Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016 JGP Ljubljana Cup + 2016 Nebelhorn Trophy: Review

Another week, another two competitions! I'll take a look at Rika Kihira's history making performance at JGP Ljubljana Cup and then take a look at Nebelhorn Trophy.

JGP Ljubljana Cup

Rika Kihira (JPN): 194.24 - 1st
Rika Kihira made some history at this event.  She became the only 7th woman to land a triple axel in international competition and only the 2nd to do it on the junior level (the other is Mao Asada who landed it at Junior Worlds in 2005). The fact that she was able to execute a beautiful triple axel (8.93 points total) and then followed it up with 7 clean triples is unbelievable...I think that might be the first time in history this has happened.  Kihira is a wonderful technician (no edge calls or under-rotations) and to top it off, she's a lovely performer as well. Simply amazing.  This 15+ point victory has guaranteed Rika a spot at the Final and I can't wait to see her there.

Marin Honda (JPN): 178.75 - 2nd
Marin is undeniably gorgeous to watch.  She's so fluid and easy on the ice and she's got all of the necessary components to be on top every time out.  What she's lacking right now is competitive focus and consistency.  After the mistakes in the SP there was no way Marin would have been able to catch Kihira here so coming in second was as good as she could do; however, had she nailed her SP and minimized her mistakes in the FS, she could have made this a much closer race.  With two silver medals Marin's place in the Final will be determined by how the other competitors finish.

Alina Zagitova (RUS): 177.38 - 3rd
Alina delivered very well in the SP and went into the FS with about a 2 point lead.  I don't know if she was nervous due to Kihira's good score or what it was but she had a really rough time in the FS.  She saves all of her jumps until the bonus which is something I'm not fond of.  Besides the obvious point whoring of it, it really affects the quality of her jumps.  In the SP she has better speed, height and ride out on her jumps; in the FS several of her jumps are smaller, cover less ice and aren't landed with much flow.  Alina had a fall, two downgrades and under-rotated her entire 3-jump combo.  She placed a disappointing 4th in the FS and dropped from 1st to 3rd overall.  Alina is tied with Marin for JGP points but her gold medal from her first event is weighted heavier than Marin's two silvers so she's still got a good shot at making the Final.

As for the rest...

Eunsoo Lim (KOR; 166.91, 4th): I really enjoyed Eunsoo.  She's one of the few Korean girls in the the field (junior or senior) who seem to have that spark that Yuna Kim had.  Eunsoo is a strong jumper though her problem here was jumping too closely to the boards.  I'm interested in seeing how she develops...

Alisa Lozko (RUS; 159.59, 5th): Alisa didn't have the best performances here.  I like her style and her spins are amazing but she's lagging quite far behind this current field of Russian juniors.

Ashley Lin (USA; 154.45, 6th): Ashley is adorable!  I love the fact that she has a smile plastered on her face the entire time.  The funny thing is it's not a generic/pageant/my-face-is-stuck-like-this kind of smile; it's a genuinely happy smile, like she's enjoying herself out there.  I like her skating a lot but I'm worried about her technique.  Like Elizabet Turzynbaeva she tucks her legs in the air which will likely cause her major problems with rotation once she grows.  Hopefully her team will work on fixing that...

Only two events to go!  This week is JGP Tallinn Cup which takes place in Tallinn Estonia.  We'll see Polina Tsurskaya and Elizaveta Nugumanova for Russia, Mako Yamashita and Rin Nitaya for Japan, and the season debut of Tessa Hong for the USA.

Moving on...

Nebelhorn Trophy

The ISU Challenger Series continues with Nebelhorn Trophy.

Mai Mihara (JPN): 189.03 - 1st
I definitely did not expect Mai to be the winner of this event so to see her on top was a bit of a shock.  Mai did her job and delivered her programs well and was rewarded for it.  I can't say that there is anything particularly special about Mai.  She's a lovely skater in terms of her basics and she definitely gets bonus points for delivering, but overall nothing really stood out about her.  Still, she's new to the senior level so to come into one of your first senior competitions and beat out a former World champ and a couple of Olympians is not a bad way to start off.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS): 185.93 - 2nd
Liza T still has a way to go if she hopes to get back into the top 3 in Russia.  This was an improvement over some of her other competitions of late and had she not fallen on her 2A in the FS she would have won this event.  I see zero growth with Liza T in terms of her overall skating.  Her posture isn't any better, there are still a lot of crossovers, the spins still need a lot of work...I've pretty much given up hope that these things will be corrected.  I suppose the only thing she needs to focus on at this point is getting her jumps back.  When her jumps are on everything else falls into place.  Then again given the level of skating in Russia alone, I'm not too sure how far Liza T can go solely on her jumps...

Gabrielle Daleman (CAN): 175.40 - 3rd
I feel like Gabby's placement and score at Worlds last season was a really big boost to her confidence.  She looks more sure of herself and appears to be giving more to her performances overall.  I was surprised by her music choice in the SP.  Lori Nichol gave her a section of Michelle Kwan's "Dream of Desdemona" program (my all-time favorite SP of hers).  I even saw shades of the choreography during Gabby's step sequence and the ending pose.  Interesting.  Gabby will need to work on maintaining her focus throughout her programs.  She's got a really good shot at moving up in the ranks this season but she'll need to deliver to get the judges on her side.

As for the rest...

So Youn Park (KOR; 161.95, 4th):  Still waiting on So Youn to make a move...  There are a few promising looking Korean ladies who have shown up on the radar lately (Na Hyun Kim, Eunsoo Lim).  Seeing as how So Youn has gained zero traction in the standings over the last six years (yeah, don't forget she's been to two Olympics), I'm fairly certain she will be pushed aside as soon as these newer girls catch up.

Amber Glenn (USA; 157.68, 5th):  Amber needs consistency.  She has the jumps, spins and personality to score well but she has got to get herself together.

Serafima Sakhanovich (RUS; 154.68, 6th):  Serafima's skating is a freaking eyesore.  There.  I said it.  She was never the most refined when she was on the ice and her jumps always had a wild and uncontrolled quality about them.  Now that she's trying to add the Rippon feature to every single jump and is failing to land them about half of the time, she looks like an utter hot mess out there. I think she does a great job of getting into the character of her pantomime-heavy programs, but the overall quality of the rest of her skating is really, really sloppy and unappealing.

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