Twizzle Talk


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2017 Worlds Predictions: Men

Sometimes I let my personal favorites get in the way of all logic and reason when it comes to figure skating. So I’m predicting the 2017 Worlds results in two sets: sentimental vs. rational. See the full explanation in my initial post with ice dance predictions.

The men’s event is full of skaters tossing off quads left and right. It’s going to be awesome. I’ll never forget watching the final warmup group, live at Worlds in Boston last year, and being completely blown away by quad after quad, and the incredible quality of the jumps. If you’re going to be in Helsinki this year, I’m both super jealous and thrilled for you. Here are my thoughts on this quad festival:

ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2016 - Day 5

Image Source: justjaredjr.com

Sentimental:
Gold – Javier Fernandez, Spain
Silver – Nathan Chen, USA
Bronze – Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan

Last year at Worlds, Javier Fernandez held the audience in the palm of his hand during the long program. Stellar jumps, all delivered with this pizzaz and ease that made it seem like he was doing an exhibition program. I loved it, I love him, and I want him to get his third World title this week. I also have so much admiration for Nathan Chen’s poise under pressure and commitment to pushing himself. I’ve got him in second in my sentimental picks because of my love for Javi, but let’s be honest…I bet he will run away with this title. He’s been riding some excellent momentum since the Grand Prix Final and just seems to do better with each outing. And as Phil Hersh pointed out in his IceNetwork preview, Fernandez’ quad content doesn’t quite measure up to some of the other top guys. So my rational podium has two Japanese men, Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno. And not just because of their stellar quads; these guys have the whole package.

Rational:
Gold – Nathan Chen, USA
Silver – Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan
Bronze – Shoma Uno, Japan

P.S. It is also Nathan’s first World Championships. When was the last time anyone won in their first try? Let alone the last U.S. man to do that? Google sleuthing didn’t help me out on this one, so if anyone knows, leave it in the comments! We can just call it pulling a Medvedeva in the meantime, since she won 2016 Worlds in her first year at the senior level.


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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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Grand Prix Final Predictions

I’m going to take a crack at some results predictions this week—we’ll see how my powers of intuition pan out once all is said and done at the Grand Prix Final!

Ladies

  1. Elena Radionova
  2. Elizaveta Tuktamisheva
  3. Anna Pogorilaya
  4. Ashley Wagner
  5. Julia Lipnitskaia
  6. Rika Hongo (replaced Gracie Gold, who withdrew due to injury)

 

Radionova broke 200 points at Trophee Eric Bombard and has looked super confident all season; she’ll likely take the title. If Gold were competing, I would have put her in 2nd or 3rd. Lipnitskaia could surprise us all, but if her confidence and consistency issues continue to plague her, I don’t see her on the podium. My sentimental heart wants Wagner to land all her triple-triples and grab a spot on the podium—we’ll see! All these ladies have scored in the 170–190 range at various points in the season, so it will be a battle.

Men

  1. Javier Fernandez
  2. Tatsuki Machida
  3. Maxim Kovtun
  4. Yuzuru Hanyu
  5. Takahito Mura
  6. Sergei Voronov

 

Hanyu is definitely the wild card at this event. He looked shaky coming off the collision injuries, so I have him down in 4th. Scores and consistency were all over the place for the men during the series, so it will come down to who can skate the cleanest performances.

Pairs

  1. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov
  2. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford
  3. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov
  4. Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang
  5. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han
  6. Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jing

 

The throw quad could put Duhamel and Radford on the top step of the podium, but they haven’t landed it cleanly on the Grand Prix yet this year, so I went with the Russians in first. These two teams are closely matched, and I really enjoy their skating. It will be a fun competition to watch if they both bring their A-game.

Dance

  1. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje
  2. Madison Chock and Evan Bates
  3. Maia and Alex Shibutani
  4. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron
  5. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier
  6. Elena Illinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin

 

Weaver/Poje and Chock/Bates have had really similar scores throughout the season, so this is going to be a close one. I prefer Weaver/Poje’s short dance to Chock/Bates’ short dance, but this could definitely go either way. I love the style of Russians Illinykh and Zhiganshin, but I think they are still too new as a team to challenge here. It would certainly make things interesting going in to U.S. Nationals if the Shibutanis are able to beat countrymen Chock/Bates. I think the scores among all six teams will be close.

NBC isn’t showing this event on TV until next weekend, so keep up with all the results and live streaming over on Ice Network!


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Rostelecom Cup: The Guys

Lots of flair and some imperfect jumping marked the men’s event at Rostelecom Cup last weekend.

We’ll start with Jason Brown, who was skating after the sudden death of his agent, Shep Goldberg. I have to hand it to him, because he skated great in the long despite everything he was dealing with and a shaky showing in the short. This was the first time I watched his “Juke” short program and he moves really well to the music (there were also a couple cute little girls dancing along with him that I spotted in the audience—this program is a crowd-pleaser). I love the hop accents in the choreography and how he shows off his flexibility with the lunges and extensions. I also love how gracious he is to the audience, no matter how the performance went for him.

The short was a bit of a rough outing and man, did he bounce back in the free. I’ve blogged before about his “Tristan and Isolde” program and can’t say enough about his commitment to his choreography. And the choreography itself is superb, especially his circular footwork. Check it out:

 

The first thing I noticed when Max Aaron hit the ice for his short was that he was sporting a new, slicked-back hairstyle. Commentator Johnny Weir was a big fan of it, and I’m always a proponent of keeping hair out of one’s face while skating (don’t get me started on ice dancing ladies who leave their hair down entirely…I’ll save that for another post). I really liked his “Footloose” short program—it was (rather appropriately) loose and fits his more athletic style of skating. The vocal intro to his long program sets the tone well, but unfortunately it wasn’t his day. He doubled both of his planned quads and from there it just looked like the wind went right out of his sails. His program component scores are under 40 and seem to be really holding him back—I think he could use more knee bend when he is skating in between elements and in his footwork sequences to help get those numbers up.

 

If you didn’t catch the entire men’s free skate, you have to watch Michal Brezina’s long program solely to see the INSANE height he gets on his triple axel. No shock that he gets a positive GOE on that one.

I’ve been a Javier Fernandez fan for a few seasons now and was happy to see him clinch a spot in the Grand Prix Final in his home country of Spain with a victory here. I love the personality that shines through in all of his programs, even when he is taking on different characters. His short program was my favorite at this event, because he looked so smooth and at ease on the ice:

 

Who’s your favorite? And who do you think will come out on top in the Max Aaron–Jason Brown showdown at U.S. Nationals? (Though I think it is still too soon to count out defending champ Jeremy Abbott, who shines on his home stage).