Tuesday, October 10, 2017

2017 Japan Open + 2017 Finlandia Trophy + 2017 JGP Baltic Cup: Review

Plenty of skating last week.  We've got three events to cover so here we go!

2017 Japan Open
Team Europe takes back the gold!

This event is like the last call before the season kicks off.  One final chance to gauge where everyone is before we get into the events that really count.  Team Japan was the defending team coming in but they fell short this year, just barely losing out to Team Europe by a small margin:

Here are the results from the ladies' event:

Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS): 152.08 - 1st
It's amazing how much more I like Evgenia when she switches it up a little.  This "Anna Karenina" FS is a far better choice than her "The Leftovers" FS.  I honestly could find nothing (and I mean nothing) to like about that program; however, this new FS will make it a tad bit easier to swallow the massive scores she's sure to receive this year.  I kinda like it.  For one we get to see a slightly different range of emotions from Evgenia; there's actual choreography this time; and overall it's a much more balanced program.  It's still very busy (almost too many transitions) and the layout is pretty much identical to her last couple of FSs, but I will take it if it means she's dumping that first FS.  I'm glad she made the switch official and this is the program she'll take into the Olympic season.  Evgenia was clean here and easily captured the top spot without any trouble.  She's setting up for another undefeated season.

Mai Mihara (JPN): 147.83 - 2nd
So I'll be honest: I think this program was a bit overscored, particularly in components.  I think Mai deserves all of the love she gets on the technical side of things.  Her jumps were lovely and her spins are excellent.  However, I think 70+ in components is about 3 points too high at this time.  She's getting better in terms of her performance but she's still not quite there.  Granted given the trend in overscoring going on right now, I realize pointing it out for Mai isn't exactly fair.  I just hope that Mai continues to work on those areas (performance, emoting, connecting); she's getting there, that's for sure.  I like this FS for her.  It has a good Olympic feel that I think will work for her this season.  We'll have to see if these big scores travel outside of Japan but either way, she's looking strong and ready for this season.

Alina Zagitova (RUS): 145.28 - 3rd
Alina had a great performance here.  It was refreshing to see the judges not go bonkers with her PCS which tends to happen with the technically gifted skaters.  For the judges a high TES is deserving of a high PCS; however, it's rare that's the case.  Alina is solid across the board but there is still something distinctly juniorish about her presentation and performance.  She smiles throughout her performance but there's no connection to what she's doing on the ice...it's just kinda plastered on her face.  She needs time to mature and grow.  By not giving her 70+ right out of the gate maybe that will encourage her to continue to work.  Honestly I thought she deserved more around 64 in PCS rather than the 66 she got, but beggars can't be choosers.  We'll have to see what the Grand Prix judges do with her...

As for the rest...

Mirai Nagasu (USA; 134.69, 4th):  Mirai went for the 3A here and got full credit for the rotation.  She was leaning in the air and basically over-rotated and had to step out.  Still, even with the loss in GOE she netted 5.79 points for the attempt. Mirai then went on to nail all 7 triples she had planned.  I was very impressed with her jumps.  She seemed to have better lift and rotation and the jumps looked easier for her than they usually do.  As technically solid as she was she's still struggling with bringing the performance to her performance.  The program has potential; she just has to work on finding those moments to really reach out to the judges and audience and make the program shine.  Mirai scored a personal best here topping her score from last year's Four Continents by more than 2 points.  She appears to be getting stronger as we head into the official beginning of the season...

Marin Honda (JPN; 133.41, 5th):  Marin had a good skate here but she wasn't at her best.  There were no major issues but she did leave a couple of points on the table.  She lost points on her step sequence (which was only level 2) and she doubled one triple jump which cost her a few points as well.  Marin is definitely one to watch for this season.  She's found that consistency which was a bit of an issue for her in the past.  It's early in the season but so far she seems more calm and confident which should work out well for her this year.

Karen Chen (116.32, 6th):  Karen is still trying to get everything to come together.  I really like her program and her delivery, but the jumps aren't really working yet.  She had one fall and five under-rotations plus a ding on her 3F. This wasn't the best outing for her but she still has the goods which means she can pull it together.

Moving on...

2017 Finlandia Trophy

Another Challenger series event took place last week with a number of big names.  There were some surprises and a couple of let downs too...

Is Maria taller than Carolina???

Final results:

Maria Sotskova (RUS): 205.30 - 1st
Maria has kicked off her season with a bang.  Other than an under-rotation on her final 2A in the FS, she was excellent here.  I've always liked Maria's skating.  There's something very calm, controlled and pleasant about her when she's out there.  Sometimes she doesn't stand out as much next to some of the flashier skaters but here it was all about delivering the goods easily and cleanly and she did that very well.  Maria has added the tano arm to just about all of her jumps.  Looking at the protocols I see a modest increase to her GOE; then again her jumps were nice, big and secure so that may not have anything to do with it.  I guess we'll see as the season goes on.  Very nice start to the season for Maria.  All of the other third spot hopefuls need to step it up...

Carolina Kostner (ITA): 193.76 - 2nd
I have mixed feelings about this second place finish for Carolina.  This was not her best outing...at all.  She fell on her combo in the SP and only completed 4 triples in the FS, yet she still cracked 190+ and took the silver medal.  On the one hand I'm a bit peeved because I know she was rather weak technically.  On the other hand, I can't deny that her skating skills, choreography and interpretation were probably the best in the competition.  Carolina gets the benefit of the doubt and the benefit of the high second mark.  I can't really argue against any of the scores except her Performance/Execution mark which should have suffered more.  I know Mao never scored that high with a fall and only 4 triples... Carolina has paid her dues but she is going to need to do much much better than this moving forward.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS): 189.13 - 3rd
Liza T started off the SP wonderfully.  I really do like her program.  It's a lot of fun and you can tell she enjoys performing it.  All of the jumps were spot on and the other elements were good as well.  Liza T won the SP by a teeny tiny margin but she was right where she needed to be to make a push for gold.  Unfortunately an under-rotation and fall as well as a few mistakes lost her points along the way and she finished 4th in the FS which dropped her to 3rd overall.  Liza T is looking okay so far...but just okay.  She has a shot at that 3rd spot but she's going to have to bring it better than this. 

As for the rest...

Angela Wang (USA; 183.85, 4th):  It was so great to see Angela have such a strong competition.  She's been a favorite of mine since her junior days.  Of all of the skaters I've seen over the years, her skating reminds the most of Michelle Kwan.  I always think about that ooze quality Michelle had where all of her movements were controlled, graceful and fluid.  Angela has that quality to her skating and it's beautiful to watch.  I was so proud to see her deliver both of her programs so well.  I'd love to see her have a breakout moment and finish top 5 at nationals this year.

Gabrielle Daleman (CAN; 174.83, 6th):  I was majorly shocked with Gabby's performance here.  She came into this competition as the one to beat.  She's the reigning world bronze medalist...but this wasn't remotely close to the skater we saw at Worlds earlier this year.  I just remember back in 2012 when Alena Leonova won silver at Worlds.  The following season she was awful; it was like she couldn't handle the pressure that came with that medal.  Gabby strikes me as a bit tougher than that.   I hope it was just beginning of the season jitters and not her psyching herself out.  I really love her "Carmen" SP but that FS is terrible.  It just doesn't suit Gabby's style at all.  I don't care for the music, I don't like the choreography...it doesn't feel like an Olympic program.  Honestly I wouldn't be shocked to see her go back to her FS from last year after this...

Other Competition Notes:  Alena Leonova (RUS; 178.46, 5th) had one of her strongest FSs in a long time.  It's always good to see her at a competition.  I've never been a fan of her skating per se but I appreciate her for always bringing the performance and fighting through her programs.  Nice to see her finish top 5 here...Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN; 172.25, 7th) is just lovely.  She's always been an under-the-radar type of skater.  I wonder if she'll manage to break through at some point...Polina Edmunds (USA; 142.20, 13th) doesn't look as though she's going to be a factor this season.  It's a bit harsh to say but considering we're a little more than a week away from the Grand Prix and she only managed to land 1 triple in the entire competition, I think it's an accurate assumption.

That's that...next!

2017 JGP Baltic Cup

The penultimate event of the JGP season took place and yet another Eteri student has emerged...

Alena Kostornaia (RUS): 197.91 - 1st
I like Alena.  There's something about her that draws me in.  I also like that despite the fact she's an Eteri pupil, she's not as over-dramatic as some of her training mates which makes her much easier to watch.  Lovely music selections, nice programs, solid jumps, good spins...she's a welcomed addition to the never ending stream of Russian skaters coming out of that camp.  Like most Eteri students I'm unsure how she will hold up over the long run in terms of her technique, but for now I rather enjoyed her skating.  Alena posted the highest total score of the season and won her first JGP title. Nicely done!

Daria Panenkova (RUS): 196.55 - 2nd
Daria just barely missed out on gold here.  Aside from a ding on her 3F in the SP, she didn't make any errors and she actually won the FS.  Unfortunately Alena's lead from the SP was too much for Daria to get by and she had to settle for silver.  I like Daria's jumps.  She's more physically mature than a lot of her other junior training mates which has me thinking she might be past that initial growth spurt that usually wreaks havoc on girls' jumps.  I'm not crazy about her over-the-top dramatic style but it works for her...I guess.  Either way with this silver medal Daria has earned herself a spot in the Final.

Rino Kasakake (JPN): 170.90 - 3rd
Rino was Disney on ice here.  She skated to "Moana" for her SP and "Beauty and the Beast" for her FS and both programs were very cute.  She skates with a lot of energy and speed and you can tell she's enjoying herself out there.  Rino needs to work on her lutz edge (she got an edge call in both programs) and I'm sure she'll gain more refinement as she matures which will help her overall presentation.  For now, I think she's adorable.  This was a great debut for her.

As for the rest...

Eunsoo Lim (KOR; 162.58, 4th):  I want to jump on the wuzrobbed train for Eunsoo, particularly in the SP.  She had issues with her sit spin (only level 2) but her jumps were lovely and everything else was great.  The judges gave her no love, in GOE or in PCS which kept her score low.  From her skating skills to her performance to the choreography, I felt she should have been higher than she was.  The FS had some problems which added fuel to the fire.  I suppose it all goes back to politics...  I'm sad she won't make the Final this year.

Emmy Ma (USA; 155.86, 5th):  Unfortunately Emmy wasn't able to replicate the success she had at her first event.  She ran into trouble in both programs which lost her points but I must say, she is absolutely wonderful to watch.  Emmy has a lovely performance quality about her that is so appealing and refreshing to see.  She really reaches out to the judges and the crowd and pulls you into the performance.  I'm very proud of her and what she accomplished on the JGP this season.

Other Competition Notes:  Akari Matsubara (JPN; 154.34, 6th) has super soft knees when she lands.  She reminds me of Nobunari Oda and Shizuka Arakawa with how deeply and delicately she lands in her knees.  She had a rough start in the SP but came back with a stronger FS.  Her sit spin is gorgeous by the way...Anastasiia Arkhipova (UKR; 152.51, 7th) placed 5th in the SP and made the final group of skaters.

This week is the final stop in the Junior Grand Prix series, JGP Enga Neumarkt.  Spots to the Final are on the line.  We'll see Alena Kostornaia (RUS), Rika Kihira (JPN), Sofia Samodurova (RUS), Nana Araki (JPN) and Ye Lim Kim (KOR).  Lots of potential for this to be a close one if everyone delivers.  Should be fun!  Also Cup of Nice is this week.  The list of participants isn't up yet but if anyone of note competes I'll make sure to review it next week!

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