So many questions from last weekend's Skate America. Here is my attempt to answer them.
Shen and Zhao's mistakes in their long program. What does it mean!?
It means that some of the other top pairs can breathe a bit easier knowing that there may in fact be a competition for the gold medal this season. But Zhang and Zhang have absolutely no chance unless they figure out what they need to do to make both partners happy. Dan Zhang looked absolutely miserable in their programs, particularly Sing, Sing, Sing. It's sad to see them fall back like this.
Ryan Bradley's Fun Mozart Free Skate. WHAT?
I know I enjoyed it a lot more once he had a couple of high scoring jumping passes behind him. It also means that he is back in the Olympics mix - especially if Jeremy Abbott has problems again next week at Skate Canada. But Bradley was still sloppy and wild on his jumping - I don't see him medaling in most other crowds (this competition was very sloppy!). Still, it will be fun to see this program again at Nationals. Unfortunately, Bradley's performance made Brandon Mroz's troubles look even worse.
The American Pairs Here. Does it Mean Anything New?
I thought there were some bright sides to the American performances here but overall, too many errors. It was nice to see Keauna McLaughlin land her side by side triple in the free skate, but with the other errors (and overall lackluster program) this team will not be able to compete with the true medal contenders anytime soon.
Yu-Na Kim's Meltdown
What this means is that I like her free skate a lot less when the life gets sucked out of it like this. Meanwhile - I barely remembered Rachael Flatt erred by the end of her short program because she sold it so well and she didn't ACT like she screwed up. Good job, Flatt. I think the fact that Kim still won here (and only lost the free skate by like...5 points...that's ridic) despite that disastrous free skate means that she really does have very little competition. As others have done the calculations, even if Flatt had gotten credit for her final spin (she did not) and if she hadn't fallen in the short program, Kim would still have won. I think it's highly unlikely that Kim will skate like this in the Olympics, but I'm convinced her only true competition if she does make mistakes like this is a very clean Joannie Rochette, and a very clean Mao Asada.
Still, Rachael Flatt definitely reasserted herself as the frontrunner for a US Olympic berth. There is a lot of nitpicking I could do with her skating, but the bottom line is she scored way more in that free skate than any other American lady has this season. And she hit that triple/triple and has vowed to keep it in every competition from here on out, which means she is ready to fight! Such a great outing for her!
Khokhlova and Novitski and the Ice Dancing Shakeup
This was a pair the others surely feared last season, and they started out the year predictably by coming in second at Cup of China. But they are having troubles as evidenced by their finishes here in the original dance and the free dance (jet lag has been cited as a cause of the problems...but still). Meanwhile, the Italian team Cappellini and Lanotte are quickly climbing the ranks. I don't mind that - I like that team overall (although I don't really love their free dance). However, I don't think they are quite ready to compete with the likes of Belbin and Agosto yet. I think this competition further cemented the dominance of teams like Belbin and Agosto.
Belbin and Agosto had a moment or two of unison problems that made me wince, and on second look, I don't really love their program at all. It obviously has oodles of difficulty, but as a lay observer, if I saw them up against Virtue and Moir and Davis and White, I would prefer one of the other pairs, which is kind of a big deal, because I love these two. Augh!
Let's Not Try to Figure These Out and Just Enjoy them!
Chock and Zuerlein and Navarro and Bommentre
I know neither of these teams are making the Olympics (or at least, that is my prediction). But I kind of really liked both their original dances and free skates (particularly Navarro and Bommentre's, which is kind of a big deal since I don't think I liked what Navarro and Bommentre were doing last season, although she just lights up the rink!). Up those levels, kids!
Florent Amodio's Sublime Short Program
Ok, he doesn't have the difficulty of many of the other skaters and he could not reproduce the magic in his free skate. But, how nice that short program was...
The man is a professional, ladies and gentleman. Two very smart, very engaging programs. I love watching him. He hasn't been perfect, and he admitted he will have to be in order to be in competition for a medal at the Olympics. But whether he is perfect or not, he pours his heart into those skates, which I really do appreciate.
As for my predictions?
I was five for 12 with exact podium spots. I guessed the full pairs podium, along with two out of three ice dancing medalists. But, yikes, what a shakeup in ice dancing and mens!