Sunday, October 22, 2017

2017 Rostelecom Cup: Review

The first competition of the season went as expected for the most part.  There were a few surprises along the way of course...

First set of medalists of this Olympic season!

The final results:

Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS): 80.75 (SP) + 150.46 (FS) = 231.21 - 1st
It's almost a forgone conclusion that when Evgenia enters a competition everyone else is competing for 2nd and 3rd place.  You know she's going to win and you know she's going to win by a lot.

Evgenia's SP to "Nocturne" is lovely.  There are a few moments I could do without: the heartbeats, the voice over in the middle, the breathing all weirdly at the end...but I suppose if she has to have one Averbukh program this year, at least we can be happy it's the shorter of the two.  No issue on any of the elements here.  Same jump content as usual and all level 4 non-jump elements.  I won't get into the scoring though I will say I don't think this program was worth anything over 75 points. Obviously the judges disagreed and set Evgenia's starting point of the season at 80+ points.  I'm sure she'll be in the mid 80s by the time we get to Pyeongchang.

Oops! My bad!

I'm very happy to say I like Evgenia's FS.  It's not that this "Anna Karenina" program is imaginative, original or unique.  It's simply because it's different.  No, not in terms of the layout or structure which is the exact same as her other programs, but the character and feel of the program is different.  I don't believe Averbukh had his hands on this one which is probably why I like it.  Everything in this performance was business as usual until the final axel.  Evgenia fell...yes, she fell.  It doesn't happen much but it happened here.  As soon as she hit the ice she started laughing and continued to laugh at herself after her final pose.  Hey, when you're Evgenia Medvedeva "The Undefeatable" you can laugh at yourself for falling because it's not like it's going to make much of a difference in your score.  Even with the botched axel she scored 150+ (I expect her to be hitting near 160 by the Olympics) and won this one by a landslide.

It's gearing up to be another record breaking season for Evgenia.

Carolina Kostner (ITA): 74.62 (SP) + 141.36 (FS) = 215.98 - 2nd
Carolina is 30 years old and still kicking.  It's like seeing a 90 year old doing gymnastics or something.  So few skaters make it beyond the mid 20s so to see Carolina rotating jumps and skating cleanly in her advanced age is truly remarkable.

I love Carolina's SP to Celine Dion's "No me quitte pas."  The maturity, the presence and the performance all paired with Celine's powerful's simply stunning.  I don't think anyone else could pull of this music as perfectly as she does.  Carolina has always been a great skater but it's the jumps that sometimes give her issues.  Not here.  Her SP was clean and easy.  She's opting for the easier 3T-3T and 3L for her jump layout and all level 4 non-jump elements and it's working out well for her.  Of course her PCS are going to be a deciding factor in keeping her in podium position but I suppose that's what happens when you have 15+ years of seniority in this sport and you're still skating well.  And I'm totally here for it.  With Mao gone Carolina is the last of the post-Torino skaters and I'm thrilled she's still here.  Carolina scored well and placed a comfortable 2nd in the segment.

Grandma's still got it!

This "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" piece is just classic gorgeous skating and it's what Carolina does so well.  Still, given the fact she was skating last, I wasn't expecting too much from her.  There had already been some pretty massive scores and in terms of the technical content, I knew there wasn't anything she could do to surpass some of the others if the jumps weren't working.  Lack of more difficult content didn't hurt Carolina at all because she did everything she planned and she did it well.  Six triples, no 3-3 combo, nothing harder than a flip, but that was enough to get the job done. She earned 68+ in TES which when combined with her PCS was enough to place her 2nd in the FS and 2nd overall.

I said in my preview that Carolina could afford to coast this Grand Prix season if she wanted to but she's come out with a bang.  This proves that she's still competitive and that a shot at the Olympic podium might not be as far-fetched as we thought.

Wakaba Higuchi (JPN): 69.60 (SP) + 137.57 (FS) = 207.17 - 3rd
Wakaba is the first of the Pyeongchang hopefuls to make her mark on the Grand Prix this season for Japan which meant she would set the bar for the rest of her teammates.

I like Wakaba's SP to "Gypsy Dance."  There's a nice balance to the flow of the program, starting off lighter and softer but then ending with lots of energy and fun.  Last season she improved her presentation and performance; this season it appears she's tackling her consistency and it's working so far.  Last season Wakaba had a bad habit of popping jumps in her SP which really hurt her score.  It was great to see her get this SP out without any visible errors.  Unfortunately she lost points on her combo (the 3T was under-rotated) and she received a ding on her flip (I still don't get why they won't just switch to the loop...).  Even with the errors she scored nearly 70 points and placed 3rd in the SP.

The bar has been set!

I'm feeling this "Bond/Skyfall" FS for Wakaba.  The music is good, the choreography is strong (I really love the step sequence) and Wakaba does a nice job pulling off the Bond girl character.  This was an excellent performance of this program.  All level 4 non-jump elements and six triples including two 3Lz-3T combinations.  The only issue with the program was a doubled salchow that should have been a triple which cost her a few points but didn't hurt her much.  Wakaba scored very well, placing 3rd in the FS and 3rd overall to earn the bronze medal.

There's a lot of competition in Japan for those two spots to the Olympics.  Wakaba has set the bar pretty high so far with her performances here.  Everyone else better be great...

As for the rest...

Not a bad start

Elena Radionova (RUS; 195.52, 4th):  I love Elena's art deco style dress for her "Porgy & Bess" SP this year. She looked amazing!  I really like her FS dress too.  Great style choices this season! Elena had a solid competition.  There were some issues in both programs with under-rotations on her 3Lz-3T combo as well as dings on her flip and a freak slip and fall on her 3L in the FS.  It wasn't her best but it wasn't terrible either.  Some of the jumps are still a little iffy and that's what worries me.  That aside, it was a decent outing for her...but there is still a lot of work to be done if she wants a spot on that Olympic team.

Welcome to the senior level, newbie!

Kaori Sakamoto (JPN; 194.00, 5th):  Kaori's debut on the senior Grand Prix was pretty good.  She did very well in the SP, hitting all of her jump elements in the bonus half of the program and placing 4th in the segment.  I think she may have been a little nervous in the FS.  A fall and an edge call kept her from placing higher but overall it was a strong debut.  Kaori doesn't have nearly as many eyes on her as some of the other skaters in her country.  She can use that to her advantage if she plays her cards right. 

Gotta find that focus...

Mirai Nagasu (USA; 178.25, 9th): Mirai didn't have the kind of debut people were hoping for.  She went for the triple axel and stood up but under-rotated it in both programs.  Mirai's challenge is going to be controlling her adrenaline in the SP to go for the axel and then refocus quickly to hit her other jumps.  You could feel the slight panic in her performance after the axel in the SP.  She got downgraded and fell on her combo and then under-rotated and fell on her solo jump too.  The FS was better but nowhere near where she needs it to be.  Under-rotations on her salchow and 2A-3T combo lost her points and prevented her from moving up in the standings.

Other Competition Notes:  Mariah Bell (USA; 188.56, 6th) had a pretty good competition by her standards.  She under-rotated her combo in the SP but fought back in the FS.  She had several step outs but no falls or under-rotations which helped her score.  I wasn't sure the first time I saw it but now I'm sure: I don't like her "West Side Story" FS...Elizabet Turzynbaeva (KAZ; 184.95, 8th) was solid.  Still hasn't grown much at all, bless her.  No falls and only one under-rotation in the SP, but a good competition for her overall.  Her mom was as enthusiastic as always...

This week's event is Skate Canada which will take place in Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada.  The main headliner at this event will be World silver medalist Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN).  This will also be the senior Grand Prix debut of Marin Honda (JPN).  They will face some strong competition from the rest of the field which includes Maria Sotskova (RUS), Ashley Wagner (USA), Anna Pogorilaya (RUS), Karen Chen (USA), Rika Hongo (JPN), Courtney Hicks (USA), Laurine Lecavelier (FRA), Alaine Chartrand (CAN), Kailani Craine (AUS) and Larkyn Austman (CAN).  Later!

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