Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vancouver 2010: Pairs FS

The pairs FS was sort of a mess. There must have been some sort of draft in the arena--how else to explain that almost every girl was leaning on their throws before (usually) pulling them out? Oh, and the ice must have been super slippery. More slippery than usual.

The first pair that NBC aired was Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett, who right away stuck their side-by-side triple toes they'd missed the day before, although now that I look at it someone's was downgraded. Their second side-by-side jumps--two double Axels in sequence--were kind of a disaster. He put his hand down, which distracted me from seeing that she'd actually singled hers. They pulled it together for the rest of the program, though, and through it all their sheer determination (especially Caydee's) was very evident. Not perfect, but not bad, especially, for a first experience.

Next were Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig, who are just so much better when they're not thinking about placements (this may seem like an obvious, but there are some skaters out there who turn it on when the pressure is on... but this team was not quite blessed with competitive mettle). Mark doubled his side-by-side triple toe, and I believe Amanda (not sure) doubled the second triple toe in the sequence. Their side-by-side double Axels also received a negative GOE, but everything else was clean even though Amanda was leaning crazily during the throws. Most impressive was that their reverse lasso lift was the single highest-scoring element of the entire competition. So proud!

NBC then skipped the next three pairs, including Tatiana Volosozhar & Stanislav Morozov, so the next performance that I saw was Anabelle Langlois & Cody Hay. It was a pretty unfortunate skate, especially considering that they were on home soil. Their opening side-by-side triple Salchows got the program to a falling start, their side-by-side spins were off, and their throw triple Lutz had an ugly two-foot. In the end they looked unsurprisingly disappointed, although I do have to point out that they have been through a lot in the last year and a half. Or rather, NBC has to point that out, and I'm just repeating it. They ended up dropping to 9th overall.

Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang, 2006's questionable silver medalists, skated to Scheherazade, which needs to be retired now. Their side-by-side combination jumps were a disaster, although the rest of the program was solid, and they ended up in 5th. I suppose lightning doesn't strike twice after all.

Then came the beneficiaries of the politics and overscoring in the SP, Maria Mukhortova & Maxim Trankov. Although their twist lift was good, there was a fall on their side-by-side triple Salchows, and their next side-by-side triple toe + double toe combination was even worse, if possible. He put his hand down on the first jump, throwing them completely off unison even though they both completed their jumps. The rest of the program was without incident, but how many times can you get away with falling on side-by-sides in one competition? Well, at least once, it seems, as they actually moved UP a spot from their SP placement and into 7th. Say thanks to the Canadians~

Jessica Dube & Bryce Davison continued the competition tradition of falling, and so of course she botched their side-by-side triple Salchows. Honestly, why do they insist on this? Their side-by-side spins were off unison, and their throw triple Lutz was extremely tilted but somehow landed. Her position on the death spiral was very low to the ice--much lower than I've ever seen--but I don't know what this actually means in terms of quality and technique (+0.5 GOE?). At the time their placements seemed high, but considering they moved neither up or down against the messy field, it probably all makes sense.

NBC could not resist mentioning at every opportunity that Russia has had a monopoly over the Olympic pairs event for the past 12 events, as if Yuko Kavaguti needed any more pressure on her ridiculously thin shoulders. Although she took a step in the right direction by losing the headpiece from the SP, she took a giant step in the wrong direction with a red dress that included, as Rafael puts it, "boob flaps." But despite the tradition, it was just not meant to be. Both of their throws were a mess, with a fall coming on the triple loop (but why no -3 GOE?), and their double double-Axel sequence also had serious issues. I wasn't expecting them to win--I doubt anybody was, except maybe Tamara Moskvina, who gave Yuko a serious death glare after the competition--but 7th in the FS is sad. Yet despite all of the errors, the worst part of her & Alexander Smirnov's program was the middle, during which they bop around a bit on the ice and she pulls off her flaps. What. on. EARTH. It's not even like the costumes had meaning--there was no relationship between her red monstrosity and his blue blah with an arranged version of the "Blue Danube." I actually couldn't believe they beat Dan & Hao.

Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy were a saddening disappointment. I know they've had a tough season and all, but they are defending world champions, and I kept hoping that they would pull something together. Instead their triple toe + double toe sequence was messy, and Robin had an almost comical fall on their side-by-side double Axels. Not only did he fall, he also seemed to slip getting up, leaving Aliona looking at him in near disbelief in the middle of their program. Their following side-by-side spins started out very fast and tight, then fell out of unison. Like many other pairs they got through the rest of the program fairly successfully, including a lift that looks very much like Jane Summersett & Todd Gilles' trademark.

Something about Qing Pang & Jian Tong bores me, but admittedly they had the best FS of the night. They were skating to "Man of La Mancha," which may or may not be composed by Joe Hisaishi (?), and although I wasn't so impressed by their musicality (the judges were though, just LOOK at those PCS), they skated cleanly. What a rarity.

So although I'd maintained that I was least invested in the outcome of the pairs event--which was and is true--by the time Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao took the ice my heart was reading to beat itself out of my chest. I wanted them to win so badly, and evidently the commentators did too--they virtually said nothing throughout the program. Except, of course, the Gasp. In a mistake I have never seen them make, Xue slipped off Hongbo's support hand in their lasso lift and basically slid down his back. Sandra Bezic nearly collapsed in the booth. There were no other mistakes from them, but there was still something about their performance that seemed a little off, and I felt sad that they couldn't win their Olympic gold on a perfect note. Dick Button would go on to rant about this for quite a while afterwards. Of course some idiot of an uninformed journalist interpreted Hongbo's holding his head in his hands after the performance as disbelief over their win instead of disbelief over their mistake, but whatever. We all knew the judges would never let them lose, even if it meant raising their Interpretation score even higher than a 9.25. They (fairly) came in second in the FS, but held on to win overall, and the squeal from Xue the moment they realized they had won was pricelessly adorable.

I hope this outcome doesn't mean I've used up all of my luck in this Olympics...

No comments: