Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Skate Canada: Ladies Review

The second event of the season, Skate Canada, once again had a young Russian squaring off against a top American.  The skating was a different but, ultimately, the outcome was mostly the same.

Russia is 2 for 2 so far...

Final results

Anna Pogorilaya (RUS):  65.28 (SP) + 126.53 (FS) = 191.81 (1st)
Coming in as roughly the #4 ranked Russian skater, Anna knew if she wanted to maintain/improve her positioning in the hierarchy of Russian threats, she needed to deliver.

Anna's SP was...a lot.  Okay, so the jumps were decent: the 3Lz-3T was solid (even though she landed a little heavily on the first jump), the 3L was great and the 2A was wonky but completed.  The spins, while not the most appealing in terms of aesthetics, were okay as well...but the program was just too much.  I saw some improvements in Anna's slower movements at the beginning; she gives them a little more feeling and attention than last season and that's great.  However, Anna chose to skate to "Adagio" by Laura Fabian.  It's a beautiful but extremely powerful ballad--Anna can't match it.  The song ran over her performance like a freight train.  She attempted to keep up with the power of the music but she lacks the polish and control needed to make it work.  Even though the performance was frantic and a bit sloppy in my opinion, Anna's high TES helped her win the SP and go into the FS with a small lead.

Moving on up the world standings ladder

I am sick to death of warhorse music and Anna's FS to "Firebird" fits into that category.  I will say I think the program has more potential than her horrible "Mermaids" FS from last year, so yay there.  There is more choreography but, like her SP, she still needs to work on presenting it with more polish.  As far as her performance, Anna made this competition very easy to call.  There was no doubt that she was the winner after she finished.  She hit on everything, including two 3-3s (3Lz-3T and 3L-1L-3S) and high level spins and steps.  It was a no-brainer.  I will say that I feel Anna's PCS were too high here.  I thought the judges were right on the money in the SP but I guess because she skated last and nailed everything (only mistake was an e on her 3F), the judges bumped up her PCS by about 2 points too many.  I thought she deserved around 60+...maybe 61+ if they were being generous.  Regardless, the inflated PCS didn't make a difference in the outcome overall so I suppose it's fine.  Anna easily won both segments of the competition and walked away with her second GP title.

Anna's consistency is a major asset and will help her land at the top (or near the top) of the podium every time.  However, if she wants to compete with the top Russians, she's going to have to clean up her sloppy skating and bring more life and performance to her skating.

Ashley Wagner (USA):  63.86 (SP) + 122.14 (FS) = 186.00 (2nd)
It's been a long time since Ashley has competed without some kind of chip on her shoulder.  Her awful debut at Japan Open was still hanging over her head when she took the ice in Canada...

I have to say, I really like Ashley's SP to "Spartacus."  True, I was having flashbacks of the Kween's SP to "Spartacus," but I thought Ashley's program was very effective and well-delivered.  She did a nice job with all of her spins (level 4s) and her step sequence (level 4 with mostly +2s in GOE).  The jumps, however, are a different story.  Ashley went for the 3F-3T and for the I-don't-know-how-manyth time in a row, she got hit with an under-rotation (and a ! on her edge, which is odd).  That combination is officially MIA.  Ashley's 2A was solid but I noticed that she stalked it much longer than usual and she's curving that outside edge a little more than I'm used to seeing.  Hmmm.  I really loved the spread eagle entrance into her 3L and it looked clean in real time; however in slo-mo, it was clear she hooked the landing.  That jump got hit with an under-rotation as well.  She lost nearly 4 points in base value and -GOE alone. Ashley finished the SP in 2nd place.

Wagner regaining a bit of Swagner

I'm still not too sure how I feel about this "Moulin Rogue" FS.  I don't like it, but I don't dislike it either.  I'm kinda meh about it.  Anyhoo, Ashley did a much better job delivering the program here than she did at Japan Open.  I don't why she's going for the 2A-3T in this (or any) program. I can't recall one time she actually got full credit for that combination.  She under-rotated the 3T in the combination as well as a solo 3L.  Also she got another ! call on one of her 3Fs.  I'm not too sure what's going on there.  Maybe her working at getting a true lutz is messing with her flip?  I don't know but hopefully that won't become an issue in the future.  Other than the two under-rotations and a level 3 on one spin and her step sequence, this was a strong comeback performance for Ashley.  She placed 2nd in the FS and 2nd overall to earn her fifth consecutive medal on the Grand Prix.

It's obvious Ashley still has enough in the tank to be competitive in the field.  She had the highest PCS in both segments of the competition which is a definite plus when it comes to sizing her up to some of the other girls.  However, if Ashley wants to be competitive at the top, she is going to have to beef up her technical content.

Satoko Miyahara (JPN):  60.22 (SP) + 121.53 (FS) = 181.75 (3rd)
Satoko is the go-to girl for Japan now that nearly all of the top veterans are absent.  With so few elite Japanese senior ladies in the field, Satoko is responsible for carrying the torch and keeping Japan relevant on the world stage.

I totally dug Satoko's throwback to the 1990s SP dress (poofy sleeves, deep v-cut in the front and back)... I don't know if that was intentional or not but I definitely appreciated it.  Satoko's SP to Mozart's "The Magic Flute" is lovely and delightful, like all of her programs.  I think she does a beautiful job of capturing the subtleties in the music and the choreography was great.  At first glance, Satoko skated very well: 3Lz-3T, a slightly shaky but still clean landing on her 3F, gorgeous spins and steps...it all looked good.  Unfortunately, the technical caller rained on her parade.  Both jumps in her 3Lz-3T were hit with < and her 3F received a !.  I thought both jumps in the combo appeared to within that quarter turn limit BUT, there is a possibility the judges were looking at pre-rotation on the take off.  Satoko has a bad habit of doing that and I'm thinking that could be what happened here.  So the lower TES may be legit...however, someone will have to explain to me whose ass the judges pulled those PCS out of.  Satoko's PCS were way too low for what she did on the ice.  Only one judge on the panel scored her fairly; everyone else had her mid to low 7s and even 6s.  Bullshit.  Complete and utter bullshit.  Satoko, despite her small size, has some of the best skating skills and fluid transitions in the field.  Her program was balanced and presented very well and, despite the up-close errors, it was a visually clean program.  I don't understand how the judges came to her scores...I really don't.  *sigh*  Satoko placed 4th in the FS.

I thought she was gorgeous

Satoko's "Miss Saigon" FS is my favorite FS of the ladies so far.  It's a great example of how to effectively incorporate lyrics in a way that they highlight the program rather than overpower it.  I love the music edit, the choreography is so well done and I love Satoko's performance.  I totally disagree with Johnny and Tara saying she's a "paint by the numbers" skater.  Satoko isn't Elena Radionova.  Elena performs to the back of the arena when she skates; Satoko is more subtle in her delivery but I find it both captivating and effective.  Her performance here was solid though she did lose points on two under-rotations (3T in her 3-3 combo and the 3Lz in her 3-jump combo).  The judges screwed her over in PCS again but Satoko did earn the 2nd highest TES of the night.  She finished 3rd in the FS and 3rd overall.  I do think if the judges had scored her properly in PCS that she may have had a case for silver here, but I won't press the issue.

As much as I love Satoko's skating it appears the judges are going to take a little longer to warm up to her.  She really needs to work on rotating her jumps fully and skating bigger.  If she can't manage that I don't think she's ever going to get the credit she deserves from the judges.

As for the rest...

Air time!

Courtney Hicks (USA; 174.51, 4th):  Courtney really impressed me here.  I do think she could have challenged for the podium if she'd skated a little cleaner.  She has the content to compete but she has to work on staying focused and delivering it.  Courtney's jumps are massive and, when they're clean, earn really good +GOE.  I think she has two great programs that showcase her power (take note Gracie Gold and Frank Carroll) and I see some improvement in her presentation, though is still a bit rough around the edges.  Her doubled lutz in the SP really cost her but she fought back hard in the FS with a solid performance and moved up from 8th all the way to 4th place.  Very well done!

There may be hope for you yet Rika

Rika Hongo (JPN; 171.47, 5th):  Rika is another one who surprised me.  I've been watching Rika since her junior days and I've always thought that she has the goods to be competitive at the top.  She has good speed, great skating skills and big jumps.  The main downside to her skating for me (aside from the inconsistency) was her lack of personality on the ice.  She was just kinda boring to me.  This season, however, I see a little more umph in her.  She gave more to the performance in the SP than I'd ever seen from her and placed a solid 5th.  Rika lost some of that performance aspect in her FS but she did put forth a great effort that placed her 5th in the FS and 5th overall.

No one in the field can "out camp" Alena

Alena Leonova (RUS; 164.15, 6th):  Alena's "Charlie Chaplin" SP was really nice.  I'm not that fond of her over-the-top style of skating but I think this SP really works well for her.  I enjoyed her...and I don't usually enjoy Alena's skating.  I appreciate her energy and enthusiasm but it tends to irk me more than anything.  Here I thought she did a really good job of playing the character and it fit in very well with the choreography and the music.  Alena got through all of the hard elements cleanly but made a bad error on her layback spin which cost her several points and left her in 3rd place.  Unfortunately, she was very off in the FS (multiple errors, very sloppy) and finished in 6th place in the FS and 6th overall.  Sadly, this is a big step backward for Alena.  For a while it looked like she was regaining her stride.  Hopefully she'll be able to rebound at her next event.

Looks like Sasha Cohen's SP dress from 2010

Alaine Chartrand (CAN; 156.22, 7th):  I think Alaine has the goods to be a challenger in the future.  She can get the high levels for her elements and she goes for the content...but in order to be a factor she is going to have to rotate her jumps.  She under-rotated her 3T in her 3Lz-3T combo in the SP and received four under-rotations and one downgrade in her FS.  I like her tenacity and her skating is nice to watch as well.  With Kaetlyn Osmond out the ladies field in Canada is open for someone to step up and usurp the throne.  Alaine could be the one, but she has to do better than this.

Back-to-back is rough

Brooklee Han (AUS; 146.80, 8th):  Brooklee had the unpleasant task of competing at two GPs back-to-back.  She was able to improve on her score from Skate America (total 150.37).  Brooklee had issues in both programs (problem with the lutz in the SP, two downgrades in the FS).  In order for her to make more of a mark, she really needs to up her content.  I do think both of her programs are lovely: beautiful music, nice choreography and presentation, and as always, her spins were some of the best in the field.

She's short listed for my favorite SP dress

Hae Jin Kim (KOR; 143.43, 9th):  Hae Jin has secured herself a spot in the top 5 for my Fashion Review that I post during the off-season.  I am obsessed with her gorgeous SP dress!  Hae Jin had a shaky start in her SP (lutz issues) but finished out the rest well enough.  For what she did on the ice I thought her PCS were low, particularly in performance/execution and interpretation.  She is very engaged in her performance and presents herself well but her scores don't reflect that.  Hae Jin had bigger issues in the FS (two under-rotations, downgrade/fall) and finished 10th in the FS.  

Lovely SP

Veronik Mallet (CAN; 142.25, 10th):  Veronik had a lovely SP and shocked a lot of people by placing a strong 6th in the segment.  Unfortunately, she basically imploded in the FS (two falls, edge calls, doubled jumps) and dropped all the way down the standings.

Waldrobe malfunction!

Viktoria Helgesson (SWE; 139.67, 11th):  Viktoria had a wardrobe malfunction in her SP.  The closure to her dress popped open after her first jump.  She stopped the performance and skated over to her coach/mother to fix it but managed to get it buckled herself by the time she got to the boards.   The music did not stop and she didn't restart, but rather hopped right back into the performance.  I've seen something like this happen before.  As a matter of fact, it happened to Caroline Zhang in 2012 at, get this...Skate Canada.  Caroline's dress popped open as well but she managed to finish out the performance without stopping.  Viktoria's was a bit worse though; her dress came down off her shoulders whereas Caroline's stayed up for the most part.  Unfortunately, Viktoria  lost a lot of points on her technical elements and finished the SP in last place.  Her FS was only slightly better.  Viktoria used to be a solid top 5 or 6 skaters...I'm not sure what happened to her.

This dress looked like a nightie

Julianne Seguin (CAN; 136.95, 12th): Julianne had a solid SP, like all of the Canadian ladies did, but wasn't able to keep it up in the FS.  Multiple errors left her in last place in the FS and in last place overall.

This week's is Cup of China and it should be a good one.  The headliners are Julia Lipnitskaya (RUS), Polina Edmunds (USA) and Elizaveta Tutamysheva (RUS).  This should be a great showdown of sorts between Julia and Polina who are both making their season debuts, but Elizaveta is fresh off a silver medal at Skate America and could challenge for one of those top spots as well.  We'll also see Kanako Murakami (JPN), Christina Gao (USA), Ashley Cain (USA), Zijun Li (CHN), Gabrielle Daleman (CAN), Hae Jin Kim (KOR), Viktoria Helgesson (SWE) and Anne Line Gjersem (GER).

This may be a somewhat pointless poll, but I still want to know!  Who do you think will win gold at Cup of China this year?  Make sure to vote on the poll!

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