|Cup of China 2010 winners...2011 will be good!|
Cup of China is the third event of the 2011-2012 Grand Prix season and will take place November 4-6 in Shanghai, China. Yay for history: As per Wiki, Cup of China is the youngest event in the Grand Prix series. The event was introduced and incorporated into the Grand Prix series back in 2003. With such a short history, there aren't many Golden Era notables who have competed, but there are a number of CoP Era ones: Irina Slutskaya, Shizuka Arakawa, Fumie Suguri, Carolina Kostner, Mao Asada, Caroline Zhang, Miki Ando, Joannie Rochette, Akiko Suzuki and Yu-Na Kim.
Here's a short list of notables:
2005: Irina Slutskaya, Short Program
If you've read any of my comments about Irina on this blog then you know I don't particularly care for her skating. This program is probably the only program I can point to and say, "I like that." Why? Because it was Irina being Irina; not Irina trying to be something she wasn't. Irina was a powerhouse jumper with speed and personality and this program showcased that. She motors through this program sans the guise of a graceful or elegant skater, and it worked wonders for her. Instead of cringing at her attempt to be refined and artistic, I was able to appreciate her rafter-reaching jumps, as well as her speed and power. Irina earned a personal best score of 70.22 here and won the second of her back-to-back Cup of China titles.
2005: Mao Asada, Short Program
Little Mao scared the bejesus out of all of the seniors that season, and with good reason. Her jumps were big and effortless looking, the judges liked her, and most of all, she was fearless. Unburden by the usual pressures and doubts that plague a seasoned veteran, Mao just went out there and had fun. I love the speed and flow she carries into and out of her jumps. I also love (and miss) the freedom and joy she skated with here. You can tell she's just a kid out there having fun. Mao placed second in this segment and second overall, winning a silver medal behind Irina.
2007: Yu-Na Kim, Free Skate
More Yu-Na being Yu-Na: big beautiful jumps, gorgeous choreography and musicality, and a large score to go with it. I like this program and think it's a little underrated; it doesn't seem to be as memorable as some of her others. Oh, but WTF was up with that dress? I usually swear by Yu-Na's style choices, but this FS dress is her one misfire in my book. Weird wardrobe aside, "Miss Saigon" was a wonderful program and she skated it beautifully. Even with the popped lutz, Yu-Na scored a personal best here and won the first of her two back-to-back Cup of China titles.
2007: Caroline Zhang, Short Program
Caroline's debut senior season was wonderful in both results and programs. Her "Spanish Gypsy" short program is my favorite SP of hers to date and she delivered it perfectly here. The confidence, the attitude, the spark...and the jumps. They were small and wonky as ever, yet still solid and secure. In my opinion, her spins and spiral were unmatched that year. I can admit, I was totally fascinated by Miss Zhang and her skating. It seemed like the US had finally found that go-to girl, the next star, the successor to the throne of Kween Kwan...well, we all know how that ended. Regardless, Caroline turned in a great performance here and in the FS, and she walked away with a silver medal.
2009: Akiko Suzuki, Free Skate
Warning: Prepare for mini rant... I. Love. Akiko. Suzuki. In terms of the most unappreciated, underrated and judges-just-do-not-give-her-her-due skaters, Akiko ranks at the top. No, she doesn't have the best lines, or spins, or huge jumps...but she makes up for everything she lacks in performance and presentation. She skates with energy, passion and commitment to her music and choreography. Akiko's programs are always well-choreographed and dynamic, and her delivery and expression are exceptional. This girl gives her all every time she steps on the ice and, for that, I love and adore her. It pisses me off to no end that the judges low-ball her, particularly in PCS. Her interpretation, choreography and presentation are always worth at least 8.00 or better, yet she rarely (if ever) sees those kind of scores. Luckily (finally), the judges awarded her at this event. After being treated to a night of subpar skating from Joannie Rochette, Kiira Korpi, Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu, Akiko's clean and inspired delivery of her "West Side Story" program finally knocked some sense into their heads. With her first place FS score, Akiko climbed from fourth in the SP to first overall, winning gold and her first senior Grand Prix title.
This year the top contenders will be Mirai Nagasu, Carolina Kostner, Kanako Murakami and Ksenia Makarova, plus the debut of Adelina Sotnikova and Christina Gao. Also competing will be Bingwa Geng, Kexin Zhang, Qiuying Zhu and Valentina Marchei...it's gonna be good!
That's all for Cup of China. I'll take a look at NHK Trophy next time!