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Nov 12, 2011

NHK 2011: Ladies

After enduring the truly dreadful skating of the first group (as well as Nicky Slater's unintentionally hilarious commentary), it was such a relief to see some decent performances at the end. At the very least, it was certainly a lot easier to stay awake.

The effulgent Akiko Suzuki placed first overall with 185.98 points, a very commendable feat given her geriatric status as a 26-year-old skater. It appears that the judges have finally acknowledged Miss Suzuki's existence by giving her some respectable PCS at long last. Better late than never, I suppose. But, to be honest, it's a bit sad because Miss Suzuki's past programs were arguably even better in terms of choreography (her West Side Story is just divine), but that's figure skating judging for you. That being said, Miss Suzuki's performance level still remains along with some added refinement. Her Hungarian Rhapsody short program was skated with passion and attack, while Die Fledermaus was radiant with joy and effervescence. Love, love, love the superb opening triple lutz in Die Fledermaus, done in silence in order to allow us to better appreciate the long, held-out running edge coming out of the jump.

Mao Asada won the silver overall, but barely missed out on the gold overall by about a point. With this Grand Prix  silver under her belt--which, unbelievably, is her first Grand Prix medal since her silver at Trophee Eric Bompard 2009--it looks like Miss Asada has finally returned somewhat from the hinterlands of defeat. Or, at the very least, the ignominy of eighth-place finishes in Grand Prix events. It is good to see her back.

Miss Asada's Scheherazade short program exceeded all my prior expectations of the program, though that may probably be because I had very little good expectations at all. Yes, the twinkly bastardized version of Scheherazade should send Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov calling for his attorneys from beyond the grave, but the arrangement of the music is about the most offensive thing about the program as a whole. Given the horrors Tatiana Tarasova has belched out for the past couple of seasons, this is a definite improvement. The arm movements weren't too distracting, the spins looked good, and I actually liked the step sequence. The most important thing, however, is that Miss Asada's speed and flow have improved. Those stroking exercises we've seen Mr. Sato making Miss Asada do have definitely paid off.  A pity about the popped axel--just going for a 2A would have given Miss Asada the gold here.

Miss Asada's Liebesträume long program was very pretty, natural and relaxed: while the tune of the program may not be particularly original, the orchestration leaves you begging for more. After enduring the Bells of Hell and other assorted Tarasova creations for the past few seasons, it's such a relief to see Miss Asada keep a program that allows her skating to sing. To be honest, I had thought Miss Asada's performance would be enough to take the gold. But the result was rightfully close in the end, and with the added confidence/judging boost of skating well, Miss Asada should have no trouble winning gold at the Cup of Russia (the only conceivable challenger there is Adelina Sotnikova, and her Liebesträume is but a pale, sad imitation of the real thing). Anyways, it was great to see Miss Asada rotate a 2A-3T, land a 3S and get some well-deserved 8s in PCS. 

Alena Leonova placed a distant third overall with 170.68 points. Sweet baby Jesus, deliver us from evil Nikolai Morozov's choreography. The cognitive dissonance from putting Barber's Adagio for Strings, Lux Aeterna from Requiem for a Dream and Miss Leonova herself in the same program is almost too much for anyone possessing working ears and eyeballs (and not to mention, taste). Highly dubious choice in music aside, I think I now understand the intent behind the program's arc--a steady, powerful build-up inexorably heading towards the classic rah-rah Morozov-style step sequence ideally designed to rouse the audience to its feet, perhaps a metaphor for the oppressive inevitability of one's destiny/doom/thing that needs to be overcome. In practice, however, Miss Leonova's noticeable lack of speed and over-reliance on flailing her upper body around during the closing step sequence makes for a very anti-climatic ending. Also, I'm glad to see the tech panel calling Miss Leonova's "triple lutz" the triple flip it is. Come on, the thing doesn't even pretend to be a flutz.

Ashley Wagner placed third in the long program, but fourth overall. I like her short program, but her Black Swan long program is disappointingly a fairly generic Swan Lake skating program, arms and all. Unfortunately, the blackest thing about it is Miss Wagner's eyeliner and dress. Seeing Miss Wagner's facial expression at the end of the program (before she breaks into a smile) is enough to make me weep from the lost potential here, as Miss Wagner clearly has it in her to portray the neurotic obsessiveness of Nina Sayers. Nonetheless, I still would have placed Miss Wagner third overall. Too bad about those pesky URs on the loop and flip.


  1. I honestly do not understand why her triple flip combination was downgraded and received - GOE. It looked perfectly executed.

  2. morozombie, you have to check out Mao's Jupiter ex from the NHK gala. It's even more stunning than it was before.

  3. WSS is one of my favorites ever but Hungarian Rhapsody blew me away with it's speed and content. Everything flowed so seamlessly and even though her step sequence received many 3s, it was so integrated into the program I didn't even know it was beginning because she was doing wonderful footwork throughout the whole thing, which is something I admire a lot in cop programs. She's improved the speed into the entries of her jumps so much!