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Mar 29, 2012

Worlds 2012: Ladies SP Recap

Despite the byzantine politiks of dance, the sheer nail-biting danger presented by pairs and the fact that most of my favorite skaters are actually men, the clusterfuck that is the ladies discipline somehow usually ends up as the event that most compels me to hurl various objects at my computer screen and raid the liquor cabinet. Sadly, the ladies short program at 2012 Worlds was no exception.

Let's begin with the penultimate group of ladies.

Mao Asada of Japan is up first, skating to her abominable musical arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade. Garbed in her blue dress first debuted at Four Continents, she spends quite a bit of time at the boards speaking to the Satos. Knowing Miss Asada, they're probably talking about whether she should go for the 3A (Miss Asada: yes; Nobuo Sato: no). Unsurprisingly, Miss Asada does indeed go for the 3A, which she falls on before clearly two-footing it, and even in real time it's obviously < if not completely <<. Considering the fact that Shin Amano's on the tech panel, I'd put good money on it being << (and indeed, it turns out to be << basically, she gets almost nothing for the jump). 3F-2Lo, steps into 3Lo is OK, but it doesn't really matter at this point. Final score: 59.49.....she doesn't even break 60, which is kind of sad knowing what Miss Asada's personal best is.

There is indeed a vast difference in overall skating quality between Miss Asada and every skater before her which helps with the scores, but with the strict tech panel and the judges being complete scrooges (if the fact that only two previous skaters managed to break 50 points is any indication) at this event, you need to get the jumps down in the short program and make the final group if you want any shot at the podium. It turns out that Miss Asada does make the final group by placing fourth in the short, but she was lucky that a bunch of the other ladies botched up their programs too. I know many people admire Miss Asada's adversity, her courage, her willingness to take risk, blah blah blah, but there is surely a point where her coaching team/federation/BRAIN should step in and say, "hey Mao, you haven't been landing the 3A all week and Shin Amano is on the tech panel, going for the 3A in the short program just might be a really, really bad idea." BECAUSE IT WAS A BAD IDEA HERE. A 2A that Miss Asada can do in her sleep could have netted about four points instead of the 0.8 points here (note: fall deduction was applied). With the addition of the PCS boost of skating a clean short program, Miss Asada could have saved us the indignity of having Alena Leonova in gold medal position at the World Championships. Seriously....

Alena Leonova of the Russian Federation is next up, skating to the soundtrack Pirates of the Caribbean. Look, I'll preface this by openly stating that Miss Leonova skated very, very well. The jumps (3T-3T, 3F, 2A) were all great. She had panache and worked the 'choreography' more so than the vast majority of the other ladies in the event. And personally, I love a ladies skater who skates with command and flair......but frankly, even I have my limits when it comes to the minimum expectations one expects of an elite-level senior competitor and it appears that Nikolai Morozov has finally found the rock bottom of these limits. I really for the life of me cannot understand Miss Leonova's PCS. Actually, I do sort of understand--again, it's the judges' consistent inability to properly differentiate between the separate components of the PCS at fault here. Yes, Miss Leonova performed well and sold her program (high PE scores!) but how on earth does that SP earn 7s (which are top-shelf marks relative to everyone else here in Nice) in transitions (what transitions?!) and choreography?

Look, I know that PCS scoring more often than not verges on laughable. It's not like the majority of the other ladies have lots of transitions or superb choreography either so you learn to let some things slide. Frankly, however, Miss Leonova's SP is so lacking in some fundamental aspects that it's difficult to let these things slide in light of the marks she received. Miss Leonova's marks in the CH component, I felt, were the most egregiously incorrect. Despite what people may think, there's actually some relatively objective criteria involved--e.g. Pattern and Ice Coverage, Proportion (equal weight of all parts), Utilization of Personal and Public Space, etc. In other words, the ideal program that scores well in PCS should sufficiently cover the entire ice surface, spread the separate elements evenly throughout not only the ice surface but also within the program itself. It means that programs in which all the jumps are heavily front-loaded (with the 3F and 2A done on the same side of the rink immediately after each other) with a posing-heavy (hideously cluttered) step sequence that literally lasts an entire minute (over a third of the duration of the SP), and directly leads to 2 spins done in succession in the middle of the rink practically beside each other should be considered sorely lacking. It is entirely ridiculous that Miss Leonova's CH and TR score beat out Ashley Wagner's, Akiko Suzuki's, etc., and rivals Carolina Kostner's. And don't even get me started on SS......really, what is the point of having all these separate components if the judges aren't going to even bother scoring them correctly or differentiating between them?

Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia is up next, skating to Tango Jalousie. Then she proceeds to open with a corker of a 3Lz-3T, probably the highest-scoring element of the night given that most of the other ladies are doing 3T-3Ts. Whoa, I didn't expect to see that coming at all. Rock on, Miss Gedevanishvili. Good 3S after....first Javier Fernandez, then Miss Gedevanishvili. Brian Orser is a miracle worker. Then, a wobbly edge going into....a 1A. Sigh. What a silly mistake, and it'll definitely cost her a few placements. Great energy and good speed throughout the performance, and the footwork is even fun to watch and does not plod like so many others. That was a great performance but for the silly singled axel, which Miss Gedevanishvili is obviously frustrated by (a good sign). Miss Gedevanishvili scores 58.49 and moves into third place for the time being....frankly, I think a case can be made for higher PCS, especially since her program was much better constructed than Alena Leonova's.

Ksenia Makarova, also of the Russian Federation, is up next on the ice, skating to Marie and the Violin String with a blue dress and some seriously questionable blue mascara. 3T-3T, wobbly landing on the 3Lo, 2A. With Miss Makarova, half the battle with the scores depends on the strictness of the tech panel, and the 3Lo especially looks in danger of the UR call. Surprisingly, Miss Makarova doesn't get any UR calls, but unsurprisingly, she doesn't get a lot of positive GOEs on her jumps either. Spins travel quite a bit, the footwork looks pretty, and her skate lace becomes undone. It's a good performance considering how Miss Makarova has been skating this season, but although this SP is pretty enough, it's also rather too front-loaded for my taste. Miss Makarova receives 58.51, a new SB, and moves into third place right in front of Miss Gedevanishvili.

Sarah Hecken of Germany proceeds with her program to Dark Eyes. 3T-2T not bad, 3S...stepout, and falls off the exiting edge. That looked rather painful. Spin, 2A.....I'm sorry to say that Ms. Hecken simply pales in comparison to Sasha Cohen. When the music and even the music cuts are so similar, one simply cannot forget the sublime image of Sasha Cohen blazing down the ice in Torino. Ms. Hecken could certainly have benefited from a good dose of fire and speed. 46.39, into fourteenth place for now.

Ashley Wagner, the Newest Hope of American Ladies Skating (or is that Gracie Gold? I can never really tell), is up next, looking quite confident. Good speed going into the 3F.....big step-out, no combo. Managed to tack on a 2T to the next 3Lo, 2A. I'll venture that Miss Wagner has definitely had more speed and command during her performances of this SP at US Nationals and 4CC....especially during the step sequence. Ah, more arm choreography on the spread eagle, is it a Philip Mills thing (see also: arms during the spiral in Miss Wagner's Black Swan )? But it works with the music and tone of the program despite my knee-jerk reaction to such obvious flourishes. A little frown at the ending, and she's obviously pissed. It's not the performance she's looking for, and given that she's not on home turf, the judges are not going to be as kind as they were at 4CC. And she gets 56.42, moving into fifth place for now. That's actually lower than I expected, I'm surprised she didn't break 7s for anything but IN. The judges are certainly being miserly with the PCS today. as Well, Miss Wagner is used to coming from behind after digging herself into a hole during the SP, I fully expect her to come out in the LP with all those proverbial guns blazing.

Valentina Marchei, the other Italian, leads off the final group, skating to Johnny's Mambo, Ronny's Mambo. Great energy and flair during her opening choreography, long telegraph into......a big 3Lz with good height but a tight, pitched forward landing. 3S-2T, 2A. Not her best skate, and I can't help but think the SP will really fly if she had more power and speed in her skating. At least she tries to match the energy of the music. Oh well. 52.14, moves into seventh place with the entire final group left.

Alissa Czisny is up next, looking quite nervous as she has a long talk with Jason Dungjen by the boards. That is definitely not a good sign. The melancholy strains of La Vie en Rose are heard, and Miss Czisny floats her way to a big wipeout on the 3Lz. It didn't even look anything close to landed. Was it rotated? (According to the protocols: yes). Then another fall on a very tilted-in-the-air 3Lo, this time clearly UR even in real time and evaporating any chance of tacking on a jump to avoid the penalty for missing the required combination. With that fall, I think I heard the screams of the 29059495092589 Americans who have been fervently praying for a return of 3 spots for the US ladies. And....a slow hesitant approach into a 2A, which Miss Czisny steps out of. Ouch. This is practically a repeat of what happened at the Hague, except Miss Czisny's not going to be anywhere near third place. Well, the footwork was nice and the spins were great as usual, but she is so screwed that it doesn't even matter. Jason Dungjen does not look happy, but he doesn't look too surprised either. 48.31, into 12th place with most of the final group to go. So much for three spots. I wonder what excuses Phil Hersh is going to make? And what's with the sadistic camera person? I'm sure we don't need to see an ultra-closeup view of Miss Czisny's tear-filled eyes.

Kanako Murakami is next to skate, with a SP to an Ikuko Kawai arrangement to Bach's Chaconne from that famous Violin Partita of his. Normally I would disapprove of alternative arrangements to classic music, but in Miss Murakami's case, I think it was a wise choice for Miss Murakami to use the Ikuko Kawai arrangement as I'm sure the original Chaconne is completely beyond her abilities as a performer right now. A super 3T-3T to begin (that better not be called UR because I'm running out of things to throw), 3F with the typical hammer toe. Excellent speed throughout, clearly the most speed and conviction of the entire group so far by a long mile. I question some of that arm choreography, though. But a good 2A, and an exuberant step sequence to follow. Even if Miss Murakami is likely to bomb her LP as she is wont to do, she is making a very good case for the lead right now. Although I do agree with people who complain that Miss Murakami is still a bit juniorish and could use a great deal of more refinement in her skating, she's no sloppier or more unrefined than, say, the leader of the short program at this event right now. Will it matter, though? Apparently not: 62.67, into second place. Hmmmmmmmmm........

Carolina Kostner of Italy, the gold medal favorite, then starts skating to her quirky Shostakovich piece with a great deal of cheering. 3T-3T, very good. I admit, I wasn't entirely convinced by this SP earlier this season (particularly the second half and Miss Kostner's interpretation of it), but I've grown infinitely more fond of it. The playful, almost coy sensuality, the way Miss Kostner hits the accents of the music, the interesting body shapes....excellent. Next jumping pass: steps into....a 2Lo? No. NO! Doubling a required triple in the SP not only impacts the base value, but also requires a mandatory -3GOE penalty. Good 2A, lovely steps, but Miss Kostner gave away the lead. The PCS should and will be high, but the judges have been pretty stingy on the PCS and there's only so much they can do when the base value takes a hit like that. It's merely a question of how many points Miss Kostner will be off the lead: 3.61 (total: 61.00). I am definitely surprised that Miss Kostner didn't manage to break into the 8s for any of her components....if she doesn't, nobody is going to.

Akiko Suzuki is up next with her amazing black and grey dress, skating to a Edvin Marton (sigh) version of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody. Excellent, dramatic opening that grabs the attention of the audience, straight into a big 3T-3T (yes!), then steps into a 2Lz (NO!). Well, Miss Suzuki just gave that one away. Camel spin, then my favorite part, the joyful, exuberant steps down the ice just as the music picks up in tempo and volume, right into the 2A. Then another spin (not the prettiest but noticeably improved from a few years ago), then the proper CoP-style straightline step sequence with another spin to close. Although this program vastly differs from Miss Kostner's in terms of mood and style, I think Miss Suzuki performed her program better. More energy, more spark, more "invisible connection with the audience." But that doubled lutz is going to cost Miss Suzuki a bunch of placings, though. And the final result is.....59.38. Fifth place. Sadly, Miss Suzuki is lowballed in PCS as usual. Sigh., in sum, I'm almost too scared to watch the ladies' LP.


  1. Seriously when I saw Leonova leads my first words were "Sweet baby Jesus save us all." Sometimes you're first words are the best to sum up the situation. Would you agree?

  2. You forgot Viktoria Helgesson from Sweden, js. She came in 10th, but she did skate last, so she should also be mentioned..

    1. Unfortunately I had to take an important phone call during most of Viktoria Helgesson's SP so I didn't have the opportunity to actually watch it in its entirety, sadly.

  3. Well Miki Ando was last year's champion... I suppose Alena Leonova as this year's 2012 world champion just continues this tradition of Morozov babies being world champions *sigh*. There maybe something to this 2012 end-of-the-world thing.

    1. If that actually happens, then I will be glad the world is ending. I'm not sure if I can cope with Alena Leonova in her present form being a World Champion.