Monday, November 12, 2012

2012 Rostelecom Cup: Ladies Review

This event wasn’t the most exciting but there were still a number of good performances.

Not the podium I was expecting but good nonetheless

Here are the final results:

Kiira Korpi (FIN): 61.55 (SP) + 115.64 (FS) = 177.19 (1st) 
I’m not the biggest fan of the lovely Kiira but I do think the judges got this one right for the most part. She’s often accused of being awarded the SWP (Skating While Pretty) bonus but this is one time she backed up her princess pretty points with some good skating.

The SWP bonus definitely showed up in the SP. Kiira didn’t have the best of programs, doubling the second jump in her 3T-3T combo. It left her with a somewhat novice looking jump layout: 3T-2T, 3L, 2A. Luckily for Kiira, she has the necessary skating skills and presentation to make up for her lack of difficulty. At first glance, her SP score was pretty high; however, taking into account she gained level 4s for everything except her layback spin (level 2) and received +GOEs on everything (even the doubled combo) plus the strength of her PCS, it’s not hard to see why she scored the way she did. Personally, I’d have had Agnes ahead of her but no matter. The scores were tight at the top which meant the strongest skate would win the gold.

SWP in motion...

To Kiira’s credit, she showed up in the FS. She hit her 3T-3T along with three other triples. Her 3F received an edge call and she fell on an URed 3L but the rest of her program was pretty strong. I wasn't blown away by her FS but (as always) she presented it well, though I do wish the footwork sequence reflected the music more. That section of the piece has a lot of little accents that could be highlighted with the right choreography…anyhoo, she did what she needed to do and won the FS and edged out Gracie for the win.

Kiira is still a vanilla skater: plain but nice. She’s just a classically pretty skater. There’s no amazing flexibility, big jumps, super speed or anything like that…she’s just a classic skater, almost like she was plucked out of the mid 1990s 6.0 system and tossed in with the IJS crowd. The impressive part is she’s holding her own and keeping herself in the game by going after the 3T-3T in both programs. Her subtle grace and strong PCS are her strengths and that’s fine with me. Against weaker fields, she does have a leg up. I don’t know how she’ll stack up against some of the tougher competitors but this victory was very nice and well deserved. This win gives Kiira a total of 26 points and probably ensures her a spot in the GPF.

Gracie Gold (USA): 62.16 (SP) + 112.87 (FS) = 175.03 (2nd) 
Aahh, redemption…I bet it feels pretty good for Gracie. While I’m sure she’s thrilled with this silver medal, she probably face-palmed herself when she realized how close she came to winning this one.

Gracie knocked her SP out of the park. You could see the difference in her right from the opening pose. She didn’t bother plastering that fake grin on her face (thank god!); she looked focused and she went out and skated like it. Gracie hit all of her jump elements cleanly with height, speed and distance. She and her coaches switched up the layout of the jumps, opting out of the small bonus on the 2A by putting it in the first half of the program. Smart move. It allowed her to get all of the jumping out of the way and then focus on the rest of the program without that final crucial element hanging over her head at the end. I still don’t like her program (it’s just too juniorish for me) but she nailed all of her elements and went into the FS narrowly in first place.

Still a ways to go but she's improving

The FS was the real test for Gracie. This was what I was waiting on. There are a number of skaters capable of winning the SP but it takes a large amount of focus and nerve to maintain a lead, especially when skating last. For the most part, Gracie held up under the pressure but she still has some work to do. She doubled two intended triples (3F and 3L) and singled one double jump…these aren’t major disasters but the loss in points added up. She completed four triples (an improvement on her three from SC) but she coughed up a lot of points with those doubles and edge calls (on both 3Fs). Given Kiira’s solid skate, Gracie didn’t have much room for error. In the end she was probably one extra revolution away from gold. Had she completed the lutz or loop, she’d have edged out Kiira for the win.

Gracie has redeemed herself somewhat but I’m still not a fan. I adore her monstrous jumps and difficult transitions but she continues to bore me with everything else she does. Like the rest of these senior newbies, Gracie needs time to develop her style and learn how to interpret the music and really connect to what she’s doing…I can give her that. The silver medal gives her 13 GP points but it won’t be enough for the Final. Gracie has a nice break before nationals and the good news is now she’s got momentum on her side. If she can build on her performances here, she’ll be in good shape come January.

Agnes Zawadzki (USA): 60.18 (SP) + 106.43 (FS) = 166.61 (3rd) 
Third one's the charm.  This is Agnes's third season on the GP and she finally had a breakthrough here.

Her SP was pretty impressive. Agnes and Gracie are the two power jumpers of the US ladies right now. Agnes carries a lot of speed into her jumps and when she hits them, they’re spectacular. She opened her SP with a huge 3Lz and followed it up with a big 3T-3T. Whenever Agnes hits her jumps, the rest of her program comes to life. She performed with a ton of energy and pizazz and really sold the program. I thought she was lowballed somewhat in her scores but she was still in gold medal position going into the FS.

Baby steps, steps.

Agnes has a reputation for falling to pieces in the FS. This performance wasn’t the greatest but it was a vast improvement over what she’s known to do. She went for the 3T-3T and URed the back end of it but landed two other triples. Her 3S was URed as well and she doubled her 3Lz-2T combo. You could tell she was being cautious; her jumps didn’t soar the way they did in the SP…but that’s okay. Baby steps. She has to learn how to compete when things are on the line and this was a step in the right direction. Agnes placed fourth in the FS and was able to edge out Kanako Murakami for bronze.

I maintain that when Agnes is on she’s a great skater. The good thing for her is this was her debut on the GP this year. If she can build on this performance at NHK, she has a good shot at medaling and possibly making the Final.

As for the rest…

I'd have had her third...

Kanako Murakami (JPN, 4th) narrowly missed out on bronze here. As a matter of preference, I’d have had her third. Kanako started off roughly in the SP, URing her 3T-3T and falling on her 3F. People have expressed worry over the number of URs she gets called on but I wasn’t concerned; this is the same thing that happened last season and, as I said, she’ll straighten it out by nationals.

Thanks for proving me right Kanako! Six triple jumps in the FS and only one UR! Unfortunately, Kankao’s sixth and final triple did not count because she didn’t include a 2A in the program. That brain fart cost her a bronze medal. Regardless, she had the best skate of the night in my opinion. She landed more triples than anyone and I really love that program. Kanako has plenty to work on heading into Japanese nationals but at least she appears to be getting stronger heading into the second half of the season.

One day she'll get it together

Adelina Sotnikova (RUS, 5th) is struggling. Her SP opened with an incredible 3T-3T; bigger than the one at SA with more speed, height, flow and a better landing…yet she blanked out on the 3F again. Her FS was an unmitigated disaster: three falls. Like I said before, it doesn’t appear as though her problem is physical; it looks to be 100% mental. Her nerves are terrible and they throw off her timing. Adelina is an amazing skater. Even with all of those falls she still scored over 100 points and placed in the top five.

I’m nowhere near giving up on her. Adelina is only 16 years old which means Sochi isn’t the be all end all for her. She’ll be 22 or 23 by the time Pyeongchang rolls around so, barring some major injury, she’s got another quadrennial of skating ahead of her. But unless she can learn to manage those nerves, she’ll never live up to her potential. No shot at the Final for her…


Alena Leonova (RUS, 6th) continued to struggle as well.  She hit her 3T-3T in the SP and the 3F, but flubbed the 2A. Her FS was full of URs, popped jumps and fought-for landings. She’s still off her game. I feel like the pressure is getting to Alena. She’s got the expectation/pressure of being the world silver medalist and she’s not living up to it. Then there’s the pressure of all of the newbies catching up to her. Whatever her deal is she needs to get over it. That world silver medal is doing her no favors as of now and if she keeps skating like this and others skate better, she’ll be in danger of being left off the world team.

Polina Korobeynikova (RUS, 7th) had a solid competition. She hit a wonderful 3T-3T in her SP but her doubled 3L left her in eighth place. Her FS was very solid with five triples including a 2A-3T (the only one to complete that combo in this competition). She fell on her 2A but it didn’t hurt her score too much. Polina is a lovely skater but she lacks the difficulty needed to really compete in this pool of Russian ladies. No lutz and only one 3F won’t cut it…but I’ve always enjoyed her skating.

Viktoria Helgesson (SWE, 8th) had a rough competition. She received a DG on her 3T-3T attempt as well as -GOEs on her 3L. Her FS was full of URs and just too many mistakes…

Valentina Marchei (ITA, 9th) was not able to build on her strong performances at SA. She fell on her opening combo in the SP and URed her 2A. The mistakes left her in ninth place heading into the FS. She bounced back with a solid performance and finished fifth in the segment, but the hole she dug in the SP was too deep to get out of.

What more can she do?

Caroline Zhang (USA, 10th) doesn’t appear to be getting any better. What’s sad about it is she’s doing well! She popped open her 3F in the SP and her 3Lz in the FS, but other than that she hit all of her jumps. No URs, only one edge call…she’s skating well in terms of her jumps. Unfortunately, it’s the rest of her skating that is hurting her. Caroline’s best isn’t nearly good enough anymore. At nationals and 4CC last year she was faster; not by much, but she did skate with more speed and attack. This season Caroline is very, very slow across the ice, and it’s painfully noticeable. Her programs are bare and her basic skating skills are so far below the rest of the field...*sigh* I don’t know where she’ll go from here.

Only two events left to go! This week is Trophee Bompard and the field is stacked! We’ll see Americans Ashley Wagner and Christina Gao; Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Julia Lipnitskaya and Polina Korobeynikova of Russia; Mae Berenice Meite and Lena Marrocco of France; Elena Glebova of Estonia; Jenna McCorkell of Great Britain; and Joshi Helgesson of Sweden. This one should be good!

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