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NHK Ladies Short Program: First Impressions

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Here are the first impressions of the ladies short programs.  I started with Ashley Wagner.

Ashley Wagner (USA, music:  Once Upon a Time in America):  lots to look at with this costume.  I can't really describe any of it. It's a deep red on top and then into black...not my fave look but it's definitely different.  Triple flip/double toe - fine, but I assume she's  not earning a good grade of execution on that.  Ashley is very committed to the program right off the bat...we'll see how it goes along.  Triple lutz - that was nice.  Love the arm positions on the sit spin.  Would love to see more speed and more ease on that footwork sequence.  Spiral into double axel and layback into Biellmann spin at the end.  It was a very nice performance.  Not a particularly memorable program. 52.93

Kanako Murakami (Japan, music: Jumping Jack):  Wow, Murakami is a vision in polka dots.  She single-handedly warrants a fashion blog.  Thanks, Kanako!  There are cutouts on the side of this costume and for me...that does not really go with the polka dot, fluffy skirt theme.  Either you're cute or you're sexy, but trying to be both just reminds me of like...Frederick's of Hollywood costumes or something.  She is adorable.  Very, very young looking, but adorable.  Beautiful triple/triple!  And gorgeous triple lutz.  She doesn't quite stay in "character," you can see her drop the presentation before a jump (the way many skaters do...but not all of them). Not loving this layback at all.  Bent knees, flexed toe...Double axel is clean but not as pretty as those other jumps were.  Some tough spin positions here...absolutely no energy for the fun footwork.  She has a bit of a stumble.  She's young and she comes off very young to me...kind of surprised her components were that high, although I loved the jumps and the triple/triple.  56.10

Elene Gedevanishvili (Georgia, music:  Cell Block Tango from Chicago (gotta love a Chicago song that isn't All that Jazz):  Gedevanishvili is wearing the standard prison-issue corset.  Triple is clean...turns out of her triple toe and takes a few steps before her double toe.  Which is also not great.  Some inside edge spinning here is nice.  She is very seductive in this footwork sequence...I like that it's slow because she doesn't look like she ran out of energy like the other ladies did.  She singled her double axel and I'm already noticing the (RULE CHANGE) lack of spiral sequences.  I don't mind losing it since most people were bad at it...although I will be sad if Mirai Nagasu doesn't do one!  But she's not here so I don't know what her plans are.  BUT I digress.  The Yankees just lost and I got distracted and sad.  Sorry, Elene.  44.51

Caroline Zhang (USA, music: Libertango):  Oh my gosh!  Caroline Zhang is becoming all sorts of grown up.  You would never know she was that teeny little wispy thing a couple of years ago. Zhang has a bandage on her wrist. ? Triple flip/double toe - a little low on the landing of the first jump but clean stuff here.  Clean triple loop, nice sit spins.  Double axel is also  not the best landing but really not that bad.  Very fast layback.  Zhang's got some ok footwork here, not necessarily that difficult.  And her extension is not what it once was.  But she doesn't look altogether miserable out there (although she's not smiling, either), which is a bit of an improvement over years past.  I don't think the pearl spin is still in the repertoire, at least not in this program.  50.71

Rachael Flatt (USA, music:  Summertime, Oh, But the Third Day):  OOH Rachael Flatt is all grown ups toos!  LOVE the new haircut.  Too much Dorothy Hamill..or not enough?  Love the costume...it's kind of a turquoisish situation and I really like it.  Style and color remind me a tiny bit of Langlois last season (although Flatt's is obviously lighter)??  Triple lutz/double loop...would love to see her do her triple/triple there.  Very nice triple flip.  Oh gosh, either I'm under the spell of the hair or Flatt is slowly but surely standing up straighter and getting (slightly) better extension or something.  I liked that layback more than I remember usually liking Flatt's laybacks.  Very exciting.  Oh, wait, back down to earth on that catchfoot spin, not great.  Style of the footwork reminds me of her "Sing Sing Sing" from last year.  It's cute but slower here than it probably should be...  This was a very good job and Flatt was engaged through the whole performance.  It definitely needs to get better and quicker but I'm sure that will come as the season goes on.  53.69

Kiira Korpi (Finland, music:  Somewhere Over the Rainbow):  Kiira Korpi is the prettiest girl in the world.  She is a sky blue princess.  That is all there is to say.  I have to say, these Finnish women (and by "Finnish women," I really only mean Korpi and Laura Lepisto) do things with their arms at the top of their programs that I simply cannot get behind.  It just doesn't look nice to me but others seem to think it's "lyrical," so I will not try to argue.  She pops the first jump in her combo and the second jump is a double.  See ya.  I like her arms more after the first jumping pass.  Triple loop...a little forward but not too bad.  Double axel is fine.  She has a very lovely presentation for this program.  52.60.

Carolina Kostner (Italy, music: Galicia Flamenco): She has a one sleeved lace thing on.  I don't know how I feel about it.  Triple toe/double toe.  Caroline has the longest legs and arms EVER, am I right?  Nice double axel.  Kostner's style will never be my cup of tea, but she really does cover a lot of ice quickly.  She should be using her facial expressions to sell this a bit more.  WOW triple loop that went every which way but somehow came down on one foot.  Footwork is just fine.  57.27

Mao Asada (Japan, music: Tango):  Stop the presses!  Or the...servers.  Mao's neck is exposed!  Ok, so it's not like she quit the chokers cold turkey...there's still a short collar thing going on.  But I think it's safe to say Tarasova's reign of terror is over.  This is a much more modern/sexy? costume than what Asada has been rocking for the past couple of years.  It's kind of weird...there are cut outs and there is almost a bra type area in the chest but I still think it flatters her more than last year's get-ups.  Anyway...onto the skating.  I saw this earlier so it's actually a second impression.  Hold onto your seats...Very typical Asada start to the program, in that she looks impassioned for five seconds and then loses all expression and puts on a jumping clinic for half a minute.  Unfortunately, she botches her triple axel, triple loop/double loop looked fine to me but apparently was downgraded, and she pops her triple flip.  Asada lacks energy in the rest of the program, but I think that I will like it a lot better as we get further into the season.  It has potential.  47.95

So those were my first impressions.  Perhaps they were negatively tinged by the late hour and the Yankees loss.  I was disappointed to see so few triple/triples, but I guess the ladies didn't really need them in the end here.  We'll see about whether they matter in the free skate.  The first Grand Prix is always a difficult one because everyone seems a few steps slower than they should be or not quite as familiar as they need to be with their programs.  But it's an important stepping stone to get those first skates out of the way.  Still, if I were Yu-na Kim...I wouldn't exactly be shaking in my (skate) boots...