Figure Skating: From the Boards

The Final Countdown: Pairs and Dance December 5, 2012

We’re just a few days away from the Grand Prix Final kicking off as a “preview event” of sorts for the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi, Russian. And, the contenders are all very much aware of this, I promise you. Everyone wants to get a glimpse at what it might be like to skate in Sochithe arena where new Olympic champions will be crowned. And, this is that chance, albeit under a teensy bit less pressure.

Still, the energy will be high as the conclusion of the Grand Prix series gets underway.

It’s been an interesting season. We’ve had moments of brilliance and competitions as tight as ever, in some cases. Most of the stops along the way produced high-quality skating. It is, after all, the buildup year to the Olympics. Everyone is starting to make that extra push.

But, there were a few let downs, too. This isn’t a recap, though. If you’re looking for that, check the posts from a few days back. It’s all there: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This, though, should be quite good.

PAIRS

The way I see it, each of the pairs competing here are primed for the performance of the seasons. We haven’t seen too many magical pairs moments yet this year, especially from the top teams. But, with three Russian teams in the Final, two Canadian teams, and just one Chinese team, there’s been a shift in the power houses of the Pairs world. Notably absent, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy who didn’t not qualify after skating in just one event.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have yet to wow me this year. But, they do still hold the top international score. When they put the pieces together, they are hard to beat. They are just so good.

Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov continue to steadily climb towards the top. They’re not there yet, however. This is a great chance for them, though, to stake their claim to a spot on the podium — here, and heading towards Worlds.

The third Russian team is, surprisingly, not considered a medal favorite. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov have struggled to match last year’s brilliance that, too, fell off a bit towards the end of the year. Perhaps this is their time to jump back into the upper echelon of Pairs teams?

I see a team like Qing Pang and Jian Tong and am blown away. Not by their technical brilliance these days, but by their undying passion for the sport. Why, after all these years and all the medals and titles won, do they still need to push themselves? Why would they delay their wedding in order to compete, when they openly admit their bodies often don’t cooperate anymore? How can they still perform such difficult programs? But, even more impressive, is the emotion with which they skate. That was something I always found a bit lacking in their skating, but the older they get and the they compete “for the love of the game,” as they say, the more joy shows in each move.

It’s beautiful, not matter where they finish.

And how ’bout those Canadian teams? Are we witnessing the rebirth of the Russia vs. Canada pairs rivalry? Not quite yet, perhaps, but by the time they return to Sochi? Possibly.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are living proof of determination directing results. These two know what they want and have developed a formula for how to get it. No, they can’t yet compete with Volosozhar and Trankov. But they put themselves in medal contention in every event the enter. In fact, they have a chance here to knock off the veteran Chinese team and land on the podium. It would be an upset, but we’ve certainly seen one or two of those at a Final before, haven’t we?

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovtich have a longer way to go. I’m not entirely convinced this season’s programs are the best vehicle for their skating, but they continue to fight and make something of each event. They are in the Final after a tie-break gave them the last spot. So, there’s really no pressure. That might be just the situation they need to excel.

PREDICTIONS

Gold: Volosozhar/Trankov
Silver: Bazarova/Larionov
Bronze: Duhamel/Radford

ICE DANCE

Have I mentioned I love this event?

There isn’t a team scheduled to compete that doesn’t deserve to be there. There are, however, teams that didn’t make the Final that arguably should be in Sochi right now. That’s besides the point, though. And now it’s all about these top six couples.

Again, Russian is well represented with Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev and Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov set to take the ice in front of the home crowd.

Both teams are much improved. Both have dances that don’t quite make sense to me, but perhaps they appeal more wildly to a Russian audience? Both teams have two second-place finishes this season, and would love to make the podium. However, there are some pretty tough challengers standing in their way.

The same could be said for Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. They are divine. I adore their unassuming charm as well as their ability to sell a character-driven piece as well as anyone in the business. Their improvements this season are quite impressive, and they continue to make me believe they could be a contender in the near future. Again, though, the top three teams in the world are pretty set in stone at the moment.

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat are another team — similar to Pang and Tong — that wow me with their consistent improvement and commitment to a long-term plan. I often struggle with the far-out nature of their creativity, because I don’t know that it translates as well as they’d like it to. But, I admire their dedication to maintaining artistic integrity despite the demands of the system. They are much improved technically, but still not quite where they’ll need to be to break up the top two.

Speaking of the top two …

It wouldn’t be ice dance without a little drama, eh? For my take on the wide-swinging pendulum of opinions on Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s free dance vs. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s free dance, check this piece out. I present my own opinion, but also give you the bare facts and numbers, in case you could care less about my private opinion.

These two teams have made each other better, that is the one thing I can, without a doubt, guarantee. As they continue to push one another, they in turn push the entire sport.

I’m amazed when I watch them both, because of the complication of each piece of choreography. There are no simple movements in their programs. No easy steps. No basic strokes. And yet, they combine the difficulty with basic skills that make it all look remarkably easier than it actually is. Plus, you add the layer of story telling and passion and connection and emotion … there’s so much to the package — for both teams — that I don’t know how they pull it all off.

They’re like machines … with pretty costumes and powerful expressions.

Every conversation about these two should start with the simple fact that both teams are extraordinarily good at what they do.

Side note: anyone else wonder what differences we’d see in this rivalry if they didn’t train together? It’s an interesting thought …

PREDICTIONS

Gold: Davis/White
Silver: Virtue/Moir
Bronze: Pechalat/Bourzat

Tomorrow: Ladies and Men

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Grand Prix Rewind: The Dancers December 4, 2012

Ice dance has fast become one of my very favorite events. It’s the discipline that I think has benefited most from the Code of Points system because things are actually quantifiable now.

Of course, it helps to have a generation of dancers actively working to live up to the likes of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Meryl Davis and Charlie White who continue to lead the way.

The Grand Prix series this year gave a good indication of the progress some dance teams have made … perhaps none more notably than Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat.

Those two are always creative … sometimes distractingly so. But the technique often suffered in the past for the sake of creativity. Not so much this year. Theyr’e still not quite there yet, as far as Virtue/Moir or Davis/White standards, but if the top two don’t watch their backs and step up their own games, the Olympic year could be way more interesting than the last few have been.

It’s interesting, in that regard, how teams that have generally been very politically correct in answering questions about their competition goals who are suddenly voicing their determination to be THE best, both at Worlds this year and, more importantly, the Olympics. Pechalat and Bourzat are certainly a part of that new trend, early this season stating — quite emphatically — that they are right on track with their career goals that have them peaking in Sochi.

So far, they’ve skated accordingly.

Speaking of teams that have made marked improvements, Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev are another such team. Personally, they’re not my cup of tea. But that’s the thing about ice dance (and skating in general) — it’s okay to not fall in love with every team or every performance, even if other skating fans do. And even if their basic skating has improved, I’m not in love with their programs, though I can respect their attempts at creativity.

Want to know what team I am impressed with, on a multitude of levels? Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. They were adorable last year, with charming choreography and fresh exuberance. This year, they’ve conditioned themselves into legitimate competitors on the world scene. Maybe not World medal contenders, since the top three are on a whole other plane, but they’re nipping at their heals. That medal stand isn’t far off, for sure.

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov also made the Final with a pair of silver medals. They did so relatively quietly, perhaps because they didn’t stand a chance against Virtue and Moir or Davis and White. But, I have to say, their programs — especially their free dance — don’t do them justice.

Side note: I’m super disappointed the reaction to Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje’s free dance wasn’t better from the judges. It’s beautiful and creative and original and magical and … yeah. Unfortunately, it didn’t lend itself to the complexity that the new system rewards. And as a result, they miss out on the Final. Sad day.

Now, for the top two teams.

It’s interesting, the ice dance world. I can’t say I realized how drastic the difference of opinions is between Canadians and Americans until this season with Tessa and Scott’s “Carmen,” and Meryl and Charlie’s “Notre Dame de Paris” free dances.

I’ve heard opinions blasting Davis and White for goign away from the kind of character and passion they’re good at — the “at a distance” kind — while praising Virtue and Moir for trying something new and challenging. I’ve seen fans gush over the magical moment Meryl and Charlie create while recoiling in a flash from Tessa and Scott’s dark, seductive choreography.

If you want my opinion, I prefer Davis and White’s dances. I appreciate the way they’re trying to stretch themselves, and while some feel they don’t actually tell story of the hunchback and Esmeralda directly enough. However, I find myself memorized  by the picture they do create and yes, I do see improved connection and passion.

Now, I’m going to try not to contradict myself, so hear me out.

I do appreciate the attempt at something new for Virtue and Moir. I get where they’re trying to go. However, this team’s strength is, without a doubt, the way they can stretch each move, and wring out every drop of emotion from it. The romance they can create is second to none. They elegance is something that sets them apart. And their ability to tell a heartfelt story that captivates an audience with artistry and grace while performing technically brilliant and complicated choreography is what made them Olympic champions.

This modern dance version of Carmen? Not any of those things. Again, I understand where they’re trying to go. It’s different. It’s edgy. But while I feel Davis and White’s “different” stems from their strengths, I feel this “different” is an attempt to recreate the wheel. The super-seductive “passion,” cheapens the quality of their movement, and obstructs the flow and connection they have with one another and that their blades have with the ice.

To me, it doesn’t bring out their best qualities while making them more versatile.

And, if you really don’t care what I have to say or what my opinion is, I’ll just give you the facts: the judges like the American’s free dance better.

Exhibit A: the score breakdown from both teams’ first Grand Prix event, wherein Virtue and Moir edge Davis and White in TES, but Davis and White win the PCS mark and the total score.

Davis.White vs. Virtue.Moir GP1

And, exhibit B: the same comparison from both teams’ second events. This time around, the base value is identical, but Davis and White made marked improvement in the GOE category, as well as bumping up the PCS scores yet again.

Davis.White vs. Virtue.Moir GP2

Before you jump me for cross-event score comparisons, I know. It’s different. Judges are different. Pressures are different. All of the above, I know.But the point remains — the reaction to Davis and White has been better than the reaction to Virtue and Moir. Personal opinions on the choreography and interpretation aside, it ends up being a numbers game. So far, Davis and White are winning that game.

Will the trend continue? This weekend’s head-to-head will be quite telling!

 

InterNATIONALS Round Up January 5, 2012

He’s baaaack! That could be the theme for the recent run of men’s national champs. In France, it was Joubert. In Russia, Plushenko. And in the Czech Republic, Verner. But it wasn’t just the men in action. So, since we’re in that lull before Canadian/American Nationals and Europeans, here’s a quick round up of the latest results, complete with video links.

France

Men

1. Brian Joubert (230.97)
2. Florent Amodio (210.42)
3. Chafik Besseghier (183.67)

Ladies

1. Yrétha Silété (152.21)
2. Maé Bérénice Méité (149.33)
3. Anaïs Ventard (143.74)

Pairs

1. Daria Popova/Bruno Massot (137.75)
2.Vanessa James/Morgan Ciprès (128.83)
3. Anne-Laure Letscher / Artem Patlasov (104.06)

Dance

1. Nathalie Péchalat/Fabian Bourzat (173.75)
2. Pernelle Carron/Lloyd Jones (142.69)
3. Tiffany Zahorski/Alexis Miart (120.49)

  (more…)

 

A quick look back: Trophee Eric Bompard November 21, 2011

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.

I promise to always at least have that updated before events! 

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!).

Duhamel/Radford skated another strong short program in Paris.

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. (more…)

 

Breaking it down: Skate Canada October 31, 2011

Two down, four to go, friends!

Skate Canada presented another series of season debuts this past weekend. Some hit, some missed. And now that it’s over and Cup of China is on the horizon, we have a few minutes to glance back in the rear view mirror and reflect. Shall we?

“Funny” how some things never change

Virtue and Moir -- Short Dance

Canadian royalty. That’s how Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were received in Missassauga, as well they should be. Like their American counterparts, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, they are the class of a deep Canadian field, and the cream of the crop here. They seem to be one constant in a sport that has so few.

Their spicy short dance won over the crowd instantly … and that’s no surprise. These two thrive on strong character dances and though they only performed it fully one time, last season’s samba free dance was the perfect preparation. Tessa oozes Latin flavor. It will be fun to see this up next to Davis/White’s SD at the Final.

Their free dance is a totally different take on classic dance. Their “Funny Face” program is charming and challenging. While this isn’t my favorite look for them (at first glance, I feel it takes away from some of their best qualities — posture, line, depth of edges, emotional maturity), it’s already better than it was at Finlandia, and I expect it to continue on that path. Scott alluded to his “Fred-like-ness” in the Kiss and Cry, and that he definitely has going for him. Fred Astaire would be proud.

Fellow Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje skated back to back strong programs. Both need more polish, but for their first event, I’m impressed by their improvements. The emotional depth they’ve added — especially in their free dance — is impressive.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte have a gorgeous short dance. Their free dance didn’t impress me quite as much. They’re still a little rough around the edges, to be sure. But they are making great strides.

Despite a silly stumble at the end of their well-skated short dance, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates added themselves to my list of teams to watch — and the list of new teams that had stellar debuts! Their free dance was one of my favorites of the entire event. Madison is the perfect ice dancer — her expressions come from every inch of her body. And Evan, well, it was so good to see him back on competitive ice. Welcome back, Evan! (more…)

 

Skate Canada: It’s anybody’s game! October 28, 2011

After an afternoon watching the practice sessions from Skate Canada (thanks, skatebuzz!), I can say I’m fully ready to see how this event goes down. Let me just say, it could go any which way!

The ladies event continues to be unpredictable, this time with the added impact of a 14-year-old Russian phenom who might just steal the show.

Mirai Nagasu is the skater who should have the edge. She’s been close to the top before, and when she is right mentally, she has all the pieces to be one of the best in the world. At the end of last season, her coach Frank Carroll said she was the best she’d ever been mentally. If that has continued, she could be in for her best season yet. Of course, that is always qualified by her lack of consistency in the past.

Elizaveta comes to Canada armed with a stellar triple lutz-triple toe combination.

Canadian Cynthia Phaneuf is still looking to put herself back in the talk of the top ladies in the world. Generally speaking, she’ll have a strong short program, but lose it in the free skate. Plus, the pressure of skating at home sometimes works against her, rather than in her favor.

Akiko Suzuki won a Grand Prix gold last season, but she, too, has some free skate consistency issues to work around.

The real fireworks, though, could come from Russian Elizaveta Tuktamisheva. She is the 2011 World Junior silver medalist, but more importantly, the 2011 Japan Open champion where she posted a 118+ in her free skate. She’s a jumping bean with a very traditional style, but she’s been impressive. Look out for her!

Don’t forget about the other Americans — Rachael Flatt and Ashley Wagner. They’ll always be in a fight for the podium.

The men’s event seems fairly predictable, at least for gold — it’s a faceoff between Patrick Chan and Daisuke Takahashi, who both looked strong in yesterday’s practice. Patrick looked to be better off from the quad stand point — Dai fell quite hard on his quad toe attempts.

Before everyone goes off trying to say which skater is better, I think it’s important to realize — they are BOTH fabulous, just in different ways. Patrick gives us all the thrill of something that’s larger than life. He sweeps across the ice with speed and flow that is unmatched, and his choreography tells a beautiful story.

Daisuke, on the other hand, shows excellence in the details. His musicality is second to none, and he highlights every little accent throughout his programs. He really believes in his music and choreography and melds them together to hit every note, right on cue. (more…)

 

Dancing with the North American stars September 13, 2010

First off, I’d like to congratulate the junior skaters who brought home medals from Romania this week in the Junior Grand Prix competition. Keegan Messing skated to gold for the first US gold of the season, and Joshua Farris backed him up with the sliver. For the ladies, Kristiene Gong won silver, and Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mage placed third for the bronze in ice dance. Nice work, team USA!

Speaking of ice dance, that’s the focus for today’s post. We’ve talked through the top 20 for the ladies, the men, and the pairs (well…some of the pairs, at least!), so now it’s time for some ice dance.

But before we get there, just one more thing. And observation, I suppose. Something that made me stop and think about the toughness of all competitive athletes.

This past week, I was bothered by a knee problem. It wasn’t much, and I’ll admit, I’m kind of a baby when it comes to pain. Still, for almost two weeks, I limped around, not sure what was wrong, but knowing I was struggling with simple, menial, daily tasks (getting in the car, for example). Then today, I took the morning off, instead of getting right on my to-do list, because I was battling a migraine.

Now, I watch a lot of sports. I also know a lot of people who suffer from migraines, back pain, shoulder pain, etc. The athletes I watch can’t be too different. In fact, many of them push their bodies to the limits in so many ways, that they nearly always feel pain. Yet, they go out and do their job day after day. They spend long hours on the court, the field, the ice; do countless reps in the gym alone, and they deal with the aches and pains without, for the most part, saying a word. This morning, I couldn’t even get out of bed.

I’ve been watching a lot of football lately (it’s back!!!!), and I can only imagine how banged up some of those guys are after a game. I’m thinking skaters who work triple jumps for hours each day may feel it in their knees later. And watching some college soccer players this weekend, I realized once again that the first time I tried to head a ball, I’d have a headache so ridiculous I might not even make it off the field. And my hip or shoulder? I bet Rafa Nadal doesn’t always feel loose enough to play like a champ. But he does. He did. And he was brilliant! (Congrats, Rafa!!)

I know we get used to watching these professionals compete, and sometimes even get frustrated when they don’t perform to our crazed-fan standards. Yet there’s not a one of them (even those who sometimes appear lazy or lackadaisical in their efforts) who doesn’t deal with more physical challenges than most of us can imagine. At least more than I can imagine. My hat is off to every athlete who takes the hits and still goes out day after day to do what they love to do, whether their knees hurt or they’re fighting a migraine or not.

Okay. Back to the topic of choice: the upcoming season in ice dance. There are some key empty spots in the ranks this year, and that will make for some differences in how competitions unfold. So, without further ado, let’s take a look.

Sitting at the top, for obvious reasons and without any real argument otherwise, are Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from Canada. Their gold in Vancouver wasn’t much of a surprise, per se, but it was an obvious exclamation point on what many people have been saying about these two for years – they’re the real deal. The amount of talent and skill makes everything they do look simple. I promise you, it is not. And the fact that they can garner such high technical marks while presenting such a remarkable story, filled with emotion, passion and elegance makes them magical to watch. This season, their challenge will be reinventing themselves. Coming back to “regular” competition after such an Olympic high isn’t always easy. Plus, there’s the “What do we do to top that?” syndrome. Never fear, though. If anyone can pull out all the new stops, it’s these two. I expect nothing less.

Their challengers, though, are chomping at the bit, waiting their turn to one up their friends and training mates. Meryl Davis and Charlie White produced one of the best Original Dance numbers ever last season, and they two will have to reinvent themselves. In order to get the scores they’ll need to take down Virtue and Moir, they’ll need to up the technical ante as well as smooth out some of their transitions and footwork sequences. The thing about Virtue and Moir is, everything looks like one, giant, sweeping movement. Davis and White tend to leave things a bit more sectioned. (Footwork….spin….lift….transition, etc.) That said, I have no doubt that their coach is pushing them both. The inspiration factor certainly lies more with Meryl and Charlie, as they still have something to prove. That could be enough to get them where they need to be.

Russians Oksana Domina and Maxim Shabalin are #3 to start the season. These two confuse me sometimes. I’m never quite sure why they get the high marks they do. No doubt they’re fearless, but she never seems to straighten her legs, and they certainly don’t have the smoothness or the polish that the top two (and even some lower scoring teams) do. They worked with the same coach as Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto for the last few seasons, and that pushed them to be better. However, they’ve got some work to do to become the “skater’s skater” type team that Virtue and Moir and Davis and White are. (Side note: Charlie White is dating Tanith Belbin…I wonder how active she will be in his skating career, now that her own competitive career is over.)

The French team of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat have certainly had their challenges. They managed to finish second to Virtue and Moir twice last year, before ending up 4th at Worlds. They always bring something unique to the table, and it’s evident they love to compete. They can’t quite seem to find that extra bit to push them over the top. I think their PCS scores need to improve to give them a leg up.

The sibling team of Sinead and John Kerr from Great Britain have impressed in the last few seasons. THey have an impeccable ability to get a crowd going, and that makes them ever so likable. They need to add a little bit technically to match up with the top teams, but they’ve been on a steady climb in that direction. I expect more of that from them as they look to get in the top three this season.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy, and Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier from Canada are 7th and 8th. I admitedly don’t know much at all about these two. The finished 12th and 14th at the Olympics respectively.

Number 9 is the young American team of Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates. These two are looking to carry on the relatively new tradition of solid American ice dance teams. Undoubtedly, these two were influenced by the success of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto who really put US ice dance on the map. Now, they look to be the next generation of that work. They definitely have the talent and the determination to do just that. From their icenetwork.com athlete profile, their goals for the season are “to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, finish in the top two at the U.S. Championships and place in the top seven at the World Championship.” Of course, it’s far to early to make any real predictions, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think they can do all three.

Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje finish off the top 10, and this is another young team that will make a splash as soon as this season. Third in Canada last year, they will be working to move up that ladder. I look forward to seeing what they have to offer together.

The bottom half of the top 20 is filled with several teams I’m not too familiar with, so I’ll key in on a couple of young American teams and leave the rest of my dance insight for the season.

Another brother-sister team, Maia and Alex Shibutani have been U.S. champs at the novice, intermediate and junior levels, and now they’ll be working towards a solid senior debut internationally. These two have some spark. They’ve got some skill. I can’t wait to see where their future takes them.

Madison and Keiffer Hubbell will be looking for the same kind of breakout season. With these two young teams coming up the ranks, I have to say, the future of US ice dance looks to be in great hands. I like what I see.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the powerhouses of the sport of ice dance are mainly North American? The super stars of the sport are getting the credit they deserve, and the momentum has shifted dramatically from only European skaters to the top Americans and Canadians. While there are a lot of things about the CoP judging system that I don’t love, I do like that in a lot of ways it leveled the playing field, and, especially for dance, made the requirements more clear cut.

Keep in mind, the discipline of ice dance will look dramatically different this year – no compulsory dances means no repetitive patterns of dance on ice. I’m not sure how I feel about this change (call me old school, but I like the focus on actual skating skill that compulsories brought, just as figures did to singles skaters), but what I’ve heard so far about the new “Short dance” seems mostly positive. I’ll reserve judgment until I see how it plays out in a few competitions with top teams, but it will definitely change the landscape of how dance competitions go. Often, some of the top teams in the world were not always tops in the CD (Belbin and Agosto, for one). That could shake up the standings, even with some of the top teams. Regardless, it makes for an interesting season. Once again, (I feel like I say this a lot…) I can’t wait!

I had every intention of putting up a video blog with this post, but due to the headache, I never got around to it. I’ll work on that for next time, especially since we’ll be moving on from our top 20 overview. We’ll see where the skating world takes us next, and try to get the camera out for the vlog as well.

Thanks again for all of you who come here and read my thoughts. I know many people checked out the blog after a twitter response I got from Erin Andrews – if you’re still reading, thank you! Erin is quite a role model, and I was blown away by the responses I got from some of you, both here and on twitter. Now, if you know anyone else who might like a little skating insight, send ’em on down! And, as always, feel free to comment, email thoughts (and even topic ideas or questions) to fromtheboards@gmail.com, and follow me on twitter for daily tid bits. I’m there 24/7 @fromtheboards, and I love hearing from you! You’re the best.

Until then…