Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NRW Trophy_entries and schedule

SCHEDULE (all times are GMT +1)

Friday, December 7th 
Pairs Short program: 19.10

Saturday, December 8th 
Ladies Short program: 11.00
Men Short program: 16.00
Pairs Free skate: 21.00

Sunday, December 9th 
Ladies Free skate: 11.00
Men Free skate: 16.45

The Pairs event will be dominated by Savchenko/Szolkowy who had to withdraw from a Grand Prix competition and couldn't make it to th final that will take place in the same days in Sochi.
Some competition will come from Berton/Hotarek, who are competing here two weeks before their Nationals. The Italian team looks improved from last year as they got more solid on technical elements such as the triple twist that was a weakness for them last year. This is going to be a test competition for them before Europeans and Worlds where they will need to fight against emerging couples as the French Popova/Massot and James/Cipres also competing at NRW Trophy.

The men's competition seemed to be a lot more interesting few days ago when everybody thought Plushenko would have been there, but he decided to skip this competition in order to prepare for Nationals (24-30 December). Although, the competition hosts some big names as well. Michal Brezina and Artur Gachinsky look for redemption after a not brilliant fall season and try to get in a good shape for Europeans where both have been medalists before.

The ladies competition is the event everyone is looking for for the season debut of Olympic Champion Kim Yuna. She will present her new programs there after a stop season. Other competitors are Valentina Marchei who looks very improved from the last seasons, Viktoria and Joshi Helgesson and Ksenia Makarova who will need to get the minimum technical score for Worlds (if she will qualify against all of her compatriots)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

NHK Trophy Ladies result


Mao Asada was visibly more nervous than yesterday and probably for that missed some jumps: she doubled a loop, a lutz and a flip and singled a salchow for a total of three triples (with a double axel-triple toe combo). She was very disappointed at the end of the program, she had ten points of lead on Suzuki after the short. As she competed today she didn't deserve a first place nor to score 117.32 just a point less than the cup of China free skate, where she skated a lot better. Anyway she is a delightful skater and I just hope she will get better in the jumping as the season goes on.
Akiko Suzuki has got one of the best free skate of the season choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo. She skated super clean with seven triples all flawlessly executed. She did a couple of lutzes, a flip, a stunning double axel-triple toe and two triple loops. She is always very solid in the free skate but she has struggled in the short program so far in the season. She scored 126.62 that is a new personal best.
Mirai Nagasu despite the expectations, at least mine, she skated brilliantly with six triples (but some of them could be called under rotations or downgrades) but anyway, the program overall was very good. She scored 115.50.
Zijun Li was seeking her first senior podium today after being third in the short program. That was not easy for her, since Suzuki, who was fifth in the short, had a gorgeous free skate, but she performed very well nailing six triples including a stunning triple flip-triple toe. She is a packaged skater with amazing spins and good steps. Here she got 114.49 that is a new Chinese record for the ladies. She didn't medal today, but she could be a real contender in the future.
Zawadzky needed a silver medal for making it to the final and that was not an easy job after the seventh place finish of the short. She scored just a point less than the one she received at Cup of Russia. She started well with a tiple lutz and a triple toe-triple toe but later on fell on the second triple lutz and doubled her flip. 105.35

NHK Trophy Men Result

Yuzuru Hanyu - ISU Grand Prix NHK Trophy - Day Three
Yuzuru Hanyu could have skated better, but the same won on the free and overall. He landed both his quads, struggling a little bit on the salchow and landed two stunning triple axels in the second half of the program. He did some mistakes at the end like a fall on triple lutz and a unusual fall on a spin. He scored 165.71 and won the competition.
Daisuke Takahashi has a very ambitious program for him with difficult elements that distract him a little bit from interpreting the music. He was quite disastrous at Cup of China and improved his score of twenty points. He neilde one quad toe, the second one was two footed, did two triple axels, and some other triples getting 164.04.
Ross Miner had an excellent skate where he landed almost anything he was supposed to. That was one of the best performance from a US skater in a long time. He nailed a quad salchow and a couple of triple axels. Later on he attempted  a triple lutz-triple toe but doubled the toe. Anyway he landed four more triples with ease and he showed himself as a competitor for gold at Nationals. 161.96
Javier Fernandez struggled a lot in his free skate and lost an expected medal but qulified for grand prix final. He executed a stunning quad salchow and some good triples in the second half of the program, but stepped out on the first quad toe and fell on the second, fell within a transition and didn't land any triple axel. 146.55
Dornbush had problems at the beginning of the program with his two quads attempt, one he doubled and fell on the second but then skated very well nailing two triple axels and a stunning triple lutz-triple toe with both hands up on both jumps.147.51

Friday, November 23, 2012

Yuzuru Hanyu short program analysis

After seeing Yuzuru Hanyu at 2012 Worlds it was very clear for everybody that the kid would have done something special in the future. I just didn't expect it to happen so soon.
The Japanese skater is just 17 but already medaled at words at his debut last year. After that amazing result, under the coaching of Brian Orser, Yuzuru started the season better than always scoring a world record at the very first grand prix of the season. And that was not a fluke, because at NHK Trophy he was able to top the previous world record with 95,32 in front of the home crowd.

I remember Brian Orser being interviewed before the 2010 Olympics about who he tought would have been the favourite for the gold in the men event. In the "quad or not quad" debate, he answered Stephane Lambiel because he had both quad and artistry. But then Evan Lysacek won without that difficult jump and for this men's figure skating has changed so much that now the bar is not "the quad" anymore, but "how many quads".
Yuzuru is one of those who have a pretty consistent quad toe in the short program (nailed it both at Skate America and NHK Trophy). As others, he decided it to be his solo jump. The solo jump needs to be preceeded by steps, which is a very hard job if you are doing a quad after those steps. Some of the skaters don't even attempt them and that costs them points on the goe. This is not his case, since he does some steps before his toe (not actually very difficult steps but enough for getting +2 or +3 on a well executed jump).

 As some have said, that score of 95.07 was the result of the introduction of the new rule for that you receive a bonus for jumps executed in the second half of the short program. Indeed he placed both his triple axel and the triple lutz-triple toe combo in the second half getting two more points overall on the base value of the jumps (last year the base value of triple axel plus triple lutz-triple toe combo was 18.60, while this year is 20.46 with the bonus).
He is very solid on both jumping passes and his triple axel is outstanding everytime. In last year's free skate he did the axel directly taken from a spread eagle and  I have actually the feeling that he could do anything before and still land it. In the short he has a very difficult transition going in, with several steps and a final left outside to inside edge counter turn as the entrance of the axel.
His triple-triple combo is always easy and perfectly executed.

Yuzuru got a level four for any spin he does in his short program (at Skate America got a level three in the sit spin).
Flying Camel spin: the camel spin is always very hard for a man, because the natural lack of flexibility does not allow difficult position but since Yuzuru is very young compared to others, he can still count on a good stretch and a donut position.
Combo sit spin: I think that at Skate America he was missing a feature for getting level four, but at NHK he did a variation so that he was given the highest level. Features were
1. Backward entrance
2. Change of edge (from outside to inside)
3. Increase of speed
4. Difficult variation
Camel combo spin: it is a level four for features
1. All three basic positions (sit, camel and upright)
2. Jump executed withing the spin landing on the same foot
3. Change of edge (on the camel position from inside to outside)
4. Difficult variation

As for steps Yuzuru haven't received a level four yet, but since he got it in the previous seasons, he just needs to refine a little bit the footwork.

Yuzuru Hanyu Short Program isu protocol comparison

SA 2012
NHK 2012
GPF 2012

4 toe
Flying camel spin
3,84 (4)
4,13 (4)
4,13 (4)
Combo sit spin
3,39 (3)
3,93 (4)
3,71 (4)
3 axel
3 lutz-3 toe combo
7,69 (< and fall on the toeloop
Step sequence
4,37 (3)
3,3 (3)
5,30 (4)
Camel combo spin
4,21 (4)
4,43 (4)
4,14 (4)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

NHK Trophy Ladies preview

Three ladies are trying to qualify to Grand Prix Final at NHK.
Mao Asada is the one who will very likely go there as she won Cup of China three weeks ago. Mao Asada is missing the Grand Prix Final since Seoul 2008 where she won. She didn’t qualify in 2009 and 2010 and had to withdraw last year. Mao has become a little bit inconsistent in the past two years, especially for the struggles she have had with her triple axel and sometimes with the rotation on easier jumps. At Cup of China she looked pretty strong on the whole and she has delightful programs. As far as she avoids the triple axels which is an element she does not land constantly, she is kind of sure to be on the top (maybe Ashley Wagner alone could top her).

The second Japanese lady could qualify for the final too. Akiko Suzuki won the silver at Skate Canada behind Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond who wasn’t able to get a second assignment at NHK replacing Czisny who is still recovering from injury. At Skate Canada Akiko struggled in her short program but won the free with about 120 points (a score three points more than Asada’s free skate) getting, in my opinion, underscored on components. She is the 2011 NHK Trophy champion and could defend pretty well her title.

While the Japanese ladies, as favourites in the upcoming event, are almost sure to get to the final, other skaters need to fight for the last available spot.
Agnes Zawadzky is one of those. She earned the bronze medal at Cup of Russia with two very good programs. She has always been kind of inconsistent jumper but not this year yet and with a silver medal she is in the final (could possibly with a bronze medal too).

Mirai Nagasu was supposed to skate just at Cup of China, but since Polina Shelepen withdrew from NHK, Mirai had a chance of a second grand prix. At Cup of China she wasn’t so brilliant and her future perspective aren’t very bright considering that USA has two spots for ladies at next worlds and the national field is on a higher level at the moment. She placed fourth there struggling a lot on rotating her jumps (she got three under rotations and two jumps were downgraded). Her possibilities of being on the podium at NHK depend on how Zawadzky performs.

Gold: Mao Asada (JPN)
Silver: Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
Bronze Agnes Zawadzky (USA)

NHK Trophy, Dance preview

The dance event is a very predictable one, especially during the grand prixs when the top three teams are assigned in six different competitions.
NHK is predictable as well with an almost sure gold to Davis/White and a possible challenge between the Shibutanis and Ilinykh/Katsalapov (even if it is pretty sure that the Russians will take the silver).

Davis/White debuted at Skate America, the first of the grand prixs, and still own the season best score.
They do have a brilliant balletic short dance to Giselle and a not so loved free dance to Notre Dame de Paris.
Technically they are always very prepared since the beginning of the season and they showed it this year too (despite some little troubles in their free at Skate America). Anyway, the question is: can they mantein a margin of lead in the second half of the season when Virtue/Moir seem to be slightly stronger?
Meryl and Charlie chose a free dance trying to make up the gap with the Canadians in terms of connection and chemistry between them. They are very excited of their Notre Dame program and said that they finally found that extra thing in their skating (read the interview here) but  they actually didn't show it very much in their previous competition. On the other side their free dance has some amazing elements, like the spin and all the lifts, that highlight their musicality and commitment.

Talking about free dance, I felt really uncomfortable with Ilinkh/Katsalapov's. The Russian team has immensly improved from last year and will likely get the silver here but their music choice is not the best of all in my opinion. I really hated how speaking parts and then screams were put above the music. Anyway I have to say that their skating abilities are always beautiful, I just prefered a more classic style for them.

The Shibutanis instead were unfortunately protagonist of a unlucky skating moment. At Cup of Russia, in the middle of their "Memoirs of a Geisha" routine Alex stopped for a leg pain, discussed with coaches and then continued. He was in real pain at the kiss and cry and I wish he recovered in these two weeks. During that hard moment his sister Maia was so sweet and worried about him that that turned into an overcoming thing to me. They placed fourth at Cup of Russia and almost surely won't go to the final but I really love their skating and their new free dance is the best they have ever had.

Gold: Davis/White (USA)
Silver: Ilinykh/Katsalapov (RUS)
Bronze: Shibutani/Shibutani (USA)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NHK Trophy, Men preview

NHK Trophy is the last of the grand prix events of the season. This competition will decide the last skaters who will qualify for the final in Sochi.
In the men’s event three spots are still available and will probably go to Japanese Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu who got a silver medal in the previous grand prixs and Javier Fernandez, the winner of Skate Canada.
Yuzuru Hanyu debuted at Finlandia Trophy and then skated at Skate America. Yuzuru usually has some problems with finding the physical form at the beginning of the season and struggles a little bit more in the first competitions than at Nationals or Worlds. Though he skated very well early in the season so far, even without finding consistency yet. He won Finlandia Trophy against team mate Javier Fernandez  with an outstanding free skate featuring two quads (a toe and a salchow) and two triple axels.
At Skate America he had a fabulous short program scoring a world record of 95.  . The world record came from the new rule that gives extra points on jumps executed in the second half of the short program (he does the triple axel and the triple lutz-triple toe in the second half). Anyway, Yuzuru owns the best score of the season for this segment and proved he can challenge the leaders of the sport both technically and components wise. At Skate America the Japanese kind of collapsed in the free skate, losing his ten points of lead to the second giving up the gold medal to Takahiko Kozuka, so at the moment it is just a question of consistency for him but there’s no doubt that the young man is incredibly talented.
Daisuke Takahashi disappointed a little bit at Cup of China where he was the absolute favorite for the gold but as Yuzuru he lost the gold against another Japanese, Tatsuki Machida who also qualified for the final. Everyone thought that Daisuke could have been the one able to beat Patrick Chan, as he did at World Team Trophy and at Japan Open in October. He is one skater that always pushes himself on an improvement year after year but this season he had a struggle in his Cup of China free skate. Maybe that was just a bad competition for him and will have a redemption in front of the home crowd.
Javier Fernandez was the most pleasing surprise of the 2011 fall season where he got medal after medal. I had high expectations on him heading to the European Championships but he struggled there and at Worlds not showing all of his potential. He came back strong this season with ambitious programs and won against a not so brilliant Patrick Chan at Skate Canada. He still struggles a little bit on his lutz but did put a quad toe in his short program and attempts three quads in the free (was able to do two of them at Skate Canada), one in the second half of the program and looked pretty consistent on them.
Considering the level of this guys, I don’t think any other skater could get to the podium here, actually all the three can be equally finish on any spot of the podium, depending on how they will perform this week.

It is so hard to predict, but here my picks
Gold: Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Silver: Javier Fernandez (ESP)
Bronze: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

TEB Ladies free skate. Ashley Wagner shines again

Ashley Wagner was superb today and is proving to be very consistent this season. She did six triples with a couple of flips, a lutz, and two loops. Maybe she was supposed to do a double axel-triple toe combo but she didn't land the double axel well enough for it so, even considering how magic her program was, there's still room for improvement. She was superior to anyone interpretation wise and got a season best of 127.54.
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva had a terrific free skate as one of those that helped her win the two grand prixs last season. She landed seven triples featuring triple lutz-triple toe, triple lutz, triple flip, double axel-two footed triple toe, triple salchow-double toe-double loop, triple loop, double axel. She was very satisfied at the end of the program and scored 121.36
Julia Lipnitskaya had some ups and downs in her program. She started very well with a stunning triple lutz-triple toe,then singled the toe of a meant to be double axel-triple toe, but then repeated it and nailed it with an extra double toe after the triple.Other mistakes were a hand down on a triple lutz and doubled a salchow. She scored 115.76 and got the bronze.
Christina Gao skated brilliantly today. She had a disappointing short program ranking seventh but shined in the free skate landing six triples: triple flip-double toe, double axel, triple lutz-double toe, triple flip, triple salchow, triple loop, triple toe-double toe-double loop. 112.16
Mae Berenice Meite was surprisingly in fourth after the short program. She did a big mistake at the beginning of the program with a fall on a under rotated triple flip but then regrouped and landed 3lz, 3lo, 2a-3t, 3f-2t, 3t-2t, 2a but she couldn't save her fourth place and was outskated by Christina Gao and scored 102.75.
Polina Korobeynikova double flip, double axel-triple toe, triple loop-double toe, triple loop with step out, fell on triple salchow, single salchow. 90.32

TEB: Men free skate


I think anyone thought that Japan wouldn't have medal here, after medaling at any gp men competition with five different skaters (and very likely will medal at NHK Trophy too), instead Takahiko Mura had a superb free skate after ranking second in the short program and got the gold medal winning his first grand prix. He nailed his quad toe, triple lutz-triple toe, triple axel, triple loop, triple axel-double toe, triple salchow, triple lutz, his only mistake was a single flip at the end of the program. 154.03

Jeremy Abbott's free skate was an absolute piece of art but struggled technically and did triple lutz, two footed his quad toe, triple flip-double toe, triple axel, single axel-double toe, triple lutz-triple toe with a tough landing, triple loop, doubled his salchow and got silver here. 146.45

Brian Joubert struggled at the beginning of his program: he fell on quad toe and made his second quad a triple, but then landed some good jumps as triple axel-double toe, triple flip, triple lutz, triple loop, triple salchow-double axel, triple flip with a turn-double toe. I think that his free program is kind of different from what he used to present improving his interpretation. Anyway he scored 134.70 and ranked behind Amodio.
Florent Amodio performed very clean after a disastrous short that put him in seventh. He would have been a perfect program if he didn't miss the combination after the second triple axel that had to be followed by another jump and for not doing it he received a -3 on its grade of execution. Anyway he nailed his quad salchow in which he struggled yesterday and a triple flip, triple lutz, double axel, triple salchow-triple toe. 154.12
Nan Song had to withdraw from Cup of China due to a collision with Adam Rippon during the Free skate warm up and his paticipation at TEB was uncertain but he performed very well here landing quad toe, triple axel-double toe, triple axel, triple lutz-triple toe, triple flip, triple loop hand down, double axel-double toe, triple salchow. He had a very good Technical elements score but got more than ten points less than Amodio in the components score for a total of 139.73.

TEB: Pairs Free skate

Kavaguti/Smirnov had a four points lead after the short program on Duhamel/Radford. They struggled in their side by side triple toe double axel with slight step outs on both jumps as often seen from them (Yuko two footed the toe that maybe could be under rotated) , but then performed an incredibly elegant program with throw triple loop, triple twist, double axel side by side, throw triple loop. They won the competition but ranked second in the free with 121.21.
Duhamel/Radford had a very technically ambitious program as usual and it was well done. They did a triple twist, triple lutz side by side, side by side triple salchow-double toe-double toe in the second half of the program. Megan fell on throw triple loop but regrouped on throw triple flip that was perfect. They scored 124.43
Berton/Hotarek fought in their free and made some mistakes. They did a very good side by side triple toe-double toe-double toe, then doubled a throw salchow, and Stefania held on her throw triple loop. Anything else had a very good quality especially a beautiful carry lift. They scored 112.19 and got bronze here.
Peng/Zhang opened with an outstanding quadruple twist that caused the gasp of the crowd, fell on throw triple loop singled the double axel side by side, then had a good throw triple salchow. They skated to the same music as Berton/Hotarek and they ranked behind them. 107.84
Stolbova/Klimov struggled in their short program getting the fifth place. They had a good free skate with difficult elements in the second half of the program, especially a throw triple salchow at the very end of it. They struggled a little bit in their triple twist,since Fedor get his arm around Ksenia's wrist in the landing and on side by side double axel that Ksenia turned into a single. They got 113.09

Friday, November 16, 2012

TEB Ladies short program

Julia Lipnitskaya was affected by an ankle injury and it wasn't sure she would have competed but she didn't show anything of it in her short program. The jumping quality wasn't good as usual, but that was really good. She completed a triple lutz-triple toe combo, a triple flip and a double axel and super spins. She got 63.55 and won the short program.

Ashley Wagner shined in this performance and showed a superb confidence and strenght. She nailed all she was supposed to do, from jumps to spins and interpretation. She did a triple flip-double toe, a double axel and a triple loop in the second half of the program. For me she deserved to be in first because her quality was superior to anyone else but Lipnitskaya's technical base value was higher so, despite Ashley was three points above Julia in the components score, the US champion ranked second with 63.09

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva changed her "Love Story" short showed at Skate Canada into a Tango program. She wasn't so solid as usual in jumping but she nailed her triple toe-triple toe combo (a lot easier combo than   the one she used to do last year) a good triple lutz and great double axel. She scored 58.26

Mae Berenice Meite wasn't supposed to be a contender here, but she was clean and her actual program suits her and highlights her qualities more than other she have had in the past. She did a triple toe-triple toe combo, a triple lutz and double axel all executed very well with power and ease. She got 54.48 and now she is in fourth place.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Trophee Eric Bompard schedule

Times are GMT +1

Friday 16th november
15.00: Pairs short program
16.30:Men short program
18.15: Ladies short program
20.00: short dance

Saturday 17th november
13.40: Pairs free
15.25: Men free
18.30: Ladies free
20:30: Free dance

TEB: Men's preview

The men’s event at Trophee Eric Bompard is kind of weak, especially in comparison with NHK Trophy next week that will host Fernandez, Takahashi and Hanyu. None of the skaters listed here have medaled in a grand prix this year yet. On the other hand some of them withdrew, or could withdraw later, due to different injuries.
Jeremy Abbott could be the winner here as he is basically the best in this competition. He debuted at Skate America and ranked third in the short program but struggled in the free skate because of a spine problem.
Jeremy Abbott is one of those skaters you really want to have a successful program because his quality and commitment to the music is supreme. However he is not that consistent as anyone would like and rarely shows all his potential at the beginning of the season. But this competition is not very challenging and he could go for gold.
Florent Amodio could be a gold contender. He is not as sharp as Abbott, but he has a great charisma on the ice.
As Amodio is a loved skater, the heart of French crowd beats for former World champion Brian Joubert. Brian debuted at Cup of China but, as saw in the previous years too, he withdrew after the short program, so he could possibly withdraw here too. He is a good skater, I am not sure he will be competitive in the next few years on the world stage because he is not so good at components, but in some competitions he could be a top skater for his great jumping content.
Someone would probably name Tomas Verner for a podium prediction. Maybe we’re going to see a Brezina-like competition getting a bronze here, but Verner is dramatically unconfident about his jumping since three years and didn’t seem more solid on his previous grand prix. I would rather consider Nan Song as a podium contender despite his accident at cup of China. He seems to have had a good recovery after the collition with Adam Rippon and he has all the qualities for being on the podium.
Gold: Jeremy Abbott
Silver: Florent Amodio
Bronze:Nan Song

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

TEB: DANCE PREVIEW Pechalat Bourzat on the rise

In the French Grand prix event, a “French top” will be reached in the dance event with Pechalat/Bourzat trying to get their second Bompard victory this week. Last year they got silver in the same competition behind Virtue/Moir who seem to be unbeatable by anyone except Davis/White. The French team won’t compete against the Canadian champions until the grand prix final (I am assuming that they will qualify, but that’s pretty sure considering they already have 15 points and will need just 11 more) so I don’t think they will have any problem going for gold. Anyway, as Pechalat/Bourzat said in a interview published on, being third in the world is not enough for them. From this year they are challenging the first positions trying to get closer and closer to the Zueva’s team. What they showed at Cup of China two weeks ago was really promising. They had a 69 points short dance, 3 points less than Davis/White and just a point less than Virtue/Moir, and a 100 points free dance, 4 points less than both teams.

Future competitions will show if they are truly challenging other couples, for sure they are challenging themselves with difficult and intricate programs.

At Skate Canada, another team was very close to beat Virtue/Moir in the short dance. Cappellini/Lanotte scored just 0.01 point less than the Canadians in the short getting their personal best. The competition got hotter in someone’s mind as both teams were skating to Carmen in the free dance, one team coached by Marina Zueva, the other by Igor Shpilban. Actually Virtue/Moir were on another level and the short was a bad accident for them. However the Italians have improved a lot both technically and artistically and have a chance for a silver at Trophee Bompard and for the final.

The bronze medal could be assigned to Riazanova/Tkachenko of Russia who medaled at Skate Canada well behind Cappellini/Lanotte, or maybe Hubbel/Donohue who were fourth at Skate Canada as well.

Both teams had some troubles on technical elements, but I personally judge Hubbel/Donohue artistically superior so if they have fixed those elements in the past weeks, I think they will be in front.



Gold: Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)

Silver: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)

Bronze: Hubbel/Donohue (USA)


Ashley Wagner is the front runner of this competition. She looked almost unbeatable early in the season winning both Japan Open and Skate America. At her first grand prix she struggled a little bit in her short program two footing her solo jump (a triple loop) but gave a mesmerizing performance in the free getting a score around 127, the best season score of the ladies so far (she has the best season overall score too).

She has grown dramatically from last year and since Nationals she started to collect success after success.

She will need just a bronze medal for assuring the grand prix final qualification, but I think that she could easily go for a more satisfying ranking.

Second at Skate America, Christina Gao will fight for the final too, especially after  the result of Cup of Russia in which Murakami and Sotnikova, who were contenders for the final, didn’t have a great showing.

She is very elegant and soft on the ice, if she skates clean as she did at Skate America she has good possibilities of landing on the podium here.

Going for a podium position, two Russian girls will challenge against the Americans.

Julia Lipnitskaya impressed at Cup of China where she won the silver behind Mao Asada. As she is just 14 she lacks of maturity and will need an extra polish in her skate and choreography in the future. At Cup of China she earned 57 in the components score, which is a good score for a first senior appearance, but will be probably five or six points lower than Wagner’s. Anyway, she is very consistent and has a difficult jumping content featuring triple lutz-triple toe and double axel-triple toe.

On the other hand, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, a slightly older Russian skater, didn’t repeat her astonishing grand prix of last year, but she  placed fourth at Skate Canada due to an injury recovery and growth spurt.

The field is not so competitive, so she can be a podium contender here.

Gold: Ashley Wagner (USA)
Silver: Julia Lipnitskaya (RUS)
Bronze: Elizaveta Tuktamisheva (RUS)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Patrick Chan back to gold at Cup of Russia

Patrick Chan had a magnificent free skate beginning with quad toe-triple toe, quad toe both perfectly landed, two beautiful triple lutzes, he did a couple of mistakes doubling a triple axel and a triple loop but it was a stunning program overall in which he reminded us his great skating quality. After a disappointing beginning of season, this was a victory and earned  176.91 getting the gold with 34 points on the silver medalist.
Takahiko Kozuka had problems on his opening quad toes, one was two footed (and maybe under rotated) and fell on the other. Then regrouped and landed a couple of triple axels and other five triples including a triple lutz-triple toe almost at the end of the program. He received very good program components score, the best after Chan in this segment. He got 153.65 and a spot for grand prix final.
Michal Brezina had a struggling Skate America and short program but found himself back in his free skate. He fell un quad salchow but he had a good recovery in the secon half of the program with two great triple axels and other six clean triples scoring 150.73
Konstantin Menshov was fighting for his first grand rix medal but got a fourth place here. He started with a brilliant quad toe, missed the second one which became a triple toe-double toe, did a couple of very high triple axels, but then struggled in the landing of some jumps and doubled a final double toe. He wasn't the strongest artistically, earned 146.99

Pairs free skate at Cup of Russia

Volosozhar/Trankov did a quite disaster in their free. They started well with a huge triple twist, triple salchow-single toe side by side, but then fell on throw triple loop, fell on triple toe side by side, Tatiana landed a two footed throw triple salchow. This program is very ambitious, since three elements are planned in the second half of the program. They had a margin from the short program and won gold with 132.79.
Bazarova/Larionov performed very well considering their physical condition. They were very clean and Vera is always light and elegant. They did some goodtriple toe side by side, double axel-double axel with a slightly struggled landing, triple twist, throw triple flip where she touched down with her free foot, throw triple loop and missed a lift. They got 125.06 and earned the silver medal.
Denney/Coughlin skated their free to Panthom of the Opera. They have already medaled at Skate America and did the same here. They did a very solid free skate with ambitious elements all almost perfectly executed. They did triple twist, throw triple loop, triple toe sidi by side, double axel-double axel side by side, throw triple lutz. 120.19

Ladies free skate at Cup of Russia

Kiira Korpi was very nervous in the warm up and popped almost all of her jumps. Instead, she landed very well those jumps in which she usually have problems such as the triple toe-triple toe, triple lutz and triple flip, but she struggled in her both triple loops, trademark jumps for her, falling on one and doubling the other one. She was the most mature and artistically beautiful of the ladies competing today and she scored 115.64. At the beginning of the season she was upset for being assigned to just one of the grand prixs, but then got to compete here and got a ticket for the final in Sochi. 3t-3t, 3lz, 3f, 2lo-2t, 3s-2t-2lo, fall on 3lo, 2a 115.64

Gracie Gold was in first after the short and had a sparkling beginning in her free program with a triple lutz-triple toe and a couple of triple flips but then started to pop some jumps and lost points on her rivals. Plus the program is not exciting artistically but she earned the silver medal that is quite a success for a lady making senior debut this season. 3lz-3t, 3f, 2a, 2lo, 3f-2toe, 2lz, 2a-2toe-1loop 112.87

Agnes Zawadzki did a good program to Rapsody in blue. She did five triples, she did a couple of mistakes in her second triple lutz that she doubled and in the second triple toe of a triple toe-triple toe combo. She needs to work a little bit on components and interpretation but it wasn't a bad program at all and she got the bronze medal with 106.43 3lz, 3t-two footed 3t, 3f, 2a, 3s, 2lz-2t, 2a-2t-2lo 106.43

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Russian efforts at Cup of Russia 2012

It is clear for everybody that the Russian skating movement is working for giving the nation the best Olympic team possible for Sochi, pushing young athletes and creating new couples.
But will these efforts have some results? Results have been already achieved in the ladies category, but not by the same skater with consistency. Last season Tuktamisheva won her two grand prixs and Youth Olympics, Lipnitskaya won Junior Worlds and Nationals, Leonova got silver at Worlds. Apart from Lipnitskaya who seems very strong (but it is still too early to tell) the other ladies have rollercoaster results. Leonova is one of those. In 2011/2012 she won the bronze in the grand prix final, bombed at European Championships but ranked second at Worlds. Again, she had a disappointing grand prix debut at Skate America, struggling in her short program and ranking ninth where she was expected to be at least on the podium. According to the grand prix standings (see the ladies standings and the best scores here) she won’t make it to the final even if she wins Cup of Russia, but it will be interesting to see how she will react in the upcoming competition.
Adelina Sotnikova instead could battle for a spot in the final, since she got bronze at Skate America. Adelina looked incredibly strong and consistent while she was in the junior circuit and the expectations on her entering the senior category were very high but from last year she started to struggle a little bit in her programs. Last season she got the bronze in both of her grand prixs, got silver at Nationals, Youth Olympics and Junior Worlds.
Cup of Russia has not a front runner in the ladies entries, so that almost everybody could possibly medal there. Kanako Murakami (JPN) and Kiira Korpi (FIN) did medal in the previous grand prixs (both won bronze as Sotnikova) and for that will battle for a ticket to the final. I see Murakami being more consistent than Korpi and Sotnikova if she can manage her tendency of getting a under rotation on her jumps. Kiira Korpi is usually not very solid, especially in her free skate, but this year she has a lovely and beautifully choreographed program and at Cup of China’s long program she did some admirable things as landing a very good triple toe-triple toe to open the program and a triple lutz, a jump she had struggled with for several years.
As for the men, Artur Gachinsky seems to be the Plushenko sotitute since the real one will be able to step on the scene again. Gachinsky is a very talented skater, maybe more technically than artistically, but one who can put quads and several triples in a program, but he is never season-ready during the fall and the grand prix series. He could be a medalist (already world bronze medalist in 2011 and silver medalist at euros last year) and a good competitor but from what we have seen so far, he is not ready for receive the heritage of Plushenko.

The men competition will be a Chan versus Japan showdown. The three 2012 men world  medalists have lost gold in their grand prix debuts but the most disappointing showing has been provided by Patrick Chan who, almost unbeated for two years, came in second in front of the home crowd. Patrick Chan seemed to be slightly more solid in his Skate Canada appearance, if compared to his disastrous season debut at Japan Open. Doubt came not just from his poor performances, but also from some off-season changes.
On the other hand, his Japanese rivals Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka (bronze at Skate Canada and Gold at Skate America) are in good shape and will try to steal Chan the gold. Kozuka needs to fix his quad, as it is a necessary element for every men competing at this level, but he has two delightful programs and looked consistent at Skate America. Oda is back from a disappointing season and already won Nebelhorn Trophy and bronze at Skate Canada behind Patrick Chan.

Of course, don't miss to look at Johnny Wier's debut on ISU competitions after a two years stop. He had already debut at Filnandia Trophy and placed fourth, but his Lady Gaga short program was very well recieved by the crowd. 
Moving to the dance competition, I am afraid there’s no room for a Russian gold, since the world champions proved that they deserve to be on the top (at the moment and in this competition) even with sloppy performances as they did at Skate Canada. Virtue/Moir should check out some of their technical elements (or maybe just set their physical preparation) because at Skate Canada they missed some of them in both of the programs. There are opposite feelings about their new Carmen free dance, in someone's opinion that's the most innovative dance program and the best Carmen ever, others hate it. I say in a diplomatic way that we haven't seen its best yet and this program is just about to grow as the season goes on. At the moment for me it is a good program skated by exceptional skaters, not a masterpiece yet. However, they are just good enough for expecting a sure gold.

If Russia can't do a lot for a gold medal, silver is well within its range. Ilinykh/Katsalapov will make their season debut at Cup of Russia. They ranked a brilliant fifth at Worlds and they are a very nice couple. I think they won't have any problems medalling here, even uf we haven't seen them in competition this year yet.
A challenge could come from the Shibutanis (Alex and Maia) who are debuting at Cup of Russia too and will skate a free dance to Memoirs of a Geisha.

Last but not least (especially for Russia) the pairs event is going to bring satisfacions to the home crowd. Volosozhar/Trankov have already won at Skate America three weeks ago, weren't perfect but their programs are very ambitious and their free skate is beautifully choreographed. So Russia will surely medal here with the world silver medalists and I am sure that there is a good possibility that Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov will land on the podium as well. The second Russian couple had been struggling with injuries last season, had a good recovery at Europeans 2012 where they got the silver. They have strenghts and weaknesses. Vera is really light and that gives to the couple amanzing throws and lifts, but she is quite inconsistent on side by side jumps.
Denney/Coughlin of USA could spoil Russian podium ambitions as they looked solid at Skate America where they ranked third.


Gold: Kanako Murakami (JPN)
Silver: Adelina Sotnikova (RUS)
Bronze: Kiira Korpi (FIN)

Gold: Patrick Chan (CAN) I think his (deserved) components score will lift him
Silver: Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Bronze: Nobunari Oda (JPN)

Gold: Virtue/Moir (CAN)
Silver: Ilinykh/Katsalapov (RUS)
Bronze: Shibutani/Shibutani (USA)

Gold: Volosozhar/Trankov (RUS)
Silver: Bazarova/Larionov (RUS)
Bronze: Denney/Coughlin (USA)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mao Asada's Swan Lake step sequence analysis

I have started thinking about this post when I saw that I had received views by somebody who was looking for a "Mao Asada Swan Lake step analysis" (without finding it, of course). At first I thought it would have been an impossible achievement since I am not very used to this things and Mao Asada's steps are always very fast so that it makes it hard to recognize them. However I decided to try to study a little bit more her sequence from this season's free skate that got a level four at her very first competition Japan Open. That took me a lot of time and I know that is not a perfect work so, if anybody wants to adjust it, I would be very pleased. But now let's jump into it.

Receiving a level 4 in the step sequence is very difficult for a lady, in the last years Mao Asada and Carolina Kostner have been the ones who used to achieve this level eventually. Last year a lot of level fours were given to different ladies, because of the introduction of a feature (doing a half of the pattern on one foot) made things easier for some skaters, but now this is no more valid. During this season level four has been given five times so far (by Gedevanishvili, Makarova, Murakami and Lacoste at Skate Canada, Viktoria Helgesson at Skate America) but no one has received it in a free skate yet.

From this season on, for receiving a level 4, skaters must get four features:
1. a complexity of turns (loop turns, twizzles, three turn, bracket, rocker and counter) and steps (toe steps, chasses, mohawks, chocktaws, curves with change of edge, crossrolls, running steps) throughout that must include 5 types of turns and 3 types of steps all executed at least in both directions.
2. Rotations are either direction with full body rotation covering at least 1/3 of the pattern in total for each rotational direction (that means that rotations are at least a 2/3 of the sequence)
3. Use of upper body movements (arms, head and torso) for at least 1/3 of the pattern
4. Two combinations of difficult turns quickly executed within the sequence
(if you want to know more on levels and goes I reported the ISU comunication here)

I am starting with saying that I love the footwork Mao does in the free. She is light, fast and highlights every single note with a move.
Here is the video of Asada's performance at Japan Open. The step sequence is from 3.50 to 4.30

Turns are executed throughout the whole sequence in different directions. She does more turns than steps;  she does three types of steps (some toe steps, a couple of mohawks in the middle of the sequence and some backward crossrolls at the end) as required and multiple turns. As I counted them she does seven loop turns, four twizzles and then some counters, brackets, rockets and three turns.

This is a list of steps and turns as I was able to recognize them from the video (so please forgive my possible mistakes)

1.Forward left outside edge loop turn
2.Backward right inside twizzles
3.Backward right outside-inside bracket turn+backward right inside counter turns+backward right outside-inside three turn
4. Forward toe steps
5.Forward right inside twizzles
6.Forward left outside loop turn
7.Backward right inside loop turn with illusion spin
8. Mohawk
9. Backward twizzles
10.Backward inside edge three turn
11.Forward loop with illusion
12.Backward right inside loop turn with upper body movement
13.Toe steps
15.Forward twizzles+Three turn+counter turn
16.Backward right inside-outside crossrolls
17.Backward loop
18.Forward left outisude loop turn

I don't think that this feature needs an explanation, she rotates for almost the whole pattern of the sequence and she does it in both directions as it is also clear analyzing her turns done both on the left and on the right.
This feature requires arms, head or torso movements for 1/3 of the pattern.
Well, Mao uses her arms for the entire sequence, and does some more specific torso movements in the last third of it, from 4.12 (this is the minute of the video linked before) till the end.
The two combinations Mao does are indicated in the upper list with numbers 3 and 15.
The first one is in the video from 3.51 to 3.65 in which she does a backward right outside-inside bracket turn, abackward right inside counter turns and a backward right outside-inside three turn and the second one from 4.18 to 4.22 in which she does some forward twizzles, a backward outside three turn and a backward counter turn.
I think that this sequence has got all what it takes to get a level four. However, if she does some little mistakes that let her miss some turns, she could easily get a lower level since the footwork is very fast and intricate. For now, we can just enjoy it as a beautiful piece of choreography.
I do really hope you feel satisfied with my analysis, please comment if you have something to say about it!