Oct 25, 2014
Skate America 2014: Ladies SP
Some comments on the top 3 ladies short programs at Skate America 2014....
The downward trajectory of Elizaveta Tutkamysheva has been painful to watch over the past few seasons, particularly as she is a Russian ladies skater: one gets the sense that Ms. Tuktamysheva would literally be trampled afoot by the hordes of talented Russian ladies skaters clawing their way up to the podium. After failing to make the Russian Olympic team at her home Olympics, Ms. Tuktamysheva has clearly buckled down and worked hard to improve her skating. Skating to Bolero while dressed in a dark, bat-winged dress (the wings presumably in tribute to Christopher Dean), Ms. Tuktmaysheva placed first in the short program with a clean skate. Ms. Tuktamysheva's choreography has a jerky quality rather incongruous with the music of Bolero, but her jumps looked very good, and she skated the entire performance with a sort of confidence, conviction and speed that has often been missing from her skating for the past couple of seasons.
I don't particularly like tiny prepubescent child skaters. Their big jumps, various technical shortcomings and distinct lack of polish have always annoyed me, particularly when the judges inflate their Program Components Scores as if their choreography, musicality, and skating skills, etc., are necessarily positively correlated to the base value of their jumps. Elena Radionova suffers from all the tendencies outlined above: her music cuts are horrendous, the choreography is often of questionable relation to the music, her free foot is defiantly clunky, her jumps are rather wild . . . yet Ms. Radionova has that magical, Baiul-like performance quality that conveniently provides me with selective amnesia regarding the numerous faults in her skating. I now know how Scott Hamilton must have felt when he yelled something along the lines of "SHE HAS NO FAULTS! NONE!" while watching Oksana Baiul two-foot a bunch of jumping passes, do some shoddy, simple footwork and abuse the donut spin. Indeed, Ms. Radionova's skating reminds me of Ms. Baiul's in many ways--namely, that incredible natural performance ability that draws you in no matter what crap she is skating to. I know that some people dismiss Ms. Radionova as just being yet another cute and energetic junior-type skater, but her skating to me is so confident, so reckless, so of-the-moment--just so alive--it speaks to me on a deeper level. I know Ms. Radionova must go through the inevitable maturing process that all ladies skaters go through to be taken seriously, but I hope she never loses that spark she has right now.
What to do with a problem like Gracie Gold? A couple years ago, Ms. Gold was a young up-and-coming skater with a no-name coach, airplane arms, hokey choreography but gargantuan jumps and good speed. Fast forward a couple of years, inject Frank Carroll and Lori Nichol in the mix, and what do we have now? An American Ice Princess™, complete with generic twinkly music, tastefully nondescript choreography, shrunken jumps, and a rictus grin firmly affixed to her face like a particularly obstinate sticky note. In other words: totally and utterly boring. Ms. Gold's skating now reminds me of those movies that have been focus-group tested again and again until they become something that placates everyone. Unlikely to offend, yes, but equally unlikely to inspire either: such is the fate of the lowest common denominator.
Here at Skate America, Ms. Gold skated to her Grieg concerto short program, a determinedly tasteful rehash of every generic female ballad-style program ever skated. Unfortunately for Ms. Gold, a two-foot on her 3Lz-3T and an absolutely silly mistake on her final spin cost her the lead and stuck her down in third. I wish I could say more about her performance, but I can't remember a single thing about it except for the mistakes.