish and confidence that does well for him overall. Plus, we get the bonus of watching Brian Orser skate each program right along with him from the other side of the boards! Javier doubled a jump in the short program, so he had a bit of a whole to climb out of in the long.

Speaking of the long…

It wasn’t all pretty. Brezina was so-so. Yuzuru had good moments and bad moments (and when he falls, he does not just bounce back up. It totally breaks the spell!). Jeremy Abbott poured his heart and soul into a captivating, emotional free skate, but after a hard fall on the opening quad toe, he never quite got things back under control. And then there was Fernandez. He was fabulous. The Chans and Takahashis in the world better watch their back — if he goes clean at Worlds, he’ll be right up there.

However, when all was said and done, it was Hanyu with the gold. With guys falling all around him, he managed to just hold on — by .03 — for gold. And that is the beauty (or curse!) of the points system.
That also set the final entrants for the GPF (four of the men from COR will be there!). But, that is a story for another day.
So ends the “regular season” in the skating world. Take a breath, though. The events that remain will provide plenty more excitement!
Stay tuned…
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