Archive for the ‘kim yu-na’ Tag

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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Worlds: The Gospel According to jcm

jcm at Staples CenterBloggin’
Now I know why bloggers do LIVE blogging at events. Because, once you return home, the memories are so vivid, and the experience so rich, the post threatens to be Biblical in length. Since I didn’t take my laptop with me and wanted to balance Worlds with getting out on the town, and exploring nightlife/restaurants with friends, I now attempt to squeeze an elephant through a funnel (so to speak).

jcm and AaronAn historic moment happened at Staples Center, with the first meeting of jumping clapping man, and Aaron of Axels, Loops & Spins. You could call it the figure skating bloggers’ Convention of the Century (jk). It was great to catch up on favorite moments during our seemingly short break, over my gin and tonic. We enjoyed texting throughout the competitions… as we were also Tweeting to our blogs. I respect his expertise and knowledge greatly. He is a master, and I a mere “grasshopper”.

Musical Chairs
The most amusing moments progressed after we discovered Richard Callaghan sitting 15 or so rows down from us, in Section 117, at the men’s free skate competition. Sometime around the half-time break some new arrivals walked down to him and flashed their tickets. Apparently sitting in their seats, he and his companion (a very handsome 20-something) stood up and moved back about 10 seats (to about 5 in front of us). Then, about 1 set later the actual owners of those seats also showed up, bumping Callaghan and his companion again, into a completely different section. Wouldn’t you think a world class coach would have his own seats? Apparently not.

The LIVE Difference
My respect for skaters and their sport goes through the roof when I attend a skating event in person. It’s an experience that just can’t be matched by TV or youtube watching. You don’t get the filtered, highlights-only version you do via those media. You come face-to-face with the full range of best and worst moments, and witness skaters both rising brilliantly to the occasion and others dropping the ball miserably. And, you see it up-close and in-person, with all the sweat, tears, and ice. For some it prooved to be their night, and for others, a night with only lessons to take away.

Photo by jumping clapping man

Photo by jumping clapping man

In particular, seeing top skaters Savchenko/Szolkowy, Yu-Na Kim, and Tomas Verner LIVE really drive home what separates the greats from the near-greats. They cast their spell, time seems to stop around you, you are transported, if a pin dropped you’d hear it, every move has intent and connection to the music, and the emotional catharsis as they complete their program is immense… the hoards rising out of their seats, perhaps accompanied by tears, and a long standing-O ensues. Even some skaters I don’t enjoy all that much on TV “read” better LIVE, like Miki Ando, whose dramatic and rapid arm movements always feel busy, but here they had more visual room to fill out, and just felt more natural.

Photo by jumping clapping man

Photo by jumping clapping man

All of the factors that have to align for these skaters to seize the moment is daunting: training conditions, travel factors, sleeping in foreign countries, jet-lag, ice quality, boot fit, blade sharpness, health, personal mood, meals/food, crowd response, skating order, and on and on. The gravity of these factors become even more evident when you yourself travel to a competition and then witness the performances before you.

I’ve heard commentators allude to the concept of “winning the warm-up”, but you only fully grasp the concept when you witness one LIVE. Oda and Voronov had fantastic warm-ups. The crowd followed each swarming movement and applauded each jump landed.

Meltdowns
Who would ever have guessed that Jeremy Abbott, a skater who some thought could walk away with the gold, and ’08-’09 season US Nationals and Grand Prix Champion would finish 11th (the worst Worlds’ finish by a current US champion since World War II)? Or, that Carolina Kostner would finish 15th in the LP, after landing 5 singles (“pops”), and not a single triple? Boy did she ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Had her boyfriend just text’d her “It’s not you, it’s me”!?

Triumphs
Personal triumps belonged to Elene Gedevanishvili (now coached by R. Wagner and Elaine Zayak), and Alena Leonova, who both skated very strong LPs. Gedevanishvili was touted as a future champion by Scott Hamilton and Johnny Weir when she hit the scene seasons ago, but was sidelined by lack of training after being forced out of her homeland of Georgia. Glad to see she’s back in the game! And, Leonova was clearly thrilled to perform so well in her first Worlds. She is not a beautiful skater, but like Butyrskaya before her, a fighter and emerging competitor. An honest, thrilled reaction in the kiss-and-cry always has me rooting for a skater, no matter where they are from.

Also, we were deeply moved when, after a terrible fall and crash into the boards, FRA’s Candice Didier was helped off the ice by medics, but returned before her 3 minutes were up to complete her program, securing France’s Olympic berth. She is a slight girl, so how she pulled through to do some very extended spirals while injured was beyond me. The audience rose to it’s feet and showed its true appreciation.

Fellow Fanatics
It’s wonderful to connect with skating lovers all around you at competitions. We sat next to a wonderful couple from San Diego. We shared turns spotting skating celebrities seated nearby (Tara L., Boitano, Mukhortova, Lysacek, etc.), memories of past competitions (they had seen Hamilton and Zayak win at the ’81 Nationals), and factoids about skater’s records and top finishes.

Celeb Spottings
Our seats were da bomb. We were in Section 117. Thankfully, for the saturday’s ladies’ LP, Kwan, Costas and Button were parked on a landing a stone’s throw away. That added to the drama and gravitas of the event. Since the event was in LA, I think nearly every skating champion and celeb from the past few decades must have been there. I jokingly swore that the only former US greats that weren’t in the arena were Fleming, Kerrigan, and Harding.

Photo by jumping clapping man

Photo by jumping clapping man

Like in the recent Oscars, where 5 former winners in each main acting category introduced the new nominees, the podiums were flanked by former champions: Angela Nikodinov, Lisa Marie Allen, Tiffany Chin, Debbie Thomas, and so on. I hope they continue this tradition (I presume its new).

The Quad
Yet again a competition was won without it (aka Lysacek). It seems most skating fans and skaters have a love/hate relationship with it. In many ways it attempts to pull focus from of other equally valuable components. However, when witnessed LIVE, the beauty of the quad is breathtaking. It offers a thrill like no other… well, perhaps like downing a pack of Red-Bull. Ponsero, Oda, and Verner landed textbook quads in the competition, and sold me on their worth.

Photo by jumping clapping man

Photo by jumping clapping man

Exhibitionists
The Exhibition highlights included Joubert’s performance to Rufus Wainright’s Hallelujah. What an unexpected choice that was. And, it was the first time I’ve seen him really let his guard down and do something vulnerable and moving. When Joubert skates, even aside from his jumping ability, he gives off such a magnetism and confidence it is truly disarming. Verner claims he is “shy”. You wouldn’t believe it when you see his Michael Jackson program. It is so engaging and amusing, one of my easy favorites of the night, including Thriller, Off the Wall, Remember the Time and more. Oh yeah, and Kim’s The Gold by Linda Eder won hearts, as usual.

Fan sign maniaBerth Suspense!
After Abbott flopped and Mroz skated well but not winningly, it was unclear whether we would secure 3 berths for US men at the Olympics. As Evan’s LP drew nearer and nearer, we knew he had to be on the podium to secure them. Thankfully, he blew any concerns out of the water.

Amazingly, if you look at the final scores for the US ladies, we were just 1 double axel away (Alissa Czisny’s) from securing 3 berths for the ladies in Vancouver.

— “This is the Word of jcm”

Worlds: the Best & the Worst

Worst Makeover: Oksana Domnina’s dye job. Remember the beautiful woman she used to be, with that lightness and spark? Now I feel like she’s “putting on” the apparently requisite mean-russian-chick-act (think Totmianina, or Weir… jk, I love Johnny). Or, perhaps she thought she would be taken more seriously as a non-blond. Looks like she may have been right. Tanith… perhaps you should go back to brown? Although, I suppose Shae-Lynn Bourne’s ’03 Worlds’ gold prooves my blonde conspiracy theory wrong.

Most Likely Separated at Birth: Evan Lysacek & George Hamilton. Evan, please loose the tan! And, Sarah Meier & Katie Holmes. Look out Sarah, Tom’s the really needy type.

Hamilton & Lysacek: Tanned Wonders

Biggest Star-in-the-Making: Russia’s Andrei Lutai: beautiful positions, true dancing ability, and great presence on the ice.

Most Overplayed Songs: The Swan, by Saint-Saens (in at least 3 programs), The Matrix (in at least 5 programs), Romeo & Juliet, by Rota (in at least 3 programs). At least pull out the Prokofiev R&J peeps!

Most Overscored Skates: Kavaguti/Smirnov LP: perhaps their difficult lifts rack up the points, but it was messy and unsteady to me. Rochette’s Concerto Aranjuez LP: she has a refreshing maturity in this field, but she was also far from perfect, and I felt should been awarded the bronze medal behind Ando.

Biggest Surprise: Denis Ten (KAZ) LP. I’m sure his fans weren’t surprised, but I had never seen him skate. He’s one of the shortest male competitors, but commands the ice (ala Scotty Hamilton). He nailed a perfect, graceful and inspired program, which blew the roof off Staples Center.

Most Proud Moments: Denny/Barrett (USA) clean and energetic LP (again!). Rachael Flatt’s solid LP: she has to be the most consistent US ladies skater since Kwan.

Truest Jumping Clapping Moments: Lysacek’s winning Rhapsody in Blue LP. These are the skating moments I live for… emotional, triumphant, historic (ie: first US mens’ World champion in 13 years), happen “in the zone”, and feel almost pre-destined, since they seem to emerge with such ease. Yu-Na’s transcendent Scherazade LP. She is a already a legend to me, in the Chen Lu, Kwan category.

Photo by jumping clapping man

Photo by jumping clapping man

Biggest Gasps: Kavaguti/Smirnov’s missed quad throw. It looked like she almost did a face plant into the ice. But, since she is a human rubber band, she just bounced back up.

Biggest Disappointment: One of my pairs favs Pang/Tong were off the podium this time. I hope they rebound at the next Worlds and Olympics.

Most Historic Moment: Rochette won the Canadian women’s first World Championships medal in 21 years, since Liz Manley won the silver medal in ’88. Yu-Na Kim became the first World Figure Skating Champion from Korea.

Photo by jumping clapping man

Photo by jumping clapping man

Best Eye Candy: Joubert, Contesti, Szolkowy, Van Der Perren, Ponsero, Tong, Kovalevski, Buntin, Brubaker, Fernandez… who can decide? I am amazed that this current star quality alone doesn’t draw thousands more skating fans to the sport (calling all those HStM fans out there!?). When Contesti skates, it’s like being wooed by the leading man in a great romantic comedy. I can’t wait to see what he does next season.

Biggest Crowd: The ladies free skate drew a capacity crowd of 12,064!

On Top of the Worlds

(I’m fast trying to use up my Worlds’ puns.) And… we’re off… to the Magic Castle, in the City of Angels!!!

My LA ’09 Worlds music mix is all baked and ready to go. It includes the following gems, featuring some skatin’ tunes, and recent party favs, among others. Yes, there is plenty of fromage here.:

LA '09 Worlds Mix

Be sure to follow my LIVE tweets Worlds results updates.

I’m most rooting for favorites Yu-Na, Nobunari, Aliona & Robin, and Tessa/Scott! For the U.S., my fingers are most crossed for Alissa, Jeremy, Meryl/Charlie, and Caydee/Jeremy. Yes, I’m on first-name basis with them all ;-).

Evgeni (Plushenko) predicted the following:

“It’s going to be (France’s Brian) Joubert for sure on the podium, (American Evan) Lysacek and (Jeremy) Abbott,” Plushenko said. “How? I don’t know, but those three guys.”

Now I have to get making my fabulous “Alissa Put the Sizzle Back in Czisny!” sign (or insert other punny exclamation), to support our girl, and perhaps even get me on TV to boot.

Hopefully it’ll be as fun as the Salt Lake Games. I recently dug up this fabulous photo. It was utter serendipity… we discovered that we had by chance worn the Olympic colors, and that since there were 5 of us, we were the LIVING Olympic rings!

The LIVING Olympic Rings

The LIVING Olympic Rings

And, I smell a controversy, although it may be great for conjuring up much needed skating viewership. If the presumed tactic reflected in this video is attempted again on Yu-Na in LA, I’ll be waiting in the kiss-and-cry with my knee bat! (Could it be Mao? Please, say it isn’t so!).

I was pleased to discover some fellow athletes’ words of support on the Worlds website, and a bit amused to find a few celebrity messages in the mix, such as this one from Miz Wilhelmina Slater (aka Vanessa Williams):

“This year’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships brings exciting talent to the ice in Los Angeles and I for one will be watching and sending my best wishes and support to all of the skaters. You have each worked hard to earn a spot in this competition and I congratulate you all on a job well done!”

And, I was thrilled to find in my e-mailbox yesterday a response from Alissa Czisny herself. I had extended a greeting of support, and also shared my #2 all-time favorite skate with her (Denise Biellmann’s Beau Soir, composed by Debussy, and choreographed by Robin Cousins), as its elegance and Denise’s spinning ability reminds me of her.:

“Thank you for your support of my skating and for your encouraging email. I appreciate the suggestion for the music, also! I wish you the best!”

Check back the week following Worlds for my highlights of the experience.

The Weight of the Worlds

My Worlds’ Podium Prediction Contest is technically closed, but I’m allowing a 1-day grace period for dawdlers (til midnight tonight), and you can still post to it for fun after today. Thanks to those who took part in voting! The winners will be announced the week following Worlds, and the prizes given out shortly after. Skaters hit the Worlds’ ice this sunday for official practice sessions!

The contest outcome should be interesting. It’s amusing to see all the same skaters in the mix, shuffled around in a seemingly randomly manner. Although this of course makes sense, as unexpected results are exactly that, and impossible to foresee. For example, who’s going to bet on Tomas Verner as the champion? If the perfect storm strikes his more favored contenders and he has the skate of his life it could happen… but it’s a long shot.

Photo by Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

Photo by Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

The submissions clearly show that both Patrick Chan and Yu-Na Kim have the weight of the Worlds in expectations on their shoulders (pardon the pun). This is exactly why it can be so difficult for a skater to come into an event as the favorite, although neither have won Worlds before. This clearly has been Yu-Na’s season, so it really is hers to lose. Patrick’s near meltdown at the Grand Prix Final makes him ever less so the obvious choice.

The most interesting submission is Aaron’s for ice dance, in which he predicts Khoklova/Novitski winning it, and Virtue/Moir nowhere to be found in his top 4 standing. Her recent surgery must have at least this fan doubting a quick return to top form.

Dan Pelle/The Spokesman ReviewAnd, the submissions pretty evenly weigh out in the Abbott vs. Lysacek rivalry (with noone predicting either of them will walk away with the gold). That’s probably about right, as From Kidquest, April '07it seems that the side of the bed they get up on, or direction the wind blows will decide who trumps who, and whether Evan will land his quad or not. I remember years and years of watching Michael Weiss attempt the quad. I’m guessing his rate of success was about 5-10% (I can still hear Dick Button balking at his repeated and mostly failed attempts). Well, with Evan I imagine it’s more like 35-40%, but still feels a bit like a gamble each time.

I’m not in favor of our sport becoming ALL about the jumps, but I do think it would be interesting to have access to actual jump stats that gave you a true X for X ratio of attempts versus successful landings. This ISU page (I LOVE this page) comes close to that level of detail, but not quite. I’m thinking more on the level of those crazy baseball fans that sit with their pencil and tables during every game and track EVERYTHING! I guess I’m only a thread away from being like one of them, huh?

Just an amusing aside. Getting “jumping clapping man” up and running has been such an interesting journey for me so far, even though I’ve only been at it for a couple of months now. The stats you can access in your dashboard are amazing. It’s quite a powerful tool. Well, it appears someone (perhaps you) recently found my blog by using the follwing search engine key words: “japan zhang naked ice dancing”. I wish I actually had something to offer that would fulfill the “naked ice dancing” portion of this search. But, certainly not the “japan zhang naked” part.

Yu-Na Gets A Makeover!

Over Christmas blingee.com became my online addiction du jour. Well, in hindsight it seemed PERFECT for “enhancing” figure skating images, what with all the snow and K-through-tween princessy graphics (I didn’t even scratch the surface on those!). Yu-Na won the “jcm” blingee.com makeover because she is a personal favorite and probably the safest bet for a gold at Worlds (although noone’s really “safe”).

Yuna Gets Blingee'd Up!
Add Glitter to Pictures

However, since I’m 38, not 13, I felt compelled to salvage my edgy hipster reputation by balancing out the über-cute with a dose of scathing commentary too. I chose to focus on the controversy of judges being “bought out” for their votes, or prize money greed and hunger for fame — the shadow motivation behind all those sequins and tears (thus, Yu-Na skating towards the stack ‘o bills). High concept!