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Four Continents Thoughts

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Sometimes the Four Continents Championship is a time for countries to send their second and third tier skaters to allow for those skaters to gain some experience on the senior international stage.  Other years, countries send their A level skaters in a preparation for the upcoming world championships.  This was an A level year (for the most part), but it didn't particularly feel like one.

The ladies short programs were so lethargic.  The free skates were better, but it just didn't appear that there was any spark in the building.  Miki Ando skated beautifully all the way through this competition, and she even emoted a little bit in the free skate, but neither performance struck any fear into the heart of Yu-na Kim, I assume.  Also, her grade of execution scores and program components are bit much, to say the least.  Mao Asada turned it on for the last 20 seconds of her short program and she had a very good free skate, but I didn't see anything that I found memorable or formidable.  She showed the same weaknesses that have plagued her for years - underrotations and edge calls. Still, I can see a trajectory that is leading up to peaking at the world championships where a cleaner Asada could propel past Ando.  Unfortunately for Mao, Yu-na Kim will also be at the world championships.

Meanwhile, I was hoping Mirai Nagasu would really attack here, being that she's off the worlds roster.  Her short had technical trouble, but in her free skate, she looked like a bored kid taking a final.  She seemed like she was counting the seconds until summer vacation.  Even her layback didn't look great, and I usually love her laybacks.  She landed all of the jumps and overall it was better than nationals but something was definitely missing in the performance aspect.  She got a bronze medal here, and proved once again that she can be competitive on the world stage (which is why I am so annoyed when she doesn't skate to her potential!)  Now we just need her to qualify for worlds next season.

I could not find Alissa Czisny's free skate online, but wow.  She got two downgrades, one underrotation, one edge call, and she had a fall.  Maybe we should have saved our gold medalist for worlds and sent Agnes Zawadzki?  She said things along the lines of how recent nationals was and how that affected preparation, but I think if you are not prepared, you shouldn't be competing (I mean, she just won a national championship so it's not like she needs to prove she deserves to go to worlds or something). Perhaps the emotions of nationals were hard to shake off.  Hopefully by the time worlds comes around, she will be "prepared" and more on par with the confidence she displayed at nationals rather than these performances.  

I did not see Rachael Flatt's free skate either but her third place short program was so slow I was surprised she covered more than a five foot patch of ice.  It made me appreciate her nationals short performance so much more.  She must have had a red bull before that nationals short.  Her technical score was nine points lower than Mirai Nagasu's here in the free skate.  Rather than doing one of the triple/triples she has, Flatt did a double axel/triple loop that was promptly deemed underrotated.  If she doesn't try a triple/triple at worlds than I don't think she and her coach should be allowed to give anymore interviews.

The men's performances were sloppier even than the ladies.  Daisuke Takahashi was actually wonderful, fall on his quad notwithstanding.  That short program was superb and his free skate has actually grown on me.  He has so much passion and his footwork is so great to watch.  Yuzuru Hanyu is an impressive skater, but Jeremy Abbott has to be able to beat someone like him.  Way too many mistakes in the free (despite that nice opening quad and the triple axel/triple toe combo) for Hanyu to be winning the silver medal here..but Abbott just can't seem to get it together.  I'll be happy to be done with these programs with him...the short is trying too hard and he hasn't skated a clean free skate all season (has he?).  Poor Takahiko Kozuka put himself so far out of the running that even a second place free skate could not salvage a medal.  I think that short was a bit of a fluke.

The big news on returning champ Adam Rippon was his new haircut.  Thankfully, we now know it wasn't the curls that were weighing him down on the triple axels.  The technical content he was able to complete here left him very uncompetitive in comparison to his other skating skills and his competitors.  He needs to land those jumps...triple axels are a must.

Ice dancing was a letdown when Virtue and Moir withdrew after winning the short dance (although I blame that on the Davis twizzle troubles), although it does lend  more excitement to worlds.  Davis and White really are that much better than most of the competitors.  It was nice to see Maia and Alex Shibutani come in and get the silver.  I don't think the other Canadian teams have their potential and it's been a joy to see how far the Shibutanis have come this season.  The last test will be worlds...they won't be scored better than Pechalat and Bourzat but I'm more interested to see how they stack up against a team like Bobrova and Soloviev.

Pairs was not great...I couldn't find video of Yankowskas and Coughlin and they couldn't beat the flawed Canadian teams so it doesn't bode well for worlds.  The American teams received a lot of grade of execution deductions.  Same old, same old for America.  It was extremely impressive that Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford beat China's Pang and Tong on technical elements in the free skate, but they trailed in program components by about 11 points.  Lawrence and Swiegers started out their free skate very strong but just kind of started getting very sloppy as the program wore on.  Savchenko and Szolkowy still rule this season, nothing that happened here would make them think that Pang and Tong are a true threat for the gold right now.  The most exciting part of the event was when Mark Ladwig's heel split and Rudi Swiegers gave him a boot to use to finish the short program.