Monday, January 28, 2013

Kostner conquers Zagreb, Russian wonders don't disappoint expectations

In the ladies competition Carolina claimed her fifth European title. The level of the competition was probably the highest in few years, thanks to the attendance of the two young Russian skaters Tuktamisheva and Sotnikova who both gained a medal at their first appearance on the continental stage.
Carolina Kostner won the gold by almost a point ahead of Sotnikova after ranking second in the short program. I can’t really deny being a fan of her skating but objectively she deserved to be the champion in Zagreb as she was by far the best components-wise skater of the competition. I thought she was actually underscored in pcs in the short program (getting around 31) where, fall apart, everything was pretty spectacular and beautifully presented.  
In the free skate Carolina displayed such a high level of maturity, experience and commitment to her program like never before. She creates a special atmosphere and connects very deeply to music hitting every single note with different nuances. The first part of the program lack a little bit of transitions as she sets for her more difficult jumps such as the triple lutz (that was truly perfect), which she hadn’t performed in two years and was brought back into her competitive repertoire this season, and the triple flip but then the program gets fuller of elements and movements as the music grows. Despite her mistakes on salchows she didn’t give up the performance until the very end of the program that was highlighted by an almost 6 points step sequence, and for me she deserved every single point she was given.
Urmanov’s take on Kostner’s components: "She is very loved by the audience. It is always very pleasant to watch her [skating]. Let's cheer for her because she is a worthy skater, on a highest level, such skater you should just watch and enjoy the skating...
Pay attention on the creativeness of her steps sequence, it is very unusual...
Such a...
complicated music, Bolero, it is very hard to perform to it, and only skaters like Carolina Kostner can fully interpret its character.
(to other commentator's remarks about very high scores she always gets) You know, I was lucky to work with Carolina once for some time and I can say that she is a skater with the highest level skills, and of course the score for the components which she gets is absolutely justified. I think she shows us the different, new, modern figure skating. And it wins over the judges, wins over the public." (from
Absolute Skating facebook page)
Carolina is also known for incredible practice sessions. In the morning of her free skate she landed several jumps including a breathtaking triple flip-triple toe and triple lutz-triple toe.

Both Adelina Sotnikova and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva proved to be amazing competitors who will bring some stunning results to Russian figure skating.
Adelina had a wonderful short program where she did everything she could and got into first place after that segment. With this being her first important international competition and skating second to last in the free skate, I was amazingly surprised as she didn’t let the pressure compromise her program. After the short program she was immensely joyous about her result and gave everything of herself during the free skate being rewarded a 63.99 for the components score. She did very well technically landing six of the seven planned triples, but as she popped a flip and got wrong edge call and an under rotation call on her triple lutz-triple toe combo that for this reason received a goe almost as she had fallen, she wasn’t able to get the title for a point and gained silver.
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva probably lost the gold medal in the short program when she doubled her triple lutz and had some turns on the landing of her double axel. She was instead perfect in the free skate but not enough for getting into first.
She landed seven amazing jumps (triple lutz-triple toe, triple flip, triple lutz, triple loop, triple salchow-double toe-double loop, double axel-triple toe, double axel) getting 70 points for her technical elements and a standing ovation from the crowd.
Valentina Marchei couldn't hold her third place position of the short program, but proved to be a real competitor landing a double toe-triple toe for the first time in her career.


Monday, January 21, 2013

European Championships: Ladies preview

Photo by Luca Renoldi
The defending champion Carolina Kostner is one of the favourite for the gold at European Championships. Going for her fifth title, the reigning world champion has already won at the previous Europeans held in Zagreb in 2008 and competed in the same rink back in December at The Golden Spin of Zagreb where she won (see her results here). That was her debuting competition of the season since she had decided to skip the grand prix series in order to focus on main competitions as Europeans and Worlds. She came back stronger at Italian Nationals a week after the Golden spin
(where she performed a weak free skate as for jumping) being almost perfect in both programs. With the withdrawal of Kiira Korpi, she remains the most experienced and complete skater of the event and, unless the late preparation doesn't let her being on top form, she will likely win again. (If you want to know more about her fall competitions, here is a link to Italian Nationals results and Italian Nationals free skate practice, where she showed a beautiful triple flip-triple toe and a triple lutz).

The two young Russian girls, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva and Adelina Sotnikova, will try to screw up things. Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, the newly crowned Russian champion, is considered the most dangerous competitor for Kostner by many. Elizaveta struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season due to a knee injury that caused her to dump down her amazing technical content. However, she looked in a smarter physical condition at Grand Prix Final and National championships where she landed her trademark triple lutz-triple toe again. The young skater coached by Mishin have beaten Carolina Kostner once at last year's Trophee Eric Bompard, but this time she will need to deliver her jumping content in order to offset her maturity and experience.

Adelina Sotnikova, who seemed the most talented of all the young promising skaters coming from Russia, is now dealing with growth spurt and will need some time to get all of her technical repertoire back. If she won't maybe challenge for gold, other medals are well within her range. She is not very comfortable with toe-pick jumps at the moment, since she sometimes get wrong edge call on both flip and lutz, but overall she should get a higher technical score than other competitors in Zagreb.

Two times European bronze medalist (2010, 2012) Elene Gedevanishvili had a superb season debut at Skate Canada where she surprised everyone finishing first after the short program with an emotional interpretation of Shindler's List technically highlighted by a triple lutz-triple toe. She felt pressure in the free skate and lost her possibility of medaling for the first time in a grand prix event. If she can skate clean, she has very good possibilities of being on the podium.

Gold: Carolina Kostner (ITA)
Silver: Elizaveta Tuktamisheva (RUS)
Bronze: Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO)


Saturday, January 19, 2013

European Championships: Men preview

The European men event might seem quite unchallenging considering the absence of the Japanese and North Americans champions, but the nth return of Plushenko to the competitive circuit is going to make things a lot more interesting. The 32 years old Russian skater qualified for Europeans at last month's Nationals where he won as expected. Plushenko stated that probably this is going to be his last competition of the season, planning to withdraw from World Championships as he had done since 2005. Although his programs at Nationals were far from perfect (at least for his standards) he is on the right track for defending his title and getting his eighth gold in this competition.

Some challenge should come from Javier Fernandez who has the most risky programs of the bunch, planning to land three quads in his free skate. Javier should have been a favourite for last year's European Championships as well, but after a brilliant fall season, he wasn't able to repeat at Euros nor Worlds and had to give up any medal ambitions. He has achieved some good results this season so far, but did alternate good skates with struggling performances, so this is going to be a nerves test for him.

Former European champion Florent Amodio will look for a medal too. Florent has been unconsistant in the fall season, but he always gives his best from January on and could be a real contender here. His compatriot Brian Joubert, instead, is struggling year after year and, despite some random good results, he is far from competitiveness his as a world champion.

Tomas Verner and Michal Brezina could potentially be in the medal contention, but both have been struggling a lot during the last two seasons and hardly nail a clean performance.

Watch out the young Maxim Kovtun, winner of the junior grand prix final, who was chosen by the federation over Konstantin Menshov despite being fourth at Nationals.

Gold: Javier Fernandez (ESP)
Silver: Evgeni Plushenko (RUS)
Bronze: Florent Amodio (FRA)

See: Men short season best scores
        Men free season best scores

Javier Fernandez Javier Fernandez of Spain competes in the Men's Short Program during day one of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating NHK Trophy at Sekisui Heim Super Arena on November 23, 2012 in Rifu, Japan.

Canadian Nationals, senior short programs recap

The senior events of Canadian National championships debuted today with the ladies, pairs and men short programs.
Kaetlyn Osmond is leading the ladies competition with over twelve points of lead on the second. She scored 70.04 nailing a triple toe-triple toe and a triple flip as solo jump. The Skate Canada International champion skated with great conviction and maturity to her short program getting amazing components score around 32 points.
Amelie Lacoste, the defending champion, is currently in second with 57,86. She had a strong start with a lovely double axel and a triple flip-double loop, but then fell on her triple loop, that is usually a trademark jump for her, and had to give up the lead.
Duhamel/Radford won the short program in the pairs competition, but second ranked Moore-Towers/Moscovitch are not far behind. Duhamel/Radford had an incredibly risky jumping content featuring a triple lutz side by side, that wasn't perfectly executed, and a throw triple lutz. They scored 69.08 with the best program components score of the competition.
Moore-Towers/Moscovitch had a more secure and flawless short program. The hit a side by side triple toe and a throw triple loop. Scored 68.23

As for the men, Patrick Chan is leading as expected with 94.63. He perfectly nailed the quad toe and the triple axel but then had a sloppy landing to his triple lutz and was able to jump just a double toe after that. Anyway his skating was supreme and he was rewarded with a 46 points components score.
Kevin Reynolds is sitting in second with a two-quad short program. He indeed attempted a quad salchow-triple toe, that was majestically executed, and a quad toe in the second half of the program in which he struggled a little bit, but fully rotated it. He went clean on the triple axel, lost some points on spins and components weren't too high so that he scored 85.32.
This event saw the come back of Emanuel Shandu who scored 60.42 ranking nineth with a triple flip-double toe, triple loop and double axel.

Patrick Chan's short program

Friday, January 18, 2013

European Championships: Pairs preview

Yuri Larionov Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov of Russia compete in the Pairs Free Skating during day three of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating NHK Trophy at Sekisui Heim Super Arena on November 25, 2012 in Rifu, Japan.

The pairs event at European championships will finally see the showdown between defending champions Volosozhar/Trankov against the world champions Savchenko/Szolkowy.
Savchenko/Szolkowy, who withdrew from last year's event, didn't compete at grand prix final either, so that it makes difficult to do a comparison between the two elite couples. The Germans, looking for their fifth European title in Zagreb, had just two international competitions this season where they showed pretty strong programs.
Volosozhar/Trankov, instead, have won any competition they have attended this season, yet displaying some technically poor programs. The Russian team has a very challenging and risky free program that didn't really work in past events. However, taking notes of their mistakes, they have worked and came back stroger at Russian Nationals where they earned the title with a flawless skate.
Two other Russian couples are ready to fight for a medal.
Bazarova/Larionov, who have always been very strong in their pair elements, have gaind consistancy on side by side jumps too lately. They are improving competition after competition and got very close to a gold medal at the grand pix final in Sochi.
A more experienced couple, former world medalists, Kavaguti/Smirnov have had a rollecoaster season so far and have been struggling with peforming two clean programs
.EDITED: Bazarova/Larionov withdrew due to a Yuri's hand injury. Stolbova/Klimov are going instead and that opens podium's doors to Kavaguti/Smirnov who have already beaten Stolbova/Klimov at Russian Nationals

See: Pairs short season best scores
       Pairs free season best scores

Gold: Volosozhar/Trankov (RUS)
Silver: Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)
Bronze: Bazarova/Larionov (RUS)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

European Championships: Dance preview

The dance competition will open the 2013 European championships on Wednesday 23rd January.
Defending Champions Pechalat/Bourzat of France will likely repeat the result of 2011 and 2012 getting their third title. They are currently the third ice team in the world, behind Davis/White and Virtue/Moir who will defend their national titles in this two weeks, and they are unbeated by any European couple since Worlds 2010.
EDITED: as Tatjana Flade reports, Pechalat/Bourzat have withdrawn due to a Fabian's injury. He caused a rupture of adductor in his right leg. Wish him a speedy recovery!
Instead, the battle for the other medals is wide open. Two Russian teams could fight for a podium position. Bobrova/Soloviev, the 2011 and 2012 European silver medalists made an impressive improvement this year showing off a new fresh style in their always technically solid skating. Confirming their winning streak, they have won their third national title in late December ahead of Ilinykh/Katsalapov who may want to improve their last year's bronze medal at European Championships.
Ilinykh/Katsalapov, coached by Morozov, didn't have their smartest competitions during this fall, doing mistakes here and there, yet medalling at both of their grand prix assignments. They haven't completely delivered their short dance yet and the free isn't loved by anybody, but the team is well known for being more consistant in the second half of the season and will surely be in the game for a medal finish.
Talking about improvements, Italy's Cappellini/Lanotte have brought their technique on another level under the coaching of Igor Shpilband. The team has been very strong in this season so far, being the only one to get level 4s in both Polka sequences in the same short dance. As they medaled twice in the grand prixs and got a fourth place in the final, just behind Pechalat/Bourzat, Cappellini/Lanotte will fight for their first European medal.

Gold: Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)
Silver: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)
Bronze: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)

See: Short dance season best scores
        Free dance season best scores

Nikita Katsalapov Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia compete in the Ice Dance Free Dance during day two of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating NHK Trophy at Sekisui Heim Super Arena on November 24, 2012 in Rifu, Japan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

European Championships: schedule

photo by Andrey Simonenko from the 2008 European Championships held in Zagreb

Zagreb, Croatia (GMT +1), 23rd-26th January 2013

Wednesday, 23rd January 2013
Short dance:11.45-16.00
Pairs short program: 18.45-21.15

Thursday, 24th January 2013
Men short program: 11.45-16.10
Pairs free skate: 19.00-22.00

Friday, 25th January 2013
Ladies short program: 10.45-15.55
Free dance: 18.30-21.50

Saturday, 26th January 2013
Men free skate: 12.45-16.50
Ladies free skate: 18.00-21.55

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Alissa Czisny injured again

Alissa Czisny caused a hip injury during a pre-nationals competition at the Valley Figure Skating Club. She debuted on 11st January with her La Vie en Rose short program. Although it wasn't a perfect skate as she double footed her opening triple lutz, she showed herself in a solid overall condition, ready for US Nationals a week later. However, while performing her new free skate on "Gone with the Wind", after a promising start in which she nailed three triples (lutz, toeloop and loop) she fell hard on a triple flip and had to withdraw from the competition. Unofficial news say that she was brought to Hospital and she has already undergone surgery. While she won't probably attend Nationals next week, her just started season might end here.
Wishing her a very speedy recovery and the best luck for the future.
Alissa's free skate link

Friday, January 11, 2013

Yuna Kim's short program analysis

Yuna Kim's competitive return is one of the most popular topics in the figure skating news and it won't stop being so until her appaerance at World Championships where she will lastly compete against her biggest rivals. In the two events she attended this year, she looked pretty strong and confident about her undiscussed abilities. Since she hasn't skated in an international senior A competition yet, I will try here to analize her short program's potentials in a world-wide sphere.
Without a doubt, Yuna owns the highest technical content in the ladies' field. Indeed, with nailing a triple lutz-triple toe, a triple flip and a double axel she gets a base value of 19,73, while a Mao Asada's performance with a triple axel (assuming she will go for it at Worlds), a triple flip-double loop and a triple loop would get 21,21.
Moreover, as she is a consistant skater, she usually gets high grades of execution on her jumps. Even when she doesn't nail her hardest jumpstriple lutz, she is prepared enough for being able to place a triple flip-triple toe out of steps as she did at Korean Nationals.
The double axel taken from a ina bauer and placed in the second half of the program assure her a higher grade of execution (for the difficult transition going in) and the bonus points.
 Yuna is slightly less strong in her spins than she used to be before 2011.
The flying camel spin and the combo spin should receive a level four if correctly executed (did receive level three at NRW Trophy) but the layback spin is scheduled to be a level three since Yuna doesn't get a Biellman position at the moment (despite having it in her technical package for years) and that doesn't allow her to get the maximum points for it.

Yuna received very high components scores at both NRW Trophy and Korean Nationals around 35 and actually she could get them even in an A competition. It is sometimes difficult to understand how components will be given, as they change competition from competition, judge from judge and as sometimes they are based more on skaters' reputation rather than the actual execution. If predictions on execution, performance or interpretation can't be made, as the are effected by what the skater does in that right moment, the richness of Yuna's choreography and transitions should remain unchanged.
In her short program Yuna occupies the entire area of the rink (skates board to board) doing elements in different places and moving following curves (not doing too straight lines). She does different types of turns and steps between the elements, without doing too much strokes, and her transitioning arms and head movements are pretty intricated.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Yuna Kim at Korean Nationals

Yuna Kim made her second competition of the season at Korean Nationals where she was missing since 2006.
Her short program today wasn't brilliant as the one she showed in Dortmund last month and a very supporting audience in Seoul could have put some kind of pressure on Kim's shoulders. She had a random fall at the very beginning of her short program, even before starting to gain speed for her jumping combination. As she lost focus during the transitions before her triple lutz, she popped it. The ice conditions weren't the best despite the great popularity of figure skating in South Korea, as the reported temperature was -4 grades Celsius. However, she then recovered and nailed a gorgeous triple flip-triple toe out of steps. The rest of the program was really enjoyable and well executed. She scored 64.97 and ranked first after the short program. 

Her free skate was perfect and very near to her golden Olympic performance. She landed 6 textbook triples including a triple lutz-triple toe, a triple flip and a couple of triple salchows proving to be in great form and ready to make a statement at World Championships in two months. She scored 145.80 in the free skate earning a total score of 210.77 performing one of the best skates of her life in front of an enthusiastic crowd.