Figure Skating: From the Boards

You Can Take My Breath Away February 14, 2012

I may not have been in Colorado Springs this week, but with all the running in circles I did trying to keep up with “real life” and Four Continents, I might have had as much trouble breathing as anyone!

Okay, maybe not quite that much (my sympathies to Nan Song and the entire Chinese team who seemed completely overwhelmed by the altitude!). Still, after being available for nearly every minute of the US Nationals, it felt oh-so-wrong to miss so much of the Four Continents action.

Thankfully, Icenetwork had my back with on-demand coverage, so I caught up in no time!

I’ll have a set of vlog recaps up this week breaking down each event further. But for now, before we get too far removed and focused on Worlds, I’ll leave you with my greatest impressions — and boy, were there some big ones! I can quite honestly say, there were moments that left me “breathless.” (Betcha haven’t heard that one yet, right?!)

Okay. Where to begin …

The men’s event was relatively predictable. And yet, it filled in several empty blanks. How is that possible? Just go with it, I’m not sure myself.

What We Learned

  • Patrick Chan may make mistakes more often than we’d like, but when he’s good, he’s really good. That said, he’s no where near the 300+ scores he pulled in at Canadian Nationals. Not that that’s a ton of comfort, because he still beat Daisuke Takahashi by nearly 30 points.
  • Speaking of Daisuke … he is, perhaps, the most introspective, organic artist in all of the skating world. It’s hard to compare the styles between Chan and Takahashi because they’re so different. One is big and bold, the other is intricate and riveting. Both are beautiful. Both are worthy of praise. (And World medals …)
  • Ross Miner is the future of men’s skating in the US. Bold statement? Sure. But what I saw in Colorado Springs was rock-solid technique, backed by a clear understanding of his place and his path in the sport. And his triple axel is to die for.
  • Misha Ge is immune to altitude! What a joy he was to watch, no? The energy, passion and expression in his skating, while reminiscent of on Johnny Weir, sets him apart in a diverse field. I found him quite refreshing.

What I Felt

  • Heartbroken for Richard Dornbush. You’ll get ’em next season, kid.
  • Thrilled for Ross Miner. That’s how you end a season, regardless of the event!
  • Hopeful for Adam Rippon. He’s improving. Perhaps his peak will be perfectly in time for Worlds.
  • Impressed beyond words by the top two. Simply put, they are phenominal.

The Pairs event had its share of surprises, too. I’ll admit, I didn’t think China’s Wenjing Sui & Cong Han had it in them to put out back-to-back clean performances here. Sure, they’ve done it before. But they’ve also been very sloppy before. But that wasn’t the only surprise.

What We Learned

  • Sometimes, even the hottest team slips a little. Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford seemed destined for a Four Continents win on their way to Nice. But after a steady climb all season, they fell flat. Little errors in the Short kept them out of medal contention. And yet, they continued to fight.
  • Big tricks get bonus points simply for being, well, big. Yes, Sui & Han performed a throw quadruple salchow and a split quadruple twist. And their massive scores reflected that. Trouble is, they only  almost completed them. The twist was underrotated, the throw was obviously two-footed. Kudos to them for putting them out there, but I want to see them clean.
  • The American Pairs teams are on the hunt. For the first time in a long time, people were discussing a real possibility of both American teams finishing in the top ten at Worlds. Would that be an upset? Oh yeah. Have stranger things happened? You know it.

What I Felt

  • Proud of the competitiveness of the US teams. Weak field or no, medals are medals.
  • Disappointed for Duhamel and Radford. I’d have loved to see them win.

Oh, the ladies. What an event this turned out to be. It wasn’t that long ago that if Mao Asada was competing, she was nearly guaranteed gold. Now, though, not so fast.

What We Learned

  • Ashley Wagner is the real deal. I have to apologize … I didn’t think even a clean Ashley had the good to keep up with Mao. Then she through a triple-triple combo in the Short, and a squeaky clean and passionate Long. Her improvement is simply marvelous.
  • Caroline Zhang is back. She proved where her head is by skating another clean event full of the beauty that made us fall for her in the first place.
  • Mao Asada still has the triple axel. It still scares me. But it’s there. The one in warm up was lovely.

What I Felt

  • Confident in Ashley. She’s rubbing off on all of us!
  • Moved to tears by Caroline. What a brilliant comeback! Look out, Sochi.
  • Optimistic about the American ladies at Worlds. A medal is well within reach.

I challenge someone to find me a more compelling story line than ice dance in skating right now. Really, we got the best show. Only one of the likely top-five teams in the World was absent, and two of the best rivalries in all of sports were at the forefront. While the scoring was a head scratcher, the skating was spectacular nonetheless.

What We Learned

  • Meryl Davis and Charlie White must be sure of their levels by Worlds. That was essentially the only thing separating the top two teams. If they want to repeat as World Champs, they have got to get level fours on the step sequences and twizzles.
  • Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are hungry. They are on the prowl. They had just about enough of this Silver business.
  • No one — not a single team — shows more passion and genuine emotion than Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. They are, perhaps, this season’s most improved technically as well.
  • Alex Shibutani is super human. Altitude? No problem. Viral infection? Don’t mention it. No, they didn’t medal. But they sure impressed a lot of people with their effort.

What I Felt

  • Anxious! When it’s anyone’s game, it’s hard on our hearts!
  • Confused by the scoring. Not just for one team, or one dance, but overall. Talk about a tough crowd … this panel was brutal!
  • Excited for Worlds. It is SO on.

Colorado Springs may have been a tough place to skate. But, it was a good test for what is yet to come. As we look towards Worlds with new questions and new expectations, let’s not be hasty to dismiss the accomplishments here. I know I won’t, at least not until I can skate at 6,035 feet above sea level and do any better!

Keep an eye out for those individual event vlogs. I have so many thoughts to share!

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