Archive for the ‘shen & zhao’ Tag

Vancouver Games: Week 1 Supersized Recap

I’m battling a terrible cold and sore throat. Staying up past midnight nightly watching these Games likely hasn’t helped. Why, oh why is the left coast on such a delay? More advertising dollars for NBC? Pathetic! I’m sure a lot of potential viewers drifted away because of this poor decision.

Opening Ceremonie$


When I sat down to watch the opening, all I could think of was how unlucky Vancouver was to have to follow Beijing. Beijing spent over $300+ million, and have a culture that is already primed to partake in such a large-scale, perfect orchestration of the masses. However, I respected Canada’s aim to keep it less expensive (even if that still meant a walloping $30+ million). After all, the Olympics are important for national pride, and international athletic competition and camaraderie, but it shouldn’t replace feeding mouths and rebuilding cities.

We Are the World…again, REALLY? At least J-Hud was in the mix, making it a bit more legit. In the initial, historic portion of the ceremony, I really appreciated the strong presence of the indigenous native nations, particularly the aboriginal people, and the nod to their cultural impact.

The greeter minions (see photo, in background), decked out head to toe in snowy white, looked like rather vacuous members of an Eskimo cult, or life-sized “It’s a Small World…” mascots, courtesy of Disney. One in particular caught my eye on multiple close-ups. He was highly entertaining, and had the infectious enthusiasm and gloriously bad dance moves of one of The Wiggles. I was reminded that believing you’re really good is half the battle in convincing others that you actually are. The female greeters also called to mind the great ole winter icon Suzy Chapstick.

In the parade of athletes, it was a pleasant surprise to see so many figure skaters bearing their flags: Kevin van der Perren (Belgium), Julia Sebestyen (Hungary), Alexandra Zaretsky (Israel), Song Chol Ri (N. Korea), and medal contender Stéphane Lambiel (Switzerland)! NOONE waved their flag with more fey elegance than Stéphane. I was struck by some of the more memorable athlete names: Hubert von Hohenlohe (sounds like a drunk ‘n merry Austrian prince), and Bjoergvin Bjoergvinsson (what were his parents thinking?)!

K.D. Lang was channeling Wayne Newton. She sounded fantastic singing Leonard Cohen’s (unfortunately overdone) “Hallelujah.” Her voice is very well-preserved, after 25+ years as a recording artist. The digital video images projected on the floor were stunning, especially when a simulated school of orcas (spouting out their air holes) passed across the ocean surface. The artistic highlight of the ceremony was the aerial dance “Who Has Seen the Wind”, performed by Montreal’s Thomas Saulgrain, to Joni Mitchell’s acoustic recording of “Both Sides Now.” It was spiritually transcendent, filled with sincere wonder, and his journey reminded me a bit of Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.”

The most compelling moment was the minute of silence, for Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili (Team Georgia in photo, above right). How rare it is for a group of that enormity to share in silence, and what a reminder it was that modern society works far to hard to fill up all the still or quiet moments in life. Silent meditation is so rife with meaning…as much or more so than activity. Near the end, Measha Brueggergosman did her best Jessye Norman impersonation, complete with protruding neck veins, unhinged jaw, and mother nature/goddess delivery. I enjoy her art, and appreciated her inclusion, but this presented her as an operatic caricature.

Overall, the host country did a great job of milking their budget, as it didn’t feel cheap at all, and the silly mishaps were easily forgiven.

Continue reading recap —>

Your Vancouver Olympic Podium Predictions

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…


Ladies

1) Yu-Na
2) Asada
3) Rochette
4) Ando

Mens

1) Plushenko
2) Lysacek
3) Abbott
4) Chan/Takahashi

Pairs

1) Shen & Zhao
2) Savchenko & Szolkowy
3) Pang & Tong
4) Kavaguti & Smirnov

Ice Dance

1) Virtue & Moir
2) Davis & White
3) Domnina & Shabalin
4) Belbin & Agosto


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!

Cast your GP Final votes!

Select your final picks for the Grand Prix podiums in each discipline (select three medalists per poll)! Since these polls don’t allow you to order your votes, please share those in comments. Review all GP season-to-date results here. My predictions may be rather predictable, but I gladly welcome surprises…go underdogs! (I’m recalling Sandhu in ’03, Asada in ’05, and Abbott last year.)

My bets:
1) Oda
2) Lysacek
3) Takahashi

My bets:
1) Yu-Na
2) Rochette
3) Ando

My bets:
1) Shen & Zhao
2) Savchenko & Szolkowy
3) Pang & Tong

My bets:
1) Virtue & Moir
2) Davis & White
3) Pechalat & Bourzat

My analysis

I feel Jeremy Abbott will peak closer to Nationals and Olympics (or, at least I hope so), so I’ve left him off the podium here (guessing he’ll garner the pewter medal). He himself has stated that he doesn’t want to peak too early, so I feel that being the reigning champion here will prevent him from really being on the attack. With Joubert, Plushenko and Chan absent, these men better take advantage of this opportunity to build their confidence. Can anyone tell me when the last time was that the USA had three men at the GP Final (and if we ever have)? This seems to me a big, but much overlooked achievement. It hasn’t happened in at least a decade, as per my perusal of results as far back as they appear to go online. [UPDATE: Aaron at Axels, Loops & Spins has confirmed that the USA has never sent three men to the GP Final!]

My ladies predictions are the same as last year’s Worlds. I don’t think Wagner has enough momentum yet to medal here, but she’s gaining on the competition.

I think Shen & Zhao will best Savchenko & Szolkowy this time, but it will be VERY close. This has to be the most difficult to predict match up in all four disciplines!

And, when stacked next to each other (which hasn’t yet happened this season), I think Virtue & Moir will edge out Davis & White. With Belbin & Agosto, Delobel & Schoenfelder, and Domnina & Shabalin out of the picture here, this will hardly be telling of the Vancouver smack down.

Best Skating Programs of the Season

My last post (focusing on skaters) offers a natural dovetail into this one. Especially for those of you who haven’t yet seen much/any of the ’09-‘10 season events to date (Grand Prix, as well as earlier Nebelhorn, Finlandia, or Liberty), or don’t feel skilled at identifying stand-outs, this serves as a short-list to acquaint you with the best programs. It’s impossible to completely separate out the skater or performance as a factor, but that isn’t the focus here. Also, these aren’t podium predictions, but they are in order of preference.

By Artist Larisa Gendernalik

Program Diagram (Artist Larisa Gendernalik)

I’m covering only competitive programs, not exhibitions, and am skipping Compulsory Ice Dances. The focus here is on music selection and choreography (transitions, pacing, movement, ice coverage). I’m most drawn to programs that have a dramatic arc, musical contrast, or a strong emotional impact or levity. Here is one interesting look at the choreographic process, or evolution of a program.

Although fresh music selections were preferred, some tried-and-true selections still made the cut, because I love them so, or because their approach is new. For example, no Phantom of the Opera or Scheherazade programs were selected, and most latin/flamenco numbers (Suzuki, Rochette, Cohen and Chan SPs, Lambiel LP, etc.) need to be tabled for a good decade, as that style is so overused. Also, I’m allergic to Russian folk tunes and country music, of which there are many in the Ice Dance OD. Good costumes supported the selections, but weren’t pivotal. David Wilson wins here, with eight programs included, and Lori Nichol a close second, with five. Do they ever sleep?

Choreographers

David Wilson with Kim Yu-Na, and Lori Nichol with Salé & Pelletier

Men’s SP:

1) Adam Rippon: Dear Father, from Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Neil Diamond (Choreo: David Wilson)
2) Evan Lysacek: Firebird, by Stravinsky (Choreo: Lori Nichol)
3) Stéphane Lambiel: William Tell Overture, by Rossini (Choreo: Salomé Brunner)

Men’s LP:

1) Jeremy Abbott: Symphony No. 3 in C minor (Organ Symphony), by Saint-Saëns (Choreo: Pasquale Camerlengo) – my overall season favorite
2) Jeffrey Buttle: Eclogue, by Finzi (Choreo: David Wilson) – why’d he retire!@#$
3) Nobunari Oda: Charlie Chaplin (Choreo: Nikolai Morozov)

Ladies’ SP:

1) Kim Yu-Na: 007 Medley (Choreo: David Wilson)
2) Alissa Czisny: Mask of Zorro (Choreo: David Wilson)
3) Caroline Zhang: Zigeunerweisen, by Sarasate (Choreo: Lori Nichol)

Ladies’ LP:

1) Kim Yu-Na: Concerto in F, by Gershwin (Choreo: David Wilson)
2) Akiko Suzuki: West Side Story, by Bernstein (Choreo: Shae-Lynn Bourne)
3) Joanie Rochette: Samson and Delilah, by Saint-Saëns (Lori Nichol)

Pairs’ SP:

1) Pang & Tong: Le Pêcheurs de Perles, by Bizet (Choreo: Nicolai Morozov)
2) Shen & Zhao: Who Wants to Live Forever, by Queen (Choreo: Lori Nichol)
3) Langlois & Hay: Fascination (Choreo: David Wilson)

Pairs LP:

1) Shen & Zhao: Adagio, by Albinoni (Choreo: Lori Nichol)
2) Dube & Davison: The Way We Were, by Hamlisch (Choreo: Wilson)
3) Pang & Tong: Impossible Dream, by Hisaishi (Choreo: Bourne, Wilson)
+) Savchenko & Szolkowy: Out of Africa, by John Barry (Choreo: Ingo Steuer) updated 11.2.09!

Ice Dance OD:

1) Davis & White: Indian Folk Dance (Choreo: Marina Zueva, Igor Shpilband)
2) Navarro & Bommetre: Brazilian Folk (Choreo: Renée Roca)
3) Chock & Zuerlein: Afro Cuban Folk (Choreo: Igor Shpilband)

Ice Dance FD:

1) Virtue & Moir: Symphony No. 5, by Mahler (Choreo: Zueva, Shpilband)
2) Faiella & Scali: Gli Emigranti, by Rota (C: Paola Mezzadri, Ludmila Vlasova)
3) Belbin & Agosto: Ave Maria / Amen, by Caccini / Rossini (C: Natalia Linichuk)

Neither Domnina & Shabalin’s, nor Delobel & Schoenfelder’s programs were considered for this, since both have yet to perform their new programs in intl. competition (if you find videos, please share them). It was difficult to leave out Ashley Wagner’s (Polovtsian Dances) and Sasha Cohen’s (Moonlight Sonata) LPs, and Jeremy Abbott’s (Beatles) SP! On the flip side, there is a bit of a drought of memorable programs among the ladies’ SPs.

Click on these links to view complete programs by discipline (some details are not up-to-date): Ladies’, Men’s, Pairs’, Ice Dance.

Are there any glaring omissions, or your favorites that I overlooked?

Skating Loves: “It’s Complicated” & More…

As the skating season drives madly onward, I find myself measuring my pulse, as I watch each Olympic hopeful, to see who makes my heart beat the faster. But, instead of falling easily head over heels for one favorite per discipline, I discover that it’s just not that simple. It dawned on me that the familiar facebook.com “Relationship Status” categories best define my feelings.

Inevitably, this does begin to hint at a wish list for Gold in Vancouver. I know, it’s supposed to be more about the journey than the destination, more about the battle than the glory, yadda yadda yadda. But, I’m an immediate gratification kinda guy, so I want the results! And, if you were honest with yourself, isn’t that where your head goes as you watch the Grand Prix events unfold?

However, this is in NO way a prediction of the champions, or a comprehensive look at the possible podiums (that will come much later), just an attempt to figure out who I may need to dump…or, if I can comfortably swim in this two-timing and non-monogamy! More simply, who am I really going to root for as this season progresses?

Pairs’ Status: “It’s Complicated”


My long-time, all-time favorites Shen and Zhao (CHN) have already proven themselves in their comeback bid. At Cup of China they accrued the highest total pairs’ score this season. More than any other pair, they have an ability to send me reaching for the tissues. Their on-ice connection is so deep, so passionate, so real…like a true expression of who they are individually, and as a couple. I felt that only his injury robbed them of the gold that would have been theirs in Torino. Shen & Zhao: (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)They have also grown immensely since they first hit the international scene. At first they seemed to be purely technical skaters, but then their artistry emerged. I love it when skaters evolve in this way, especially when their artistry doesn’t appear to be so innate (I also think of Sarah Hughes, who was positively coltish when she debuted at Nationals).

However, Savchenko and Szolkowy (GER) have worked so hard over the past four seasons, and consistently delivered (well, except at Trophée Eric Bompard) stunningly difficult choreography and technical content: transitions, triple jumps, and expression. They, with their coach Ingo Steuer have a very unique vision of who they are and what they want to put out on the ice. Their moves look like no other pairs team, including their refreshing mirror footwork. And, although noone’s talking about it, I believe Robin would be the first black figure skating Olympic gold medalist (or, perhaps of any color medal). That would be a wonderful history-making precedent! (I invite you to proove me wrong.)

Sadly, because of Sav/Szol’s meltdown at TEB, we don’t have a solid apples-to-apples comparison of how they’ll match up. And, the same may be true at the GP Final, since Sav/Szol may not make it there. Perhaps in Vancouver we’ll have another pairs’ tie, so I won’t have to settle on one team!

Men’s Status: “In an Open Relationship”


I feel as if my status with Johnny Weir (USA) has been downgraded to “Widowed” after Rostelcom Cup, and being largely let down by his new programs. So, I’m shifting my focus for now. There is such a buffet of exceptional men to choose from, I’m opting for the freedom of this “Open Relationship”.

Stéphane LambielStéphane Lambiel (SUI) was my first love out of the current competitive field. By now, we’re practically “old and married”. But, I’m so pleased he is returning this season, and his new William Tell SP suits his sophisticated yet youthful approach very well. The footwork is perfectly choreographed to the famous up-tempo portion of the overture. I would love to see him claim the gold that he missed in Torino.

After years of playing hard-to-get with Evan Lysacek (USA), I have finally caved and accepted it as my fate. He has proven his character and the depth of his competitive fire and fight, and reached a new level of elegance this season. With his 6′ 2″ stature, he glides across the ice like a statuesque ballet dancer. It’s quite a vision! He has finally opened up to his inner girl, appearing much more vulnerable and expressive (complete with Vera Wang). That’s oh-so-much more appealing than the more one-note masculine caricature he was in the past.

Who hasn’t been wooed by Charlie “Nobunari” Chaplin (JPN) this season? He certainly picked the right season to peek in, with his inner comedian emerging in full bloom. And, his oft discussed soft knees on jump landings are as beautiful as ever. The spring he gets in his jumps is not of mere mortals. His short stature is icing-on-the-cake, as it makes him all the more endearing and loveable.

Early last season Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) seemed on top of the world, and was laying down his cutting-edge hip-hop Swan Lake SP. No other competitive male dances like him on the ice, or uses their body as fully as he does in his footwork. He displays power, with a cool, contemporary edge. However, he has lost that momentum, and I’m not a fan of his new programs. I hope he can return to at least some of his former glory.

I am developing a crush on Adam Rippon, but I’ll wait til 2014 for the real thing. Jeremy Abbott’s new LP to Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony No. 3 is a revelation, but he still needs to “let it go” to draw me in more fully.

Ice Dance Status: “It’s Complicated”


Virtue & Moir (CAN) have the most palpable connection of any of the ice dance teams. Their passion and expressivity feel the most real to me…not a “performance”. Virtue & MoirTheir Mahler FD is perfection, and touches me because of the music selection alone, not to mention the execution. There is a stillness, and yet a controlled abandon to the program. Sure, their lifts and twizzles are at mach speed, but that’s not what makes you fall in love.

But, Delobel & Schoenfelder (FRA) are my sentimental favorites, and are at/near the end of their competitive careers. She is fighting an uphill battle to get back in shape after her pregnancy, and I haven’t yet seen their new programs, but, they have so much heart and warmth, and innovativeness. Their maturity and experience have surely nurtured these qualities.

I would love for the U.S. to snag its first ever ice dance Olympic gold medal, and I always enjoy Belbin & Agosto and Davis & White, but neither yet captivate me entirely. Tanith’s expression can ring a bit false for me, and I feel Davis & White need a few more years develop an even deeper and truer sense of storytelling and who they are. Navarro & Bommentre are personal favs, but not medal contenders.

Ladies’ Status: “In a Relationship with…”


This is the one discipline in which I’m relishing a honeymoon phase. And, she certainly ain’t no underdog. It is Kim Yu-Na (KOR). I can’t think of a skater who provides me with such complete satisfaction. She has owned this Kim Yu-Na (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes)season, and the last, dominating as the clear favorite. I think the field is a lot less interesting with this sort of dominance, and I certainly root for the underdogs (and U.S. ladies), because that’s part of what makes the Olympics really come alive (ie: Arakawa, Hughes, Lipinski, etc.), but it will take a lot for another skater to stage an upset.

Yes, I love aspects of other skaters…Sasha’s spirals and extensions are unbeatable, Alissa’s spins and glide are perfection, and Alena has more spunk than Richard Simmons, but Yu-Na has enough of all that, in one package. If Mao could return to her former glory, well, then, my ladies’ status might need to change. But, hopefully, it’ll soon be upgraded to “Married”!

Disclaimer:

Please note that none of the relationships alluded to above are real. I am purely delusional, and having too much fun. And, it appears I’m somehow immune to the wooing of the current Russian crop of skaters.

“That’s Huge”: Shen & Zhao Are Back

Thanks to the Susan over at Lifeskate (both are huge), I came upon this video, which provides an enticing glimpse of pairs team Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao in training for the Vancouver Games. What a sight for sore eyes they are, helping to brighten my skating perspective this week, after the deeply sad Bobek news! (And, btw, they’re “huge” too.) This shows them at work on their Long Program, to Albinoni’s “Adagio”. I’m not terribly excited about this selection, as it’s too played and rather dreary, but I trust they will make it their own and breathe new life into it. It’s very reassuring to see them already seemingly in top form, as best I can judge from this brief segment.

 

jcm was one of the earliest online voices to focus the comeback spotlight on them, with this poll, and this post. With all the talk of Cohen, Kwan and Plushy/Zhenya they continue to get unfairly lost in the shuffle…at least in the US.

They’re pretty much guaranteed a spot on the Chinese Olympic Team since there is no true fourth contending team at this time. For them to skate well would alone make the trip to Vancouver worth it. But, for them to take gold, or a medal of any color would be a triumph for all “mature” (yes, even in their 30s!) skaters and athletes…a reminder that it’s not just a sport for little girls (although they’re “huge” too…but I didn’t mean in THAT way…apologies to Jenny Kirk), and that sometimes maturity and experience can prevail. This is a message our sport dearly needs.

I’m hoping they add to their already amazing legacy, as 3-time World Champions, and 2-time Olympic Bronze Medalists! At ages 31 (Shen) and 36 (Zhao), this would be their fourth Olympic Games, which surely only a handful of pairs teams have accomplished. If they medal, they’ll be the second pairs team in history to do so three times. Andrée Joly (later Brunet) and Pierre Brunet (FRA: 2 golds, 1 bronze) were the first and only other team to reach this competitive milestone. All other Olympic pairs teams achieved theirs with at least two partners: Artur Dmitriev (RUS: 2 golds, 1 silver) with Mishkutenok and Kasakova, Irina Rodnina (RUS: 3 golds) with Ulanov and Zaitsev.

Here are the full details on their announced programs for this season:

 Short Program               Long Program              
Who Wants To Live Forever
by Queen
performed by David Garrett
choreographed by Lori Nichol
Adagio
by Tomaso Albinoni
performed by Eroica Trio
choreographed by Lori Nichol

They are slated to compete in this season’s Grand Prix circuit at both Cup of China and Skate America. They would not face their main competition, German’s Savchenko and Szolkowy until the Grand Prix Final, if they both make it there. So, the truest suspense of how those two teams will match up will be saved for then, or at the Vancouver Games themselves. Savcheko and Szolkowy have momentum on their side, but both teams promise some MAJOR competition!

"That's Huge" “That’s huge”!

Hallelujah! Shen & Zhao Return

icenetwork.com verified what the ISU Grand Prix09 season lineup first revealed! Chinese pair Shen & Zhao are back in the game! They will appear at Cup of China, and Skate America, and are aiming for a ticket to Vancouver in ’10. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that they beat out their compatriots Zhang & Zhang, their biggest competition, to win both titles.

Shen & Zhao

Out of all the comeback news (officially announced to date, that is), this is arguably the most welcome, and they are arguably the most loved skaters attempting this return to competitive ice. They are among my favorite pairs teams of all time, and made My Desert Island Skates list, with their inspirational Turandot long program, at ’03 Worlds. That performance will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Watch it here, if you missed it.

Shen & Zhao off iceWhen they made their competitive exit after the ’07 season (with 3 World titles and 2 Olympic bronze medals in their cache), they were still in top form, and on top of the competitive field. Only Hongbo’s achilles injury and recovery threatened their future viability. Hopefully, although they’ve been very busy with skating shows and off-ice commitments, with a break from the demands of competition they will return to top form. Thankfully, China is guaranteed three berths at the Vancouver Games, so this return will not rob Pang & Tong, or Zhang & Zhang an opportunity to have their moment.

I extend to them (and their fans) a sincere “Welcome back!” and, “GO GET ‘EM!”. As much as I love Savchenko & Szolkowy, I’d love to see Shen & Zhao take the gold in Vancouver. They will easily be the sentimental favorites, but hopefully more. I feel it’s their turn, and were it not for the extensive training they missed, due to Hongbo’s injury, would have been theirs in Torino.

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