Friday, January 9, 2009

And they keep on dropping...

Is it just me, or has this been the weirdest season for injuries in a very, very long time?

For those of you who haven't heard yet, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, the reigning (for five years!) US Champions in ice dancing, have withdrawn from US Nationals due to a back injury suffered by Agosto at the Grand Prix Final (they withdrew from that after the original dance).

I don't even know what to say to this (other than it's absolutely horrible). The ice dancing portion of the competition is going to have a huge, obvious hole in it--Belbin and Agosto have really been the face of what was previously America's least popular type of skating (until they showed up). After changing coaches over the summer, they've been noticibly changing up their style and working towards gold in Vancouver. They've basically been using this season to work out all of the kinks and issues in their skating so that they'll be perfect for 2010, and although they may not have had the Grand Prix season that they were hoping for, they've definitely been showing improvement.

If Ben's back heals, we're probably going to see them in March for the World Championships in Los Angeles (here's hoping that they'll make it to the Worlds that's happening in their home country). They've asked to be considered to the World team, and they'll most likely be added--the US has three spots at this year's Worlds, so it's likely that gold and silver at Nationals will go and bronze will be replaced by Belbin and Agosto.

On the other hand, this puts some serious pressure on Belbin and Agosto's former training mates, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They're now the serious favorites going into the competition, and I'm among the many B&A/D&W fans who are disappointed that they're won't be a big showdown at Nationals between the two teams. I (personally) prefer Davis and White as a team, but I would have prefered for them to win against a high level of competition. The battle for silver, however, will still be a big competition to watch.

And, in an effort to not be so American-centric, the World Champions, Delobel and Shoenfelder, are out of the European Championships. I have been following this story as closely, but, seriously, one of these days a competition is going to come up and no one will be there because everyone's been injured.

Here's hoping that everyone is up and about by the time the World Championships in Los Angeles come around!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I am alive...

I'm sorry if it looks like I've fallen off of the face of this Earth. I had computer virus problems, then health problems, then finals, and then that whole moving-back-home-oh-crap-it's-the-holidays-and-I-haven't-bought-gifts-because-of-my-stupid-anthropology-final thing.

Anyways, I desist. I know that I missed the end of the Grand Prix (as did most of the ISU, thanks to the bazillion withdrawals), so here are my thoughts on it in a few bullet pointy-things:

ICE DANCE: This competition would have been infinitely more interesting if there had been more competitors. But there weren't. Here's hoping that all sick/injured parties feel better soon! Also [I can't help it] MERYL AND CHARLIE GOT BRONZE (in the most watered-down competition of the year, but who's counting?? NOT ME)!!!!!! Yay!

PAIRS: Savchenko and Szolkowy didn't win, which was surprising...but it looks like the Chinese pairs are back on top for now. Good for them!

LADIES: Yu-Na didn't here's hoping that she'll get the World title in March. Mao Asada, however, pulled off two triple axels in her program--stunning now, but I haven't a feeling that she's going to need a hip replacement by age 25. Carolina Kostner's skating still doesn't do anything for me, but she got bronze. Joannie Rochette rallied to fourth place with a third-place freeskate that was really great.

MEN: Did anyone expect this whole new field of suddenly great men's skaters so close to the Olympics? I didn't. Jeremy Abbott won with a seriously amazing long program...Evan (who didn't qualify) and Johnny (who won bronze) should be watching their backs. US Nationals is going to be very interesting.

That's it. Again, I'm sorry for abandoning ship for awhile. However, it's almost January...and that means NATIONALS!!!! I can basically guarantee that I'm going to be here quite a bit :-)

Have a wonderful and happy New Year!!!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Rundown from Russia

Unfortunately, my love of skating is no match for the cold I've had for the past week...sorry for the lack of updates!

Cup of Russia is done and in the books. This GP stop drew me in a lot more than the other ones have. Since I still can't breath through my nose, here are the highlights (for me) from the competition (I might post a more in depth review later on):

-->Mens: If Brian Joubert and Tomas Verner were newspaper articles, they would be front page and center with the headline "We're Back!!" After seriously shakey starts to their seasons, these guys were on in Moscow. Joubert's long program, which placed fourth, wasn't up to his usual standard, but his short program was absolutely fantastic. From flirting with Tatiana Tarasova to nailing that pesky quad, the short got him enough points to safeguard his first place position. Tomas Verner skated brilliantly, placing second--he looked MUCH better than he has all season. The short program was a bit messy for most of the other competitors, the exception being Adam Rippon, who ended up in a very respectable fifth place overall after placing third in the short. Teammate Jeremy Abbott had some trouble with his short, but rallied back with a second place long that brought him up to fourth place (and bought him a ticket to Korea in December). Alban Preaubert placed third in the freeskate and overall to secure a bronze medal.

-->Ladies: Speaking of competitors getting their legs back under them (literally and figuratively), Carolina Kostner showed that she's not going anywhere. She placed second to a revamped Fumie Seguri (yes, she's still around) in the short, but skated a good long to move up to first place. She's gone back to her freeskate from last year. Rachael Flatt of the US was also there. After placing third in the short, she had a great long and secured the highest ladies placement for the US in the GP yet--second place. I haven't always been a big supporter of Rachael (her skating sometimes seems, well, (forgive me) flat). However she was ON in Russia. Kimmie Meissner's troubles continued, causing her to place eighth, and Alissa Csizny placed fourth.

-->Pairs: Pairs has always been a huge deal for the Russians, so Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov placing second to the Chinese pair of Zhang and Zhang was probably a bit of a blow. The Russian team won the freeskate, but was unable to overcome the point deficit that they'd accumulated in the short. I can't say that I love either of these teams, but they both looked pretty good.

-->Dance: This competition was INTENSE and definitely the highlight of this GP event for me (I seem to be saying that a lot this season). I was pretty sure that Oksana Domina and Maxim Shabalin had the gold medal locked up, but a second place finish in their OD and third in their slow, messy-looking FD caused them to lose the gold to teammates Jana Khoklova and Sergei Novitski. That's HUGE considering Domina and Shabalin are considered to be amongst the favorites for Worlds this year and Khoklova and Novitski are just, well, not. However, they certainly changed that with this competition--Khoklova and Novtiski looked cleaner and sharper than I've ever seen them look before. However, the absolute high point of this competition (I'm biased, I know, I'm sorry) was Meryl Davis and Charlie White's FD. After placing third in the CD, they had an absolutely disastrous OD where White stumbled on a twizzle and then just completely melted down afterwards (I couldn't watch it--he looked so upset). They dropped to fourth with a HUGE point deficit that seemed completely insurmountable (in ice dance, it's difficult to make up large differences in points since there aren't any big jumps that are rewarded heavily). Basically, I'd lost hope and debated whether or not I wanted to check the scores this morning. However, they came back with a HUGE bang. As though nothing had happened the day before, they pulled off and absolutely amazing FD with level fours on everything except their step sequences and came up with the highest technical scores of the night as well as a second place FD (yep, they beat Domina and Shabalin). (end gushing here)

I meant to leave you off with Meryl Davis and Charlie White's FD AND Brian Joubert's SP...but since only Brian has been posted on YouTube so far, I'll have to get back to you with the Meryl and Charlie video:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Takahashi Out for the Season?

As you've probably noticed (unless you've been living under a rock), this seems to be the season for surprise retirements and/or serious injuries. We already heard that Daisuke Takahasi, who broke the record for highest combined total under the CoP last year at the Four Continents Championship, dropped out of Cup of China due to an injury, but reports are trickling in from Japan that he's dropped out of the 2008-2009 season altogether to undergo surgery to his ACL.

This is horrible news for Daisuke who, after posting that huge total last season, faltered at Worlds and seemed to have a rough summer that included a coaching change due to rival Nobunari Oda arriving at his training center in New Jersey. Sitting out the season before the Olympics is never a beneficial thing, but it's best that he rests and is fully healthy for the 09-10 season. Good luck, Daisuke!

Taking up the reins of the Japanese mens field will be countrymen Nobunari Oda, who is back this season, and Takahiko Kozuka, who, with a gold at Skate America and silver at Bompard, has cemented his place at the top of his field. Takahashi's hiatus also increases the chance that men who didn't perform at their best, such as Evan Lysacek, will have a better chance at making the Final.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Great White North is Golden

While the world champions prevailed, as they often do, in pairs and ice dancing at Trophee Eric Bompard this past week, it was the ladies and mens divisions that proved that the winds of change may be blowing over the ISU.

My second favorite country in the world (I'm from New York, and I can never get over how nice they are just over the border in Ontario) swept up the golds in both mens and ladies.

With some serious style (is it just me or is he starting to skate a lot like Jeff Buttle?!), and perhaps a bit of deja vu, Patrick Chan won both the short and the long, defending his Trophee Bompard title that he won--with equal amounts of shock and surprise--last year. Chan's 2007 win in France was a way of telling the world "I'm here," and his most recent win there surely sends another message..."watch out." Hearing that message loud and clear was 2007 World Champion Brian Joubert, who, like many of figure skating's supposed A-list this season, didn't skate so well. He ended up in a shocking fourth place (remember when we made a big deal over Evan Lysacek getting third?) when he was the favorite to sweep the competition away. Beating him for the second time this season was Alban Préaubert, who seems to have cleaned up his technique a bit--I didn't cringe as much every time he jumped--skated a great program to capture third place. Takahiko Kozuka of Japan, who shocked the world and won Skate America over favorites Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek, proved that he's here to stay with a silver medal performance.

The ladies short and long programs were equally surprising. American Emily Hughes came back for her lone Grand Prix event this season and struggled a bit--it looks like she has her work cut out for her. Caroline Zhang, also of the US, rallied back from a disappointing beginning of the season to capture bronze. I like her programs this year--much more age appropriate than her "Ave Maria" freeskate last year--but I still cringe whenever she goes into a toe jump. It never ceases to amaze me that no one thought to correct that horrible upswing over her free-leg whenever she goes into a lutz or flip. It might help her rotate her jumps better. Moving on, it was the top two ladies who really were the talk of the competition. Mao Asada, who had a great season last year and is now coached by the one and only Tatiana Tarasova, just looked completely tense and uncomfortable. Both her short and long were flawed, and she seemed to not be there mentally--surprising, since this is the girl who completely face-planted on a triple axel at the beginning of her 2008 Worlds freeskate and then pulled the whole thing together to skate an otherwise flawless program, not exactly an easy thing to do. This left a small crack in the door open (remember that Asada always has her stellar PCS to fall back on, as well as her otherwise great jumping and spinning ability), and the new Joannie Rochette skated right through it. Although her programs weren't perfect (a fall on a triple flip in the short and a popped loop in the long), the showcased the great style that she developed over the summer. She looked relaxed and powerful, and it was just one of those moments where, when she stepped on the ice, you knew that she was going to do it. In addition to her amazing jumps, I couldn't help but notice that she had some gorgeous dresses on. The teal-ish blue of her long program dress probably went great with her gold medal :-).

Things to take away from this competition:
1) Nothing in figure skating is ever certain.
2) Look out for Canada--they want to be on their own podium in Vancouver, and this competition shows that they have every right to be.
3) Feathers should never, ever be used on figure skating outfits (I'm looking at you, Brian Joubert).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cup of China Wrapup

I've been putting off writing about Cup of China because, well, like most of the competitions, it was incredibly underwelming. It seemed like there were so many expectations for the season, and most of them have not been realized. So, I guess you could say that I'm a little bit depressed.

Some highlights (there aren't many):

1) Jeremy Abbott and Stephen Carriere go 1-2: I can honestly say that I did not predict this. I was thinking Verner and then Carriere, with bronze up for grabs. Verner, who has had a less than stellar season so far, fought for his bronze medal, but it was Jeremy Abbott who took the spotlight. Both of his programs were beautiful--he is such a musical skater. With the way Evan and Johnny have skated this season, I'd say that Nationals this year should be very, very interesting. Great job, Jeremy. Who would have thought that he'd be the highlight of the US men so far this season?

2) Belbin and Agosto vs. Domina and Shabalin: They've got the same coaches. They skate at the same rink. They came THIS CLOSE to getting the same score. I was not impressed by either of these teams (this new style of Belbin and Agosto's is just not working for me at all--it's just not them!!). Domina and Shabalin edged (and I mean edged--they won the FD by one one hundredth of a point) out their training mates for the gold.

3) Yu-Na Kim: She won by a huge majority yet again. I think that the only person who will really be able to beat her (provided that she remains injury free and doesn't have a Kimmie-style mental breakdown) is Mao Asada. Remember that we haven't seen them compete against each other yet, and most likely will not until the GP Final in Kim's home country. As usual, Kim was mesmerizing, despite a few flaws that she quickly made you forget about. Miki Ando, in her second match up against Kim in the GP, skated better than she did at Skate America, but just could not compete with Kim.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Underdogs on Top

If you'd asked me who I thought would bring home a gold medal at Cup of China for the US, I would have immediately replied Belbin and Agosto and said that the other Americans competing didn't really have a chance.

Well, I'd be wrong. Jeremy Abbott won the short program and the freeskate, beating out fellow American Stephen Carriere and European Champion Tomas Verner. This means that the only gold medals this season for the US have not come from their number ones--Tanith and Ben, Evan Lysacek, Mirai Nagasu...--but from the runners up Meryl Davis and Charlie White and, now, Jeremy Abbott.

More on Cup of China later...I was just super-excited for Jeremy and had to write this!!!!