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Nov 24, 2012

The State of the Union: 2012 Grand Prix

Some observations from the Grand Prix series this season....

Akiko Suzuki is a lovely and talented skater with two strong programs this year. Her O long program is especially a delight to watch. It is a travesty that the judges consistently refuse to acknowledge Ms. Suzuki's skills by lowballing her PCS and thus robbing her of the gold at both Skate Canada and at the NHK Trophy. What would it take for Ms. Suzuki to break into the 8-range of PCS she deserves? Maybe a more supportive federation. Or maybe a name change....

Patrick Chan has shut me up. Well done, sir.

Our purported future overlords, the Russian superbabies, have mostly underwhelmed this season. Julia Liptnitskaya still skates like a small robot and her jumps do not look like they are going to survive puberty. Elizaveta Tuktamisheva has also been been struggling with her growing body and her purported artistic Renaissance with David Wilson choreography, etc., has mostly stayed mired in the dark ages of Mishin. Adelina Sotnikova continues to mystify with dreadful programs and performances despite her obvious talent level. There is no salvation in Polina Shelepen, Polina Korobeynikova or Sofia Biryukova. Contrary to the lofty predictions of some, the tantalizing prospect of a ladies OGM at Sochi looks like a distant proposition for the Russians from the way things are looking right now.

Is Yuzuru Hanyu the new Sasha Cohen? Sometimes it does seem like it. Both are thin, bendy, have kickass short programs but can't seem to survive a long program without botching something major. For Mr. Hanyu, it is startling to see the stark difference between his short and long programs. The boy smashes records and skates with sensational speed, power and confidence in his short, but his long programs have consistently underwhelmed so far. Not only is the choreography not as good, but his stamina (or lack thereof) have made both his long programs on the GP this season exhausting to watch even for the viewer sitting complacently in front of his/her computer screen. The first half of the program is skated with the speed and power of the short program, but as the program wears on, Mr. Hanyu gets droopier and droopier, his speed noticeably drops, the mistakes piles on, and the interpretation and attention to detail goes out the window. Not surprising the judges at NHK slammed him with only 7-range PCS during his long program there. If, however, Mr. Hanyu can hold himself together in the long program, he will be difficult to beat. His insane transitions, GOE-happy jump quality and high base value will make him nigh-untouchable even if his PCS isn't exactly up to scratch.

What is this? A Canadian lady who can land (most of) her jumps under pressure, skates with flair, and doesn't seem like an absolute headcase? Kaetlyn Osmond has established herself as a force to be reckoned with this season with her win at Skate Canada (questionable, some say, but she still won). Her overall packaging and polish needs quite a bit of work--especially that Katarina Witt-wannabe Carmen LP--but her big jumps, difficult transitions and raw performance ability will take her far. Also note: Worlds is in Canada this year. Just saying...

The Japanese have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to their men's division. It is insane that their random #591053158-ranked skaters can win GP events. It is insane that they have won 4 out of the 6 GP gold medals for men. It is insane that they have won 10 out of the 18 available medals GP men's medals available this season. Japanese Nationals is definitely going to be some sort of a gladiatorial fight to the death this season. The Japanese Skating Federation would be stupid not to put Daisuke TakhashiYuzuru Hanyu and Takhiko Kozuka on their world team, but Nobunari OdaTatsuki Machida, etc., are going to make them work for it. If there is a country that deserves more than three spots at Worlds, it's Japan. Can't we take away France's or Canada's third men's spot and give it to the Japanese instead?

On the other side of the spectrum are the American men, all of whom look increasingly hopeless as the years go by. There is talent there, but somehow it never seems to come together. It is sad that a skater of Jeremy Abbott's caliber continues to bumble off podiums and lose to random obscure Japanese skaters like he does, but it is what it is. With things looking as they did on the Grand Prix this year, it seems pointless to hope that resurrected veterans like Evan Lysacek will revive US men's skating and get that third spot back. It's not like Mr. Lysacek has the goods to compete with the likes of Yuzuru Hanyu, Patrick Chan and Daisuke Takahashi anyway. Maybe it would be best to write off this generation and actually give Joshua Farris a senior GP assignment next season. Or pray that Jason Brown will acquire a consistent quad and triple axel....

Mao Asada may have won two GP gold medals for the first time in many years, but her jumps remain a mess. Ms. Asada may have (wisely) put her 3A on the backburner for now, but URs, two-foots and doubling still proliferate among her other triples. Despite all this talk about working on her technique, there hasn't been much discernible improvement and it doesn't look likely that it will happen in time for Ms. Asada to win the only prize that she's lacking: Olympic gold. Also, did anyone else notice that Ms. Asada's I Got Rhythm SP seems rather reminiscent of Mirai Nagasu's I Got Rhythm SP from the 2007-2008 season? Choreography for both by Lori Nichol (of course):


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  2. Hi Morozombie:

    I usually come to your blog looking for good articles and I'm usually agree with you and I laugh a lot =) This time I agree with you, Akiko's Fs at NHk deserves more PC's, she was underscore, but that is not Mao's fault, it's judges fault. I think Mao was fairly score, but Akiko's wasn't fairly score. I feel sad for Akiko, but, again, it isn't Mao's fault!

    I think Mao improve a lot in the technical side, she has a beautiful edge and ice coverage, more speed, etc. I think in this way the training is paying results. About jumps, she is better, she stop the UR jumps, if she pop some jumps in her FS at NHK is a mental thing and maybe the fact that she took 3 months off the ice to think about why she should stay to skating?

    I think the death of her mother put things on perspective, she admitted that winning the silver medal at Vancouver is like she had achieve her child dream of gold medal. Now her dreams are different, and she wants to skate just because she loves skating and she wants to be a best skater, she knows she has to work a lot for that. I don't think now she skates because she wants a OGM desperately!

    Like a fan of figure skating i'm happy that, finally, she decided not retire and continue skating, her skating is so beautiful, i'm grateful because i can still watching it.

    About Yuzuru, I think he isn't like Sasha, his problem with the FS is that he suffer from asthma, I admire him because he still fighting even with this disadvantage.

    Thank u Morozombie, and please, forgive my imperfect English.

    1. Your English is fine! Thank you for reading :)

  3. Dear Morozombie,

    was that the post percolating in your mind that I was supposed to like? :D

    I have to reiterate: P. Chan has really shut us up, indeed! I took my time to join the bandwagon prematurely and rightly so, but the Chan and his programmes of this season cannot be denied.

    She scoring of Akiko Suzuki or rather the outcome of the Ladies event finally made me lose all hope for the IJS that was left in me, and that was infinitesimally small to begin with, when the Ladies FS started.

    I fully agree on your take on Yuzuru Hanyus programmes, btw. While the SP is a cracker, the LP is just dragging and not half as good choreographically.

    1. No, the post I was referring to previously is much more elegantly written and structured (I hope!) than this one....but it is still half-written (well, more like one-eighth written) at this point. I'm trying to write a proper post instead of my more recent half-assed posts of late, but unfortunately I do not have much spare time these days and what I do now in school is really messing around with my writing style.

      I'm really disappointed in Yuzuru Hanyu's LP this season. It looks and feels like a clumsy rehash of his Romeo and Juliet LP year...

  4. I'm in agreement with you through a lot of this, too.

    I think Kaetlyn Osmond was actually *underscored* in the short program at Skate Canada, and a repeat of that if she makes it to Worlds might shock everyone as far as where she ends up. That program was seriously THAT good IMO. LP needs work, though.

    Same goes for Hanyu. I love his short program, but I think the judges are giving him generous PCS scores. Much like Osmond, I'd have his skating skills quite a bit lower than his transitions and choreography scores. See Skate America short program components scoring-- there's no way Hanyu is a stronger overall skater than Kozuka (yet, at least). I'm not a fan of his LP, either. The music just doesn't build enough. I prefer last season's effort.

    I don't think Suzuki is quite an 8.00-level skater yet, and this comes from a huge fan. The ladies are just so far behind the men in terms of really building their programs to be strong and fitting the system well. I think most of the top men belong in the 8's while most of the top ladies in the mid 7's or maybe an occasional low 8- pretty much across the board on components.

    Speaking of components, Julia Lipnitskaia belongs in the low to mid-6's when she's at her absolute best. I don't get her scores at all. She looks like a junior and her jump technique worries me as to when she goes through puberty. I remember a young skater by the name of... Caroline Zhang getting her JGP performances shared all around the internet when she was first coming onto the scene internationally and she had many of the same features as Lipnitskaia-- particularly the crazy ability to spin. But there was just so much else lacking about her skating, and I feel the exact same way with Julia. For me, I think Tuktamysheva and Sotnikova (if she can get it together) will be the front-runners for Sochi.

    1. I love your blog, by the way!

      On Miss Osmond: She blew me away when I first watched her SP at Skate Canada. It was actually my first time watching her and I was NOT expecting a an Obscure Canadian Lady to skate like that. If she skates her SP like that at Worlds, I too think she will definitely score very high. She's a bit rough around the edges but that SP is a point-scoring machine.

      I generally agree with what you said about Mr. Hanyu, especially about his skating skills which I feel are not at the level of Takahiko Kozuka's or Daisuke Takahashi's...another example of judges being influenced by the big jumps.

      But I do think Akiko Suzuki is an 8-range skater in at least PE, IN and CH! Definitely not TR, and I'm on the fence for SS. When strictly compared to the other eligible ladies skating today, I'd place her quite highly, however: good knees, good flow, good edges.

      I don't understand Julia Lipnitskaya's PCS either. I find her CH and IN marks especially mystifying as all her programs are virtually interchangeable to me. Sadly yet another example of jump prowess affecting judges' perception of PCS. Now that you mention it, I can definitely see the Caroline Zhang resemblance. Tiny jumps, crappy axel technique, not much speed, and yep, that flexibility. I personally don't think she'll be the jumper she is now after puberty, but there is always a chance she'll grow like, say, Sasha Cohen...who knows.

    2. I agree that Suzuki is an 8-range skater on the more artistic parts of the PCS. I think there is a tendency sometimes to underestimate the ladies in this regard because they don't always have as many transitions as the men or skating skills as polished as the very top guys. That's okay; save the 9s in SS for Kozuka and Chan. But just because a skater is not at the top end of the scale on SS/TR doesn't mean that the IN/CH/P&E are weaker as well. I read Tony's blog, and I know this is something he agrees with, too - so I'm surprised at his assessment of Suzuki's skating and performances here.

      Somewhat OT, I'd really like to know why Kostner was scoring 7/8s when the men were scoring 8/9s last season; she has better skating skills than most of them and had better programs than pretty much all of them, plus in the SP she had extremely difficult music to interpret. I wonder if the infamous corridor is simply at different places for the ladies than it is for the men, just as ice dance PCS seem to be marked differently from the other discipline (I mean, really - D/W getting 9.86 for IN?!).

      Chan has not won me over. I like his SP but as I've stated elsewhere, I think I'd have liked it much better if Buttle were skating it. Even with a quad fall.

  5. Dear Morozombie,

    Last season, you seemed like you were enchanted by Yuzuru Hanyu and his Romeo and Juliet program. Such magic is not working on you anymore now that the R&J LP is gone? Or is it his Notre Dame LP that you are not thrilled at all? If you are the choreographer, what program (music) would you like to give him?

    1. Mr. Hanyu's Romeo and Juliet LP was magical to me. I loved it (and consequently his skating) ever since I first saw it at The Ice last year. I still like Mr. Hanyu's skating, but I don't find his Notre Dame LP to have anywhere near the same level of appeal. All in all, I would prefer that Mr. Hanyu had programs worthy of his skills (much like how I feel like Daisuke Takahashi this season, actually...).

      To be honest, I have no idea what sort of music I would like Mr. Hanyu to skate to!

  6. Hi

    I found your blog somehow and just started to read and i wanted to say that Yuzuru Hanyu did a good free program in Finlandia Trophy 2012. Even though there were small mistakes, but he did his jumps. both quads. and i do like his programs. i know that it's hard to take two different kind of music for short and free program but i think he can do that. Maybe not that perfectly yet but maybe later in this season.. well this is just how i think...
    And hey he's only 17 years old.. well soon 18 but anyway, he still have much time to learn more.

    I'm sorry if this feels like some sort of whining letter, but i'm not trying to do that ;D I do appreciate your view!

    1. Mr. Hanyu landed his jumps at Finlandia, but that was about it. His performance level dropped, everything grew ragged. And even if Mr. Hanyu somehow manages to skate his LP perfectly later this season, I still don't think his LP is very good at all--I find it merely a pale imitation of last year's far superior LP.

  7. I'm so relieved I'm not the only one who thinks Lipnitskaya skates like a robot. I keep expecting her facial expressions to change, some hint of emotion to go with the music, but nope. I realize she's only 14, and some of that comes with maturity, but completely ignoring artistry will hurt her in the long run. I think her coaches assume her jump and spin levels will put her on the podium, so why bother? I guess it worked, but it's really sad, and it's not great to watch. Her scores are way too high for what she puts out; it's like she's being rewarded for being a novelty. Extreme flexibility does not automatically equal artistic. Her arms in her jumps, esp. double Axel, are crazy! I agree with everyone else that her jump technique most likely with not hold up. Her spins are freakishly amazing; I'll give her that.

    Akiko Suzuki is really underscored in the PCS. Her programs are fabulous, and she's much more artistic than they're giving her credit for. Give the woman a damn gold medal already. It's not like she hasn't earned it.

    The American men make me want to bang my head against a wall. Evan and Johnny are not going to come back. I believe the IJS system has made it much more difficult now. Johnny was terrible and then said injury (sounds familiar!), Evan pulled out and has just had surgery, and as you said neither of them can keep up with the Japanese or Patrick Chan. What's that you say? You don't have a consistent quad? Then stick to show skating, make some money, have fun. Jeremy Abbott, I'm not even going to start...honestly, I don't know how he can go through it every season.

    I'm still excited for the American ladies. What are your thoughts on Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu so far?

  8. Usually I'm agreeing with nearly everything you say dear Morozombie, but this time I'm a little puzzled about your comment about Yuzuru Hanyu. While I agree his FS this year wouldn't hold up in comparison to last years Romeo, I don't see why you label him a SP skater just yet. It were exactly 2 competitions in which he had a rockin' SP just to fall flat in the LP.
    But this is like it was last year too. The difference is his SP's are way better, he tended to botcher them last season except for CoC (he definitly did at JN and WC). But he had the same problems with his FS last year! Both performances at CoC and CoR had him running out of gas at the end and making silly mistakes. It got better at GPF and JN and he only completly delivered it at worlds. Who says he's not going to improve this season too? I think he will, he already did - about 16 points in TES from SA to NHK.

    That said, maybe he won't find the same spark he had last season, maybe he won't connect to his music better and learn how to portray it. I don't think I like this music choice to begin with and the program is a little generic. But that's the program itself that's kind of a problem. Hanyu however doesn't look like he's going to be the new Sasha Cohen to me :)

    But anyway, great post in general. Thanks for writing this blog!

  9. What do you think of Mirai Nagasu this season? People say her FS still is very robotic until the choreo sequence at the end, and I sort of agree. But now that I look at the FS itself, I don't know if anyone could take those music cuts and make an exciting program at all...