Sunday, November 5, 2017

2017 Cup of China: Review

Every year there is one competition where the judging is so deplorable it makes me want to quit watching the sport.  Cup of China is that event for this season (so far anyway).  If you're not in the mood for a rant on how f**ked up the judging was at this event, you might want to skip the review this week...

I can't even...

The final bullshit results:

Alina Zagitova (RUS):  69.44 (SP) + 144.44 (FS) = 213.88 - 1st
I fully expected Alina to take the win here, I won't lie about that.  However, given the way the competition played out, I do not think she deserved the gold medal here.

This "Black Swan" performance wasn't Alina's best but it was still pretty good for her in terms of her score.  She fell on her 3Lz-3L combo which was a bit of a shock.  Eteri's top students don't make mistakes frequently so to see her go down was shocking.  She bounced up and finished out the rest of the program without any issues.  Alina's technical content is superior to the entire field of women's skating (those at this event and those who were not).  As such she can afford to fall in the FS and still score relatively close to the skaters who did not make a mistake.  Alina finished 4th in the segment but only a little more than a point out of 1st place.

Welcome to the senior level judging bias, newbie

The FS is Alina's strength.  She can point-whore her heart out by completing every single jump she has in the final two minutes of the program.  Look, I'm not a fan of it but I will admit this "Don Quixote" FS is an effective program for her.  The jumps build with the energy of the music and she lands the majority of them on the accent of the music which is entertaining.  Is it a mature program?  No.  Does it showcase her emotional range as a performer? Not at all.  Is it anything more than a really impressive display of jumping set in time to music?  No, it really is not.  For this reason I am LIVID Alina received the highest PCS of the competition.  As usual, the PCS is what made the difference here.  I thought Alina was very good; I'm not taking that away from her.  She's a technical beast and it's tough to touch her.  Even with losing points for an under-rotated lutz she still out-scored everyone in the TES.  Does that mean she's the best skater in the field?  No it doesn't, yet you wouldn't be able to tell based on the scores she received.  The judges waaaay over-scored her in PCS.  68+?  Give me a f**king break.  That program is worth 64, maybe 65 if you're being generous, but 68+?  No way in hell.  She did not deserve those scores and she did not deserve the gold medal here.  It's a shame her first Grand Prix win is tainted by terrible judging.

I have nothing against Alina.  I actually like her quite a bit...but I'm incredibly frustrated with the way judges score her compared to other skaters.  Alina is consistently over-scored based on the level of her technical abilities and it's not right.  She can out-jump just about anyone in the world...but there are a number of skaters who can out-skate Alina. That means they have the technical skills as well as artistry, maturity and performance--all of which Alina has yet to develop.  According to the judges, she doesn't need to.  Events like this make it really difficult to be a fan of this sport...

Wakava Higuchi (JPN): 70.53 (SP) + 141.99 (FS) = 212.52 - 2nd
Two words: She wuzrobbed.

Wakaba has been on fire this season and she continued it here.  Her SP was lovely.  I still wish she'd switch out that stupid flip for a loop.  Wakaba didn't get an edge call but she did get dinged.  If she  executes a well done loop the additional GOE will give her just as many if not more points than a flip.  I feel like her insistence on including the 3F in the SP could come back to haunt her.  Even though she got dinged on the flip Wakaba didn't lose any points...then again she didn't gain any either.  The rest of her jumps and elements were very well done.  I love this "Gypsy Dance" SP for her.  She's turning out to be a really great performer and she gets to put that on display with this program.  Wakaba finished the SP in 2nd place, only 0.12 points out of 1st.


Wakaba's FS is pretty awesome.  She's been in a really good place with it so far this season but this was the absolute best I've ever seen her perform it.  It's actually the best I've seen her perform ever.  She's the best of these newer Japanese ladies when it comes to giving the drama and feeling the music.  This "Skyfall/Bond" program is a really great fit for her and she killed it here!  All of her jumps were big and clean and she performed her ASS OFF!  She was in character the entire time and sold every single second of this program.  When she finished I figured there was no way in the world she wouldn't go into first with that skate.  She didn't beat Alina in TES but she got way closer than I thought she would (74.10 to Alina's 76.09).  It didn't matter though because surely the judges would give Wakaba the nod in PCS.  I mean she had a complete program filled with tons of speed, maturity, presence, different emotional levels and expression, power, and wonderful choreography.  If Alina earned 68+ for her recycled junior level jump demonstration program, no doubt Wakaba would hit at least 70+ which would put her on top.  There was no way in hell Alina's PCS was going to beat Wakaba's...I was completely floored.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  Not only did the judges not place Wakaba 1st in the FS, they didn't even put her 1st in PCS!  I was so pissed off I didn't even want to finish watching the rest of the competition.  I mean, I just don't understand the judges.  It's beyond f**ked up.  Alina won in the TES, as she should have...but Wakaba clearly was the superior overall skater of that event and should have won the PCS and she didn't.  Wakaba placed 2nd in the FS (bullshit) and 2nd overall (mega bullshit).

Wakaba was robbed of a gold medal here.  I said I was going to try to prepare myself for these kind of results and I really did but it upsets me to see stuff like this happen.  Wakaba should have won this event.  Plain and simple.

Elena Radionova (RUS): 70.48 (SP) + 136.34 (FS) = 206.82 - 3rd
Elena is still in the running for that 3rd spot on the Russian Olympic team but she'd not had a strong performance in quite a while.  With this being her second event, she needed to get some momentum going before nationals.

The SP was a good start for her.  Over the past few seasons I've mentioned that Elena's jumps seem to be hanging on by a thread...and they still are.  It just so happens it's a really strong piece of thread.  Somehow she makes it work.  The jumps are just as wonky as they ever were but Elena hasn't lost any of them.  Her opening 3Lz-3T was really close but she got the nod from the caller and earned full credit.  Smartly, Elena switched from the flip to the loop for her bonus jump (pay attention Wakaba!) and it paid off for her.  She earned 0.80 in +GOE which made the jump worth more than a lutz.  All of Elena's other elements were level 4 and nicely done.  She finished the SP in 3rd place, only 0.17 points out of 1st.

A bit of that old Lena magic!

Elena skated last in the FS.  A number of high scoring skates had come before her and I really didn't think she had a chance of getting onto the podium.  I don't know what came over her but it was like the old Elena was back.  Her opening 3Lz-3T was one of the best she's done in a while.  The landing edge on the lutz didn't collapse like it usually does and it allowed her to get up into the second jump without any issues. Her 3Lz-1L-3S combo was another good one, even though for a moment I thought she was going down after the lutz.  It was just a wonky looking half loop followed by a really nice salchow.  Elena impressed me.  It was nice to see a bit of that old fire back.  When she was finished I wasn't sure where she'd land in the standings.  In the end Elena was able to edge out Mai by only 0.75 points and win the bronze medal.  Her reaction in the K&C was priceless!

This was definitely a step in the right direction for Elena.  She still has a lot of work to do if she wants to land one of those spots.  For now, she can use this cleanly skated competition as motivation to continue to work as we head into nationals next month.

As for the rest...

So close!

Mai Mihara (JPN; 206.07, 4th):  Mai missed out on a medal by only 0.75 points.  I do think she had a case for bronze.  Her FS was very well skated and I think she rebounded nicely after having some trouble in the SP.  Unfortunately, the SP is what made the difference here.  She got called for an under-rotation on her combo which hurt her score and left her in 7th place.  Mai had to skate in the first group which I believe affected her PCS.  It shouldn't be that way (of course) and yet, here we are.  I do feel Elena is a stronger overall performer than Mai, but I will say I do see improvements in Mai's performance.  She's giving a bit more to the emotion and feeling of the program.  I thought she should have been higher overall in PCS which would have given her the medal over Elena.

Not the debut we were expecting

Marin Honda (JPN; 198.32, 5th):  Marin was expected to be a major player this season but she's somewhat under-performing so far.  Like Mai, Marin had issues with an under-rotation on her combo in the SP.  She finished out the rest of her gorgeous "The Giving" SP well but ended the segment in 6th place.  The FS was stronger yet not without issues.  She doubled the flip in her combination at the beginning of the program and decided to change her final axel to a make-up 3F which she under-rotated.  It was a gusty move but, as it were, she'd have earned more points had she just done a clean axel.  Oh well.  Marin placed 5th in the FS and moved up to 5th overall.  As of now the only Japanese woman making a strong claim for one of those two Olympic spots is Wakaba...the others need to step it up.

Please dump this program

Gabrielle Daleman (CAN; 196.83, 6th):  Gabby started off really well in the SP.  I like this "Carmen" program for her.  The flirtatious quality of the music fits in so well with her style.  Gabby opened up with a massive 3T-3T combo which earned her 2.00 points in +GOE.  Her axel and lutz were clean and she sold her program very well to the judges.  She ended up winning the SP.  The FS was a different story.  I don't really care for this "Gladiator Rhapsody/Now We Are Free" program.    Gabby needs something powerful, energetic and entertaining.  She has a great personality on the ice and this program doesn't give her an opportunity to show any of it.  It's borderline boring and Gabby is so not a boring skater.  In addition to the program not doing anything for her, Gabby struggled with some of the jumps here.  In a field where three skaters scored over 70 points in TES, she needed every single point she could get.  Two step-outs and an edge call lost her precious points and caused her to plummet in the standings.  She finished the FS in 7th place and dropped to 6th overall.  It's time for Gabby and her team to go back to the drawing board.  I think the first place she should start is with that FS.  It needs to go...ASAP.

Liza T (and her 3A) is back!

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS; 196.68, 7th):  Similar to Elena, this was the best we've seen Liza T skate in quite a while.  I really do like both of her programs this season and she was able to give great performances of them here.  Her SP was clean, easy and entertaining.  Liza T finished the SP in 5th place.  She opened her FS with a completely rotated 3A attempt.  YAY!  I'm so happy to see her attempting this jump again.  When she lands it, it is perfection.  She stepped out of the landing here but still received 6.64 points for her effort.  She followed up the axel attempt with 6 triple jumps.  Her only error was an under-rotated loop at the end of her 3-jump combo.  It was great to see her deliver such a strong program.  Elizaveta placed 6th in the FS and 7th overall.

Other Competition Notes: Xiangning Li (CHN; 174.82, 8th) was a surprise here.  She performed really well in the FS and the home crowd absolutely loved her...Amber Glenn (USA; 151.14, 10th) did not have a good outing here.  The upside?  In the K&C after her FS she said she had fun.  I guess that's what really matters so good for her...**It should be noted this was a very well skated event.  7 out of 11 skaters scored over 195 points; 4 skaters scored over 205 points.  Too bad the judging was shit...**

Just like that we're halfway through the Grand Prix.  This week's event is NHK Trophy which will take place in Osaka, Japan.  The headliner of this event will be Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS) who will undoubtedly win of course, but I'm most excited to see the return of Satoko Miyahara (JPN).  She's been out of competition for nearly a year so it will be interesting to see if she can jump back into the fray and pick up where she left off.  We'll also see the Grand Prix debut of Polina Tsurskaya (RUS) as well as Carolina Kostner (ITA), Rika Hongo (JPN), Mirai Nagasu (USA), Soyun Park (KOR), Mariah Bell (USA), Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN), Alena Leonova (RUS), Nicole Rajicova (SVK) and Alaine Chartrand (CAN).

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