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NHK Trophy Thoughts

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Some final thoughts on this year's first Grand Prix, NHK Trophy.

Fasten Your Seatbelts, Ladies Skating Fans

The NHK Trophy ladies competition had me wincing.  I mean, wow.  Not only was the jumping quality down acrosss the board, but those programs were nothing to write home about in general. I felt like Rachael Flatt did essentially the same act for her short and her free skate.  The nicest thing to say about Carolina Kostner was that she did not fall (and I don't belittle that, as she had such a nightmarish time last season). Mao Asada is "reworking " her jumps which has apparently caused her to forget how to land them.  Let's hope the end justifies the means on that project. I know she had a lot to work on, but I also know it's not easy to just change the way you've been jumping for so very long.  I think Asada's still got the goods, though.  She has the ability to help save the next Grand Prix she's in...but we'll see if she's worked herself out by then. 

I found myself wracking my brain to see who I could actually look forward to watching this season.  Mirai Nagasu is hurt, so who knows when we'll see her/what we'll see from her.  Laura Lepisto was hurt and I am not her biggest fan anyway.  Miki Ando wouldn't know artistry if she were heliported to an ice rink in the Sistine Chapel.  Akiko Suzuki is always fun for me to watch but she might not have the technical difficulty.  I am interested to see Ksenia Makarova but not necessarily looking forward to seeing her, if you know what I mean. No, no. It's going to be a long Grand Prix season. 

Also, I am all about artistry and presentation in skating.  However, just being able to FLY quickly across the ice does not an artistic skate make to me, and I'm tired of Carolina Kostner's speed and ice coverage being always propped up as her great qualities when what she is doing is consistently ugly.  She has better lines than Rachael Flatt, yes...but does she really deserve such high program components scores?  (I feel like it's 2008 again, what with my whining about Kostner's high components!  Those were the days).

I have also been a bit upset about the technical downfall.  I understand it's like comparing apples to oranges; those ladies who were credited with seven triples back in the day would surely have lost some to underrotation and downgrades.  However, I do miss the time when pretty much anyone who wanted to be competitive had to at least do a triple lutz/double toe in their short.  I mean...Carolina Kostner won this event without even one triple lutz or triple flip.  Are you kidding me? Even Kiira Korpi attempted a triple lutz.

A Glimmer of Hope?

The energy and promise of Kanako Murakami cannot be denied.  And while we're talking about young Japanese skaters who impressed us, why not throw in Yuzuru Hanyu on the men's side. 

And I did find more to like about Flatt's skating than I normally do.  But I felt like she realized in the offseason that she doesn't have the natural abilities to pull off the more elegant program and she is going for that energetic cutesy thing..and it came off a little too cute, or something.  I don't know. Still, I was fairly happy with her skates here and I do think they were unpolished, so perhaps she can up her program components when she has it all under control.  Let's not kid ourselves that this girl is ever going to be able to compete with the Kostners and Asadas on components; her hope will always have to be that she completes all her jumps while everyone else falls all over the place.  It didn't happen here but it's not that unlikely a scenario in women's skating, apparently.

Men's Skating, on the other hand

OK, most of the men were not what I'd call clean, either, but Amodio was pretty close. Although his free skate was too much with the crotch-grabbing, I love the quality of his skating.  He's capable of more than that free skate.

And of the top two men, Abbott and Takahashi, both could use work on their free skates.  However, I'm sure those will smooth out as the season goes on.  I saw a few really nice programs, particularly Takahashi's short, and Abbott's short, which was an interesting change of pace for him. I liked the easy-going style on Abbott's free skate; I only worry if it is either not challenging enough, or if he is lulling the judges into thinking that since it is so smooth, it's not that difficult.  I think it would take a better performance of it by Abbott to know for sure; for now, Takahashi is blowing him out of the water in components.

And, like I said, Hanyu will be fun to watch.

American Pairs, Off the Medal Stand. Again

I was actually impressed at Yankowskas and Coughlin coming in third in the free skate.  They weren't perfect but they recovered from their mistake.  Denney and Barrett were more mistake-riddled.  The presentation and intricacy in these pairs' programs is not there.  They will have to skate clean in order to compete with the international teams.

American Ice Dancers Continue to Impress

Cannot believe that for yet another year, the American ice dancers are going to be the most successful skaters of the American team.  So crazy how things change.  Davis and White will not be able to find competition this season until Virtue and Moir come back.  But I don't think they'll have motivation issues. 

I was so happy that Maia and Alex Shibutani won the bronze in their very first senior Grand Prix.  They have miles to go before they can compete with Davis and White, but it truly is a great start and it's nice to know that the international judges appreciate their skill. 

Effects of the Rule Changes

Pairs:  Well, I thought we would see the demise of the ugly death spirals that teams have been doing in recent years, and for the most part,we did.  However, I don't really know what Denney and Barrett were doing in their short program.  Hopefully, the judges' low grade of execution points will be the impetus for them to ditch it.  It was borderline offensive!

Ice Dancing:  I really don't like the short dance.  I used to like the original dance, but to me, the short dance is a jazzed up compulsory.

Singles:  Well, the judges were definitely making use of their "underrotated" versus "downgraded" categories, although I can't tell who it really helped and hurt.  It might have helped Flatt since she got a few underrotations.  I loved not having to watch every single lady do a spiral with at least two ugly position changes...and I love that ladies are still doing spirals here and there. 

There were some quads and they were well-compensated, but you didn't need a quad to medal.  I don't know how the point increase for triple axels will affect ladies skating since Asada did not land any.

Predictions?

8/12, which is actually pretty good for me, but I feel terrible about my ice dancing predictions, where my silver and bronze picks did not even medal.