Archive for the ‘dick button’ Tag

The Best of Spokane: Buttercups, Fizzles & Knives

There’s SO much to say about the past two weekends of US Nationals: triumphs, let-downs, new faces, and the like. Here’s a saucy snapshot of less obvious highlights that I’ll take away from Spokane, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Lutz is to Flutz as Twizzles are to…


jcm’s newly coined term: “fizzles” = botched twizzles.

What a crime that the U.S. Olympic Ice Dance Team selection essentially came down to this element, and that it trumped what the discipline should really be about…connection, interpretation, and expression! Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre’s fourth place finish (likely thanks to fizzles) was heartbreaking. I fear that this over-valued element will be a deal breaker in Vancouver too.

Skaters, Skaters, Skaters


Tiger Beat Award: Mark Ladwig. Pushing aside Bommentre…he’s my new skating crush du jour. Evora & Ladwig’s unexpected win and emotional reaction also raised his temperature on my hawtness meter.

Most promise: Christine Gao: I agree, “Gao” = “Wow”; Armin Mahbanoozadeh: grace, style, and still memorable despite a nagging hip injury; Yankowskas & Couglin: star quality, great expression and performance TO the audience.

Most Blades of Glory: Ben Agosto’s FD costume. Whew!? What are they thinking? Trying WAY too hard to be a Ruskie!

Sentimental favorites prooved they were just that (this time): Bradley, Navarro & Bommentre, Cohen, and Inoue & Baldwin ALL just missed the podium or Olympic Team selection.

Interesting program discovery: Bebe Liang’s LP, made up of Dvorak, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff selections. It was refreshing, as I hadn’t seen it all season. It was also perfectly suited to her: high energy, driven, and rhythmic. Although she gave a good performance, too bad she didn’t nail it. Will she have her moment?

Skating Great who went largely unnoticed: Lisa-Marie Allen, four-time Nationals’ medalist was the Technical Specialist.

Off-ice couples:
Out: Tanith & Evan
In: Amanda Evora & Jeremy Barrett (both earned a ticket to Vancouver!)
(Rumored) In: Tanith & Charlie (of Marlie), Nastia Liukin & Evan

From the Boards: Coaches


Most welcome new presence: Yuka Sato & Jason Dungjen. They both have a very calm and grounding presence for Jeremy, and the TV audience. I love her, and Jason has never looked better.

In: Jim Peterson. His visible emotion from the boards was deeply moving. His commitment to the sport and his teams is so evident in these reactions, AND in the result, as both U.S. Olympic pairs teams are his (and Lyndon Johnston’s)!

Out: Dalilah Sappenfield. In 2008 she had the first place novice, junior, and senior pairs. I’m sure she’ll reign again, but had a much lower profile this year.

Not so Gaga


Biggest missed opportunity (aside from Navarro & Bommentre’s already mentioned woes): Johnny could have come out as Top in his rivalry with Evan, and wrestled away the silver. Evan opened the door, and Johnny closed it. No, he likely couldn’t have beaten Jeremy here, but this time Evan was not unbeatable.

Most hootchie: Trina Pratt & Chris Obzansky. Their country OD, which oooozed Texan sexy (and bust!), made me both swoon AND gag just a little. They are Shpilband protégés, and show real promise.

It sucks to be them: Castile & Okolski. Their LP, although carried over from last season, was very beautiful and satisfying. It’s so sad their success has been sidelined by her injuries. I hope they make a comeback, if they stick with competitive skating at least another season.

Most underrated achievement: Inoue & Baldwin garnering a bronze medal, at ages 33 and 36, and with a throw triple axel! Like ’em or not, that’s astounding and worthy of note. Even though I’m not a fan, and cringed at John’s Plushy-esque gloat after Rena landed the 3ATh, I thought they were robbed of the silver.

Commentating & Public Opinion


Best quotes: “I keep saying, the sunshine that pours out of her…I wanna call her the buttercup of all time.” — Dick Button (about Mirai); “Such a precarious relationship between skater and ice...you’ve got knives on your feet…and (try to) make something impossible look easy.” — Scott Hamilton (during Sasha’s warm-up)

Village Idiot Award: Dick Button. Whew…he’s totally lost me. As a friend said, “he’s becoming a caricature of himself”. And, I used to really hang on his words.

Damned by faint praise: Emily Hughes (AGAIN!). In the old days Dick Button would repeatedly talk about “her great smile” (instead of any actual skating attributes.) Well, here are some new doozies used to describe her: “The victory is in being here.”, “She really worked towards a challenge, and you have to give that credit.”, “(She’s) the photo-negative (of Czisny.)”, “They (Hugheses) all skate for the right reasons, just because they love it.” WTF? You know she wants to win just as much as the other gurlz.

Most overlooked: Jeremy Barrett. The commentator’s focus was almost solely on Caydee Denney. YES, she is a sensational competitor and great for this sport, but he matched her element by element, skill by skill, and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Blatant commentator favoritism: Nagasu, Davis & White, Navarro & Bommentre, and Bradley were given the benefit of the doubt, while Flatt, Weir, and Inoue & Baldwin’s achievements were downplayed. It was pretty shameless. Flatt’s win felt like a let down, because of the way it was portrayed, following Nagasu.

Most tired opinion in the blogosphere: (to paraphrase) “I should have known to expect this from Sasha.” Sure, some may consider what she did brave, others foolish, but either way, as Sandra Bezic put it, you can’t expect a fairy tale comeback at Nationals without some competitive preparation beforehand. Even Super-Evgeni had Rostelcom Cup before Russian Nationals. What she did in the SP was amazing, and she should be lauded for doing as well as she did.

My Nationals’ podium predictions: I was 6 for 12 (exact placements), and 10 for 12 (correct skaters on podium). Meh! But, not too bad. The Cohen/Nagasu wildcards, and McBru meltdowns were impossible to foresee. ALL my wish list items were met, except the last one. Ah well…you can’t have everything!

Next up…Vancouver!!!

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Artistry: Innate vs. Cultivated

In any discipline with a creative facet there are practitioners that emerge on the scene as quite fully formed “artists”. There is still certainly room for growth, but their expression of themselves and their “art” is well on its way. On the flip side, there are those that arrive a mere figment of their later greatness. This certainly holds true for skaters, especially since there is a strong duality of artistry versus (or, with) athleticism.

“Baby Ballerinas” (and Ballerinos)

Here I borrow a designation from Dick Button, which I despised at the time, but which perfectly defines this first category of skater. These skaters emerge as quite (or, at least more) complete artists: highly expressive, sophisticated, and individualized, seemingly from the beginning. Sasha Cohen, Caroline Zhang, Naomi Nari-Nam, Oksana Baiul, Adelina Sotnikova, Johnny Weir, Evgeni Plushenko, John Curry, and Gordeeva & Grinkov, come immediately to mind.

They were either born dancers, had easy extension, or were passionately connected to their choreography and music. And, they seemed to have that something special, the X (or “It”) Factor, since day one. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe artistry ONLY comes in a classical balletic package. It just so happens that most “artistic” skaters at least initially lean heavily on this stylistic direction (excepting the rare few: Gary Beacom, the Duchesnays, etc.).

From Ugly Ducklings to Swans

Then, there are those skaters who hit the international scene, and although technically proficient, and holding great promise, didn’t strike us as having much artistry, or memorable expressive qualities. Or, they appeared to be more purely “athletic” skaters, but in hindsight we see that their artistry was more dormant at first. Sarah Hughes, Shizuka Arakawa, Angela Nikodinov, Ashley Wagner, Alexei Yagudin, Brian Boitano, Evan Lysacek, and Shen & Zhao come to mind.

They were either initially coltish, awkward, inexpressive, generic, or disconnected from their programs. You could chalk their more visible artistic trajectory and growth up to a later maturity (or peeking), to persistence and diligence, in nurturing skills that did not come as easily, or seem innate, OR to collaborating with a new coach or choreographer who helped them evolve.

Ice Dancers are more difficult to group into these two categories, since they are really nothing without artistry (as there are no jump requirements). So, that discipline does not breed or nurture purely “athletic” teams in the same way.

And, there are those skaters that remain primarily “athletic” skaters through the arc of at least their competitive careers (Ito, Meissner, Thomas, Bonaly, Goebel, Stojko, Joubert, Zhang & Zhang, and Brausseur & Eisler), but they are not the focus here.

Cases in Point

The Shizuka Arakawa we saw in Torino was an altogether different artist and skater than the one who won Japanese Nationals back in ’99 and ’00. Who could have guessed that the skater in the first video sample here could reach the artistic heights she did less than a decade later?

Before & After

Angela Nikodinov, in particular, seemed to literally be born again as a completely different skater, once under the tutelage of Elena Tcherkasskaia. She always had one of the best laybacks in the biz, but that was generally accompanied by a detached, going-through-the-motions approach.

Before (poor quality, sorry) & After

However, Sasha Cohen, in her Senior Nationals’ debut appeared with nearly all the extensions and expressivity she displayed nearly a decade later. Yes, there is certainly growth evident, but not in the same drastic way as with the previous skaters.

BeforeAfter

Legendary Gordeeva & Grinkov seemed to leap out of the womb with artistry and line, as in evidence here in both samples.

Before & After