Oct 23, 2011
Skate America 2011: Ze Menfolk
Like coronaviruses and taxes, the Grand Prix season has inflicted itself upon us once more, albeit with (hopefully) cheerier results. Hurray! This year's Grand Prix has kicked off with Skate America, held in Ontario, California, which, judging by the rather empty arena, is a rather Laodicean place unfortunately largely uncoverted to the great religion that is Figure Skating. But we faithful still continue chanting our hymns and whirling our dervishes in hope for the glory days of the early 90s.....(end non sequitur)
Anyway, I for one am extremely glad I did not make public my woefully incorrect predictions for the men's podium at Skate America.
Michal Brezina placed first overall at Skate America--his first Grand Prix victory--albeit with a third-place free skate. With a 9-point lead coming into the short, Mr. Brezina would have to bungle up his free skate quite significantly to give the title away, and he really made it much closer than it should have been. If Mr. Kozuka was really on his proverbial game during the free skate, Mr. Brezina's gold medal would have been toast. It's understandable why Mr. Brezina would go conservative and skate in order to not lose, but it really makes for an anti-climatic event. Plus the jump content Mr. Brezina ended up doing is just embarrassing for a skater with his natural jumping ability. Gorgeous jumps when he's on, but Mr. Brezina really ran out of steam at the end with those pops and the fall--this seems to be a trend. Is it an injury problem? Lack of double run-throughs to build stamina?
I know I've said this before, but Mr. Brezina really needs some better choreography. His new program really isn't much of an improvement from An American in Paris in terms of choreographic sophistication and intricacy. Mr. Brezina was apparently portraying a mixture of the detective from the Untouchables (Good) versus the proverbial devil on one's shoulder (Evil)--hence the split costume, etc--but frankly, I would never have realized this if Kurt Browning wasn't there to enlighten me on this via his commentary. Really blah performance overall by Mr. Brezina. However, what I'm truly puzzled about is where all that techno music is from--if I recall correctly, Ennio Morricone didn't exactly dabble in techno at all. Overall, Mr. Brezina was definitely lucky to be that generously awarded in PCS, especially in comparison with what Takahiko Kozuka received.....
Kevin van der Perren pulled himself up from a fourth-place short program with a first-place free skate that propelled him up to the silver medal position, his first Grand Prix medal in approximately 30951539150913 years. Unfortunately this is rather indicative of how mediocre the skating of the event was overall, but Mr. van der Perren is to be commended for not running out of gas in the second half of his program like every other skater at this event. I also salute him for having the gumption to skate to Alexei Yagudin's signature Man in the Iron Mask music and obviously being inspired by some of that famous Alexei Yagudin choreography. Well, you know how they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Of course, Mr. van der Perren is no Yagudin (and who is, really?), but Mr. van der Perren is what he is: a jumper. And he was impressive jump-wise today. Yes, everything between the jumps was slow and labored (particularly those spins aaagh), but it's not like the judges threw him a bone and anointed him with PCS. Maybe it's the Yagudin nostalgia having its way with me, but I'm glad to see Mr. van der Perren seize the day and win a medal here, especially if he is indeed retiring soon.
Takahiko Kozuka surprised by placing third overall in an event he was widely predicted to win easily. Unlike Patrick Chan, the judges don't exactly cut Mr. Kozuka any slack when he makes major mistakes. Mr. Kozuka's PCS really should be higher in categories such as SS and CH, especially when compared to what Mr. Brezina received. Anyway, almost all of Mr. Kozuka's jumps seemed off today, but I think I'm really starting to 'get' his program...
Richard Dornbush was sort of my dark horse of choice in this competition, and I was almost right. Not the best jumping day for Mr. Dornbush, but he went for the quad and thank Beelzebub he showed some personality and spark in what was otherwise a fairly bleak day in the performance department. Nonetheless, while watching his program I really felt like pulling an Alva Vanderbilt and making Mr. Dornbush wear a steel rod to whip his posture into proper shape.
Florent Amodio placed ninth overall, a shockingly low finish for the reigning European champion. Uncharacteristically, Mr. Amodio allowed his outfit--skintight tiger print shirt with a lime green collar over pants tastefully embellished with sequins, lime green drawstrings and a tiger print patch on his glutes--to do most of the performing at this competition. Mr. Amodio's strength is usually in his charisma and performance ability, and when he phones it in like he did here, the craptastic quality of his choreography is even more embarrassingly evident. The emperor truly has no clothes here. It's appalling how terrible this program is in terms of choreography--it's a horror that perhaps even Alexei Mishin would be ashamed of. It's not just the bizarre music, the crazed costume or the fact that it's a sad facsimile of Daisuke Takahashi's far superior short program from last season--it's that awful bottom-heavy jump layout and the slipshod way the program is slapped together with little cohesion, development or sense. And the sheer amount of time Mr. Amodio spends just standing around is even more obvious than last year's long program. Even if the jumps are on and Mr. Amodio sells the program like the rent's due tomorrow...I really can't see the judges awarding this mess. In fact, this program is so bad that I'm tempted to believe it's the result of a giant Russian conspiracy to ensure that no French man is near the Olympic podium come Sochi.
Overall, a sloppy event for the menfolk, but it's almost expected given that it is the first event of the season.