Archive for the ‘mao asada’ Tag
Expect the Unexpected
Miki Ando: When the commentators talk about Miki’s “blank” eyes, what they’re not getting at is that she just doesn’t have the same “acting” ability as someone like Yu-Na or Phaneuf (ie: compare their Cleopatras). It’s not just about “spunk,” or “personality”…these girls know how to tell a story with each glance and gesture. I think that’s a gift, but surely it can be nurtured, if there is a willingness. However, Miki doesn’t seem to tap into that deeper well, and may just not be capable of that degree of nuance. That being said, she skates a clean program, albeit sans her 3/3 (instead a 3Lz/2T), and rather emotionally dull. A respectable end of season for her, whether she medals or not!
Kim Yu-Na (2nd): It seems all the world is hanging on this performance. The moment she starts it becomes evident that Miki was largely just skating around doing elements. Even though it’s clear Yu-Na is skating “safe,” she still gives each move a purpose. She starts strong, but falls on her 3S, and gives up on her final 2A, popping it. Honestly, I like that she has a chink in her armor (pardon the pun). This does enliven the rivalry with Mao, and frankly, doesn’t allow fans and viewers to just assume she’ll skate clean (ala Kristi, or M.K. when not at the Olympics). It makes her vulnerable, and almost more interesting to me. My friend Richard jokes that “Queen” isn’t enough…she should have a planet named after her: “Yu-Na.” Her name even sounds a bit cosmic.
Cynthia Phaneuf: Again, Phaneuf’s Cleopatra makes Miki’s look emotionally junior. She skates a clean program, and lands 6 triples! How unexpected. I hope this gives her renewed confidence for next season. She competes so hot and cold, but is SO talented. She does telegraph her jumps a bit too much, but who cares, if she can skate like this!
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.
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.
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.
The Writing’s on the Wall
Well, not that it’s a surprise, but the collective opinion of contest participants consider Yu-Na, Plushenko, Shen & Zhao, and Virtue & Moir the ones to beat. Out of 28 submissions, Shen & Zhao received ALL BUT ONE first place prediction ordinal, and Yu-Na received all but three. Sound like a load of expectation and pressure? Sure does! But, they’ve proven to be able to carry that gracefully, far more often than not.
The few renegade, dark horse nods were appreciated, such as the lone ones predicting gold for Flatt (by Aaron at AL&S) and Delobel & Schoenfelder (by Jahiegel), and silver for Dube & Davison (CEB’s, one of only four nods they received)…perhaps goodwill gestures, or just a contest strategy in betting on underdogs? Receiving a single vote each were Nagasu, for bronze, and Weir, Kostner, and Zhang & Zhang, all for pewter.
Interestingly, although Rochette and Ando received a few first place predictions, not a single one was given to Asada! Just not her time, eh? She, Lysacek and Savchenko & Szolkowy were very strongly settled in second place. And, you have confidently placed Belbin & Agosto just off the podium (except my mom, who has them in first…wishful thinking?).
In the mens, you have predicted the first double medal since the U.S. sweep in 1956 (Cortina d’Ampezzo), and only the third double medal in history. And, Chan and Takahashi are considered to be in a near dead heat for pewter. They are the masters of the component score, but apparently not considered consistent enough in their jumps.
The contest is now closed. You can post further predictions for fun, but they won’t be elligible. Here are the combined results of your predictions. They seem reasonable…now let’s see how this REALLY plays out!
Drum Roll Please…
1) Shen & Zhao
2) Savchenko & Szolkowy
3) Pang & Tong
4) Kavaguti & Smirnov
1) Virtue & Moir
2) Davis & White
3) Domnina & Shabalin
4) Belbin & Agosto
We can all recall witnessing those mind-blowing moments, when we thought that skaters had finally hit the technical ceiling, or reached the outer extremes of what their sport would allow, and yet they managed to push past it again!
Sonja Henie’s “herstoric” first single axel, and Dick Button’s historic first triple jump (3Lo) seem like child’s play now. The technical achievements, primarily in jumping, aren’t the only thing that keeps me watching this sport, but truth be told, they are one damn good reason. I notice that anymore I can hardly get through a televised professional skating show, from start to finish. Apart from their over-produced, cookie-cutter feel, they also lack the on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrill that these competitive elements offer. There is of course a downside to the big jumps and constant raising of the technical bar, and that is the toll that takes on a skater’s body, sometimes shortening a career (case in point: Lipinski and Yagudin), but even more simply, robbing the audience of clean programs.
I could find no single online link that detailed the jumping “firsts” and records of the last three decades, so I created one! What’s so striking about this listing is that it calls out how rapidly our sport changes. Surely, the rate of these new developments will have to slow, as there are some absolute limitations, barring technological interference (more like those seen in today’s competitive cycling and swimming). The 10 year gap between Midori Ito’s and Ludmila Neledina’s triple axels may be evidence enough that this slowing has already begun. [Click here for a jump abbreviation legend.]
1988 – Kurt Browning (CAN): single quad (4T, with a three-turn on the landing: Worlds). Neither Alexandr Fadeev’s quad (’84 Olympics) nor Josef Sabovcik’s quad (’86 Europeans) were ratified, due to flawed landings.
1994 – Min Zhang (CHN): clean quad at the Olympics.
1997 – Guo Zhengxin (CHN): two quads in one program (4T + 4T/2T: Worlds). These were also the first single quad, and quad combo in one program.
1998 & ’99 – Timothy Goebel (USA): quad salchow (’98 JGPF); three quads in one program (’99 Skate America)
2001 – Sasha Cohen (USA): documented ladies’ quad in practice (4S: Skate America).
2006, Brian Joubert (FRA): three quads in one program (4T/2T + 4S + 4T: Cup of Russia). [I have heard this wrongly cited by commentators as the first time.]
A comprehensive listing of notable quads: Wikipedia
1992 – Midori Ito: triple axel at the Olympics.
2008 – Mao Asada (JPN): two triple axels in one program (GPF).
For ladies, a 3A is still notable, as only six have landed them in competition, including these three others: Yukari Nakano (JPN), Ludmila Neledina (RUS), and Kimmie Meissner (USA). Yes, there’s even a video collection of them.
Jump Combination Firsts
1981 – Midori Ito (age 12): ladies’ triple/triple (3T/3T: Jr. Worlds).
1990 & ’91 – Kurt Browning: triple salchow/triple loop (’90 Nations Cup); three triple/triples in the same program (3A/3T + 3F/3T + 3S/3Lo: ’91 Worlds).
1991 – Elvis Stojko (CAN): quad/double (4T/2T: Worlds).
1996 – Eric Millot (FRA): triple loop/triple loop (Worlds).
1997 – Elvis Stojko: quad/triple (4T/3T: GPF)
1998 – Timothy Goebel: American quad/double (4S/2T: JGPF).
2001 & ’02 Evgeni Plushenko (RUS): quad/triple/triple (4T/3T/3Lo: ’02 Cup of Russia, and three times since). According to Wikipedia, he supposedly landed a four jump combo at ’01 Worlds (4T/3T/2Lo/2Lo), and a six jump combo in his EX at Europeans (3/3/2/2/2/2), but no posted videos verify this (the ’04 CoP now restricts combos to a max of three jumps). [It is estimated that he has landed over 100 quads in competition.]
Also notable (and possible firsts):
1998 – Tara Lipinski (USA, age 15): triple loop/triple loop + triple toe/half loop/triple salchow in one program (Olympics).
2002 – Sarah Hughes (USA) two triple/triple loops in one program (3S/3Lo + 3T/3Lo: Olympics).
More Ito, Pairs’ Firsts, & Spin Records
1984 & ’89 – Midori Ito: first woman in competition to land five major jumps (’84), and six major jumps (’89).
2003 – Lucinda Ruh (SUI): Guinness World Record for the most continuous spins (115) on one foot (NY).
2006 – Rena Inoue & John Baldwin, Jr. (USA): throw triple axel (US Nationals, and Olympics)
2007 – Natalia Kanounnikova (RUS): Guinness World Record for fastest spin (308 rpm) recorded on ice (Rockefeller Plaza)
2007 – Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent (USA): throw quad salchow (Trophée Eric Bompard). However, I believe Wikipedia may again be wrong, as Zhang & Zhang (CHN) appear to also have landed an earlier 4STh (’06 National Games).
2009 – Evgeni Plushenko: triple axel/quad toe loop attempt (practice)
[My sources are not infallible, so I welcome informed corrections.]
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).
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!
Hosted by the Elite Masters!
Announcing an ALL NEW series of clinics, just in time for Halloween. Young skaters take notice, these are offered ONLY at jcm. They’re positively nightmarish, frightful, macabre, and diabolical!
Triple Axe-L Murder: OFF your chances at scoring high! If you’re a skater with great promise, and otherwise perfect technique, this is the clinic for you. Led by Mao Asada and Stephane Lambiel. Johnny Weir will provide stylish merch.
Spooky Arms Clinic: Hide a lack of choreography with this deceptively difficult technique. Learn this creepy art of “wavy”, sewn-on looking arms, with Miki Ando and Plushy. See results quick!
Mummy Wrapped Leg: Find out how to do the horrendous and altogether distracting leg wrap on your triple flips, lutzes, and toes, with Yukari Nakano. Word has it Midori Ito may show up to offer some special tips.
B-Movie Horror Melt-Down: Horrify the audience with over-the-top techniques, from the new queen of the on-ice melt-down, Carolina Kostner. Featuring a primer in how to “pop” jumps and throw it all away in four minutes. Alissa Czisny is the emcee for the evening.
Guillotine Leg Take-Offs: Sever your chance of getting on the podium with a monstrous raise and swift downward drop of ye old leg, before your triple lutzes and flips! Sarah Hughes became an Olympic Champion doing it. Now, learn by Caroline Zhang’s example.
Linda Blair Head-Spot: Are your jumps or spins feeling too fast or just plain easy? Incorporate a head-spot, with help from its sole elite exponent, Kevin van der Perren. It’ll be positively hair-raising, and will help slow ya down! Sponsored by Emanuel Sandhu.
Death By Drowning: Sink your programs with famous Russian coach and Tsarina Tatiana Tarasova. Why look vibrant and full of life on the ice when you could adopt a cold austerity, and dark, melodramatic programs? And you thought you couldn’t fall through rink ice?! (Cue evil laughter.)
Devilish Behavior: Flaunt your cockiness with lackadaisical program endings, and faux confident hand poses and finger points. Be the next alpha male on ice, thanks to input from Plushy and Brian Joubert.
Zombie Face: Capitalize on the recent mainstream obsession with zombies, and suck all the life outta your own programs with Caroline Zhang’s new techniques in lack of facial expression. Find out how to act like you just don’t wanna be there.
Freaky Perfection: Acquire a frightening Stepford Wives’ perfection, with Kim Yu-Na. Assure that your strength is your lack of weakness, and make people wonder if you can possibly be real.
Ghastly Costuming: Why save your Halloween costumes for Halloween? Wear them all season long! Learn how to dream-up and “work” costumes that get talked about more than your skating! Savchenko and Szolkowy offer the first half in applying clown makeup. Next up is Johnny Weir, showing you how to imagineer your own corset and Skeletor rib set. Rounding it out, Ekaterina Rubleva will share fun with feather boas!
Disclaimer: This was inspired in part by some recent highly creative posts by Laura over at Required Elements. In the spirit of Halloween, everyone should be able to laugh at themselves, right? (Yes, me included!) So, I took advantage of this holiday to lampoon the quirks of some of the best skaters in the biz, and even some of my favorites. It’s out of love for them and the sport…otherwise it wouldn’t be half as fun. I hope you had fun! Any other clinic concepts I missed (especially in Ice Dance)?