Sunday, January 19, 2014

2014 European Championships + Canadian and Korean Nationals Round Up

I barely had time to process the results of last weekend's US national championships before I had to turn my attention to these European championships.  Let's just say after all of the feels, I'm very grateful for the distraction. I'll take a quick look at Euros and also a look at Canadian nationals and end with a very belated look at South Korean nationals.

2014 European Championships

The Russian ladies are in it to win it!

Julia Lipnitskaya - Gold

I don't know about you but I'm scared of Julia Lipnitskaya.  This girl has been frighteningly good this season and she doesn't appear to be slowing down as Sochi approaches.  Yet again she turned in two virtually clean skates and this time she walked away with gold.  Her SP was clean, easy and steady.  Her only mistake was an on her 3Lz-3T combo.  Everything else was great and she went into the FS in second place, right on the heels of Adelina.  Beast Mode Julia showed up and delivered a very convincing FS.  She's getting es called on her lutzes consistently now, but it's not hurting her much.  Julia's only visible error was a wonky landing on her 2A which was supposed to be a 2A-3T combo.  Luckily, she thought quickly on her feet and added the missed 3T to her second 2A which gave her an extra 10 percent boost on the combo.  Julia won the FS and finished first overall, and won the title in her first trip to Euros.

Julia's name has been bandied around as a possible darkhorse for Sochi.  Personally, I see her as a definite podium threat...if not a podium favorite.

Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) - Silver

Adelina seems to be gaining steam as we head toward Sochi as well.  She's usually known as a jittery and nervous competitor but it seems as though she's getting the hang of controlling her nerves, staying calm and delivering her programs.  Her SP was wonderful.  Huge 3T-3T, nice 3F and I love the entrance into her 2A.  She performed with energy and speed and really sold the program.  She left a few points on the table by not maximizing one spin and her footwork (both level 3s instead of 4s) but it was a standout performance that gave her the lead heading into the FS.  I didn't expect Adelina to perform that well in the FS but this performance marks the third time this season she's turned in a strong FS.  She had to step out of her opening 3Lz and her 3L got hit with <, but other than that everything else was clean including both 3Fs and even that 3-jump 3F combination.  The only downside was Adelina lost several points on levels again.  Her layback and step sequence were level 3s and her combination spin was only level 1.  Now that she is getting the hang of landing the jumps, she'll have to maintain her focus and execute her other elements correctly. She's capable of hitting level 4s and against Julia, every single point counts.

I was very proud of her here.  I thought her SP PCS were fair but I do think she was overscored in the FS.  Regardless, I'm excited to see that both of Russia's ladies are ready to throw down in Sochi.  It should make the whole competition a lot more interesting.

Carolina Kostner (ITA) - Bronze

It's good to see Carolina back to looking like she could be a threat in Sochi.  She dumped both of her programs from earlier this season.  She's now skating to "Ave Maria" for the SP and she resurrected "Bolero" for her FS.  I'm thrilled!  This new SP is absolutely lovely and she performed it perfectly here.  Her 3T-3T was great and earned 1.40 points in GOE.  The rest of the jumps were great and the step sequence was mesmerizing.  I do feel as though the judges were a bit stingy with her PCS in this program; she scored just 0.10 higher than Adelina.  The FS is always the test for Carolina and she only semi-passed here.  I think "Bolero" is a magnificent program for her.   Even though she struggled with the jumps (only 4 triples and a fall) she was still amazing.  Carolina has a way of drawing you in when she performs so that even with the mistakes, I immensely enjoy the performance and that should help her in Sochi.  Her PCS shot up in the FS (rightfully so) but next to the strong skates of Julia and Adelina, Carolina didn't have enough TES to compete and had to settle for third overall.

Carolina now has two perfect vehicles for Sochi but unfortunately her path to the podium is blocked.  Julia and Adelina are both podium threats, and judging by Gracie's national performances, she's now a podium threat as well.  A clean Carolina will likely beat all three hopefuls, but one mistake is enough to open the door.  She'll need to be amazing if she wants to stand on that podium in Sochi.

As for the rest...

Alena Leonova (RUS; 178.15, 4th) rebounded with two strong performances here.  Her campy over-exaggerated facial expressions aggravate me, but I've always appreciated her energy.  Unfortunately for Alena, hers is a case of too little too late.  It's good to see her perform well here after struggling all season, but she will not be making the trip to Sochi.

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA; 173.37, 5th) turned in two strong performances as well.  It was great to see her deliver well in both programs and finish in the top 5.

Valentina Marchei (ITA; 165.25, 6th) has two fabulous programs and I absolutely love the way she interprets her music.  She went for the 3S-3T in the SP but got < on the back end, and even though the performance was wonderful, she ran into a lot of trouble in the FS as well.

Nationals Round Up

2014 Canadian National Championships

The drama of the US Nationals weekend before last overshadowed the Canadian Nationals, which took place that same weekend.  Here's a quick look at the top two ladies.

The final results:

Kaetlyn Osmond - Gold

It's great to see Kaetlyn back on her game.  She's had rotten luck this year with injuries but it looks like she's back in competitive shape and, if she skates like this in Sochi, she should place well.  I love her SP!   She brings so much energy, charisma and excitement to her performances. The program is packed with transitions and Kaetlyn really brings it all to life.  I did not care for her FS earlier in the season but this "Cleopatra" FS is much better.  She struggled with the landings of a few of the jumps but she didn't back down and landed everything.  It's good to see her put forth such a strong performance and makes me hopeful that she'll be able to deliver like this in Sochi.  Kaetlyn's name isn't on the shortlist for medal favorites but I do think if she skates well she can place in the top 10.

Gabrielle Daleman - Silver

Gabrielle reminds me of a slightly more refined Courtney Hicks.  Her jumps are explosive and massive and she skates with a ton of speed, but she's in need of quite a bit of refinement in order to take her skating to the next level.  I've watched her the past two years and I do see growth in her, but she needs someone to rein her in a bit, slow her down and smooth her out.  Her 3Lz-3T combinations in this competition were insanely Gracie Gold huge, but bigger.  The downside to her jumps is they are kinda sloppy and a little out of control.  Again, she needs a polisher, someone who can take her natural athletic abilities and merge them with the aesthetic side of the sport.  Gabrielle turned in two solid performances here, won silver and earned herself a trip to Sochi.

Amelie Lacoste (166.69) finished 3rd overall and earned the bronze medal.  Unfortunately, she will not be representing Canada in Sochi.

2014 Korean National Championships

Yes, I'm very late seeing as how Korean Nationals took place at the beginning of the month.  But hey, better late than never!  Here are the final results:

Yu-Na Kim - Gold

No surprise to see Yu-Na come out on top here.  Her SP is a definite change of pace from her past SPs which tended to be exciting or dramatic.  "Send in the Clowns" is very calm and quiet, much more about subtle elegance and ease.  She delivered it very well here.  Her FS was solid overall despite some 2A issues.  It just looked like her timing was off.  Her first 2A was in a 3-jump combination but thanks to a scratchy landing, she only completed two jumps.  She singled her final axel at the end as well...just timing issues.  No biggie.  To prove it was no biggie, when they called her name for the medal ceremony she came out and hit a perfect 2A before taking her bow.

Yu-Na looks to be ready to tackle the challenge of defending her Olympic gold medal. I think she's still settling into her programs.  It seemed as though she was concentrating on the technical a bit more than the performance, but that's to be expected because this was only the second time she's competed these programs this season. I'm sure she'll flip the switch and give her final two competitive performances everything she has.

So-Youn Park - Silver

So-Youn struggled in the SP but came back with an absolutely beautiful FS.  She hit all of her jumps with ease including two great lutzes and a flawless 2A-3T that covered a ton of ice.  She really sold her "Rhapsody" FS and the audience loved it. So-Youn needs to learn to manage her nerves in the SP if she hopes to make people take notice when she moves to the senior level.  She has a lovely presence on the ice, gorgeous posture a la Sasha Cohen, and a real knack for performing.  She reminds me of Yu-Na circa 2007/2008, only with more polish and better lines.  You can tell So-Youn has studied Yu-Na; I see a lot of Yu-Na's qualities in her.  If she can match those qualities with consistent jumping Korea will have a very capable star to carry them forward post-Sochi.

Hae-Jin Kim - Bronze

Hae-Jin performed well here too.  She finished second in the SP but faltered in the FS (3Lz(<) and a fall on her 3F). I like her "Swan Lake" FS and I love the way she performs it.  But next to So-Youn, it's clear Hae-Jin has some work to do.  She doesn't move with the same ease as So-Youn nor do her jumps carry as much flow and speed.  Her posture and lines need work as well but she's a very good performer and I enjoy watching her.

So-Youn and Hae-Jin will be making the trip to Sochi.  Hopefully with Yu-Na leaving, one of the two will step up and become the top lady for Korea and continue the legacy of figure skating Yu-Na has started.

Only one major competition left before Sochi!!

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