Twizzle Talk


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Worlds 2015: Short Program Impressions

The long-awaited 2015 World Championships are not only underway, but whizzing by. I don’t know if the 12-hour time difference from Shanghai has me feeling a step behind or what, but suffice to say the event is going by far too quickly. So I thought I’d jot down some quick impressions from the ladies’ short program and the short dance before the final events get in to gear:

  • Elizaveta Tuktamysheva’s trip axel in the short program was superb. Better than some that we’ll see in the men’s event, even. But that said, there was just something off about the performance. Jeffrey Buttle–the 2008 World Champion, 2006 Olympic Bronze Medalist, renowned artistic skater, and now respected choreographer–managed to verbalize what I couldn’t put my finger on:

  • Gracie Gold is having a rough year, no question. Her jumps seem to abandon her when she takes competition ice, or the nerves take over, or something. But the great strides that she has made in her expression and skating skills can’t be overlooked. She has improved so much in those areas, really getting down on her knees and using her edges more than she did just a few years ago. And she is really feeling each note of her music, as opposed to just skating with it in the background.
  • I really think the Shibutanis have the best twizzles in the ice dance field. They are just mesmerizing to watch. Its been a bit of a hard year for them, and its making me sad to see them continually disappointed or putting on brave smiles in the Kiss and Cry. Here’s hoping they bring it in the free dance and get some good scores!
  • Last year’s dance champs Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte are in third place after the short dance as they aim to defend their title. I loved watching them at the Olympics last year, but think that Anna’s posture needs some improvement. She skates a bit rounded in the shoulders, which was especially apparent when they skated after Americans Chock and Bates, who both have impeccable posture (and skated their way to first place).

As I wrap up this post, it looks like the free dance results are coming in. I’m going to go to bed in an attempt to avoid spoilers until I can watch my TiVo’d recording of the Universal Sports broadcast. Happy watching!

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Top 5 Standing Ovation-Worthy Moments at the U.S. Championships

I’ve typed much of my own analysis and musings of many moments at the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but I think I’ll let these Top 5 Standing Ovation-Worthy Moments speak for themselves. The roar of the crowd at the end of each of these programs tells the story.

1. Ashley Wagner’s stunning and gutsy long program—her best ever:

2. Maia and Alex Shibutani not only got a standing ovation at the end of the free dance, but their mesmerizing twizzle sequence also got lots of applause from the crowd:

3. Jason Brown brought the crowd to its feet in both the short and long programs with his outstanding performance skills:

4. And the same goes for Adam Rippon, who thrilled the crowd in both segments of the men’s competition:

5. Madison Chock and Evan Bates’ gold medal-wining free dance had a powerful, emotional ending:


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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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Cup of China: Ice Dance

I haven’t watched enough of the ice dancing in the first two Grand Prix events, so I am dedicating this Cup of China post to the dancers.

I’ll start with the dancer behind the microphone, Tanith Belbin. She is doing commentary with Universal Sports again this year and her analysis has really grown on me. I thought sometimes her commentary was a bit wordy last year, but I really enjoyed her take on the free dance. She did a fantastic job pointing out subtle differences between each of the teams so that each score and placement made sense. And in ice dancing it always comes down to the minute details and the nuances of the performance, so that is just what the viewer needs.

Shibutanis

The Shibutanis earned their second silver medal on the Grand Prix this year, and their disappointment was visible in the kiss and cry. I really felt for them–I bet they wanted a Grand Prix victory under their belts heading into a US Nationals showdown with Chock/Bates. They led after a great short dance and only lost the gold by three points. Seemed like it came down to a couple elements that only received Level 2 GOE, but I enjoyed the performance overall. I saw their Michael Jackson free dance in person at Nationals last year and thought they were very light on their feet and the same is true for this program–though the music of Strauss is probably as far from Michael Jackson as you can get. The Strauss free dance reminds me a bit of Davis & White’s 2012 Die Fledermaus free dance; it has the same light, carefree vibe.

I also have to add that Maia’s dresses for both the short dance and the free dance are gorgeous!

New Faces

The French team of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron surprised many with their victory over the ShibSibs and the reigning word champions, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (they just didn’t seem to recover after a freak fall by Lanotte on a transition). There was a lot to love about this French team: their superb connection with each other, beautiful holds and arm positions, and how close they stayed on their twizzles, to name a few. Their speed also looked superior to their competitors, but I know that sometimes isn’t always conveyed well on a screen versus being in person in the rink.

The newly formed Russian team of Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin did not look like they were in their first competition together. Their skating was very fluid and confident. Elena won the bronze in ice dancing at the 2014 Olympics with her former partner, Nikita Katsalapov, and I loved how she skated with such joy in Sochi (I wanted to link to one of their Olympic programs here, but they are nowhere to be found on YouTube, unfortunately). I was surprised that she split from Katsalapov, but this new partnership looks promising. Their two final lifts in the free dance were a bit sloppy, which took away from the overall impression, but it is still early in the season for these two.

 

And one general comment about all the dances: I almost feel like lifts are getting too complex. There are so many positions and twists and turns in each that it is rare for a team to be able to hold a position long enough for the audience to really enjoy it. I wish they could stick with just a few positions and hold them nicely. The influence of watching Dick Button’s fantastic commentary for all those years is definitely showing itself here! What do you think about all the lift positions?