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NHK Trophy Final Thoughts

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Rematches? We don't need no stinking rematches

Kavaguti and Smirnov vs. Pang and Tong, Rostelecom Cup Redux

It will be interesting to see if Kavaguti and Smirnov skate clean in the free for once to find out how these teams would stack up. But I was impressed with how the Russian pair regrouped after she apparently popped her shoulder out of its socket in the throw quad salchow attempt. Still, Pang and Tong looked so good. I would much rather have seen them up against a different top-ranked pair for their second Grand Prix, like Shen and Zhao. But, I suppose that is what the Grand Prix Final is for.

Miki Ando vs. Alena Leonova vs. Ashley Wagner, Rostelecom Cup Redux again

I am thinking Leonova could be dangerous - she's got great energy and her free skate is a lot of fun. And if the leading ladies keep making the mistakes that they have been making, she might find herself threatening for a medal in some of the bigger competitions to come. I do have nitpicks with her overall skating (and the scoring!) but I really like watching her anyway.

I felt pretty much the same about Ando as I did at Rostelecom Cup. Short program is fine, like the footwork in her long program and not too much else about it. Thankfully for her, the judges seem to really like it.

Although I was disappointed that Wagner could not seize this moment, I'm impressed that she was able to hold onto the medal and become the first U.S. woman this season to not only medal in the Grand Prix, but she'll also be the only one to snag two medals. Congrats, Ashley! We likely won't know if it's enough to get her into the Grand Prix Final until after at least Skate America, if not Skate Canada International. Wagner gets less press than Nagasu or Flatt, and certainly Cohen, but her Grand Prix showings this year have to have upped her Olympic credentials quite a bit.

Predictability, thy Name is Ice Dancing Grand Prix

America's Davis and White won the ice dancing competition in commanding fashion. Thankfully, I enjoyed their Phantom of the Opera free skate much more the second time around. They had me captivated this time and I cannot wait to see them go head to head with the other pairs in the Grand Prix Final, for which they have qualified. Congrats! I like the Kerrs but I do not think they can compete with Davis and White this season.

Heartbreakers

Daisuke Takahashi. Those programs are going to be fabulous if he is rehabbed or in shape enough to perform them. I really admire the fact that his free skate kept all the difficult elements, including the quad. But...it was kind of depressing, because he was nowhere near ready to be skating it, with all of those mistakes. He had to take soo much time off after surgery, I'm impressed he was even there. I hope he'll be ready by the Olympics, or else it's really a loss for skating fans because he brings so much to the sport!

Takahiko Kozuka. I know that the figure skaters in Japan have a lot of pressure on them, but I was not expecting this type of a performance from Kozuka. What a disappointment. I wonder which Kozuka we'll see in Vancouver?

Jeremy Abbott. We saw what he can do in his amazing short program. His relatively new free skate was a challenge but I am hoping he can work through it, so much potential for points there. I am a tad bit worried after worlds last season, but his head seems to be in a really good spot so I am optimistic that this is not a big deal.

Redemption

Brian Joubert played it very safe in the free skate, but it was his prerogative as he realized it would not take his best to win. An impressive (and nearly clean) skate that should probably calm fears about how he performed at Trophee Eric Bompard. No doubt about it, Joubert is an Olympic medal contender.

Johnny Weir looked much better here (despite rumors that he was sick) than he did at Rostelecom Cup. I thought he was awesome in his short program and despite a couple of miscues, I was impressed with the triple axels in his free skate. I am so looking forward to Nationals.

Aw, shucks

I was quite impressed with both American pairs at this competition. There were mistakes for both, particularly in Denney and Barrett's free skate, but I very much liked the program. And then I saw that Inoue and Baldwin, the bronze medalists, were something like 40 points out of second place. Wow. just...wow.

I am sure I would like Finland if I ever went to visit, but...

I continue my unhappiness with Finnish skaters this week, with Laura Lepisto boring me. Why do I feel like I liked her free skate better the first time I saw it? Weird.

And, welcome to the show, Michal Brezina

Love it when a newbie comes in and shows everyone how it's done. He nearly beat out Joubert in the free skate!