Tuesday, September 22, 2015

2015 JGP Cup of Austria: Ladies Review + Russian Test Skates (Yay!)

I always pick a bad time to go out of town.  Lots of skating and skating news happened last week, so I'm playing catch-up.  I'll take a very quick look back at JGP Cup of Austria as well as give my thoughts on the Russian test skates from last week.  Here we go!

2015 JGP Cup of Austria: Ladies Review

The final results:

Maria Sotskova (RUS): 62.97 (SP) + 122.47 (FS) = 185.44 (1st)
Another very strong showing for Maria at this event.  She didn't make one mistake the entire competition.  There's a confidence to her this year that was definitely lacking last year.  I really like both of her programs and her maturity and presence on the ice make her a standout in this year's crop of junior ladies. Maria is one of the favorites for gold at the Final...

Mai Mihara (JPN): 63.55 (SP) + 118.50 (FS) = 182.05 (2nd)
Mai is making a case for herself as a strong medal contender this season.  She won the SP here, beating out Maria in both TES and PCS.  Had she not doubled her 3L in the FS, she may have edged out Maria and taken gold at this event.  Mai's silver medal here pretty much guarantees her a spot in the Final.

Da Bin Choi (KOR): 57.27 (SP) + 115.11 (FS) = 172.38 (3rd)
Da Bin has definitely found her stride.  She backed up her strong performances at Riga Cup with two more strong performances here.  Her consistency with the 3Lz-3T combo makes her competitive with the top ladies and helps her overall in the eyes of the judges.  She needs to work on getting her levels consistent but this second bronze medal is a major accomplishment for her and for Korean skating.

As for the rest...

Diana Pervushkina (RUS; 159.61, 4th): Diana turned in a strong SP and placed 3rd.  A few errors and lack of more difficult content caused her to slide in the FS and finish a distant 4th.

Wakaba Higuchi (JPN; 156.79, 5th): I expected Wakaba to be a gold medal favorite here but she completely spaced out in her SP, missing her layback spin, failing to execute a combo and receiving a ding on her 3F.  She fought back very hard in the FS with two 3-3s (3Lz-3L (+1.10) and 3Lz-3T in the bonus) but still lost points on a popped axel, an edge call on her flip and a low level step sequence.  Hopefully Wakaba will regroup and be stronger at her next event.

As always, the videos are here at the ISU's JGP YouTube channel.

This week is JGP Copernicus Stars which takes place in Torun, Poland.  We'll see Polina Tsurskaya (RUS) in her second event as well as Kaori Sakamoto (JPN).  Spots to the Final are on the line for both ladies.

Moving on...

2015 Russian Test Skates

The Russian test skate has become a "thing" now.  We all look forward to getting a sneak peek of the Russian ladies' programs before they hit the competitive stage.  I'd like to think that most of these programs are still "in progress" and that this isn't the 100% finished product we'll get in the next few weeks when the senior events kick off...at least, I hope these are not 100% finished yet...

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva

SP: I never thought I'd miss the muumuu...but I wish the muumuu was back.  I totally hate her outfit. It's ugly.  There.  I said it.  This "Carmina Burana" program is more classic Liza T: dramatic and flair-filled.  I'm not too much impressed with this program but I do like the guitar version of the music at the beginning.  Even though I feel like this is a program I've seen from Liza T several times before, I do think it's going to work for her this season.

FS (link here):  *sigh*  I'm sorry, I can't even halfway pretend to be excited about this one.  It falls very short of what Liza T managed to create last season with her "Sandstorm" FS.  Stylistically and artistically, she's stagnant; there's been hardly any growth since her junior days.  That's not me being harsh...it's just the truth!  Look back at her catalog of programs.  They are all annoyingly similar.  After last year, I was hoping to see Liza grow this season but judging from these programs, it's not happening.  I'm actually a little disappointed. The good news is the jumps still seem to be in tip-top shape so even if I think these programs are duds, she is still in a great position to defend her titles.

Elena Radionova

SP: I definitely prefer sassy upbeat Elena to angsty dramatic Elena, but both have their merit.  This program isn't my favorite but I do think it will serve its purpose for her.  I have to give it to her: the girl knows how to bring the drama.  She's totally into the character and mood of the music from start to finish and I can't help but admire that kind of commitment to a program.  I don't know if it was just the camera angle, but Elena appears to have gained a lot of speed over the summer.  I never thought she was slow per se, but I actually notice her speed now and that's a plus.  The jumps in both programs weren't perfect, but don't look any worse either...another plus.

FS (link here): Now, if you have read my blog you know Elena is my little baby and can do no wrong...until now.  I think...I might actually hate this program.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure I hate it.  With the entirety of the "Titanic" movie soundtrack at their disposal, including the Celine Dion power ballad "My Heart Will Go On" (with vocals!), I'm appalled that this is what they came up with.  It's a hokey mishmash of spoken words from the movie and disjointed music edits.  Not only is the music bad, the choreography is garbage too.  Elena is so much better than this.  Honestly, I expected something terrible as soon as I found out she was working with Morosov but this is worse than I imagined.  It is my deepest hope that Elena trashes this steaming turd of a program, hires a new choreographer and gets to work immediately.  It's not too late to start over!

Anna Pogorilaya

SP (link here): I am impressed with Anna.  It's taken two years but I finally see some improvement from her!  It seems like she's learning to control her long limbs.  I see the difference in her movements, particularly in her arms.  She has these long ballerinas-would-kill-to-have-them arms that she just didn't know what to do with.  Now I see a bit more control which really helps smooth out the rough edges of her skating.  The program is solid and I like the dress as well.  The jumps looked good (except for that 2A).  I must say I found it hilarious that Anna's glove got caught on her skate.  Let that be a lesson to her and the rest: nix the gloves when you skate!

FS:  The "Scheherazade" music selections have a little touch of A.D.D. about them but overall, I get what Anna is trying to do here.  Again, I have to give her kudos for her improved presentation.  She's not as flail-y and wild as she's been in the past.  There more control as well as a bit more finish/polish to her movements.  Anna has the makings of a gorgeous skater and I'm glad to see she's finally making strides in that direction.  The jumps weren't that great (two wipe outs) but hopefully she'll be better by October.  Her position in that #3 spot is definitely in jeopardy with Julia and Evgenia in the mix this season.  Now is the time to step it up...

Evgenia Medvedeva

SP (link here):  Evgenia is from the New-new school of Russian ladies.  These girls are experts at milking every single point out of the system.  The fact that Evgenia crams all three of her jumping passes into less than 30 seconds in the second half of the programs is evidence of this.  While that annoys me to no end, I can't fault her for playing the game...I can insist that her choreography score be docked.  After all the balance of the program is supposed to be considered in that portion of the score and with this program being completely lopsided, it's only fair that that score suffer, right?  Yeah, right.  Anyhoo, overall the program is nice.  Evgenia has a very watchable quality about her.

FS:  Even though this wasn't a judged event, Evgenia definitely won the FS.  She nailed all seven of her triples without missing a beat.  That flutz of hers is a problem but other than that, she was great: lovely ease and flow and a strong program to match.  Evgenia is really young but she's already developed a style to her skating. It's quirky and a little odd but very interesting and rather unique to her.  I love that about her.  Evgenia's excessive use of the tano feature is excessive; I honestly think it should be limited to two, maybe three times, per program.  Anything beyond that and it's just obvious point whoring...though to her credit, Evgenia can execute the feature without it looking crazy or super distracting (*cough* Serafima Sakhanovich *cough*).  I'm excited to see how Evgenia does this season.  My money is on her to be the break-out star this year.

Julia Lipnitskaya

SP: Thank goodness she has stepped out of the wistful little girl box and gone for something a bit more upbeat and lively.  I've never found Julia to be the best at projecting when she's on the ice nor does she create a real sense of energy or fun; for that reason, I'm happy to see her try this Elvis medley program.  It's totally out of her comfort zone and will push her to become a better performer.  Julia will need to dig deep to bring out her personality and really draw the audience into the performance.  She can't go out there and be dull otherwise the whole program will fall flat.

FS (link here): Sad to say there's not much going on here.  It's a decent program I suppose, but there's nothing about it that stands out or grabs me.  The choreography is very end to end, skate-jump-skate-jump, without much else going on in the middle.  It's all rather perfunctory, as if very little thought went into it.  It feels like one big run-on sentence without any kind of pause or break. I really hope they add more over the next few weeks. The jumps were rather off as well.  She's still struggling with the 3Lz and 3F, though I do think her two 2A-3T strategy could work, but she'd need to move them to the second half of the program.

Adelina Sotnikova

SP:  Can I just say that from a presentation standpoint, Adelina is looking fabulous! I love the dress, the hair, the makeup...she looks really put together which has not always been the case for her.  To be honest, half the time Adelina looked downright raggedy so this is a vast improvement for her.  I'm a fan of this program as well.  I love the beginning and the energy kick-up at the end.  There's more fluidity to her movements and she looks more polished and smooth which sends her overall presentation through the roof in my opinion. The jumps that were landed looked great but it's obvious she's still not ready to take on this current crop of ladies.  Adelina had a back injury here which limited her in terms of what she could do.

FS (link here):  We've seen this snippet of her FS for the last year and some change.  I've seen her full performance of it at a Russian Cup event last year and it was decent.  The program is very dramatic and, I must admit, I rather like the song (probably because I've been hearing it for a year).  I have the same praise for Adelina here (much improved packaging and presentation) and the same critiques (jumps are just nowhere close to where she needs them to be).  I'm not sure what we'll see from Adelina this year.  With the improvements she's made in areas of her skating, I'd love to see her come back and compete strongly.  I still find her to be the most aesthetically pleasing skater to watch out of all of the Russian ladies...but without the jumps, she hasn't got a chance.

Thanks to Sochi Inside for the videos!


  1. Great post! I love your blogs.
    You didn't talk about the US ladies at the Jr Grand Prix, so i'm wondering: what do u think of this current crop of US Jr ladies? Didn't the two who skated last week come in like, 11th and 15th place? Ouch. I'm worried for them....

  2. Agree. Adelina has the strongest skating skills. Deep edges, can get enough speed to go across the rink into a jump out of transitions with only 2 or three crossovers. The only thing I am hating, is the toe push thing she does. Really, she needs to get rid of that because it becomes distracting. The edge quality in her step sequences is so drastically better than some of the other Russian ladies (i.e. Tuktamysheva) that it really sort of forces you to be critical of them. Pogorilaya has really good skating skills too, but she does that pump thing when she's skating around the corners, which I absolutely hate (but her step sequences are fabulous). Adeline's jumps are huge. I feel like she still hasn't quite figured out how to control them, lol. Her double axel is pretty much flawless. Technique other skaters would die for.

    She did another competition (spins were still watered down) after the Russia Cup (not sure if it was actually a competition that was judged or another exhibition type test skate thing) and she landed most of the jumps she went for (don't think she fell on anything, either). It was a much better skate.

    The quality of her skating is clearly superior. If she can put the jumps together, she's still Podium material. She's been working on her Lutz, but I'm not sure she'll be able to fix that at this point. Better to just do one and wish she can get that skate off the ice before the edge flips, and then do two flips with 2 3/3s. Not sure I'd do a 3Lz3T because the edge call will affect the toe loop value as well. Maybe work on a 3F3T to go with her amazing 2A3T? Get the Lutz out first and then backload an extra jump to make up for some of the deduction...