Thursday, December 2, 2010

2010 ISU Grand Prix Final: Ladies Preview

In order to make informed predictions for the Grand Prix Final next weekend, and also just for the love of watching great figure skating, I'm reviewing the tapes of the Grand Prix qualifiers. I'm not going to give complete commentary as that can be found on my other posts, but rather I'll be giving a summary of the programs and discussing how they grew and evolved from the skaters' first Grand Prix assignment to their second. You can catch the ladies in their short program at 6:30 am on December 10th and their free skate at 5:10 am on December 11th as streams the Grand Prix Final live from Beijing. I will be live-blogging both events right here
My Final Predictions:
1) Miki Ando (Japan)
2) Akiko Suzuki (Japan)
3) Rachael Flatt (USA)

4) Kanako Murakami (Japan)
5) Alissa Czisny (USA)
6) Carolina Kostner (Italy)

1) Miki Ando: 15(CC)+15(CR)=30                                 (346.68)
    CC: 56.11(SP)+116.10(FS)=172.21
  • Miki probably has the strongest jumps of any lady on the Grand Prix this season and I hear rumors that she may bring back her quad later in the season. I don't love this short program and she is looking very winded at the end. And for such a strong jumper, she stumbled out of one of them, but its also early in the season. She is not the performer that I'd like her to be and I also wish that she would bend her knees more and skate into the ice. She also made some facial expressions that were a little awkward for my taste.
  • I feel like Miki always chooses very dark music, but it suits her well because her focus on her jumps can translate into intensity in the performance quality. I always criticize her for having no performance abilities, but I can tell that she is really trying and so I have to give her credit for that. She has to feel a lot of pain over being a podium favorite in the last two Olympics and failing to deliver, so I'd love to see her put all of that frustration into her performance. I mean that in a constructive way and I hope it doesn't come across as malicious. I hear rumors that she wants to put the quad back into her program and I say go for it! It is a post-Olympic year and anybody can rise to the top, so it might as well be Miki. In terms of showing off Miki's strengths, I think this program does a nice job and I much p refer it to her short.
    CR: 54.00(SP)+120.47(FS)=174.47
  • This short program still isn't doing much for me after my second time seeing it and I don't think it suits Miki very well either. I don't think this short program is very well choreographed and I don't htink she performs it well so I predict that she will be in 3rd or 4th after the short at the Grand Prix Final, if not lower. However, her consistency will most likely win out in the long and I see her winning the Grand Prix Final.
  • Though I've never been a huge Miki Ando fan, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this program at Cup of China. I think that based on technical content and consistency, Miki will win the Grand Prix Final this season. I think the only person who can really challenge her is Alissa Czisny, but only if Alissa is perfect on her jumps, which is so rare. Miki has not been strong in the short program this season so expect her to be back in 3rd or 4th after the short in Beijing to set up a come-from-behind victory. She has won Grand Prix Final silver, but never gold so this would be a great victory for her. She manages to skate a very strong, clean program despite sickness and  what looks like a back injury so to me, that shows a great level of sportsmanship and courage.

2) Alissa Czisny: 15(SC)+11(TEB)=26                           (332.17)
    SC: 55.95(SP)+116.42(FS)=172.37
  • I love that both of Alissa's costumes this season have longer, flowing skirts as opposed to the tiny, short dresses. They suit her style well and float nicely in her spins. Alissa's jumps are her greatest demons and she struggles in this short program with stumbles out of her jumps and possible some under-rotations. However, everything else in this program is stellar, from the choreography to the execution of spins, spirals, and footwork. This is a beautiful program that shows off what Alissa does well. The choreography utilizes her gorgeous lines and her flexibility. She actually picks up so much speed in her spins to the point where it looks as if she is in fast forward. For a skater who struggles to stay on her feet, this was a strong program with the only errors being a stumble and a possible under-rotation.
  • This is simply the most beautiful ladies free program of the season, hands down. Nobody in the world can compete with Alissa's lines, spins, or overall elegance. The composition of this program is perfect and it shows off everything that she does well. Can we talk about my love for this costume? It is a departure certainly to choose a longer skirt, but it moves so beautifully when she moves across the ice without getting in the way. It reminds me or a lyrical dance dress. As beautiful as this skate was, I wanted more of a performance from Alissa and I'm hoping she can step it up in that department at her next event.
    TEB: 55.50(SP)+104.30(FS)=159.80
  • I really love the purple fabric that was added to her short program costume, it adds some depth and dimension. She stuggles a bit with her jumps as usual, but her lines, positions, and spins are gorgeous as always. Despite the jumping errors, I think this short program is stronger than Skate Canada because the performance and connection to the music are more fully developed.  
  • I love this program so much and I've said this about Patrick Chan's free skate as well, all I want is to see it done well and without mistakes. Alissa is perhaps the biggest dark horse in teh ladies competition at the final because if she is "on" she is almost assured gold or silver, but if she struggles with her jumps like she has here in Paris, she could find herself in 5th or 6th. 

3) Carolina Kostner: 15(NHK)+11(SA)=26                    (319.48)
    NHK: 57.27(SP)+107.34(FS)=164.61
  • I have never been a big Carolina fan but I can appreciate her long lines and this short program definitely shows them off. The program is decent, but the choreographer seems to have relied on swinging arm movements to present a Spanish flair. She finished after the music which tells me she is still getting comfortable with the program.
  • This free skate is very light and a ethereal, which is a nice contrast to her Spanish short program. Carolina is injured and cannot perform a lutz or flip so her programs do not have nearly the technical content of other senior ladies. I think this may prove detrimental to her at the final where she is competing against five of the most talented ladies in the business. Choreographically this program isn't doing it for me. It is very one-note with little change in energy and intensity, and it also fails to tell a story.
    SA: 60.28(SP)+94.59(FS)=154.87
  • This is my second time seeing this program and still, it isn't doing much for me. The music is quite but it has strong accents and she just really isn't attacking them the way I would like. I am enjoying the choreography more now though than the first time I saw it. I struggle to see where all of her points come from in her programs and what the judges are seeing that I'm not seeing. She finished after the music again here and she'll want to get control of that before the final.
  • This free skate is performed to Afternoon of a Faun and as it is very quiet music, it takes a very nuanced and emotional performer to pull it off without making it seem one-note. Carolina is simply note the performer to do this, at least in my opinion. I don't expect Carolina to make the podium at the Grand Prix Final, but then again she could prove me wrong. She simply doesn't have the technical arsenal this season to compete with the likes of Miki Ando, Akiko Suzuki, and even Rachael Flatt. I also think that she is mismatched with this free skate and that it won't server her well this season. 
4) Kanako Murakami: 11(NHK)+15(SA)=26                  (315.09)
    NHK: 56.10(SP)+94.06(FS)=150.16
  • I absolutely love this short program. It is so dynamic and fun and she knows exactly how to sell it. I love the speed, energy, and the way she engages the crowd. At times she seems to be flailing her limbs around, so I hope that in time she will work on her precision but for now, I'm loving her unbridled excitement.
  • This costume is out of control, to the point where it is distracting and makes me not want to watch her skate at all. This is a very well composed program but the costume really takes away from that. She suffers a few falls here, but I think that is just from nerves and inexperience as opposed to technique issues and I expect a huge improvement at her next event. 
    SA: 54.75(SP)+110.18(FS)=164.93
  • She is impressing me with this short here just as much as she did at NHK. This may be my favorite short program of all the top ladies this year. She singled her axel here, but it does not throw her concentration or take her out of the performance which shows me that she is maturing as a skater and as a competitor.
  • This is a new costume but it is still just as distracting as her original costume. I really liked thsi program at NHK but the costume just makes me not want to watch her. She is much more technically sound here than she was at NHK. She seems more calm overall and also more involved in the performance. While Kanako is only 16, I expect her to be a threat for the podium at the Grand Prix Final if she can keep her confidence up in the free skate and match the intensity of her short.
5) Akiko Suzuki: 13(CC)+13(CR)=26                            (335.60)
    CC: 57.97(SP)+104.89(FS)=162.86
  • I love how precise Akiko is in the landings of her jumps. She stumbled out of one of them but that is uncharacteristic for her. She has lovely stretched out positions in her spins and she attacks this music with a fire and a passion. She also has great speed and some nice footwork. This is going to be a stellar short program at the end of the season. We should even see some improvement by her next event, Cup of Russia.
  • I love Akiko so much and its great to see her doing well again this season. She has the performance and charisma that Miki lacks, but too often she falters technically, which Miki rarely does. I really like this choreography and her interpretation of it. It is no secret that I love musical theatre pieces for skating because they usually are the most complete performances in terms of character development and storytelling. She definitely had some technical misses in this performance, but the program has great potential.
    CR: 57.43(SP)+115.31(FS)=172.74
  • I really love this short program and I think it suits Akiko very well. Unlike Miki who seems to labor through everything, Akiko is a joy to watch and seems to truly love what she is doing out on the ice. She is light on her feet and makes her program look as if it is the easiest thing in the world. Her coach Nobuo Sato is known to be a strong technical coach and it shows in the way Akiko performs her jumps and spins. I really love her spins and not only are they innovative, they are gorgeous. Her score here is just a hair lower than at Cup of China but I feel that this short program is stronger. I love how she ends in a pose with the music and then when the music ends, takes a moment to gracefully exit the pose and get out of character.
  • I love the costume change for this free skate, this is much more mature than her Cup of China costume. Despite a few jumping errors, this program is an improvement over her Cup of China performance in every way. She seems to be skating faster and her presentation of the story is also much better. I love the way that the pace of the program builds in the final step sequence to a great climax. She rises to the music and skates right on top of it. She has two very strong programs this season and I predict she will take away the silver medal at the Grand Prix Final. Her total score here is right up there with Miki Ando's and I have a strong feeling that they will go 1 and 2 in the Final.

6) Rachael Flatt: 13(NHK)+13(SA)=26                          (323.90)
    NHK: 53.69(SP)+107.35(FS)=161.04
  •  I can tell in this short program that Rachael is trying to work more in her performance quality and musical interpretation to boost her program components scores to the level of her technical score. Last year her short program, in an attempt to be jazzy and fun, read as immature but this year's Summertime Short program really suits her well and shows a developing maturity level.
  • This new free skate shows maturity that Rachael did not have last season necessarily. It is very theatrical in nature, something that doesn't come natural to her, so I think this will stretch her to focus on her performance quality. She has two strong programs this season and if she can really commit to the performance 100% she could find her self on the podium at the Grand Prix Final and maybe even at Worlds. One technical issue that concerns me is under-rotation. This has plagued her in the pastan d I'm seeing some questionable jumps here, but we'll see what the technical panel does about them.
    SA: 51.02(SP)+111.84(FS)=162.86
  • Rachael struggled with her opening combination here in the short and with a skater as consistent as Rachael, that must be mostly due to her injury. Regardless of the execution, I still love watching this program and I like that it uses two different pieces of music but transitions well between them.
  • This is my second time seeing this free skate and I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time. This is a new costume and the cut seems to suit her body better than the original costume. From the very beginning Rachael is attacking this program, which she needs to do to climb out of the hole from a less than perfect short. I am seeing a new performer in Rachael this season and I think her dance training is helping her immensely. There are still moments where she seems to break character, especially when she is preparing for a jump, so those need to be addressed but still great improvement. I am a bit confused about the storytelling aspect of this story in terms of how she is interpreting the character, but I believe she develop that later in the season as right now, she is concentrating on landing jumps while working injured.
1A) Kiira Korpi: 9(NHK)+15(TEB)=24                             (318.18)
2A) Mirai Nagasu: 9(CC)+13(TEB)=22                           (314.02)
3A) Ashley Wagner: 7(NHK)+11(CR)=18                       (310.75)

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