Senior Ladies: Free Skate
Leah Keiser (108.97): It's obvious Leah was in it to win it this competition. She laid out a solid free skate that scored the highest TES of the competition (58.76). I loved her music selection (Dr. Zhivago). Unfortunately for Leah, she suffers from the same problem that most of the junior skaters suffer from: lack of maturity, though I will say her presentation is better than most girls in her age bracket. She's definitely gotta work on her lines and extending her movements. Her footwork section was a little better, but it does seem to stall at times. Leah looks small, so we'll have to see how she fares once the puberty monster sneaks up on her. Past lessons have taught me never to put too much stock in junior skaters (cough Caroline Zhang cough); it's always better to reserve judgement until puberty is done smacking them around. Leah basics are solid though and that's always a North Star when it comes to navigating the puberty thicket.
Ashley Wagner (108.73): There had been a lot of talk about this program in the last few days, mainly because Ashley knows how to tease the salivating skating fans when it comes to vlogging and posting sneak peeks at her practices. Her Black Swan LP is one of a dozen we'll probably see this season (thanks Natalie Portman!). After seeing it, I'm not completely blown away yet. I've always admired Ashley's programs and this is another one that makes the list. I think it's a nicely done program but it's not ground breaking or anything. She hits some lovely positions in it and we know she's the swan because of all of the elegant arm flapping...still, it does seem a little bare at times, like some of the choreography wasn't quite ready to be showcased yet. Regardless, what she showed here is that she's definitely coming out this season gunning for the top. Again, I love the simplicity of the costume but I'm almost positive she's planning on going all out for this program and will have something a bit more dramatic ready by the time the season starts. The program was nice and her jumps looked solid with maybe one or two signature Ashley two-footed landings. With another two months to tweak and perfect this program, I expect Ashley's debut this season to be like, "Allow me to reintroduce myself...I'm Ashley Wagner, biatch!"
Courtney Hicks (101.65): I am not a fan of this LP of hers; the music, like her skating, is a bit all over the place. Her body line screams for some softer, more elegant music but then I remember despite her appearance, her body lines aren't that great...pity. With John Nicks as Courtney's coach, one can only hope he has some of his Sasha Cohen DNA stored away somewhere and he can inject Courtney with a bit of it. If you added Sasha's control, pointed toes, gorgeous lines and presentation to Courtney's speed and jumping ability, you'd have one kick ass skater. However, for now, we have an energetic jumper who needs to bring it down a level or two. Again, Courtney needs to work like hell on her lines, extension, smoothness and fluidity of her movements, and her flexibility. I'm noticing she is deceptively inflexible. I look at her lithe figure and think she's as gumby as a ballerina...but then I look at her camel spins, spirals and Biellmann--they could be a lot better. I still have hope for Courtney yet, but until she can shake those juniorish flaws, I just can't jump in her cheering corner...
Mirai Nagasu (101.16): I'm a bit on the fence about this program. I can see the potential for it to be a really good program, but it's going to require some reshuffling of elements. Watching summer competitions is like watching a rough cut of a movie--you get a general idea for what's coming. This program for Mirai, with two more months of work, could be really nice. I'd like to see the music utilized a little better, particularly during the big crescendo moment that screams "PUT KWAN SPIRAL HERE!!" It's a waste of music to put a spread eagle there when a classic arabesque spiral (especially one as fantabulous as Mirai's) is much more effective. Has Lori gone senile or something? She used to have such a great understanding of music and movement, but some of her programs lately have me wondering... As for the jumps, it's early so hopefully we'll see something better from Mirai by the time the season starts. I'd love to see her go for that 3lz-3t and put her 2a-3t in the second half of the program. I'm sure, to an extent, it's wishful thinking but she's capable of doing it...I wonder if she knows that? Oh, and in terms of dress, it's time to switch up her style. All of Mirai's dresses look relatively the same. I love the blue color and it's nice, but I'd like to see something different for a change. Hopefully, that one is a place holder and she'll have something better when the season starts...hopefully.
Caroline Zhang (94.08): Biggest surprise of the event for me! I did not expect to see Caroline do so well here! She had a few problems with her flips (turning out of the first and popping the second) but she really fought for the rest of the program and that's something we haven't seen in a while. From the video angle, you can definitely see the improvements to her speed. To me, she doesn't look much smaller weight-wise than last season but what's important is that she's not skating like she's wearing ten-pound ankle weights, which was the case last season. She finally landed that damn flutz, which she missed every time last season. It's nowhere closer to being a lutz, but at least she landed it. I like the black dress, but her LP dress from nationals last year is the way to go--long sleeves and cut-outs. That dress made her look longer and distracted from her more muscular frame. All in all though, Caroline looks like she's on the right track. I hope she has a killer showing at Skate America seeing as how it's her only assignment. She's getting there...it's taking a while and she's got a long way to go, but she's getting there...
Vanessa Lam (93.79): I couldn't find a video of Vanessa's LP, but judging by the low score, I'd say she had a few problems. She wasn't quite with it in the SP and I'm guessing her problems carried over to the LP. Not to worry though...Vanessa's a tough competitor and has all the goods to be a threat in the future once she polishes up...
Top 6 Final Scores of Ladies Competition
- Ashley Wagner: 167.31
- Leah Keiser: 164.24
- Courtney Hicks: 158.23
- Mirai Nagasu: 157.99
- Caroline Zhang: 146.18
- Vanessa Lam: 141.58
Overall, this was a good snapshot of what's to come in the next few months. It's obvious everyone still has quite a bit to work on, but the good thing is they have plenty of time to reshuffle, tweak, polish, clean up or just start over if need be, though I don't think anyone was that bad. I'm excited to see what this season brings, particularly for the incoming senior ladies. A lot of big names will be debuting this season...and a lot of established names will be fighting to maintain some kind of foothold in this race to Soichi.
Well, that's it for now. Ta!