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Oct 4, 2012

Year of the Comeback

The 2012-2013 season may indeed be the Year of the Comeback. Like Lazarus come forth, figure skaters have seemingly emerged from their various non-competitive existences in droves to do battle yet again with those remaining in the competitive ranks. However, competitive comebacks are often fraught with danger--the tarnishing of previously-impeccable legacies, injuries due to under-trained bodies, etc., etc. So...all these comebacks this season:  good idea, or bad idea?

Well, it depends.

Johnny Weir
Johnny Weir will be competing for the first time since 2010 at the Finlandia Trophy this weekend. Though Mr. Weir appears to be taking his comeback very seriously by training difficult combinations, getting two Grand Prix events and enlisting Nikolai Morozov for politicking footwork and advice, one cannot help but think that competitive skating may have indeed passed Mr. Weir by...unless Mr. Weir has somehow acquired a consistent quad and complex choreography. Even though the US men have not exactly been performing at a superior level internationally (e.g. Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon stumbling around at Worlds last season), Mr. Weir's chances on even making the US world team look rather tenuous, especially with Evan Lysacek also on the comeback trail. As such, I for one am mostly looking forward to seeing what Mr. Weir will be wearing, new skating-centric episodes of his addictive reality show, and whatever outrageous things he decides to say in press conferences, interviews, etc.

Evan Lysacek
Most unfortunately, one always knows what to expect when it comes to Evan Lysacek. Such Things have been Known since time immemorial 2006/7: Mr. Lysacek will garb himself in black. His triple axel will be highly dubious. There will be a frenzied arm-waving mistakenly construed as 'passion'. He will skate to music we've all heard countless times before. Much pomade will be used over the course of the competitive season. His programs will both end with really loud, cacophonous and flailing step sequences. His skintone will be somewhere between carroty and kumquat. Really, the only things about actually worth speculating about Mr. Lysacek's comeback is a) how dreadful his version of Poeta will be compared to Stephane Lambiel's immortal interpretation, and b) how poorly he will fare against Patrick Chan. I predict the answers to a) and b) will be 'quite dreadful' and 'rather dreadfully' respectively. 'Quite dreadful' for the former question because imitating windmills just isn't that flamenco, and 'rather dreadfully' for the latter because given that Mr. Lysacek at his competitive peak would have been crushed by even Daisuke Takahashi's and Yuzuru Hanyu's LP performances at 2012 Worlds, Mr. Lysacek would have little chance beating Patrick Chan.

Evgeni Plushenko
Does this even count as a comeback anymore? Considering the fact that the man's been competing before I even knew how to read and write, by now I've come to accept that Evgeni Plushenko's going to be lurking around forever, perpetually mounting comebacks and effortlessly cranking out quads against all odds....

Nobunari Oda
Nobunari Oda is mounting his comeback campaign after a season away from the competitive ranks due to injury. Unfortunately for Mr. Oda, the past season has arguably been instrumental in establishing what is likely to be the pecking order of Japanese men going into Sochi: Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu have established themselves as the top two Japanese men, in whatever order. Barring injury, this is unlikely to change in the coming season. Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Hanyu may not be the most consistent skaters, but Mr. Takahashi can easily out-PCS Mr. Oda even with a considerable amount of technical errors, while Mr. Hanyu's prodigious jumping ability and youth puts him at a significant advantage over the aging Mr. Oda. For Mr. Oda to make the Japanese world team, the only skater realistically in his sights is Takahiko Kozuka. Given Mr. Kozuka's consistently poor performances last season, this may not be too difficult if Mr. Oda improves on the level he's shown at the recent Nebelhorn Trophy, but a consistent quad will be essential for Mr.Oda, as would more commitment, spark and life to his performances. However, if Mr. Kozuka improves and returns to the form he was in at 2011 Worlds, Mr. Oda is toast. Mr. Oda may be a very talented skater who at his best has some awe-inspiring jumps, crazy transitions into the jumps and insanely soft knees, but, at this point, it may very well be a better idea for the JSF to invest in the younger skater who isn't prone to Zayakking at inopportune times and also is a former world medalist to boot.

Miki Ando
Miki Ando's comeback (if existent) appears to be shrouded in mystery. After sitting out the 2011-2012 season upon winning her second world title at 2011 in Moscow, Ms. Ando announced her return with two Grand Prix assignments this fall--Cup of China and Trophee Eric Bompard. But then came the interviews that openly admitted her reluctance to compete and her preference for show skating, the morbidly depressing tweets, that whole Nikolai Morozov breakup, the resultant coachlessness....what on earth is going on? That being said, if Ms. Ando does indeed return to the competitive ranks, it will be very interesting to see what her skating would look like unMorozoved. Maybe we may even see the pre-Morozov Miki Ando who actually treated the music as something more than background noise and had the ability to emote.

Yu-Na Kim
With two lukewarm and obviously under-motivated competitions after her glorious win at the 2010 Olympics, speculation about Yu-Na Kim's imminent retirement was rampant....until Ms. Kim announced her comeback with the ultimate goal of reaching the Sochi Olympics in 2014 earlier this year. Though Ms. Kim will not be participating in the Grand Prix series this coming season, she has presumably learned the lessons of the 2010-2011 season and will compete at more than a single competition per season in her comeback. Based on some of her more recent show programs, Ms. Kim's jumps look decent after being away from competition for so long and the performances as a whole have spark and look considerably less phoned-in than before. Overall, Ms. Kim's return to the competitive ranks marks a welcome change to the rather anemic ladies' field over the past couple of seasons. Carolina Kostner's watered-down jump content, Mao Asada's startling decline and the youth and growth spurts of the Russian wonderbabies have made for some less-than-groundbreaking displays of competitive vigor and technical excellence in the ladies event this past season. Ms. Kim's return should raise the level and add some excitement to the ladies field....provided that she is motivated and ready to compete. But I suspect she will be.

On a tangentially-related note, am I the only disappointed that Ms. Kim is not re-using her wonderful Homage to Korea long program after only skating to it once competitively? The Kiss of a Vampire sounds like a great idea for a short program, but I'm fairly apprehensive about a Les Mis mashup for the long program.


  1. Oh goodness. Pre-Morozov Miki was beautiful. <3

  2. Does Nobu count as a comeback? He did compete in the GP last year, and even medalled. I was amused by the "Nobu is back" comments elsewhere online, since as you correctly noted, his Zayakking only happens at inopportune times, making him an exceptional early season skater.

    Plushenko will never retire. He'll hang in there and skate to music with lyrics post-Sochi, you just know he wants to inflict something tacky on us all.

    Lysacek is of no interest to anyone and probably only came back because the cast of the all star season of DwtS was full. Johnny is of more interest, but I wholly agree with your assessment of his chances.

    I have no thoughts about the ladies.

  3. " His skintone will be somewhere between carroty and kumquat."
    Hahahahahahaha! The whole bit was hilarious but this one is priceless..
    I really dont know what to expect re Miki, the whole thing seems such a mess.