Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flashback: NHK Trophy Through the Years

Continuing with my trip down memory lane, here are some memorable performances from NHK Trophy...

2010 NHK Trophy winners...looks just like Skate America...

NHK Trophy is the fourth stop on the 2011-2012 Grand Prix and will be held November 11-13 in Sapporo, Japan.  A little background info on the competition:  As per Wiki, the first NHK Trophy was held in 1979.  The event was added to the Grand Prix in 1995 when the series began.

A number of notable ladies have earned this crown:  Midori Ito, Katarina Witt, Denise Biellmann, Surya Bonaly, Lu Chen, Maria Butyrskaya, Tatiana Malinina, Fumie Suguri, Shizuka Arakawa, Mao Asada, Yukari Nakano, Miki Ando and Carolina Kostner. 

Check out these memorable performances:

1989:  Midori Ito, Free Skate
I could go on all day about Midori's jumps...but this is one time I can say the program matched the technical difficulty.  Midori's "Scheherazade" was a great program with many soft moments and she delivered it so well.  But the jumps!  A ridiculous 3A plus a 3t-3t towards the end of the program.  This amazing performance earned Midori four perfect 6.0s in technical elements, plus a 6.0 in presentation.  She walked away with her fourth of six NHK Trophy titles (the last four titles were consecutive).

1994:  Lu Chen, Free Skate
I just loved Lu Lu--her gorgeous posture, the softness of her skating and her delayed jumps.  This "Last Emperor" program was wonderful and she delivered it flawlessly.  She struggled a bit during the season but managed to nail everything in this program.  Technical content, artistry and expression...will China ever find another like her? money is on Zijun Li.  I digress.  Lu Lu's inspired free skate beat out Surya Bonaly and won her the first of her two NHK Trophy titles.

2000:  Maria Butyrskaya, Free Skate
You know, I was never a big fan of Maria; her skating always seemed a bit off to me.  However, she always had lovely dresses, great music and programs, and on occasion she managed to put out some really solid performances.  The outcome of this competition was very controversial.  It's clear from the commentators' discussion that they felt Maria clearly outskated Irina here but, as it sometimes goes in this sport, the better skater had to settle for silver instead of gold this time.  Maria does hold two NHK Trophy titles though (1996 & 1999). 

2004:  Shizuka Arakawa, Short Program
Did Shiz know how to pick her Puccini or what?  She was a pro at riding the music wave of a sweeping crescendo and making it work for her.  Her Olympic "Turnadot" FS is one, and this "Madame Butterfly" is another.  There was a quiet and understated elegance about Shizuka's skating that I loved.  She wasn't as flashy as other skaters, but her grace and difficult jumps made people take notice.  With her 3lz-3t combo Shizuka placed first in the SP.  Her second place FS helped her to win her first and only NHK Trophy title.

2008:  Mao Asada, Short Program
Mao Asada + Lori Nichol + Purple dress = Naked Ice swooning, with a remainder of happy piddles.  What is it about that combination?  We got the same result last season with "Liebestraum."  "Claire de Lune" is probably my favorite SP from Mao.  Everything about it was perfection and NHK was one of the few times she performed it well during her troubled 2008-2009 season.  Her 3f-3lp was marked as UR even though it looked good to me, but most importantly she got full credit for her lutz.  Biased tech calling or not, that was an accomplishment.  I love the little nod she gave after the performance like, "There. Finally."  Absolutely gorgeous.  Mao placed first in both segments of the competition and earned her second NHK Trophy title (so far).

This year's top competitors will be Mao Asada, Kiira Korpi, Akiko Suzuki, Alena Leonova, Ashley Wagner and Agnes Zawadski.  Also competing will be Elene Gedevanishvili, Cynthia Phaneuf, Mae Berenice Meite and Shoko Ishikawa.

Trophee Eric Bompard is next!

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