Cup of China 2014- Get Well Soon, Yuzuru Hanyu!

Phew…
The commentators (Johnny & Tara were sorely missed today šŸ˜¦ ) talked about how the warm-up of the mens’ free skate sucked the air out of the room.

To me, it wasn’t the same degree of oxygen loss I felt at Sochi after Evgeni Plushenko withdrew.
Because there were still some solid free skates this time. Sochi had zero clean free-skates. Everyone fell at least one time or at least seemed visibly shaken.

I’d like to get the women’s free skate out of the way first, though, because that’s a shorter discussion.

Yulia Lipnitskaya returned to competition for the first time since Worlds. The prodigy/golden girl/darling of Russia after the team competition. They talked about how the Russian media was going after her like the paparazzi as if to get a piece of her. Figuring out what makes her so good šŸ˜› while hearing this, I can’t help thinking about another frenzy the Russian media created… but out of something rather negative.

They began with her short program. Plushenko referred to her as a “genius” in his CNN interview and I saw exactly that. She made it look so effortless, so fun and carefree. Actually got to see her smile.
The same could not be said about her free skate, sadly. She fell on one of her jumps and just wasn’t able to mentally recover from that. Triples were becoming doubles. The ease about her performance was gone. The only thing she maintained were those signature inhumanely flexible spins.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva returned for the first time since Skate America where she won my heart and did the routine I’d wanted to see since it didn’t quite come together 3 weeks ago. She had that same authority, but no ice in her veins. I saw her enjoying herself and smiling, which was very nice to see.

Polina Edmunds I saw for the first time since Sochi. She did well, but not quite as good as the Russian girls. She comes off still very young and inexperienced, but she looked better than the last time I saw her.

Gabrielle Daleman from Canada skated to a familiar piece of music, so naturally I’d have some biases in place. The same happened last week when a girl skated to “Carmen”… Gabrielle skated to a version of “Concierto De Aranjuez” that came with operatic vocals and felt more Spanish.
Immediately afterwards, I had to dig up Edvin Marton’s version to listen to later. Someone posted the music just yesterday šŸ˜› the only other way I’d be able to hear it is watch Plushenko skate, which I want to hold off on for another (at minimum) 22 days…

Today was just one of those days I really missed seeing him competing. Part of me keeps thinking he’s going to return as if he’s this ghost coming to fill a void.

The girl in third was from Japan and skated to “Phantom of the Opera” (so far this season, I’m not sick of any of it… cuz I love the show and the music differs each time). Kanako Murakami was lacking to the point I was a little ticked she beat out Polina. Her routine wasn’t near as clean, but I guess she made up for it in artistic value.

Now for the men…
I’d been looking forward to seeing Yuzuru since Sochi, although I did see his “Together on Ice” performances on YouTube. As far as male skaters go, he’s the only other one I can get super excited about seeing.
Up until this one, I have made due with the fact Plushenko can’t compete by looking at my own country’s skaters, seeing what else Russia has to offer, trying to find other favorites. But long ago I faced up to the fact none of them will have that same brand of finesse I get excited about when I watch him.

During warmups, Yuzuru and Han Yan (from China) collided, leaving both men fallen on the ice and staggering to their locker rooms. It was scary to watch and I could only cross my fingers and hope he’d be okay after 20 minutes or so of rest.

We saw Han Yan first and it took him several attempts to land any of his jumps. His head was clearly spinning on the inside as well as through his unsuccessful jumps. He made up some in his performance, but it clearly was hard for him. The commentators even said that if this wasn’t his home ice, he would have withdrew.
…of course, that’s a tough subject to broach. What is more serious, a concussion or a back injury? It’s a hard thing to figure. All I can say now is that I hope the Russian media doesn’t look at this and go after Plushenko for the millionth time asking why he didn’t compete on home ice when Han Yan did.

This being the 9 month anniversary of the first time I saw him skate… I’ll hazard the guess that withdrawing was still the right thing to do because he’d stuck in a wheelchair now instead of putting the finishing touches on his ice show “The Snow King”.

After Han Yan, we had another American I saw seeing for the first time: Richard Dornbrush. He skated to Coldplay’s Yellow and Viva La Vida.
He fell, turned a few triples into doubles, but he pulled for him the whole time. He maintained a sense of composure and brought the music to life. Considering how I felt about Max Aaron last week (didn’t connect with him at all), this was great to see. I look forward to the next time I see him.

They showed Alexei Bychenko from Israel. They explained he was from Kiev Ukraine and later asked to join the Israeli team (who trains in Hackensack NJ, which is pretty close to where I am, maybe 60-90 minutes away).
Which would explain the last night šŸ˜› I looked him up on YouTube thinking he was Russian.
It was too bad he didn’t do well because he had great music that could have gone well with his skating if it was there.

Then there was Yuzuru, complete with the bandage on his chin and the band around his head.
Word was that he had 3 quads planned (I’m flipping out, thinking that Plushenko NEVER did three quads… don’t know if he ever even planned any) and turned his third into a triple combination.
I’d never seen anyone fall 5 times and each time was harder to watch. I saw him on the ground and I worried each time that he was going to get back up. But he fought through it amazingly. He did another “Phantom” program and had he not been battling this injury, it would have been my favorite I’d seen of anyone [even then, that’s still true, he had the finesse I’d wanted badly to see].
Because he did well in the short program and there were mistakes all around, he got second. I continue to be impressed with him, but I know I’m going to spend the next several days praying for him. He’s my favorite male skater right now who’s actively competing.

Now I’ve got a couple routines lined up that I’d like to see.
First, Misha Ge from Uzbekistan because he was one of my favorites at Sochi despite the fact he didn’t place high in the rankings.
I don’t think he has the quad yet, but he’s still so beautiful to watch šŸ˜€

So…I’d been moaning about it for weeks, NBC Sports not showing any of the Russian men skate on TV.
I finally get my wish because Maxim Kovtun was in the lead going into the free skate.
And I’m watching the routines again (including his Cup of Russia performances where he BEAT Plushenko last year) to see for sure whether or not I’m connecting with him.

[but first I had to watch Elizaveta’s short program… to another song Plushenko skated to, but she made “Bolero” look better than he did šŸ˜› but maybe because he was still young at the time and the choreography isn’t as iconic/brilliant]

Ironically, Maxim’s short program was ALSO to “Bolero”. They only showed highlights on NBC but it was even better in its entirely. His jumps were really powerful, almost mind-blowingly so. The step sequences varied for me. Good at first but after a while it felt like it lacked composure. But that’s probably just age (he’s only 19).
As for the free skate, now it has my full attention (between sitting down to dinner and the commentary on Plushenko, I was very distracted)… he was probably the most composed of the Russian men I’d seen so far. He definitely has the power while Artur Gariniski had the artistry… but Maxim didn’t have as clean a skate as I’d like. He’s only 19, yes, and over time I’m sure he’ll improve. But as for him reaching that level of “extraordinary” defined by the legends before him… I don’t see that happening :shrug: then again, that’s a hard feat for anyone with legends like the ones Russia’s had over the years.

As for the Russian Nationals…
Maxim’s short program was good. His step sequences went really well with the music (which probably says a lot because nobody’s step sequences have impressed me…)
But his free skate… I didn’t connect with except for a couple of seconds here and there.
Several of the comments allied with my thinking… it didn’t grab me. Others called it boring.

I can chock some of it up to bias, but the rest… he’s just not at the same level. A level impossible to reach.
But believe me, I am trying to make it work. I want to be ready to embrace whoever the next big male skater in Russia is because keeping the sport alive in Russia is important to Plushenko. As a fan, the least I can do is support what he does.

But for now: all those who read this blog entry, please send your thoughts and prayers for Yuzuru Hanyu. RT my tweet with the link for the blog with the hashtag #GetWellSoonYuzu

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