The third Grand Prix, Cup of China, is done. This event was all about focus, or a lack of it.
France's Pechalat and Bourzat are in it to win it this season, as they'll tell anyone who'll listen. They expect nothing short of a medal in every competition. They spent the months before the Grand Prix entering and winning competitions that most teams of their caliber don't even participate in. Then they completely scrapped their short program and debuted a new one here, to Doctor Zhivago, and scored high. Their Chaplin free dance was enchanting and beautifully delivered. It is not at a Davis and White level of difficulty but it's going to be competitive. So far, they are backing up their numerous interviews about their goals this season with actual medals.
America's Yankowskas and Coughlin also have the eye of the tiger, if you will. They are not skating particularly clean programs, but they are attacking and they are doing enough to chip their way onto the podium. Particularly promising are their components scores; they scored higher components than the Skate Canada champs from Russia in the free program. I would have actually had them a teeny bit ahead of Sui and Han after the short program.
Miki Ando of Japan was great to watch in that free skate, and I don't always like watching Ando. She was just so smooth and successful with her jumps. And as for choreography, it's a fine attempt at a free skate by Ando. She didn't look awkward like she did in the short program and as she has in other programs. She seemed to hear the music at times. And she didn't try to play a character like last year with Cleopatra. She was smart enough to stay away from that. If she keeps skating like she did on Saturday, perhaps she will not be overlooked this season as she ended up being last season.
Ando's teammate Akiko Suzuki was grappling with jump problems and I don't like her Fiddler on the Roof free skate as much as I liked her West Side Story last season. But how about how she turns on the charm during that footwork? I love watching Suzuki.
America's Brandon Mroz killed it in the free skate to bring home the silver medal. So very impressive. He'll never be Jeremy Abbott but he is making an effort to connect with that On the Waterfront program. However, his program components gap with the other top skaters is definitely worrisome. And congrats to Tomas Verner, for getting back on the Grand Prix medal podium. With his Michael Jackson inspired routine, we now count at least two Michael Jacksons, two Evitas, two Witches of Eastwick, and about 45 tangos.
Out of Focus
Not sure what to think about Mirai Nagasu. I haven't heard that her stress fracture is still bothering her. Perhaps it was the lack of training time that caused her to be so frazzled in the free skate. Or it could be that old habits die hard, and Nagasu is starting to make a name for herself by winning short programs and then finishing off the medal stand with sloppy free skates. As for her programs, I don't particularly like the Witches of Eastwick soundtrack, but I did find some interesting moments in her short program. I'll have to watch it again. Her Memoirs of a Geisha free skate is a bit heavy on the hands together, head bowed thing, which is all I noticed between the jumps. I'm not sure that either program should not be tinkered with. But more important that she gets her head and body in the right place to not only begin these competitions, but finish them off.
Italy's Faiella and Scali were an embarrassment in the ice dancing competition. Not one trip on a skirt, but two in two days? Unacceptable. And their free skate was a train wreck. Not once in that program did Faiella look like she knew what step came next...I was uncomfortable watching it.
While we're bashing ice dancers, I didn't think Russia's silver medalists Bobrova and Soloviev looked very polished in their free dance, either. This has been the low point in ice dancing for me so far in the Grand Prix. But congrats to Hungary's Hoffmann and Zavozin for coming so close to a medal...Hoffmann has been battled back from some pretty intense injuries over the years.
Sad to see American Olympians Evora and Ladwig struggle here. I was hoping their Olympic performances would lead the way to future success but they just looked sloppy here, losing points for moves and plagued by jumping woes.
Poor Iliushechkina and Maisuradze of Russia. Last week's darlings are this week's also-rans. Their short program and free skate were both much slower than they were last week, but I noticed it much less in the free skate. There were some jumping deductions and a terribly slow spin in the free but overall I thought they were good. Until I realized their jumping issues (per protocols deductions), I would have had them ahead of Yankowskas and Coughlin in the free.
Takahiko Kozuka of Japan may have won the competition, but get this guy a new short program STAT! Not even sure if he was skating to the right music for all the connection he had with it. The free program suited him much better.
Pang and Tong of China looked super tired in capturing the gold medal here. However, I don't consider their performance a disaster. They better watch out, though. Sui and Han have all the momentum now after showing them up in the home country!
Amanda Dobbs has such a nice presence on the ice. I wish her luck in working on actually getting a few tough jumps in the repertoire. But at least she can always look up to Carolina Kostner.
Too Frenetic to Capture on Camera
China's world junior pairs champs Sui and Han were adorable and fairly thrilling to watch. They had numerous falls over the course of the competition but almost landed that quad salchow cleanly and their other throw in the free was breathtaking. They obviously have the technical goods to excel in the future and they are skating like two people who don't have a care in the world. It will be interesting to see how they mature and if they can somehow keep up that energy. Their bag of tricks was enough reason for them to deserve a medal, particularly here in such a lackluster competition. I think the judges were pretty generous with program components and some of the grades of execution, but they definitely won me over in that free skate.
Russia's Alena Leonova's programs and costumes could induce seizures on people, I'm fairly certain. From the neon and pom poms short program look to the crazy colors and sparkly purple fingernails of her Witches of Eastwick free skate...it was a bit much. She is always hanging onto those jumps by a thread but I love her boundless enthusiasm. She is lucky to have medaled here, I think, but hasn't that been the case with all of the ladies bronze medalists?
Brian Joubert of France impersonated the flying crane from The (original) Karate Kid in his short program. That's all you really have to know. He wastes so much energy attempting those quads at the start of programs that the rest of his jumping suffers. He also has an unhealthy obsession with mesh. There were like three moments I liked in the short program and none in the free skate. Ugh.
Ladies Triples Count
In an ongoing series, we count the triples that were credited and did not have falls in the top ladies during the ladies free skate.
Miki Ando: Five triples
Akiko Suzuki: Four triples
Alena Leonova: Four triples
Bingwa Geng: Four triples
Mirai Nagasu: Two triples
Amanda Dobbs: Two triples
Terrible week on predictions - 4/12. I am particularly ashamed of my misses on Pechalat and Bourzat and Yankowskas and Coughlin, because I kind of knew what was going to happen with those two but I was denying my instincts. Ah, well. This is more what I'm used to...