Gracie Gold: 202.54 (1st)Gracie won this event...and she won it in a pretty convincing fashion which is not usually the case for her, especially this early in the summer. I'm a huge critic when it comes to Gracie so for her to turn in such strong performances in August has me thinking she may be on the right path this season.
Gracie's programs are leaps and bounds better than what we've seen in the past. Her SP to "El Choclo" isn't the fiery, sassy and powerful tango program I was expecting/hoping to see from her. It reminds me of Yu-Na Kim's "Adios Nonino" FS; a quiet, subtle and more subdued tango...a tango-lite, if you will. It works, but I think it'd have much more impact if it had that fire, passion and power to it. That said, it's a good program. I like that Lori has Gracie doing levels in the choreography (several lunges that fit well with the tango theme), I like all of the tango hold moments in the footwork, I really love the skid move out of the 2A, and I like the ending as well. All in all, it's looking like it could be the best SP Gracie has ever had. The only thing the program is missing is the attitude. Gracie really needs to go watch some videos of Meryl Davis doing tango pieces. She needs to tap into her inner flirty/seductive side and really sell the hell outta this thing to the judges. Jump-wise, she was decent but really stiff. She's still too close to the wall on the 3-3 and that flip still looked like it rocked to an outside edge despite the new running three-turn entrance.
I gotta say...I like this "Firebird" FS. It's nothing profound or awe-inspiring but it's a nice edit of music with some solid choreography. Gracie is using her arms pretty well, which is a major compliment coming from me because I usually detest her borderline airplane arms. I like the first half of the program more than I like the second half...the second half lulls a bit and I think the choreographic sequence should be switched around so that it's during the big climax at the end that screams for a nice sustained arabesque spiral rather than back-to-back spins. Oh well. Less than stellar ending aside, I do think it's the strongest FS Gracie has ever had. Her performance of it here was solid though still a little blank. Once she settles into both of these programs she can flush out the nuances of the choreography and really make it shine...hopefully.
Polina Edmunds: 160.09 (4th)Polina is looking much more mature and womanly now. She's finally left that awkward in-between stage of puberty, hallelujah. She's filled out her limbs and is now looking more regal and commanding which should help her in the judges' eyes. Additionally, she's ditched the toddler-like programs and costumes. Again, hallelujah.
I like Polina's SP to "Moonlight Sonata" though, I must admit, I'm not as gaga over it as some people are. There are some nice moments in there (using the twizzles to transition the tempo of the music and that sharp ending pose) but I don't see this program scoring 72+ internationally. It's missing something...what that something is, I have no idea. Still, I think it's a lovely program and it should score well. Kudos to her for stabilizing that flip edge (it looked clean to me) and it looks like she's skating with a bit more speed as well. Her jumps looked really strong here and that's always a good sign.
I can't comment much on Polina's "Gone With the Wind" FS simply because I haven't found a full video of it. There's only a two minute clip of a portion of the program; I'm not sure if it's the beginning or the middle. It's tough to get a feel for the program as a whole...plus the random effing screaming from a group of dumbass girls in the audience not only ruined the video but also seemed to distract Polina as well. Someone seriously should have told them to shut the hell up...how rude. From what I did see from the clip, I'm not really getting too much of a "GWTW" vibe; then again it may be something you need to see the whole thing to get the full effect of. I would like to see her ditch that pastel purple dress and go for something velvet, preferably in green or red. Come on, it's Scarlett O'Hara! Dress the part! According to reports, Polina struggled with her jumps and dropped from 1st to 4th overall. Not sure what happened there...she looked so strong in the SP.
Some others (check out the other videos on The Skating Lesson's YouTube channel):
Courtney Hicks (173.05, 2nd): Solid programs for Courtney and a pretty decent outing as well. It's tough for me to really get into her style of skating (still really hunched and kinda tankish) but I do appreciate that she has her own style. Kudos for that. I really want to see her clean up her 3F-3T. Both attempts at this competition included a turn in the middle between the jumps. That would result in -GOE so she needs to clean that up. She's a powerhouse jumper...she just needs to have more confidence and control on her landings.
Mariah Bell (166.41, 3rd): Not the best outing for her but it was still a solid effort. I like both of her programs as well. I really loved the footwork in her FS. It was very complicated and intricate (which is probably why she tripped and fell) but I admire her for stepping up her game in that department and I'm sure it's going to be fabulous once she nails it.
Karen Chen (57.54, WD): I'm not a big fan of her "Nessun Dorma" SP. She usually does a good job of carrying big music but I wasn't feeling it here. Maybe she was injured (she was wearing some kind of brace on her leg and even withdrew after the SP) so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully we'll see her finally rise once the season kicks off. She has yet to impress since nationals...that needs to change or people are going to think that was just a fluke.
This was a nice little teaser of what to expect once the season starts off. Everyone still has a lot of work to do but based on this competition, I think we're in for a very interesting season.