Friday, August 26, 2011

Mirai & Ashley: Is This (Finally) the Season?

This week US skaters selected to participate in the upcoming 2011 Grand Prix events attended the annual Champs Camp held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorodo Springs, Colorado.   Universal Sports caught up with Mirai and Ashley to talk about the upcoming season.  New programs, new coaches, new outlooks on their skating...will this be the season Mirai and Ashely step it up?  Man, I hope so.

I'm glad Mirai has made it through the summer injury free. I found it interesting to hear her talk about getting back into competitive shape after having to miss so much training time last summer.  She was playing catch-up all last year and didn't really get into form until the end of the season at 4CC and it showed. She delivered a flawless LP that earned her a massive 129+ score and her first 4CC medal.

The good news is Mirai appears to be working hard this off-season, participating in summer competitions and really getting herself ready for the GP in a few months.  She seems to have her head in the right spot this year (Thank God!).  I'm glad she's listening to the people around her who are telling her that she's better than what she's been putting out.  Mirai has been the most talented US lady for a number of years--the problem is she rarely skates like it.  We've seen moments of sheer piddle-inducing brilliance from her:  her SP at the 2008 and 2010 nationals, her 2010 LP at nationals and at the Olympics, her 2010 SP at worlds, her 2011 LP at 4CC...she's proven that she's capable of skating to a high level and electrifying both crowds and judges alike.

Will we ever get this Mirai again?
The issue is those moments are so few and far between that people are getting annoyed with her.  She's rapidly descending into Sasha Cohen territory:  everything needed to be the top skater in the sport but an inability to pull it together and make it happen.  Mirai is insanely gifted as a skater:  long arms and legs, beautiful lines, killer spins and spirals, great speed, solid jumps (when she's on), personality and charisma, one of the greatest coaches in the world, and that all important "it" factor...that sparkle that makes her standout brighter than those around her.

Mirai has all of the natural talent she needs; however, the crucial things she seems to lack are drive and focus.  At times we get reports of her being "difficult" at practice or not putting forth the effort needed to get the results she wants.  She blamed it on growing pains and "being a teenager"...well, the angsty emo kid excuse has officially played itself out.  It's time to grow up (she's 18 years old) and start acting like a young adult.  No more of those craptacular "I let the bad practice get to me" or "that little negative voice in my head" excuses...start skating like a champion, dammit!  Now is Mirai's time to really step up and assert herself as the one to beat.  With Yu-Na and Miki (and possibly even Mao) out this season, that top spot is wide open.  And with the younger skaters moving up and coming to the senior ranks, it's time to stake her claim as a top contender.

I'm holding out for Mirai, I really am.  I hope like hell that this is the season she finally wakes up, realizes how awesome she is, and goes out there and skates like it.  That's my hope anyway...

I'm glad to hear John Nicks is forcing some technique on Ashley, though I can't say he's the expert on that.  I mean, Sasha Cohen always looked like she had impeccable jump technique and yet her jumps occasionally folded like chairs so, who knows how that will work out?  Regardless, Ashley's working on it, so that's great.  I've always found Ashley's lower placement among the current crop of US ladies a bit confusing. She's more exciting than Rachael Flatt, her level of technical difficulty is higher than Alissa Czisny's, and she's had more success on the GP than Mirai...and yet Ashley rarely gets any love from the judges.  I guess her jump consistency issues have held her back--she is a bit notorious for two-footing her landings in addition to being a chronic flutzer.  Hopefully introducing some technique to her jumping will help iron out a few of her jump problems.

Ashley debuted her programs at the Glacier Falls competition a few weeks ago and looked very sharp for so early in the preseason.  I like both of her programs so far.  They are far less frenetic, frantic and frenzied (yay for alliterate synonyms!) than her past programs.  As a result, a softer more controlled and elegant side of Ashley emerges and you can get a better appreciation for how lovely her skating is.  With a few months left to tweak and polish her programs, they should be ripe and ready for the GP season.

That damn short program...
I admire and appreciate Ashley's tenacity though I'll admit, she had me a little iffy about her during the 2009-2010 season.  Ashley seemed a bit stuck on herself to me.  She bragged rather openly about being the only US lady to medal at both of her GP events and the only one to make it to the final that season.  She walked into nationals with an irritating sense of entitlement, as though her spot on the Olympic team was already set in stone.  Methinks her head got too big and she forgot she'd have to earn it.  Her fall in the SP shocked the hell out of her and set her way back in the standings.  Her ballsy LP made up quite a bit of ground and it looked like she was going to make it onto the team after all...for a while there.  Nothing was more entertaining than watching her face go from euphoric after Sasha imploded, to a little less smug after Rachael skated, to complete bitchface after Mirai brought the house down.  Witnessing people getting clotheslined off of their high horse is strangely satisfying...

I've since forgiven Ashley for her overt bitchiness.  Since then, she seems a lot less snotty and full of herself.  The experience of missing out on the Olympics, coupled with her health issues that next season, appears to have humbled her to an extent, and that's good.  There's a fine line between being confident and cocky, and Ashley was leaning far more to the cocky side for a while.  She's righted herself, however, and I think it will pay off for her in the end.  A strong, solid, confident but not cocky Ashley has a good chance of nabbing one of those two spots on the world team if she can keep it together and skate her programs to their potential.

Ashley is healthy again and seems ready to attack this season head-on.  With her new pompous British coach (you gotta love John Nicks!), new programs and new California location (and hair color), I think Ashley's set to have a good year.  If she skates well, this could be somewhat of a break out season for her.  I'm cheering her on...and should she fail, well there's always her sublime bitchface to look forward to.

So is this the year Mirai and Ashley will finally get over their issues and rise to the top of the US lady heap? Your guess is as good as mine.


  1. I really don't see Ashley Wagner ever making it to Worlds unless she manages to finagle German citizenship or something. She's constantly failed to beat her immediate peers when it counts and the junior talent behind her is coming up very strongly.

  2. I'm glad to see that these two seem aware that they are expected to have their 3-3's by the grand prix series as I don't see how they expect to remain competitive internationally without them.

    I felt the same way about watching Ashley's changing facial expressions at 09 nationals, she was so transparent, it was too entertaining...