Nov 26, 2011
Cup of Russia 2011: the Menfolk
Thrills, spills and some chills.
Yuzuru Hanyu. As some of you may have noticed, I am sort of in love with Mr. Hanyu (er, if you're reading this, Mr. Hansen, it's Mr. Hanyu's triple axels I'm lusting after, not his, um, body). It's not the blind, mindless, all-consuming love that has me declaring things like Stephane Lambiel's triple axel is the bestest triple axel in the world....but with the ameliorating qualities of time, better choreography, added refinement and stamina, it could be.
That being said, I did not expect Mr. Hanyu to win the Cup of Russia at all and slotted him at around third place overall before the competition (I am such a faithless fan when it comes to skating). However, despite two falls in the long program and one in the short, Mr. Hanyu's mistakes are of the CoP-friendly variety (i.e. jumps are rotated) and his high base value obviously saved him this time (76.82, the highest among the competition). Not to mention, Mr. Hanyu's PCS were quite generous for a relative newcomer's, which I suppose is partly attributed to the excitement felt by the judges after watching Mr. Hanyu's superlative jumps. If I were Takahiko Kozuka or Nobunari Oda watching the Cup of Russia this weekend, I'd start feeling quite nervous. Mr. Hanyu will be very, very difficult to beat if he improves on his stamina and skates anywhere near clean: his TES will be monstrous and his PCS can only go up.
Some observations, however, should be made while my critical faculties are still somewhat intact concerning Mr. Hanyu. First off: expression. At least Mr. Hanyu has some and does not skate his programs with the enthusiasm of one facing a substantial pile of spreadsheets (unlike some of his competitors), but he is currently a bit one-note. That is, Mr Hanyu portrays intensity, fervor and passion very well--in this regard, he demonstrates a wonderful, heartfelt, absolute commitment to his choreography, which is evidenced by the rather crazy eyes he sometimes gets after finishing his skates, the expression rather incongruous on his otherwise youthful face. You can tell that Mr. Hanyu truly believes in what he's doing on the ice, a quality that can be rare among skaters as young as he. This intensity fits Mr. Hanyu's short program and parts of his long program well, but when it comes to the slower, softer parts of his long program--i.e. the Kissing You section--he needs to change his body language more, slow down, hold his positions longer, let himself flow with the shift in musical phrasing. Go with the flow, man. Embrace the music. Find yourself.
Secondly, choreography. I've come to terms with the fact that I only really like the first two-thirds of Mr. Hanyu's long program, and truly only love two minutes of the whole thing--the Kissing You section. It's a bit strange that my favorite section would be the section I feel Mr. Hanyu can improve most on in terms of interpretation, but perhaps it's because I feel that particular bit of music shows off Mr. Hanyu's most beautiful qualities--elegant lines, flow--to their best advantage, even if he is currently better at expressing the louder bits. However, I'm not entirely fond of the last section of Mr. Hanyu's program--more specifically, the ending step sequence and its accompanying music. It seems more like an extraneous appendage as opposed to an organic extension of the program.
Thirdly, Mr. Hanyu needs to learn how to get up from his falls faster so as to minimize the impact of his falls on his PCS. Mr. Hanyu recovered quite quickly from the fall on his opening quad, but the rather random fall on his step sequence was quite disruptive and took a bit too long to bounce back from, very reminiscent of Mr. Hanyu's equally disruptive falls from the Cup of China. The trick to falling and winning is to get back up in a split second so that the fall will not interrupt the flow of the program too much. Mr. Hanyu needs to watch Patrick Chan for pointers on this subject.
But, my criticisms aside....there's so much promise in Mr. Hanyu. His triple axels are insane and I love his transitions into them: the spread eagle in the long program (my personal favorite transition) and the ridiculous one in his short program when he is on a left back outside edge going in, then does a turn immediately before the triple axel itself. Mr. Hanyu is such an incredible talent. I may only truly love only two minutes of his long program, but that's certainly two minutes more than most long programs I've seen this season.
Javier Fernandez won the long program, but the doubled lutz in his short program cost him the title. Mr. Fernandez and Mr. Hanyu basically tied this competition (241.66 vs. 241.63), and the results were rightfully quite close. Mr. Fernandez continues the apparent trend of skaters doing well after leaving Nikolai Morozov (Florent Amodio--take note!) and his PCS from this competition and Skate Canada demonstrates that he is now seen as a contender right at the top of the men's pecking order. I had previously expressed misgivings about Mr. Fernandez's PCS, but it is what it is: the unspoken quad PCS bonus lives on.
Admittedly, however, Mr. Fernandez's opening two quadruple jumps were magnificent. Mr. Fernandez even has transitions going into his 4S, which is very impressive. Actually, the first half of Mr. Fernandez's long program performance here was very impressive before he clearly started running out of steam in the second half and started singling/doubling his jumps. Given the structure of TES scoring, such mistakes are much more costly than Mr. Hanyu's falls, and certainly diminished Mr. Fernandez's planned base value considerably (Mr. Fernandez's base value at Cup of Russia was 74.05, while it was 82.53 at Skate Canada). Like Mr. Hanyu, Mr. Fernandez needs a bit of work in the stamina department--aside from the doubling/singling, it looked like Mr. Fernandez slowed down quite a bit in the second half of the long program. Lots of transitions going into his jumping passes throughout, though, which makes Mr. Fernandez's program quite difficult and as such, it's not entirely surprising that Mr. Fernandez is running out of steam in the second half.
Jeremy Abbott placed a relatively distant third, the result of an ignominious fifth-place finish in the long program but a first-place short program. It's rather bizarre that this is Mr. Abbott's first mention on this blog of mine after an entire year of blogging as he is actually one of my favorite skaters in the men's field right now, but I suppose that is a reflection of Mr. Abbott's less-than-glorious season last year as much as it is a reflection of my less-than-glorious ability at consistently churning out blog entries.
As for Mr. Abbott's programs this season, I hate Mr. Abbott's swing short program as much as I love his Exogenesis long program--which is to say, very, very much. Mr. Abbott's short program this season seems very obnoxious to me in a way that I cannot quite elucidate or understand, but I, however, do recognize that this is a completely personal quirk as opposed to a more objective condemnation of his program. Stripping aside my personal preferences, the choreography of Sing Sing Sing is very, very good and fitting to the music, and Mr. Abbott certainly sold it quite well here. It is very encouraging to see how Mr. Abbott received 8s in PCS and won the short program despite not having a quad.
As for Exogenesis...the music and choreography is such a beautiful vehicle for some of Mr. Abbott's best qualities: his refined way of movement and the expressiveness of his upper body. In terms of sophistication and maturity, Mr. Abbott is clearly head and shoulders above the field here. However, the jumps were unfortunately just not there. The opening 4T does not look like it is going to happen anytime soon and after the big fall on the second triple axel, the performance looked like it was starting to come apart at the seams. Part of me wants Mr. Abbott to ditch the quad and skate Exogenesis cleanly to its full potential, but it's difficult to say how he should approach this matter. Domestically, I can see Mr. Abbott regaining his national title if he skates clean even without a quad, but internationally....the men's field is so deep and even if the judges look to be warming up to Mr. Abbott right now (as his PCS here may indicate), he probably cannot get away with being quadless, particularly with his triple axels looking less than solid currently. Perhaps it is the faithless fan in me speaking again, but I'm not sure if Mr. Abbott can actually pull off a relatively clean program with a quad at the moment--and if he does, it'll probably just be at US Nationals. I would love to see Mr. Abbott win a world medal this season, but he really needs to get his triples nailed down solid. A fall on the quad is forgiveable, but not if the rest of the triple jumps are not there.
(Cup of Russia ladies post hopefully coming soon)