Friday, February 19, 2010

Vancouver 2010: Men's FS

Oh, my god. I can actually breathe, think clearly, and write now. Watching figure skating gives me a cardio workout (so there, doctor who thinks I lack exercise) but also takes significant years off my life. Perhaps those two effects can cancel each other out.

The evening started out with a bit of unsurprised, exasperated anger, as NBC thought that it would much rather air the women's halfpipe finals live than even take 5 minutes to cut to Jeremy Abbott's FS. They did end up showing him on tape delay right before the last two groups skated, and I guess in a way it was a good thing, because we all had time to emotionally prepare for the fact that his Olympic experience was just not to be. He did well to pull himself up to 9th after a 16th-place SP, but all in all it was just a sad thing to see.

NBC did not bother airing Brian Joubert's skate at all, but that was also probably for the best. Poor guy.

The first skater they actually showed live was my favorite, Takahiko Kozuka. Let it be known that I have been a fan since before his bandwagon existed. Anyway, I thought he gave a great performance despite falling on a triple Axel--it was the first time I'd seen him really land a quad, even though he two-footed it, and the rest of his jumps were more or less solid (a couple of nervous landings, but nothing major... and far fewer shaky landings than Evgeny Plushenko would later make). Takahiko's smile at the end of his program was just adorable, and I'm really happy that his Olympic debut was such a positive one (8th overall). Hopefully he can build on this experience for Worlds and also 2014.

I had no idea Dennis Ten was still only 16. There was a lot about his program that was iffy, but there was also a lot that showed potential for 2014 and maybe even 2018. The poor kid's face was plastered with foundation or something, but I suppose that's not quite his fault.

NBC skipped Kevin van der Perren (perhaps his skeleton costume scared them away for good?), so the next skater I saw was Florent Amodio. There was a great backstory about being abandoned in Brazil, his home country, and being discovered at an ice rink at age 4 after being adopted by a French couple. His program was set to the soundtrack of "Amelie," although people in the JCR were convinced it was some sort of remix, and I didn't quite get how the theme of his costume was related. There was cute paint touches on his face and he was very much in "character," but his jumps weren't quite there.

I believe the first real OMG of the night was Patrick Chan. What a lucky Canadian mess. His triple Lutz was off and he fell on his triple Axel, but lo and behold, the magic of the Canadian prop gave him PCS that were nearly through the roof. Ta-da! He moves up 2 spots overall to place 5th. In the end he would go on to defeat Daisuke Takahashi and Johnny Weir in the FS, which is just ridiculous. I am so glad his arrogant face stopped off of the podium.

I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I didn't realize Michal Brezina was Michal Brezina until about 30 seconds left in his program. I saw the shock of white-blond hair and just sort of assumed he was a random European who had made it into the top 12, and didn't quite pay attention. So, sadly, all I remember about him is a pale pink sweater vest.

And then came Evan Lysacek, the second OMG of the night. I used to be somewhere between indifferent and vaguely positive about his skating, but now it is just one big NO. Snarky bloggers are right--he IS an overtanned Ken doll. With overgrown limbs, I might add. Anyway, while this may make me a bad person I kept willing him to fall, and it just never happened. I think there is something to be said about him playing it safe and not going for the quad in the biggest competition in figure skating, but at the same time he played it smart. And it worked. If only it hadn't...

I was about 75% nervous and 25% calm when Nobunari Oda took to the ice. I inadvertently squealed and everyone sort of gave me a brief look. Then they thankfully forgot about it and instead started commenting on how small and young he is, even though the entire room was younger than him. There was something oddly tight about his performance and I kept wanting him to turn it on and bring it, but just as I looked away in a combination of nervousness and the need to do some work, he did something extremely odd on his triple loop and broke a lace. At first I thought he was hurt and got very scared, but then realized it was just a broken lace even though Scott Hamilton was hinting at all sorts of dire physical things. Apparently these issues are now penalized 2.00, and so it was no surprise that Nikolai Morozov was waiting by the boards, redder than ever. He sort of stood around looking o while two Japanese officials knelt down and worked some kind of magic to get the lace re-tied and Nobunari back onto the ice within 3 minutes. He finished his program well, all considered, but it was just a sad and bizarre way to end an Olympic FS. In the Kiss & Cry, Nikolai at least made an attempt to be comforting by patting Nobunari on the back several times, but all along his face was a large red :|. Sadly this dropped Nobunari to 7th overall after being 4th after the SP. At this point I started to consider not watching Daisuke skate at all.

Stephane Lambiel gave me a much-needed breather, because the idea of Daisuke skating next was wreaking havoc with my blood pressure. Stephane went for the quad toe twice and more or less got them, although with -GOE, to make up for the fact that he lacks a triple Axel. I still can't get over that. None of his other jumps were really that spectacular, but his step sequence and spins of course were rated very highly. I seriously cannot understand this, but he somehow clawed his way into 4th place overall, helped by some massive PCS. Aargh.

A very strange calm came over me as Daisuke began to skate in a somewhat ill-advised costume. However this all disappeared the moment he went into his quad toe, because I KNEW it was a bad idea all along and of course he fell. I gave some sort of spastic scream and ran from the JCR. I understand that he wanted to put together a perfect program that challenged everything he has, but at the same time he KNEW that he didn't need the quad to win. Of the top 3 men after the SP only Plushenko had attempted a quad, and yet they were virtually tied. AAAHH his coach should have stopped him. AAAHH. Anyway I went back into the JCR shortly after that, but didn't actually watch anything because I was too scared and was talking to people on Gchat, then quickly ran out again. People in the JCR must think I'm insane. Sorry, everyone. I gave myself two minutes before returning to the JCR to hear the commentators talking about how he really rebounded, but we all knew all was lost. His PCS were the highest of the night--well-deserved, I believe, but still not good enough. I couldn't believe he actually placed behind Stephane in the FS, but the strength of his SP managed to keep him in 2nd behind Evan.

Although there is a lot about Johnny Weir that bothers me, I have a newfound appreciation for his quality of skating, especially compared to Evan's. He did not go for a quad even though he had talked about it (did anybody believe him?), and instead churned out one triple after another. There was a strange stumble in his footwork and he came out of his spin too early, but otherwise it was a great performance and despite Daisuke's 8-point lead I was legitimately afraid that Johnny would beat him. Yet my fears were unfounded because the politics were out in full force, and he ended up behind both Stephane and Patrick. Unbelievable. As much as I was secretly hoping Johnny would make mistakes, I believe that Johnny was severely underscored and should have come in 4th overall (realistically speaking, the gap between him and the top 3 was too large), and his FS should have been 2nd or 3rd. Rafael was seriously going to kill someone. Actually, he probably still is.

I am not sure what I was hoping for when Evgeny began to skate. On one hand I am not a fan of his skating, but on the other this was the difference between Evan being the gold medalist or not being the gold medalist. It just sort of seemed like Evgeny winning would indicate that all things are the way they should be in the skating world, like it or not. However there was something off about him throughout the performance and I am personally surprised his FS was good enough for 2nd. Yes, he did a quad toe + triple toe combination, but most of his other jumps were either tilted in the air or had forced landings, or both. For whatever reason Scott Hamilton was extremely complimentary about Evgeny's ability to land things, although I feel that if it had been another skater he would have been all over with the criticisms. Evgeny made some extremely strange attempts at choreography and artistry, wagging his hips and shoulders at random times and blowing kisses to the crowd. I think only Johnny can pull that off. A part of me still had faith in the power of the Eastern European bloc, but by the time he finished it was evident that it was not his night. NBC cut to a shot of Evan with the most sickening smirk I have ever seen, and then back to Evgeny who looked sad and strangely red. Sure enough, his performance was only second best, and Evan's celebrations began. Scott made some unfounded remarks about how the "hardest worker" or the "best trained competitor" won. He's been making references to Evan's work ethic throughout, and while I don't doubt that Evan works hard I also don't doubt that Scott has no comparative data. I just think that it's offensive and insensitive to the other skaters out there who put in their best efforts every day but just don't reach the top, or rather, just don't reach NBC's fluff radar. Once they have an idea, they run with it. Like Evgeny's driving scenes. And oh yeah, I think a skater with 1 Olympic gold and 2 silvers would know a thing or two about "hard work."

There is some I could say on NBC's camera work during the medal ceremony, but whatever. I hope this means that there is some karma for the ladies' competition, and I am still unreasonably hoping that the men's result has no effect on ice dance.

Yeah, right.

And of course, congratulations, Daisuke Takahashi, for winning Japan's first-ever Olympic medal in men's figure skating.

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