Sunday, January 31, 2010

2010 Four Continents

This is late, I know, but there was too much stuff to do to keep up with Four Continents as it happened (actually I still have a lot to do, but I don't want to get too far behind), and besides the fields were generally uninteresting. The only exceptions, of course, were Mao Asada, Adam Rippon, Jane Summersett & Todd Gilles, and Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker, probably in that order. ♡ I guess I was a little interested in how Ryan Bradley, Brandon Mroz, Akiko Suzuki, and Caroline Zhang would do, and Tatsuki Machida too, but all in all there didn't seem to be much going on.

Actually, before any skating, I just have to say that Mao needing to have bodyguards at this competition was absolutely ridiculous. I am glad that the necessary steps were taken to ensure her safety while at the competition, but the steps shouldn't have been necessary in the first place. Screw PC, Korean fans are crazy. If they believe so much in Yu-Na Kim's talent and potential, then they should let that shine through without trying to muddle the rest of the skaters. Their actions make it seem as if the only way Yu-Na can win is by pulling a Tonya Harding. Mao deserves the right to compete all over the world without worrying about her safety, and in all honesty sometimes I think that Yu-Na needs to be given some sort of warning or something in order to send a message to her rabid fans.

On to skating: Mao nearly killed me after the SP. Since I don't have a TV around (not that figure skating would be televised anyway), I had to wait for someone to upload her performance and looked at the results instead. I calmed down a bit once I saw that the difference between the top 3 was marginal, and that her 1.00 deduction was not because she fell but because she went over time. I'm not sure how that happens this late in the season, but at least it was not on her triple Axel. Unfortunately instead she popped her 3F, but it seemed that she was skating a little faster than she was previously this season and I think that this is a good step for her. I still don't like her dress or her cuts of music, though. I'm not sure this Tarasova thing was such a good idea, although I had such high hopes for it when it was first announced.

Mao did, however, bring it in the FS. She nailed both of her triple Axels, although she somewhat mysteriously received a Level 2 on her step sequence instead of her usual 4. I know that the slightest of body movements can determine what level a move is rated, but given how much she loves footwork I have come to expect a consistent 4. I guess it's just a matter of staying focused at the Olympics and making sure she gets those levels on everything. What I noticed here and in her SP is that she seems to get faster throughout her program, rather than slower like most skaters. Perhaps it is getting the pressure of the triple Axel out of the way? I was really proud of her, though, for holding it together after the SP and blocking out all of the negativity in Korea. I am not a fan of her heavy-looking dress, but there is something about her music that is growing on me. I hope that this starts the momentum she needs for the Olympics. Aaah

I was almost equally heartbroken after Adam started out in 7th after the SP, before noticing that positions 3-7 were virtually tied (with 2nd not far off). He fell out of his triple Axel and put his hand down, but despite that I was still struck, as usual, by his great edges and soft jumping quality. He was understandably a little disappointed in his performance, but there seemed to be a lot to be optimistic about.

And then, just like Mao, he laid it all down in the FS. Unfortunately the idiot of a cameraman who taped for SBS cut out Adam's arms in the shot of his triple Lutz, so I couldn't quite appreciate, you know, the entire point of the jump, but otherwise the quality of his performance managed to shine through the screen. His music is a little flat to me, but on the other hand it doesn't distract from appreciating his actual skating, and that is a very good and rare thing. Too bad his season ends here, but thanks to some magnificent skating and some equally magnificent choking by several others, I think Four Continents sets up for a great 2010-2011. I can't say for sure whether this is just Adam's natural trajectory of progress or if Brian Orser really did something special, but something is working for Adam right now and I love it.

No one has posted Jane & Todd, so I've been reduced to relying on the ISU's score sheets. I was hoping that they would make a real run here, but they were beaten by Madison & Keiffer Hubbell and Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein again, as well as by a Chinese team (wth). No offense to the Chinese team or the teams that placed under them (i.e. 5-12), but it's a pretty bad time when an Asian team beats you in ice dance. I'm sure this team is good and all, but really. But maybe this can begin an interest in ice dancing in Asia...

Keauna & Rockne brought out their game about 10 days too late. I haven't been able to find their SP yet but it doesn't have the all-too-common 1.00 deduction, so already that's progress. Their side-by-side triple Salchows received a negative GOE, though (actually, it ranged from -2 to 0... maybe 3-year-olds could serve as judges and we'd get the same consistency of results), and all of my bets are on Keauna. Don't get me wrong, I love this pair and really want them to do well, but her lack of basic technique makes me so nervous and I feel like they (could) have so much more potential.

In the FS their problems resurfaced almost immediately, with Keauna falling on their first side-by-sides. This was followed by a great triple twist, which leads me to wonder yet again about the dynamics of their partnership. Keauna is small and has great line for pairs, and Rockne really takes advantage by making some huge throws and great lifts. They look great together and obviously have chemistry. At the same time, she is the reason they are not placing higher or more consistently, and I just have to wonder how they assess their situation and their respective contributions to the team. Anyway, the rest of the program went pretty smoothly until Keauna fell on their second throw jump, and although I know that placing elements at the end can be a real point-getter I do question the wisdom of placing such a move at the end when both are tired, especially given her historic difficulties with landings. I was touched by how supportive and comforting Rockne was at the end of their performance, and despite my short and unauthorized analysis above I think they could have what it takes. All in all, even though I have been a little harsh on this pair recently I really do love them and hope they stay together to make a run at 2014.

I was curious to see how Brandon would recover after Nationals, and was a little surprised (not in a bad way) to see him in 3rd after the SP. Sadly he slipped to 4th overall, but it's a good sign he can rebound so quickly, and he'll probably be in great shape (mental and otherwise) going into next season. For the same reason I was interested in Caroline's results, and she miraculously pulled off a 3rd-place finish here. I don't really know where to begin with herm but hopefully this gives her the confidence she needs to sit down and re-assess her skating and coaching situation. Ryan Bradley, meanwhile, seems to be continuing his run of messing up the SP, going for broke in the FS, and ultimately being too far behind to catch up. He will probably retire soon, since I can't see him going for another four years, but I sort of want him to get some sort of medal before he does.

I don't know whether I should be a little embarrassed to say this, but I was interested in Akiko Suzuki's and Tatsuki Machida's results only because they were Japanese. Okay, that's not quite true. To me Akiko has come out of nowhere, and I have been both surprised and impressed that she has been able to keep up her competition results so consistently. I can't get myself to warm to her skating just yet, but she does a good job of doing what she needs to do in the shadows of Miki Ando and Mao. Tatsuki, meanwhile, caught my attention because I had never seen his name before, but was far outperforming Yasuharu Nanri here (and evidently at Nationals, which I hadn't paid attention to past Takahiko Kozuka's name). Tatsuki is pretty young (19), and I hope this starts a off a successful next four years for him.

I think I'm going to be too nervous to actually watch the Olympics.

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