Figure Skating: From the Boards

Omaha or Bust: Dance party, anyone? January 23, 2013

PrintLet’s just go ahead and start here: Meryl Davis and Charlie White should leave Omaha with yet another National title.

As good as U.S. ice dance has become, as deep as this field is, as many ways as the rest of the podium could shape up, there is still no one near Davis and White, technically or artistically. It’s as simple as that.

That’s not to say the rest of the field isn’t improving, too. In fact, some of the U.S. teams are in the running for “most improved,” even internationally speaking. It’s just that Davis and White keep pushing the envelope, not for anyone else, but just to push themselves one step closer to a shot at Olympic gold.

They’ve done it this season, going undefeated so far. In fact, they haven’t stood anywhere but the top of the podium since losing the World Title to training mates Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir last March.

I could talk about Meryl and Charlie all day, but the fact remains: they’re the class of the field. I can’t wait to see them throw down two more electrifying skates.

But, I’m equally as excited to see what the rest of the field does.

Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt are one of those teams in the “most improved” category. They’ve been on the brink of breaking through before, and last year’s Nationals gave them a chance to do just that.

Everyone loved them at Skate America, and they took gold at the Ice Challenge Graz. They don’t quite have the speed and the flow of the world’s top teams, but there’s one thing they do as well as anyone else: entertain. Audiences buy what they’re selling from the moment they step on the ice. That makes for great fun, and combined with challenging technical elements, great scores.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue would love to repeat their Nationals performances from a year ago. Those performances validated their new partnership, and gave them a spot on the World Team. But, their path to the podium won’t be easy. Not with Madison Chock and Evan Bates hungry for a shot of their own.

Chock and Bates have an ethereal quality to their skating. Plus, they are so committed to the characters of their programs that it’s nearly impossible not to get sucked into the story they create! They built slowly as the season progressed, starting with an unsatisfying performance at the US International Classic in Salt Lake, but finishing with a much better Cup of China competition. They’re scores put them right in the medal hunt, and in fact, only one team not named Davis/White has a higher season’s best than they do: Maia and Alex Shibutani.

The Shibs have had to deal with some significant physical limitations this season. Alex, dealing with a left leg injury, struggled through the competition in Russia. After treating that, though, their NHK Trophy performance was much stronger. They finished third with a 154+.

Since then, they’ve made improvements to the overall polish of their programs, and especially to the Short Dance. Technically, they’re right up there. Still young, they don’t always pull in the component marks. But, they are still, at least on paper, the second-best team in America.

They just have to prove it.

The battle for the podium will be fierce, no doubt. With five teams capable of earning a trip to Worlds, and only three spots available, there will be fireworks. And it’s going to be awesome.

Who would you like to see on the podium?

Here are my picks.

Gold: Davis/White
Silver: Shibutani/Shibutani
Bronze: Chock/Bates
Pewter: Kriengkrairut/Giulietti-Schmitt

 

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter (@FromTheBoards) for updates from Omaha. And, if you’re an instagramer, follow me @TaraBethW for pictures throughout the week!

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Nice — Dance, Dance, Dance March 30, 2012

 

On To The Springs! Four Continents — Dance Preview February 8, 2012

Any chance we have to watch Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Meryl Davis & Charlie White compete, we should consider ourselves the lucky ones to live in a generation where ice dance is competitive and entertaining as any other discipline. And, because we get to see two of the best ice dance teams ever go head-to-head.

Because those two are in the competition, we can all safely assume that the battle among the other teams is for the bronze medal. For some of those other teams, that may not be their favorite thing ever. But, there’s no doubt that the Canadian and American champs have elevated the sport for everyone within it.

Still, there will be plenty of drama unfolding … it is ice dance, after all! But, only the select few will claim the hardware.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White easily win their third straight National title

They make the MOST difficult things look so easy.

Gold: Meryl Davis and Charlie White

You’d think at some point we’d get tired of predicting gold for these two. But, you’d be wrong. They continue to elevate their skating to new heights, in attempts to fend off their friends and arch-rivals, Virtue and Moir.

There has been significant discussion this season as to which team has the better free dance. I’ve stood by Davis and White’s waltz all season, for one simple reason — it shows them off at the very best, in every way. it’s not their character portrayal that makes this strong. It’s their dance. Their lines, their flow, their ease of movement, their transitions, their edge quality, their control, their closeness … all things Virtue and Moir do as well, but in this instance, Davis and White seem to do more confidently.

We have yet to see how clean short dances compare, but with a few minor changes for Davis and White, they could still hold the advantage. In fact, they’ll need to hold that advantage to win the event.

Silver: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

There’s no doubt these two are hungry to once again top the podium. But, the late-season changes to both programs have them “behind the eight ball,” so to speak, in their level of comfort — and, thus, quality — throughout. That said, they’re pros. They know how to push when they need to push. And they’ll need to do just that to take advantage of any wiggle room Davis and White leave.

To clarify, it’s not that I don’t like their “Funny Face” free dance. I simply don’t think it highlights their flow, line, grace, elegance, etc. like past programs have. Their character portrayal is first rate. Scott owns this dance. It just sells them short, in my opinion. Ultimately, it’s just that — an opinion. What matters is how they incorporate the latest changes to squeeze every last point out of the dance.

It will be, as others have said, splitting hairs between the two. And if there’s ever a place to take back the momentum for the Canadians, it’s here. If only it were that easy. (more…)

 

Vlog: Dancers and Ladies Strike Gold … & Silver & Bronze & Pewter! January 29, 2012

Recorded this just after the events ended last night. Knew I wouldn’t have time to get the recap done before today’s events got underway!

Congrats to the medalists!

Find COMPLETE results here: usfigureskating.org

 

Vlog: Dancers and Men Spice Up The Pavilion On day 2 January 28, 2012

 

Tweet all about it, San Jose style! January 24, 2012

With titles already being decided in San Jose, senior competitors are getting their Nationals on, twitter style. Keeping up with all the buzz is tricky, but here are some of the latest and greatest!

Some of the crew has already arrived.

Others have just arrived, giving us visuals to confirm.

And others can’t wait to join in the action!

Can you feel the buzz?! I sure can. Ahh, Nationals!!

 

Do You Know The Way To San Jose: Dance Preview January 20, 2012

“I can’t keep up with your turning tables …” Or at least that’s how it’s felt, trying to keep track of the head-spinning game of musical partners! But, all the switcheroos are complete, and we’re left with a field full of promise. With ice dance becoming such a hotly contested international event, it’s a little odd to feel so confident in the gold medal hopefuls. But, when those hopefuls are *this close* to their second consecutive undefeated season, it’s understandable. That’s not to say we won’t have a strong event on our hands, though.

The Break Down

Meryl Davis & Charlie White — What else can you say about these two that hasn’t already been said? They are phenomenal. They are, however, coming off of a controversial win at the Grand Prix Final over training mates Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Well, the win wasn’t controversial, I suppose. The difference after the Short Dance portion more than made up for the scoring error, courtesy of the ever-changing ISU code of points system. What that does say, though, is that their brilliant waltz Free Dance isn’t untouchable. They’ve determined to stay the course, though, and focus on quality (which is code for “Grades of Execution”). Here, though, their biggest competition is their own expectations.

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani — These two are undoubtedly the second-best American team this season. That said, there may be some unfair pressure on them, after their meteoric rise. They still need time to develop. They need polish. They need an “edge” that goes beyond elegance and good posture. I adore watching them skate, and they continue to improve, this season winning their first Grand Prix gold. They should be a lock for the podium (and likely one of the three World Team spots). *Knock on wood*

Madison Chock & Evan Bates
— This is, perhaps, the couple that benefited most from Pass-The-Partner. Evan came into this season after being sidelined with an achilles injury last year. He has the experience — and the required skills — of being an Olympian with former partner Emily Samuelson. Those two looked to be the anointed ones, coming up through the shadow of Tanith Belbin/Ben Agosto and David/White. But, when they split and Maddie’s partner Greg retired, there was uncertainty for a while. But only until Maddie and Evan stepped on the ice together. They are magical. They engage each other so deeply that you can’t help but be drawn in. They understand choreography (just go back and look at Chock/Zuerlein’s FD last year!), they pay attention to detail, and, oh yeah, they have pretty solid technique. They’ve picked up the partnering thing as quick as anyone, and blown me away all season long. Their FD is one of my favorites of the year. I fully expect them to push for the podium. (more…)