Irrelevant Information

Feb 20, 2013

Akiko Suzuki, O

One criticism of Akiko Suzuki's O long program this season is that it doesn't have many transitions and ergo, it doesn't deserve to score highly in PCS, blah blah blah, whatever. Yes, it is true that Ms. Suzuki's program could have more transitions. Transitions should of course be given their due but when have transitions become the be-all and end-all of figure skating? Transitions, like any other technical element in skating, should ideally be a means to the end of creating an experience for the audience, for expressing a piece of music....not an end unto itself. Nor does having transitions automatically equate to having good choreography, for simple choreography can also be good choreography, as choreography also takes into account factors such as phrasing and form, the pacing of a program, how and when the technical elements are placed within the music, the general arc and overall vision of the skater's program and movement. And then there's also the fact that neither transitions nor good choreography alone are enough to make a great program that is an experience for the audience: a skater must make his/her choreography their own, to add that personal touch in translating music into movement (i.e. interpretation; performance/execution).

For me, Akiko Suzuki's O long program this season has such qualities in spades even if it lacks transitions: the way the program inexorably builds towards its climax, the choreographic sequence. The remarkable choreographic sequence itself with its exhilarating sense of flight. The placement of the technical elements within the program (note how jumps like the 2A-3T, 3L are landed right with the phrasing of the music even if not directly preceded by transitions, the way the flying camel spin is placed to highlight the shift in mood and music). The pacing of the program. The wonderfully nuanced step sequence. The conceptual theme and music cuts. The attention to detail. The superb connection to the audience and music.

I especially value the lattermost quality, because these days, I often feel cynical about figure skating and am emotionally detached from even many of the programs that I appreciate and like. I suspect this is due to the fact that I like watching figure skating because it uniquely fuses together sport and art into a single whole. However, although the sport part of figure skating is indisputable, the art part more often than not seems displaced in the mad dash towards more transitions, harder jumps, higher levels. But then I melt into a metaphorical puddle every time Akiko Suzuki performs O in that incredible way she does, soaring down the ice with such palpable joy and emotion, and I remember what I love best about figure skating still remains, for what is art but that which has the capacity to move us, to make us feel something that exceeds our immediate experience and thought?

I understand that the performance, the expression, that heady experience the skater creates for the audience--this isn't necessarily what is rewarded in PCS as it is currently structured, which is 2/5ths based on technical merits and tends to emphasize quantity/complexity over quality anyway (plus there is the fact that the judges can't seem to properly distinguish between the different categories of PCS and are easily swayed by jumping prowess). But that is where I think the current scoring system has gone astray, and the sport suffers for it.


  1. How very much I agree with every one of your sentiments. O is what will remain with me beyond this season. A season favourite easily and an example of what figure skating can and should be. Whoever did that music cut, major props to the brilliant person, to all who contributed actually. :)

    This will join Poeta in having a desktop hotlink.

    It has the right amount of choreography and highlights to capture the spirit and create the atmosphere. And how the music cuts work great with the spins, and beginning and ehd of steps. Oftentimes, I see a musical climax and that gets tied up in a spin instead of being used to more effect. Of course, there is a series of jumps after another without transitions. Does that bother me? Not in the least. Neither does some telegraphing here and there if she needs it to focus on the execution of the jumps.

    When it comes to the IJS, I don't think points awarded to both the technical and the performance/artistic aspects can ever reach an equilibrium that will meet the demands of the sport. We could keep the TES more or less, but the PCS have to go completely. I'm in favour of replacing them with an ordinal ranking based on intuitive enjoyment of the performances. Bias allowed, your own priorities of enjoyment allowed. Let's not pretend we can capture anything like a "2nd mark" in absolute numbers. There is no set formula of what a great programme has to have and have not.

    Officials of the sport, reach that post, watch that programme and devise something that does justice to the sport.

  2. Transitions include body movements. Her transitions may not be very difficult, but there are few blank spaces in the program. The only part where I feel transitions may be somewhat lacking is between the second jump and the third jump. Other than that, the program is very well choreographed and seamlessly woven together. I love the pacing of the energy and flow. It's very fluid and refreshing. The choreographic sequence is marvelous.

    I think that Akiko should have received higher SS, PE, CH, and IN. She has deep edges and great flow, speed, and power. Her performing ability is superb. She could have better stretch and extension and more difficult transitions, but that's it.

    Asada has relatively nice lines, but her skating skills have declined in speed, power, and flow. She also lacks the maturity and sensitivity to interpret the music and comes across as childish. I agree with the Euro commentators that the scores she received were probably credited to her past accomplishments than her actual performance there. I wish if Akiko had received more accurate PCS.

    1. I respectfully disagree about what you say about Mao. It's evident that her speed, power, and flow have improved this past season. She lacks maturity and sensitivity in her short program (because it isn't meant to be interpreted in a mature or sensitive way). Many of her other programs she performs rather mildly though in general her music choices don't fit with "the dramatic look" anyway. However, her expressions in her exhibitions are quite the opposite. I don't think anyone else can match the maturity and sensitivity of Mao's interpretations in her "I Vow to Thee My Country" exhibition. She literally brought her audience to tears with that program. So exquisite, graceful, and moving.

    2. There is no need to praise a skater by bringing another down. And which Eurosport commentators are you talking about? Because I remember hearing nothing but praises for both skaters from the commentators there.
      Akiko is a wonderful skater who usually has interesting programs and I agree she can get higher points in certain areas of PCS such as interpretation and choreography. That does not however discredit the scores received by Mao, who has a very different skating style from Akiko. As for skating skills, Akiko is faster but speed isn't really a highlight in her skating as it is in Kostner and Kim's skating. Mao also has beautiful edges and flow. Mao's skating has deceptive power because her style is soft and graceful.

    3. i completely agree with you here! it's quite unnecessary to praise a skater by bringing someone else down. i think it's sad that fans of other skaters discredit and try to take away mao's accomplishments and successes. personally, i think it's obvious that she's improved from two seasons ago and defininitely not declining. sure, she may have been gifted at nhk this season, but she fairly won everything else. mao is improving and fans of other skaters just don't like it.

      anyway, back to akiko since morozombie made an akiko post and not a mao post. both of her programs this season are underappreciated and undervalued. i used to be uninterested in her skating. but this season has definitely changed that for me! i'm amazed at her competitiveness at the "old" age of 27. camerlengo really did a good job with her this season. even if the judges don't give akiko's programs much attention, the fans sure do love akiko!

    4. Thank you all for your responses for my comment. Sorry it was not my intention to offend Mao's fans. Let me clarify that, when I said Mao's skating skills have declined in power, speed, and flow, I was comparing them to those in her 2007-8 season. Many of her skating skills declined during the Olympic season. Since 2010-2011, Mr. Sato has tried to have her increase the speed, but the lack of speed is still a major problem for her. If she has deep edges, why can't she generate greater speed?

      I acknowledge many of her improvements during the last seasons, but still couldn't make sense of the PCS for Mao (SS 8.21, TR 7.89, PE 7.96, CH 8.14, IN 8.14) and that for Akiko (SS 7.82, TR 7.39, PE 7.93, CH 7.86, IN 7.82). I am no expert, but have made decent efforts studying the PCS criteria, and have faith in the judges' expertise and honesty. Yet, I regret that I really couldn't make sense of their PCSs. If you could give me any insights in justifying them, I'd appreciate it.

      Many thanks in advance,

    5. In addition, Asada earned more GOE in FS at NHK Trophy than any other ISU competitions this season.

      CoC: 4.26
      NHK: 8.13
      GPF: 7.67
      4CC: 3.66

      It seems the judges at NHK Trophy really wanted her to win and did their best.

    6. Agree. I don't get why you have to bring Mao down to comment about Akiko.

    7. I hope I'm replying to the right person - the post placement got a bit messy here.

      >> I was comparing them to those in her 2007-8 season. Many of her skating skills declined during the Olympic season. Since 2010-2011, Mr. Sato has tried to have her increase the speed, but the lack of speed is still a major problem for her. If she has deep edges, why can't she generate greater speed?

      The answer is simple - because of the jumps. During the Olympics she was struggling with a belated growth spurt, which greatly affected her jumps (especially 3F/3Lz). Her jumps were no longer automatic, she had to use a lot of her concentration in order not to mess them up. Because she had to throw out the transition leading to the jumps and lack of confidence affected her speed, it made it seemlike her skating skills have decreased. However, her edgework and the ability toeasily generate speed was still apparent in her footwork sequences (which gathered the highest combined GoE at the Olys).
      Her post-Olympic seasons were spent on relearning her jumping technique, which, again, made her approach her jumps more cautiously. This started to pay off this season, as Kurt and Tracy mentioned in the CBC broadcast of Four Continent Championships.

      >> In addition, Asada earned more GOE in FS at NHK Trophy than any other ISU competitions this season.

      The difference in combined GoE isn't caused by inflation, but by how the GoE is quantified for the elements of different difficulty (as well as by the actual execution of the elements at the particular competition).

      If you look at the GoEs for the non-jump elements, they are in fact extremely close (in chronological order: 4.9, 5.59, 5.86, 5.05). As you can see, Mao actually received the highest GoE for non-jump elements at GPF. Mildly lower combined GoE at CoC and 4CC was caused by two things:
      1) At CoC and 4CC Mao missed a level during the step sequence. This didn't affect the individual GoEs awarded by the judges (in both cases they were still mostly +3s), but the final arithmetical average of the individual GoEs is quantified by 0.5 in the case of StSq3, and 0.7 in the case of StSq4.
      2) Mao's spins were somewhat slower at 4CC. It was not officially announced, but I think that due to hip/back injury that was bothering Mao early in the season (and made her drop her donut spin) she decided to cut back on practicing spins to avoid aggravating the injury.

      In the case of the jumps the situation is even simpler: Mao's mistakes at NHK consisted mostly of doubling her jumps, which affects mostly BV, so the GoE gained by the cleanly executed elements remained mostly untouched. In contrast, underrotating (<) and/or double-footing is less costly in terms of BV, but affects the GoE. And, again, the GoE on the jumps is quantified - a wonky double will receive less negative GoE than a wonky triple, but a wonky triple might still be woth more because the higher BV.

  3. stephanie, even if it wasn't your intention to offend mao's fans, you still did. not only did you offend mao's fans but you also offended akiko's fans.
    akiko shouldn't be used as an excuse to bring down mao. a fine skater such as akiko doesn't deserve such treatment. akiko should be loved and appreciated for who she is and shouldn't be looked as a defense mechanism to attack mao.

    in a judged sport such as skating, nothing is ever justified with any skater especially with this COP. people will always argue this that and the other. some people will find ways to justify scores while others will find ways to refute those scores.

    bringing up mao's scores is absolutely pointless because mao isn't the only skater who has received sweet treatment from judges this season. all the top skaters have including yu-na, carolina, and ashley. so there's absolutely no need to pick on mao and her scores. so why bring up mao's inflation (especially on an akiko post that didn't even mention mao)?

    regardless of the inflation of mao's scores, it's still unfair to bring mao down. each skater has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. she's worked VERY hard on her skating skills and jump content. she's an incredibly gutsy skater and takes on challenges her other competitors wouldn't dare to take on. mao tackling her nemesis lutz jump is remarkable. and just because she doesn't have a real lutz yet doesn't mean that the rest of her skating skills are poor.

    1. I apologize again if some of the words that I used in my original post had offended Mao's/Akiko's fans.

      The reason why I brought Mao up was because Akiko received lower PCSs than Mao's at NHK Trophy and a lot of people including myself felt PCSs were inaccurate. If the PCSs seemed reasonable for the actual performance qualities, there would have been no discussions. I've made sincere efforts to make sense of them, checking out each bullet point of the PCS explanations published by ISU (,11040,4844-152086-169302-64121-0-file,00.pdf ) and watching the ISU educational videos, but have still felt really puzzled.

      One of the reasoning people pointed out is that her O program might have relatively few transitions.
      Another reasoning I can think of is that the judges might felt that she is weak at the clarity of movements and carriage (some of the criteria of PE). On the other hand, she was excellent at the other criteria of PE (Physical, emotional, and intellectual involvement, Style and individuality/personality, Variety and contrast, and Projection).
      Her SS are definitely not as great as Carolina's. Her strokes come across as a little rough, but I think she has deep edges and demonstrates varied power/energy, speed, and acceleration.
      She was also excellent at all of the criteria on CH (purpose, proportion, unity, utilization of personal and public space, phrasing of the form, originality of the purpose, movement and design) and IN (effortless movements in time to the music, expression of the music's style, character, and rhythm, and use of fineness to reflect the nuances of the music). I think one of the main points of the original post is that the amount and the complexity of transitions should not affect the perception of CH. According to the definition of CH (An intentional, developed, and/or original arrangement of all movements according to
      the principles of proportion, unity, space, pattern, structure, and phrasing), it should not be the case though.


    2. None of your comments here explains why you brought up Mao in your first comment. I love both Mao and Akiko, and your way of bringing one down to praise the other is just annoying.

    3. It is almost like a cult religion worshiping Mao Asada.
      In Japan, criticizing Mao's skating skills and discussing war-responsibility of Hirohito were both big taboos.

    4. It's a taboo to discuss Asada's jumping techniques as well. Back in 2009-2010 season, it was a taboo to mention her lack of 3Lz, 3S and 3-3.

    5. With respect, I do not aware of any such "taboo" in Mr Morozombie's blog. Besides, it is unnecessary to mention that now, as Asada has included 3Lz, 3S and 3-3 combo in her competitive programme. She has also regained speed, power, and flow this season and skates efficiently with very few strokes. Ostensibly, her skating improves, not decline.

      Asada is courageous to attempt all 6 kinds of triples in competitive programme, so is Kostner who brings back 3Lz; unlike someone who continues to attempt 3S-2T for avoiding 3Lo and barely makes improvement (if not a decline in skating skills for the obvious losing of speed) in her competitive career.

      Finally I wish to thank you Mr Morozombie on his many articles appreciating Suzuki's SP & FS. Both are great this season and they do draw me in!

    6. >> It's a taboo to discuss Asada's jumping techniques as well. Back in 2009-2010 season, it was a taboo to mention her lack of 3Lz, 3S and 3-3.

      It is definitely not a taboo to discuss Mao's jumping technique. It's been thoroughly discussed both on the English-languaged Mao fan forum and its Japanese equivalent (according to the members who post on both sites). If you go back to the posts from the 09-10 season you'll see that Mao's jumping strategy (as well as the decision to stay with TAT) was heavily criticized by many users (although that was before Mao revealed that she simply couldn't attempt any different jumps because once her body matured, her old jumping technique stopped working and there was not enough time to fix her jumps in time for the Olys). Even now Mao's jumps are scutinized quite closely.

    7. It's definitely a taboo to discuss Asada's jumping technique in Japan. You can't even publicly question the result of this season's NHK Trophy in Japanese major media.

    8. Curious to see someone continues featuring Asada in comments towards Suzuki's article. Who would mind the taboo thing if the skater has already resumed her 3-3, 3Lz, 3S, and whatsoever, not to mention if there had been any real taboo at all?

      Grateful if one could share with us his/her view on Suzuki's (much delightful and improving) jumping technique?

      p.s. Is it an implication that Fuji TV is not a major Japanese media?

    9. When was the last time Asada got a full credit for 3-3? Did she ever have a clean 3Lz under COP, except at 2012 4CC where most wrong edges and UR were overlooked?

      They never discuss Asada's flutz, either on Fuji TV or NHK or Asahi because it must not be mentioned. You know, it's like Lord Voldemort.

    10. The last 3-3 that was credited is at the 2009 worlds (SP), IIRC. The lutz has been ratified at least twice during the 08-09 season as well although the purist will probably disagree with those ratifications. With that out of the way...

      Mao's flutz has been mentioned almost without fail on both TV Asahi and Fuji TV broadcasts. They even did an extensive feature on that one aspect alone on the news program Houdou Station (TV Asahi) and the edge call rules when it was first introduced in the 2007-2008 season. Heck, I'll even link you to a Japanese news feature discussing Mao's lutz right now:

      Bringing up the term "Mao uber" is always convenient but this wouldn't even be happening if you anons weren't pathetic enough to fabricate information. Better luck next time.

    11. This comment has been removed by the author.


    You have said nothing wrong and expressed yourself in a clear and concise matter. If Asada ubers insist on interpreting everything one says about her in a negative light that is not your problem. Since Morozombie's post features a vid of Suzuki's perfect skate at NHK, a performance that wasn't rewarded well in order to elevate Asada's lackluster one, it is not unreasonable to compare the two in terms of pcs were the difference seems imho to be unfair. Asada fans are only content when Suzuki is playing the perennial bridesmaid to Asada's placement. In their view, if someone believes Suzuki should place above their favourite, these people are not true Suzuki fans.

    I disagree with you about Asada's lack of improvement. She has surely improved in both speed, flow and edges compared to the Olympic season where she was skating on shallow edges (she looked like she was dragging herself across the ice when watched live, so bad was the state of her basics) to empty programs. She did have quite nice skating skills and flow over the ice before she left Arutunian, though. She was fantastic all through 2005-2008.

    I also agree in general that while Asada has lovely presentation (carriage, beautiful lines) imho she has little range and her projection and interpretation abilities are inferior to her competitors. She performs well in exhibitions but seen live in international competitions she seems to "clam up", skate in her own bubble and you are left with the feeling she doesn't even SEE the audience at all (I confess I've only seen her three times in my lifetime, though). Contrast that to Suzuki who goes out out of her way to both connect with the audience and has interpreted all kinds of music very WELL in her career.

    1. what a way to overgeneralize asada fans.

    2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and defending me about my intention.

      Regarding Mao's skating skills, I acknowledge that she has always had smooth quality to her skating. I think she has improved from the Olympic season in the sureness and cleanness of edges. She's also enhanced the skating vocabulary in edges, steps, and turns. I agree that her current speed and power are better than those during the Olympic season. Not only her steps, but also her jumping passes have better flow in and out, compared to those during the Olympic season. But I don't think she has regained the speed and power she used to have had during the 2007-08 season yet (Additionally, her jumping passes had had better flow in and out then). I've heard that Mr. Sato considers the speed very important in figure skating and I hope that she could improve on that.

      Going back to the PCS judging, it's often said that the evaluation of the skater's SS affects the other four components. I think it justifiable because it's figure skating rather than dancing.

      Fans often say Akiko's PCS is under-marked and I've wondered if that has something to do with her skating skills. Then I've found a thread at Figure Skating Universe in which posters ranked the skating skills of a number of senior ladies. I'm pleasantly surprised that many posters evaluated Akiko's skating skills very highly.

      But I've also realized that the evaluations can vary depending on what aspects of skating skills you are looking at. Akiko may be good at some aspects of skating skills, but not so much in other aspects. The same applies to Mao and others.

      One poster there made an important point: the level of skating skills does not remain stagnant throughout the skater's career and varies even in from one competition to the next in the same year, or from one program to the next in the same competition.

      I think it a very good point, which applies not only to the evaluation of skating skills, but also the other four components of PCS. Ideally, the evaluation of PCS should reflect only the qualities of performances skated on that day. If it's evaluated in such a manner, there would be less gaps between the audience's perceptions and judges' scores. The way PCS is scored now seems as if a given skater cannot score beyond a certain score range, to the extent that Skater A's meltdown is still scored higher on PCS than Skater B's skate of her life. Such judging is acceptable only if Skater A and Skater B are tremendously different on their PC skill levels, which IMO did not seem to be the case at NHK.


  5. It is quite obvious that Steph didn't need to bring up Mao that way on talking about the excellence of Akiko & O.
    It is quite spooky to witness those who brand as Mao ubers, whoever point that.

    1. I am afraid I apologized many times and I don't what else I could do. Stephanie

    2. I think it's fine! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and on tumblr anyway a loooot of people say stuff like that. They say that Gracie Gold stole away Christina's spotlight or whatever, so even though what you said wasn't the best thing, you apologized for it and that's great!
      I don't think people should keep pointing out that you said that, it's very rude.

    3. you have great points. people are entitled to their own opinions but it's just a matter of how opinions are expressed. what doesn't make sense is why stephanie even introduced mao which was very rude and unnecessary.

    4. Oh my god stop being such a porcelain doll! I don't think Stephanie is being rude at ALL, and I'm a Mao fan myself! To berate other people for stating their opinion, and then attacking them even AFTER said person had apologized for stating their opinion just outed you for being an UBER.

      The comparison was fair - as the context was made based on this particular instance at this particular competition. It would only be an insult when someone just said 'Mao just sucks, period' without any proper justification and left it at that.

      C'mon guys, stop getting crazy defensive. Plus I've seen Mao uber fans do the exact same thing to Yu-Na related threads, and it's like pot calling the kettle black when you guys do this.

  6. Thank you for another great article, Morozombie! Akiko is truly a joy to watch. I've loved her skating since I watched her lovely step sequence in the LP at Golden Skate 2007, and her amazing SP at Nationals that year.

    I must say I don't share your cynical outlook on the contemorary programs - on the contrary, I find myself enjoying the programs more and more. Just a few days ago I went on a figure skating Youtube spree, and I found it heartwarming how much the average skating skills, especially among juniors and novices, have improved recently. There's much less skating through the music, skating on flats, awkward rocking horse spirals, telegraphing, edge errors, and wonky jumping styles.
    I think the coaches and choreographers are finally starting to figure out that just because the programs are judged by a sum of their elements, it doesn't mean that they cannot be constructed as a working whole - and the skaters are slowly adjusting to the stricter regulations and skating with more ease and freedom.

  7. oh wow. Mao uber fans are as crazy as Yuna's uber fans, despite them saying otherwise and vice versa.The attack on poster 'Stephanie' even after she apologized and explained in a polite, clear and concise manner just proved this.

    TO STEPHANIE - I totally get your point about Mao's skating skills in that particular time, and I don't see it as 'putting down' Mao, as it is done in comparison to another time. You weren't being offensive at all. To be offensive is when one jumps in and goes 'This so and so skater is so overrated/ sucks/ etc' with no proper explanation nor justification to back it up (not to mention usage of deliberately provoking statement'.

    I quite agree with you btw - Mao is a very skilled and talented skater who is truly a joy to watch when she's really 'free' on the ice - which doesn't happen often. Sometimes I feel she comes across as cautious and worried in some instances, only loosening up towards the end of a program. In terms of performance, I find Akiko very 'generous' - she just opens up, and somehow makes you feel she acknowledges the people who are watching. It's hard to explain, but it's there.