Thursday, October 24, 2013

2012 Skate Canada: Mens Preview

Patrick Chan (CAN) looks to take back his Skate Canada title after Javier Fernandez won last season. He is going with Rachmaninov for the short and Vivaldi for the free...trying to win over those Europeans eh? Patrick is literally on thin ice with the skating fans this season for multiple reasons. Aside from his many off-color comments in the press, many people believe that he was undeserving of the World title over Denis Ten last season. He needs to clean up his skating this season and put together perfect programs in order for skating fans to believe that he is deserving of Gold in Sochi.

Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) is one of our favorite skaters. He has the artistic soul of Johnny Weir and Sasha Cohen, but unfortunately he also has their competitive mentality. He does well on the Grand Prix, however, and luckily for him, he earns extremely high PCS marks and levels so he can absorb a few small mistakes and still earn high scores overall. I want to see him put together a full season this year and earn the Olympic medal that he truly deserves. I cannot wait to see his interpretation of Rota's Romeo & Juliet and Parisian Walkways made famous by our own Lang & Tchernyshev.

Jeremy Abbott (USA) is a sentimental favorite for me to make the Sochi team. His Vancouver trip was disappointing and unfortunately, the last quad has been a roller coaster for him. He only went to Worlds 2 of the last 4 seasons, finishing 5th in 2010 and 8th in 2012. He has everything he needs to make an Olympic podium, but he has to catch lightning in a bottle and put them all together in 2 programs. I'm so thrilled that he is revisiting Muse, because his previous Muse program was fantastic and his best of the quad. He will face competition at home, but I strongly believe that if he goes clean, he will make it to Sochi. That road starts here and there's no reason he can't medal here. I actually think it will be good for him to face two of the best in the world here. Why not meet the competition face to face early on?

My Podium Predictions:
Gold: Patrick Chan (CAN)
Silver: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
Bronze: Jeremy Abbott (USA)

The Rest of the Field:
Elladj Balde (CAN)
Andrei Rogozine (CAN)
Michal Brezina (CZE)
Takahito Mura (JPN)
Nobunari Oda (JPN)
Joshua Farris (USA)
Ross Miner (USA)

2013 Skate Canada: Ladies Preview

Julia Liptnitskaia (RUS) is the one to beat here. She doesn't necessarily have the best skills or artistry of the field, but she is the best competitor and at these early events, that generally wins the day. She has her sights set on Sochi and as long as she can stay healthy, she is all but guaranteed to make the Olympic team. She has fared the best overall of the "Russian babies" as she transitioned from the junior to the senior ranks and I appreciate her skating more than that of Sotnikova, Tuktamisheva, or Radionova. She qualified for the Final last year and likely would have done quite well if not for that concussion. My only concern for her is that Schindler's List is beyond her current range as a performer. We shall see.

Akiko Suzuki (JPN) is a longtime favorite of nearly the entire skating world, but the biggest question mark with her is a competitive edge. I'm afraid that her window of opportunity has passed her by and and that she reached her peak in 2012 with that World bronze. She recently finished behind Lipnitskaia at the Finlandia Trophy. I question her choice of Phantom of the Opera for her free skate because I think she can do better than that warhorse. She is so classical and refined that I'd prefer she choose something more nuanced.

Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) won this event last year and she has the potential to do it again. However, she won primarily because she was simply cleaner that the other women. I personally don't believe that she has the maturity or performance quality to beat a clean Suzuki, Lipnitskaia, or even Gao. I truly believe this event will be decided by who makes the fewest mental errors.

Gracie Gold (USA) is the "no pun intended" Golden Girl in US Figure Skating. USFS wants her to be the answer that we've all been looking for, the next Michelle Kwan who can dominate national and international events. She is almost guaranteed a spot on the Sochi team, but she needs to prove that she has the mental game to compete and that's where she's been lacking recently. Luckily for her, she is a late bloomer across the course of a season. She bombed at this event last year, but went on to win silver at Cup of Russia, silver at US Nationals, and placed a respectable 6th at Worlds. If the wheels fall off here, we don't need to lose our minds yet, but it will be cause for concern for Team Gold if Gao or Hicks beat her here.

Christina Gao (USA) is a personal favorite of mine and I am really pulling for her to make the Sochi team. She has a much more international look than many of the US ladies and much more classical elegance than either Wagner or Gold. We know that she is an extremely hard work and my biggest fear for her, opposite of Gold, is that she will peak too early. She has finished 5th at US Nationals for the past four years, so she's going to have to show USFS that she is the real deal on the Grand Prix before their judges will PCS her high enough at Nationals to make the podium.

My Podium Predictions:
Gold: Julia Liptnitskaia (RUS)
Silver: Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
Bronze: Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)

The Rest of the Field:
Amelie Lacoste (CAN)
Veronik Mallet (CAN)
Natalia Popova (UKR)
Christina Gao (USA)
Gracie Gold (USA)
Courtney Hicks (USA)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Skate Canada: Pairs Preview

I am a big fan of Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN). They have really shown us the value of hard work and also that a pair can rise up the ladder quickly if they are on the same page. I was thrilled to see them on the World podium last season and they have a real shot at the Olympic podium. They are the favorites here and if they win, it will be their first GP win. Two huge performances on home ice could help set them apart from Moore-Towers & Moscovitch.

We didn't see much of Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (CHN) last season, only a disappointing 12th at
Worlds. They were a force to be reckoned with in their first two years on the Grand Prix. They are exciting to watch and I hope they get that little bit of magic back. They are a near lock for the Olympic team since the Chinese pairs are in such dire straits, but they need to work their way back up the rankings and their road to Sochi starts here. Knowing their energy, I cannot wait to see their Chicago free skate, but I hope they've worked on their connection and chemistry.

Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek (ITA) are not my favorite team in the world, but in a weak field, they look poised to medal. His yellow pants blinded us at Skate lucky are we to see them again? All jokes aside, I must say that their one handed lift in the short was the highlight of the pairs event for me. They are a taller pair, so they have much longer lines and some more impressive lifts than the smaller pairs. I missed their free skate at Skate America, so I'll be excited to see it here. They have a handful of Grand Prix medals and I think they'll add to their collection here.

I'm looking for Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers (CAN) to step it up. They have been spinning their wheels for the past two seasons, but with Canada earning 3 pairs spots for the Sochi Olympics, they have a golden opportunity to step up and seize it. If they flop here again, Canada could look to send a younger team of the future.

My dark horse pick, not necessarily to medal, but to turn some heads and make a splash would be Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier (USA). They are the reigning World Junior champs and this is their first major senior event. It isn't nearly as hard to break into the senior level in pairs as it is in ice dance, case in point, Sui and Han. This team has the technical goods, their artistry is improving, and they are quite consistent. Don't be surprised if they sneak in for a bronze.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Duhamel & Radford (CAN)
Silver: Sui & Han (CHN)
Bronze: Berton & Hotarek (ITA)

The Rest of the Field:
Lawrence & Swiegers (CAN)
Purdy & Marinaro (CAN)
Vartmann & Van Cleave (GER)
Davis & Brubaker (USA)

Denney & Frazier (USA)

Monday, October 21, 2013

2013 Skate Canada: Ice Dance Preview

I mean, is there even a question here? No, but we'll talk about it anyway. Virtue & Moir have owned this event forever and nothing will change here, but the other medals are up for grabs so let's get started!

Much like their American training mates, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (CAN) have tried many different styles this quad and now they are back to old faithful for this Olympic season. The Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong short should show off that Old Hollywood glam that they showed us in Funny Face and then we have the Glazunov free which should be a bit of a throwback to the Mahler program that won them Olympic Gold in 2010. I feel that Davis & White have grown more during this quad, but so much can happen before February! 

Canada's other top team, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN) will also be here and they are a
near lock for silver. This is a huge season for them because they are one of about five teams fighting for bronze in Sochi. I can't wait to see that Latin free dance, I can only imagine how steamy it is! I, personally, prefer their more lyrical programs but I won't judge this piece until I see it.

This is a golden opportunity for Hubbell & Donohue (USA) to win a Grand Prix medal and prove to US Figure Skating that they are the real deal. I have talked a lot of crap about Madison Hubbell looking clunky and tacky, but I'm taking all of that back after Skate America. Their free is so gorgeous, lyrical, and soothing. I'm happy to stare at Zach all day, of course, but Madison is styled so well and I'm actually pulling for them over the Shibutanis for the Olympic team. They need to make that statement here at this event. If they can't medal, I think they're done.

Riazanova & Tkachenko (RUS) are the team that could play spoiler for Hubbell & Donohue. They have won Grand Prix medals before, and they could do it again, though they've never really stood out to me. I can only imagine how garish that Godfather free skate is going to be.

Stepanova & Bukin (RUS) are a dark horse to medal here, coming in as the reigning World junior champions. However, ice dance is so difficult to break into at the senior ranks and I don't think that it will happen here. Maybe it will happen in Russia

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Virtue & Moir (CAN)
Silver: Weaver & Poje (CAN)
Bronze: Hubbell & Donohue (USA)

The Rest of the Field:
Paul & Islam (CAN)
Zhiganshina & Gazsi (GER)
Guignard & Fabri (ITA)
Riazanova & Tkachenko (RUS)
Stepanova & Bukin (RUS)

Choreography of the Courtroom: A Time To Kill on Broadway

"God had a son, he didn't have a daughter." This is Carl Lee Hailey's (John Douglas Thompson) defense for killing the two men who raped his young daughter in A Time To Kill at the Golden Theatre on Broadway. In an age of overproduced theatrical spectacles, it's refreshing when the story is the star. Based on the novel by John Grisham, Rupert Holmes' adaptation fits the stage perfectly. He uses just enough legal jargon to build excitement and set the scene without losing the common man. Director Ethan McSweeny's decision to put the audience in the jury box is simple, yet effective. It is the perfect way to engage the audience. After all, the courtroom is just a theatre with actors, isn't it? At least you'll feel that way when Jake Brigance (Sebastian Arcelus) and Rufus R. Buckley (Patrick Page) make their opening remarks.

Sebastian Arcelus is incredibly engaging as the golden boy defense attorney with a heart of gold. You'll want to root for him...even if you hate Ole Miss. He has that casual, boy next door look about him, which perfectly juxtaposes the seriousness of the murder trial that he is defending. Arcelus has a quiet swagger about him and he's just so endearing; I'd even call him a modern day Atticus Finch. All those khaki suits against Buckley's black and navy, though it's just a little too obvious that he is supposed to be "the good guy". Speaking of Patrick Page, his Rufus R. Buckley is just as pompous as every big time prosecutor that you love to hate, and though he's actually from the Pacific Northwest, his Mississippi accent is spot on. Ashley Williams' Ellen Roark, the sassy law student, threw me for a loop. She's a combination of Vivienne Kensington and Elle Woods, but her sharp sense of humor provides a much needed lightness to the otherwise incredibly tense plot.

It's been a while since I've seen a production so simple, yet lacking nothing. The rich wooden set creates the perfect courtroom, while the video projections display just enough of the racial tension to create a mood and establish a context. The most memorable production element is a burning cross, which really forces you to think about the time period. It's unbelievable to think that as recently as the 1980s, racial tension was still so pronounced in the deep south, but then again, has it ever really gone away?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Janis

"People like their blues singers miserable...and dead," or at least that's what Mary Bridget Davies tells us as Janis Joplin. I'm not old enough to have experienced Joplin in her heyday, but I feel like I caught a glimpse of her world last Tuesday night at A Night with Janis Joplin at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. I have to say that those who were of her generation got the most out of the show, particularly (hey girl hey) the woman three rows ahead of me in the mezzanine who couldn't stop dancing in her seat.

Structurally, the show is bizarre. Janis (Mary Bridget Davis) sits down in her Texas-sized chair with a bottle of SoCo, tells a story about her past, and then segues into a song. The odd part is that sometimes she sings her own songs and sometimes she relives one of her idols singing their songs. Hearing the music of Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin to name a few was a pleasant surprise for me. We see two very distinct Janises. We have Janis the electrifying performer, and Janis the reflective thinker who, on the surface, seems like your quirky best friend. I take issue with the fact that Randy Johnson's book makes Janis appear so calm and calculated, nothing like the woman who died much too young of a drug overdose.

Aside from the nonsensical book, this show really is enjoyable. Okay, so it's probably more Vegas than Broadway and the sets and costumes were all borrowed from a regional production of Hair, but I was entertained and so was the rest of the very full house. Mary Bridget Davies is a revelation as Janis Joplin. She has all of her tendencies and inflections down pat, and girlfriend just plain sings her face off. Her Cry Baby and Stay With Me are religious experiences, though I question how she can maintain that level of vocal performance deep into the run. I certainly wouldn't want to see an understudy when I just saw the reincarnation of Janis Joplin herself.

A Night With Janis Joplin
Starring Mary Bridget Davies
Lyceum Theatre
149 West 45th Street
Writer/Dirctor: Randy Johnson
Choreographer: Patricia Wilcox
Scenic & Lighting Design: Justin Townsend
Costume Design: Amy Clark
Sound Design: Carl Casella
Production Design: Darrel Maloney

Saturday, October 19, 2013

2013 Skate America: Ladies Short Program Recap

Can I watch Mao Asada (JPN) on repeat until the next event? That was so easy to watch. I felt like I was going to the ballet. Everything was fantastic down to the costuming. Nobody glides seamlessly out of the jump like Mao does. The 3A was two-footed, but how remarkable that she is still doing it? Short Program Total: 73.18!!!!!

Aside from the wrong colored tights and the slow final spin, Ashley Wagner (USA) threw it down today. We are finally seeing her competitive mettle now that she gave us the 3-3 combo. I appreciate her punched landings on the jumps; there's nothing weak about her skating. Thank goodness she ended with that hair toss. Short Program Total: 69.26

I try not to think about these tween skaters until they make it past their grown spurts, and Elena Radionova (RUS) is no exception. She is so itty bitty and she has so much growing to do before we take her seriously as a senior lady. For now, what a great moment for her to make her debut with a clean program. Let's not call her the future of skating yet because that didn't work out so well for Mirai or Caroline. Short Program Total: 67.01

Valentina Marchei (ITA) blew me away today. I don't give a crap about the technical content because that was a thing of beauty. This is what figure skating should be. This is why I fell in love with figure skating because of the quiet, delicate beauty. Short Program Total: 59.25

I love me some bubblegum pink, but Viktoria Helgeson (SWE) showed us a classic example of a costume that distracts from the skating itself. It's unacceptable. The skating content itself was ok, nothing blew us away, but it was pretty clean. Make a costume change ASAP or the Olympic audiences will eat you alive!  Short Program Total: 58.80

How interesting for Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO) to follow Radionova. We go from a 10-year-old to a mature lady. That skate was easy to watch because, other than the peeing dog sit spin, there were no distractions, just nice smooth skating. However, why on earth wear flesh colored gloves?? Short Program Total: 56.68

Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) is kind of just there for me. I want some fierce when you are skating to prince and she just isn't giving it to me in any sense of the word. The jumps are a pleasure to watch when they're on because they are so straight and so strong. She is an athlete through and through, but where is the art? Short Program Total: 55.84

Samantha Cesario (USA) did us proud! Not only did she go for the 3loop-3loop but she looked sexy while doing it. All we can ask for is firepower and she brought it. She could go even more all out, but I predict this will bring the house down at Nationals. Girlfriend has "it"! Short Program Total: 53.51

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva (RUS) oh honey why? Cursed puberty! Why must you ruin so many careers! She has not adjusted well to her body's changes. Can she and Caroline have a support group? She is upping the sass level though, especially on the footwork. Sans the gloves, the costume is not nearly as garish as we've seen from her in the past. Short Program Total: 53.20

Caroline Zhang (USA)  had a pretty skate and there's not much else to say about it. ALW is just so overdone, especially Phantom. There was no spark, no life to that program so let's just call a spade a spade. Go out there and fight like you mean it! Short Program Total: 45.76

2013 Skate America: Pairs Short Program Recap

Volosozhar & Trankov (RUS) are world class.  Their commitment to the characters sets them apart from everyone else but the Germans. The power, speed, and precision don't hurt either. I feel like I'm watching a piece of theatre when I watch them skate. The impressive thing is that your eye goes to both of them equally and not just to one or the other. Even down to the death spiral, they never break character. Total Short Program Score: 83.05

I will try to stifle my hatred of the "ass up" death spiral because I loved the program as a whole. I personally love light, whimsical short programs and this was certainly it. The costumes were unique without being over the top and their lifts are always spectacular. I am enamored with that final spin and how the speed never dissipates when they change levels. The peck on the cheek was to die for. Total Short Program Score: 71.51

I was impressed by Stolbova & Klimov (RUS) minus his odd facial hair. They had a quiet power about them, very commanding, and very Russian. This program is going places and they are ready to step up as the 2nd Russian pair team. Nothing about the piece blew my socks off, but they are an easy team to watch, it didn't feel anxious or nervous like I do with a lot of pair teams. Total Short Program Score: 64.80

Berton & Hotarek (ITA) had an acrobatic short to say the least. That one-handed lift was unreal and everything about the piece screamed "circus trick". I couldn't take anything in the program seriously because of that insane shade of yellow. Total Short Program Score: 63.85

Okay so I was really surprised by Castelli & Shnapir (USA) today. After being default US champs, you guys really stepped it up. Speed and attack were great and aside from Simon doubling that SBS jump, the rest was awesome. They have a lot to work with in that great throw 3Sal, a pizzazzy footwork sequence, thrilling final lift, and the overall energy. Hopefully the confidence stays up for the free and the rest of the season. Total Short Program Score: 62.56

There is a fine line between aggressive and frantic. Today Denney & Coughlin (USA) stumbled over that line. Tosca is a dramatic piece, but it was all over the top. The twist was so high and the unison was perfect on the SBS jumps, but she couldn't possibly maintain that pace and wiped out on the throw. The piece didn't do much for me, probably because the music is so "been there done that". I much preferred Castelli & Shnapir. Total Short Program Score: 62.06 

Overall I got a good vibe from Zhang & Toth (USA) today. They had the double fall on the SBS jumps, but the twist, throw, and lifts were strong. The Carousel Waltz is music they can feed off of. I get his character, but she needs to work more on establishing hers. The final pose was so Broadway! Total Short Program Score: 55.83

I liked Purdy & Marinaro's (CAN) drama-filled opening, but the emotion never went anywhere for me. It's Unchained Melody, amp up the romance for heaven's sake! She doesn't seem gritty enough for a pair girl, you have to jam that leg out and land those elements girlfriend! I think this piece of music was too mature for a young team. Total Short Program Score: 50.26

Friday, October 18, 2013

2013 Skate America: Short Dance Recap

What else is there to say about Davis & White (USA)? If I'm speechless, you know it's real and it's deep. This piece was really about Charlie for me. My eye went to him and Meryl was kind of there in the background. Is it just me or is his extension improving along with his performance quality? Love, love, loved it. I could have just as easily been watching the Grand Prix Final as the first major event of the season...they are in that good of shape. Short Dance Total: 75.70

Cappellini & Lanotte (ITA) put the DANCE in Ice Dance. I'm OBSESSED with this choreography! This is a perfect example of skating a full piece from beginning to end. They really told a complete story. I'm partial to a good show tune, but regardless, they are on my radar for the Olympic podium. Short Dance Total: 69.88

Shibutani & Shibutani (USA) rose to the occasion and brought it tonight. Alex is really catching my eye this year, but I want her to step it up and pull focus. I'm loving this piece and the fact that they didn't pick the most obvious Michael Buble pieces. Marina does it again, the woman can do no wrong. This piece has potential and they are going places with it. Short Dance Total: 61.26

Hubbell & Donohue (USA) just don't totally have it for me. I'm not sure why, but they are just a little B-team for me. Zach is awesome, but Madison doesn't do so much for me. She's a little cash for clunkers. He is all over my radar, and for his sake, I hope she can amp up the excitement. Short Dance Total: 60.71

I had no strong feelings about Zlobina & Sitnikov (AZE) tonight. They do have a nice flow and smoothness to their work, but the choreography and themes of the program did nothing much for me. Short Dance Total: 54.53

Reed & Reed (JPN) were just meh for me. Twizzle issue aside, the whole piece just looked too calculated and not nearly dancy enough. They were too stiff and the ending just felt out of control for me. It felt like it was about to unravel at any moment...a little Roughtown USA. Short Dance Total: 54.28

Carron & Jones (FRA) had me with their musical selection, and they're delightful to look at, but the program didn't build or really go anywhere. They are charming and the piece has potential if they can build up the excitement throughout the season. Short Dance Total: 54.10

Tobias & Stagniunas (LTU) have a great look and this was a cute program, but she needs to amp up the vavavoom. That, or they need to do A Chorus Line because she's obviously Val. His posture seemed a little clunky today, as did that rotational lift. I hope they clean that up. Short Dance Total: 53.17

2013 Skate America: Men's Short Program Recap

I'm happy to admit when I'm wrong, but I thought Tatsuki Machida (JPN) was a fluke last season, but I just look stupid now. His East of Eden short, while on my list of banned music, was exactly what you want in a short program. It was clean. In this field, a clean program won the day. That Quad Toe/Triple Toe didn't hurt either. He didn't blow me away with the performance, but he was calm, calculated, and strong. He leads after the short. Short Program Total: 91.18

The biggest surprise thus far is Jason Brown (USA) in 2nd. We knew he was good, but it's never wise to expect such a strong Senior GP debut and Jason blew us away. He is an artist and channeling Prince could be risky, but he made it work. We wish him luck in the long and hope he maintains his hold on that podium spot. Short Program Total: 83.78

How great was it to see Adam Rippon (USA) looking like himself. Perhaps the last in a long string of coaching changes finally did the trick. The Quad Lutz happened-it wasn't perfect-but it happened and that's a start to a good season that for his sake, we hope ends with a trip to Sochi. He laid the ground work for that tonight.Short Program Total: 80.26

Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) also made a nice statement after a rough 2012-2013 season. We are loving his jazzy side. Nothing about it was phenomenal, but it was a nice building block for an Olympic season. It's good to see him stay on his feet. Short Program Total: 77.75

Daisuke Takahashi (JPN), sad as it is to say, looks old. His body is failing him and those jumps just aren't happening. He makes a great case for solo ice dance because he moves on the ice better than anyone I've ever seen. One of his hip circles is worth all of Patrick Chan's PCS for the season. We hope his artistry can boost his overall total in the free. Short Program Total: 77.09

Max Aaron (USA) was certainly a disappointment for the home crowd that had such high hopes. His style has improved, but he is known as a technician and when you can't land your bread and butter jump, what is left? He best figure it out quickly or US Figure Skating will think of him as yesterday's news. Short Program Total: 75.91

Alexander Majorov (SWE) is very vanilla to me. There isn't much that stands out to me about him: no crazy hair, no garish costumes, no ugly gloves, no obvious gay vibe, nothing unique. He is just kind of there. He's a nice skater, but he needs to develop an identity if he wants to stand out. Short Program Total: 74.97

Artur Gachinski (RUS) is probably one more botched Quad away from oblivion. Mishin can't have that much more tolerance for somebody who can't land jumps. If you can't jump, Lord knows you can't move in a way that doesn't look like a shopping cart, what can you do to earn points? The answer is...not much. Short Program Total: 37.24

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Skate America: Ice Dance Preview

And now for my favorite event of them all...Ice Dance! I'm a dancer and a dancer dances, so obviously this is my jam. Short dance kicks of tomorrow (Friday) at 8:45 and we'll see that free Saturday night in the money spot at 9:00.

Detroit is in for a treat as hometown kids and reigning World Camps Meryl Davis & Charlie White (USA) grace us with their presence. You know they are going to be in Olympic form already, so lord only knows how phenom they will look by February. Around here, we are 100% thrilled with their program choices and can't wait to see them perform the heck out of them. They haven't lost an event since the 2012 Worlds and I have a strong suspicion they will continue their winning streak all through Sochi in February.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA) are the
most likely silver medalists, but they are know to be streaky. Their switch to Igor Shpilband seems to have really settled them and they are forming their identity as artists. I cannot wait to see their 42nd street Short Dance! They are certainly one of the hottest Ice Dance couples around, so that's never a bad thing. I'm looking forward to seeing them.

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (USA) are scaring me with their program choices this season. Michael Buble for the short is perfect for them. That is classic Shib Sib style. However, the Michael Jackson free dance? When I think of a Michael Jackson free dance I think of that epic Bourne & Kraatz fail in Salt Lake in 2002. This just doesn't seem like it will suit their classical style and elegant lines, which is a huge risk to take in an Olympic year. But, I'm an artist and I love risk here in there, and I trust Marina, so more power to them. I bet you anything that this is one of those programs that undergoes major changes in composition, choreography, and costuming by Sochi.

Madison Hubbell & Zach Donohue (USA) are the bubble team in US
Ice Dance. The top three are very clearly established in Davis/White, Chock/Bates, and Shibutani/Shibutani, but if one of those team would happen to have an injury or a rough GP series, they could have a shot at the Olympics. It's an outside shot, but still a shot nonetheless. Their strength is their chemistry, which is the one thing that Marina & Igor's teams have been criticized for. The Big Bad Voodoo Daddy short seems perfect for them and I expect that their Nocturne free should be quite sensual. They have an outside shot at the podium if they are perfect and others have problems.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Davis & White (USA)
Silver: Cappellini & Lanotte (ITA)
Bronze: Shibutani & Shibutani (USA)

The Rest of the Field:
Zlobina & Sitnikov (AZE)
Carron & Jones (FRA)
Reed & Reed (JPN)
Tobias & Stagniunas (LTU)
Hubbell & Donohue (USA)

2013 Skate America: Pairs Preview

Pairs is a discipline I run hot and cold with. I was all about them after that 2002 debacle and then they faded away for me until Shen & Zhao won the Olympic Gold in 2010. The rivalry between Savchenko & Szolkowy and Volosozhar & Trankov has been thrilling for me in the past two seasons and I truly hope they are back and forth up until their Olympic Free Skate. That being said, let's talk about this event. The paris will skate their short Saturday 10/19 at 12:00pm EST and their free on Sunday 10/20 at 2:30pm EST.

Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov (RUS) are the overwhelming favorites here. They will win unless they withdraw. I am hearing fantastic things about their Jesus Christ Superstar free (notice the abundance of British musical theatre tunes at this event) and I'm sure they won't disappoint. This event will be about getting their timing down and building strength and speed so they can ace this season. Anyone in the arena to watch them live in Detroit will be in for a treat.

Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch (CAN) have been developing a healthy rivalry with their
countrymen Duhamel & Radford, and it's been great for their performance over the past two seasons.They are coming off of a win at the US Classic in Salt Lake City and US events have always treated them well. I'm not sure what to make of their Fellini Medley free skate, but they've always been a little offbeat in their choices. They're a contender for a Grand Prix Final spot and they have a great shot at taking silver here to keep themselves in the running.

Caydee Denney & John Coughlin (USA) seem to be the logical choices for the third podium spot. Their Phantom of the Opera free skate (another ALW?) should be an overdramatized tacky mess, but they are consistent which is something most pairs cannot say. The rumor mill was busy last season that they weren't getting along anymore and/or that John's body was too wrecked to compete, but I think they'll press on through this season to make it to the big dance.

Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov (RUS) are in a crucial year in
their career. There are so many young powerful Russian pairs, they aren't too far removed from that, so they better step it up if they are going to make that Olympic team. A good showing here will set them on the right track.

Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir (USA) are my prediction for the next US pair to break up and fizzle out. They essentially won the US title by default last season because so  many top teams were injured. Rumors flew that they had a poor work ethic and they were only staying together so they could go to worlds. They aren't a favorite for the Olympic team, but if they want to change the minds of US Figure Skating, they best hold it together here.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Volosozhar & Trankov (RUS)
Silver: Moore-Towers & Moscovitch (CAN)
Brozne: Denney & Coughlin (USA)

The Rest of the Field:
Purdy/Marinaro (CAN)
Berton/Hotarek (ITA)
Stolbova/Klimov (RUS)
Castelli/Shnapir (USA)
Zhang/Bartholomay (USA)

Monday, October 14, 2013

2013 Skate America: Ladies Preview

We won't see the Ladies until Saturday (10/19) at 1:30pm EST for their short program and then on Sunday (10/20) at 4:15pm EST for their free. This Ladies field is all over the place, and while there are about 3 clear cut favorites, anything could happen.

Mao Asada (JPN) is my personal favorite for the Olympic Gold Medal this season, but I'm not sure how much of that is from my heart and how much is from my head. Regardless, let's start with her. After all the changes of coaches and jump technique shenanigans, she finally seems settled. Her World medal last season proved that. She was bested by Yuna, yet again, but Yuna is injured which could give Mao the space she needs to pass by. Starting off well here will be important for Mao's confidence and luckily, she only has two major competitors to work against. She is returning to her classical roots for both programs (Chopin & Rachmaninov) and though I loved her spunky short last season, classic Mao is best suited for the big song and dance of the Olympic season.

Ashley Wagner (USA) is our best hope for an Olympic medal this season, but she won't do it without
the triple-triple. She did it at the Japan Open and she needs to do it here, at least attempt it, or I don't think it will happen all season. She won Skate America last year so she has nothing to prove in terms of winning the event. I would rather she try the triple-triple, fall, and not win the event, rather than skipping it to play it safe. Grand Prix titles are great, but we only really remember Olympic medalists. Julia Sebestyen, anybody? Give us that sexy Romeo & Juliet and give us that 3-3 combo and we will all be thrilled to death!

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) is a tale of two skaters. She blew us away her first year on the GP circuit with her jumps and her Slutskaya-fierce dramatics, but last year she fizzled out. Which skater is she? How is the Plushenko circus affecting her? Will she even make that Olympic team? There are so many questions surrounding this skater, and hopefully we will get some answers this week.

Elena Radionova (RUS) is the 2013 version of the 2011 Tuktamysheva.
She is the next best thing in a long line of "next best thing" Russian figure skaters. She is the reigning Junior World Champ and she's knocking at the door of the other Russian ladies. She's a teeny tiny peanut with great jumps until I see otherwise, but in a field of head cases, she could win out.

Samantha Cesario (USA) is one of my new favorites because she is a diva. She has a swagger and she knows it. She's not afraid of how she comes across and that is exciting for US Figure Skating. She has that pizzazz that we've been lacking and I'm so interested to see how she will do in the National spotlight. This could go either way.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Mao Asada (JPN)
Silver: Ashley Wagner (USA)
Bronze: Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)

The Rest of the Field:
Mae Berenice Meite (FRA)
Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO)
Valentina Marchei (ITA)
Elena Radionova (RUS)
Viktoria Helgesson (SWE)
Samantha Cesario (USA)
Caroline Zhang (USA)

2013 Skate America: Mens Preview

I'll preface by saying that there are no clear cut favorites in this Men's Event so my predictions are merely an educated guess. That being said, I'm THRILLED that figure skating season is back (especially in this Olympic year) and I am happy to get back to covering this gorgeous and dramatic sport with my skating family. Since the Men kick off Skate America with their Short Program Friday 10/18 at 7:00 pm EST, let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. They finish up Saturday at 7 with their free skate.

I have to go with a little combination of my gut and my heart here. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) will win this event. He is in the twilight of his career, and his body isn't what it used to be, but his artistry will carry him through this final Olympic season. His Lennon & McCartney free skate will showcase his showmanship and allow him to wrap the audience around his little finger as he always does. He only placed 6th at the 2013 Worlds, but I think he has the grit and the drive to go out with a bang this season. This event was a lucky draw for him in that he won't have to face Chan or Fernandez here in Detroit.

Max Aaron (USA) is the reigning US Champion and finished just behind Takahashi at the 2013 Worlds. While Takahashi is finishing a stellar career, Aaron is just beginning. He is poised to make a splash on his first senior Grand Prix circuit, and he will have the advantage of the home crowd. His technique is phenomenal and he is making leaps and bounds as a performer, though that will never be his strength. He will channel a younger Takahashi in his Historia de un Amor short and almost every other skater in the world with his Carmen free. I've been hearing good things about it, but I purposely am not watching any programs because I want to be surprised at the GP events. I think that great technical abilities and some home cooking will help him earn a medal in Detroit.
Denis Ten (KAZ) was the surprise of the 2013 Worlds. He has always been a talented but streaky skater, and he finally put it all together last March to earn a Silver at Worlds. Many even believed he deserved to beat a flawed Chan. This season will really tell the tale: is he still a streaky skater who will struggle with the mental aspect of the sport, or will he finally hold it together for a full season and prove that he belongs at the top of the sport? I think that his new International success will help improve his PCS scores, but that can only happen if he holds it together with the jumps. I think he'll make mistakes, but do enough to take a podium spot here in Detroit.

Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) is facing probably the biggest season of his life. He is still young enough to
keep competing for several years, but he is at a crossroads in his career. He shows such promise early in this Olympic cycle, earning a World medal in 2011, but he has been sliding since then. He once had such clean technique, but he looks to be lacking confidence in his jumps and he lacks the showmanship of Takahashi and some of the other top men. If he can stay consistent, he will make Japan's Olympic team, but in such a competitive country, he won't make it to Sochi if he starts faltering early on.

Adam Rippon (USA) is one of our all time favorites, but this is a crucial year for him as well. After the 2010 Olympics, he seemed poised to take over the role of top male in the US, but that hasn't happened yet. He has made the coaching changes and every year we feel like this is the year for him, but something else happens that keeps him from taking that step forward. He earns the PCS for his artistry and his smooth lines, but he needs that quad. Let's stop talking about the quad and just do the quad, well that and the triple axel too. He is a very heady skater, so if he doesn't show well here at Skate America, that could be the season for him. If he does do well (and we are pulling for him) that could be just the confidence boost that he needs to ace the Grand Prix and earn a spot to Sochi.

I have to talk about Jason Brown (USA) because I love him and that's all there is to it. He, in my
opinion, is the future of US Men's figure skating because he really has it all, plus he isn't afraid to go all out and try new things, something we've been lacking in recent years. His new River Dance free is supposedly spectacular, but as I said above, I have been making myself wait until this weekend to watch them. Nobody is expecting him to medal, this is his first senior GP event, but because he has no pressure, watch out for him because he just could earn a medal if the favorites flame out

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Silver: Max Aaron (USA)
Bronze: Denis Ten (KAZ)

The Rest of the Field:
Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Artur Gachinski (RUS)
Alexander Majorov (SWE)
Jason Brown (USA)
Adam Rippon (USA)