Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 US Nationals: Men

I didn't have a chance to look at the short programs before I watched the last free skate group today, so all I knew going in was who was placed where, along with a few details gleaned from a cursory look at protocols and articles. I figured (along with most people, probably) that Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek, and Johnny Weir were virtual locks for the Olympics, but it was interesting nonetheless to see if someone could pull off an upset. It didn't happen, but oh well. It was fun.

I think the first program I watched was Ryan Bradley's. The (annoying) commentators were completely right--he was so entertaining, and it was amazing that he could mix all of the technical requirements, old-fashioned music, a period costume, and clownlike gestures in one program. I really felt for him because I'd read an article the day before about how he felt that he had to "go for broke" to gain any chance of doing well and making the Olympic team, and there was something both sad and admirable about his refusal to play it safe. He definitely pulled off his two quads (completely irrelevant aside, but has anyone done three quads in one program?), but as my sister mentioned, it was really difficult to watch him skate without getting nervous every time he jumped. Considering he was rewarded with the scores for a second-place free skate, I really wished he'd done a little better in the short.

Next was Adam Rippon, I believe--my personal favorite. His edges were so smooth and clean, and I could relax during his program (give or take a 3A :)). The triple Lutzes especially were amazing, his spins seemed to be a level above most owing to his flexibility, and I was a little sad that he lost out to Ryan overall by just 0.9. Oh well, everything takes time. And he'll be what, 24 in 2014? That's still the perfect age to go to the Olympics.

After came Armin Mahbanoozadeh, about whom I knew (and still know) basically nothing about despite having seen his name several times at Nationals. I think the commentators said that he is only 18, and even though I'm not that much older than him there was just something so young and adorable about him. Considering how well he'd done in the SP, each misstep and fall in his FS was really painful to watch, but again, he'll be 22 in 2014. No big deal, things will happen.

There is something seriously wrong with Evan Lysacek's recent costuming and hair choices, although this issue is certainly not unique to him (see: Weir, Johnny). Actually, I'm not sure I approve of bodysuits on the men, or rather non-shirt-and-pants-type outfits. Jeffrey Buttle dressed well, for example, and Takahiko Kozuka's outfits aren't that bad either. But anyway I am getting off topic--back to Evan's FS. I'm not sure if he got credit for the quad attempt, but in any case he fell on it, though if I remember correctly (and I really may not be), the rest of his program was fine. Actually, now that I try to reflect on it, I'm not sure if I was paying attention to Evan's program at all, because I can't seem to recall any details after that quad attempt.

Johnny Weir's costume stood out far more than his skating. In fact, the only thing worse than a bodysuit is a bodysuit with feathers and mesh, and both were in abundance. I don't really remember the specifics, but things were unremarkable, and I know that at one point he singled an Axel. The commentators were speculating that there would be "talk" among USFSA officials about not sending him to the Olympics even though he had come in 3rd because his FS was 5th, but I felt this rather unlikely and in the end nothing of the sort happened. I really enjoyed Ryan's skate, but in the end Johnny has been more consistent and a 5th-place FS is a pretty weak argument against sending a former Olympian and consistent national medalist. Whatever. I really wish that I could mute the commentators sometimes, but then I wouldn't be able to hear the music.

Last came Jeremy Abbott, and boy did he bring it. His bright blue shirt was really eye-catching and went great with his hair and skin color. Yet even more eye-catching was his skating itself--all of the jumps were calm, clean, and complete, and his program was rewarded handsomely. VERY handsomely. The commentators were beside themselves with excitement over the scores (even though they tend to be quite inflated at any Nationals), but regardless his program was amazing. There's still something missing though, I think, that's missing--that is, the handful of performances that I still remember years later all created an emotional connection that could be felt even through the TV. Plenty of skaters have won major competitions without that connection (Sarah Hughes@2002 Olympics, Evgeny Plushenko@2006 Olympics, and Tatiana Totmianina & Maxim Marinin@2006 Olympics come to mind, although by no means are they the only, and is no indication of their actual skating skills), but performances such as Alexei Yagudin@2002 Olympics, Xue Shen & Hongo Zhao@2003 Worlds, and Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir@2008 Worlds were something special. But regardless, if Jeremy skates like he did at Nationals, then the Olympic podium is definitely within reach, although the depth of the men's field there will be really crazy.

Dance and ladies aren't until next weekend, so I suppose in the meantime I'll just have to find something else...

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