The ladies finals in the big events can be a lot of things, exciting, frustrating, thrilling, agonizing, but it's almost never boring and this was no exception. By far, this was the most exciting, (only exciting?) figure skating competition at this olympics because it was a competition and not a coronation like the other three grim marches to predictable golds. Not a night for thrilling LP's but a tough, gritty memorable competition nonetheless.
a couple of grumblings: COP needs major reworking; spins are almost uniformly poor and ugly; I've never properly appreciated Kwan's COE spiral until this competition, is that no one else can do it well? or are COP requirements ruining it? Lack of 3/3's doesn't bother me.
Randomly selected skaters:
Rochette : I've never noticed her before, strange but true, I missed her SP if it was shown on Eurosport and pretty much ignored last years worlds. She has a kind of classic beauty and I find her style very retro, in a good way, like the best of 80's skating but ramped up to 2000's technical demands. Spins weren't always there and there's something a little wrong I can't quite put my finger on about her jumping technique, but really very enjoyable. I don't know if she can make it to a worlds podium, but I'll probably enjoy her more than some who do.
Hughes : Good fighting spirit but a juniorish performance. Acquits herself very well but there's something off about the choreography. So much of what she does seems (to me) to be either off in timing or against the spirit of the music or something, almost as if she were doing a program that was carefully choreographed to a different recording of the same music.
Gedevanishvili : A replay of Euros, strong SP followed by weak LP. Popped a jump, two-footed maybe two others and generally looked like a junior fresh in the senior ranks, which is what she is. Next season or the one after should make her potential as a seniro clear. I'll take a risk and say she has the best natural feeling for choreography among the high ranking juniors here.
Cohen : This performance reminds me of the old joke, "Aside from that Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the play?" Anyway, after the disastrous beginning, she settled down and skated very well. I won't beat her up about the falls cause I'm sure there are a lot of people willing to do that. But some great stuff in the program, my favorite moment was the triple salchow into that front high leg position (what's it called?) timed with a highlight in the music. Beautiful, just beautiful. I hope she stays around cause I think the best is yet to come for her. I liked these performances better than I've seen from her before.
Arakawa : After Kwan's withdrawal I officially switched allegiance to Arakawa and thought sadly that would be the kiss of death, as no lady I've rooted for since 1976 has won the gold medal. Cautious in a good way, she sets the bar high enough to take the lead without risking shooting herself in the foot (Witt's strategy: do enough to win and no more). The program hasn't survived COP's absurd contortionist requirements as well as it might, but she skates with assurance and maturity. I still remember her SP from Nagano 98, when she landed a 3lz/3tl and got so excited that she seemed to forget her program and skated around in circles for a while. Didn't she miss SLC? Has there ever been an olympic medallist (much less gold) who missed an olympics between their debut and medal?
Suguri : So much to like here. Nice arms, good jumps, but the costume gets my 'worst of night' award. Color is great, but the cut is all wrong, wrong, wrong. It might be wonderful on a different skater, but for Suguri it's terrible. It breaks her line and is very unflattering for her body type, making her look kind of dumpy and square. I'd say (tentatively) she wasn't robbed, despite the overall quality of the program, Cohen's higher quality of spins and footwork and great presentation skills in the last 3 minutes are enough to stay ahead but Suguri does end on a strong note. Now that's a spin. I hope she makes it worlds and gets on the podium there, the higher the better.
Meissner : I assume the 3 ax was a fluke and no longer in her rep. Costume was very (too) reminiscent of Kwan's in SLC (not the memories you want to awaken). I have pretty much the same opinion as after the SP. Junior fresh into the senior ranks and not completely adjusted. Hasn't learned yet how to make choreography seem natural (I'm repeating myself, yes, but it's even more apparent here than in the SP). I can almost hear her counting off in her head. More of a deer in the headlights feeling than anyone else in the final group (and that's saying something). Still, lots of potential, but for the time being she's as smooth as sandpaper.
Slutskaya : I'm more convinced than ever that this site aggravates her condition (altitude? something in the construction?). Twice in a row at the same venue we have an SP that's up to her standards followed by an uncharacteristically weak LP (worst LP by her since her last one at this same place). Skating last in two consecutive olympics can't be fun either but I think it's more than that. Not much to say about the performance itself except that she joins the club of bittersweet legends with no olympic gold but who are undeniably greater than lots of skaters with olympic gold.