Monday, 30 March 2009

Worlds Post Part One

Well, the skating season is basically over!. And what a season we've had. As you may have guessed from the title, this blog is dedicated to the Worlds. There's been so much drama this week that only a really long post can cover it all, so I've split it into each discipline.

I'm going to do "awards" for each discipline, starting with the Ladies

Most Unexpected Meltdown: This is the most obvious award - poor Carolina Kostner. After her fall at the Europeans, where she lost her title, everyone assumed that she would come back on fighting form and be in with a chance of a medal position. Having to skate straight after Kim's fanatastic performance can't have been easy, and she obviously was seriously lacking in confidence as she started to skate. Overall, her LP was absolutely heartbreaking; one landed jump, one fall, one hand down and the rest of her jumps were popped. Huth looked very dismissive of her as she sat in the Kiss and Cry and a 12th place finish was definitely not what she was looking for.

Most generously marked: Yu-Na Kim. Both her and Brian Orser's shock at both sets of he marks were adorable to watch but they were the only ones who it suprised. She was absolutely amazing, however, so perhaps only a slight overscoring. Also, Rachael Flatt's short program put her ahead of some much more deserving skaters; a bit of home bias, shall we say?

Best SP: For me, Joannie Rochette. Her short program is just so fantastic and she really deserved her silver medal.

Best FS: It's got to be Yu-Na Kim, there's no real way around it. Her performance was just magical, even with the screwed salchow.

Best Costumes: Joannie Rochette. Both her SP and LP dresses are classically beautiful yet simple enough that they don't detract from her performance.

Skater that "wuzrobbed": Mao Asada; yes, she had a fall, but to land one triple axel and attempt another and STILL not get on the World podium is pretty much a travesty.
Best Kiss and Cry Moment: It's a three-way tie of the emotion that Sarah Meier, Elene Gedevanishvili and Alena Leonova showed after their free skates.

Best Comeback: Elene Gedevanishvili! Who would have expected her to skate as cleanly as she did after her track record? She's a huge talent and so it's definitely onwards and upwards for her. An hourable mention goes to Miki Ando; after last year's mid-competition withdrawal, no-one expected her to get on the podium.

Best "Fighter": Candice Didier. She had a hideous fall and slammed into the barrier partway through her LP; she was almost carried off by the medics. Despite obviously being in seriously severe pain, she finished her program. What a star.

Mens' awards are coming next. If you disagree with what I said (and I'm sure some of you will!) then leave a comment.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Steadily improving Rochette a dark horse

Joannie Rochette was my prediction for a possible gold medal this week at Worlds and, apparently, someone over at The Globe and Mail feels the same.
It's been 21 years since a Canadian woman won a medal at the world figure skating championships.

Is it Joannie Rochette's time now? She is a dark horse for the women's title at this year's championships, which start tomorrow in Los Angeles at the Staples Center.

"I have yet to be on the world podium, and this is the first time in my life I've told myself I can really do this," Rochette says. "I feel like I belong out there this year."
The idea of Rochette standing atop the podium is definitely not fantasy, as her results so far this season have been fantastic.
At Skate Canada in Ottawa, Rochette defeated former world silver medalist Fumie Suguri of Japan by 25 points, rendering speechless Elizabeth Manley, the last Canadian woman to win a world medal (silver), in 1988.

Rochette went on to defeat reigning world champion Mao Asada of Japan by 13 points at the Trophée Eric Bompard in France in November. Asada wasn't perfect at that event, but neither was Rochette.

At the Four Continents championship in Vancouver in February, Rochette defeated Asada again in the short program. In the long program, Rochette defeated world bronze medalist Kim Yu-Na of South Korea, who is coached by Brian Orser in Toronto and reigns over the women's ranks this year.

When Rochette won the silver medal at Four Continents, behind Kim and ahead of Asada, she established herself as a major threat at the world championships. She's finished ahead of everybody who matters at various points of the season.

The article also touches on other possible contenders in the ladies division, highlighting the apparent weakness of the European contenders.
The Europeans did not participate in the Four Continents, but the women's event at the European championships was lacklustre. Laura Lepisto of Finland won the event with simple jump combinations over favourite Caroline Kostner of Italy, the world silver medalist from last year.

Kostner bombed in the short program and won the long program without getting credit for a spin. But Kostner's strong point is her speed, and she builds momentum over the season, usually peaking at a world championship. Judges seem to adore her.

Judges do see to award disproportionately high scores to Kostner, and I for one am not a fan of her skating.

The article also talks about Kim, the American representatives who'll be in LA and the contenders in the ice dance division. It can be found here.

Program of the Day is Rochette's LP from 4CC. If she can perform it as well as this at Worlds, Asada and maybe even Kim might want to watch out. It's suprememly graceful yet still retains the necessary power to do some fanatastic triples.

FYI, I will be posting about the World Championships, naturally, starting from tomorrow, but those posts will be brief as most of my free time will be taken up by watching it! In the next fortnight or so, however, there will be more detailed postings on all of the competition. I will also most likely be posting spoilers, so be prepared.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Predictions for Worlds - Ladies

Ladies is possibly the most mundane prediction to do, unfortunately. It's pretty much a guarantee that it'll be a Yu-Na/Mao showdown in LA, and I'm leaning towards it being Yu-na's year. Her performances have been getting huge scores all season (she set a new world record of 72.24 points in the short program at 4CC) and she's definitely proved she has the assured consistency for a win. However, Mao is almost as like to defend her title, so it'll definitely be a two-woman race for the gold. Joannie Rochette also could get gold; she did beat Mao Asada at Trophee Eric Bompard this season, and came 2nd at 4CC. The European contenders are Carolina Kostner, who'll be hoping to bounce back from her second place finish at Europeans, and Laura Lepisto, who should be flying high on her surprise win there; there's always a chance she could buckle under the pressure, however. Miki Ando and Fumie Suguri will also be competing for a long shot at the podium, though frankly it's unlikely it'll get anywhere.

Program of the Day is Mao Asada's winning FS from last year's World Championships. Her comeback after she face-plants on that triple axel is quite astounding, a definite winners performance. Could she repeat it this year? You can watch it here. I always aim to find a video that I can embed but there is not a single one of her FS which does not have "embedding disabled by request"!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Is anyone else gutted that there won't be a "Battle of the Great Gig(s) in the Sky" at Worlds? Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder has officially announced their withdrawal due to Isabelle's shoulder injury, which means that we won't be able to see how their FS shapes up against Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's. I've posted them both below so that you can compare which one you prefer. Personally? Much as I absolutely adore Tessa and Scott, I've got to go with Delobel/Schoenfelder on this one. I am, however, slightly biased as I did see D/S perform this live at Trophee Eric Bompard in November. I must prefer their cut of the music, their costumes and their cheoreography, though I have so much respect for Tessa and Scott for creating a routine which is so beautiful yet incredibly difficult technically.

The below performances should be a good comparison; D/S's performance isn't the best as Isabelle had a stomach bug, and V/M have little experience in performing this FS as Tessa's injury forced them to skip the whole Grand Prix season. Hopefully these two factors will cancel each other out.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Mens Worlds Predictions

That's right; it's Worlds predictions time! With the World Championships starting in less than a week, hopefully all the last-minute withdrawals are out of the way and we can get down to deciding who'll top the podium. They're coming at you in installments, starting today with the mens competition.

To get an indication of where each skater stand to place, first it's good to look at the ISU World Rankings, which can be found here. From these rankings, the top three skaters in the world are Tomas Verner, Kevin Van Der Perren and Brian Joubert. I think one of those skaters will almost definitely be on the podium - Joubert. He's has had quite a hit-and miss season, coming fourth at Trophee Eric Bompard but getting a triumphant gold at Cup of Russia. Despite being beaten in the free skate by fellow Frenchman Yannick Posero, he won back his European title from Verner and so looks in good shape to also gain his World title again. Rumours have be heard on the internet that Joubert is injured; however, nothing has been heard officially so he's definitely a contender. However, Joubert unfortunately lacks the necessary consistency to pull off an assured win in LA.

Of course, it is impossible to mention the mens division without mentioning Patrick Chan, who has been getting absolutely massive PCS all season and took home gold at the Four Continents Championship, so he's also a definite medal contender.

My third choice to get a medal is Jeremy Abbott, the US champion who won gold at the Grand Prix Final this season. He's such a huge talent that if he skates well, he's got a very good chance of doing well, again if he can keep it consistent and pull himself together if the program doesn't initially go his way.

After those top three, the other contenders could be Evan Lysacek,who'll probably come back with a vengance after his disappointing Nationals outing, Nobunari Oda, who's come first in four competitions this season so far and probably would have won more had he been eligible and Takahiko Kozuka, who won Skate America and was third at 4CC.

Think the podium's going to shape up completely differently? Leave a comment! Ladies prediction coming in the next couple of days.

Program of the Day is last year's gold medal winning performances from last year from
Jeffrey Buttle, who proved that no quad doesn't necessarily equal no win.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Colorado-trained athletes on edge of world success

The Denver Post just published an article about some of the biggest threats to veteran skaters; Jeremy Abbott, Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker,Brandon Mroz and Rachael Flatt, who all train at the World Arena in Colorado. It must be a real fight for space on the ice with all five of them skating around, but imagine how amazing and motivating it must be for the other skaters!
"The atmosphere at the rink, I don't know if there's something in the water or what," Flatt said. "It's just great motivation for all of us to watch each other, push each other and do good programs."

As well as sharing ice space, many of them share a coach.
The coach who hit the mother lode is one Tom Zakrajsek, who coaches Abbott, Mroz and Flatt.

"In one respect it's not a surprise to have three skaters on the world team because they all work very hard," Zakrajsek said. "And we kind of plan for success, as crazy as that sounds."

The article also talks about McLaughlin and Brubaker specifically:
McLaughlin and Brubaker defended their national championship and won the 2007 world junior title. The difference this year is that McLaughlin, at 16, is finally old enough to attend senior worlds.

"And I'm getting my license next month!" said the Tarzana, Calif., native.

Brubaker is 22, and they've been together only three years, about half the time most teams take to reach the world championship level. They will be the youngest pairs team in L.A. yet have raised their components to fit the competition.

"It's been challenging," Brubaker said. "We've been learning so much, too. We're still considered the young kids."

The rest of the article can be read here.
Program of the Day is M/B's SP from Cup of China last season. They have some beautiful lifts and are showing definite improvement on their throw jumps; however, there is obvious development needed for their side-by-side jumps.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Evan Lysacek gets confidence boost in Toronto

After his disappointing performance in the US Nationals where he finished in third, Evan Lysacek has just one more chance to perform his program as well as he can. And where better than in his home town, LA? An article about Evan has just been published on the LA Times site about his
Lysacek, twice a world bronze medalist and twice a U.S. champion -- but a dispirited third at this year's national competition -- believes she [Lori Nichol] worked her magic again during their sessions.

"She said a big thing this season is freedom," he said Thursday after a practice session at the Toyota Center. "There are so many intricacies in the program now that there's really few people who go out like 'I'm free as a bird and so glad to be out here.' Because you're constantly thinking and nitpicking at each and every element as you're going through the routine.

"But she said that's really important, so that's what we worked on, pushing out everything and gaining speed whenever I can."

Their labor seems to have paid off.

His coach, Frank Carroll, said Lysacek's ice coverage is much better. So are his speed and footwork. Those upgrades could lift Lysacek's program component scores, the marks generally referred to as the artistic scores.

Hopefully this is the boost that Evan needs to get him back on the Worlds podium; he's such a great skater than it seems disappointing that he's currently not performing his best.Nichol, along with David Wilson, is one of the most talented and well-known choreographers out there and Evan has the technical ability, so hopefully this will pull up his PCS and get him the placement he deserves.

The rest of the article is available here.

Program of the Day is Evan's FS for this season, a Gershwin medley from the US Nationals. The music isn't the strongest piece he's ever picked, but the newer costume is definitely better than the sparkly penguin he wore at the beginning of the season. If Evan can nail that quad, and if he has really improved his PCS as the article claims, he'll have a good shot in LA.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Gregory/Petukhov to work with Plushenko

News just in; Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, the 2004-2007 U.S. ice dance silver medalists, are going to be choreographing Plushenko's long program for the 2009-2010 season. Plushenko has been training every day apparently and with Melissa and Denis's choreography he will definitely increase the hype around his comeback. He really sounds serious this time, despite the fact that he has been "announcing his comeback" a few times now.

Program of the Day is one example of the extraordinarly beautiful cheoreography that Melissa and Denis have done, in the exhibition program they did with Johnny Weir to "Fallen Angels". To make three skaters work together so seamlessly in a program requires real talent; Plushenko is in good hands.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Program of the Day

Program of the Day goes to Patrick Chan, the stupendously talented young Canadian who everyone's eyes will be on in LA. Lori Nichols, his choreographer, recently spoke to Ice Network about Chan.
Nichol's work with Chan in creating his high-scoring Tango short program and Rachmaninov long played a major role in his success right out of the gate last fall, but, truth be told, Chan spent several weeks "playing" with movement to the Tango before he embraced Nichol's musical choice.

"No diva whatsoever in him" is how Nichol describes the 18-year-old Canadian men's champion who turned heads whenever he stepped on the ice this season.

"He's such a great mix of athlete and artist. I just feel honored to work with him," said Nichol, whose own star rose in the late 1990s as the choreographer for American superstar Michelle Kwan.

Program of the Day is Chan's amazing SP from Canadian Nationals. I'm sure he'll do amazingly at Worlds in a couple of weeks.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Program of the Day

Today's program is a bit of a patriotic one, I'm afraid, because today's skater is Jenna McCorkell, the six-time British ladies champion who finished in ninth at the Europeans. Jenna recently had an article written on her at the Coleraine Times (Coleraine is her hometown, though she now spends her time in Belgium and Coventry). Now, an article on a skater isn't usually a big deal, but for Britain this is a pretty rare occurrence. Over here, ice skating gets almost no coverage in the media, unless it's an article about Torvill and Dean; and let's face it, it's been 25 years since their Bolero performance and STILL the UK hasn't moved on. So it is with great pleasure I present the article on Jenna.
"I've learnt a few things from the Euros in Helsinki – I put my neck on the line and took a lot of risks which meant I got no points for some moves and it cost me in the end," she said.
"In America I am going to rein a few things in and play it a bit safer, because in hindsight that is what I should have done in Helsinki.
"I obviously will be working on my free programme and rearranging things so the same mistakes don't happen again.

"Qualification for the Olympics is up for grabs – I think you have to be in the top 24 to secure your place in Vancouver but I should easily make it into the top 15.
"It used to be a lot stricter in previous Games but they have eased the reins. There is one more chance to qualify after the Worlds but I don't want to think about that because in many ways you have to win it to guarantee your place."

Look out for Jenna in LA; she's not going to get on the podium or anything but I saw her last year at Art on Ice skating with her husband, Kevin van der Perren, and she was great. I like her confidence and ability to know exactly what she needs to do.

Today's Program of the Day is Jenna's SP from Europeans this year, which left her in fourth. If she can get her long program up to the standard of this great short, she'll definitely be moving up next year.

Both Jenna and Kevin van der Perren have great websites, which are regularly updated with lots of personal pictures, so I would suggest you give them a look for mor information on the pair.

Oh, and thank you to Aaron over at Axels, Loops and Spins for the shout-out! Definitely check out his blog; he speaks frequently and knowledgably on all sorts of skating-related issues.

Another admin thing; thank you everyone who's reading my blog. If you've got anything you like or don't like about it, feel free to leave a comment. Constructive criticism would be great.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Program of the Day

Rachael Flatt is under a lot of pressure to perform well at the Worlds in a few short weeks so that America can gain back three ladies' spots for the Olympic year. Sensibly Rachael has got someone who knows what it's like to have the eyes of America watching you; Dorothy Hamill.
Rachael announced today that 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist Dorothy Hamill will mentor her on her road to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Hamill chose to work with Rachael due to Rachael's consistency, work ethic, and bubbly personality — all of which are reminiscent of Hamill's career over thirty years ago.

Hamill will be helping Rachael both on and off the ice and will act as a support system and advisor on how to deal with the challenges of being at the top of a sport that is immensely popular during Winter Olympic years.

I think that this will be great; Rachael has a lot of nice elements to her skating but this help from Hamill will definitely improve and inspire her.
"I'm thrilled and honored to be working with a legend like Dorothy," Rachael said. "Her outgoing personality and endearing smile touched millions of Americans in a way that I can only hope to emulate. Dorothy is an amazing role model and I look forward to learning from her experience of handling the pressure of being 'America's Sweetheart.'"

I have difficulty believing that Rachael actually wrote that herself, but the sentiment is there. Rachael's career seems to be really taking off in the States;
In addition to working with Hamill, the sixteen-year-old partnered with MAC Cosmetics, who will be providing her makeup through the Olympics, and Reading Is Fundamental, the nation's oldest children's literacy organization.

The new Kerrigan, Kwan or Cohen? I think for Rachael this is definitely within the realms of possiblity.

Program of the Day is her LP from Nationals. It's a technically strong performance, but hopefully working with Hamill will develop her artistry, posture and speed in her spins. Props to her for the absolutely gorgeous dress though!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Program of the Day

Sarah Meier recently did a very interesting interview with Absolute Skating around the time she was doing the Art on Ice shows. The main subject of discussion is her health, and unfortunately, it's not great news.
How is it going with your injury?
It’s Ok. Now it is not getting worse which is already a good sign.

The problem was with your spine, right?
No, actually the problem is in my right hip. First doctors thought that it’s in my back, but now they are sure that it’s in the hip.

I also heard that you might need a surgery...
Yes, maybe. But we’ll really try to avoid this if it’s possible.

It's awful that she probably won't be at Worlds; her presence was really missed at Europeans, as personally I think she's the best European ladies skater; so graceful yet with all the technical ability. Sarah comments quite frankly on the results of this year Europeans in the interview:
I liked pairs’ competition, Alyona and Robin… I also enjoyed watching ice dance. But I didn't enjoy singles much. I think Carolina had to win this. No, I’m really happy for Laura, too, but I think that Carolina should have won. The judgment decision was really strange.

The rest of the article can be found here.

Program of the Day is Sarah Meier's LP from last year's Worlds. Her artistry and emotion in the performance is just incredible, and at a level that is rarely seen in skating nowadays. Also an inspired music choice, which suits her perfectly.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Program of the Day

Program of the Day goes to Sasha Cohen, who posted a new journal a couple of days ago. She sounds really happy and in a good place, and it sounds like she's doing well with training for her possible comeback. She says:
I’m in good shape, and I feel strong and happy with what I am doing in my workouts. I’ve gotten my consistency back and I'm getting into jumps the way I was when I was competing. I do a lot of off-ice training and have improved my body core conditioning.

In May and June I will weigh everything and announce my plans for the next season. Right now I am living in the moment and focusing on getting into good physical shape and getting quality rest.

The rest of the article can be read here.

Program of the Day is a bit of a different one today; it's Sasha from 1994, when she was only tiny. It's always great to see skating stars when they were younger and not so, ahem, polished. I defy you not to say "Aw.." as you watch it.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Plushenko has announced his comeback

No, really.
French sports magazine L'Equipe said today that 2006 Olympic champion Evgeny Plushenko of Russia has announced he is making a comeback to figure skating, with intent to compete at the Vancouver Olympics a year from now.

Plushenko, a three-time world champion, hasn't competed since he won the gold medal in Turin and has been busy with other ventures.

I think this is great; Plushenko will definitely liven up the mens' competitions and it'll be great to see whether he's still got it.However, it's very difficult to see him motivation behind coming back. He had double knee surgery in 2007, with complications, and doing quads on top of these can't be good for his long-term health. He claims his return to aid Russian figure skating, but the article from is not convinced.
Shortly after Russian male skaters bombed at the 2007 world championships in Tokyo, Plushenko announced that he was returning to the competitive wars to because he was concerned that Russians would lose three spots for the following world championships - and maybe even the Vancouver Olympics - if he didn't come back and bridge the gap until younger Russian men found their footing.

But he didn't come back.

For the past couple of years, he's had no Grand Prix assignments.

First, he'd have to win his way back onto the Russian team by competing at his national championships next December.

L'Equipe says “local media” - assumed to be those in Russia - say he's decided to defend his Olympic title.

We'll see.

Program of the Day

Program of the Day goes to Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, who have announced that they are fighting fit again and will be at the World Championships later this month.
Belbin and Agosto had to withdraw from this year's U.S. championships because he had a back injury. They petitioned for a place on the World team and were granted that wish with the provision that they prove their fitness before the competition, which begins March 22.

Belbin said by phone Friday the duo had performed for a panel of judges Thursday at their rink in Aston, Pa., and had no difficulties. She said they will perform again March 12 for a larger group that will include members of U.S. Figure Skating's international committee, and she's confident the final decision will affirm their readiness to compete at Staples Center.

I, for one, am absolutely delighted; it would have been awful for them to miss the Worlds, especially when they're being held in the US of A. Their free skate this season is also amazing, so I'm glad to get the opportunity to see it again, and see how they fare again the other contenders. Their free skate from last season's World Championships is today's POTD. Great interpretation of the music, and beautifully understated costumes. The opening lift is just incredible.