Oct 30, 2011
Skate Canada: Menz LP
Thank Vishnu there was a lot less outrage in the men's event this time around! Last year's men's event at Skate Canada was such a hot mess in turns of scoring that I am very glad I wasn't blogging back then....
Patrick Chan, to nobody's surprise, placed first overall with 253.74. However, what was surprising was how close the results turned out to be--I for one expected Mr. Chan to win with at least 10 points above the second-place finisher. Oh figure skating, how you never cease to surprise me (sort of). Though I do vastly prefer the choreography and style of Aranjuez over Phantom of the Opera, I must say that I for some reason much prefer his Aranjuez at the Japan Open. Despite the three falls at the Japan Open, I felt he skated to the music much better there--at Skate Canada, it seemed pretty clear that Mr. Chan was thinking the program through at times. Well, I'm sure after the random fall going into the 3Lz, Mr. Chan was just concentrating on not tripping again. Despite this, the judges still anointed Mr. Chan with 9s in interpretation, certain commentators were still pleasuring themselves in their ecstasy over Mr. Chan's artistry last night....I don't get it, just like I don't entirely understand why Mr. Chan gets the generous helping of positive GOEs for certain elements. Somewhere along the way I must have missed the memo that Mr. Chan was the second coming or the divine coupling of Alexei Yagudin, John Curry and Michelle Kwan. It's just like the bad old days when Evgeni Plushenko was the Chosen One to receive some comfortable padding on the PCS and GOEs no matter what and I guess we have to put up with Mr. Chan getting the same treatment until at least Sochi. Oh joy.
Javier Fernandez placed second in the free skate and second overall, his first Grand Prix medal ever. If his performances at Skate Canada are any indication, Mr. Fernandez's skating thrives when he is actually coached by someone who gives a crap about him. Nikolai Morozov may have helped give Mr. Fernandez some beautiful jumps, but the move to Brian Orser has greatly improved his overall polish and choreography. Especially choreography--admittedly, Mr. Fernandez's Pirates was a fun program, but outside of the step sequences and the posing....a lot of Mr. Morozov's choreography was simply upper-body/arm movements.
Astonishingly, Mr. Fernandez came very, very close to matching Mr. Chan's overall. It looks like the only way to beat Mr. Chan right now is to outjump him, everything else be damned. Mr. Fernandez's 4S was beautiful, just beautiful, and the fact that Mr. Fernandez is attempting two 3As to Mr. Chan's one certainly helps. But PCS...ay, there's the rub. I am happy for Mr. Fernandez's medal....but objectively, he was overscored in the PCS. In terms of all the components listed in the PCS--particularly and most noticeably when it comes to skating skills--Mr. Fernandez simply isn't at the level of Patrick Chan or Daisuke Takahashi. The PCS just shouldn't been that close. Normally I would just brush it off as the unwritten PCS quad bonus...but Mr. Fernandez has skated some very good two-quad programs before (e.g. 2011 Worlds in Moscow) and his PCS were in the 6s. Of course, he was probably a bit undermarked in the past, but I'm not sure if I completely understand the rationale behind Mr. Fernandez's PCS suddenly shooting into the 8s this season. Mr. Fernandez even received some 9s in CH--which is a bit much. Admittedly, he's definitely improved in terms of components like CH....but I really don't see enough improvement to justify the stratospheric rise into the coveted 8s territory. Have the judges finally turned against Nikolai Morozov-style 'choreography'? Or was it simply the perspective-skewing nature of the skating order at work, as Mr. Fernandez was skating last?
Daisuke Takahashi placed a distant third with 237.87 points. Just looking at his technical elements score in the free skate (69.37) is enough to make me reach for the Prozac and gin. Wail, gnash teeth, rent clothes, don sackcloth, rinse, wash, repeat, etc. Watching Mr. Takahashi now is rather reminiscent of watching Stephane Lambiel circa 2008: the artistry, the musicality, the charisma--it's all divine, but it's still kind of painful seeing the technical elements score plunge to junior men levels. Like Mr. Lambiel, it's heart-wrenching to see how the full bloom of Mr. Takahashi's artistic maturation occurred after injuries took their toll on his technical skills. Mr. Takahashi was already a great skater before his catastrophic 2008 injury, but in my opinion, he has further improved to become a truly sublime one over the past couple of seasons. Unfortunately, it's clear that he will never be fully rewarded for his artistry and other intangible qualities unless he lands the jumps.
As for Blues for Klook....I appreciate the complexity and nuance behind the choreography, but I cannot say that it was compelling to me the way In the Garden of Souls was. Perhaps it was the bobbles, perhaps it's the fact that I don't like the music....but what I entirely respect, however, is how both Mr. Takahashi's programs this year are the diametric opposite of what his programs were last year, and, in the larger picture, what people perceive as his style. Instead--he has eschewed all the glitter and flamboyant colors for simple black costumes (it is still rather disconcerting to see Mr. Takahashi wear the most subdued costumes in the entire event), deliberately chosen much more mellow and less crowd-friendly music, and even his hair looks less flashy. In the bleak landscape of competitive figure skating where artistry often seems like an afterthought in the onslaught of obsession over jumps and levels and points, if there's one thing I truly appreciate, it is a skater who takes risks and stretches himself artistically, even if the resultant payoff in points is negligible.
Anyway, perhaps it is a bit too early to break out the sackcloth as it is still fairly early in the season and Mr. Takahashi is more of a slow starter. Looking at the protocols, what really sent Mr. Takahashi's technical elements score to subterranean depths was the second 3A that was not done in combination (thus incurring the mandatory +SEQ deduction) and the resultant fact that he thus only had two jumping passes in combination...but what is promising is that Mr. Takahashi managed to work on his spins enough to earn all level 4s. Perhaps there is still some hope yet.