Oct 25, 2014
Some comments on the top 3 ladies short programs at Skate America 2014....
The downward trajectory of Elizaveta Tutkamysheva has been painful to watch over the past few seasons, particularly as she is a Russian ladies skater: one gets the sense that Ms. Tuktamysheva would literally be trampled afoot by the hordes of talented Russian ladies skaters clawing their way up to the podium. After failing to make the Russian Olympic team at her home Olympics, Ms. Tuktamysheva has clearly buckled down and worked hard to improve her skating. Skating to Bolero while dressed in a dark, bat-winged dress (the wings presumably in tribute to Christopher Dean), Ms. Tuktmaysheva placed first in the short program with a clean skate. Ms. Tuktamysheva's choreography has a jerky quality rather incongruous with the music of Bolero, but her jumps looked very good, and she skated the entire performance with a sort of confidence, conviction and speed that has often been missing from her skating for the past couple of seasons.
Oct 14, 2014
Daisuke Takahashi announced his official retirement from competitive figure skating today. This is no surprise to any sentient being who has been keeping tabs on the skating world (except, perhaps, for some mild surprise upon hearing that a skater is actually explicitly announcing his retirement instead of taking an indefinite "break" from competitive figure skating), but inevitability is no panacea for the attendant peculiarities of loss. Instead of moping, however, let's look back at some of Mr. Takahashi's best performances, and drink a toast--to Daisuke Takahashi, for the exceptional skater he has become, and for all the pleasure and joy he has given his fans and the skating world.
Aug 17, 2014
In an article from the New Yorker, Richard Brody discusses music that has personally been ruined for him association with questionable films--specifically, Lars von Trier's ham-fisted use of various beloved classical pieces in Nymphomanic. I certainly can empathise: to me, Prokofiev's otherwise delightful Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet is forever bound up with the luridly torturous experience of watching Tinto Brass' Caligula. Listening to music, as Mr. Brody rightfully points out, is a highly personal experience and there comes a point when it is impossible to dissociate a piece of music from a personal experience--whether that be a film, a specific person, a figure skating performance.
So, what pieces of music have been ruined for me via association with thoroughly unpleasant figure skating programs?
Feb 16, 2014
In many ways, the men's event at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in Canada turned out to be an extremely prescient harbinger of what would eventually transpire at the men's event in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. A down-and-out skater from Kazakhstan overcomes his dismal season to unexpectedly win a medal. The vast majority of the top men skate stumble all over the ice and deliver extremely underwhelming performances.
In other words, typical stuff.
Ok, perhaps not the skater-from-Kazakhstan part, but the fact that most of the men turned in rather dismal performances was fairly predictable as part of a major seismic shift taking place in the men's discipline since 2010. At the 2008 World Championships, Jeffrey Buttle showed how it was possible to win by skating cleanly without a single quadruple jump, starting a trend that eventually cumulated in Evan Lysacek's quad-less victory at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Mr. Lysacek's win in Vancouver was a watershed moment for the men, not only because it was the first time in which a man won the Olympics without a quadruple jump in over a decade, but because of the ridiculous (and extremely partisan) "quad controversy" which ruffled quite a few feathers soon after. Whatever the merits of the quad controversy, its effects were nonetheless very real: the ISU, ever keen to avoid controversy under the harsh glare of the Olympic spotlight, raised the base value of quadruple jumps to over 10 points in a bid to encourage the men to take the risk and attempt more quad jumps.
The first man to take advantage of the newly increased value of quad jumps was Patrick Chan, who later became the poster boy of all the problems and controversies caused by the increased emphasis on quad jumps. Mr. Chan went from attempting zero quads in the 2009-2010 season to attempting three (one in the short program, two in the long program) in the 2010-2011 season. Mr. Chan's high base value afforded to him by his quad jumps, coupled together with his complex programs (helped by some of the residual emphasis on transitions from the previous Olympic cycle) allowed him to completely reverse the trend started by Jeffrey Buttle--that is to say, Mr. Chan showed how it was possible to win by skating messily with lots of quadruple jumps. Mr. Chan was able to capitalize on the fact that many of his competitors initially still seemed to be stuck in the skate-clean-without-a-quad zeitgeist, but by 2012, most of the top men had caught up to Mr. Chan and were attempting as many quads (if not more) as Mr. Chan while skating complex programs stuffed with transitions, level 4 spins and level 4 steps.