Monday, November 13, 2017

2017 NHK Trophy: Review

We're into the second half of the Grand Prix season.  Most skaters are on their second event but we still had a few late debuts at this event. 

New meets old

The final results:

Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS): 79.99 (SP) + 144.40 (FS) = 224.39 - 1st
Evgenia is almost like a machine.  She wins every competition and she skates close to flawlessly while doing it...most of the time.

Evgenia's SP was clean.  All level 4s on her non-jump elements, clean jumps, positive GOE on everything and even a few 10.00s for interpretation.  The program was easy and effortless and the judges loved it.  There's not much else to say other than that.  It was Evgenia at the office putting in work.  She scored just under 80 points and went into the FS with a nearly 5 point lead over the rest of the field.

Not her best but still pretty damn good

Evgenia's ability to turn in clean programs is half of the reason she scores as well as she does.  The judges appreciate and respect her ability to execute cleanly time after time.   Evgenia skates without error so frequently that when she does make a mistake it's shocking.  She was able to laugh off the fall she had on an easy 2A at her first event.  Here Evgenia opened up with what was supposed to be a 3F-3T but fell on her opening 3F.  That was a pretty big shock.  Even more shocking was her stumbling out of her very next jump, a 3Lz.  It's rare to see her make mistakes but I've never seen her make two mistakes in a row.  The first half of the program wasn't good but she helped make it up in the second half, tacking a 3T to the end of what was supposed to be a solo 3F.  The rest of her jumps were solid and she finished without any more issues.  Evgenia was obviously disappointed in her performance at the end, but even with the fall and step out she was able to place 1st in the FS and maintain her lead.

Evgenia's air of invincibility hasn't dissipated at all.  If anything the fact that she can make mistakes and still beat everyone only strengthens that perception.  However, it's interesting to note that she has not skated a clean FS on the GP this season.

Carolina Kostner (ITA): 74.57 (SP) + 137.67 (FS) = 212.24 - 2nd
Despite Carolina's lack of more difficult content she manages to keep herself around.  It's good to see her continuing to excel at these events...but I am a bit on the fence about some of the results.

Carolina got through her SP without any major errors but, according to her, it was a struggle.  Her opening 3T-3T was fully rotated though she did have to fight for the landing.  The rest of the elements were good and well-executed.  I really love this program for her and despite whatever internal struggles she had, she managed to keep up the performance.  The judges enjoyed it and placed her 2nd in the segment.

I think she may have gotten by on this one...

The FS wasn't as smooth for Carolina.  I love her program; you can't help but appreciate classic skating especially in today's field of over-choreographed and excessively busy programs.  Carolina started off well, hitting her jumps in the first half without any issues.  The second half wasn't as easy.  She doubled an intended 3T and fell on her 2A-3S combo.  Given how well Tsurskaya skated, I didn't think Carolina would hold up for 2nd...but lo and behold, she did.  Despite the mistakes she ended up earning the highest PCS for the segment (even higher than Evgenia) and was able to edge out Tsurskaya for the silver medal.

I don't know if I agree with this.  On one hand it's nice to see gorgeous skating rewarded; on the other, Carolina was rather weak technically and still landed in 2nd place.  Hmmm...

Polina Tsurskaya (RUS): 70.04 (SP) + 140.15 (FS) = 210.19 - 3rd
Polina has been on my radar for a while.  She was a very strong skater on the junior level but suffered from injuries every season.  I wasn't sure what to expect from her here.

Polina turned in a pristine SP.  My favorite thing about Polina is her jumps.  The height, coverage and ride out she gets on her jumps is just amazing.  I honestly think she's one of the top 3 jumpers in the women's field at this time.  All of her jumps were very well-executed and effortless.  Unlike some of the other newbies, Polina is tall and statuesque.  She already has a bit of polish and poise to her skating which helps her presentation and allows her to blend in among the seniors.  I'm glad she kept her "Light of the Seven" SP from last year.  She competed it on the junior level but it works well in a senior setting.  She placed 3rd in the segment and was set for a podium finish.

Welcome to the senior level newbie!

Again, I wasn't sure what to expect in the FS.  Polina got through the SP without issue but the FS is always tougher.  More jumps, more room for error.  Turns out I didn't have anything to worry about.  She nailed every single one of her jumps and maxed her non-jump elements as well.  I like her "Nocturne, Song for the Little Sparrow" FS.  I love the fact that Polina seems to be growing in her performance and presentation.  I can see visible changes to her skating over the past few years and that's always encouraging.  Polina ended up earning the highest TES of the segment and even though she placed 2nd in the FS, it wasn't enough to overcome Carolina's lead from the SP and she had to settle for 3rd.

This was a very strong debut for Polina.  In all honesty I do think she had a case for silver here.  It's that old case of reputation scoring versus newbie status.  Unfortunately, this is what skating has come to.  Either way, it was great to see Polina deliver so well here.  I'm happy for her.

As for the rest...

"Just one more to go, guys"

Mirai Nagasu (USA; 194.46, 4th):  Mirai came out with a lot of fire in the SP.  It's very rare to see her skate with emotion but she did that here.  The 3A was two-footed but fully-rotated so she still earned 7.64 points for her attempt...and she needed those points.  Mirai stood up on everything but under-rotated the back end of her 3F-3T and her 3Lz as well.  The points from the axel saved her and placed her 5th in the segment.  The FS was very strong.  She under-rotated the 3A which lost her some points but she hit nearly everything else.  Her only "mistake" was doing a 2A-2T-2L instead of her planned 2A-3T-2T.  All of her other jumps were clean and rotated.  Mirai scored a season's best and finished in 4th place.  This was the kind of momentum generating performance she needed going into nationals.

Welcome back Tiny Queen

Satoko Miyahara (JPN; 191.80, 5th):  Satoko has been out of competition for nearly a year.  The last time we saw her compete was at Japanese nationals last December.  It's always tough to come back from an injury but it was good to see her have her debut at home in Japan.  Satoko's overall skating is as gorgeous as ever; however, her jumps which have always been her weakness, were not as solid here.  She under-rotated her 3Lz in the SP and was unable to complete the 3T on the combo (3Lz(<)-2T) and in the FS she had a few under-rotations and a doubled jump which lost her points.  A 5th place finish here means Satoko won't get a chance to compete at the Final.  Her second event is Skate America.  Hopefully she'll be able to turn in a stronger performance there.  One of those two Olympic spots should be hers...but she'll have to earn it.


Alena Leonova (RUS; 190.85, 6th):  It was so nice to see Alena have a strong competition here.  She's the OG of these Russians competitors and even though she isn't that competitive within her country, she still earns GP assignments every year and continues to compete.  Alena was clean in both segments of the competition.  I really like her "Blah Blah Blah Cha-Cha" SP and she brought a lot of fun and energy to her Bollywood FS.  Her reaction at the end of her performance was very touching.  I'm glad to see her have such a strong performance ahead of nationals.  Good job Alena!

Other Competition Notes:  Rika Hongo (JPN; 187.83, 7th) continues to put forth her best effort.  I doubt she has a shot at the team this year but I appreciate the passion and energy she brings in all of her performances...Mariah Bell (USA; 166.04, 9th) did not build on her earlier performances.  Something still is not clicking for her and it's a shame... Alaine Chartrand (CAN; 159.36, 11th) is really coasting on her way to the Olympics.  I am really hoping for a shocker at Canadian nationals.

Just two events left to go.  This week is Internationaux de France which takes place in Grenoble, France.  We'll see Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) and Alina Zagitova (RUS) battle for gold as well as Mai Mihara (JPN), Maria Sotskova (RUS), Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS), Elizabet Turzynbaeva (KAZ), Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN), Laurine Lecavelier (FRA), Mae Berenice Meite (FRA), Polina Edmunds (USA) and Nicole Schott (GER).

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