Skate America 2015

I posted on Twitter a few hours ago- #FOMO [fear of missing out] just became real.
By this point, I’ve muted the main figure skating accounts on my Twitter feed because I want to see the results unfold at my own pace rather than be subjected to spoilers. It takes some of the thrill and fun of it if I know who’s going to come out on top and who’s doomed to fail.

The most annoying is that various websites are livestreaming, but I’d either have to subscribe or I’d have to be resident to another country.
So basically I’m forced to wait by YouTube and hope someone posts.

And so far with the women, that has been the case.
The guys skate within the next hour, I believe, as I’m typing this [9:30pm Friday night].

It’s also tricky because of the TV scheduling. There’s only one hour of footage for tomorrow and based on the schedule of the actual competition, I’m only going to see the 2nd group of ladies.
As for the airing from 10pm-11:30pm Sunday night, I have no idea. I’m HOPING that the first 90 minutes will be devoted to the guys because I have to get up at 5:30am to work the next day. And just because I have half-days this week doesn’t mean I want to lose sleep just because I want to stay up for this.

So pretty much, I will spend the rest of the night watching the ladies’ SP, I’ll make comments on some highlights either involving my favorite athletes or the ones I can easily make comments on because they impressed me.
I’ll then watch the guys’ short programs on YouTube tomorrow (again, hopefully, one of the site’s many users will have my back and post it for me) and I’ll once again enjoy the commentating duo of Johnny & Tara beginning tomorrow evening πŸ˜‰

I had the option of seeing Johnny Weir skate live with Nancy Kerrigan’s skating show “Halloween on Ice”- they came to Mohegan Sun a few weeks ago. But I didn’t take it because I only recognized him, her and Kurt Browning from the cast. I said I’d rather wait for a Kings on Ice tour in the States (not likely to happen cuz it’s so focused in Europe, but I have to be optimistic).
But after seeing the behind-the-scenes special on Nickelodeon… yeah, I let one get away from me. And until Johnny Weir skates here again for a show, I am going to regret that for a while.

LADIES’ SHORT PROGRAM

I just came from watching Karen Chen take the lead of the first three.
She was spectacular at the last US championships, but due to her age, she couldn’t go to Worlds.
Not only did she grow maybe 6 inches since I last saw her, but she has gotten better. I can see where she needs to work on her edges (has to fight on landing her combination) and improving her artistry (she began to do a spiral, but she broke away a little too quickly to do a double axel). Great spins. And with music by Puccini, her skate was timed so well where it built up right when her spins were at their most gorgeous. Such an amazing moment πŸ˜€

Mariah Bell before her, I remember seeing in a random video I found. I think I was looking for a skater to do a program to “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Mice (my new favorite group) and she was so great with a cover version of it.
“Storm Cry” I think is another Riverdance type song. She had a lot of great moments with it, but she was stronger earlier in the program. She fell on her final jumping pass and in slow motion, I saw that she went wrong in the air as she was coming back down. Until that point, I thought she could be the next great American skater for the women’s program.

Slovakia may have its answer for Ashley Wagner in Nicole Rajicova. I see a lot of that same sass and sparkle in her. It took her a while to get secure for her final spin and her landings could be cleaner. But she already has a lot going for her.

Elizabet Tursynbaeva, I’ve seen come up a couple times in various articles, and every time I keep mistaking her for Elizaveta Tuktamysheva- my favorite female Russian skater… the difference being, of course, that Elizabet is coached by Brian Orser and is from Kazkahstan like Denis Ten. And in a couple years, she could potentially take his place at the podium in the next Olympics. She still has a while to go, but for being just 15, she already has a lot going for her. [And she got 2nd place at this point, which is even more impressive]. “Send in the Clowns” was also great music for her.

Evgenia Medvedeva from Russia… she is something else… she did some things and made some shapes in her skating that I’d never seen before. It was some strange sort of magic that can only come from Russia or that particular name (the male equivalent, I’d covered before many times and have trouble shutting my face about, lol). Gorgeous skating. And crazier- she saved her all of her jumps until after the halfway mark. It’s a risky move because your legs get tired after a while. She nailed every one of them. I knew right away that she’d get into first place (as of this point) after that.

and Yulia Lipnitskaya, who did some otherworldly things of her own at Sochi, had to follow her? Talk about pressure.
The landings of her jumps weren’t as sharp as they could have been, had to fight for some landings, but she got all of her jumps and did all that she does well. I’m going to assume that this is her fun program and her free skate will be more serious. Here, she looks like a teenager more than a child prodigy and in some places, I see her blossoming into a young woman. Her costume is also unexpected- it looks like a canvas that had paint spilled all over it, but it’s a cute party dress with her hair up in a ponytail.
It’s always the free skates that are difficult for her, so we shall see. [And I figured at this point, she’d be in third place because the other two ahead of her did amazingly].

I don’t know why, but even when she skates well, I have trouble connecting with Gracie Gold. She did very well in her short program, but I wasn’t excited by her. Maybe because I feel no spark from her or I don’t find her original or unique. But she’ll likely be the next person in 3rd place… excuse me, 2nd… I don’t quite agree, but that’s my opinion :/ even if she is from the U.S., if I don’t connect, that’s a bit of an issue for me.

Satoko Miyahara just proved my point. Even there have been times (like now) where I secretly hope she falls so it gives one of my favorites a better chance to win… she’d always been this prodigy, but I don’t recall being entranced by her. She looked at the camera before she began and except when she was jumping, she had me the whole time. GREAT presentation. And that alone should have given her higher marks than Gracie Gold. But the judges must have seen under-rotated jumps because I saw the technical score in the upper left corner decreasing while she was in the kiss & cry. When it first went from 36 to 33, the commentator was clearly stunned.

So tomorrow I’ll see Evgenia, Gracie Gold, Satoko Miyahara, Karen Chen, Yulia and Alaine Chartrand (from Canada).
It really is a two-girl race at this point (Evgenia & Satoko) for gold unless someone has a remarkable free skate (and other causalities occur… hopefully they won’t).

MEN’S SHORT PROGRAM

I made the mistake last night of checking Twitter (out of habit) just before bed and Johnny Weir of all people spoiled for me that Max Aaron was in the lead. πŸ™„ I don’t have the heart to mute him on my Twitter feed so I’m staying off until after I’d seen everything (although I may go there to tweet for today’s free skates for the ladies).

He said there were three men with 86 points in their short program. And I’m thinking “Plushenko has gotten 90’s and Yuzuru has gotten 100 so that’s not exactly impressive to me”.

Max Aaron is a different kind of skater and Johnny & Tara have said that not as many people “get” him as other skaters. Or at least I heard someone say something like that. For me, he leaves me hot and cold. Sometimes I like, sometimes I don’t. He’s a very stoic skater that doesn’t perform as much as I’d like.
Some of the issues I have with Gracie Gold.
When he hit that opening quad, I was like “whoa!” because it was solid and had good ride-out (using some of Scott Hamilton’s words, lol). Very strong jumps. The second triple axel (I believe), he had to fight for the landing. But as he progresses in his career, I see lots of potential. Certainly for the American men to keep up with the Japanese (I’d say Russian, but as of this moment, I don’t have much to say of their men in the senior ranks).
[I have a good feeling they’ll show Max’s short program at some point in the broadcasts just because it is that good]

I looked up Alexei Bychenko once, mistaking him for a Russian based on his name, but he’s actually from Israel. With his music (“All alone”), he had potential to really throw together a beautiful teary short program. But it just got away from him. He fought for his quad, over-rotating on the landing. He feel on his opening jump and popped his combinations. In the kiss & cry, I think he’s saying there might be something wrong with his blade and it’s why he missed some jumps.

Brendan Kerry from Australia did really well for going first- that’s gotta be a lot of pressure, especially if this is his possible first grand prix season. He nailed his quad like it was nothing, but had a few little snags in his other jumps and one spin. I feel like he’s definitely of this level, but is not quite extraordinary yet.

Florent Amodio from France, I know competed in Sochi, but I don’t remember him as much as some other skaters. But I do remember seeing him in Vancouver (when I was watching through all of the programs to compare Plushenko & Evan Lysachek- that whole debate) and he played a clown in his short program and had some interesting spins.
His music said “Happy” but it was completely unrecognizable for the first moment, very serious. Then he opened up when the music did and had great footwork. Before his step sequence, he shuffled his feet back and forth in place- something I’d seen Plushenko do at his exhibitions.
Florent definitely looked like a pro although not all of his jumps were as solid as they could have been.

Ross Miner, I believe, is new this year. And he’s already making an impact. He skated to “New York State of Mind” so well, brought the lyrics to life with his skating, all of his jumps were solid. Team USA has another great athlete on the rise πŸ˜‰

Han Yan keeps on improving. “Sing Sing Sing” is a popular song for skaters lately and he performed to it very well with his skating, although it doesn’t always work its way to his face. Except from putting a hand down on his 2nd jump in the combination, he did very well techncially. He’s still one to watch, though…. and he’s in 2nd place!! Awesome πŸ˜€ makes me wonder the third 86 is, hopefully it’s one of the two Russian men.

Shoma Uno is another newcomer that people have their eye on. He has great attack and strength in his program. Loved his spins. He fell on his quad, not getting all the way around before landing, but his other jumps were very solid. It’ll be interesting to see more of him and how he’ll stack up against Yuzuru.
He still got 80 points despite the fall on that quad, so definitely need to watch him.

Konstantin Menshov proved why Plushenko supports him so much. I believe he had two quads that he did very well. But he fought to stay upright on his triple axel- and that’s the difference between him being in 1st and (I’m going to guess 2nd) place. “Rotting Romance” is such interesting music for him. It’s hard to believe he and Plushenko are the same age- he just doesn’t have the history of injuries and that entertainer gene. He does command with his skill level, though. That’s for sure. (Boo! he got 3rd. surely his two quads should have counted for more). 48.61 technically is still very impressive, though.

I had to temporarily go to another screen because, for whatever reason, Adian Pitkeev’s program was not available for me to watch in this country… yet every other video works perfectly fine.
He’s the young up & comer in Russia. And he did very well. He had to fight for the landings of his first two jumps (I saw snow flying- which says he was gripping the ice with his toe pick). And his combination- it appears his triple became a double on the first jump- but in replay, it looks okay. All those little details may keep him off the podium in this event, but it is looking very good for Russia’s future right now. And 79 is very respectable.

Takahito Mura was a Japanese skater that always got lost in the shuffle for me πŸ˜› just because he is skilled, but he doesn’t have that “it” factor that I get from Yuzuru. Plus they both did “Phantom of the Opera” free skates last season so it’s hard to fully invest in both of them.
With his “Dark Eyes” program, he showed that he is a very strong skater. He’s very composed in his jumps and he showed so much skill in all the other areas. And I can’t wait to see more.
71 is a good score, but I feel like he really didn’t get enough credit. I mean, he started with a quad and it was very well done. Maybe they downgraded some of his elements. But in presentation, he definitely did well.

With them showing the scores on the screen when Jason Brown came out, I have a feeling he might be the last skater to compete (although I still have one skater left).
I don’t agree with the scoring, though 😦 they put Max Aaron and Han Yan within 0.10 points, but Konstantin, despite having 2 quads, is 0.40 points below Han Yan. Surely a hand down should be more of a penalty than fighting to land a triple axel. The scores should be closer together and I still think Konstantin belongs in 2nd.

With Jason, it’s all a matter of whether he has the quad and how well he executes. For me, that’s the one thing keeping me from fully supporting him the way I do other American skaters who have that critical element.
…no quad.
I think every other skater had a quad, so that should keep him out of contention for the podium for the time being. Now if he has one in the free skate and lands it, then it’ll be a different story.
His program was electrifying, great character and performance throughout it and I had to fight not to smile πŸ˜› he has that odd way about him. And that’s a good thing. But technically, he needs to keep up with the others and just taking advantage of the way the system works (putting various nuances on jumps to up their difficulty and doing more in the 2nd half) isn’t enough for me.
He has 78 and is in 7th place. If the field wasn’t so stacked, that would be an amazing score.

And lastly, Denis Ten from Kazkahstan… and he had a tough time 😦
he fell on his quad, fought to land his triple axel and he put hands down while trying to do his final spin. That’s the last impression the judges are going to have before scoring him. He’s so much better than this.
He got 79 despite the mistakes and got good points on presentation. Whether he fell on the quad or not, the fact he has it at all makes a difference.

LADIES’ FREE SKATE
[typing each of these after each of the final 5 skaters competes]

Hearing Johnny & Tara talk about Yulia makes me almost want to cry 😦 how she’s became scared to compete after all the attention she got in Sochi. She landed her triple flip on two feet and turned a triple into a single. At least she got through the program, but it wasn’t as well as I’ve seen her do.
Her artistic score is huge, but technically, she needed to be better 😦 couldn’t even get into first place.
I really hope she can get it together. I don’t want it to be over for her yet.

Karen Chen skating to some music from “Les Miz”… if she skated to it well, there would have been a HUGE roar from the crowd because it would have looked amazing. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. She fell twice due to under rotation. And apparently she’d gone through 14 boots in 4 months so the equipment issues are getting into her head a bit. She still looked gorgeous, even though she wasn’t at her best.

Satoko Miyahara, I just kept hoping that she wouldn’t fall… sadly she did once. But she enchanted me once again and I enjoyed watching her. I think I’ll spend a lot of this season rooting for her. I can’t believe she’s 17 (she looks at least 15). Johnny & Tara said that she needs to improve in a lot of eras to compete with the other skaters and I agree. She’s one level less than extraordinary.
And now she’s in 1st place- which I assume puts her ahead of the girl from Canada…. nope, it’s Elizabet from Kazakhstan.

It’s interesting to see Gracie Gold dressed in red. I’d never seen that color on her before. I’d seen mostly dark colors like blacks and blues.
And of course her music is “Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky… it’s an old classic a lot of skaters like to use (I’ve found) but I really don’t like it. Anybody has ever grabbed me while performing to it. Except for a jump that she doubled, she got everything technically, but I still don’t connect to her because she doesn’t emote enough for my tastes. So it’s hard for me to get excited.

I was so nervous about Evgenia’s scores that I couldn’t type until I knew how they shook out.
She fell on one of her jumps, but still won by 3.80 points (hopefully my math is right, lol).
I found myself in disagreement with Johnny & Tara. I didn’t see those so-called little mistakes she made in her jumps (minus the fall) in the 2nd half of her program. And I certainly don’t agree that she wasn’t reaching the audience with her performance.
Again, I was enchanted and delighted by her. So amazing to see her do all those jumps with the hand over the head and nail nearly all of them. Her spins are so gorgeous. Plus she’s wearing a beautiful shade of blue- my favorite color. But maybe all of this is my Russian bias talking πŸ˜›

Here’s hoping that Yulia doesn’t fade away completely in the Russian ranks this season, especially with Elizaveta Tuktamysheva competing next week (I believe).

And it seems like the mens’ competition will be airing tomorrow night… hopefully it doesn’t run the entire 90 minutes πŸ˜› I need to get up early for work the next day.

MEN’S FREE SKATE

Well :sigh: the way things worked out, the competition was pre-empted for 30 minutes because an F1 race ran over… the fact I was able to see everyone except for Max Aaron last night is pretty spectacular. Although it feels like the channel had more commercials, but that could be just my paranoia πŸ˜›

once the show actually started :groan: they naturally started with Jason Brown because a) he’s one of ours and b) he sat in 1st & 2nd place for quite some time.
I was on edge when I went to bed last night so I don’t think I fell asleep for at least 45 minutes.
I realized that I’d become a quad snob. Even though Jason brought one to his free skate (he didn’t get fully rotated and fell), I was incensed about how long he sat in 2nd place when the skaters after him brought 2-3 quads to their free skates. Each of them landed one good quad and had missed some other elements.

Between my anxiety about having to wait half an hour for the competition to start and being stressed about getting as much of this in before I had to call it quits for the night, my memory suffered so I don’t remember too much about Jason’s program. Other than it being very stoic and artistic. And afterwards, he was so sweet with the crowd, picking up as many plushies and interacting with as many fans as he could manage before exiting the ice.

I’ll have to rewatch his free skate another time when I’m not nearly as conflicted and I’ll be able to judge it objectively. He deserves at least that- considering we’re both from the US.

Adian Pitkeev from Russia did very well, but he made a few mistakes here and there. Small things, but Johnny & Tara chalked that up to him only just becoming a senior. Plushenko came up a few times in the commentary and they said he could be the person who inherits his throne (although people have said that about Maxim Kovtun and really hadn’t heard anything from him since the previous Worlds). One interesting thing they said was how he commutes on buses and trains 4 hours from his home to train in Moscow. And I thought Plushenko was committed, moving from Volgagard to St. Petersburg to train with Alexei Mishin… And Tara made a fair point that at his age (17), skating is your life. She would know- winning the Olympic Gold at age 15 πŸ˜‰

for the first few bits of Shoma Uno’s free skate, I wasn’t particularly invested in him, but overtime, I got involved. Somewhere around the time I recognized the Puccini piece (it’s popular this year among skaters) or when he did a 2nd half quad- THAT really got my attention. Then just as the piece requires, he was triumphant. Had great presentation and an especially amazing final spin. I was almost gushing at that point, about to cry.
Then when he finally stopped, he showed his age- he skates so much older than he is. And of course he took over 1st place from Jason. He made a mistake somewhere, but it was so tiny and so quick (and so late that night) I can’t remember where it was. It didn’t matter.

Considering how Han Yan & Konstantin Menshov both had 86 points going into the free, I thought one of them would challenge Jason for 2nd place at least. But both of them had problems, unfortunately.

Nobody had more problems than Denis Ten, though. Apparently he has a hip injury- I believe they called it a “hip flexor” injury. But he’s still recovering from it and had only recently started doing quads again. He landed very few jumps and it looked painful for him and it was hard to watch. I almost wanted to say that he should skip this season so he can fully heal.

But yeah, Konstantin and Han Yan had issues.

I wanted to disagree so much with Johnny & Tara about Konstantin not having enough artistry to back up failing to land two of his three quads (the only one to have three quads in this free skate)… but unfortunately I agree with them on this.
His music was “Mad World” (the Gary Jules version I love) and “Radioactive” and it works with him as a skater for sure. But as much as I wanted to be invested in him, I couldn’t quite connect. Something was missing… and obviously I know what that is, considering my affiliation/infuatation with another skater from Russia.
But with Konstantin, I really want something to happen. With Maxim Kovtun, I want to feel something from him, but my expectation oddly aren’t very high- maybe because Plushenko doesn’t endorse him as much as Konstantin & Sergei Voronov. When he’s excited about someone, I’m more liable to take notice because he knows better than anybody in this sport.
Konstantin had to fight through the 2nd half of his program just to land jumps, which he did with some of them, but after a while, it felt like it wasn’t enough.

Han Yan started strong with quad, but after landing awkwardly on his 2nd quad- he just came apart and lost whatever showmanship and personality he has. And the slow lethargic music didn’t help his cause. he’s so much better at the upbeat music that lets him us his personality to entertain. Hopefully his season improves after his point because he has the talent.

Not knowing whether or not Max Aaron won last night robbed me of some sleep, I’ll admit. He surprised me in his short program with his strength and his jumps and composure. I saw a star on the rise- although who’s to say he’ll still be in this great shape for the next Olympics. I just know that I need to watch the 2013 US Nationals where he won and showed he was one to watch.

It took me a while to recognize the music as “Swan Lake” but I saw some artistry come out when the music began to build. But what got me was how secure he was with his jumps. His opening quad-double combination was so spot-on, feels like one of the best I’d seen. Then he had a quad in the 2nd half of his program that was also solid and the only mistake was putting a hand down on his final jump- a double axel.
And it was great seeing him interact with the crowd as well, not just accepting plushies but high-fiving as many people as he could reach. Then when he learned he won πŸ˜› gotta love when people are so surprised about winning.

When I have time, I want to see the other skaters that didn’t make the broadcast. [I’ll add those comments on a later date- if I wait to post this until after I see them… this wouldn’t go up until next weekend when the focus should be Skate Canada]
Because he’d impressed me so much in the short, I watched Takahito Mura’s free skate. He looked very strong and had great jumps, but he started making silly mistakes that are very unlike him.
I hope he redeems himself in his next competition because I have seen him do better.

That’s the interesting thing about this sport. I see a skater do a great program once- and I’m with them for the long haul.
But I also want them to be at a high enough level technically to go with their personality. They need to be the full package.

Also- Max Aaron is the first American to win Skate America in 4 years- the last three winners have been from Japan- Tatsuki Machida twice and before him, Takahiko Kozuka.

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