Archive for the ‘pairs’ Tag
Major Universal Sports/Comcast Fail!
The Pairs LP started airing before my scheduled TiVo recording even began, discluding the entire third-to-last group, and ALL but the last two Men’s SPs were covered up by a Russian news program. WTF!? A Plushy conspiracy? Thank god this didn’t happen with my Olympics recordings, but it still has me fuming. Perhaps it’s my local cable providers’ fault. Whosever it is, off with their heads!
Berton & Hotarek: I don’t disagree with Tony Wheeler, an excellent (newish?) skating blogger (also from Ohio…must be somethin’ in the water). This italian team is very promising, delivering one of the finest short programs, and deserving notice here. Next step: upgrade to a triple twist. How lovely too to see John Zimmerman on their coaching team. (He and Shae-Lynn should have won AT LEAST the first night of “Thin Ice”!)
Evora & Ladwig (Maranda): Her expressive face really sells this couple. She also has beautiful extension, and their program has a gentle, and sincere loving quality…well, it is “Love Actually.” Their footwork and final lift feels a bit slow, but some of that could be attributable to camera angle/perception.
Denney & Barrett (Barney): Great speed and attack. This is definitely the team we’ve grown to love from the past two Nationals! Her triple toe is a bit Tara (ie: rollerskater-ey, fast but low), BUT she nails it, unlike in Vancouver. They leap to 6th, and with a personal best!!! Wow, with this performance, and Evora & Ladwig’s great showing, I have a flash of irrational hope that they might they climb high enough to regain 3 berths.
Savchenko & Szolkowy (Szolchenko – 3rd): Not inspired, but acceptable. He doubles his triple toe, and their spin unison is off, but it keeps their placement high enough to pretty much be a sure thing for the podium, and not out of reach of gold, if Pang & Tong open the door. I wonder if his botched jumps this season are a confidence issue, or more one of some apathy creeping in.
In preparation for the Vancouver pairs competition I dug up some of the performances from the 80s to jog my memory on how that competitive field looked, and how far that discipline has come. At the time, I was graduating from elementary (’84) and high school (’88). I MUST have watched these Games with my mom, but don’t remember any of these performances. Upon review, it’s no wonder why! And, in the midst of all the complaints about the CoP System, a peek back at the 6.0 system shows some politicized judging at it’s worst.
Valova & Vasiliev Reign
First, I came across this priceless human interest story, featuring ’84 Sarajevo champions Valova & Vasiliev (he the coach of Mukhortova & Trankov). After starting out like a Bel Ami video (prurient giggling by babbling brook), it shows them buckled down at the Leningrad Institute of Physical Culture, “a veritable medal factory.”
What a glimpse into the thriving machine that was Mother Russia (the Soviet Union). Boy, they sure appear to have them under a tight thumb (not that that grip is any looser these days). And, what a reminder of Moskvina’s longevity. The video also features their flawed, but gold-medal Classical Beatles LP, which ran out of gas at the end (as compared to the Carruthers’ flawless performance).
Fast forward four years to the Calgary Games (1988), and V&V display the most deliciously dated program and costumery imaginable, with their “The Final Countdown” LP. I was giddy to discover this pinnacle of the “Eye of the Tiger” alpha-male jam genre was used for a program. This program leaps to the top of my skating camp classics! One part Star Trek crew (with diagonal, cross-breast bands), one part bumblebee, their costumes, complete with black tights for her are in the worst taste…but, what could be better?! Her blouse/skirt one-piece sort of drips off her backside, saying “look at my ass,” ala Weir. Perhaps this is where he takes some of his Rusky fashion inspiration? Their SP costumes are even more ridiculous: Flash Gordon + A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. How precious that Dick refers to her as “plump,” and feigns it as a compliment.
American Pairs Best
Back to Sarajevo, this time with the Carruthers’ flawless LP. The program and music hold up pretty well, even in hindsight. But, it featured the (homemade?) costume he recently donned on NBC’s Vancouver “Figure Skating Review & Preview.” They have amazing attack and speed throughout, and their overall unison would have to be counted among some of the best we see even today. I don’t feel it suffers by comparison to V&V in “expression.” I sure miss these pairs’ elements: “hydrant lifts,” “lateral twist lifts,” and their penultimate move (“pulls”). It was also interesting to learn what a “Tango Camel” is. Their SP, to Herb Alpert/Muzak-style quasi-disco is a hoot, although well skated.
Watson & Oppegard’s Calgary LP features Peter’s hawt frosted doo (shades of Donna Mills in Knots Landing). His costume is also priceless. To think I had an outrageous crush on him, AND he was considered quite the on-ice heartthrob? On what planet does a straight man present this way? So hard to believe he is now married to Karen Kwan.
Their triple twist has NO height…she practically completes it on the ground. And, I’m amazed they held onto the bronze with a fall. In the deep pair’s field in Vancouver this would NOT have medalled. Peter seems to acknowledge this here. Their warmth towards each other in the kiss-n-cry is touching, but don’t miss the glimpse of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader look-alike! Their latin disco SP (ala “Copacabana”) is a gay ol’ time, or gringe-worthy…depending on how you see it.
While we’re on the issue of falling in competition. Check out this amazing profile, featuring Sports Psychologist, Dr. David Coppel. Dr. David…any room on your white couch for head cases Sasha or Alissa?
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.
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.
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
performed by David Garrett
choreographed by Lori Nichol
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!
icenetwork.com verified what the ISU Grand Prix ‘09 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.
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.
When 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.