Irrelevant Information

Oct 24, 2017

Recap: 2017 Rostelecom Cup: Men & Ladies

Last weekend, the senior Grand Prix of Figure Skating officially kicked off with the Rostelecom Cup of Russia in Moscow, Russia! Despite the suspense of seeing the debut of new programs somewhat muted by the increasingly large amount of skaters participating in the Challenger Series, questions nonetheless abounded prior to this year's iteration of the Rostelecom Cup: was Yuzuru Hanyu really going to go for the 4Lz? How many points was Evgenia Medvedeva was going to win by in the ladies field?? Were any skaters going to make Tatiana Tarasova go into paroxysms of ecstasy live on air???

The Men
Nathan Chen further cemented his position as the #1 American dude as well as his spot on the U.S. Olympic team by winning a narrow victory over reigning World and Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu at their first match-up of the season. Although quite a few jump landings were marred by scratchy, off-axis landings, Mr. Chen nonetheless still managed to rotate six quadruple jumps over both his programs. The choreography of Mr. Chen's programs this season, while a vast improvement on last season's skate-up-and-down-the-rink-between-jumps programs, still occasionally play second fiddle to several long, obvious set-ups to Mr. Chen's (admittedly very difficult) quadruple jumps. That said, Mr. Chen's transitions have definitely improved from last season, though. One thing Mr. Chen should still definitely work on, however, are his stiff knees, something that would improve his overall power and speed over the ice.

Yuzuru Hanyu continued his streak of losing his first Grand Prix event of the season by finishing second overall to Mr. Chen, although Mr. Hanyu did win the free skate in Moscow.  As someone who was 100% expecting to see Mr. Hanyu chase the great white whale of the 4Lz to no avail throughout this entire season (sort of like the 4S in 2013-2014), it was a big surprise to see Mr. Hanyu actually successfully rotate and land a 4Lz on his very first try in competition this season, with +GOE nonetheless. The 4Lz's landing was low, but the height and distance of the jump was superb. Brava to Mr. Hanyu indeed.

What is there to say about Mr. Hanyu's wildly ambitious new five-quad/two 3As layout in this season's Seimei? Mr. Hanyu is someone who could afford to scale back on his base value and rest on his GOE and PCS laurels, but it's not surprising Mr. Hanyu is choosing the rockier path of increasing his base value. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and you can bet that Mr. Hanyu remembers how Patrick Chan was eventually technically outgunned by younger, hungrier skaters during the second half of the 2010-2014 Olympic cycle.

Mikhail Kolyada won the bronze medal overall at this year's Rostelecom Cup despite unceremoniously falling three times in the LP and not actually completing a jump combination in the SP. Mr. Kolyada's PCS rose to empyrean heights at this competition; perhaps the judges are relieved as we are that Mr. Kolyada is no longer skating to Russian kitsch? Or, perhaps more likely, the Russian Skating Federation is gearing up for the Team Event at the Olympics, an event they seem to take much more seriously than most. Whatever the reason, there were some interesting things going on in Mr. Kolyada's PCS. Take the French judge's (Veronique Verrue) PCS to Mr. Kolyada, for instance. Ms. Verrue scored Mr. Kolyada firmly in the 7-range in the SP, but her PCS rose to a solid 8.75-9.00 for Mr. Kolyada in the LP. I'm guessing Ms. Verrue got a scolding between the SP and LP to get back in the corridor (sigh--typical). Anyway, Mr. Kolyada is a talented skater who has solid skating skills and good jump technique, but is Mr. Kolyada a high-8 range/9-range skater for PCS when he's skating a cheesy three-fall LP that he wasn't fully selling until the last minute? NO.

Honorable Mentions
-the more I watch Dmitri Aliev, the more I dig his skating . . . his injury prevented him from skating his best this competition, but his time will surely come.
-Denis Ten reverted back to D5 mode and finished an ignoble ninth with a pair of disastrous performances. Note how much better and less cliched his music/programs are after returning to Frank Carroll's clutches . . .

The Ladies
To absolutely nobody's surprise, Evgenia Medvedeva continued her dominance over ladies skating by easily winning the ladies' event of the 2017 Rostelecom Cup with a comfortable 15-point lead. As proof of her mind-boggling consistency, it was a big surprise to many when Ms. Medvedeva fell on the 2A during her LP, but the fact that she got up laughing was . . . pretty adorable. Shades of that famous Janet Lynn moment when Ms. Lynn got up smiling from a fall on her flying sit spin at the 1972 Sapporo Olympics?

Ms. Medvedeva's choice to switch from her Averbukhian The Leftovers LP to Anna Karenina is a good one. The Leftovers was typical Averbukh choreography that seemed like an extension of her previous two LPs while Anna Karenina is a much different mood--at the very least, it allows Ms. Medvedeva to portray a character that isn't the innocent young naif archetype so favored by Ilia Averbukh. That said, however, one thing I don't quite understand about Ms. Medvedeva's choreography is why her step sequences tend to be paired with cacophonous pieces of music that are extremely difficult to skate to? See, e.g., the Anna Karenina steps, the Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close steps. Is this supposed to distract us from the fact that her step sequences aren't actually timed to the music?

Carolina Kostner's second-place performances at this competition, particularly her LP to Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune were just dreamy. I've watched Ms. Kostner's LP 5+ times since this weekend, and every viewing is as delightful as the last. Transitions, triple jumps--who cares about those trifles when we can luxuriate in watching Ms. Kostner float over the ice to Debussy? That said, I fully expect Ms. Kostner to upgrade her decidedly lower base value later in the season (like in 2013-2014) to try to keep up with those teenagers she's competing against. At the very least, the 3F-2T Ms. Kostner is doing now will surely be a 3F-3T by Pyeongchang, and I wouldn't be surprised if a solo 3Lz materialises as well.

Last season, I observed that Ms. Kostner's skating skills seemed to have deteriorated somewhat in Helsinki--watching live in the arena, it was obvious that she lacked her old speed and flow. At Rostelecom Cup, Ms. Koster's speed and flow looked much improved on the screen, but I would love to hear from someone who was actually in the arena!

Wakaba Higuchi made a strong case for a coveted spot on the Japanese ladies Olympic team by skating two solid performances here in Moscow after her previous strong showing at Lombardia. I'm not entirely sold on Ms. Higuchi's SP yet, but her James Bond LP is great! I love the creative choreographic flourishes throughout the program, such as the split jump into a besti squat, as well as the choreographic sequence and the transitions into the final spin. Moreover, Ms. Higuchi has clearly worked hard to improve her performance skills over the summer, and it clearly shows in her skating this season. Even without a 3A (which the solo 2A in her LP is clearly a placeholder for), Ms. Higuchi's big jumps, good skating skills, and improved PCS makes her a good pick for the Japanese Olympics team at this point of the season.

Honorable mentions
-Elena Radionova: what a weird fall on the aborted 3Lo! Sadly, Ms. Radionova's fight to maintain her triple jumps through her physical development has resulted in the stagnation of her skating overall, as well as the erosion of the sheer confidence and verve she possessed in her youth.
-Kaori Sakamoto is a breath of fresh air and a welcome addition to the increasingly deep ladies field in Japan. The fact that Japan only has two ladies spots for the Olympics is a travesty. . .
-Despite a promising performance at the Japan Open, Mirai Nagasu had a disastrous SP and an OK LP marred by a good amount of UR calls. That said, however, some of the calls were pretty borderline--the 3A in the SP at the very least looked rotated enough to pass muster. Ms. Nagasu's 3A set-ups are so glaringly obvious and transparent, though . . .


  1. It's not that I don't agree with people on Kolyada's PCS being rather inflated, but the more I see people complain about Kolyada while not giving a second thought to Hanyu's PCS and GOE laurels, the more annoyed I become! But I'll never "get" Hanyu, I find him technically impressive yet incredibly uninspired, and I have to come to terms with this somehow.

    But mostly I just want Aliev to come back from his ankle issues and qualify for the Olympics. That would make me forgive whatever happens between the top men. That SP really was lovely.

  2. Nathan Chen - I'm not really his fan (yet, maybe) but damn am I jealous on behalf of my favourites of how good his programs are this season. I especially love the SP, although I think I still prefer to no-quad version at CaOI. The first, quiet third of his FS is a dream but as it hits Rite of Spring it starts to lose me a bit. Still, great skating and a well-deserved winner at CoR.

    Yuzuru Hanyu - Boy was I shocked he landed the 4Lz. Idk if you followed his practices but he was popping it so often I just prayed he'd rotate it in competition, landing be damned. I don't understand why ppl are crying about his GOE. The lutz was huge and landed with a running edge (!!!), so taking in account of the lean axis and low landing, +1 is about what I'd have given him.

    Curious about your impressions on Ballade no. 1 Ver 3 and Seimei Ver 2. I feel like Ballade is substantially different from its previous incarnations. Shame about the b2b spins but he wants to backload the combo so what can you do ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I have hope for Seimei 2 but both times we've seen it so far, his heart wasn't really in the choreography (no surprise, early season and monstrous layout). I hope we'll see it being more polished later on.

    Evgenia Medvedeva - I'm so so glad she changed her FS. The previous one bored me to tears. I was very surprised when I learnt that it wasn't choreographed by Averbukh though, since all the miming screams his genius.

    Wakaba Higuchi - completely blew me away with Skyfall. I didn't quite get her last season, although her Ex was lovely, until I watched he Lombardia FS performance. I'm now rooting for her to get an Olympic spot along side Satoko (cross fingers). I'm not really a fan of her SP either but I think it suits her fine. Getting bronze here was not ideal for her though, since the field at CoC is very stacked (why JSF) so it'll be hard for her to qualify for finals.

    Kaori Sakamoto - needs to revamp her FS ASAP. God the doll choreo is so weird.

  3. I suppose Medvedeva' can perform her jumps and spins without error, but lordy I find it so incredibly distracting to see her doing all this spastic, ADHD cluttered 'stuff' on the ice without ever connecting any of it to the music she's skating to. It really was starkly clear in her EX to Meditation From Thais - in music that begs to for holding an edge and just GLIDING - she just could not do it. She'd come off much better like the guys in men's gymnastics who perform floor routines to no music. And its a real shame with all the praise being heaped on her she'll probably never get the acting lessons she so desperately needs.

    Its crazy how much more beautiful and lyrical men's skating is these days than the ladies. Hanyu, Ge and Aliev.

    I first saw Aliev a few years ago in an early season Junior Grand Prix competition skating to "Hellfire" from Hunchback of Notre Dame and its still the best LP I've seen him give (saw him do this program a few more times and he was never as good). I have a feeling he's one of those who will struggle with all the quads and with headcasing but I hope not because at his best he is just wonderful.

    The only thing with Chen is that the first time I saw his FP I was super-disappointed when the "Rite of Spring" music ended - and think he missed a huge opportunity not doing his entire program to that.

    Kolyda's an interesting case. Unlike Medvedeva' he is super responsive to music but like, TOO responsive - he is so spastic I find him hard to watch (and the tacky music he often picks does not help) If he skated to some halfway decent but super detailed music like Flight of the Bumblebee he could be incredible.

    1. I totally agree with your point about Medvedeva cluttering her programs and not connecting her skating with the music. She could be so much more enjoyable to watch if any of her transition moves had any time to breath. In her FS she has what I suppose is supposed to be a hydroblade but it's so brief and barely done it has none of the impact it could have. Same can be said for any movement she does between jumps that could be a really memorable moment in the program but often those movements are done half-heatedly, not held for long enough, performed with no commitment and ill-timed with the music.

  4. I think Carolina has gotten some of her speed back as well! Maybe not quite where she used to be, but 90% of the way there (which puts her well above the rest of the field).

  5. I was there in the arena. One thing for sure I know
    1) Kostner has the best presence among the ladies there. Her music choices were boring but when she’s there, she’s there, I didn’t feel like dozing off. Her 3-3 in the SP was clean. What a surprise! It’s right before my eyes. Her LP is boring I have too say. But I think she deserved the silver.
    2) The Shibs have better fluidity on ice than B/S. I don’t want to talk about the team that came third because other than their sit twizzle, they were absolutely boring.
    3) Medvedeva’s SP was a snorefest. Her SP has a weakness in the step sequence. The ice coverage was only half of the rink. I can’t say otherwise. I quite like her free skate to Anna Karenina though. I think it is a major step out. The music lifted up the arena and it's a wonderful Olympic program.
    4) Higuchi has great programs this season but her 3-3 is on and off, I saw her UR her 3-3 more often than cleanly landed them. I hope she will improve her 3-3 asap.
    5) Hanyu has the best skating skills by far compared to all the skaters and ice dancers at CoR. I saw Kostner and the Shibs skated right after him in the gala, and ghosh... they’re sluggish compared to Hanyu’s Swan. I think Hanyu has not hit his peak here. He was faster than all the guys in competiton.
    6) S/K should have been the No.1 Russian pair had they landed their jumps more often. I am so sad about this pair, their presence is >>> than T/M
    7) Nathan Chen’s stiff knee and his less than acceptable gliding almost drove me nuts. I really wanted to scream: “Bend your knee, honey!”
    8) Kolyada was a mess. He has nice quality but he does not seem to put it together.