Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2010 ISU Grand Prix Final: Mens 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 men in their short program at 5:25 am on December 10th and their free skate at 3:55 am on December 11th as streams the Grand Prix Final live from Beijing. 

My Final Predictions:
1) Patrick Chan (Canada)
2) Daisuke Takahashi (Japan)
3) Tokahiko Kozuka (Japan)
4) Nobunari Oda (Japan)
5) Florent Amodio (France)
6) Tomas Verner (Czech Republic)

1) Takahiko Kozuka: 15(CC)+15(TEB)=30                    (481.58)
    CC: 77.40(SP)+156.11(FS)=233.51
  • This is a nicely composed short program but he seems to be holding back a little here. As the season progresses, I want to see more speed and more of a performance out of him. He has nice qualities and  he has all the elements to be great, now he just needs to sell it.
  • Kozuka is a young skater at 21 and I think he is coming into his own. This free skate doesn't have the pizazz or the polish of a Patrick Chan or Daisuke Takahashi program, but I think it is a step in the right direction. I said this about his short program as well, but he has all the necessary technical elements to be among the greats, now he just needs to find his inner performer. I think he will prove to be more of a lyrical, elegant skater as opposed to an energetic, flamboyant showman.
    TEB: 77.64(SP)+170.43(FS)=248.07
  • This short program is a nice improvement in performance quality from Cup of China. Taka seems to have a lot more energy and speed here in his soul medley whereas he seemed quite tentative and even a little nervous at Cup of China.
  • I criticized his lack of performance quality at Cup of China and in this free skate, I'm seeing much  more of an improvement in that area. He is definitely going the route of elegance and lyricism which is a nice change from some of the more flamboyant programs we've seen. He seems to be wonderfully consistent, perhaps more than any other man competing in the Grand Prix Final and I believe that will land him on the podium.
2) Daisuke Takahashi: 15(NHK)+15(SA)=30                 (461.86)
    NHK: 78.04(SP)+156.75(FS)=234.79
  •  He looks as smooth and solid as ever here at home in his first outing of the season. He does put a hand down on his triple axel but he had amazing height on it. He is a solid technician and while other skaters in the world may have bigger jumps, nobody performs like Dice-K. The choreography here is fantastic, particularly the footwork, so he has a lot to work with as he grows with this program throughout the season.
  • Just like his short, this free skate is beautifully choreographed. Some jump landings are shaky but then again this is the first event of the season. His confidence and precision will certainly improve as the season progresses and this program should be stellar worlds. His work with Lambiel on his spins is definitely showing and as always, Dice-K the showman really comes out in the footwork sequence.
    SA: 78.12(SP)+148.95(FS)=227.07
  • Dice-K is sporting different costume here and I like this solid orange shirt better than the multi-colored shirt he wore at NHK trophy. I loved this short program at NHK but it seems to have even more speed here and better flow across the ice. He also seems even more committed to the musical interpretation and the performance here. I suspect this short program will have him in first place at the Grand Prix Final unless Patrick Chan can manage to skate clean. He scores slightly higher here in the short than he did in Japan at his first Grand Prix assignment.
  • His free skate here is not nearly as clean or as precise as it was at NHK Trophy; however, I think the performance and the level of engagement with the audience is even better at this competition. I expect him to really be on his game at the Grand Prix Final and to be phenomenal by Worlds.
3) Patrick Chan: 15(SC)+13(CR)=28                             (466.73)
    SC: 73.20(SP)+166.32(FS)=239.52
  •  I think Patrick has the most well-choreographed programs of any man this season, but then again Lori Nichol is one of the best in the business. This short program was plagued with falls including 2 on jumps and 1 on footwork but regardless of those, the spins are fantastic and his program components scores are unparalleled. He reminds me of Sasha Cohen and Alissa Czisny in that he can fall a few times and still medal because his components scores are so great.
  • Patrick used this free skate last season and while I'm not a fan of reusing programs as I feel it gives skaters an unfair advantage, this is one of the most well choreographed figure skating programs I've ever seen so I'll make an exception. His quad is fantastic her but he follows it up with a hard fall on the triple axel. I dream of the day that I see a clean version of this amazing program to Phantasia. What a gorgeous performer he is and he pours ever bit of emotion into this piece. If he can land his jumps, he will be the Grand Prix Final champion with this program.
    CR: 81.96(SP)+145.25(FS)=227.21
  • This short program is growing on me. I think the reason I wasn't crazy about it at Skate Canada was that it was hard to see much of a "program" with all of the falls. He has one fall here but it doesn't take him out of the performance at all. He truly is one of the most talented skaters I've ever seen but he has that "Sasha Cohen syndrome" where he struggles to put together two clean programs in the same competition. Overall this is a big improvement over Skate Canada and even with the fall, I believe this is the highest short program total for the entire Grand Prix season. 
  • This is a new costume for Patrick's free skate and I think I like it better. It is more "operatic" if that makes any sense. The fall on the opening quad seems to have affected his performance where he can usually recover quite well from falls. With several falls, this is definitely not at the level of performance that he delivered at Skate Canada. As I said earlier, I love this program so much and I want terribly to see it done well.
4) Tomas Verner: 11(NHK)+15(CR)=26                         (445.12)
  • I love the theatricality of this short program and the costume really finishes it off nicely. I like the choreography in this program and I think he interprets the music well. It isn't overly dramatic, just a nice quiet, theatrical program. He didn't execute the jumps extremely well here, but this program has potential to score well as the season progresses.
  • Like his short program, he doesn't necessarily execute the jumps well in this free skate, but aside from that, this is a fine program. With the Michael Jackson music, he definitely gets the crowd involved. Verner and Amodio will have a battle of the Michael Jackson programs at the Grand Prix Final, but while both are entertaining and energetic, I don't think they'll be enough to challenge Chan, Takahashi and Kozuka.  
  • I just love the use of the "umbrella" at the beginning and the playfulness of this short program. I think his character is more developed here than at Cup of China and his commitment to the presentation is more evident here. 
  • I like the costume change he made for this free skate. The blue shirt and blue glove were a little too much at Cup of China and this simple black shirt makes the glove stand out more. I would like to see a little more speed and energy out of him for this dynamic Jackson medley. The middle section with the slower music seems to drag a bit and the choreography doesn't really pull me in. Overall this program is just okay for me. It is nowhere near as interesting choreographically as Florent Amodio's Michael Jackson Program and Tomas isn't as exciting to watch. I hate to compare them but ultimately they will be compared when they compete against one another at the final with similar music choices.
5) Nobunari Oda: 13(SC)+13(SA)=26                           (462.61)
    SC: 81.37(SP)+155.15(FS)=236.52
  •  This short program is very strong and technical. He leaves much to be desired in terms of performance quality, but his jumps are some of the best in the business. As a program, this doesn't do much for me because he doesn't seem to connect with the music and the choreography is pretty generic. I hope that his interpretation of this piece will improve later in the season.
  • This free skate is fine, but it is nowhere near the level of Patrick Chan's in terms of choreography or performance quality. I do not see Nobu winning or even making the podium at the Grand Prix Final with this program unless Kozuka, Takahashi, or Chan have problems.
    SA: 79.28(SP)+146.81(FS)=226.09
  • I wasn't a huge fan of this program in terms of choreography at Skate Canada and I still don't love it. It also seems sloppy here compared to Skate Canada. I really wish Nobu would show some more expression on her face and try to connect more with the audience. This score is slightly lower that at Skate Canada but an average short program score of around 80 is still phenomenal and it is mostly because of the technical mark. 
  • This free skate isn't really doing it for me. He is not known for his performance quality, so he needs to be perfect technically to keep up with the rest of the top men and with falls and bobbled landings, he won't be able to keep up. He needs to be perfect on all  his jumps and spins at the Grand Prix Final if he hopes to medal. I also don't think this music was a good choice for him. This seems more suited for a lyrical skater like Adam Rippon. I'd prefer to see Nobu skate to something really strong and masculine to show off his athleticism and jumping ability.
6) Florent Amodio: 11(NHK)+13(TEB)=24                     (443.15)
    NHK: 70.01(SP)+143.76(FS)=213.77
  • His short program here was clean, but tentative. None of his jumps were really explosive and he seemed to lose some speed on his exits. Florent is above all a showman and even though this program has a more serious tone than his free program, he played to the judges. This was a solid beginning to the season for him. 
  •  This free skate has met a lot of criticism this season for having too much stationary movement and not enough actual skating. That is definitely a valid point, but clearly the judges haven't had a problem with it since they've rewarded it with high scores. As a dancer, I find it very entertaining while still including all of the necessary skating elements. I would love his jump landings to be a little more precise and to have more of a flow in the exits, but I think those things will improve in his second event.
    TEB: 75.62(SP)+153.76(FS)=229.38
  •  The jump landings on this short program are much stronger and more precise than they were at NHK trophy. He looks much  more confident and calm out on the ice. I love seeing two different sides to Florent with his programs this year. The footwork sequence, spins, and speed are all great improvements from NHK. This program just screams Nikolai Morozov. 
  • Florent competed in the 1st and last Grand Prix events so we'll see if that long break helped him to improve his free skate that was already a standout at NHK. His jumps look stronger and he has a lot more speed and flow coming out of them now than he did earlier in the season. Like Takahashi, I didn't know if his performance could possibly get better, but indeed it has. I love this program, but it verges on being "too much" for a competition program and I'm actually surprised that the judges have received it so well.
1A) Jeremy Abbott: 13(NHK)+11(CR)=24                        (435.40)
2A) Brandon Mroz: 13(CC)+11(TEB)=24                          (431.11)
3A) Adam Rippon: 11(SC)+9(SA)=20                              (436.16)

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