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Alex Krasnozhon Q&A: Figure Skaters Online

The World Junior Championships kick off next week in Zagreb, Croatia, where Alex Krasnozhon will represent Team USA. I caught up with him for a Q&A for Figure Skaters Online before the event:

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Photo by Robin Ritoss, courtesy Figure Skaters Online

Alex Krasnozhon gets another chance at the World Junior Championships

At the 2018 World Junior Championships, Alex Krasnozhon was in the lead after the short program, poised to take the title. Then disaster struck on the first jump of his free skate: He injured his ankle and withdrew from the competition.

After months of rehab on his ankle and a solid season on the senior level—including a fifth place finish at the 2019 U.S. Championships—Krasnozhon returns to Junior Worlds with a fresh perspective, and goals of putting a quad back into his long program. He says they will assess whether to include the quad after the short program. This will be his last competition at the junior level, and he says that he is looking forward to competing at Junior Worlds one more time.

Before leaving for the competition in Zagreb, Croatia, Krasnozhon chatted with Figure Skaters Online for a brief question and answer session.

Read the Q&A on Figure Skaters Online!

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Ting Cui Rides Nationals Momentum to Four Continents: Figure Skaters Online

What a privilege it was to attend the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships as a member of the media with Figure Skaters Online. One of my top moments (of which there were many!) was watching Ting Cui, ladies 5th place finisher, deliver an incredible free skate after a tough short program. I caught up with her in the mixed zone after her performance and wrote a story about her for FSO:

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Photo by Robin Ritoss for Figure Skaters Online

 

Ting Cui rides momentum of stellar Nationals free skate to late-season assignments

Ting Cui is going to have a busy second half of the season. She’ll be competing at the Four Continents Championships and attending U.S. Figure Skating’s 2019 World Junior Team Camp, plus she’s the first alternate for the senior World Championships team.

Such an outcome seemed all but impossible on Thursday, Jan.24, when she fell twice and failed to complete a combination in the women’s short program at the U.S. Championships. She was in 12th place heading into the long program.

But she climbed up to fifth place with a near-flawless free skate that earned a standing ovation from the crowd at the Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.

Read the rest of the story—including how this performance will help her throughout the rest of the season and her connection to 2006 World Champion Kimmie Meissner—on Figure Skater’s Online!

And some bonus links:


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Four Favorites: Internationaux de France 2018

Well, somehow the 2018 Grand Prix Series has concluded. Anybody else feel like the Olympics were about two minutes ago? I fell off of posting a bit last week due to the holiday, but did have plenty of time to soak up the Internationaux de France and determine my four favorites from the event:

        1. In the ladies event, I liked Alexia Paganini’s rocker-rocker entrance into the triple lutz-triple toe combination in the short program. It not only added difficulty, but also highlighted the strong outside edge on the takeoff, which not everyone in this field has mastered. It was the opening element of the Swiss skater’s program:

          Honorable mention goes to the closing moments of Rika Kihira’s long program, with it’s beautifully paced choreography. I’m trying to stick with only four favorites, for alliteration and organization, but sometimes I can’t help myself.
        2. In the ice dance event, I loved how Team USA’s Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker enter their stationary lift directly out of the curve lift in the free dance. A difficult setup that shows strength and control, and helps blend the elements seamlessly into the program, rather than telegraphing them.
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        3. On the pairs side, champions Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres stood out in more ways than one, but I particularly liked their unique entry into the side-by-side salchows:
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          Setting aside that she doubled the jump here, I love this entry, choreographed by Olympic Ice Dance Champion Charlie White. They are doing different movements leading into the jump, but still have perfectly synchronized timing. Plus, this is more visually interesting than simply entering the jump by skating next to each other, as many pairs do.
        4. My favorite part of the men’s event was seeing the International Judging System as its best self. The ISU implemented a lot of changes since last season, including some that controversially devalued quads, especially quads that are underrotated or where the skater falls. I had hoped it would be a positive change, without entirely discouraging skaters from still pushing the sport forward with quad jumps. As I watched Jason Brown’s short program last Friday, I was loving it as usual, and then noticed how high the score was ticking up in the box in the top left corner of my screen. “Is it possible…is he about to win this short program?” I asked myself (aloud, as I often do when watching skating, even alone). Given that he wasn’t trying a quad, I assumed he would end up behind programs with quad attempts, even with a clean program. Not in this newest iteration of the IJS! It was great to see. And in the end, Nathan Chen, the Quad King, won the event, showing that clean quad jumps will still rule the day. But it was so heartening to see a complete program—clean skate, presentation, spins, everything Jason Brown does so beautifully—properly rewarded. Here it is:

 


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Four Favorites: NHK Trophy 2018

I’m watching the short programs at Rostelecom Cup while I type out this post, as I’m sure many of you skating fans are as well. In the time between the shorts and tomorrow’s long programs, let’s take a brief look back at NHK Trophy last week, for my four favorite costume looks.

Admittedly, this is a very U.S.-centric post, but I have to say that the American skaters brought their fashion game to this event!

  1. Kaitlin Hawayek’s dresses in both the rhythm dance and the free dance were gorgeous. I especially loved the open back on the red rhythm dance dress (but sadly couldn’t find a good photo of it!), and the sheer sleeves on the free dance dress.
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    Rhythm dance dress; Image via TSN

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    Free dance dress; Image via AFP on enca.com

  2. Alexa Scimeca Knierim’s long program dress is stunning, and pulls off the piecey skirt look without it seeming like the dress went through a paper shredder. Tough to find a good full-length image of this one, too, but the skirt and pretty, paint-like details are visible here:

  3. On the men’s side, Alexander Johnson was the clear fashion standout of the group. I loved the color of his short program outfit, and the architecture of the long program top was unique and minimalist.
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    Same short program costume, different event; Image via Johnson’s Twitter page

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    Long program; Image via YouTube

    This was his first Grand Prix event, and he prepared for competition this summer while balancing an investment banking internship—major kudos there.

  4. I’ve already mentioned my love for Mariah Bell’s short program dress this year, and the long program dress is also lovely. It reminds me a bit of Ashley Wagner’s first dress for her Muse long program. I like the addition of the rope-like detailing on Mariah’s version. For some reason, the only images I could find of her dresses at this event are blurry YouTube screenshots, but Mariah posted great shots of each dress from Skate Canada on her Instagram:

    View this post on Instagram

    Skate Canada 2018💜

    A post shared by Mariah 🔔 (@mariahsk8rbell) on

Did anyone else have any fashion faves from this event or the rest of the season so far?


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Flashback Friday: NHK Trophy 2018 Edition

I’m still catching up on all the coverage of last weekend’s Grand Prix of Helsinki, but the best moment by far had to be Yuzuru Hanyu’s quad toe-triple axel combination.

I watched it over and over again, marveling at the spring and height on the triple axel. It would have been excellent on a solo triple axel—the fact that it was directly off a quadruple toe loop was nearly unbelievable. It is amazing and inspiring to see a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist continue to push his own boundaries and the sport forward.

So in honor of Hanyu’s awesomeness last weekend, this NHK Trophy Flashback Friday goes back to 2015, when he broke the world record with this sterling performance:

I love the ease and confidence throughout the program. This was the first time anyone topped 300 points in the IJS, and he cleared it by 22 points, beating silver medalist Boyang Jin by 55.97 points.

And then, because sometimes the only person Hanyu needs to outdo his himself, he broke this very record just a few weeks later at that year’s Grand Prix Final.

Happy NHK viewing, figure skating fans!


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Impressions: Skate America 2018

Before Skate Canada kicks off tomorrow, I want to share some wrap up thoughts on Skate America 2018. I already shared my Four Favorites—one element from each discipline—and I’m going to try to keep doing that throughout the season. It’s fun to look beyond the podium and acknowledge great skating! But there was also plenty to talk about among the top challengers at Skate America this weekend:

Coaching Changes
There was high drama with the announcement that Americans Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim split from their coach, Olympic Champion Aljona Savchenko. To me, it was handled really oddly on the NBC Sports Gold broadcast, in a way that stirred the pot. They teased it during the warmup without coming out and saying that they had split, and then confirmed the news mid-program, distracting from the skating. After their performance, Andrea Joyce interviewed the Knierims and asked directly about the split, and Chris handled the answer graciously, crediting all they had learned from Savchenko while acknowledging that they are no longer working together. Lots of theories about the split have been flying around on Twitter, but I think it is important to remember that Savchenko hasn’t even officially announced her retirement, has shows and other performances on her calendar for the year, and has never been an elite-level coach prior to this. The split could be as simple as realizing that coaching them wasn’t possible with her schedule. But either way, I thought the way that NBC chose to reveal the knowledge distracted from the competition.

Rules Changes
There have been a lot of rule changes this season (+5/-5 GOE being the most noticeable), but I thought they were most evident in the ice dance event. I almost felt like I was watching an entirely different discipline, in a good way. The choreographic sliding movement, one foot step sequence, and choreographic step were all great changes in that they have opened the door for more creativity and innovation in these free dances. I loved how the skaters were able to utilize these elements to really emphasize the character of their programs and music.

Momentum Changes
Several of last year’s viral/Olympic favorites had tough outings here: Jimmy Ma (of U.S. Nationals “Turn Down for What” viral YouTube fame), Loena Hendrickx (who’s brother, fellow skater Jorik, got a lot of attention for his nervous viewing of her skating at the Olympics last year, a la gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents), and Alexei Bychenko (who brought the house down in the team event at the Olympics). It just goes to show how difficult it can be to carry momentum into another season. Ma had a rough free skate, while Hendrickx withdrew due to illness. Bychenko looked a little shaky, compared to his assured Olympic performances. I enjoyed watching all of them so much last year, so here’s hoping things look up for them at their next events. Hendrickx and Bychenko are both scheduled for Grand Prix Finland, while Ma does not have a second Grand Prix.

Age Changes
As a newly minted 30-year-old myself, I loved seeing two skaters in their third decade on the podium in the men’s event: Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic (a longtime fave of mine) and Sergei Voronov of Russia. The ladies on my new favorite podcast, Flutzes and Waxels, were calling them “Team Old,” which was cracking me up, but it is great to see skaters have some longevity in this sport. Just as I loved seeing 30-somethings Aljona Savchenko and Meagan Duhamel out there last season, I applaud these two. Respect for Team Old.

It feels like quite the quick turnaround, but is everybody ready for Skate Canada? We’ll see some of the same faces from Skate America this weekend (Hubbell and Donohue, Starr Andrews, to name a few), so I can’t imagine how they must be feeling about this turnaround. Check back here tomorrow for my Skate Canada Flashback Friday post!