Sunday, December 13, 2015

2015 Grand Prix Final Recap

The Grand Prix circuit this season has been quite a whirlwind, and the Final this week continued that trend up to the very last event. Surprise placements abounded, records were broken, and personal bests were achieved at this prestigious competition, held in Barcelona, Spain for the second consecutive year. Below, read my thoughts on each of the disciplines, including predictions for the latter half of the season.

(Note: Unfortunately, due to their busy schedules, Bronwyn and Will could not participate in a video recap this week, so I, Kathy, am bringing you guys this blog post. Hope you enjoy!)


Gold - Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS) 16-year-old Medvedeva has been a force to be reckoned with the entire season, and her performance here was no exception. First in both the short and long programs, she posted three new personal best scores and easily trumped her competition with an almost 14-point margin of victory. As a first-year senior, her resilience and unwillingness to succumb to pressure against more seasoned skaters make her win especially impressive. Not only did Medvedeva hit all of her jumps, she was also awarded high PCS for her unique brand of artistry, which played off of her youthful charm and unconventional choreography, especially in the free skate. She'll be looking to replicate these performances at Russian nationals later this month, but barring any fluke mistakes it is fairly safe to say we will be seeing this teenage phenom on the European and World teams, and on top of many more podiums to come.

Silver - Satoko Miyahara (JPN) Coming in second place, Miyahara had something of a breakthrough moment at this competition, where she proved her consistency and established herself as a definite contender for a World medal next March. In the past, Miyahara has been bogged down by underrotated jumps and comparatively low PCS, but her scores here were promising, to say the least. Between GPF and her decisive win at the NHK Trophy two weeks ago, it seems that judges are finally warming up to her more subtle, yet no less effective, style of musical interpretation. She may be small in size, but to me Miyahara can fill the ice effortlessly with her beautiful skating skills and mature presence. And if her teammate Mao Asada continues to underwhelm (more on that in a bit), I believe she has a very good chance of clinching the Japanese national title this season.

Bronze - Elena Radionova (RUS) It simply goes to show the caliber of the competition when someone who puts out two very, very solid programs, with only a single fall between them, still ends up in third in the field. I felt that her Titanic free program didn't have as much gusto as it did at the Rostelecom Cup, but she held on fiercely to many of her jump landings and didn't allow her technical performance to suffer. Radionova is very much a mentally tough skater, and somewhat known for her ability to recover from incomplete triple-triple combinations. In both programs, she tacked the triple toe onto the end of a later jump when she didn't have the speed or running edge to execute it at the end of her lutz. It's the capacity to think on her feet that sets Radionova apart from her peers, and she's certainly made her case for silver, if not gold, at Russian nationals.

Fourth Place - Ashley Wagner (USA) - In a characteristic act of redemption, Wagner rallied from sixth place after the short program to fourth overall with a personal-best free skate, missing the podium by less than two points. Her Moulin Rouge! program is a personal favorite of mine, and as usual she brought the character of Satine to life with passion and drama. Given the unequal success of her short and long programs, it will be interesting to see how Wagner performs at US nationals, and stacks up against her rival Gracie Gold.

Speaking of Gold, who finished in fifth place, this competition was no doubt a huge disappointment for her. After silver at Skate America and a win in the short program at Trophee Eric Bompard, (which was canceled midway), Gold would have been looking to cement her new upward trajectory in her first GPF appearance, and many considered her a contender for the podium. Unfortunately, a costly popped flip in both programs and other uneven landings held her down, not to mention that she seemed much less committed to her choreography and music than usual. Equally devastating was Mao Asada of Japan, who finished in sixth place. Shocking for someone with her talent and experience, but perhaps it was the season she'd taken off from competition starting to show. Comebacks are never easy, but I wish Asada the best going forward and I'm sure she will return to form in no time.


Gold - Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) The men's competition left me generally speechless, and that was thanks in no small part to Yuzuru Hanyu, who shattered the world records he set just two weeks ago at the NHK Trophy. The magnitude of what he has accomplished this season alone is unbelievably immense, not just for himself but for figure skating as a whole. It's hard to think of any other male skater who has single-handedly elevated the sport to new heights, in terms of the technical and artistic ceiling, in such a short period of time as has Hanyu. Not only that, but he still continues to push himself even when he has left his competition in the dust. Ever the perfectionist, he expressed regret for only achieving a level 3 step sequence in each program, but it seems a trivial point when all of his other elements were executed beautifully and not a single negative GOE was to be seen. Hanyu's skating is truly a sight to behold, and I look forward to seeing him exceed even more expectations in the future.

Silver - Javier Fernandez (ESP) While his training mate Hanyu was in a class of his own, Fernandez put up a good fight until the very end, earning a personal best free skate score as well as a personal best overall score. His programs are a bit of a departure from his signature style this season, particularly the short, but many fans, myself included, have enjoyed seeing Fernandez venture outside his comfort zone both choreographically and conceptually. That he was able to put out two solid programs in front of a hometown crowd was lovely to see. Despite being the most prominent ambassador for Spanish figure skating on the world stage, never for a moment did he seem to be fazed by the immense weight on his shoulders. And in an environment that can so often be fueled by bitter rivalries, Fernandez and Hanyu made no effort to downplay their complete and selfless support for one another throughout the competition. Good sports, indeed!

Bronze - Shoma Uno (JPN) Uno has been having a dream of a debut senior season, and third place at his first GPF after a close second at Skate America and win in the Trophee Eric Bompard short program is just icing on top of the cake. Uno has two vastly different programs this year, but even with the variety, he has developed a distinctive style of his own and is able to grab the audience's attention with a confidence beyond his years. His jump technique is mostly solid, if unusual, and he has just the right amount of self-awareness to be a great showman without coming off as over-the-top. With the other Japanese men struggling to maintain consistency, Uno has established himself firmly as Japan's #2, and I can certainly see him on the Four Continents podium as well. My only nit-pick is that his lutz could use a bit of work, but plenty of glory awaits this talented teenager! ;)

Fourth Place - Patrick Chan (CAN) The short program woes continued to plague Chan at this competition, but like Ashley Wagner in the ladies' event, he rebounded with a rousing free skate to pull up from sixth to fourth place overall. His artistry and unparalleled skating skills, for which Chan is well-known, were on display. Even in his underwhelming short program, where his triple-triple combination and camel spin were both invalidated, his PCS were high enough for him to score 70+, setting him up, in an extremely rare coincidence, to earn the exact same overall score as Boyang Jin (but because Chan placed higher in the free skate, he placed higher overall). At this point it seems to me as if Chan's battle is not with Hanyu, but more with himself. Like Mao Asada, he's been up-and-down since his return to competition, and he needs to get back into peak competitive mode if he wants to replicate the kind of performance we saw at Skate Canada. He should be able to earn back his Canadian national title back in January, but it remains to be seen whether he will have a shot at other international podiums this season.

Boyang Jin of China and Daisuke Murakami of Japan finished in fifth and sixth place, respectively. While neither skater put out disastrous programs by any means, they were arguably the least artistically inclined of the field here, which cost them when the jumps were not landed cleanly. Even so, making the final was a personal victory for both--Jin, because it is is first senior season; Murakami, because he has been largely inconsistent in the past and now was just the right time to make statement on the international stage. Murakami in particular will face stiff competition at his national championships, where the Japanese men will be fighting for only two spots on the world team.


Gold - Stolbova/Klimov (RUS) In what I would consider the biggest upset of the GPF, Stolbova/Klimov defeated the reigning World champions by delivering two foot-perfect programs, skated with quality and intensity. Their throw jumps were massive in both programs, and they delivered a side-by-side triple-triple-double combination in the free skate with no problems whatsoever. There was a kind of focus that permeated their skating, and they didn't seem to lose energy or let up on their choreography for even a second from start to finish. Watching them at this competition, it was hard to believe that Stolbova/Klimov had began the season off of the podium at their first Grand Prix assignment, Skate America. For a team that for a while had gotten used to being second-best among the Russian pairs, this may finally be their moment to seize. Depending on whether Volosozhar/Trankov are healthy enough to compete at Russian nationals, these two could be looking for their third consecutive national title.

Silver - Duhamel/Radford (CAN) After an undefeated 2014-2015 season, the Canadians' streak was ended here, although they didn't go down without a fight. While I believe their choices of music this season are better vehicles for interpretation than last season's, they are lacking the confidence and ease in their elements that led them to win after win just months ago. Even on a bad day, Duhamel/Radford have many admirable qualities in their skating and they give every program their all, but at this event the little mistakes crept in and added up to about a 13-point margin between them and Stolbova/Klimov. The top Russian and Chinese pairs appear to be on the rise, but Duhamel/Radford seem somewhat stagnated in their progress. For example, they opted not to attempt the throw quad lutz in the free skate, but even the triple was landed sloppily. These two may need to retool their technique or tweak their competitive strategy (perhaps a less risky layout would help, to rely on high GOEs instead of high base value) if they are to defend their world title in March. On the other hand, their placement here could make them hungry for a win again and inadvertently motivate them to skate more cleanly than ever.

Bronze - Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS) Since a surprising win at the Cup of China several weeks ago, Kavaguti/Smirnov have unfortunately not been able to replicate the caliber of their performances there. They were in second place after a clean short program, but two falls in the beginning of the free skate on their side-by-side jumps were very costly. Still, many positives were to be found in their programs. Many may see their seniority in age as a disadvantage, but to me it affords them a quality of refinement and allows them to pull off music and choreography that would perhaps read as gimmicky on another team. They also landed a beautiful throw quad salchow in the free skate, and interestingly, their PCS were higher than Duhamel/Radford's in both programs. I hope to see Kavaguti/Smirnov on the Europeans podium, but the emergence of Savchenko/Massot could definitely shake things come January.

Fourth Place - Seguin/Bilodeau (CAN) A set of all new personal-best scores propelled this team, who did double duty last year by competing in both the junior and senior World Championships, into fourth place in their first senior GPF. They have charm for days, and though their elements aren't the most difficult in the field, Seguin's catlike landings and their easy chemistry make for an appealing presence on the ice. Many, including myself, expected these two to finish in last place due to their lack of experience relative to other teams, but they surprised fans and probably themselves here with two superb programs, and it bodes well for them for the rest of the season. The Canadian pairs field is deep, but it wouldn't be a stretch to say Seguin/Bilodeau have a shot at that national podium.

Due to the ISU ruling that allowed Seguin/Bilodeau to qualify for this competition, there was one more entry in this discipline than each of the others, for a total of seven senior pairs. In my mind, none of the fifth, sixth, or seventh place finishers put out performances that were indicative of who they were as respective teams. Each of their free skates were littered with falls and uneven landings, and it was heartbreaking to see, especially for Yu/Jin of China, who had medaled at both of their Grand Prix events and was expected to be on the rise. They and their teammates, Peng/Zhang, were not reported to have been clean in their practices, so I hope that this was simply a fluke event and they will be back in shape for Chinese nationals. The reigning US champions, Scimeca/Knierim, were unable to execute their signature quad twist, among other elements, but at the very least they can take pride in being the first American pairs to qualify for the GPF since 2007. I look forward to the couple rekindling their competitive fire and preparing to defend their national title.


Gold - Weaver/Poje (CAN) Weaver/Poje put out two foot-perfect programs to win this competition easily, continuing their streak on the Grand Prix and setting them up nicely for the Four Continents and World Championships. Their free dance continues to grow and crystallize as the season progresses, and I saw a sense of abandon towards the second half of the program that I hadn't seen before, which made it come alive that much more and for me, made their victory even more deserved. If they hadn't been already, Weaver/Poje are now clearly on a mission to be undefeated this season, and the intricacy and emotional investment with which they've imbued their programs is exactly what they need to accomplish that.

Silver - Chock/Bates (USA) Finishing just over a point higher overall than Capellini/Lanotte with a third-place free dance, Chock/Bates nevertheless secured a silver medal largely on the strength of their short dance. Despite it being their third short dance of the season and still relatively new to the reigning US champions, it received high PCS, especially in the Performance and Interpretation/Timing categories. It turned out that Chock/Bates would need that small point cushion in the free dance, where Chock had a visible bobble on the twizzle sequence and the team received lower PCS (by a fraction) than their Italian counterparts. Ultimately, it was a close call between the two teams, but the judges chose to reward Chock/Bates, reversing the result at Cup of China, which they lost to Capellini/Lanotte.

Bronze - Capellini/Lanotte (ITA) With two programs that highlighted the playful, upbeat quality of their skating, the 2014 world champions posted very nearly a personal-best overall score. Capellini/Lanotte programs, while firmly within their comfort zone, showcased very strong, synchronized twizzles and inventive lifts, not to mention their trademark infectious charisma. That they were a little more than a point behind second place is a hopeful sign for the Italian team, who are still on somewhat of a comeback trail after sitting out the beginning of last season and failing to make the world podium. They should have no trouble defending their national title at the Italian championships, but any errors and they will need to fend off an up-and-coming Guignard/Fabbri.

Fourth Place - Shibutani/Shibutani (USA) One of the highlights of this event, as with every event the brother-sister duo have entered this season, was the Shibutanis' sublime Coldplay free dance. The program was not performed as impeccably as it had been at Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy, but it was later revealed that Alex had skated despite a severe case of food poisoning, making the poignant performance that much more emotional. In fact, defying the odds has been something off a theme throughout the Shibutanis' career. They've been one of the most successful sibling dance teams in recent memory, despite the stereotype that brother-sister teams are limited in the type of programs they can produce. Now, they face the more frustrating obstacle of being frequently underscored when facing off against tough competition, especially compared to their American teammates Chock/Bates, who have arguably less engaging and less well-rounded programs but continue to receive higher marks. Most likely, the Shibutanis will again earn a silver medal at the US championships, but capturing the title would be the kind of breakthrough they need and deserve.

Bobrova/Soloviev of Russia were able to move up one spot after placing sixth in the short dance to fifth overall, with a solid Anna Karenina free dance full of dramatic choreographic moments. Hubbell/Donohue of USA fared less fortunately, with a fluke fall from Donohue in the free dance, for a score that was about 4 points off of what they acheived at the NHK Trophy. I believe the Russian team is weaker in the short dance and stronger in the free dance, while the opposite is true for the Americans, so it wasn't too surprising to see them flip-flop in placements as they did. In the coming months, Bobrova/Soloviev will be rallying to regain their national title, while Hubbell/Donohue will also be eyeing a medal at the US Championships.

All in all, it was an action packed Grand Prix Final, with some of the most stacked fields I've ever witnessed. Barcelona was once again a gracious host, and I know I can speak for Bronwyn and Will when I say we are all looking forward to even more showdowns and surprises in the rest of the season!


Thursday, October 22, 2015

2015 Skate America Preview

The first Grand Prix event of the season gets underway this week! In anticipation of the competition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we're taking a look at the podium contenders, the potential upsets, and the up-and-comers to look out for in each discipline. Happy watching!


The ladies field looks to provide an entertaining competition. The U.S. looks to 2014 National Champion Gracie Gold as their biggest threat for a win, but the field will be a challenge for her. 2015 World silver medalist Satoko Miyahara, 2015 World Junior champion Evgenia Medvedeva, and 2014 European Champion Julia Lipnitskaia are also aiming for a win here, while there are many other skaters that could sneak in for a medal if the favorites falter.

Satoko Miyahara is one of the leading names coming into this event. Although Miyahara is well-known for her connection and movement to the music she listens to, she can struggle to get the PCS that reflects this. Part of this issue is because her jumps are very small, and she sometimes can get dinged with underrotations. However, she is still one of the few skaters that can combine high technical content with superb artistry, and she is also quite consistent. Coming off of a win at the U.S. International Classic and a second place finish behind Mao Asada at the Japan Open, I believe Miyahara will be a huge threat to win her first Grand Prix title.

If Gracie Gold is clean, she should be able to win this competition easily. However, her nerves are a major issue for her, and her consistency cannot be relied on. Although she had a very solid competition at Glacier Falls, she finished last at the Japan Open. Her programs this year are some of the best she has had, and though she has been criticized for her artistry, she is working to change that perception. While I am unsure that Gold will be able to be clean in both programs here - something she needs to do - I do believe that if she is, she will win.

Evgenia Medvedeva is known for her incredible technical ability, which she typically performs consistently. Although her skating is still not as polished as some of her competitors here, she is definitely getting closer to that level. It is also worth noting that her programs are very backloaded: all of her jumps in the SP, including a triple-triple combination, are in the second half. In addition, she often performs multiple Tano jumps even in the same program. Medvedeva knows how to work the point system, and with her coming off a win at the Ondrej Nepela trophy, I think she has the momentum going for her to do well in her senior Grand Prix debut.

Elizabet Tursynbaeva is another skater making her senior Grand Prix debut, and I think she is also a major threat to the podium. Coached by Brian Orser, the 15-year-old made a splash all summer and fall, winning the silver medal at the U.S. International Classic, and the gold at the Autumn Classic International. She also has strong technical content, and her connection to her music is very solid for someone her age. Although her programs may overpower her at times, she also has that X-factor in her skating that draws you in and makes you want to want to watch her. Keep an eye out for Tursynbaeva, as she could easily sneak into the medals. 

Julia Lipnitskaia has struggled since her incredible 2013-2014 season, and she is looking to really start a comeback here. She changed choreographers from Ilia Averbukh to Marina Zueva this season, and wants to regain her former technical prowess. She won the silver medal at the Finlandia Trophy, but was not up to par, and is still struggling with her jumps and technique. Although she is in the mix for the title, it will have to take a massive effort for Lipnitskaia to win here. She will have to skate the best she has skated since the 2014 Grand Prix Final SP.

Top 5 Predictions: Satoko Miyahara, Gracie Gold, Evgenia Medvedeva, Elizabet Tursynbaeva, Julia Lipnitskaia

Photo Credit: Zimbio, Tumblr, Skating-Rimitca



The men's discipline may be the most unpredictable of the four. US champion Jason Brown, World bronze medalist Denis Ten, and Junior World champion Shoma Uno will all be competing for a medal. In the mix also is Takahito Mura, the 2014 Skate Canada champion, and Han Yan, the 2015 Four Continents bronze medalist. However, all of these men will be battling their own demons and facing immense pressure in a field packed with talent. 

Denis Ten of Kazakhastan is, by anyone's standard, an incredibly gifted skater. At his best, he is Olympic- and World-medal-worthy, as we have already seen in the past. But according to coach Frank Caroll, Ten is still recovering from injuries that forced him to withdraw from the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International and is not yet in form. He has been landing clean quad toes in practice, but the question is whether he will be able to do so under the pressure of competition. Only time will tell to whether his recovery will continue to impact him mentally as he embarks on the competitive season, but as it stands he is the most seasoned of the bunch.

Shoma Uno, the reigning Japanese national silver medalist, will be making his debut on the senior Grand Prix. After a disappointing and somewhat uncharacteristic performance at the US International Classic, Uno bounced back with a foot-perfect free skate at the Japan Open, placing first ahead of heavyweights such as reigning World champion Javier Fernandez and three-time World champion Patrick Chan. Uno has solid technique, although his triple lutz occasionally causes issues, and maturity well beyond his years. He is favored to win a medal here at Skate America, but only his ability to deliver away from home ice, on which he seems the most comfortable, can decide what color it will be.

US leading man Jason Brown has some very specific goals coming into this competition. As the reigning champion competing on home ice, he will be looking to clinch a win, but we may not see him as consistent as he's been in past seasons. Brown's focus as of late has been putting his quad toe into competition, but this strategy could prove costly as he has yet to land a clean, rotated one in competition. Still, Brown is a fighter and a determined skater, not to mention a crowd favorite with his charismatic programs--if he can put it all together, the title could be his.

An on-and-off skater the past season, with placements ranging anywhere from winning a Grand Prix event to placing 16th at Worlds, Takahito Mura of Japan is nonetheless one to consider for a potential upset. At his best, Mura is a capable, well-rounded skater, but costly mistakes tend to affect not only his scores but his confidence. This year his "Dark Eyes" short program was choreographed by ice dancer Charlie White, which could mean a boost in PCS as Mura pays more attention to the artistic side of his skating.

Not to be counted out either is Han Yan of China, who tends to be a late bloomer in terms of peaking later in the season. However, he may be trying to turn his reputation around and build consistency, which is always valued by the judges and tends to be rewarded as such. Han's advantage over the other men may be the explosive quality of his jumps, in particular his triple axel, which are both impressive to watch and reflected by high GOEs. Like Brown, Han also tends to be a crowd favorite due to the personality he injects into his programs. 

As a testament to the immense depth of the men's field, we have to mention yet another list of names to keep an eye out for! Konstantin Menshov, the oldest competitor at age 32, is not to be brushed aside, especially since he just proved he's still got it by placing 3rd and 1st, respectively, at the Nebelhorn and Finlandia Trophies. Max Aaron and Ross Miner, the other two Americans, are also no small threat to the top-tier men, especially with the former's new focus on musicality and the latter's strong performance at the US International Classic, where he won the short program over Alexei Bychenko (ISR), who is also competing here. Brendan Kerry of Australia, in his GP debut, will be looking to cement his status as the most promising Australian man in recent memory. All in all, this field looks to be a nail-biter!

Top 5 Predictions: Denis Ten, Jason Brown, Shoma Uno, Takahito Mura, Han Yan 


Photo credit: Europe On Ice, Zimbio, CBC

Ice Dance

What I love about this ice dance field is that each pair that comprises the field have their own goals to achieve and impressions they want to make. Each team has a different story for the season, as we see the emergence of teams like Yanovskaya/Mozgov (RUS) and Nazarova/Nikitin (UKR) in the circuit, budding ice dancers looking to make a splash on the senior scene. We have Wang/Liu (CHN), a team that possesses lovely qualities and hopes to make sure China is not overlooked in the ice dance discussion. We also have teams like Cannuscio/McManus (USA), Hawayek/Baker (USA), and Sinitsina/Katsalapov (RUS), who are all trapped within the depth of their respective country's ice dance fields and know that to make their World Championship teams, they, especially the aforementioned American teams who must face the powerful Chock/Bates (USA) both in Milwaukee and in St. Paul for U.S. Nationals, have to start making their international mark now.

As the frontrunners and favorites for gold coming into this competition, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, in all honesty, do not need to put their absolute best performances on display this weekend. Sure, many teams will vie to challenge them, but no other team in this competition is as decorated or seasoned as Madi and Evan are. This does not mean, though, that Chock and Bates should rest on their laurels. This weekend, they must prove their versatility as a team to the judges, since their Dark Eyes SD and Rachmaninoff No. 2 FD are far different from their programs last season. This year's programs, while still highlighting their particular strengths in performance/execution and interpretation, require a different kind of projection and driving purpose that may prove to be a challenge for this team. If any team is to do it, though, it's Chock and Bates.

Three-time Canadian medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier enter Milwaukee with an air of confidence, fresh off of their win at the 2015 Ondrej Nepela Trophy. Though their scores there weren't quite where they may have been hoping for, I think that it still is a good place for them to be at this point in the season. I really enjoy their free dance; the concept is strong, and they've incorporated a lot of originality and unconventionality in their skills and movement. We will see how they progress.

These two teams are the class of the field on paper, but many other teams, like Yanovskaya/Mozgov, Sinitsina/Katsalapov, and Nazarova/Nikitin, could certainly make a run for the podium, which would be a wonderful springboard for the senior careers of each of these teams. Skate America is always such a wonderful preview of a slew of fantastic programs that we'll view throughout the season, and is indicative of the potential of certain skaters, especially first time seniors. This Skate America will be no exception. (Clockwise, from left: Nazarova/Nikitin, Yanovskaya/Mozgov, Sinitsina/Katsalapov)

Top 5 Predictions: Chock/Bates, Gilles/Poirier, Yanovskaya/Mozgov, Hawayek/Baker, Sinitsina/Katsalapov


Photo Credit: European Pressphoto Agency, IceNetwork,,


The pairs field is also packed with talent. Favored to win gold are reigning World silver medalists Sui/Han of China, who are armed with a quad twist and a throw quad salchow which may give them a technical edge over their competitors. In addition to their difficult elements, Sui/Han possess a unique dynamic that is both youthful and expressive, which usually translates to high program component scores. Skate America will be Sui/Han's first international event of the season, but they were able to debut two polished new programs at a domestic competition over the summer.

Reigning Grand Prix Final silver medalists Stolbova/Klimov will be looking to make a comeback of sorts at this event. Last season they opted not to compete at Worlds after a disappointing performance at the European Championships, citing a focus on long-term goals as the reason. The Russian pair currently appear to be in good form, as they're coming off of a recent win at the Ondrej Nepela Trophy, but their programs in Bratislava were not without flaws. They will need to deliver their best and skate clean if they hope to challenge Sui/Han for the title.

Also in the running for a medal here are US champions Scimeca/Knierim, who began their season with a second-place finish at the Nebelhorn Trophy after rallying from a fourth-place short program. At last year's Skate America, they narrowly missed the the podium by placing fourth, and are no doubt hoping to improve on that result. This is a team that has been relatively less consistent in the past couple of seasons, but at their best Scimeca/Knierim can certainly be a formidable presence, especially in their home country.

Another pair to keep an eye out for are US bronze medalists Kayne/O'Shea, who are fresh off of their first international win at the US International Figure Skating Classic. Skate America is actually Kayne/O'Shea's first-ever Grand Prix event, after they were forced to withdraw from their assignments last season due to injury. But what they lack in experience, they certainly make up for in ambition. The team is also planning a throw quad salchow in their free skate, set to the familiar Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack. It will be most interesting to see how Kayne/O'Shea transitions from smaller Senior B events (at which they've historically been successful) to a high-stakes stage such as this one.

More up-and-comers include Wang/Wang of China, a country with a well-known track record of producing talented pair teams, Seguin/Bilodeau of Canada, who are the reigning Junior World silver medalists and placed a promising fifth at the Nebelhorn Trophy, and Astakhova/Rogonov of Russia, who were second at Ondrej Nepela Trophy but bested teammates Stolbova/Klimov by a narrow margin in the free skate.

Top 5 Predictions: Sui/Han, Stolbova/Klimov, Scimeca/Knierim, Kayne/O'Shea, Astakhova/Rogonov


Photo credit: IceNetwork, Golden Skate, Zimbio

Monday, September 7, 2015

Top 5 Costumes of the 2014-2015 Season

In honor of Lutz and Glory reaching 200 followers on Twitter, the three of us decided to share each of our own picks for the 5 best costumes from the past skating season! Here on the blog, we explain the reasoning behind our respective lists and have included pictures so you all can admire the costumes up close... Enjoy!

Kathy's Picks

1) Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje's "Four Seasons" Free Dance

Weaver/Poje clearly looked to their music for inspiration, and in both versions of the costumes, the theme of the music was beautifully reflected in the botanical motifs and natural color palette. To me, Weaver's dress evoked an autumn sunset while Poje's top and pants captured the essence of a winter night sky. The costumes flowed beautifully (as dance costumes should!) and were eye-catching but not gaudy. An easy choice for #1!

2) Qing Pang and Jian Tong's "Io Ci Saro" Free Skate

There are exquisite programs and there are exquisite costumes, but Pang/Tong's free skate delivered on both counts. The sky-blue ensembles complemented each other perfectly without being identical in shade or structure. The ruffles on Pang's dress and the blouse-y sleeves of Tong's shirt looked gorgeous in motion, suiting both the music and choreography. In addition, the swirled floral motif provided an air of regality. I can think of no better costumes in which to perform one's final competitive free skate.

3) Maé-Bérénice Méité's "Hosanna"/"The Groove You Liked" Short Program

Méité's ivory dress with gold-toned encrusted crystals was a sight to behold every time she stepped onto the ice. I loved each section of the costume with their varying degrees of opacity. The piece-y bodice and skirt served to wonderfully enhance the skater's powerful elements and movement. Bonus points for perfectly matched illusion mesh!

4) Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu's "The Artist" Soundtrack Free Dance

The Chinese ice dancers had a lively, charismatic free dance and equally interesting costumes to boot. I thought they looked youthful but appropriately classy--she in a fuchsia dress with pinstripe detailing, and he in a tuxedo vest, tie and pants which echoed the same lines. I most admired how the two ensembles subtly evoked the same patterns and color scheme, while also being beautiful pieces in their own right.

5) Laurine Lecavelier's "Carmen" Short Program

Lecavelier was a bit of a wildcard pick for me because she is a lesser-known skater, but her short program dress, with its statement neckline and rich purple color, stood out to me from the first time I saw it. It brings just the right amount of drama while incorporating different textures with refreshing modernity. The cluster of crystals at her hip was also a nice touch!

Bronwyn's Picks

1) Mirai Nagasu "Madame Butterfly" Free Skate

My absolute favorite costume of this season had to be Nagasu's exquisite butterfly-themed dress. The jewels on the illusion mesh incorporated the theme so well, and accentuated some of Nagasu's brilliant moves in the field so well. It looked amazing on the ice, moved very well, fit her like a glove, and with the incredibly detailed and beautiful design, this breath-taking dress took the top spot for me easily. Nagasu is always very well-costumed, and this dress is no exception!

2) Ashley Wagner's "Moulin Rouge!" Long Program

It’s no surprise that Wagner ended up on this list. Her red Moulin Rouge inspired dress is the perfect copy in skating dress form, and the shape is incredibly flattering on her. The sparkly “necklace” is the perfect accent, and small details such as the glittery bustle-like bow on the back make this a gorgeous dress to be wearing when she won her third national title. Topped off with red lipstick, and this is an amazing look for Wagner.

3) Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker's "Romeo and Juliet" Free Dance 

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker had a magnificent senior debut, and these costumes were a highlight for me. While I enjoy Baker’s outfit, Hawayek’s dress steals the show for me. The ombre is lovely, but the pearl-encrusted cap sleeves are simply exquisite and the star of her dress. Simply superb!

4) Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier's "The Lion King" Long Program

These costumes are a great example of how pairs can match without too much similarity. I love the details on Denney’s dress and the tunic-like shape of Frazier’s shirt. In addition, it conveys the theme of The Lion King without being over-the-top, as it could be very easy to fall into the trap of doing too much when it comes to music from such a well-known movie. Overall, this is a stunning and well-coordinated look from the 2015 US silver medalists.

5) Joshua Farris' "Schindler's List" Long Program

This is sort of cheating, as Farris used this costume last season. But I love this look, as it is so flattering and works so well with the subdued program to Schindler’s List. I love the soft ombre and the draping, and it is simple without being plain. This was Farris’ breakout season, and I am glad it was accompanied by such a gorgeous costume.

Will's Picks

1). Adam Rippon's "Piano Concerto No. 1" (Liszt) Long Program

My favorite costume of the past figure skating season has to be Adam Rippon's free skate costume. This costume has not one stylistic flaw. Conceptually, it is simple but in terms of execution, you can clearly spot the meticulous encrustation of beautifully linear and symmetrical rhinestones encompassing the entire costume. I also like the contrast between the white torso and black lower body, which his physique fills out so wonderfully. Not only is the costume aesthetically pleasing, but it also reflects his elegant style and his music's grandeur.

2). Yu Xiaoyu and Jin Yang's "Humility and Love" (Creation) Long Program

The silver medalists, if you will, in my competition for best costume of the past season are Yu/Jin's free skate costumes. This team is a special case for me because thought the vibrance of Yu's costume catches the eye first, I prefer the understated blueness of Jin's costume. More than anything else, I love the color of these costumes and I also love how they emphasize the soothing tone and cadence of their free program music. They really are an exquisitely packaged team. 

3). So Youn Park's "Romeo and Juliet" (Korzeniowski) Long Program

My third favorite costume of this past figure skating season belongs to Korea's So Youn Park. One of So Youn's signatures is that she has always been a beautifully packaged skater, every move on the ice precise and every hair in place. Her "Romeo and Juliet" costume certainly upholds that status. Much like with Rippon's costume, it is simple yet beautiful at first glance. Once truly examined, all of the meticulous crystal work done all throughout the costume. I also particularly enjoy the draped flutter shoulder pads and skirt section of the dress. Simply gorgeous.

 4). Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage's "Coppélia" Short Program

My fourth favorite set of costumes from this past figure skating season was that of Aaron/Settlage. From the off, I intuitively knew that I just had to select this team to be in my list of favorite costumes. Season after season, this team never fails to turn some towards their always sleek and sophisticated costumes, and I think this season was their best yet, in terms of costumes. I had a difficult time choosing which program's costumes I would include, but I ultimately went with their short program costumes. The contrasting blues of their costumes is a wonderful embellishment as is they intricate crystallization work, but what I love most about these costumes is that they are authentic; they stayed true to the balletic style of "Coppélia", and that is something that they can be appreciated for not only as skaters, but as artists.

 5). Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue's "Paso Doble/Flamenco" Short Dance 

My fifth favorite costumes from this season had to be the costumes of Hubbell/Donohue's short dance. I absolutely love the velvet, sheer look of her costume. It is regal and sophisticated, much like the style of their Paso Doble. While his black ensemble is rather understated, it beautifully accentuates her deep velvet costume. I do wish, however, that their free dance costumes were able to rival their short dance costumes, but we'll see what they produce this upcoming season.