Apr 3, 2012
Worlds 2012: Ladies LP Recap
Ah, ladies skating. Just last Olympic cycle, many fans of figure skating were fanning themselves over the Yu-Na Kim and Mao Asada rivalry, oohing and ahhing at the 3As and 3-3s being whipped out by the two skaters jostling at the top, thereby raising the technical level of the entire discipline. The men were scoffed at for winning without quadruple jumps and there was quite a bit of sound and fury directed at the pernicious influence of quadless World and Olympic champions. Yet now...nine out of the top ten men at Worlds this year landed quadruple jumps in their programs (plus much more), and many fans have instead turned to bemoaning the fact that the top ladies this year lack difficult 3-3s, 3Lutzes, etc. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose....
Carolina Kostner won her first world title on her tenth try, scoring a total of 189.94 overall with her first-place long program. Skating to a Mozart Concerto, Miss Kostner skated very well, only doubling her second planned 3F: 3Lo beautifully placed with the music, 3F, 2A-3T, 2F-2T, 2A, 3S, 3S-2T-2T. Her step sequence had a tiny bobble, but everything else was clean and well-done (ok, though not the last combination spin). All the jumps looked lovely, airy and easy, and her win was well-deserved. True, some may don the sackcloth and wail at the lack of the 3Lz and Miss Kostner's less-than-stellar jump content in general, but the quality (the height! the landings!) was there and it's not like any of the other ladies really produced either. Though I have been known to poke fun at Miss Kostner's diminished jump content myself in the past, I am now obliged to be eternally thankful to Miss Kostner for winning in Nice forever. If Miss Kostner had melted down à la 2009 Worlds, I'm not sure with how well my sanity could have coped with the next-place finisher being a World Champion.
Miss Kostner's Mozart program was easily the best-choreographed program of the final group, though I'm not sure why Lori Nichol tweaked some parts--what's with the awkward wide knee-bending squat she does during the brief posing section? The original choreography was much more elegant and better. Otherwise, lovely choreography, and it's good to see how even Miss Kostner's rushed, coltish qualities of the bad old days have been tamed to create the precise, elegant creature of today. Overall, a beautiful, regal performance, and one worthy of the title of World Champion.
Alena Leonova won the silver medal with a total of 184.28, giving her somewhat of a chance to stave off the Russian Superbaby Brigade next season. Her long program was truly a sight to behold....and not in a particularly adulatory way. Miss Leonova may have placed second overall, but she was fourth in the long program and was fortunate to be in that position. Her program to a truly misguided mashup of Barber's Adagio in Strings and Requiem for a Dream (is nothing sacred?!) was tentative, uninspired and completely devoid of anything resembling choreography, transitions or sense. It was a horror that could only have been birthed from the mind of Nikolai Morozov...which explains everything, actually. Even worse, Miss Leonova displayed little of the attack and speed she had in the short program. Far be it from me to question the sanity of the the ISU's cadre of professionally-trained judges, but I'm not sure how a program mostly composed of Miss Leonova skating up and down the rink setting up for her jumps translates to 6.96 in TR, 7.43 in CH, and 7.68 in IN. Lest we forget, 7-range in PCS means "very good" and is considered a top-shelf score range among the current crop of ladies. All I can say is that the guiding hand of Mr. Morozov and Mr. Piseev must have been strong in helping the judges score that night.
Jumps-wise, it was not quite Miss Leonova's night either. The opening 3T-3T was good, but most of the jumps after were fought for and held on through force of will. 3Lo hung on, 3flutz (to put it kindly) step out, 3F-2T that nearly hit the board, 3S-2T, 3F, 2A. Even the trademark flail-heavy Morozov step sequence near the program's close looked like it was wilting under the daunting weight of Miss Leonova's 80s-worthy blue eyeshadow, particularly at the end when it slowed to veritable crawl. How it merited the +2 GOE five judges handed her is yet another mystery for the world to contemplate. After the final combination that also slowed into a crawl at the end, Miss Leonova reacted to her performance as if she had skated Yu-Na Kim's Olympic long program. Um, no. 119.67 for that? BAH.
Akiko Suzuki, at the grand old age of 27, won the bronze medal with a total score of 180.68. Miss Suzuki actually placed second in the long program, and frankly, if the PCS were scored properly, Miss Suzuki should have received the silver medal overall. But after all these years, after all her struggles with being the not the top-ranked skater in Japan, anorexia, lowballing by judges nationally and internationally....Miss Suzuki actually being on the world podium is already an accomplishment in itself and wonderful to see. Pity about the pop though....if Miss Suzuki didn't pop her second 3Lz, the silver would have been hers even with the PCS as dubious as it is at the present. Miss Suzuki landed: 3Lz, 2A-3T, 3F, 3Lo-2T-2Lo< (a bit tight), 3S (also a bit tight), 1Lz-2T, 3Lo
Even with the errors on the jumps, Miss Suzuki gave a spirited, joyful performance and she expressed the music beautifully. Wonderful energy and projection, good speed and flow, simply a delight to watch. In terms of choreography, Die Fledermaus may not have been a strong a program as West Side Story or even Fiddler on the Roof, but watching it never fails to make me smile. I have no idea whether Miss Suzuki is intending to retire after this season, but I hope to see her continue in the ranks of competitive figure skating.
Ashley Wagner pulled up from an eighth-place short program to a fourth-place finish overall (176.77), finishing third in the long program. Skating to the music of the Black Swan soundtrack, Miss Wagner gave a performance that fans of US ladies skating have been waiting for at Worlds for many years: 3F-2T-2Lo, 2A-3T< (tight on the 3T, two-footed), 3flutz, dramatic arms on the spiral, spread eagle into 3Lo, 3S, 3Lo (2foot)-2T, 3F with big fistpump coming out. Though it didn't have the absolute command as her Four Continents performance of the program, Miss Wagner nonetheless had good speed, attack and confidence throughout. Unfortunately, skating in the penultimate group did Miss Wagner no favors and her PCS was quite underscored as a result. Honestly, I'm not even going to pretend to understand how on earth Miss Wagner basically tied Kanako Murakami and was beaten by Alena Leonova (!!) on PCS. Figure skating judging at its finest.....(eyeroll).
Kanako Murakami placed fifth overall, scoring a total of 175.41. Like her compatriot Mao Asada who skated directly before her, Miss Murakami's jumps were not quite at their best during the long program, a situation made worse by the fact that Miss Murakami's jump technique leaves even more to be desired. 3flutz with a nice big mule kick, 3Lo, 3F< (two-foot, no flow, very obviously UR), nice-looking spirals but on suspiciously flat edges, 3T-3T< in second half of the program that was a bit tight on the landing, 3F-1A sequence (costly error, singling the axel), 1A, step sequence that needs more power and pep, 3S-2Lo-2Lo. Despite the fact that Miss Murakami planned all her jump combinations in the second half (thus receiving the bonus), the UR calls and the pops on the axel dented her technical elements score considerably, and Miss Murakami scored 112.74 in the long program, fifth on the night.
Unfortunately, Miss Murakami's Mendelssohn Concerto long program was as questionable as her jump technique. It was neither an assault on the senses nor even that much of an eyesore, but it was very much a bore. Miss Murakami is clearly a girl with plenty of spunk and energy, but it appears that her choreographer has ventured too far in attempting to mature Miss Murakami into a *lady* (a problem that has also plagued Mirai Nagasu of the US as well). The choreography was very uninspired, and Miss Murakami just skated through the highlights of the music in many instances. Miss Murakami clearly tries to sell the program with all the perk she possesses, but there's only so much she could do with choreography that seems only tangentially related to the music at best. Frankly, the classical style of the music and program only draws more attention to Miss Murakami's lack of polish and other weaknesses (poor posture, etc). I'd much rather watch her Jumping Jack short program from last season, as juniorish as it was.
Mao Asada placed sixth overall with a total score of 164.52, the lowest Worlds placement for the two-time World Champion yet. Miss Asada's Liebestraum long program was probably her worst showing at a World Championships ever. 1A that was probably meant to be the ever-so-elusive 3A, 3F-2Lo ok, 3flutz, 2A-2T (supposed to be a 3T), 2F, 3S<, 1Lo. There were just too many costly mistakes, and frankly, not quite enough speed or power throughout. The whole thing felt so ridiculously, impossibly fragile, almost ephemeral. Beautiful to watch especially if you're really into that Keatsian thing, but not fit for placing well in competitive figure skating.
Though Miss Asada has yet to return to her peak form of yore the entire season, seeing her jumps fall by the wayside like that was actually quite surprising. Miss Asada normally peaks later in the season and honestly, I'd been expecting a performance like Four Continents: a few bobbles here and there, but respectable enough to pick up a medal. At this point, one really has to wonder if the whole technique-reworking thing was a good idea in the first place (frankly, those jumps are only a bit better but her confidence on them seems a lot worse) and whether working with the Satos is an entirely good choice. Apparently Miss Asada was seen attending every single practice session and fanatically practising her (flawed) 3As over and over again. Miss Asada is known for her stubbornness, but why did no-one on her coaching team stop her? All that over-training, the myopic focus on the 3A, the fact that Miss Asada no longer has her teenaged body....something has to give.