At Cup of China 2015, presentation is everything [for me]

As soon as I say Johnny Weir post something about Mao Asada killing it, I realize I needed to run to YouTube before any more spoilers came about. I don’t know if she’s even ahead at this point, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she was πŸ˜‰
I’ve only seen her do well a handful of times and those handful of times were spectacular.

I checked out the starting orders the other day. And it felt like I was at the junior grand prix series all over again because I only recognized a handful of names. Not that I mind meeting new people every week. That is part of the sport. Finding new people and falling in love with different styles and such.

The Yuzuru fan group I’d been falling is still up in arms about Patrick Chan beating him… I wrote my entry for Skate Canada before I heard any of that.
Honestly, the subjectivity of this sport is such a rabbit hole for me that I couldn’t put together a compact Facebook status about it… even if the Vancouver 2010 edition of it set into motion the events that brought me here- blogging about figure skating. It’s a long story…
My judgement is that Patrick Chan had the stronger weekend, but Yuzuru had more creativity. I don’t “get” Patrick Chan’s style, but I don’t want to become a person who goes after a skater over such trivial things as scoring. It isn’t as if Patrick Chan asked for those scores from the judges personally.
It doesn’t surprise me that Plushenko supported Yuzuru in this and questioned the judges’ decision. Because they’re good friends, but also because he’d been the victim of biased judging in the past.
Ultimately… I made peace with my decision that Patrick Chan looked stronger overall. As much as I respect Plushenko, I don’t need to agree with him all the time.

Now enough about that…

I’m just going to go through the YouTube search results for “Cup of China 2015” one at a time…

With the guys, I recognized the final 4-5 names.
Han Yan, Sergei Voronov (yeah!!!… I’m still waiting to hear about Maxim Kovtun because I hadn’t heard anything about him since Worlds last year), Javier Fernandez (yeah!!), Misha Ge (finally!!)

And with the ladies, other than Karen Chen in group 1, the big names were all in Group 2. Mao Asada, Elena Radionova, Rika Hongo (who impressed me with her “Carmen” program last season)…

The first result was Javier Fernandez πŸ˜€ and after last season, of course I’m more than happy to start with him.

“Barber of Seville” was his free skate music for last season and again he went back to his Spanish roots for his new short program this season.
Normally when my favorite movie stars grow facial hair when they’re not working on movies, I get very bent out of shape about it. Especially when they’re full on beards.
Javi has a little bit of a mustache and beard, but nothing too excessive. It suits him.
His short program, meanwhile, was really well done. He had to fight for the landing of his quad salchow and his triple axel, but he also had great spins and moved really well with the music.
In other words, he rocked it the way only Javier Fernandez can.
And when he nailed one of his jumps, I saw his coach Brian Orser jump for joy in the background πŸ˜€ that’s always great to see, judges excited for their pupils.

At this point, I really don’t to find out the rankings until the very end. But it wouldn’t surprise me if he was in the lead after that.

When I looked up “Cup of China,” the 2nd search result was “Cup of China Collision”… I have a good (bad?) feeling that they’re going to revisit it during the NBC broadcast on Sunday.
That was another controversy that led them having medical staff on stand-by. Also probably the reason why Joshua Farris isn’t competing in the Grand Prix series because they determined he got a concussion during practice and he’ll be out of competition for a while.

And it’s kinda hard not to go back to last year’s collision when Han Yan (who collided with Yuzuru) is competing in Cup of China.

He fell on his quad, found for a triple axel and had a good triple-triple combination. His body shows a lot of enthusiasm, but it doesn’t always make its way to his face and his eyes. But the fact he was able to keep it together after falling on his first jump shows a lot of courage. And certainly growth. When he missed a jump during his free skate in Skate America, his performance deteriorated drastically.

The next search results are bringing me around to the women, so I’ll cover some of them next.

Elena Radionova, I’d only responded to a couple times. Between her costumes and her style, I didn’t really connect with her. Plus Elizaveta kinda stole my heart last year, among the ladies and the Russian skaters.
She had a tough program. She didn’t have a strong enough first jump to even complete a combination. The combo came at the 2nd half, so that could work to her advantage a bit. But her axel became a single because she rushed it after her combination. The music was really good, though. She sounded like Celine Dion a bit.
“Je T’aime” by Lara Fabian- according to Wikipedia, she’s Belgian and Italian.
One time I heard her perform “Je Suis Malade,” but I can’t remember the context of the video. Which skater was performing to her version…
Elena’s style has gotten even better. Very beautiful. Now she just needs to get that confidence back.
Elizaveta came back from 7th to 2nd last week, but considering that Elena doesn’t have the triple axel yet, it’s even more of an uphill battle.

It’ll be interesting to see Rika Hongo after Mao Asada… especially if Mao turns out AMAZING πŸ˜› Riko was my favorite Japanese girl last season with Mao absent.

Mao is probably in the lead after that. She looked so composed and professional after she held onto her triple axel by her toe pick. When she did that combination jump, though… I’d never seen anything like it. She did the first jump and immediately went into the 2nd the moment she came back to the ice.
She was skating to a swing number with great confidence and her face beamed.
The European commentator compared it to Patrick Chan’s comeback. I know he had to relearn his quads after having a year off, but he’s got nothing on Mao. No offence.

Going through the suggested videos list, I remembered another name- I knew there were two Russian ladies, but I couldn’t remember the second. After Rika Hongo, I’ll watch Anna Pogorilaya [she did “Firebird” last season and I have yet to warm up to her].
Rika looks even better this year. Green is a great color for her and her “Cirque de Soleli” music, she performed to really well. Right now it feels like it’s going to be her and Mao at 1st and 2nd on the podium. The question is the order. She was secure with all her jumps and the artistry… wow.

Anna Pogorilaya had a strong start last season, but many of her weaknesses came out as it progressed.
Hearing “Bolero” with violin and strings is an interesting change of pace for this piece- which seems to be very popular among Russian skaters. Plushenko, Maxim Kovtun and Elizaveta have all used it. [Plus Carolina Kostner from Italy- I saw her use it in 2014 at Worlds]
With her presence and costuming, it would have suited her well if she was able to stay composed. She was leery on her first jump of her combo, so when she happened the second, I knew it was not going to end well. Her other jumps were good, but she also had a spin where she almost fell out of it, but pulled it back together.
She has the skill, but she has trouble pulling everything together when it counts.

I had to find Karen Chen’s before I went back to the guys. just because she’s one of ours.
Her opening combination started good, but she couldn’t get all the way around on her 2nd jump, the toe loop. But she recovered well and showed great artistry and skill in other areas. And of course skating to that one Puccini piece “Nessun Dorma”… you can’t really ask for much more than that… except for a clean program.
Russia is so ahead of the curve when it comes to women’s skating, especially with the teeangers. Karen Chen definitely has the ability to match them, if not surpass them.

Now back to the guys…

I believe Grant Hochstein is one of ours as well. Apparently the first to go in the competition.
He had a quad combination planned, but couldn’t complete rotation so the combination jump had to go later in the program. He moved gracefully with the music and the rest of his jumps were really well done. My favorite part was the spread eagle he did before going to other side of the rink for the combination.
I feel like he’s still at the junior level, but has a lot of potential. Maybe with a different piece of music, he could be even better. It was pretty, but a little sleepy after a while.

I just came across Courtney Hicks from the US and So Youn Park from South Korea… :sigh: they’re the last two women, I promise πŸ˜› this doesn’t in any way make up for the fact I only watched the men in the junior grand prix series, but I really can’t help myself at this point.

Courtney Hicks made some interesting artistic choices that kept the program from passing me by completely. She did a 3-2 combination that was originally a planned a triple-triple. For good measure, she did a twizzle (popular in ice dancing) during a step sequence and she did a “donut” spin where she held on, but lowered herself to the ice while maintaining her position. That takes a lot of skill.

So Youn Park didn’t do well. The commentator was being very critical. At this point, I’m fighting to stay awake, but she didn’t grab my attention either. I saw that she fell on one jump, but didn’t really see the others. Seeing the replay, the 2nd jump in her combination was under rotated. The commentators’ biggest note was that her spins were “throw away elements”- the requirement is a minimum of 8 revolutions and he preferred that she did at least ten.

Scrolling down, I remembered Richard Dornbush was someone else I wanted to see. Because he’s one of ours. But I also enjoyed his program last season to Yellow & Viva La Vida by Coldplay [I’m currently listening to their “viva la vida” album and working on a YouTube montage to their song “magic” from their recent album- so obviously I’m very into Coldplay right now]
Oh wow, he’s going to skate to “Come What May” from Moulin Rouge… I hope he nails it πŸ˜› I can’t get through the ending of that movie without crying my eyes out, but I freaking love their music.
…unfortunately he had a really rough time. He couldn’t get his free leg all the way around to land his quad. Then on his take-off for the triple axel, his other skate caught the ice and he fell before he could get into the air. He did stay composed, doing all the choreography in the step sequences and such, but he’s not going to end well on the standings.

So I have Sergei and Misha… and there seems to be another Russian. Moris Kvitelashvili… man that’s a mouthful.

I remember seeing Moris at the test skate at Sochi with this music- I believe I can fly (a song covered so much on singing competitions that this is the first time I’d really paid attention to it in years) and What is Love? (aka: the head-bopping song from “Night at the Roxbury”).
He didn’t have a quad. Even with the triple axel, every jump looked like his hardest jump. He fell twice and he almost lost the 2nd part of his combination. But I tell you: it is refreshing to see a Russian skater just have a good time and go out of their way to entertain the crowd. When the music switched over to “What is Love?” he really came alive and smiled and the crowd was completely behind him despite his mistakes. Every other male skater from that country seems to be very contained in their skating and they don’t express a lot to the audience. I’d seen Sergei do some of that, but not at Plushenko’s level. If not him, they should need to aspire to the level of entertainment Jason Brown and Javier Fernandez bring to the ice when they skate.

And once again, YouTube is infuriating the hell out of me because they keep blocking Sergei Voronov’s videos because of his music.
At least I have dailymotion… but the upload time is terrible 😑
he’s skating to Muse- the piece is called “Butterflies and Hurricanes”… so obviously I have a HUGE bone to pick with WB for being so strict on their copyright laws. I’d rather they rip the music from the video instead of taking it down entirely. I don’t need music to judge skating, but it does help πŸ˜›
…I also didn’t realize how many tattoos he has. And I thought Plushenko was decorated.

He did really well too!! but it was painful having to stop and start the video whenever ads were replacing themselves on the screen… he did so well that he’s probably in first place… if not second behind Javi. So I can only cross my fingers that they liked him enough to air his short program on NBC so I can see it run as it was intended. Great jumps and skating skills. Beyond that, I couldn’t make much else out. When I did get picture it was blurry 😦

I have Misha Ge ready to go, but someone made a comment on Twitter about someone giving Yuzuru some competition… so I gotta find him now.

Boyang Jin is obviously a hometown (or at least host country) favorite. Until I see his free skate, he leaves me in a difficult position because “Tango Amore” was his music.
Considering Edvin Marton arranged this specifically for Plushenko, my first thought was “I hope he got permission to use this music”… I hadn’t seen “Tango Amore” in months, so the program wasn’t in my head as much as it could have been.
He made those jumps looks way too easy. Particularly that opening quad. And the skating skills were really good. But I didn’t feel like he had the character of the music. So that kinda leaves me in an awkward position until I see his free skate where he’ll have different music.

I don’t take issue with skaters using music others had made famous. It’s kinda impossible to keep certain music to certain skaters- especially when certain pieces are so popular. But you own the music like it was yours to begin with. You have to be believable and to catch its essence in your skating.
Maybe I’m just thinking he doesn’t have the right amount of maturity for this very sexy piece πŸ˜›
I’d reply to the person on twitter about this, but 140 characters isn’t enough to explain myself. Although I could ask the question… whether he had permission to use the music.
Plushenko’s Eng News handle is pretty good about replying to my questions… maybe if I’m lucky, Edvin Marton will clarify himself. I’d gotten RT’d and favorite’d by him, but he hasn’t replied as of yet.

Now for Misha… who I’d wanted to see for a while, but he’d been having issues with getting Visas so he can travel to compete. I don’t know of all that drama got in his head or he hasn’t had as much time to practice, but he looked rusty. He still doesn’t have the quad, so his best jump is a triple axel. He came down on his blade all wrong and fell and he had to fight to land other jumps. I lost the music in the video halfway through and it came back after maybe a minute of silence. But I didn’t mind because I got to see Misha’s artistry even better. He really is a gorgeous skater. He just needs to work on some things in order to improve.

Anyway… it’s very late on a Friday night. Now Saturday morning.
And I think I’ll wait until Sunday to find out where everyone stands. More suspense πŸ˜‰

Broadcast day- free skates at Cup of China

Why I still feel compelled to log onto social media during these competitions is beyond me πŸ˜›
by the way, I hope they never take Plushenko out of the intro of images for the ISU Grand Prix series… it’s always so nice to see him there even if I may never see him compete again.

And Mao is leading πŸ˜€ I’m so happy for her… although I really shouldn’t have been too surprised πŸ˜‰
they’re showing her short program again- and for good reason.
Rika Hongo is right behind her.

Of course they’re showing Karen Chen because she’s one of ours. But when she’s at her best, she’s amazing.
She popped one jump and may have under rotated a few jumps- but this was a better showing than she did at Skate America for sure. She really emote to her music from “Les Mis.”
Tracy Wilson is in for Johnny & Tara (I don’t know where Tara is, but Johnny’s been busy with Plushenko’s “Snow King” show… at least I believe he’s still playing Kai at this point). And she said Karen’s just missing the triple-triple combinations.
There was also an interesting comment that she came from the same hometown as Kristi Yamaguichi and actually won a scholarship named after her- in this sport, every dollar helps for sure. But the fact she won it speaks highly of her skill.

Elena Radionova was next. I remember seeing her music at the Sochi Test Skate and thinking “oh no…” cuz I knew that if she nailed it, I would be balling my eyes out.
Even though she wasn’t at her best, I got emotional. I saw “Titanic” once years ago and probably will never be able to get through it again knowing the ending.
At first, I thought she was too concentrated on nailing her jumps and wasn’t feeling the music. But after she started making mistakes, I felt her emotion on the ice. But her jumps weren’t all there. She slipped forward on her toe pick on a triple lutz and missed some other opportunities. But her spins were gorgeous as always.
They made the comment she was the only one who beat Elizaveta last season. Obviously, I play favorites in that scenario, but with her new programs and costumes this year, Elena is one I’m still going to watch.

Courtney Hicks fell for the commentator jinx… they said how her short program was a break-through and she really had a bad time of her free skate.
She popped several jumps and fell a few times. They said how she’s now working with Rohen Ward- Jason Brown’s choreographer. That would explain some of the artistic choices. For me, though, I felt during her step sequences that she was too slow. Some of it could be the fault of the music- from “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.” But I was also taken out of it because she wasn’t succeeding in her elements.
It felt like what I was just describing with Elena. Except concentrating on the choreography but losing the jumps.

Anna Pogorilaya is in 2nd behind Elena, but they didn’t show her skate… I guess to make time for the final 2 Japanese skaters.

I’ve said on a few occasions how hard it is to see skaters do music that others have made so iconic.
Rika Hongo had the same “Riverdance” selection that Jason Brown went viral with. So bits and pieces of his US Nationals performance came to mind during certain parts of the music.
But Rika had her own style and did some things with the music I loved even more. She did the female Irish step dance in a few parts and skated with the pacing of the music incredibly. I cheered so loud by the end, almost crying.
It was also so great to hear the crowd behind her, clapping in time with the music.
195.76 is now her new personal best- and I’m thinking “wow, that’s almost 200 points!”

Mao had a tough act to follow for sure.
I don’t know how much of a buffer she had going into the free skate. So it’s going to be tough for her to beat Rika Hongo after such an amazing performance. Her only mistake was a jump where she struggled to land it.
Mao fell once and popped a couple jumps.
I’ve seen her falter more times than she’s succeeded, but that’s because I hadn’t seen enough of her. When she was one of the best in the world, it was between 2010-2014- when I wasn’t actively watching the sport.
The fact she had a good short program helps a lot, plus her triple axel being as perfect as I’ve ever seen it…. and she still won. By a little less than 2 points.
Considering a small number of women have the triple axel, that’s a big deal.
With the men, many of them have the quad now, which is good. But I hope more women invest in the triple axel in the years to come.

So the top three there were Mao, Rika and Elena- one of the best top three’s you can have in this field πŸ˜‰

I didn’t know Javi’s choreography was done by the director of the Spanish ballet.
and I didn’t know Jin Boyang’s first jump was a quad lutz combination!!! and he had a quad in the 2nd half of his program. I just hope his music is something I don’t connect to another skater πŸ˜›

Han Yan is next.
Sergei was 3rd with Boyang Jin in 2nd and Javi at first with the short program. Sounds about right πŸ˜‰

Tracy Wilson was being a little too critical on him during this 😦 He didn’t fall, which puts him ahead of his Skate America performance. But he popped a triple axel into a double and he fought to land some jumps and put his hand down.
He wasn’t perfect, but to say he might not live up to his potential… that’s a little harsh. I don’t agree. He is getting better.

And as I predicted, they flashbacked to his collision with Yuzuru last year.

Grant Hochstein from the US is next- he was in 5th, not far from 3rd place. He’d been away from the grand prix since 2010? wow!
not a bad comeback either. he popped his quad and only got 1 point for it. and he had a hand down on one jump. But he had GREAT interpretation of the music- which was “Les Mis” with “Bring him home” and “One Day More”.
Can’t help but be impressed with all that plus him not skating since 2010. Plushenko hadn’t even been away from the ice that long.

Boyang Jin had FOUR quads planned- his standalone quad lutz looked so easy that my mind blew up. but he fell on his quad salchow and couldn’t hold onto the landing of his quad toe. I think he also rotates in the opposite direction- something I’d only seen from Johnny Weir.
Despite mistakes and fatigue, he was blowing my mind open with his technical score. Heck he almost broke the screen in the corner. Didn’t quite get triple digits on that.

I hate to say it, Plushenko, but the men’s skating field has moved on without you and you might not be able to keep up even if you’re able to do quads again.
The one thing missing for me with Jin Boyang is interpretation of music and choreography. They even said his focus was more on the jumps.
He needs to have jumps and artistry to get my vote.

Of course I am frustrated with NBC for not showing Sergei Voronov at all. I don’t care if he had a disastrous free skate, I want to freaking see it!! And considering he’s just points out of 4th place, it couldn’t have been that bad.

Javier Fernandez came clean-shaven (I almost miss the facial hair I saw in his short program :P) and with “Guys & Dolls” as his music- absolutely perfect for him.
He fell once, got tired towards the end, but he had three quads (one not too great but it was after the halfway mark). But he definitely won on presentation along.
I cheered really loud when he won.
Jin Boyang had 99.6 for his technical and only 76 or so points for presentation. So when I saw that, I knew Javi won on that alone- at least I hoped he would. Nothing’s for certain. Javi’s total was over 270 points with 80+ for technical and 90 something for presentation so that makes all the difference.

So I guess I still need to see Sergei, Anna Pogorilaya and Misha on YouTube. And also Richard Dornbush.

Anna had “Scheherazade” as her music and she interpreted that very well. She had a couple of falls and put her hand down on one jump. I definitely like her artistry better this season.

I guess I’ll start with Richard Dornbush with the guys.
He still has his Coldplay music for the free skate. It’s too bad he fell on his quad and triple axel because I really love how he uses this music. It’s even more impressive when he goes into the Viva La Vida portion in the last 90 seconds and he is stronger there than he is earlier on. Like him a lot, but he still struggles technically.

Just to see where Russia’s other man is, I’ll check into Moris Kvitelashvili’s free skate.
He is a lot better than most junior skaters are with performing while jumping comes easily to them. He seems to have the opposite problem. He had two triple axel attempts (neither was used in combination) and doubled both of them. And from there, the jumps didn’t really improve. It’s unfortunate 😦

Misha had a tough short program and came back strong. I got to see him do a quad, which ended up a tad under rotated and he fell. His first spin, I didn’t like- it looked a little slow, he only did a few rotations before switching to the other foot and doing some more spins. But he kept on improving and had a great performance with his other jumps and spins. Chopin suits his skating very well.
I love in the kiss & cry where he speaks to his fans in the three languages he knows- Japanese, Russian and English.
He retweeted my tweet about my concerns about him, that he seemed off his game. Earlier in the season, he tweeted about difficulties he was having about getting visas in order to travel for competitions, so I thought maybe that was affecting him mentally. The fact he retweeted me suggests my instincts are right.
Get that quad under control and use it more and he’ll be on his way to becoming one of the best. I’m very happy for him and the differences he’d made between the two days competing.

Which just leaves Sergei Voronov. And he’s skating to Once Upon a Time in America.
[I’m trying to remember now… oh, it was Konstantin who had Radioactive and Mad World for his music…]
He had a tough time. He had two quads, but one looked under rotated and he landed on two feet. One jump popped. Seeing him in the kiss & cry, he looked exhausted. Got more points for presentation, but I didn’t feel as connected to him as I did last season. Maybe it’s the music or the costume or he just didn’t bring the energy I’m used to seeing. But it’s early in the season so there’s room for improvement for sure.

Overall, I enjoyed this competition a lot. I got the results I wanted, but some of my favorites had a rough time of it. particularly their short programs.

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