The Golden Age of Yu-Na

Any More Superlatives Left?

So often in contemporary operagoing and opera critique there is a bemoaning of talent on the level of the famed “Golden Age”…at least the second Golden Age (‘60–‘70s). The first one was in the mid-to-late 19th century, but noone’s around to remember that, thank God! It gets rather tiresome, and it especially disrupts the explorations of people experiencing the art for the first time. If I am a proponent of such talk (and I know I periodically digress), just slap me.

So, what a relief it is that in the current skating world we have a talent so undeniably great no such critique needs to be endured. It’s not exactly a new concept to praise “PHENOM” Kim Yu-Na, but that’s because it is so justly deserved. Does one person constitute a Golden Age? In this case, yes!

I just finished watching her FS at Trophée Eric Bompard (not to mention her SP!). This girl LEFT OUT a triple flip and still ended up with a personal best AND world record final score of 210.03, beating Mao Asada by 36 points. The missed jump was no more than a hiccup, and had no impact on the overall program. (Imagine what her score would have been had she not skipped the flip!) Thankfully, her program and costume support her Tiger Woods-scaled perfection. David Wilson’s (choreo.) “Piano Concerto in F” LP (Gershwin) enables her to flirt with the audience, judges, and cameras (ie: benefiting us couch potatoes)! Honestly, it looks like only Jeff Gillooly could stop her from being Olympic Champion now.

The Joy of Skating

It is truly inspiring to experience the art and athleticism of someone who is so complete in every way. “The House of Orser”, as I like to call it, which includes both Yu-Na and Adam Rippon, clearly nurtures not only skating excellence, but also the joy of skating. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Both of these skaters were among the few singles skaters at this competition who really portrayed that spirit on the ice. And, congrats to Adam for being the only U.S. skater on any of the podiums! What a great way to start his senior intl. career! I loved his “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” SP. It had shades of Matthew Savoie’s “Mission” LP…with a real soul, and spirituality.

I can’t leave out Nobunari Oda, who gave 120% in both programs. It’s so good to see him back on top! His Charlie Chaplin LP has loads of character, and really tells a story, something that is getting lost in the demands of the current COP. And, Tomas Verner’s SP to “Zorba the Greek” was also effervescent, boyish, and charming (costume included…I want one!).

Yukari Nakano’s “The Firebird” (Stravinsky) LP deserves a big thumbs-up. Marina Zueva (choreo.) has actually selected a piece of music that is fresh in the ladies’ field, and created a real dramatic arc, with emotion inducing moments. Yukari’s exotic unitard also supports the uniqueness of the program, and accentuates her exceptional athleticism.

Let ‘Er Rip!

Since the television commentators can’t say it, I will! Tatiana Tarasova, however great a coach she may have been for Yagudin, is sinking Mao Asada (and, apparently wasn’t a great fit for Shizuka or Sasha either). BOTH her programs hang around her neck like dead weights, when her former effervescent spirit likely wants to “sing” across the ice. I feel as if Tarasova is trying to turn Mao into Russia’s Pride (since they don’t have a realistic female Olympic Champion), rather than celebrating what makes her special, and bringing out what would really allow her to thrive. It reminds me of a chef who takes a traditional dish and works way too hard to make it new or different, thereby rendering it unrecognizable, OR like a heavy-handed conductor who is so eager to leave an imprint on a piece of music that they rob it of its inherent attributes. Please, call Lori Nichol before it’s too late!!! Kim’s timing to peek is proving to be as good as Mao’s is bad, in this Olympic season.

Who kidnapped the real Caroline Zhang and replaced her with a fembot? Perhaps it was what the commentator referenced as her outlook on these earlier competitions as “practice”, but NONE of her former spirit was in evidence, and her face was utterly expressionless. It was as if she didn’t want to be on the ice. Any chance it could be attributable to Anne Patrice McDonough-style “stage mother”-related burn out? She did skate very cleanly, excepting one step-out on a landing. Dig deep Caroline, you are VERY special and highly skilled…don’t get bogged down by the COP and downgrade concerns so much so that you offer up a flatlined performance (worthy of a fast-forward on TiVo).

Pairs/Ice Dance Overview

Inoue and Baldwin landed their throw triple axel for the first time since 4CC in ’07. It was a beauty. I hope it gives them the needed kick in the pants to push themselves…I feel like they’re sort of going through the motions in the rest of their program, so if they’re going to beat out younger U.S. teams for an Olympic berth, they better really “bring it”, and proove they deserve to be there again.

I was horrified to see Savchenko and Szolkowy’s melt down. It was SO uncharacteristic, and I don’t believe they’ve ever done that before. But, perhaps it offered them some good learning, so they won’t “lose themselves” too much in their LP at the critical end of the season, leaving behind any details. I love their LP music (“You’ll Never Walk Alone”), but their costumes looked like they were ready for a Carmen Miranda or Brazilian Carnaval number!?

It was shocking to see Mukhortova and Trankov look as if they’ve spent the past year in pair’s therapy (“…and, Maria, how does that make you feel?”). Clearly they’ve successfully channeled their angst into their skating. Good for them. They do have a beautiful Russian classicism.

I was expecting Dubé and Davison’s “The Way We Were” LP to be on the level of Sale and Pelletier’s “A Love Story”, but I was let down. They have some great qualities, but there was very little story telling or one-ice flirting going on, for which the program begs. And, I didn’t get the feeling it is just early in the season…the program just didn’t seem to have that element at all, really.

In Ice Dance, I was only able to watch Virtue and Moir’s FD (“Symphony No. 5”, by Mahler), and it was/is an unqualified masterpiece. They will be nearly unbeatable in Vancouver. They embody passion, beauty, perfection, grace, to name just a few of their attributes. On the U.S. side, I have always been a Navarro and Bommentre fan, so I hope they can raise their placement as the season progresses.

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7 comments so far

  1. Laura on

    Great post – something MUST be done with Mao Asada. Dead weight is a good assessment of those programs.

    I noticed the same thing about Caroline Zhang during last year’s Grand Prix…I would even say she pretty much looks miserable. I know she’s been dealing with a lot of injury but it’s so hard for me to root for someone who looks so tortured!

    And so true about the “joy” of skating – Adam Rippon was especially a joy to watch with his enthusiasm and happiness! yay.

  2. jumping clapping man on

    I feel for Caroline, because I also suspect her constant low marks are killing her spirit. But, if she’s gonna survive, she’s going to have to rise above it. It must be frustrating to land as many difficult jumps as she does (with one minor step-out), and have such amazing spins and spirals, and still get tepid marks…but, speed and jump height do count for something! It must be difficult also, to be so on top in juniors and then struggle to achieve the same acclaim in seniors.

  3. Aaron on

    We do agree on many points…but we disagree on a few.

    I’m not a fan of Yukari Nakano’s free at all. I think it’s too pushy and forced. She needs to lighten up a little while keeping the tension. I much preferred her Giselle to The Firebird.

    You didn’t like Dube and Davison’s free? I thought it was lovely and I thought it was reminiscent of Sale and Pelletier without being copy cat (ala Cappellinni and Lanotte last season).

    As brilliant as Kim was here (and don’t get me wrong…she was!), she was overrated.

    And Virtue and Moir…I think thy’ll be in the fight for the gold, but I think they’re far from unbeatable.

  4. Jen on

    Excellent review! I couldn’t agree more about Mao. The differences between Yuna and Mao are like day and night. Not only in technical ability, but in presentation. Tarasova has sucked the joy out of Mao skating. Orser has put life into Yuna’s skating.

    Aaron – Yuna isn’t overrated, she was overscored. And by 2-3 points at most. She earned all her GOEs on her jumps not only because of her height, position, and technique, but also difficult entries into most of them. The only area she was overscored was in her spins. Her PCS may appear high, but it’s only a 5 point difference from Mao. And again, the difference in presentation between Yuna and Mao was day and night, yet the judges only put 5 points in between the two.

    I actually thought Mao was overscored the most and Yukari should have placed second instead of her…

  5. Pamela on

    I have to agree on Mao too, as sad as it could make me 😦 I´m such a fan of her skating, and YES! tarasova did no good to those skaters and either to Miki Ando. Looks like tarasovas wants Mao to be one big russian circus or i dont know. Yuna impressed me a lot , she reminds me of Michelle Kwan, i mean her coreo , edges, and positions are not that complicated, but how she puts it together and perform is really great, but I believe she was overrated.

  6. sparkeye67 on

    It’s always interesting to find people who state that Yuna’s skating is “overrated” when their favorite skater (obviously NOT Yuna Kim) doesn’t do well. People just write a one-liner like “She’s overrated” without explaining why they feel she’s overrated or what it is about Yuna or her skating that’s overrated. All the skating professionals have raved about Yuna’s skating and I haven’t found ONE who have said she received too high of a score. In fact, in Yuna’s SP program in Paris, one of the commentators PREDICTED a high score for her even before the real scores were actually announced. Yuna’s skating is lyrical and flowing – I never get the sense that she’s trying too hard. It’s as Scott Hamilton said in Yuna’s LP: “Her skating is a dream.”

  7. emma on

    sparkeye67
    I agree


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