Junior Grand Prix Series 2016- Part 1

It’s finally getting to be that time of year again.
Not that I’m in such a hurry for summer to end. It’s been a pretty good one. And when it’s skating season, my mindset tends to be all about that. So it’s good to have that break that I give myself.

At this point, I’ll probably make a few notes about each grand prix event for the junior men and if I have a substantial amount of things to say, I can always break up my posts into separate entries.

Junior Grand Prix France- Saint Gervais-les-Bains

With work and some other things going on, I don’t have as much time to watch this this particular weekend. (Next week being labor day weekend, I imagine it’s going to be a lot worse and harder to find time)… my point is that I’m being a little more selective about who I end up watching.

I think there are at least 24 skaters competing and I saw maybe half of them. The ones I really want to note, I tweet about them. More so for my own references, but if they get attention from other users online, so be it.
This process of elimination was also aided, somewhat, by technical difficulties with the ISU YouTube channel. It’s an amazing place that makes me grateful that YouTube even exists. But they’ve had issues with their videos. Especially with the short programs.

The long video that runs for 2+ hours and shows the entire competition, the audio and video were completely out of sync so it’s hard to get completely invested. I wound up going to individual videos, which had loads of problems of their own.
It’s very inconvenient and hard to get into a skater’s performance when there’s no music. Like a core element is missing.

So anyway, many of my choices were based on country of origin, but also… of course I’ll be seeing some familiar names and faces. That tends to happen with this sport and it’s something I look forward to. Seeing skaters grow from year to year and seeing what has changed since I last saw them.

Si Hyeong Lee from South Korea is one of them. I liked a lot of things about him last season. Particularly with his free skate, which I think was set to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. He has skill and could be a contender for the next Olympics in his home country. But he lacks artistry and musicality. His free skate wasn’t nearly as good as his short program.

Artur Panikhin from Kazkahstan has lots of potential to become great. One thing I found interesting about him was his music choice. He did “I can’t dance” by Genesis. Maxim Kovtun used it for last season and I thought he did well with it. But comparing the two… Artur felt the music a bit more and his skating is a little more polished, but he lacks the jumps. Not quite as powerful or clean as they could be.
…my mind is still reeling a bit from the fact Maxim Kovtun is getting yet another chance to be on the national team despite lack of consistency. The fact he can do quads 70% of the time shouldn’t be the only reason he is given more of a chance than other Russian skaters. His potential to break through is running out and meanwhile he’s in the way of younger skaters with more natural gifts. Just saying I’m running out of patience with him- or it might as well have run out entirely.
Artur’s free skate wasn’t as memorable or strong as his short program.

Next I wrote about two Americans. I may have seen both of them before. Oleksiy Melnyk, I may have seen once before, but my memory isn’t great. Maybe because there’s another skater for our team who came from a different country I have my eye on more.
So interesting to see Russian and Ukrainian skaters working for our team. I can’t help but wonder if there’s a reason for that. If our program is more suited to their needs as skaters. In Russia in particular they have skating groups where it’s harder to get individual attention with the skating skills and such.

Anyway, Oleksiy has that great jumping ability that a lot of Eastern European skaters have. (He’s from Ukraine. Alexei Karaznazhon was from Russia… I hope I get to see him in a later competition in this series).
He also hit the first clean program of the free skate, but it was hard to enjoy it because the music cut out on me 2-3 skaters beforehand.

Tomoki Hiwatashi, I definitely remember from last year. I think he even got bronze at the junior worlds. With his short program, I couldn’t believe it was the same skater. He’d grown in height by a few inches, but an even better performer. His short program was also a little more grown up than him being the best Charlie Chaplin I’d seen on the ice. His free skate brought back that immaturity I remember, a little more free and joyous and less serious. I believe it was to “The Artist” soundtrack.

Ilia Skirada is the newest 13 year old from Russia. I thought he did really well for his first competition. A few hiccups with jumps in his short program, but he seems to really love skater. I also loved his Biellmann spins. I couldn’t help wondering if Evgeni Plushenko had inspired young skaters from Russia and Japan to incorporate that in their programs. He was the first man to popularize a move that had otherwise been geared towards female skaters.

His free skate, meanwhile, was flawless. The music jumped around a lot. The first selection was from “Once Upon a Time in America” but he performed like he was at a school play. Enjoyed every moment, got into the music and cleanly done. That’s gotta be a rare time- having a PERFECT skate on your first grand prix appearance.
Amazingly, he got 2nd place and I don’t know if he even had triple axels yet.

Basar Oktar from Turkey has great artistry already and moves well with the music. Jumps need a little polishing, but good skate. His free skate wasn’t as memorable. They said that Emmanuel Sandhu choreographed for him. It is really nice choreography, but he doesn’t live in it. He was going through the motions of it without feeling it. But he is only 14.

Conrad Orzel from Canada skated beautifully to “Secrets” by OneRepublic πŸ˜‰ if his jumps were stronger, it could’ve been AMAZING. His free skate, again, not as memorable.

Kevin Aymoz made one mistake, but easily one of the best skaters in the competition. Bright future for sure πŸ˜‰
He skated last in the free and he was a crowd favorite. Not just because he’s from France, but his hometown was very close to where the competition was held.
He gave everything to this skate and showed so much skill and personality. But he got so tired in the last minute that some of his jumps suffered for it. And him missing the podium by less than a point… it was heartbreaking seeing him in the kiss and cry. This is the 2nd time I’d seen him miss the podium and end in 4th place.

The 3rd place finisher was Koshiro Shimada from Japan. He was the first skater I saw in the junior circuit last year and I remember him skating to Tosca Fantasy… that was a little hard for me because Plushenko and that music have a long history. It’s also my favorite program by him.
This time, he did… well, the commentator said Cirque de Solei music, but it sounded VERY much like “Tribute to Nijinsky.” Some elements of the music were different, but there were enough similarities where I said to myself “was he inspired by Plushenko and that’s why he’s using his old music?”
Anyway, his skill level is really good and he deserved third place for sure.

This just leaves me with two skaters from Russia and Ukraine.

Roman Savosin is one of those Russian skaters I don’t remember as well because the personality doesn’t out quite as much and the skill level is mixed at best. He wound up winning despite a couple minutes, mostly because he sunk some quads and triple axels in there. But I was so checked out at this point (the music had been so sleepy that it was hard to really watch or enjoy a bunch of these skaters) that I didn’t realize he had quads at all. I guess because I don’t expect the juniors to have them a lot of the time.
He also had some under rotations and fell once.

Yaroslav Paniot… he’s an amazing talent. I remember him last season performing really well. His short program was so strong that nobody could touch him throughout the entire competition.
His free skate here started SO good with two quads that were textbook flawless. But he fell apart little by little, flipping out of jumps and he had two that he popped into singles.
It hurt to see him in 4th place after all that because I’d seen him do so much better.

Good start to the series for sure. I’m already excited for next week. Mostly to find out which skaters I recognize that are coming back.

Almost forgot the first returnee from a previous season that I remembered: Sondre Oddvol Be from Norway.
Amazing artistry in his short program, but it wasn’t all the way together with the jumps.
For his free skate, he performed to “Bring him home” from Les Mis, first with the instrumental and then with the Josh Groban recording. BEAUTIFUL skating with lots of emotion in the performance. The commentator said that he had a spell going until he fell and managed to get it back and if he can put together a perfect skate with this program, it’ll be something special… I agreed so much.
He could be like Misha Ge, who is a great performer and skates beautifully, but maybe doesn’t have the greatest jumps, which is the reason he is in the earlier groups of competitions. The ones not typically shown in primetime, which annoys me. I hope that when he turns senior, he’ll improve enough to be part of the last 2 groups of skaters that get TV screen time.

Junior Grand Prix Czech- Ostrava, Czech Republic

Joseph Phan from Canada gave the best program of the first group in the short program.
The quality of the program, with the exception of the entrance into his first spin which went a little array, was flawless. Nailed all his jumps and skated so well to the music. A little more personality and charisma and he could be a force in the future. Performed to “The best is yet to come” by Michael BublΓ©
I think I saw him the previous season and he got a nosebleed in the middle of his short program at Colorado Springs and had to step off the ice.

Spoke too soon πŸ˜› Kevin Shum took his program a step further than the previous skater. Showed so much great personality and skated so well to the music. Great arrangement of “Eleanor Rigby” [I spent half the time thinking about Dalton’s arrangement on American Idol and how it was one of my favorite performances by him].
Hard to believe he’s 19. He’s good enough to hang out with the seniors. Team USA could definitely use someone like him. Not that our team is all that bad, but every skater with a lot of personality and great quality like that, we can use if we’re going to compete with Javier Fernandez and the Japanese skaters.
He got 2 deductions points for slipping on the ice at the beginning?! Boo! The overall program should’ve given him at least 60 points. But as of this point, he’s in 2nd.

I figured I’d only write if skaters caught my attention in a positive way πŸ˜› but here’s my 3rd skater in a row. I audibly gasped beforehand because they said he’d be skating to music by Edvin Marton. “Romeo & Juliet” although further on, “Dramatico” finished up the rest of the time in the program. He wasn’t as strong as the others before him even though he nailed his jumps.
Chih-Sheng Chang of Taiwan [or as they call it here, Chinese Taipei]. I almost hate to say that you need charisma to skate to Edvin Marton’s music about someone in their first JGP season, but I borderline felt like that.

I’m still more than a month away from regularly visiting Plushenko’s videos. I might even put together another montage. I say after I finish each one “never again” because it’s such a trying process and I don’t feel good about my efforts at the end. Not until the YouTube comments come in… I know, it’s pathetic that I need validation to feel like I’m any good even though I feel confident about it for my own personal viewing.

This next group, I definitely know two of the skaters. Maybe three. Ivan Pavlov from Ukraine, I remember doing well. And I see Alexei Krasnozhon from the US πŸ˜€ Can’t wait to see him again. Tangxu Li from China, I think I saw as well and he had some great highs and also some lows.

I think Ivan is our new leader πŸ˜€ best performance by far. Who knows “Bad Boys” had a good soundtrack to skate to? He moved to it so well and timed his movements with all the nuances. His future is so bright. Maybe not as good as THE best, but he has that potential for sure.
Although he did have some misses with his jumps. Triple axel underrotated and he had to fight to land his third jump.
Yep, in first place, although only by 2 points.

We had a local skater doing “Putting on the Ritz.” His costume looked very similar to Plushenko’s “Tango Roxanne” costume from the 2012 Europeans, so I thought maybe he’d do that music instead. He’s a good performer for sure, but he was disappointed with some falls he had.
Tomas Verner, who is part of Plushenko’s “Snow King” project, works with him and hopefully he’ll give him some good guidance for the future.
Matyas Belohradsky scored around 54 so despite the mistakes he did very well and he can only get better.

Alexei did well. His final jump, I saw some snow, so it was under rotated. But it has been a long time since I’d been nervous for a skater to land their jumps πŸ˜› not since the last season ended.
He was amazing, but the commentator said he was even better in practice. So I hope to see that at some point- that excellent performance quality.
In the end, he got over 75 so he blew away Ivan by 11 points. That’s pretty spectacular.
The best skaters in senior ranks, they get between 80 and 100 points (although the 100 points was only recently hit this last season). So he has a good chance of winning this event, assuming he doesn’t have any issues in the free skate. :fingers crossed:

Jiri, I definitely remembered from last season. Matyas is his younger brother. Both Czech natives are working with Tomas Verner. From his costume, I thought maybe he’d do music from Tron, but not quite.
He performed to all the beats of the music and had great movement and skating skills. But his jumps need some polishing. He looks like he blinks beforehand (metaphorically, not literally) because his takeoffs are good, but his landings are shaky. Just needs a little more confidence in his ability because I can see he has it.
Got around 56 points, so only in 6th place. I thought he deserved a bit better.
Although there are a lot of good skaters in this competition.

Looking at the last group of skaters, I saw someone wearing a Russian jacket and got excited. Then I recognized him and screamed πŸ˜› It’s Dmitri Aliev πŸ˜€ he thrilled me last season and was so heartbroken for him when he didn’t do his best in the junior worlds because I know he is very much capable of greatness. I’d seen it.
Roman Savosin, who WON last week, is here as well.
Se Jong Byun might be the Korean skater I remembered from last season, not the other one. I definitely recognized him.

Roman had some scratchy finishes on his jumps. His final jump in the 2nd half had the hands over the head and was very solid. I’m not sure if it’s him or the music, but I just can’t get excited about his skating. not quite sure what is missing. maybe I don’t like his style as much.
Whoa, he got 72. He could win again if Alexei doesn’t perform well in the free skate.

Se Jong Byun was the Korean skater I remembered- just looked it up.
He skated to the iconic music from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and incorporated some elements to go with the music. He fell on one of his jumps, but did have good performance with the music.

Larry Loupolover I remember seeing before. He has a very distinct look. Not a lot of guys have hair long enough where it needs to be tied back. He was in earlier groups, but here he is in the last group. Which says he must have improved a lot. And he has. Skated to the Jersey Boys version of “Can’t take my eyes off of you”
He had strong jumping ability and had to fight to land one or two, but he kept his cool the whole way.
Skating for Azerbaijan but is originally from the US.
Taking a long time to get the scores… he was in 15th place after all that. Didn’t think he was nearly that bad.

Dmitri… omg… it was so good seeing him again. Another skater where I was nervous about all the jumps. No mistakes there at all. Very solid. And I noticed he had two of his jumps, including the combination, in the 2nd half of the program, so that alone gave him an advantage over Alexei, who I see front-load his program.
But he made a mistake on a spin. In the slow motion replay, I saw it was one of those spins where you jump and go into a different position. When he jumped, he missed the alignment of his position and fell out of it a bit. If not for that mistake, he would have easily have gotten 80 points and a healthier lead. Only ahead of Alexei by 2 points (and Roman by 5).
He looked a little annoyed about it, but he had good humor about the situation and how silly it was to make a mistake there. His coach as well.

Having him was also great because I was starting to nod off and lose interest a bit.
It’s a long time to be watching skating and it’s not quite like with senior competitions. They don’t necessarily have all the best skaters in the later parts of it. Very solid, great quality of skating.
If he and Alexei are the top 2, it’ll be a good weekend 😎

And I got to thinking- maybe I know why Roman isn’t as engaging for me to watch…
he’s from Moscow.
Alexei (originally) and Dmitri are from St. Petersburg.
There’s a difference between the styles of the two Russian cities. St. Petersburg seems to favor artistry. I see that with Plushenko and Sergei Voronov as well. Maxim Kovtun is from Moscow and I don’t quite get his style or why he is favored so much despite lack of consistency.
Although I don’t remember off the top of my head where Mikhail Kolyada is from…. St. Petersburg also.

I think I have a solid theory then…

And based on some of these performances, I think I can bypass some of the coverage for the free skate. So I can focus on my favorites and the best skaters. Definitely going to be a great fight for the podium. I just hope everyone skates well so maybe the standings can stay as they are??

Going into the free skate, I stumbled across one spoiler alert :/ which I usually hate, but considering who wound up winning this competition, I can’t say I’m too upset about it. In fact I’m even more excited to see this gold medal winning performance πŸ˜‰

Ostrava is hosting the Euros next year. Cool. It’s nice seeing these venues serve as the location of these competitions before they’re used for the big ones.

Chih-Sheng Chang must be an Edvin Marton fan because this is his 2nd program using his music. It was called “Art on Ice” but a lot of it was “Tribute to Nijinsky.” He had some good moments with hitting the jumps and nice spins, but the performance wasn’t clean and sharp enough to do the music complete justice.
But in the future, who knows what’s possible? This is only his first year. He can only get better, I’m sure πŸ˜‰

Tangxu Li didn’t do as well in his short program, but his free skate was nice to watch. He fought to land every jump, but most went well. He had some good moments with the music and did it beautifully. “Storybook Ending” by Alan Menken. I wonder if it was meant for a certain Disney movie. If some more things hit, this could be an amazing program. [It was from “Enchanted”]

Larry Loupolover from Azerbaijan did “Once upon a time in America” and had one of the roughest programs I’d ever seen. He tried some hard jumps but they all went wrong.

Alexander Maszljonko from Hungary, I remember from last season. He has an interesting style. Didn’t know his music- “My heart’s a mess” but he made it come alive with his various nuances. With some polishing with the jumps and elements, he has an amazing future. Didn’t think his technical and artistic marks would be as close as they were, but he got first place as of this point.

wow- what a day makes for Matyas Belohradsky. Whatever words of encouragement Tomas Verner had for him after his short program yesterday, they worked. He nailed nearly all of his jumps flawlessly and performed well to the “Pink Panther” music.
Just proof that I probably shouldn’t count any skater out until I see them a couple of times. First impressions can be deceiving… and that’s the story with some of my favorite skaters. Didn’t like some of them the first time.
Currently in first place and well deserved.

Now for his brother, Jiri.
He had a rougher program, fell on his first jump and had to fight to land others. But he has beautiful lines and artistry and this medley of Beethoven music worked well for him. Really think he has a bright future and could potentially represent this country well in the next Olympics.
Just took over first place. πŸ˜€

Se Jong Byun had difficulties as well. His jumps weren’t quite coming together and it didn’t seem like he was confident enough with the music. There was one close-up after a jump where he was looking down instead of outward. He had “Notre Dame de Paris” for his music. Not quite the same arrangement as what Dmitri made iconic for me last season.

Kevin Shum… wow… it wasn’t perfect… some jumps were slightly underrotated and one had a good jump in combination where he only got a single loop. Skated to a “Sounds of Silence” cover and really brought it to life. So beautiful, I’m tearing up πŸ˜› Can’t wait to see him perform it again and hopefully with less minor mistakes.
Probably the best moment so far in this free skate.
First place! Good presentation score- a few points above his technical. Only 6 tenths above Jiri.

Mitsuki Shumoto from Japan had a good performance overall. In a couple years, he could be amazing. But for now, he needs to work on connecting more with the music… or maybe it would help if I could hear the music better (have my headphones on and my dad’s watching “San Andreas”… its kinda loud). Good jumps and artistry though. The Japanese are very talented in both aspects.
He beat the other two guys by at least 30 points. Nice work.

Ivan Pavlov is next. His program was a little uneven. He fell on what looked like a quad attempt as his first jump [triple axel] and had some hiccups. But he also had a lot of strong moments with his steps and worked well with the music. “Blood Diamond” soundtrack.
The commentator kept gushing about his jump technique. Really, the Russians and Ukrainians are really good at that.
Whoa, almost at 200 points overall. Nice!

Joseph Phan had everything in his program except with landing the jumps. Fell a couple times and fell out of others. Great movement to the music and artistry, though. 189 or so points in 3rd place, but well-deserved still.

Dmitri πŸ˜€ I love how he’s such an emotional skater. Both while skating and after. When he is happy with his performance, he really shows it and I celebrate along with him. There were tiny issues with landing a handful of jumps. But he had lots of great jumps, spins and all the elements.
I wondered if he knew his skating history and that Alexei Yagudin had an iconic “Man in the Iron Mask” program- one that helped him win that Olympic gold at Salt Lake City.
I’d only seen that program maybe twice, but there were moments where I recalled it. The step sequence especially. I hate to give Alexei Yagudin too much press on this blog because he has been negative about Plushenko for years (especially after what happened in Sochi), but his step sequence with his 2001-2002 programs… it’s hard to forget how impressive they are to watch. So special.

Dmitri got a score that would have given Plushenko a run for his money 10 years ago. 232.83 with 81.18 technically and 74.20 presentation. Anytime I see 80+ points in technical score, I know a skater is on the right track πŸ˜‰
Russia could definitely use him in the future. He just needs to keep gaining confidence and getting even stronger.
Easily first place. The other two skaters were only behind him by 2-5 points so they will have an interesting battle for second.

Roman Savosin also had some tiny issues, but he fell on his first jump. A quad attempt I think.
At first it looked like whatever Dmitri did before him intimidated him a little bit. Like it was hard to follow.
Another season’s best for him, but not quite good enough to take first place. Less than 30 points difference between the two. His marks were also only in the 60s. Not quite as strong as he was last week.

Now it’s down to Alexei. Here’s hoping he has a good enough program to take 2nd place…
Didn’t quite get my wish, but he got through it all right. Had some awkward landings on a couple jumps, but held it together overall. The music was the soundtrack of some western movie. I’m not a big fan of those types of programs or that kind of music personally. It’s also a little strange to see it from someone who was born in Russia. Edvin Marton has a song on his “Stradivarius” album that sounds like something from hoe-down that I didn’t think worked either.

He got 2nd! πŸ˜€ if not for Dmitri, he would have easily won. But I’m so happy that the standings stayed as they were in the short program.
Loved his reaction. He was so thrilled to get 2nd. I saw him get third during one competition last year.
223.60 overall. Both of his scores were in the 70’s, so him getting 2nd definitely made sense.
77.86 technically (apparently one of his failed jumps was a quad loop- that takes guts to even try, kudos!) and 71.64 for his presentation.

He was interviewed afterwards. Apparently he has landed the quad loop in practice and wants to be the first person to land it in competition. Also made another point where he likes to do the triple lutz-triple loop combination instead of the lutz with the toe loop because it’s special and gets more points.

Overall, great competition from a lot of people, but I’m so happy to see some of my favorites perform well.

Junior Grand Prix Japan- Yokohama

Roman Sadovsky was the only name I recognized in the first warm-up group. I remember him being a great skater last year. And it looks like having Brian Orser as a new coach is already making an impact because he has so much great skating. Beautiful to watch. Only problem was he missed the triple axel, popped it. So he won’t score as high as he could. But definitely one to watch in the future.
Skated to an instrumental of Muse’s “Biogenesis”
I guessed he’d get 65 based on that missed jump but he got 2 extra points, which is a decent start. I hope his free skate is cleaner so he can make up for that.

Next skater from Malaysia- he’s skating to Fanatico by Edvin Marton πŸ˜€ already can’t wait.
So much to say about that. His choreography fit well to the music, but he didn’t rise to the occasion of it. A little tentative in places. He got his first jump combination down well and went right into two spins. So he’ll get the bonus for the next two jumps. Except he did two footed landings. He lost some speed on his spins also.
Good effort, though.
Kai Xiang Chew

So funny how a skater following another I was a little critical with sometimes does exactly what I wanted from the previous skater.
These Japanese skaters seem like natural performers. From the first second before he started, I saw something in his eyes saying he was ready to perform. Might have borrowed a little swagger from the music (“I get a kick outta you”) but he had a great skate. Only thing he could improve is centering his spins. He was traveling just a little bit on them.
Yuto Kishina is in 2nd right with 61

Just as I was saying to myself, I’m not going to write about every skater I see… the next one is American so I kinda have to.
Emmanuel Savary reminds me a lot of Adam Rippon with his artistry and sensibility to the music.
But those darn triple axels- he started off and it just got messed up and popped.
this is 2nd season but Ted Barton said his last high score was in 2011- which tells me that he had to take time off maybe due to injury.
third place with 61

I didn’t catch where this skater is from. Born in the US but skating for another country.
His music was “Feeling Good” performed by Adam Lambert. Not perfect on the jumps, but he nailed the choreography. Worked with that music so well.
Harrison Jon-Yen Wong

Last year there was a skater from Argentina named Denis that I really liked. He got third in his first grand prix and he talked about wanting to promote the sport in this country not known for it.
I wonder if Mauro Calcagno was inspired by that or he wanted to do that for himself.
He has an interesting flair and his music sounded like it was native to his country. Had some mishaps but not bad first his first JGP.

Looks like a young Russian on deck. Artem Kovalev.

Ouch! I’ve never seen anyone get 8 for technical elements. Makes it sound he’s not quite ready even for this level. I know its not the seniors, but some of the juniors are surprisingly good. 17 for artistry, so a VERY low combined score.

Wow…. Artem is only 13, but he skated like a pro. Landed all the jumps with ease and great performer with the music. It was very epic sounding with a great operatic voice like Josh Groban, but he wasn’t singing in English. Beautiful. Great artistry. And he’s from Moscow… I guess the artistry doesn’t just belong to St. Petersburg as I had guessed last week while comparing all the Russian skaters I’ve come to know.
37 and 32 for a combined score around 70.
Impressive start.
I might be jumping the gun by a lot, but I can’t help but wonder… am I seeing the beginning of Russia’s next great skater?

Yeah, Vincent Zhou is in this next group. Can’t wait to see what he’ll do this year. He did so well last year. And actually had some great moments at the US championships.

I think he could win this competition… beautiful sensitivity to the music (“Writing on the wall” by Sam Smith). Got all his jumps done. Had the combination in the 2nd half and one had the hands over the head.
Wow… that was so good…
and he got 80. the only thing that could launch him higher is adding a quad but that’s perfect for now… again, wow πŸ˜€

Jun Hwan Cha is another student of Brian Orser’s. I think he’s one I’ve even heard about as his next possible Yuzuru. 14 year old from South Korea. This should be interesting.
And was it ever? Wow… the only thing he’s missing is showmanship and that’ll come with time. It’s nice to see such an able natural talent. Especially in their debut. And I’d seen some great debuts by a couple Russians this year. I think he should get 3rd place easily. Possibly 2nd.
79 points! wow πŸ˜€

I know this guy. James Min from Australia. Young guy but promising talent.
Had to fight for one of the jumps but otherwise did well. Getting better and better.
OMG, his accent is so cute πŸ˜› thanking his mom and dad in the kiss and cry.

Eric Liu from Canada. I don’t think I got to see him during his previous competition this season. I was pressed for time so I didn’t watch every skater. He has a lot of talent but it looks like he missed one of his spins and lost his train of thought for a few seconds afterwards. Great jumps, though.

Have another Russian and I don’t believe I’d had the pleasure of seeing him before.
First time I’d seen a Russian named Alexei who spells his name like this. Alexey Erokhov. Also from Moscow.
That was an interesting experience. Interesting choice of music (“The Thrill is Gone” by B.B. King).
Gotta love how natural the Russians are as jumpers on the ice. Moved well with the music and really good spins. Started with a triple axel that looked so easy.
This has to be another good score. That podium is going to be very competitive to reach.
Currently 3rd place, nice.
I guess not all Moscow skaters are lacking for artistry.

Typically with these competitions, I see three skaters from the host country and our final skater is also from Japan.
Kazuki Tomono, I don’t know if I’d seen before either. Or he’s one of those Japanese skaters that escaped my attention because there are so many skaters to keep track of.
Not bad for a showman. He skated to Beethoven’s 5th symphony, which started as the classic recording and later became more modern. Great footwork and his spins, but his jumps need polishing. He rotated more on the ground to stabilize his landings. Guts to do a triple axel near the end of the program too.
6th place isn’t bad at all. If he has a better performance in the free skate, he could have chance at bronze.

Had to catch the interview with Brian Orser before stopping for the day. Such a great guy and a great coach. Lots of talent on his team and he has a great coaching style as well. Says he likes to let the skaters find their own while he does like to provide some guidance. Especially with the younger skaters

Free skate

James Min fought through his whole program, but it didn’t go as well as he hoped it would. Definitely have to give him credit for trying and never giving up.

I guess I’m a sucker for a good Charlie Chaplin routine. Daniel Grassl from Italy is one of those skaters I didn’t plan on really writing about, but this begs to be mentioned.
He started with “Smile” performed by Nat King Cole and went into instrumentals from the movie “City Lights.” My favorite Charlie Chaplin film. I was having nostalgic moments recalling the movie while he skated so smoothly and easily. Then as the routine went on, I marveled at his acting ability and how well he played the character. And he skated so cleanly. That makes it extra special. Might remember this one for a while. Currently in first and this was a season’s best.

Watching so much skating, I’m kinda in the mood where if I’m not entertained, I most likely won’t comment.

Donovan Carrillo from Mexico is another skater I didn’t address earlier. While his skate wasn’t perfect, he did some things artistically I was impressed by. He had some music I recognized from Plushenko’s “Once upon a time in America” program. And there’s one section where he gets very into the music and he pulls his facial expressions a bit and I’m not into that so much.
When Donovan did it, he did some cha-cha steps and was a natural performer. The crowd was won over by that so much that they were clapping along to the music. Moments like that are why I love watching this sport. He missed some jumps a little after that, but he got through it. I can see him being brilliant with a couple more years of training.

Yuto Kishina, I can see becoming into the senior ranks the way Shoma Uno did last year. Granted, a few years down the road because he’s only 14. But he has that natural skating ability and that ability to perform. Not a perfect skate, but there’s plenty of time for him to improve.
Got more points from presentation than technical, but well-deserved for sure.

I’ll say one thing for Emmanuel Savary. He might not have landed many jumps, but the rest of his program was cool to watch. He kept his poise the entire time and didn’t let the mistakes rattle him. Great footwork and spins. Apparently he tried a quad and a triple axel. Lots of difficulty, but didn’t quite get it all together.
Getting 58 points for presentation has to count for something, right?

With this last group, it should be interesting… just to see who ends up on that podium because everyone has a chance in the event some of the leaders make mistakes.

Artem Kovalev is up first. Oh wow… I had so many thoughts going through my head watching him. First I was hoping his short program wasn’t a fluke. Then I was panicking that he wouldn’t hold it together the whole time. Then I was like “I really can’t wait to see what he does when he’s older” even though it’ll be a few years down the road. He performed so well to the music, lots of complex footwork for such a young skater. The jumps towards the end looked like he had to fight harder to land, but he hung on to all of them.
…just wow. Love this kid. Whatever this quality he is that he has, I hope he never loses this energy.
He broke the 200 point barrier for this competition- awesome!

Roman Sadosvky… ok, back to seeing Brian Orser’s students…
It’ll be interesting to see how this new relationship develops. He made a couple mistakes, nailed some tough jumps, but kept it together for the whole program. He seems like the type of skater that might unravel after making a mistake or two, but he didn’t do that. I exhaled audibly after it was all done as if I’d been holding it the whole time.
Beautiful skater. Slowly becoming another of my favorite juniors.

Seems like these skaters are going to keep one-upping each other as we go. Have another new leader.

Kazuki Tomono
ahh- I wanna fan-girl scream right now! Saw he had some difficult jumps out there and nailed practically all of them. I had a smile on my face the entire time and had such a good time watching him. OMG- that was so much. Another great future skater from Japan.
And he’s 18 so the senior level can’t be too far away πŸ˜€ even better.
If Japan can take 3 skaters to the next Olympics, he could easily join Yuzuru and Shoma.

Vincent Zhou- our current leader after the short program
maybe he got some jitters from remembering this because this wasn’t exactly perfectly. he didn’t fall, but some jumps, he had to fight for the landings and might have under rotated a couple.
226 overall. Definitely not bad at all. He had a little cushion from the short, but he also had some extra difficulty in his program.

Alexey Erokhov is next. Should be interesting to see how he does. Artem did so well, but Alexey also had a great short program as well.
I wasn’t as impressed this time around. He fell twice and that kinda ruined any chance for me to become fully invested. He makes most of his jumps look so effortless, though. Some good moments with the music.
Despite the issues, he got 76 for technical, which I guess chalks up to the difficulty of his jumps. He fell on a quadruple toe loop (which I didn’t even catch when he did it) where he got all the rotations but slipped off the edge on his landing.
Not sure if I agree with him getting 2nd. Kazuki had the better program overall and Alexey beat him by 4 points.

Lastly, Brian Orser’s other skater, Jun Hwan Cha… that was beautiful, something very special to watch. Some jumps, the landing went array a tiny bit, but he stayed on his feet.
I had to literally pause and rewind the video when I heard Ted Barton say quad sal… Quad sal?!!! he’s only 14!!! what the hell?! Is that even possible- and doing it so cleanly?
What I am even seeing right now?!
85 technical 75 presentation for a total of 239… he’s getting 239 when he’s only 14 and still a junior. Ten years ago, that’s the type of score that Plushenko got and would set world records with.
This is completely unreal!

And Vincent had this 11 point lead that got completely erased. Just because he didn’t get the best GOE on his jumps.

Am I getting ahead of myself in saying that this kid could beat Yuzuru’s world record within the next couple years skating at this level?
Can I at least use the word prodigy? Let’s go with that. Wow…
[pronounced Joon Hah-wan Cha per Brian Orser… definitely gotta remember that name]
and he actually will be old enough to compete in the next Olympics if he qualifies…

Junior Grand Prix Russia- Saransk

Interesting… there’s only 17 skaters. Usually there are at least 20-24.

I recognize a handful of names, but most of them are new to me.

First time I’m seeing Petr Gumennik this season and Alexander Samarin will be in a group later on.

Funny thing- I hear them playing a song during the warm-up and it sounded like Prince. So I did a double take and realized it was “Manic Monday”… which he did write… so funny hearing it peripherally and hearing Prince’s vibe, which I don’t think I really had with that song before.
And probably by the time I finish typing this paragraph, the warm-up will be almost over πŸ˜›

Can definitely see the difference already in Petr with having Alexei Mishin as his new coach. Love his form and his spin positions and cool to see the hand over the head with some jumps.
The way the crowd got behind him (his HOME crowd) you’d think this was just a show and not for competition.
Apparently he’s also injured, so he’s not quite at 100%. Other than maybe getting tired towards the end, I wouldn’t have known.
Can’t wait to see more of him. 58.14 is a decent score, but I know he’s capable of better.

Matyas Belohradsky is up next. Saw him the other week. One of Tomas Verner’s skaters he’s helping choreograph and coach.
His jumps are definitely better than they were at his last short program. Really good performance, but he looks so nervous πŸ˜› the choreography seems kinda uninspired with him doing it at half the speed I’ve seen others skate. He has a lot of growing to do, but it’s good to see him nail the jumps this time.
I wonder if it feels good to skate without being against his brother. or if he misses having him there.
66.31, very nice. He looks so happy about it. Anything to give him more confidence so he can improve.

Tangxu Li, I saw a few weeks ago. Hope he can improve. Nice opening combination jump.
Yeah, that was definitely better. The jumps had some snow flying up, but looked great otherwise. And he felt more in sync with the music. If his facial expressions got behind it more, this could be even better.
Nathan Lanier is great music for choreography in general and this is proof he’s great for skating as well.
2nd place currently with 62.16. Well-deserved for sure.

Now for one of the two Americans I hadn’t seen yet.
Eric Sjoberg… he has the same coach as Ashley Wagner.
I think I’m in love. I don’t know or care if he’s gay or straight, but I think I found a new favorite skater. His first jump- he had both hands over the head. The rest of his jumps need a tiny bit of work. Great, beautiful spins. Nice footwork. That has to fetch a really good score.
59.72… uh… I would have given him a couple more points. No more than 65 but at least 60 something.

Time for group 2.

The top 4 all have a shot at the podium at this point. There was a skater from New Zealand I didn’t particularly care for that got a score of 38.
Guess I’ll fast-forward through the warm-up.

Si Hyeong Lee from South Korea is up first.

Looks like a lot of these skaters are opening with a jump, doing two spins and putting the other jumps in the 2nd half. Maybe that’s the new norm.

Oh man, what happened? He was so good up until the final 15 seconds πŸ˜› Skated to one of those old pieces that skaters traditionally got with and he skated so well to the music and hit all the nuances in the music. But it looks like he had an issue on his last jump, getting all the way around. And that carried over to his final spin where he just fell off. Either lose of concentration of balance.
I hate when that happens… really hate it when it’s a skater I really want to win (Ashley Wagner comes to mind… as well as when Yuzuru lost the worlds last year in his free skate).
55.11 isn’t bad, though. But he could have been more of a contender for a medal without those mistakes. I hope he can bounce back from this. Definitely has the talent.

Alexander Maszljanko from Hungary. 2nd time seeing him this season. he’s an interesting skater to watch for sure.
Bleck! I hate when skaters fall when they’re not jumping. He just fell while doing footwork and he kinda lost his focus in the rest of the program. The crowd really got behind him clapping in time with the music (and people criticize Russia for only caring for their own skaters… ).
His next two jumps suffered a little bit for it and he kinda lost some of the character he brought to this music.
Too bad…
50.44 isn’t bad, but again, he could have been better without the whole unraveling thing :/
Still see a bright future for him. He could certainly be a fan favorite.

Alexander Samarin
…there’s something to be said about having the perfect set of music for skating.
I’d heard “come with me now” by kongos in commercials, but never the whole song.
He really embraced the meaning of the song and played to the crowd. and they loved him for it. He even had some great dance moves in one part where my jaw just dropped.
Plushenko is the only other Russian skater that made me feel like that- being entertained in that way.
Too bad he fell on his final jumping pass… I was typing when I saw them post 73.34. The crowd went NUTS and was chanting for their country.
He really did nail the other jumps and great presentation.
Phew… that was so cool to watch. That’ll be one of the programs I’ll remember for the rest of the season. Maybe longer.

Yauhenii Puzanau from Belarus, while he didn’t nail it technically (had issues with nearly every jump), he gave an amazing performance. I’m very partial to “Smooth Criminal” πŸ˜‰ my favorite Michael Jackson song.
Then I had moments where I remembered Nathan Chen skated to some of it last season and that was especially memorable.
But this was as well. I hope in another competition, he can get everything else together because this was a lot o fun to watch. Loved the choreography and that moon walk.
Only 46.24, but that’s ok. Always room for improvement.

Adrien Bannister from Italy… I’m going to talk about mostly because of the choice of music.
There is a meme out there that has been used dozens of times with different captions. It’s Batman smacking Robin and correcting something stupid he said.
If I had the time, I would put my own version of that meme up with these captions:
Robin: skating to “kiss” by Tom Jones
Batman: “Kiss” is by Prince, stupid

I hate how Tom Jones gets credit for this song when Prince wrote and it made it famous in his own right. This is why I hate covers. They sometimes get misused.

Anyway, he did perform well to the music, but the technical ability wasn’t entirely there.

I just found out the other day that Yuzuru will be skating to “Let’s go Crazy” for his short program… he definitely has the technical ability and charisma to back that up. REALLY excited to see that.

other than that last skater from Estonia, I don’t think I knew any of these skaters before. but I’m always up for meeting new people. I mean, last year, everyone was new to me and I found lots of favorites there.

Irakli Maysuradze from Georgia… I think I remember last season having a hard time. One competition he was in, he looked like he didn’t want to finish his program, but the crowd urged him on.
Technically, not all there and was lacking some emotion in the face and his footwork could be faster.
Of course, “Black Betty” I know best for being a Javier Fernandez program, so it was hard to really erase that picture in my head πŸ˜› 64.67, definitely better than he’d done before, but I wasn’t quite that impressed personally.

Alexander Zlatkov from Bulgaria. His music felt like something you’d hear in the Tuscany countryside. Had some issues with the jumps and the choreography started nice, but after a while I lost interest.

I guess this will make my job easier tomorrow when I watch the free skates. As I had been, I’ll probably skip the first group so I can get to the top contenders faster

I need a skater to wake up me, like now! πŸ˜›

Edrian Paul Celestino from Canada… I had to start this from the beginning so I can really pay attention πŸ˜›
He skated to Frank Sinatra and the music suited him well. His jumps had some issues, but I loved the character he put on with the music.
50.39… I was guessed 50.75 πŸ˜› pretty darn close. they gave him a lot of credit for performance.

Andrew Torgashev from the US.
Lots to talk about… the jumps gave him some trouble, but really loved his passion with this music. I’ve already talked about “Notre Dame de Paris” before, but he really did give his all to the music.
I hope to see him again and he is even better. 65.47- 3rd at the moment, awesome!

Skater from Kazkhastan had a fun program with some Les Goodman big band music. He started with a triple toe loop that didn’t quite go well, but he made up for it with some other jumps and spins. Great performer with the music.
Miles Khakimov

Jegor Zelenjak from Estonia
I know he’s capable of better than he did here :/ I feel responsible because I said “please be good” because they announced “Maybe I maybe you” as his music… yeah… another iconic piece of music for Plushenko (at least in my mind- only performed once, I think)
too bad

The top 2 held their position almost this whole time, so it should be interesting to see how this all plays out.
I think the top 7 all have a shot at the podium.
Alexander Samarin has this locked up… barring any major upsets like what happened to Yaroslav in the first event of this series.

Free Skate

I’m breaking tradition a little bit to start. I really hadn’t watched any of the first groups of free skates this year because most have skaters that didn’t impress me too much.

But I had to at least if Jegor Zelenjak from Estonia could piece himself together after a disastrous short program.
For the most part, he did, but I have seen him skate better.
Based on his costume, I had a feeling (that turned out to be right) that he’d skate to the Pearl Harbor soundtrack. A skater from Finland during last year’s JGP series (whose name escapes me at the moment and I feel so bad about right now) did the same. He had a beautiful free skate to this music and while it wasn’t perfect he had great emotion with the music that I really responded to (not enough to remember his name, clearly).

130.16 to start.

and now skipping ahead…

should note that Alexander Zlatokov from Bulgaria withdrew for the free skate, although I have no idea why. maybe he injured himself on one of his falls?
Interesting… he went first but is still in first place… I guess that goes to show the strength of the first group. I feel bad for saying this, but even for 5 only additional skaters, I don’t have time to watch them all so I really want to stick with my favorites or just the ones who did well.
Which leaves me with 11 skaters left to see.

Adrien Banninster from Italy certainly has interesting take in music. And by that, I mean he has good taste.
Started with a Prince song and ended with Michael Jackson. A medley of Michael Jackson.
Billy Jean, You are not alone, Beat it and ABC.
He started well, but once he started making mistakes, he lost whatever personality was there and looked like he was just trying to through the program. I can see he did the best he could, but considering his music, he needed to rise up to it.
I almost feel that this is one of those examples where skaters shouldn’t be allowed to use certain music until they’re at least at the senior level or are strong enough at their current level to bring it to life. Like you have to put in the hard work so you can earn that right.

Edrian Paul Celestino from Canada- wow, he’s 18. I thought he seemed a bit more mature than some of the other skaters. Certainly with his musicality.
This is one of those rare cases I wish you didn’t have to jump this sport πŸ˜› technically, he wasn’t all there, making all kinds of mistakes on the jumps. But he gave such a beautiful performance with his expressions and footwork.
I think they said the music was by Piazzolla. Classical violin music with a lot of range. Astor Piazzolla.
161.69 is a pretty good score. Love his presentation mark- 59.24. Technically, at 53.06, he needs a little bit of work to match the artistry. But I’ll be keeping my eye on him on the future for sure.

Alexander Maszljanko
I remember his music from his last performance. Amazing artistry and nice footwork and spins. but the jumps were kind of a mess… oddly putting a new meaning to music that he most likely didn’t want to.
He looks so nervous going into his jumps πŸ˜› I feel bad for him. Jumps are intimidating, I know, but you gotta get more confidence with that if you want to get further in this sport.
only scored 2 points over his technical, which I guess makes sense. Being a little rattled by mistakes will do that.

Si Hyeong Lee
…oh wow… I kept praying for the program to end soon because he was doing so well and I didn’t want any mistakes. That was something really special.
He did a medley of “take me to church” by Hozier, an acoustic version by Simply three and another Hozier song. He had great poise, really brought the music to life. Little nit-picks on the landings of some of his jumps, but probably a new personal best for him.
174.28. I knew he’d be ahead at least by 10 points.
Another memorable performance for me πŸ˜€

Petr Gumennik
He did a lot better than in his short program. Did some French Cirque du Soleil music and got to put on some personality. His jumps looked so easy, but I think a lot of them were very simple jumps. Doubles and triples, some with hand over the head.
It also kinda bothered me that the crowd didn’t roar and get behind him like they did the other day.
Nice to Mishin crack a smile
191.06- 68.89/63.74 That woke the crowd up
easily in first place, but with his short program being almost perfect, I think Alexander Samarin can still pass him because he has more difficult jumps
in fact, I think there was a competition last year where he skated perfectly but missed the podium because he didn’t have any triple axels or quads

OMG- they are playing an old Jesse McCartney song during the last warm-up πŸ˜›
I didn’t know Russia even knew who he was to even play him
“Get your shine on” isn’t one of my favorites by him, but I’ll take any song of his over none just for the recognition, lol

the final 6
Have skaters from Georgia and China, two from the US, Matyas from Czech Republic and Alexander Samarin of course. He’s 2nd to last. Has a lead of 7 over Matyas. So yeah, this could be an interesting finish

Tangxu Li
oh wow… I think I said weeks ago that if he nailed this program perfectly, it could be amazing.
BEAUTIFUL skating. Elvan Wong has amazing choreography.
You could nit-pick on the landings of some jumps, had to fight for some landings, but kept it all together.
Music was from the “Enchanted” soundtrack. It was magical.
This has to be a season’s best, maybe even a personal best.
they gave him a little less for artistry than they should have, but I also can’t quite see them scoring him above Petr for the flow between eelments

Irakli Maysuradze from Georgia
omg… that wasn’t perfect, but I’m still a mess… the last program made me cry with the music and beautiful skating.
He skated to Boccelli’s signature song (although sung by someone else). This is the best I’d seen him skate. Nailed more jumps and had some great spins. Kept it together enough so the magic of the music wasn’t lost on me.

Dammit… I hope whoever skates next has more upbeat music πŸ˜› I’m sick of crying
but it’s a better reason to cry than being sad about something

they’re playing Michelle Branch in the background “You set me free” during the rehash of the program

Eric Sjoberg from the US
let’s see if I’m still in love πŸ˜›
yes and no… the artistry wasn’t as strong with this Flamenco music. His feet got twisted on a combination jump- the 2nd jump. But otherwise, I think he did have a good performance. I’m not as awed as earlier, but I don’t doubt he is going to be great.
I think Adam Rippon and Ashley Wagner have the same coach as him. And he could easily succeed Adam Rippon in the artistry department. And with more training, he can improve on his jumps.
Yikes, and he cut his hand at some point.

Matyas is next.
Definitely better performance than short program with the music. More personality for sure. Had a couple issues with jumps so it’ll be interesting to see how the scores play out.

I’m doing the math and thinking how Petr has a chance at a medal depending on these last three skaters.


oh wow, that means he’s guaranteed a medal. The other week, I bet he didn’t think that was even possible. Love how he and Tomas are celebrating in the kiss & cry, high fives all around.

So Petr needs a little help from the last two skaters to make the podium. And unfortunately one is his fellow countryman
and the other is from the US. I don’t know him well enough yet to figure whether he is a threat

But first Alexander.
Oh man… “maybe I Maybe you” again…
I knew this was going to be tough. That other program is in the back of my mind and I am hoping again for a stronger performance to this music.
He had some mistakes on a couple jumps, but he still maintained a high level. And he had choreography that, while it didn’t match the music like Plushenko did in his exhibition, he looked like he really believed in his choreography and tried to do his best by the piece.
The end was slightly different because it had some choppy editing, but the final 30 seconds felt like an encore of the song where he worked to carve out a final impression. That’s where I felt more of a connection and was able to separate the two skaters and appreciate what Alexander did with the same piece. his style is very different, but I’m glad to feel that connection
And I had to pause this as I type because Plushenko got name-dropped by the commentator πŸ˜›
he compared them, saying how he’s a machine, consistent with the elements and both connected well with their music
wow, wow, wow… nobody can beat that!
81.97 for technical. He hit the benchmark set by Plushenko at least 10 years ago. I usually see him get 80 in his technical score with a quad and 2 triple axels. the artistry 73.02 needs a little work, but considering the music and his country, so much to live up to for them as well as me being the type of skating fan I am, the fact he impressed me is noteworthy. He and Dmitri are going to be great seniors if they get that opportunity (Maxim Kovtun needs to step aside and let skaters who really look like they want to be here get more attention and notice by the federation… Plushenko said he wouldn’t compete this year either and I’m starting to doubt he’ll make another Olympic comeback… even if he could get back 100%, I don’t think he is physically able to keep up anymore. I mean, he can only manage one quad per program. when he was younger, he could do two).

No pressure, Andrew Torgashev. Just need to do a perfect skate to get on the podium.
First place is officially dead-locked
Interesting costume…
Bohemian Rhapsody… oh wow…

yeah, he felt the pressure and cracked… but I think that freed him after making a few mistakes early on to just loosen up and kinda have fun with the music
oh wow, he was off for 2 years with an ankle injury.
that was fun to watch, even if it was all for nothing.

I think we have our medals and they are some good ones too.

Kinda fun to see during these performance- Maytas and Alexander had signed autographs for people in the crowd.
Russia loves this sport so much. Especially their own skaters. Maybe they’re overly preferential to their own, but I see the crowd being appreciative of skaters that perform well


I had to pause the video again… what just happened?


I guess because he had some more difficult jumps? 72.50 technical (that’s really good- I heard he had a quad, which I think he fell on early). 67.94 artistic…

I think if Petr had a cleaner short program he would have gotten bronze. He only lost it by a point or two.

And since we’re halfway through this series, I think this is a good time to finally end this blog and post it πŸ˜›

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