Apr 22, 2012
World Team Trophy 2012: Men's LP
A (hopefully) more rational post-facto dissection of the long programs by the men at the World Team Trophy, after the après-competition buzz has mostly died down....
Daisuke Takahashi placed first in the long program and first overall with a near-perfect performance of his Blues for Klook long program. The opening 4T was a bit tilted on the landing and was quite borderline on rotation, but it was clearly landed on one foot. 3A was very high and clean, 3S. CCSp--would like to see a bit more speed after the change of foot. Circular steps....smokin'. Damn I'd become a judge just to get eyefucked by Mr. Takahashi like that. 3A-3T<: quite a bit of snow flying around, Mr. Takahashi needs to clean up this combo ASAP. 3F-2T, 3Lo good, love the transitions in and out of the 3Lo. 3Lz-2T (thank Vishnu he left out that bs third jump--he didn't need it and let's face it, three-jump combos are mostly eked out and ugly), turns into the 3F. Crowd going into hysterics at the choreographed step sequence, though to be honest I actually prefer it in its original incarnation prior to the post-4CC re-choreographing. CCoSp to end. What a performance. Incredible moment--not only because of the crowd favorite laying down a prodigious performance in front of a very enthusiastic hometown crowd, but also because almost all the other teams joined together to cheer him on in the kiss-and-cry. My heart, it is warmed. 182.72 in the LP, 276.72 total, first in the LP, first overall and a big new personal best for Mr. Takahashi to replace the one he had at Four Continents four years ago. Wow.
Though I personally prefer Mr. Takahashi's short program at Worlds to the one he skated at the World Team Trophy (yes, even with the botched 4T-3T<<), Mr. Takahashi's Blues for Klook at WTT was the best he's skated the program all season. Here, it had more of the sly, slinky sensuality throughout than in Nice, and moreover, the jumps were mostly cleaner and of better quality. Overall, one of the top--if not the top--performances of the year among the men. Most gratifyingly, it was good seeing Mr. Takahashi win on PCS for once, hit the 9-range and receive some 10.00s. FINALLY.
Could it be said that Mr. Takahashi's scores erred on the side of generosity? Arguably, yes. I can see a stricter tech panel slapping a < on the 4T, and it truly remains to be seen whether the PCS will venture that deeply into the 9-range at another event. I want to say that Mr. Takahashi completely deserved those scores if only to compensate for the fact that he's been consistently fleeced in PCS for awhile...but the cynical side of me wonders if these marks will ever replicate themselves at a not-cheesefest that isn't in Japan and completely bankrolled by the Japanese Skating Federation (realistically...probably not). I suppose we will know for sure by next season, but nevertheless, such a dominating win over Patrick Chan with such superlative scores has its benefits. For one, it helps build a good case for Mr. Takahashi's continued reign as the Japanese #1 over upstart Yuzuru Hanyu. Mr. Hanyu has time on his side but Mr. Takahashi is clearly not going to relinquish his position without a good fight. Then there is the fact that Mr. Takahashi managed to land two more fully-credited quads. Landing more quads in competitions should boost his confidence--even now, there's still quite a bit of hesitation when Mr. Takahashi sets up for his 4T. Hopefully, more confidence will help as Mr. Takahashi needs to increase the speed and quality, as well as add more difficult entries to his 4Ts in order to boost the GOEs. Right now, I personally wouldn't give most of his quads any higher than 0 GOE.
Patrick Chan placed second in the long program as well as in the overall standings, his first loss since he lost to Tomas Verner at the 2010 Cup of Russia. His long program to Aranjuez, though waxel-less and not quite as behind the music as before, was rather worse at the WTT than it was in Nice. 4T-3T with a bit of a stutter on the landing of the 3T, 4T< (fall), 2A, 3Lz-1Lo-3S (good), 3Lo, 3F, 3Lz, 2A, very good choreo step sequence. Unfortunately, doubling the first axel and leaving out an entire combination dented his TES, and overall, the performance was lackluster and did not show the level of commitment and energy he is capable of. Mr. Chan looked quite weary at the end...but given the behind-the-scenes drama of his recent coaching change, I'll cut him a pass this time. Just show up with new programs to non-warhorse music (hint: ditch Lori Nichol) next season please.....
Brian Joubert placed third overall, albeit with fourth-place finishes in both the short and long programs. Nevertheless, Mr. Joubert's placement--as well as Mr. Takahashi's--struck a blow in favor of the old fogeys of men's figure skating. Garbed in tight black pleather and undoubtedly bolstered by his team-mates' boisterous chants of "Allez BiBi," Mr. Joubert gave a decent performance to The Matrix. 4T....turnout...2T, 3T, 3A-3T (not much flow out but ok), 3A, circular steps w/ typical one-foot beginning, 3S, 3Lo (tilted in air, step-out), 3Lz, choreo step sequence, 3F-2A seq, CCoSp to close. Kind of a muted performance overall. Mr. Joubert is capable of decent expression (if some of his other programs and exhibitions are any indication), but there really wasn't of an attempt to sell the program outside of the choreo step sequence. The short program was far better than this in terms of the performance factor. Honestly, Mr. Joubert's long program was a bunch of jumps and not much else....but for such a CoP-unfriendly program, Mr. Joubert sure manages to pull quite a few points out of it. Sometimes I do wonder what's the point of having five different components of PCS.......154.95 in the long program, behind Florent Amodio in the long program but in third place overall.
Florent Amodio placed third in the long program, but fourth overall. The 4S was very good and did not look two-footed, 3A-tano2T, also very good.....then the long wait until the excessive backloading can begin. FCSp ok, then the requisite posing section, and after, a rather judge-centric circular step sequence. Killing a bit more time before the halfway mark......then, doubled the planned 3A into a 2A, 3Lz-2T (two-footed), 3S-2T (nearly loses balance, a bit wobbly), 3Lz, 3F (e), 2A, posing, etc., typical loud brash Morozov choreo step sequence to close. It's quite an empty program, and I counted about six nonsensical music cuts...in terms of coherency, unity of purpose, etc., this program makes as much sense as the scores Mr. Amodio receives for it....which is to say, not much at all. Sadly, I swear my IQ drops a few points every time I watch this program. I don't know whether it's because of the sheer stupidity of the program, or rather because of the braincell-burning rage I feel seeing those ridiculously undeserved PCS Mr. Amodio receives for it (8.07 in CH, 7.54 in TR.....HA). If there's ever a skater who requires a major artistic intervention and some repackaging, it's Mr. Amodio. 156.49 total in the LP, 238.33 overall. Sigh.
Jeremy Abbott placed fifth overall, dropping from third place in the short to fifth overall with a dismal seventh-place long program. Mr. Abbott's Exogenesis long program was intricate and beautiful (especially in comparison to others) but like at Worlds, the jumps were really not there at all. 4T<< (fall, was quite slow going into a jump....so, really not a surprise), 3A-2T (wish Mr. Abbott kept the single 3A here to perfectly punctuate that phrase of music but it's understandable why he shuffled his jumping passes), 1F, 3A (ok), 3Lz-2T-2T (not much flow or speed throughout but ok), 3Lo, 2Lz-2T, 2S. Intelligent, nuanced choreography, beautiful fluid body movement and flowy edges throughout, but this is 2012 men's figure skating and doubles just aren't going to cut it. Sadly, the man has talent in spades but not the competitive will to ascend to the uppermost echelons of the sport. Hopefully Mr. Abbott will keep this program for next season as I would love to see it skated cleanly to its full potential at least once. 147.39 in the LP, 234.37 overall.
Takahiko Kozuka improved on his eighth-placed short program to place fifth in the long program, pulling up to sixth overall. 4T< (fall...what a surprise), 3Lz-3T (hung on but remains upright), 3A (very good with lovely rideout), circular steps (nice edges and very well-choreographed to the music), 1A-2T-2Lo, walley into 3F, 3Lo (pitched forward), 3S, 3Lz-2T, choreo step sequence (very smooth), FCCoSp (love how it is placed within the music) to close. Not exactly a good skate. Mr. Kozuka may be rather bland from ankles up, but in terms of the purity of his blade-to-ice skills, he's up there with the best. It's a crime Mr. Kozuka receives 7-range in PCS in components like SS and CH, but that's figure skating judging for you. The judges clearly aren't going to reward him unless he skates closer to the level he displayed at 2011 Worlds in Moscow, and by now, it's even less likely they'll do so with the rise of Yuzuru Hanyu and the resurgence of Daisuke Takahashi. It's never easy being the third-ranked skater nationally, and there's the possibility that Mr. Kozuka may not even have that position if Nobunari Oda comes back strong next season.