Friday, November 28, 2014

NHK Trophy Men's short



Yuzuru Hanyu:

Takahito Mura was very near to perfection. His short program featured a quad toe (slightly two footed)-triple toe a triple axel and a triple ltz in the second half of the program. The spins weren't exceptional and lost some levels on them. 86.28

Jeremy Abbott executed a somehow conservative program without any quad, which happens to be a very good strategy for him. He executed a triple flip-triple toe combo and a triple lutz with great quality and then a gorgeous triple axel in the second half of the program. He didn't receive very high program components compared to usual (and other skaters) that resulted in a score of 81.51.

Daisuke Murakami skated early in the first group but as he nailed a quad salchow-double toe, a triple axel and triple flip. 79.68

Sergei Voronov hasn't been able to replicate his wonderful performance deliverd at Cup of Russia few weeks ago: he did a quad toe-double toe to begin but then two footed his triple axel. 78.93

Yuzuru Hanyu had a very rough short program: he fell on the quad toe and on the triple lutz, didn't do any combo and looked tired at the end of the program. The triple axel in the second half of the program was something of absolute beauty but wasn't enough to assure him his usual scores. 78.01

NHK Trophy ladies short program



Gracie Gold won the NHK short program with a 0.05 points gap between her and a great Leonova. Her technical performance was spot on as she nailed a triple lutz-triple toe and a triple loop in the second half of the program. 68.16

Alena Leonova surprised at NHK, considering her negative appereance of the last competitions, as she performed a clean and delightful short program featuring a splendid triple toe-triple toe, a spread eagle into the double axel and a triple flip.68.11

Kanako Murakami had by far her best performance of the season. She showed off her incredible musicality as well as a triple toe-triple toe combo and a triple flip. However some of her jumps were considered short of rotation and lost a couple of points on the technical mark. 64.38

Satoko Miyahara had the same problems as her compatriot: she presented a very difficult technical content featuring a triple lutz-triple toe and a triple flip, but she often gets a under rotation on them and that caused her technical score to lower dramatically.

Polina Edmunds completely bombed her short program falling on her triple luzt and popping the flip.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NHK Trophy preview


The NHK Trophy is the last of the grand prix events of the 2014-2015 season before the final in Barcelona. Here are my podium predictions.

MEN


1. Yuzuru Hanyu: no matter what you throw at him he will always pull it off. Yuzuru Hanyu might not be at his best, considering the serious injury he has been exposed to in his last grand prix appereance. In fact, after the collision with Han Yan at Cup of China, he spent several days out of practice in order to fully recover. He claimed that he is determined to compete at his home competition, and, as brian Orser claimed, he has been training for 9 days landing all jumps, inclding quads. His strategy should be to water down a little bit his extremely demanding programs to get the qualification for the final.
2. Takahito Mura: he surprisingly won at Skate Canada defeating Javier Fernandez. he probably doesn't have the same sofistication of Hanyu and Machida, however he was able to get a monstrous 173 in his free skate which featured two quads and two triple axels.

3.Alexei Voronov: he is not his federation's favourite as well, but at Rostelecom Cup he pulled off two incredible performances, especially in the short program. His technical prowess will very likely puti him ahead of the other talented but inconsistent skaters of this event.

DANCE


1. Weaver/Poje: prediction is made very easy here. The leading Canadian dance team is in a very good place to win their second grand prix event in Japan. Their main goal will rather be scoring enough to send a message to the other dance teams who have won the other grand prixs. In fact, both Chock/Bates and Papadakis/Cizeron have scored incredibly high in the last few weeks, and performing well during this weekend is absolutely key for the rest of Weaver/Poje's season.

2. Coomes/Buckland: they have also dramatically improved in this fall season. They got their first grand prix medal (a bronze) in Russia two weeks ago. Their free skate was spot on, but they bombed the short program technique wise, so they have still room for improvement.

3. Sinitsina/Katsalapov: one of the weirdest thing of this grand prix season is that Ilinykh/Zhiganshin's grand prix final qualification will occur just if Sinitsina/Katsalapov get into the second place here in Japan. This couple debuted at Cup of Russia for the first time, where they performed pretty decently. 



LADIES


1. Gracie Gold: the ladies event at NHK Trophy is a very peculiar one for the fact that none of the ladies has ranked more than third in a previous grand prix. Gracie Gold, Satoko Miyahara and Kanako Murakami are the ones who got a podium position so far in the series. Even though a lot of promising and talented skaters are listed in the NHK entries, no one really stood out in this fall season and anything could happen. I am predicting Gracie Gold to be the winner because she is the most consistent out of the "more experienced" competitors and because she has been reported to have improved her condition after Skate America.

2. Kanako Murakami: she was very lucky to get on the podium at Cup of China, because her free skate performance was under any expectation. She was completely out of control during the first half of her program as she popped several jumps. That has to be said that the quality of her skating is incredible and she has all the potential to perform better in front of her home crowd.

3. Satoko Miyahara: Satoko has had a great season last year winning her first National Championships medal, which is quite something in Japan. She has a very good musicality and she schedules an interesting set of jumps. She tends to under rotate every now and then, but I believe that she has an edge over the others in this competition. The only one who could likely get on the podium is Polina Edmunds. However, the US silver medalist has two lutzes and two flips that are often considered a wrong edge. the result is that her technical score is negatively affected by this call.


PAIRS


1.Kavaguti/Smirnov vs Duhamel/Radford: honestly, both Kavaguti/Smirnov and Duhamel/Radford could win this competition, as the scores they previously got are very similar, and technical content is almost the same for the two couples. As far as free skate is concerned, they both dare a throw quad salchow that they both nailed in their last grand prix. Duhamel/Radford have a slightly higher technical content as they schedule their famous triple lutz side by side; on the other hand Kavaguti/Smirnov have an edge on the second segment of the score due to their maturity, flow and overall skating quality.

3.Yu/Jin: the reigning world junior champions debuted in the senior circuit at Cup of China, where they made history for it being the first time a single nation got all three podium spots. They came in second there, but they didn't express all of their potential as they lost many points on an aborted lift. Assuming that they won't rank any higher than third at NHK Trophy, their goal is to score enough to get a ticket for the final in Barcelona. In order to achieve that, they will need o score more that Tarasova/Morozov did at Cup of Russia (around 173 points overall).



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pairs TEB free skate



Stolbova/Klimov: 3twist, throw 3f, sbs 3t-2t-2t, reverse lasso, death spiral, sbs spin, choreo spin, sbs 2a, backward lasso, pair spin, press lift, throw 3s. 138.61

Sui/Han: 4twist, sbs 3t-2t-2t out of sinc but completed, gorgeous and innovative press lift, throw 3f, pair spin, sbs 3s, throw 3s, sbs spin, choreo sequence, death spiral, reverse lasso, axel lasso. Very determined to nail all the elements. 133.41 with almost 70 of TES

Wang/Wang: 3twist, sbs 3t-1t, sbs 2s, axel lasso, death spiral, throw 3f, throw 3lo, choreo sequence, backward lasso, sbs spin, reverse lasso, pair spin. Except for th side by side jumps there was quality throughout. 118.72

Scimeca/Knierim: gorgeous 3twist, sbs 3s, sbs 2a-2t (2t under rotated for Alexa), axel lasso, throw 3loop, sbs spin, reverse lasso, throw 3flip, pair spin, axel lasso, choreo sequence, death spiral. excellent performance. 120.28

James/Cipres: Angels and Demons. 3twist with a scratchy landing, sbs 3t-2t-2t, sbs 3s, death spiral, pair spin, axel lasso, throw 3lz, choreo sequence, sbs spin out of sinc in the middle but nicely recovered, throw 3s landed forward, backward lasso, press lift. 113.68

Della Monica/Guarise: Mask of Zorro. 3twist, sbs 3s-2t, sbs 2a, pair spin, throw 3lo, death spiral, reverse lasso, choreo sequence, axel lasso, throw 3s, star lift, sbs spin with great unison. they have improved dramatically from last season. 107.79

TEB ladies free skate


Elena Radionova: Rachmaninoff. 3lz-3t, 3f, 3lzstep sequence, combo spin, 3lo-1lo-3s, 2a, 2a, 3lo-2t, flying combo spin, choreo sequence, layback spin. Great performance

Julia Lipnistakaya: Romeo and Juliet. 2a-3t-2t to start, 2a-3t, flying camel spin, step sequence, 2lo, 3s, rough 3f, 3f under rotated and fall, 3lz-2t, choreo sequence, layback spin, combo spin. Spins save her, but jumps are not her usual. She has come back to her junior schedule, with many jumps in the second half of the program, but she looks incredibly tired as the program progresses. 118.39

Ashley Wagner: Moulin Rouge soundtrack. 2a, 3f fall, 3s, flying sit spin, flying combo spin, 3lo-2t, 3f-1t, 3lo, step sequence, 3lz-3t very brave but terribly under rotated, choreo sequence, combo spin. 116.39

Courtney Hicks: Anna Karenina soundtrack. 3f-2t, 3s, flying camel spin, 3lo, combo spin, 3lz-2t-2lo, 3lz, step sequence, 2a-1a, 3f, choreo sequence, combo spin finished after the music stopped. Jumps are her biggest strenght, they are very high and long. Big congratulations on presenting two lutzes and two flips 116.88

Mae-Berenice Meite: 2a, 3s-3t, 3lz turn out, 3f, layback spin, 2a-3t, 3lo-2t, 3s, problematic flying camel, step sequence, choreo sequence, combo spin. Amazing jumps, anything else was not very convincing but good jumps go a long way. 111.85

Samantha Cesario: Carmen. 3lo-1lo-2s, 3t,3f-2t, combo spin, 3lz (wrong edge), 3lo, 3f-2t, layback spin, step sequence, 2a, choreo sequence. Good jumps, average spins and steps. Loved the choreo sequence, one of the best I have ever seen, thanks to some gorgeous spread eagles. 106.51

Maria Artemieva: gigantinc 3lz-2t, 3lo fall, 3t, 3t-2t, combo spin, step sequence nicely interpreted, 2a fall, scratchy landing on the 3lz short of rotation, 2a fall, layback spin, choreo sequence, combo spin. Such a pleasant skater to watch but for some reason she can't jump with consistence. 104.11

Haruka Imai: Giselle program. 2a-3t nice and flowy, no rotation issues, 3f, 3s-2t, layback spin (quite short with no biellmann), camel spin, 3lo-2t, popped her second triple loop, 3s(< hand down), 2a. Step sequence and choreo sequence were quite slow and with no energy. Finished with a combo spin. She is very interesting but needs to improve transitions wise. TOT: 99.98

Anna OVCHAROVA: 3lz-3t, 3lo-2t (first jumps of the combos to be reviewed rotation wise), 1lz, 3lo, 2a, 3f (very under rotated), 2a-1lo-2s. 32.68 for TES

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cup of China Men's free skate recap

Image preview

The men's free skate of Cup of China was going on in the most regular way when the most tragic warm up of the last years happened. If you didn't happen to get involved in the drama of this competition that is what briefly happened. During the warm up of the men's second group, Han Yan and Yuzuru Hanyu collided. They were both lying on the ice, when the warm up was interrupted and the injured athlets taken off the ice to be visited. 
About 15 minutes later the athletes were allowed a supplementary warm up. Han Yan, who was hit  on the shoulder and chin wasn't present, so that according to many it was clear that he had withdrawn from competition. Yuzuru Hanyu, who had apparently passed out because of a head concussion, appeared in the warm up with a bandage on his head. He nailed some jumps during those minutes but was clearly in pain. Video of the crash

As the second group started to skate, everyone was concerned with the health conditions of the two skaters and the whole competition was shadowed by the accident.
Nam Nguyen and Richard Dornbush both pulled off a very convincing free skate, with highs and lows. In particular Nam Nguyen did a similar skate as the one of Skate America with a very solid quad salchow and a couple of triple axels. Richard Dornbush, who got his first grand prix medal today, started very well but fell on a triple lutz and popped few jumps.

Han Yan decided to compete after all, and it has to be said that he tried anything he could for his crowd, but he didn't perform at his best, as obvious. Yuzuru Hanyu followed him. He proved to be able to fight during the whole program, tried two quads (he was scheduled to do three) but fell five times. He nailed an incredible triple axel-1loop-triple salchow, but apart from that the only high base value of his program held him into the second place overall. After the free skate he was absolutely exhausted, cried his heart out when he saw the result and after that needed to be carried away the kiss and cry. We could discuss if it was appropriate that his staff and the referee allowed him to skate. Brian Orser stated that Yuzuru was very determined to skate and was allowed to skate because it showed that he was not in severe conditions. However the Japanese Olympic champion is now being checked by doctors and nothing too serious should have happened.

Maxim Kovtun was the last to skate and appeared as shocked as anyone else in his free skate. He nailed a quad salchow and a triple axel, struggled throughout but managed to get his first gold grand prix medal.

Tuktamysheva wins Cup of China


Tuktamysheva performed a clean and solid free skate featuring six triples. She did a good triple toe-triple toe in the second half of the program. Her only flaw was the second lutz doubled at the beginning of the program, but considering the poor competition she has had, that was more than enough to win her third grand prix event and qualified for the final. 3lz-2t-2lo, 2lz, 3f, 3t-3t, 3lo, 3s-2a, 2a 196.20

Julia Lipnitskaia had a unexpected disastrous free skate. She started off well with a 2 axel-triple toe-double toe but then she started to struggle on every element she did. She fell on the triple salchow and triple flip, under performed the flying camel spin, stumbled on the steps and popped several jumps. Because she had 10 points lead on Murakami after the short and basically no one except Tuktamisheva delivered today, she gained the silver medal. 173.57


Kanako Murakami started off her free skate very badly landing a triple loop, a usually solid jump, on two foot and a single axel-single toe combination. After a very weak start both technique and performance wise, she regrouped and managed to mantain her podium position thanks to the gap between her and Edmunds in the short program. 169.39

Polina Edmunds came back strong after a quite disastrous short program. She nailed some very good jumping passes, such as a triple lutz-triple toe. She pulled off two axels and seven triples. However some of her jumps were under rotated and ahe lost almost 10 technical points as the judges reviewed the elements. 161.27

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lipnitskaia and Tuktamisheva on top of the Cup of China ladies short program




















Russia smashed the competition as in the others grand prixs so far. Julia Lipnitskaia performed stunningly despite she has had some problems during the early months of the season. She avoided the triple lutz, but nailed a triple toe-triple toe  and a triple flip. Elizaveta Tuktamisheva continued her winning strike with an incredible short program. She nailed everything in her program including a triple toe-triple toe and a gorgeous triple lutz.

Kanako Murakami debuted her Panthom of the Opera short program. She was quite solid with a triple toe-triple toe combination. She stepped out of her triple flip but gave an overall good performance. Gabrielle Daleman wasn't one of the most promising skater of the competition, but with prominent skaters struggling across the board she deservingly placed with a clean short program featuring a huge triple toe-triple toe.


Zijun Li was highly expected as the only female chinese skater here. She skated better considering the lows of the past season. She completed a good triple flip-triple toe but her worst mistake was on the triple loop, where she fell. That has to be said that she completed the jump in the second half of the program and preceeded by an interesting series of steps. The other elements of the program were well executed, although she finished very tired.

Polina Edmunds continued the series of underwhelming short programs in the first group of the ladies short program. She fell on the triple lutz, which was meant to be on combination, did a good triple flip yet with a slight wrong edge. The other elements were mighty good, but a fall and no combination lowered her technical score and she placed.


lipni: 3t-3t, 3lutz

Shibutanis win Cup of China short dance


Maia and Alex Shibutani performed with great passion and energy. They skated clean and scored their season best getting into first place in the short program.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, reigning European and World champions, had a little bit of trouble going into the twizzles and on other elements. They scored the fourth technical score of the segment and will need to bring their A game to recover an almost 3 points gap with the Shibutanis.

Papadakis/Cizeron had great ambitions in this grand prix and they performed very well technique wise. They put themselves in a good position in order to conquer their first senior grand prix medal.

Cup of China was the international debut for the newly formed couple Ilinykh/Ziganshin. Second to skate in the first group, they gave positive signals, scoring over 60 points. Their fortes were the no touch and the twizzles, struggled a little bit more on the paso doble sequences. Their performance level and their chemistry wasn't exceptional and they will need to work a lot to become world contenders, but they surely are incredible talents and have a great room for improvement.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The best of Skate America 2014

Madison Chock and Evan Bates

Skate America opened up the 2014/2015 grand prix series. Here is a list of the most noticeable facts of the competition.

DANCE EVENT
*Chock/Bates won their first grand prix event of their career beating the Shibutanis
*USA conquered for the first time in a grand prix dance event the gold and silver medal
*The young Russian couple Stepanova/Bukin got their first senior bronze medal despite a serious accident occured in practice
*Canadian couple Paradis/Ouelette placed in 4th overall after being 8th in the short program with a very interesting free skate

MEN'S EVENT
*Tatsuki Machida won the competition with over 35 points of lead on the second placed with two impressive programs
*Jason Brown conquered his second grand prix medal finishing in second place
*Nam Nguyen won a unexpected bronze medal coming from the 7th place of the short program. He nailed a quad salchow, a couple of good triple axels and was spot on on every other element of his free program
*Jeremy Abbott, in second place after the short program, struggled on many jumps and got a fifth place overall
*Denis Ten struggled here and there and placed fourth

PAIRS EVENT
*Kavaguti/Smirnov, who were solidly in first place after the short, has a spectacoular free skate nailing all of their elements, including a triple toe-triple toe sequence and a throw quad salchow. They won with 209.16
*Denney/Frezier, newly coached by Ingo Steuer who trains them alongside with their previeous coaches Fontana and Zimmerman, showed off a massive improvement from past season and performed a very clean free skate. They owned their first grand prix medal with 183.84 points.
*Peng/Zhang have improved choreography and transition wise, but struggled with side by side jumps. In spite of a gorgeous quad twist and two very solid throws, they lost the second place.

LADIES EVENT
*Elena Radionova won Skate America after being second in the short program. She nailed seven triples including a triple lutz-triple toe and a triple loop-single loop-triple salchow.
*Elizaveta Tuktamisheva got the silver medal with an overall clean yet conservative free skate counting 5 triples.
*Gracie Gold manteined her third place from the short program scoring the highest components of the night (63.22). Her jumps were tight and temptative. She wasn't given credit for a double salchow-double toe-double toe because she had already done a double toe which cannot be repeated for more than two times (new technical rule).

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why Yuna Kim should have won the Sochi Olympics



In my ladies preview a couple of days ago I wrote that I expected the Russian ladies to be overscored in this event, as it had been a trend of these Olympics. I had also written that as much as Sotnikova or Lipnitskaya could skate well, if Yuna Kim brought her A game, no one would have been able to beat her. Well, judges never cease to amaze me. Yuna skated two perfect programs, with just a little, very little, bubble on a triple lutz, yet she was put in second place. Kim's silver medal has been considered a scandal by many people, including athletes, former athletes, coaches, fans, broadcasters from every country (except Russia). When I personally saw her scores coming out, I started yelling at the television as many of you. But then I cooled down and took a look at the protocols with a much more composed attitude. I haven't changed my opinion: Yuna deserved the gold.

WHERE THE 6 POINTS DIFFERENCE LIES
When the speaker announced Adelina's score I thought: "They scored her high enough to challenge Kim". And I was right. 149 is the best score of this quadriennal and Yuna had to do anything perfectly to replicate that and take the gold. That was absolutely in her possibilities, if she did something similar to her free skate performance at Worlds last year. As I said hundreds of times now, she was perfect, yet she received 4 points less than last year even if she skated an almost identical program. How this could be possible? How come in a system where scores inflate every year she could earn six points less than Sotnikova? The answer is very simple and very evident for everyone: GOEs and components.

THE COMPONENTS HISTERIA
There are so many things I could say about how hilariously components were given: Sotnikova tied with Kim and above Kostner, a clean Asada surpassed by a struggling Lipnitskaya is something beyond my worst nightmares. A lot of people have been said that, at the end of the day, the components scores are determined by the subjective opinion of the judges. There might be something true in that, but let's not forgive that the ISU gives a detailed explanation about what skaters are required to do to achieve that "artistic perfection".
Yuna and Carolina (and Mao for sure, but I guess that skating in the second group did affect her marks) should get higher components than Adelina not because of their reputation but because their choreography and interpretation has nothing to do with Sotnikova's. Adelina has great skating skills and maybe more transitions than the others (even though they are not original nor very high quality moves compared to Kim's), but in the voices Performance, Choreography and Interpretation her scores are just unjustifiable. If you watch these three programs back to back you will definetely see that especially Kim's free, but also Kostner's, has a more sophisticated concept, is better portrayed on the ice, phrases the music perfectly.
Yuna's Adios Nonino is an incredibly complex program that gives you femininity, sensuality, fierce, melancholy, sadness and lightness in four minutes. A landslide from Sotnikova.

BLOW ON GOE
Furthermore, Adelina has earned an enormous technical score. That has to be said that she skated incredibly well and that was not easy for her, considering the pressure she was facing. However, she received more than deserved compared to others. The GOE on any of her elements were super high as never before. Is not that her elements were not worthy of those points, but it is difficult to understand why Yuna consistently received lower GOEs for perfectly executed jumps and spins. As I wrote before, Yuna practically skated a replica of last year's free skate at worlds technique wise, but lost over four points in the GOEs of the elements with no reason at all.

Obviously, this result damages the image of the sport especially because the controversy happened during the Olympics. Honestly, I have no idea about what will happen in the future to the athletes. For sure Adelina won't ever be invited to a Korean show and The 2018 Olympics might be difficult for her. The competition and how it was judge will damage Adelina as well in the long term: on one side the shadows and the doubts about these Olympics will always be around her, and on the other side she won't probably get this kind of result in the future and her improvement on the quality of her skating and on her artistry, just because you can't get more than 10 in the pcs.

I want to conclude that I really admire Adelina Sotnikova because she skated with an incredible competitive strenght, believing in her skating and confident as a veteran. She is a pure talent, a complete skater who will become one of the best ever once she will get maturity. A lot of things have been said about her and I honestly despise everyone who has had an offensive attitude towards her. After all it has been an amazing competition with several great skates and this is how I will remember these Olympic games. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Olympic preview: Ladies (and thoughts on ongoing components scores...)


In the ladies event in Sochi, the competition will be incredibly unpredictable.
Three former world champions will fight for a medal: Yuna Kim, Mao Asada and Carolina Kostner.
Before going into details about each of these skaters, I would like to spend some words on the Russian skaters and how the “home advantage” is working for them. There have been a lot of criticism about the scores given to the Russians which seem to have been “raising to the occasion” to assure as many medals as possible to the host country. I have to say that I have never been keen on thinking that figure skating was all about politics and corruption and I am sure that this is not what is happening in Sochi right now, but some of the scores given in this week show at least a tendency to be quite generous towards those Russian athletes who might approach to the podium. That is what happened to Stolbova/Klimov, who got a components score of 71 against a 62 given just a year ago to the same program, or to Ilinykh/Katsalapov who bettered their free dance score of over 7 points in a week, a unprecedented improvement in ice dance. That has to be said that both these teams probably skated the programs of their lives and haven’t earned a medal undeservingly, yet their scores were so high that it would have been impossible for anyone else to challenge them.
Considering all these aspects, it would be foolish not to expect the young Russian girls to receive incredible scores. Both Lipnitskaya and Sotnikova have great results in their records and both of them might represent a gold medal threat. The two are very different one from the other: Lipnitskaya is less experienced and mature, yet very consistent on any technical element, Sotnikova has a more refined skating, brilliant transitions and skating skills, but she is more emotional and less solid on jumps. In my opinion, which is not guided by personal taste but by what ISU has always researched and declared to want from a skater, these two skaters’ components shouldn’t be ANY close to Kim’s or Asada’s. As much as the Russians have improved during this year, there shouldn’t be any doubt that both Kim and Asada are incomparable in terms of skating skills, interpretation, phrasing of the music, projection of the program and complexity of the choreography.
However, Lipnitskaya, who usually has a lower pcs than Sotnikova, received in the team event a pcs very similar to Asada’s in the short (Asada fell in that program, though) and was scored a 69 in that department in the free skate, just a couple of points less than the Worlds 2013 free skate performance by Yuna Kim.
To sum up, considering that Lipnitskaya, Sotnikova, Kim and Asada have more or less the same potential on the technical score, medals will come down to who performs the best, regardless of the artistry of the skater. If they all perform at their best, which might be difficult for Asada due to her extremely risky technical content, Kim and Asada should be in the top two. It has been reported that Mao is consistently landing her triple axel in practice, but any little mistake will be very costly and therefore out of the four named before, she is the most likely to finish off the podium. The same could be said by Sotnikova, who is not known for being incredibly consistent. She has an enormous potential though, and if she nails the short program she will receive way more than 70 points.
There are so many others who could fight for a medal, but none of them is as competitive as these four. Carolina Kostner equals or tops the others for maturity and artistry, but she doesn’t have all the technical difficulties; others like Gracie Gold, Kanako Murakami, Akiko Suzuki miss something to be on the podium as well.

PODIUM PICKS
Gold: Yuna Kim
Silver: Julia Lipnitskaya
Bronze: Adelina Sotnikova


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Olympic preview: Men



Schedule
Short program: 13th February h 19.00
Free skate: 14th February h 19.00

In the Men event the medal contention is extremely open and a there is a wide bunch of competitors who could fight for the gold medal.
Patrick Chan is surely one of the favourites for the Olympic title. The three times world champion has had a very consistent season showing incredibly strong performances as he did at the Trophee Eris Bompard. He is an incredibly complete athlete with a supreme skating quality. If he skates at his best, no one would be al├Čble to take his gold medal away. However this season's experience has proved that he doesn't have much room for mistakes as in the past, but any insecurity could be a dangerous advantage to others.
The Canadian champion has indeed a strong competition ahead: Yuzuru Hanyu on top is a gold medal thread. Yuzuru Hanyu is the male skater who has improved the most in the last couple of years: after winning the bronze medal at the 2012 World Championships, he started to collect success after success. He has an incredible capability of getting a lot of points with jumps. He is the only one who has equalled and bettered Chan's scores. He has a very strong short program and a challenging free skate with two quads and two triple axels in the second half of the program. He has never been able to nail his quad salchow in this season, but his technical scores have always been very high for a solid quad toe and the two amazing triple axels. If he gets the salchow done, he won't have competition on the technical mark.

Japan has a medal shot from its other two skaters Tatsuki Machida and Daisuke Takahashi. Tatsuki Machida has been the surprise of the Japanese team of the season. Although he had showed his talent even before, Machida had an incredible improvement this year climbing the national ranking up to becoming the Japanese silver medalist behind Hanyu. He has both a pretty good solidity on jumps and other technical elements  and a good quality of skating (provided by the typical Japanese knee bend), often under rated. Considering the strong field, Tatsuki doesn't have an easy way to the podium, but if anyone collapses, he may very well sneak in.
Daisuke Takahashi, the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist, has had a tough fall season that culminated with the fourth place at Nationals. He has struggled with his jumps all season long and in this sense the Morozov coaching hasn't helped him at all. But whenever he nails them, he becomes one of the most competitive skater in the world. As it has been reported, Daisuke has been struggling in his recent practices in Sochi, so that it is difficult to consider him a medal thread, even though he has the potential to battle for the gold.

Javier Fernandez of Spain has been struggling in his grand prix series as well, but a brilliant outcome at European Nationals did put him back in the list of strong competitors going for an Olympic medal. He wasn't perfect in Budapest, anyway he proved to be solid on his most valuable jumps and if he fixes his pointed jumps, in which he usually struggles the most, his skating should be worth a top three finish.

Something needs to be said about Eugeni Plushenko. After all he has been through, just few imagined he could have been a top contender in Sochi. However, he proved in the team event to be physically and emotionally ready to challenge in his last Olympics. Despite the several surgeries and injuries of the last couple of years, he managed a super clean short program and a good free skate, where he wasn't perfect, especially in the second half, but nailed a quad and a couple of stunning triple axels in a somehow conservative program. He will need to give everything he has in the individual event if he wants to medal in such a tough competition. Probably, even considering that he shouldn't get the same components score as some others mostly due to a lack of transitions, he won't be able to get the gold here. Yet, his incredible experience might take him ahead of younger competitors.

PODIUM PICKS
Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver: Eugeni Plushenko
Bronze: Yuzuru Hanyu

Friday, February 7, 2014

Olympic preview: Pairs



Pairs short program: 11th Febraury, h 19.00 (GMT +4)
Pairs free skate: 12th Febraury, h 19.45

The Pairs' event will open the figure skating individual competition next Tuesday. The gold contetion will be between the world champions Volosozhar/Trankov and Savchenko/Szolkowy.
Both of the teams are looking forward to nothing less than a gold medal. On paper, Volosozhar/Trankov should win the competition. The home Olympic title seemed a lock for the Russian team until December, when they started to show some sign of weakness. They have reached incredibly high scores during the fall season (they own all the records) that made them look unbeatlable by anyone else in the circuit. However, they showed to feel the competition pressure when they skated just after Savchenko/Szolkowy in the Grand Prix final, where, taken by the nerves, they finished behind their German competitors, and during the European Championships free skate where they managed to get the gold (even because Savchenko/Szokowy had withrawn) but collected mistake after mistake.
As for Savchenko/Szolkowy, they will have their last chance to get that only medal that has eluded them. Compared to the Russian team, they can count on slightly lower GOEs and components, so that if both couples skate up to their best, Volosozhar/Trankov have an egde on them. The Germans have therefore tried to insert more difficult elements (the thorw triple axel on top of those) in their programs to close the gap with the Russians. The question is weather they will be able to nail a clean performance as well. At Grand Prix final they won with a relatively conservative program, but I am not sure that would be enough for the gold here.
To sum up, Russians and Germans have both a significant chance to be crowned Olympic champions and won't be room for mistakes for anyone. Savchenko/Szolkowy need to try all of their tricks, putting them in an enormous risk considering that they have never landed a clean throw triple axel, whereas Volosozhar/Trankov have already showed that they can nail an "Olympic gold medal perfomance", but they will face the incredible pressure of being the team specifically created for Olympic gold.

As far as the bronze medal is concerned, the couples fighting for it are: Pang/Tong and Duhamel/Radford. Pang/Tong of China, the 2010 Olympic silver medalists are undeniably the favourites for a medal. They might not be the strongest technique wise, but if they nail what they plan to do, their exquisite artistry and amazing throws and twist should put them in a good position for a medal contention.
Duhamel/Radford haven't had the most spectacular season of their life after they won the bronze at Worlds last year, but if they skate as cleanly as they did at the team event's short program, their dary technical content could be a threat for others.

PODIUM PICKS
Gold: Volosozhar/Trankov
Silver: Savchenko/Szolkowy
Bronze: Pang/Tong

Sunday, January 12, 2014

European Championships 2014: schedule and preview

SCHEDULE

Wednesday 15th:
10.30 Ladies short
17.30 Short Dance

Thursday 16th:
11.45 Men short
18.25 Free Dance

Friday 17th:
13.30 Pairs short                  
17.50 Ladies free skate

Saturday 18th:
12.05 Men free skate

Sunday 19th:
11.00 Pairs free skate                                           

The 2014 European Championships will take place this week (13-19 January) in Budapest (GMT +1).
It will be the last chance to test programs and technical status before the Olympics in Febraury for many skaters.

The probably strongest field will be the ladies', whose short will open the week of competition. As last year, it is expected to be a Kostner against the Russian girls fight. For Leonova, Lipnitskaya and Sotnikova Europeans won't be just a test before the home Olympics, but also a qualifying competition, since Russia earned two spots for Sochi. Considering the latest outcomes, Lipnitskaya and Sotnikova are very likely to qualify and make the podium. For Lipnitskaya it is going to be her debut at senior European Championships. Althought she is a very strong competitor, she doesn't quite have the experience or maturity of Sotnikova (who is more a rollercoaster instead) and if her compatriot pulls it off as she has done a couple of times this season, she probably wouldn't be able to beat her.
As far as Carolina Kostner is concerned, there is no doubt that she is the most mature artistic and sophisticated skater of the bunch, but her jumps haven't been her best lately and she is coming from a back injury, that caused her to withdraw from Universiade and Nationals, so that is possible that she won't compete at her best in Budapest. She has changed both of her programs which didn't impress as others and she will debut a new short pogram on Ave Maria; as for the free skate, she came back to the Bolero program of last year.


In the men competition, Javier Fernandez will try to defend his title after a disappointing fall season. The Spanish champion hasn't been impressive with his grand prix outings as he missed the podium twice and therefore didn't qualify for the final. His performances in Budapest will make his state of preparation clearer.
Maxim Kovtun is a serious medal contender since he is showing constant improvements; his quads are getting more consistent and he has had a good season, which might help him closing the "components" gap with Fernandez.
For the rest of the field the competition is as open as never before: Michal Brezina will try to defend his bronze medal, but his compatriot Tomas Verner, after few very negative seasons, looks incredibly strong (he hasn't competed in any A competition, though). Florent Amodio is in the mix too, even if his latest competitions haven't been brilliant, especially the Bompard Trophy, where he hardly landed any jumps at all.


The dance event is going to be the most peculiar of all as none of the present skaters have ever won the title before. Infact, both Bobrova/Soloviev and Pechalat/Bourzat decided to not compete in this pre-olympic appointment leaving the podium door wide open.
Ilinykh/Katsalapov and Cappellini/Lanotte are for sure the front-runners of the competition. Cappellini/Lanotte have had a consistent season so far, and if the previous results should be an indication of how Europeans will be, they should be going for gold. The Italian team has already competed against the Russians and beated them at the NHK Trophy and qualified for the grand prix final whereas Ilinykh/Katsalapov didn't. The couple trained by Morozov has alternated ups and downs during the fall season so that it is difficult to foresee what is going to happen, but if they skate somehow clean their higher components will bring them ahead of the Italians.
As for the bronze medal, Riazanova/Tkachenko will likely earn it.

Savchenko/Szolkowy and Volosozhar/Trankov will compete face to face another time before the Olympics. The European gold and silver will surely be theirs, but there is no certainty about who is going to be crown the champions. Volosozhar/Trankov looked unbeatable all season long untill the Grand Prix final where the German team overskated them for the first time since Worlds 2012. In many's opinion, Savchenko/Szolkowy finally won that competition because they decided to leave out the throw triple axel, a very worthy, yet extremely risky element that didn't seem to work so well in competition. Going clean is often a strategy that pays back, however the Fukuoka victory wasn't earned just by avoiding a difficult jump, but also because Volosozhar/Trankov made some mistakes there. The world champions proved that they are human, but that even with a struggling skate they can earn a pretty decent score. Considering that Volosozhar/Trankov would be at their best for when it counts, Savchenko/Szolkowy may very well need that triple axel.
The bronze medal chances are open to Stolbova/Klimov, Bazarova/Larionov and Berton/Hotarek, the defending champions, who have been the most consistent of the bunch, but are slightly inferior to their Russian competitors in terms of quality of some elements (the triple twist for one) and components.