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Jul 1, 2015

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!

For those of the non-Canadian persuasion, Canada Day is the day when Canadians ride their pet polar bear and/or moose to the local curling rink, where they gather together to eat poutine and drink from bags of milk. On this auspicious holiday, Canadians are often found garbing themselves in maple leaves (in contrast to their usual flannel lumberjack attire) and being proud of the fact that they are not American. If you find yourself talking to a Canadian today, you can endear yourself to them forever by congratulating them for having a universal healthcare system or gun control. Alternatively, you can delight a Canadian by merely acknowledging the simple fact that Canada exists, and that you are aware of a national holiday at the beginning of July that is not on the 4th of July.

Though ice hockey holds the lion's share of the collective Canadian consciousness with regards to athletic endeavors, Canadians nonetheless have had an illustrious record of success in the sport of figure skating. In lieu of eating poutine and garbing yourself in maple leaf paraphernalia, you may thus celebrate Canada Day in the comfort of your own home by watching the following assortment of memorable programs by Canadian skaters:

Jun 28, 2015

Adios Nonino

Saying that Ástor Piazzolla's Adios Nonino is your favorite tango composition is like saying that the Mona Lisa is your favorite painting, but Adios Nonino is indeed my favorite tango composition despite the fierce competition for that honor (for the record, however, the Mona Lisa is not my favorite painting).

Anyway, I adore Piazzolla, and can often be found listening to various iterations of Adios Nonino on repeat. If I were a competitive figure skater, I would definitely choose to skate to an Adios Nonino long program, perhaps even during an all-important Olympic year when the general public suddenly becomes aware of the existence of figure skating. Many figure skaters (or their choreographers) seem to have similar sentiments regarding Adios Nonino, as it is a relatively common choice for competitive figure skating programs. Without further ado, let's scrutinize a (somewhat random) list of Adios Nonino programs below:

Jun 1, 2015

Judge Bait

Earlier this year, Eddie Redmayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. At the time, my roommate passionately decried the Academy's decision to reward Mr. Redmayne the Best Actor award, calling the whole affair yet another example of the Academy's collective shortsightedness in awarding Oscar bait. Oscar bait, otherwise known as the pejorative term denouncing a film that appears to have been carefully calibrated with the sole intention of winning awards, particularly that golden Art Deco statuette awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. To put it simply, critics of Oscar bait denounce films of that bent as products of pure naked pandering as opposed to true originality or creativity.

As a pretentious snob, I am practically contractually obliged to hate Oscar bait and their ilk. Therein lies the evils that gave rise to mediocrities such as Crash (ugh!!) and Shakespeare in Love (double ugh!!), both of which happen to be Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards in their respective years. And yet, and yet--there are some examples of Oscar baiting films/performances that I loved, or at the very least was impressed by. Charlize Theron was astonishing in Monster, for instance, and I found Schindler's List incredibly affecting (its sequels Schindler's Fist and Schindler's Pissed less so, however). Is Oscar bait inherently bad? Can pandering rise up above its desperation?

All this talk about Oscar bait (yeah, this is an old post) reminds me of one figure skating program this season that has been repeatedly been fingered as a program that has been specially conceived and choreographed to win titles this season, especially the World title: Weaver/Poje's Four Seasons. On its face, it really does seem like Weaver/Poje's Four Seasons has been calibrated to strike directly at the hearts of figure skating judges with its classical warhorse of a musical choice, relatively conventional choreography, among other factors.

Apr 20, 2015

A Comparison of Ladies' Triple Axels (Thus Far)

In honor of Elizaveta Tuktamysheva's successful triple axels of late, here's a comparison of all the ladies who have successfully landed a triple axel at least once at an international ISU competition.

Midori Ito
Midori Ito was the first lady to ever land a triple axel in competition. Ms. Ito's technical abilities as a jumper was so insanely far ahead of her contemporaries such that she is, to me, the Niccolo Paganini of ladies figure skating insofar as she was a phenomenon rather than a development. Put into perspective, when Midori Ito won her world title in 1989 with a triple axel, the most difficult jump in Katarina Witt's world title-winning program in 1988 was a solo triple loop. Similarly, Jill Trenary's gold-medal program at 1990 Worlds had a solo triple flip as its most difficult jump. Admittedly, Ms. Ito's competitive results in the earlier days of her career can be attributed to the role of compulsory figures, which Ms. Ito was known to be rather poor at. But as the numerous technical-mark 6.0s Ms. Ito received in her programs attests, the phenomenal quality of Ms. Ito's jumping ability cannot be denied. In the two decades since Ms. Ito retired from competitive skating, her triple axel still arguably stands as the best ladies triple axel ever. For proof, I submit the following exhibits:

Apr 6, 2015

A Toast to Pairs Skating, IJS version

A post dedicated to those of us still grappling with the results of the pairs event at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships.

By now, the axiom that IJS has destroyed the beauty of pairs skating is a hoary chestnut among the figure skating commentariat. And can you blame them? The memories of level-grubbing atrocities such as catchfoot death spirals and awkward lift positions with various limbs akimo are still very fresh and very painful. But all is not lost in this valley of tears, for we have the skating of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy to show that IJS pairs skating can reach the heights of greatness achieved by the legendary pairs who competed during the halcyon days of 6.0.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. I consider them one of the greatest--if not THE greatest--pairs team to have been competed under the auspices of IJS. They are certainly one of the most decorated pairs teams in terms of medals, but I feel that perceptions of Savchenko/Szolkowy have often been clouded by some of their (admittedly quite ludicrous) costumes, the whole Ingo Steuer/Stasi controversy, Ms. Savchenko's over-generous application of self-tanner, some sloppy gold-winning performances, and their disappointingly underwhelming performances at the Olympic games (and corresponding lack of Olympic gold).