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Flashback Friday: Grand Prix Finland 2018 Edition

This weekend, Finland will host its first-ever Grand Prix event. China declined to host their annual Cup of China this year, so the event was moved to Helsinki, which played host to the World Championships in 2017.

Back on the 2012 Grand Prix circuit, Finnish champion Kiira Korpi won the Rostelecom Cup. That victory, combined with a bronze at Cup of China, earned her a spot in the Grand Prix Final that year.

Let’s take a look back at the last Grand Prix victory by a woman from Finland in this week’s extra alliterative Finland Flashback Friday:

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Four Favorites: Skate Canada 2018

Skate Canada 2018 was an exciting competition overall, with lots of highs and lows for the athletes and viewer alike. A low was seeing perennial favorites Jason Brown and Evgenia Medvedeva have some rough moments; I think both improvement and growing pains from their new training base are evident. Medvedeva’s triple lutz and double axel technique, in particular, have improved immensely. While the lutz edge is still questionable, it is miles better than it was last season, and fixing a flutz is no easy feat.

For the highs of the event, I’ve got another series of four favorites:

  1. The presentation on display in the ladies event
    Elizaveta Tuktamysheva’s confidence and sass, Mariah Bell’s effervescence and clear love of skating, Medvedeva’s fight and commitment to trying new styles—it was all great to see.
    Tuktamysheva giving major Katarina Witt vibes, plus a magnificent triple axel:

    And just look at how effective a simple stop and arm motion can be, in the footwork near the end of Bell’s short, when performed with commitment and verve:

    This dress is also an early contender for favorite of the season, between the color, the back, the fact that its a subtle two piece. Love it all!
  2. The cleanliness in the pairs event
    I was really impressed by how clean the pairs performances were here, especially in comparison to a messy pairs event at Skate America. It started off in the short and carried through to the electrifying performances by the final flight in the long program. There are so many high stakes elements in pairs (even without the throw quads of last year, which have been downgraded in value so much that they are no longer worth attempting), that it is rare to see perfectly clean performances this early in the season. It made for an exciting event!
  3. The sportsmanship in the men’s event
    In the short program, it was great to see Keegan Messing giving a rousing ovation to countryman Nam Nguyen after Nguyen’s great short program. The cherry on top? Messing went out right after him and had a great skate of his own, winning that portion of the event. Here is the moment on video:
  4. The emotion in the ice dance event
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  5. Image Source: Humboldt Journal
    Maybe this goes without saying in ice dance—where there is usually emotion, drama, and storytelling at play—but between the intensity of the tango rhythm dance portion of the competition and the authenticity in the free dance performances, this was a great event. All the performances in the final flight had a genuine connection to the audience, but my personal favorites were the upbeat Bruno Mars free dance of Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac from France and Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier’s emotional “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night).” This would have been a fun one to be in the arena to see!

Next up: Grand Prix Finland and a Flashback Friday post with a fan-favorite Finnish skater. Check back here tomorrow for more!


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Cup of China 2015: Impressions

When I initially looked at the list of entrants for Cup of China, I wasn’t sure it would be a very exciting event. The winners in each discipline seemed like they would almost be a given, but some unexpected performances made this event fun to watch.

  • How cute was Rika Hongo‘s “Riverdance” long program? She looked like she was having a blast, which made it fun to watch. The upbeat and recognizable music obviously helps grab the audience, but her enthusiasm also went a long way. I also thought her dress was absolutely gorgeous. The green color was a nod to the Irish-themed music, but nothing overly corny or costume-y:
  • Mao Asada won the event, as expected, as her comeback trail continues. Her short was fabulous and the triple axel in her long program was a thing of beauty. But the rest of her long program was shaky—I’m not sure we can say “She’s back!” quite yet. She still needs to shake off some rust.

    Image Source: olympics.nbcsports.com

  • Elena Radionova seems to have regressed since last year. I didn’t love her presentation then, but now she seems to be confusing musical interpretation with overdoing it on the arm and upper body movements. There has been lots of online chatter hating on her long program musical selection of “Titanic,” but the music bothered me far less than the arm flailing did. Though the awkwardness of the “I’ll never let go, Jack” voiceover at the very end of the program cannot be denied.
  • Javier Fernandez was expected to win the men’s event and win he did, with some great quads. I just really love his personality on the ice and the spunk of his “Guys and Dolls” long program works for him. I also love his attitude—he doesn’t rest on his laurels even when he wins and takes every event as a learning experience. Javier told IceNetwork: “I will keep practicing; every day I improve and I will learn from this competition. It was a good day, with mistakes, and hopefully at my next Grand Prix I can perform a clean program.”

    Image Source: cope.es

  • Many previews that I read thought Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates would easily walk away with the gold medal, but Italian 2014 World Champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte seem to be returning to form and stole the top spot. Chock and Bates have beautiful flow and creative lifts. However, the move where he spins her around while she drags her feet (not blades) across the ice is really overused in both of their programs. They started using it last season and now, after seeing it in two more programs (in multiple places in the program), it seems almost lazy to keep reusing it. Especially when they are always so inventive in the lifts. Is anyone else over the foot dragging?
    The Italians really seem to be back in action, despite the fact that people wrote them off last year. I really liked these two in Sochi and when they won their world title that year, but last year was really rough for them. They were 4th at Worlds rather than defending their title. The light and joyful programs that they are using this year suit them so well, much more than their moody “Danse Macabre” free dance from last year. Anna and Luca won by almost four points here, and I felt that their twizzles were better than Chock and Bates’ twizzles. Things definitely just got a little more interesting in ice dance this year.

    Cup of China 2015 Ice Dance Medalists Image Source: theicedancekingdom.tumblr.com

  • At the halfway point of the Grand Prix (already?!), all I can say about the pairs is that it is going to be crowded at the top when the World Championships roll around. The Russian team of Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov took the top spot at Cup of China, ahead of Skate America champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han. And there are THREE other Russian teams in the mix internationally this year, including the 2014 Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. Not to mention the defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and the fact that the American team of Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim are looking really strong this season.

And the Grand Prix rolls on with Trophee Eric Bombard this weekend! I hope we’ll have Johnny and Tara back in the broadcast booth for NBC. Terry Gannon and Tracy Wilson called Cup of China, and I was glad to hear them finally acknowledge that Tracy coaches many of the top men on the circuit (Javier, at this event, but also Yuzuru Hanyu). It killed me when Terry would ask her hypothetical questions about a skater’s approach and training and she would answer without acknowledging that she was part of the coaching team. Anybody else? Am I too much of a stickler? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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Trophee Eric Bombard: Wrap Up

So far this season I’ve been doing in-depth recaps of individual disciplines, but since I was able to catch all four disciplines at Trophee Eric Bombard I’m going to do a little wrap up on the whole event.

The Ladies

Russia’s Elena Radionova earned her second Grand Prix victory in very similar fashion to her first: with insanely great height and rotation on her jumps and confidence in spades throughout both performances. Radionova’s components scores were the highest in the competition, which I really can’t agree with. I felt like her toe pointing has improved since Skate America, but she is still not as polished as an Ashley Wagner or Carolina Kostner, or even her countrywoman Julia Lipnitskaia. Lipnitskaia improved upon her disastrous showing at Cup of China for the silver medal, but still had some mistakes. Her flip entrance is really wonky, and that is often the spot in the program where she makes a mistake. I think she needs to make an adjustment. Beyond the flip, it also almost seems like she is going through the motions when she competes. Johnny Weir went so far as to call her “cold” in the broadcast, and word on the street is that she is struggling under intense scrutiny from the Russian media and fans. Lipnitskaia reminds me so much of Sasha Cohen, from her beautiful extensions and pointed toes to her use of the same “Romeo and Juliet” piece of music that Sasha used for her 2006 long program, and I hope this season improves for Lipnitskaia. Wagner showed her fighting spirit and hung on for her second bronze of the season here. She missed her triple flip (another entrance that looks really wonky and problematic to me…though she landed it in the short program, so who knows), which would have been the triple-triple. But showing some quick thinking and guts, she threw in a triple lutz-triple toe in the second half of her program. It was slightly underrotated (as Ashley’s triple-triples often can be), but still, what guts! Awesome.

The top four women’s qualifiers for the Grand Prix Final are now Russian ladies; it will be interesting to see who scoops up the final two spots. I feel like Ashley is a long shot with her two bronzes, but would love to see her there. Hopefully Gracie Gold can earn a spot with a good showing at NHK this weekend.

The Men

Underwhelming all around, is all I can say. I continue to love Richard Dornbush’s style, but he was showing the effects of a bad case of food poisoning that he picked up on the plane ride to France. He only managed a 7th place finish. Fellow American Adam Rippon improved dramatically on a bad showing at Skate Canada and finished in fourth. His wally entrance in to the triple axel looks so cool—and is really difficult to execute judging from the fact that he fell on the axel. But he pulled it off in the short, and just looked more confident overall throughout both performances. Gold medalist and Russian Maxim Kovtun joined the ranks of skaters using music by the British band Muse this season. I find it interesting that so many skaters are using Muse songs. The lyrics in Kovtun’s are kind of hard to understand and distracting—I preferred Jeremy Abbott’s instrumental version of this song from his long program last season. Olympic bronze medalist from Kazakhstan Denis Ten has unmatched posture and skating skills—which showed in his 81+ program components score. His technical elements were all a little rough and he only managed 3rd place, though it was his first-ever Grand Prix medal. I haven’t followed Ten’s career too closely, but Tara and Johnny noted that he can be inconsistent—hence how he has an Olympic medal but not Grand Prix medal.

The Pairs

Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia won this event by 9 points and were really without peers in the competition. They are so confident—their attack and precision on each movement is unmatched. They also really make time for choreography and beautiful moments between elements. In terms of technique, their elements are not only solid but also really interesting. The cartwheel entrance into one of their lifts is my favorite! You have to watch their program, if only to see the superb throw triple sal and fantastic passion at the end of the program:

 

Both Chinese teams have incredibly solid pairs skills and also both use unique sit spin variations. There is a ten-year age difference between Wang & Wang, which was blowing my mind a little bit, but they were also fun to watch. Her smile was infectious and they claimed the bronze. Their countrymen Sui and Han set themselves apart for the silver medal with the passion in their program. Americans Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim were only two points from the podium with a nearly-clean showing to “An American in Paris.” Their excitement showed in the kiss and cry when the season’s best scores came up. The balance in their lifts really stood out—they execute two where she is balanced on her back on only one of his hands and the speed that they manage with that difficulty was impressive.

Dance

The French team of Gabriella Papadakis and Gillaume Cizeron scooped up their second gold of this Grand Prix season at home. This is really becoming a breakout year for them, considering they were 13th at Worlds and 15th at Europeans last season, and didn’t skate at the Olympics. They were 5th and 7th on the Grand Prix last year, so they are really bringing it this season. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier were in second and I love the pizzaz in their free dance to the soundtrack of “Gentleman Prefer Blondes.” Americans Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue looked better than at Skate Canada—especially the costumes. The hooded vest was gone in favor of a black sparkly look, which fit the tone of this modern take on Gatsby much better. According to icenetwork, they were disappointed not to meet their goal of making the Grand Prix Final.

It’s all on the line this weekend at NHK Trophy in Japan, with skaters looking to earn the remaining spots in the Grand Prix Final and skaters on the bubble waiting at home to see if they will make it.