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Sep 1, 2016

A Change

In the latest twist to the perennial off-season coaching drama of the figure skating world, there appears to be confirmation that Nikolai Morozov is now coaching Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (!!!).

This development is paradoxically both unsurprising and surprising at the same time.

For awhile, it really seemed that Weaver/Poje were Krylova/Camerlengo lifers . . . Weaver/Poje have been at the Detroit Skating Club since 2009, and the relationship between the team and their coaches has seemed very close (who could forget Ms. Krylova crying with emotion while watching Weaver/Poje perform Je Suis Malade at 2012 Worlds?). But one supposes a coaching change was somewhat inevitable given Weaver/Poje's clear downward trajectory in the ice dance pecking order since 2014: the meteoric rise of Papadakis/Cizeron and the impending return of Virtue/Moir may be developments beyond Weaver/Poje's control, but losing to a team like Chock/Bates and barely outscoring Gilles/Poirier by a single measly point at a Worlds short dance surely has inspired a significant amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Moreover, there's only one more season left before the all-important Olympic season, and obviously, Drastic Changes are needed for Weaver/Poje to claw their way back to (near the) top right in time for the Olympics. So a coaching change in and of itself is actually not that surprising.

But . . . a coaching change to Nikolai Morozov?!?!?! Mr. Morozov may have indeed been an ice dancer during his competitive days and he has admittedly coached a number of dance teams, but his best work as a coach and choreographer have arguably been through singles skaters: Alexei Yagudin's steps in Winter, Daisuke Takahashi's Cyber Swan, Sasha Cohen's Dark Eyes, Michelle Kwan's Spartacus, Miki Ando's two world titles, Shizuka Arakawa's Olympic gold.

Frankly, Mr. Morozov's track record as an ice dance coach has been spotty at best. Let's take a quick walk down memory lane here and examine Mr. Morozov's track record with his more prominent ice dance students:

Shae-Lynn Bourne/Victor Kraatz
Yes, working with both Tatiana Tarasova and Nikolai Morozov finally got Bourne/Kraatz that World title. But you know that famous Nietzsche quote about gazing long into the abyss, and the abyss gazing back at you? That's what I think of when I watch the Adagio free dance that won Bourne/Kraatz the world title. Yes, the very same Bourne/Kraatz, AKA the team that railed against the Russian ice dance establishment for so many years . . . before grabbing Ms. Tarasova and Mr. Morozov as coaches and skating a RUSSIAN DRAMAAAAA free dance that could out-Russian even an unholy combination of Oksana Grishuk, Anjelika Krylova, and Natalia Bestemianova. And was this even necessary, given Lobacheva/Averbukh's completely wretched free dance that season? But whatever, Bourne/Kraatz still won the world title, so I guess this counts as a success in Mr. Morozov's favor.

Elena Grushina/Ruslan Goncharov
Mr. Morozov was able to coach Grushina/Goncharov to an Olympic bronze against all logic and sense, so I guess that in itself is rather impressive. But having your own students skate a sad ripoff of Grishuk/Platov's iconic The Feeling Begins while wearing nipple tassels in front of the entire world at the Olympics is a decision so deficient in taste, reason, and judgment that winning an Olympic medal is almost beside the point.

Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov
Where does one even begin here? In the beginning, there was the preternaturally attractive and talented team of Ilinykh/Katsalapov, charming the world with their effervescent Don Quixote during their senior debut season. Then came the coaching switch to Mr. Morozov. There was first that bizarre cloak-and-dagger act around the unveiling of Ave Maria, which was hyped to be so incredible and ground-breaking but turned out to an overwrought, overcooked mess that just fell apart at 2012 Worlds. Then came Ghost . . . what more can be said about the awful Ghost that hasn't been said already? Thankfully, the gods were lying in ambush and Ilinykh/Katsalapov were deservedly punted to the bottom half of the top ten at 2013 Worlds. Then finally there was Black Swan, a triumph of low expectations that was glowingly praised because it managed to be better than Ghost (perhaps this was Mr. Morozov's 'brilliant' strategy all along?). But then shadiness involving Mr. Morozov and Mr. Katsalapov in some form or another happened right when Ilinykh/Katsalapov were on the cusp of winning a world title at 2014 Worlds . . . what exactly happened, we may never know. But just thinking about it makes my blood boil.

So, given Mr. Morozov's illustrious ice dance track record . . . what can we expect from Weaver/Poje's new partnership with Mr. Morozov? I predict overused and overwrought music/themes, Ms. Weaver wearing gloves and/or bad illusion mesh, and increased speed and power at the expense of transitions and complex choreography. We already know that Weaver/Poje will be skating to Concerto de Aranjuez from their free dance this season . . . so be afraid. Be very afraid!

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