Monday, November 15, 2010

Skate America 2010: He Who Falls Least?

Okay, I tried to give everyone an equal chance by watching the entirety of the Short Program. The Free Skate is a much longer time commitment, though, so I needed to make an executive decision, especially on a Monday night. The only performance I could be missing out on seems to be Kevin van der Perren's, and we all know how I feel about him.

So, I began with Denis Ten, who wore a pretty black-and-white costume with rhinestone accents. This is probably a bad thing because I described it as "pretty," and indeed with a few tweaks it could have turned into a ladies costume (or a Johnny Weir suit). But whatever, his costume was the least of his problems. Denis fell spectacularly on his first two jumps, both of which were triple Axels, then stepped out and touched his hand down on the triple toe of his triple Lutz + triple toe combination. 0 for 3 jumping passes turned into 0 for 4 when he took a hard fall on his triple flip following a mediocre step sequence, and then finally--finally!--he pulled off a clean triple loop. Then came both hands down on a triple Lutz, a fought-for triple Salchow, and a fifth fall on a double Axel. This was, as Rafael Nadal might say, "an amazing disaster." Wow. Poor kid--an eleventh-place 111.61.

Is Frank Carroll smiling? Absurd!

D-Daisuke was next (I can also call him B-Murakami, but D-Daisuke has a better ring), looking like he'd raided the ribbon section of a Christmas store for that one last accessory. The first thing that was noticeable about his performance was his speed. He came racing out the moment the music came on, and nailed a triple Lutz + triple toe combination (he did get an e call on his Lutz, though--do any Japanese skaters actually know how to do a Lutz? I was pretty sure both Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda could do them, but they also got edge calls here too. Maybe the Technical Caller was just being mean to balance out whichever clown was calling Skate Canada.). D-Daisuke's triple Axel + double toe combination was smooth, as was his triple flip. His spins could be faster and his steps more exciting, but he did at least maintain his speed throughout the program. D-Daisuke added a triple Axel and a triple Salchow, but then put both hands down on a triple loop, which was sad since it doesn't look like he has any conditioning issues. He did keep his head on well enough to finish off with a triple toe and a double Axel, as well as a step sequence and two steps. D-Daisuke looked incredibly pleased, which is always cute to see.


The commentator (Tonia Kwiatkowski) could not deal with the fact that D-Daisuke used to skate for the United States and now represents Japan. She went out of her way to mention that he was a two-time recipient of the Michael Weiss Foundation award, which was "specifically created" to help the development of "American skaters." Hah.

Also, I'm not sure why the triple loop was judged as a fall, since neither of D-Daisuke's knees touched the ice. Is the rule both hands, and I'm just mis-remembering it?

Armin Mahbanoozadeh skated to music from Avatar, but was thankfully tasteful enough not to paint his face blue or to even go for an annoying eye-catching hue. (The music also turned out to be quite good). He replaced a planned quad with a triple toe, but it was a good jump, and he followed this with a great triple Axel. Armin then did a triple Lutz + double toe combination with one arm up on the toe loop (Adam Rippon jealousy?). I'm not sure I would call his triple Axel + double toe combination "excellent" à la Tonia Kwiatkowski, but clean it was. So was his triple flip out of a spread eagle, and his following combination spin was nice and fast. I wasn't completely enthralled by the program, but you can tell that all of the parts are there--he just needs to go for it more. After a nice triple Salchow came a popped triple Lutz, but Armin had the presence of mind to still tack on a double toe and double loop at the end of it. He didn't let this bother him, though, and finished off with another fast combination spin.

A tasteful character costume. Plus an amazing smile.

Priscilla Hill switches scarves to match her students' costumes...?

Adam Rippon, who the commentators all but said was guaranteed a medal here after the Short Program, came out and delivered one of the worst performances I've seen from him in a long, long time, if not ever. A planned opening triple Axel turned into a popped single Axel with a half-hearted single toe loop tacked on, and although he managed to pull off a double Axel as well as his trademark two-armed triple Lutz afterwards, the program never came alive. For some reason the ever-talking Kwiatkowski commended Adam's second triple Axel attempt with a "good for him," even though it ended with a hand down (it's not like he could start modifying things at this stage anyway, unless he wants to be the next Nobunari Oda and screw himself over). He then did a triple flip + triple toe loop combination, quickly followed by a Besti squat-type position into a one-armed triple Lutz + single toe loop + double loop combination. Bizarre. Adam's problems continued with a fall on a triple loop (which I now see was actually called as a double loop, so a double whammy there), although he managed a triple Salchow. Somehow he put on a smile interspersed with some serious and disappointed looks.

"Oh my god, I don't know what happened," Adam said to Brian Orser in disbelief. His seventh-place 129.18 put him in second behind Armin.

The best part of his skate? Some fan screaming "Love you, Brian!" You can bet it wasn't a Korean.

I would say something about A-Daisuke's costume, but I think I've seen so many of them that it doesn't even register. Pinkish frills down the front of his shirt? No problem. His triple toe had more a problem, as he stepped out of it, but he came back to hit a forward-leaning triple Axel and a smooth triple loop.

No A-Daisuke program would be complete without at least an "I'm amazing" moment, and this came with every head snap in his circular step sequence. Classic. Kwiatkowski was merciful and American enough to call it "personality."

The circular step sequence, though, was amazing. Next came a forward-landed triple flip + double toe combination, a fall on a triple Axel (cue collective Japanese gasp), an "unusual" flying layback spin, and an edge-called triple Lutz. With his great conditioning, A-Daisuke is not one to shy away from back-loading his programs, and after the Lutz he landed a triple Salchow and a triple Lutz + double toe combination with a poor flow out. A straight-line step sequence and a combination spin later, A-Daisuke was finally freed from this uncomfortable-looking performance. It seems to be too early in the season for him to be really comfortable with it yet, and he shook his head with dissatisfaction at the end.


I can't even bring myself to talk about Nobunari Oda. I've lost count of how many times he's had victory in his hands, only to throw it all away by poor judgment in the heat of the moment. How many times can he possibly do invalid jump combinations and repeat the same jumps? His ancestor from seventeen generations ago needs to fight his way out of his grave and cut Nobunari down until he gets the point. A lost national title, 2006 Olympics berth, and potential World medal haven't been enough? And he's supposed to raise a son. Sheesh. I want to shake him.

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