Archive for the ‘akiko suzuki’ Tag

Noone is Unbeatable: Torino Worlds Ladies SPs

Torino, Land of…Cars?


Ah, Torino…unromantically billed as “the Automobile Capital of Italy.” But, I love the images of Torino’s skyline, offset by the surrounding Alpine mountains, and with the Mole Antonelliana towering beautifully above. The Mole is even more striking when seen against a pastel pink and blue sky. It is considered the tallest museum in the world. Stylistically, it doesn’t have what I would consider typical Italian architecture, and almost looks more eastern in character to me. Perhaps this is the Jewish influence, as it was originally constructed as a synagogue.

Now, onto the competition. In keeping with prior scheduling gaffs, coverage begins smack dab in the middle of Kostner’s program. Perhaps I should be more forgiving, as it appears to be truly “live.” Sadly, I miss out on seeing Makarova’s moment. Thankfully, it can be found here, complete with her Johnny arms and telegraphed jumps, as well as some great spins and energy throughout.

Vancouver Redux


Mao Asada (2nd): Andrea Joyce states that “She’s gotta keep this rivalry (with Yu-Na) going.” Great 3A! Her jumps are SO solid. If Yu-Na opens the door, Mao’s apparently going to run screaming through it. Next season: Giselle, or anything from classical ballet rep, please! If Yun-Na is Queen, Mao is Princess…or, better yet, Dark Queen! Very well centered and fast spins. In the slow-mo on the 3A, it looked like it was short 1/8, NOT 1/4 of rotation, so it shouldn’t be downgraded. Wow, a low score, 5 points below her personal best. Why? It looks like the 3A was downgraded after all. (I have some scoring gripes about these 3A downgrades I’ll address in a future post.)

Miki Ando: I will not miss this “Requiem” program. OMG, down on her 3Lz! This is NOT good…well, it is for Nagasu and Flatt. I can SMELL that 3rd US berth (lucky Ashley)! There’s just nothing special about her skating. She’s just going through the motions. The catch foot spin (ie: half-Biellmann, where the skate is placed and held near the head) has to be the ugliest move in skating. It should be banned! Wow, a smile from Morozov at the boards? That effectively took her out of medal contention, barring meltdowns from others.

Continue Reliving Ladies SPs —>

Vancouver Games: Week 2 Recap (Part 2)

Wow, I feel like I just came up for air for the first time in 2+ weeks. Watching ALL of the Olympic figure skating and “FSR&P” shows, and reading seemingly every mainstream article on the skating has been a bit like sitting down and eating 10 chocolate cakes in a row. It is supremely divine, but I think I have a bit of a tummy ache, and a ‘lil burn-out. Ah well…another month before Worlds, and I’ll be fresh again!

A Veritable Thanksgiving Buffet: Ladies SP

The short program competitions for every discipline were loaded with many clean and memorable performances. The ladies were no exception. My hope was that the free skate evening would maintain that high level, rather than dropping off, as most of the other disciplines had done. (Thankfully, that was the case.)

Somehow, despite his dementia, I’ve grown fonder once again of Dick Button. His reference to catch foot spirals as being reminiscent of a turkey leg being pulled apart at Thanksgiving was priceless. Emily Hughes (not present) is likely the most guilty of conjuring up this scrumptious holiday tradition, since she POWERS through her spirals, complete with over-extended double-jointed standing leg, and little grace.

I repeatedly discover that being a fan or friend of figure skaters on facebook is a blessing, AND a curse. It sets you up for a MINEFIELD of spoilers. Shortly before the ladies skated their SPs, I popped onto fb for a quick peek, and caught fatal glimpses of Kim and Brian excitedly hugging. Curses!

The Yu-Na Phone, OR the Mao Dog and Sushi Roll?

Take your pick! Their product endorsements, and tribute foods have been oft-discussed on NBC. If they were to be any sign of the final result, it was pretty clear the phone trumps the hot dog!

Before I look back at the SPs, musing on the top three result, I knew I’d be exceedingly happy with the final podium remaining the same after the FS. Given the level of quality of their skating over the Olympic off-seasons, Kim & Mao deserve this. AND, given the unprecedented courage it took for Joannie to not only get through her program, but deliver it beautifully deserved its own medal. SO, as much as I wanted to see an American woman creep onto podium, I didn’t believe it was their time. (And I hoped…please, keep Miki off!)

Cheltzie Lee of Australia gave a career best SP performance, which had the good luck of getting televised. After all the controversy over Israel’s Tamar Katz NOT getting sent to Vancouver, this is some wonderful pay-back, as Cheltzie would not have been there, had it not been for Tamar’s disclusion.

The Top 6 Gurlz: “CoPulation”

Mirai Nagasu delivered a clean SP, with a her requisite sparkle…a bit dimmer than at Nationals, but still evident. She did not go for her 3Lz/3T, but instead played it safe with a 3Lz/2T, which was so VERY Kwan (no real sizzle or height, but solid). Her spins were the finest in the competition, and she had great control and positions throughout. The program is emotionally a bit junior, and her costume is rather off-the rack, but hell, she IS junior! It was a GREAT showing, especially considering it was her FIRST competition on the world stage! Hey, commentators, please retire the tired back story about her sleeping in the storage closet at her parents’ restaurant. She doesn’t need sympathy, she’s already a successful world-class athlete.

Mao Asada (“Mini T,” as in Tarasova) finally showed glimmers of the former Mao we all knew and loved. She somehow broke the clouds a bit on this Russian dirge. I actually saw her crack a smile several times. That we haven’t seen from her for at least a season! Her 3A/2T was clean, but had little movement across the ice (especially when compared to Kim’s 3Lz/3T). But, again, it was the first time one was landed in an Olympic SP by a woman, so let’s give credit where credit is due! And, the 3A was a thing of beauty. Mao almost makes it look too easy. I wonder if that’s why it’s underscored. As a friend pointed out, her feet are so close together, her legs so tight, her body perfectly straight…it’s as if she’s a pencil spinning on it’s end. This minimizes the visual dramatic effect of the 3.5 turns in the air, and robs it of the dramatic Ito effect (or Harding). Her spin speed and positions, and spiral extensions rival Kim’s.

Continue reading recap —>

Vancouver: A Final Shout-Out

Seven Days & Counting!


The light’s at the end of the tunnel now, with the opening ceremony just one week away. Now is the time I start wishing I had forked out the dough to attend (waaaahhhhhh!!!). Thankfully, I can live vicariously through blogger friend Aaron, at AL&S. He’s been selected as the Gold Blogger, all expenses paid! This honor couldn’t have been awarded to a nicer, more knowledgeable guy. I am so proud of, and excited for him (…can you say insane jealousy?). I’m lobbying to be his towel boy. Be sure to follow him online, if you want the real behind-the-scenes (click on button at right). Go Aaron!

I just posted my own predictions for my Olympics’ Podium Predictions Contest (which of course don’t count). I’m so pleased at the level of participation, and it’s especially nice to see a few fellow bloggers and family represent: incl. Aaron, Matthew at VR=A, and my mom! The men’s result is easily the hardest to predict. A coin toss or Magic Eight Ball consultation (ala State of the Skate) could probably offer an equally accurate result, given how deep that field is.

The Russian Surge


A lot has shifted in the skating world in the eight months since my post about the end of some long-standing Russian reigns. It revealed my not-so-covert desire for these “reigns” to be passed on. With Plushenko’s successful comeback since, that’s now much less likely in the mens. Even DomShabs” (or “Moksana”), who barely held it together at Russian Nationals will probably make it onto the podium, with a fight and some helpful nudges from a few biased judges. And, Kavaguti & Smirnov are raising the bar with each competition. Just shows you how resilient and determined the Russian skating community is.

Torino Ice Dance: OD Hawt Mess


We all remember the gasp-inducing affair that was the ice dance competition in Torino, with costly mistakes from several top teams. First, there was Denkova & Staviski (gold medalists one month later at Worlds!) falling out of contention with a botched spin, as well as some biased judging. Then there was Fusar-Poli getting dramatically dropped by Margaglio on their final lift. And, who can forget the stare-down that ensued afterwards, worthy of a Latin Telenovela!

Most tragic of all was Dubreuil getting hurled across the ice by Lauzon, also during their final lift. I wonder if any such slip-ups (or fizzles) will be deal breakers in deciding the medals. I certainly hope not, but it did make for some unforgettable and unexpected outcomes in Torino.

My Wish Short-List


I’m praying that Akiko Suzuki, Johnny Weir, Jeremy Abbott, and either American woman (see below) lands on the podium. Akiko and Sparkly-Boy are probably longshots, and really only viable for a bronze, but I can dream! I’d also really like to see Takahashi and/or Oda snag a medal. And, of course, many of us are also hoping for an historic U.S. ice dance gold!

Will he be "on", or lost in the icicles?

Historic Sweeps?


Speaking of ice dance, wouldn’t a North American sweep in ice dance be positively scrumptious?! I would also find it compelling to witness an Asian sweep (ala the Asian Invasion) in the ladies’ competition, in which case, maybe Morozov was right?

Ladies’ Dark Horse Trend


Will the next Sarah, Tara, or Shizuka please stand up? Who might be the unexpected dark horse for gold here? No, neither Tara nor Shizuka came out of nowhere (having won a previous Worlds), but they certainly weren’t the favorite. Judging from recent past results (offering varying degrees of surprise), perhaps we should really be putting our money on Ando, Flatt, or Suzuki, the current viable underdogs, rather than Yu-Na, Asada or Rochette?

My fingers are crossed that Flatt and/or Nagasu deliver. If not, as I speculated, this will be the first time in 11 Olympics (40+ years, since ’64) that an American woman doesn’t stand on the podium. Oy vey!

I wish all the best to each and every Olympic skater (and athlete). My truest hope…that they each may perform to the best of their ability, and walk away from the Games with only the best of memories of what they laid down on the ice, and experienced throughout!

Kanako Murakami: A Japanese Star on the Rise

The Deepest Ladies’ Field

Looking at the incomparable field of Japanese ladies, it’s hard to believe that Mao Asada is no longer the new kid on the scene. It seems just yesterday that we were left wondering what mark she would have left on the 2006 Torino Olympics, had she been a sliver older.

Fumie Suguri is their reigning veteran, debuting at Worlds in ’97, and Japanese Juniors in ’92! I wonder if she will announce her retirement from competitive skating soon, especially as her competitive season is now essentially over, after a seventh place showing at Nationals. Sadly, it appears she won’t be going out with a bang, perhaps erring by putting herself more recently in the hands of Morozov, Mishin, and Zhulin. She is one of the few remaining skaters in the intl. field that for me consistently calls to mind Kwan, since they were contemporaries, both born in ’80, and having rather comparable jumping ability (although Kwan was of course more consistent).

Hurricane Kanako

Judging from the recent Japanese Nationals, and Junior Grand Prix Final, Kanako Murakami appears to be the new one to watch, and the future (possibly very near future) of Japanese ladies’ skating.

This Nationals short program, performed to “Nectar Flamenco”, and “Frente A Frente” is very complete! She seems to have it all. Her eager nods to her coach before her program alone tell the story of her spirit. Although less artistically evolved, and with an erratic fall on her footwork, her long program, from the JGPF also shows her real competitive fire.

She won the JGPF, and came in fifth (in the SP and LP) at Nationals, less than 10 points behind Miki Ando, and two spots ahead of Suguri.

She exudes a real love of skating, has quite mature artistry and expression, beautiful extension, detailed footwork, and impressive jumps (nailing a 3/3). However, her spins can REALLY travel and could have better positions, and she struggles with the oft-criticized flutz, but those will hopefully be corrected with time.

She is coached by Machiko Yamada, who used to coach Ito and Asada, and still coaches Nakano. Thankfully, Ito’s and Nakano’s wrapped leg jumping technique appears to have gone out the window, as neither Asada nor Murakami display that technique.

A Supportive Gesture to Akiko Suzuki

Murakami and Suzuki appear to be linked in this emotional kiss and cry interaction, from Nationals. It shows an emotional gesture from one fellow competitor to another, belying her supportive character.

I was very touched to discover the following about Suzuki, who just landed a spot on the Japanese Olympic Team, by winning silver at Nationals.:

“Her story of coming back after suffering a serious personal ordeal made headlines in her home country. Due to the extreme stress of controlling her weight, Suzuki began to suffer from anorexia in 2003 and her weight dropped to the low 30kg range. She sat out the entire ’03-’04 season, and her first season back after that was disappointing. But she signaled her full recovery this year with a third place finish in the International Skating Union GPF earlier this month.”

That’s a mere 66 pounds!…quite a low point from which to regain health and wellness. Kudos to you, Akiko! Due to overcoming this, as well as her spirited “West Side Story” LP, she is easily my sentimental favorite in Vancouver!

GP Final: A Look Back

Kudos to Team USA on an historic first GP Final gold medal in Ice Dance for Davis & White, an historic three men competing, with TWO landing on the podium (Evan Lysacek, gold; and Johnny Weir, bronze), and Ashley Wagner holding on to the pewter with a strong LP.

Pairs

I’m very amused that Kavaguti (partner of Smirnov) apparently returned to the surname Kawaguchi, at least while in Japan (“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”?). Perhaps she’s trying to avoid getting tarred and feathered in her homeland? Have you ever watched her in the kiss-‘n-cry? She appears so vacant, and I can never tell if she’s going to burst into tears or laughter.

I really wish Szolkowy hadn’t touched down in the SP. This, and the fact that they (he and Savchenko) didn’t skate their best in the LP, robbed us of an apples-to-apples comparison to Shen & Zhao. Have you heard any scoop if Savchenko and coach Ingo Steuer are a couple? I’ve been getting that vibe in the kiss-‘n-cry lately, but haven’t seen it qualified anywhere.

I wept watching Shen & Zhao’s LP. Their comeback is the most beautiful gift to this sport. They just have an ability to tug my heartstrings, and their “Adagio” LP really milks that. Perhaps their off-ice love imbues their skating with that extra something special.

It was nice to see Mukhortova & Trankov deliver two very strong, clean performances. Zhang & Zhang just seem to be languishing. Now is the time for them to RETURN to a program from a past season to salvage this more important Olympic season. And, something to keep the focus on their athleticism, and off their (mostly her) artistic and expressive deficiencies.

I predicted the correct teams on the podium, just in the wrong order. Not too bad, although very predictable.

Ice Dance

To my eye, Virtue & Moir should have come out on top both after the OD and FD, but this is the one discipline where the most subtle nuances between a performance or team often elude me, or feel highly subjective, because they are so comparable. Davis & White appeared more controlled in the OD, skating with less abandon, but that may just be the nature of an indian dance, versus a spanish flamenco number, which has inherent abandon. I understand that D&W may have skated with greater speed, but that is harder to perceive on tv, since the cameras trace the movement.

However, enormous accolades to D&W on their win! It’s especially interesting that they landed this distinction, not Belbin & Agosto. I do wish I cared more about D&W’s skating. I experience it on a more cerebral level, and it feels more technically strong than transcendent. But great work nonetheless!

I have a skater crush on Fabian Bourzat of France. Yum! His wavy hair and powerful legs get me.

Again, I predicted the correct teams on the podium, but, only the bronze medalists were in the right placement.

Mens

The men’s SPs made for a positively exhilarating competition! Now it’s REALLY heating up. This is the first moment where I felt that real Olympic vibe coming on. I believe Johnny’s SP is the best I’ve ever seen him skate. It was the most honest and revealing performance he’s ever given. In the past, his SPs may have been clean and even inspired, but they were more detached and inward (ie: “The Swan”). Daisuke Takahashi and Evan were perfection in the SP. Daisuke’s SP music is so rhythmically complex, and sophisticated, noone else could make it work like he does. Nobunari Oda didn’t have the luster of past competitions in either program, but skated cleanly enough, continuing to feature his miraculous jump landings…“like buttah”!

I was SO proud of Johnny for reaching his personal best in each scoring phase, as well as delivering the fourth highest total score of the season! I imagine this will be a great confidence booster for him. His legs did seem to be a bit tight in his jumps throughout (ala Butyrskaya). I hope he can soften his knees at Nationals, to offer up his signature smooth ride-out.

I LOVE Jeremy’s Abbott’s new ice-colored satin shirt. It has the glow and allure of a champion of the Winter Games, a great direction visually. He skated beautifully in the LP, after his initial quad fall. He has an ability draw me in to his lines, edges, and the ebb and flow of his footwork. When a skater like him or Kim Yu-Na use a mix of fast AND SLOW footwork, I find it much more effective.

Poor Daisuke. He could beat all of the men with two clean skates, but this LP wadn’t it, of course! It’s still not clear to me if this is training or more mind-related. We’ll see as the season progresses. We know he has it in him! Tomáš Verner is such a head case right now. I fear this could be a confidence killer. I hope he moves forward and learns from it. It would be hard to attend an event you didn’t initially qualify for.

Here, I only predicted correctly two of the medalists, and in the wrong order.

Ladies

I thought Ashley skated beautifully in her SP. She seemed to have good energy and was at least superficially clean. But, I understand there was a two-footed landing and edge deduction. However, her grace and facial expressiveness always make me care about her program and performance!

Miki Ando and Joannie Rochette were duller than dirt in their SPs. They’ve got to shape up.

It was heart-wrenching to see Joannie and Alena Leonova tank in the LP. This does not bode well for Joannie in Vancouver. Akiko Suzuki delivered the goods, and then some! I had hoped she would get the silver, and felt she was undermarked (or Miki was overmarked) in the LP. It is criminal that her PE, CH and IN component scores were nearly 1 point lower than Miki’s. Perhaps her transitions are simpler, but that should just influence TR (and SS at most).

Although Kim didn’t skate near her best, Miki’s LP fell completely flat for me, as it has all season. Yes, this does make the ladies’ field more interesting, for Kim to not win by slam dunk, but (whew!) close call.

Again, I only predicted two of the medalists, and in the wrong order.

Commentating Gripes

Since I tivo’d some of the competition on multiple channels I had the opportunity to see the men’s and ladies’ LPs commentated by Scott Hamilton on one channel, and Peter Carruthers on the other. The experience was night and day! Hamilton made the experience enjoyable and engaging, Carruthers, quite the opposite (annoying and disjointed). I really dislike his offering as a commentator, especially when covering the ladies. Give me ANYONE else, please!

I also found it amusing that when Evan was .10 behind Daisuke in the SP, the commentators called it a “virtual tie”, BUT when Kim was .56 behind Miki in the SP, they talk about it as if it was a near apocalypse. Puh-lease!!!

Next up: possible musings on Japanese, French and Russian Nationals at the end of December, and Canadian, US and Chinese Nats in January!

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