Figure Skating: From the Boards

And So It Begins: 2012 US International Classic September 28, 2012

I’ve decided that life has a way of spiraling  out of control most when I’d rather be watching skating!

Okay, so it hasn’t been totally out of control. But a move and a new project at work have kept me from the US International Classic videos until, well, right now. But with Neblhorn happening now and Skate America right around the corner (can you believe it?) I’ve definitely been itching to sneak a look at some of the performances from Salt Lake City. 

This event welcomed several skaters I, for one, was anxious to see.

Lindsay Davis & Mark Ladwig, for example.

Their pairing is interesting to me. There isn’t an automatic, “this is going to catch on like wild fire” vibe from them. But, it’s still so new, there is a little bit of push and pull. They just need time. I like some of the artistic elements — a little more drama, perhaps! The technique will come along. I just hope they don’t get frustrated with the results until then.

Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch — I love this duo. She is a little dynamo. And it’s nice to see so much emotion in their skating again this year! And those throws? GORGEOUS. As soon as their short program started, I realized we’d just jumped up a level. The speed, the strength, the confidence, it was all there. A few stumbles here and there, but they have a lot to work with this season … and some pretty grand expectations of themselves.

Tiffany Vise & Don Baldwin — First comeback free skate of the season? They recovered from a disappointing 5th-place short program to leapfrog country mates Felicia Zhang & Nathan Bartholomay for the bronze. They always do something interesting and unique. It’s nice to see them skate well to go with their great programs!

How about the ladies?

Gracie Gold is precious. At such a young age, and with so little senior experience, she always looks so polished, so poised. She really takes her time with the choreography — something that often gets lost in the shuffle of point counting. She had some trouble in the second half of her free skate (which she was not happy about) but this gives her room to build. I worry, sometimes, that the expectations already on her shoulders are too much to live up to. But, she has the talent, no doubt.

Agnes Zawadski — her jumps are ridiculously gigantic. Yes, ridiculously gigantic. She skates with so much power! Sometimes it’s too much, but this early in the year? She looks in complete control. A few bobbles here and there, but nothing to be terribly concerned with. Her struggles will likely come if she has a tough competition. In the past, that has gotten to her in a big way. But this was a great victory — mentally, even more than physically — to get her on track for the year.

I have a feeling the battle in the ladies’ competitions this year is going to be something else. And at US Nationals? It could be anyone’s game!

Same song, different verse for the men. Only, some of these young contenders are pushing their way towards the top.

Timothy Dolensky, for example. I’m convinced I could watch this kid skate all day. The edges, the lines, the jumps. Watching him move through the ranks will be fun!

Ross Miner — he is such a classic. He has this old-school style that is very Scott Hamilton of him. And I love it. Clean lines, big jumps and lightening speed make him easy — and exciting! — to watch. He was a little rough around the edges here, but that’s to be expected early. Once he settles into the programs a little more he will start climbing his way up the standings. (And securing a quad wouldn’t hurt, either!)

Armin Mahbanoozadeh — It will be interesting to watch Armin this year. He’s been oh-so-close to breaking through on more than one occasion. But inconsistency plagues him, despite having beautiful jumps when he’s on. Perhaps new coach Kristy Krall will have the “Chan-effect” on Armin. This was a strong start, but there is plenty of room to improve.

Max Aaron — how about Max, eh? Boy, did he come out in the free skate and just lay it all out there, quad and all. As he matures, his skating becomes more and more watchable. He has chipped off some of the rough edges, and is starting to skate with genuine feeling that draws you in, right from the start. Plus, he’s young enough to be a “COP-kid,” so the demands of the system don’t seem so unnatural. In fact, he makes it all work quite well! I don’t know about you, but I think Max wants to play with the big kids this year!

Oh, don’t forget — we get to throw Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir into this mix, too! Hold on to your hats, this season is bound for drama (on the ice, I mean!).

Every season I fall in love with ice dance a little more. Madison Chock & Evan Bates were the source of last year’s love affair, but the likes of Gilles & Poirier, and Kriengkrairut & Guilietti-Schmitt made this event even more sensational.

Maddi & Evan — I adore their approach to the short dance. Turning something that can be cheeky and overdone like the polka (or the waltz, for that matter!) into a story about a circus girl? Brilliant. Let this program get a few more miles on it, and it could be right up there with the best. Their holds and overall flow seems much improved after a full year together, and that allows for more expression and less thinking in the free dance.  Their scores here weren’t what they had in mind, no doubt. But, it’s good to get the jitters out now and learn where they need to improve by the time the Grand Prix begins.

Lynn & Logan — Anyone who watches them and doesn’t smile the whole time is just not paying attention. They skate with so much commitment and passion, it’s contagious. And they have a BLAST. U.S. ice dance is fascinating right now. Great personalities, great athletes, and only so many spots, especially with the space between Meryl Davis & Charlie White, and Maia & Alex Shibutani and the rest of the field. But you’re crazy if you can’t see Lynn and Logan are gunning for the top! If they continue to improve at this rate, they could be right up there, sooner rather than later. Maddi and Evan better watch out.

Alexandra & Mitch — It was devistating watching these two struggle so last season. “Mini Tessa and Scott,” as they became known, have all the beauty in the world. But competing with injuries just did them in. Nice to see them back, and looking ready for a strong season! Canadian ice dance is tough, too though, so they’re going to have to work hard if they want to reclaim their second spot from Piper and Paul.

Piper & Paul — I watch them skate and all I can think is, “Electric.” So much spark — between the two of them, and the audience watching. They’re so excited to compete on an international stage, that they want to come out strong, and stay that way. The programs feel new (Yeah, Tara, because they are!) and I see room to smooth out the edges and transitions. But their chemistry makes the choreography sizzle. And that’s an excellent start. (Oh, and they have nice technique, too!)

And so it begins! And now, all roads lead to the Grand Prix.

After a taste of these early-season skates, who are YOU most excited to follow this season?


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