Day three of Skate Canada...wow, it's going by so fast! There was a primarily Canadian skater section just up behind me and to the right, in the section reserved for media. Sale and Pelletier, Virtue and Moir, Valerie Marcoux were up there hanging out with Takeshi Honda and Charlie Davis, as well as a few I didn't see very well (Hawker and Craig both went up to that area once their events were done, and Baldwin and Inoue bounced in and out as well). The row directly behind me (aka, Skater Heaven) was occupied by a wide variety of skaters throughout the day, from Xu, Kim, Drei, Karademir, Suguri to Othman and Lambiel, Ponsero, Mikhalova (no Sergeev and his whistles today), and I'm sure I"m forgetting some, as they come and go so much. Got some nice pictures, but missed Lambiel because I always ask if it is ok (rather than to just snap a flash when they aren't expecting it), and I didn't get the chance to ask him before he was off...but did get to voice congratulations to him.
Hawker (I'll be seeing you, Hymn of the fallen) Actually, I was impressed with her last year at Skate Canada, she did quite well for a lower rated skater....same here. She made a nice 3z-2t, and then had a 3f with turnout on the landing. Camel combo spin was nice, then fell on 3loop. Spirals ok, not great stretch. Nice spiral into 3z combo was solid, and at this point in the program, she kept getting stronger and stronger. Nice 3s, flying sit spin oik, good 2A and 3T....the footwork and choreography are nice, and she was really expressing the program very well...nice layback-combo spin at the end. 91.66/136.68
Drei (Warsaw Concerto) I noted that she had no makeup on...then later seeing her up close, she did, but it was very very light and minimal. She is a pretty girl, but needs more color, she's so pale. Did a very nice 3f-3t combo at the beginning, then doubled the lutz. Fall on 3loop. Camel-combo spin was nice, although a little slow. I kind of missed the jump combo, I think it was a 2A to 3S sequence, possible 2-ft the Sal. Combo spin...then a totally pointless (NO stretch) Ina Bauer into a fall on 3F. Sit spin combo, spirals ok. 2S two footed, 2A ok, final combo spin ok, but a few seconds behind the music at the end. The performance was kind of dreary, she didn't attack it with much energy at all, but there were some pleasant choreographical moments. 81.19/121.65 Later she sat directly behind me. I told her I'd never had the chance to see her before, and that I enjoyed her style, and wished her luck at the next competition. She smiled. I swear. I saw it.
Taylor (Variations and Themes of Tchaikovsky) Little miss Happy feet still hasn't gotten it back yet, whether it is breaking in of the boots or something else. starting 3F was good, then singles the axel....3S landed, and very good combination spin (the girl's spins are really quite good) Good layback/combo spin, very fasst. Nice "Irina" position in the spirals (Bman with the one hand on the other arm), but other spiral positions without a lot of stretch. Popped the 3z, two-footed also. 2 1/2 loop, landed two-footed and forward. Flying sit is good, the pops another 3z. Camel combo spin good, and then crashes again on a final 3F (I think) at about the 4:20 mark...Very mechanical in presentation, but it must be hard to emote when you are crashing and burning. 67.41/110.57
Onda (The Red Violin) 3z-2t landed clean, but very close to the boards. 3F-3t very nice, then a good 3loop. The beginning and of the program, the violin music is very discordant and jarring-sounding, not sure why they chose those particular selections, because the middle music is quite lovely. Combo spin and layback combo are ok, positions not great. Spirals are ok, but not much stretch. 3S scratchy on the landing, but keeps it clean. 3Z appeared 2-footed....then a 3F that didn't look overly clean either, but maybe was. 2A=3T sequence nicely landed, and a very nicely centered and fast ending spin. Finished a few seconds behind her music. It is technically ok, but it is usual Onda...little to no expression, no holding of movements/positions or finishing them, very little thought of choreography. Last year it looked like she was improving some, this appears to be a backslide for her. As she was leaving the ice, she did offer a little good luck slap on the hand to Tugba, which I thought was sweet. 103.79/146.95
Karademir (Naquoigatsi, or however the heck it's spelled) A very very interesting contrast from Onda right before her. Right off the bat, Tugba is much more elegant, has very nice movement of her hands and arms, much more graceful in her carriage across the ice. Spin combo to open was nice, but near immediately, she goes down on her first jump (lutz? flip? not sure), then a 3F-2T barely hung on. Slower combination spin, then back to back, fall on 3S, fall on 3T. Oh well. Nice spirals, nice spins with good position. 2A-2T, then another 3S with a fallout on the landing. Very nice elegant final spin to end the program. Not her day. 67.95/112.09 Later when she came up to our section, she didn't appear overly crushed, so that's good.
Xu (Mulan) 3z-2t nicely done, then 3F to 3T in sequence, small turnout on the landing. 3loop solid. Camel-combo spin with nice speed and positions...small stumble in footwork. 2A x2 in sequence, nice. Very fast layback to Bman spin, and another good spin combo. 3z with hand down, then a solid 3S. Spirals good, then a fall on the 3F at around 3:50 in the program. Combo spin at the end is nice, but off by a few seconds. The program was solid enough for the most part, but much like Taylor, very mechanical, very little expression of the program or music. Still, a personal best at 93.88/142.70
Suguri (Song of Spirits, Fantasia) Fumie rocked the house. What else can I say? 3z-2T very nice, then a huge, high 3F clean. 3S solid. Very nice camel-combo spin...her positions are not the best, but solid. Flying sit combo spin that slows with position changes. 3Z, then 3F-2t great. Nice spirals, although not much extension in the unassisted positions. 3A, flying sit combo spin, then pops a 2A into 1A-3T combo. Footwork and choreography are nice throughout, more expressiveness than she has had at times. Good combo spin to end, and very nice program. Partial S.O. 110.24/168.76 It was after Fumie that I let fly with a stuffie that landed in the commentater's booth, almost hitting Rod Black in the back of the head. He was nice enough to drop it down onto the ice, but I did get some teasing about that, that would come back at me later as well. SIGH....those stuffies are hard to fly all the way down if you are higher up! Later she came up to our section, and was her usual gracious self with fans, signing autographs, posing for photos, and not seeming like she minded missing the rest of the event she was trying to watch.
Kim (The Lark Ascending) She is amazing. Beautiful skater, and I am seeing how much more I personally enjoy her skating than Mao, in terms of the "baby ballerinas" of the day. 3z-3t right on...very graceful in her choreography. Very nice Ina Bauer (not quite like Shizuka, but close) into a 2A, solid. I have her down for a "WOW" on her layback-Bman spin. 3F, quick out of the landing, but clean. Another "Wow" for her camel-combo spin. 3Z, flying sit spin combo....2A-3T, hands down and fallout of the landing. Fall on 3Z, a little off on one of the spiral positions. 2A, camel-combo spin. Some errors, but the program and presentation are beautiful. Partial S.O. 105.80/168.48, and she is SECOND to Fumie by the smallest of margins. WOW. She sat behind me for a little while, and was very gracious when congratulated on her medal in her first senior GP...very sweet smiles.
Rochette (Don Juan) Ok, so Joannie rocked the house as well. Start with a 3F-2t-2l, then a 3z-2t, all rock on. Then she pops the 3L, and I'm thinking, what the heck is it with the 3L today? Camel-combo spin solid, footwork is very nice, and choreography is very well presented. 3F good, combo spin. It looked like a 2A-2A sequence, but I'm thinking maybe the first jump was a 3T, because I didn't catch it, and she didn't do one in the program. Sit spin...more nice choreography, and presenting the program well. Spirals ok...she doesn't have a lot of natural stretch, but she works it the best she can...3z, 3s both good, final combo spin really nice, and that's a full standing ovation, and not just because she's Canadian, eh? Personal best of 118.26/173.86
Leung (TerraCotta warriors) I'm not a Mira fan. I don't like her lunging jump technique, her void of expression, her lack of any polished looking position. That said, this was quite awesome, especially compared to last week at Skate America. 3z solid, then 3z-2l (almost looked high enough to be a 3t), then 2S with stepout. Camel-combo spin with good speed, positions fair to ok. Nice spirals, 3F with quick out of the landing, but held clean. 2A-2t clean. Flying camel-donut spin (and doesn't drop her leg to change positions! Kewl) footwork ok, choreography, well....I think there is some. 3z with a big smile, then 3t-2l-2l nicely done. Final combo spin, and my notes say a "Good for her" program. Nice smiles afterwards. Nearly full S.O. also. 98.78/150.92. Later I saw her walking while going in search of a second restroom (nothing like Skate Canada to challenge the bladder control), and told her it was really an impressive program...She beamed, and looks perhaps happier with new coach. I hope so.
Czisny (Sabrina soundtrack) Starts with a nice solid 3z-2t, then pops her 3f, does 2f-2t...Hoping to not see a patented Czisny meltdown, because she is such a beautiful skater. Great sit spin combo...heck, I'll just say it here now, all of her spins are outstanding...no surprise. Nice split leap into what is meant to be a 3s, but pops the jump. Flying camel-donut spin combo and dangit, she drops her leg for the donut also! GGRRRR. 3F solid, then 2A...nice choreography, it is subtle and gentle, very mature appearing...but when the jumps aren't on, I could see it being a little 'zzzz' because it is a mellow energy program. 3F-2T done, WOW on spirals, nice 3z near the end, and the final layback-combination spin also got a nice WOW from me in my notes. If she could get more consistancy with the jumps, she'd be nearly unbeatable...a female Takahashi, IMO. 107.57/163.69 and Alissa won't be Skate Canada champ again...sigh.
Poykio (Munich soundtrack) Very lovely light green very sequinned dress...not sure how it matches the music/subject, but it's beautiful. Drei was behind me watching and commenting rapidly to her coach throughout...not sure if it was supportive of snarking, but she did clap at the end. 3F-2t was nicely on, then a very nice 3z-2t-2l, and then a nice 3s...the jumps are on for Susanna. Flying sit spin very nice, then pops a 3L to a 2L. VERY nice camel-sit combo, with great positions, slows slightly. Beautiful elegance in her posture, her carriage, her arms and hands are right up there with Meier for me (which is saying something). Clean 2A, all of her jumps look so easy, effortless and high...then pops 3Z. Nice layback combo, spirals are very good. 3F clean into camel combo. Footwork and choreography so nicely fit the music, very mature presentation, and for me, my favorite ladies' program of the day. Beautiful. 103.96/161.58 She moved up to our section for part of the men's event, but only stayed for the first skater I think.
During the Zamboni break, we had Xu and Kim for a while behind me, and then Ponsero for a about 10 minutes...I showed him my banner for him and he smiled big and gave it a thumbs up. That was two of the three men I had banners for who I know saw them...Not sure about Sergei.
The men started with the two most "Unknown North Americans", to me at least, Craig and Varner...nice beginning, to catch sight of the new blood.
Craig (Jumpin Jack, summertime) He looks physically, like Kurt Browning to me...and some of his style is similar also. starting 3A with turnout, then a 2A. Fall on 3F, then hand down on 3Z. 3L is good. Nice flying sit spin with position changes, very nice. Nice little moment of audience interaction, and they are with him anyway, he's presenting the program very nicely. Good footwork, nice 3S, then spread eagle into 3Z very nice. Flying sit combo, then nice circular footwork that slows a little bit. 3F is good, then combo spin is great, but then falls out on the ending position. Nice moments, some rough around the edges, but he has very nice style. 106.99/168.32
Varner (Concerto Arujuanez) First he had to play flower girl, since a late-flying stuffie landed on the ice after all the flower girls had deserted...so he picked it up and trucked it over to the K&C area....very nice. On to the program....does a nice 3Z, then a popped 3A to 2A....3L with turnout on the landing. Sit spin with nice variations of positions, not the fastest, but not the slowest either. Nice footwork, although it looked like he had a small slip on it. 3F with turnout on landing, to 2L. A nice skid move into camel-combo spin, then 2S, fall on 3lutz, flying sit combo good, and another fall on 3F. 2A held, but shakey, and final spin. It was kind of a bipolar program, with some nice moments, but also ten-fifteen seconds at a time of looking kind of lost on the ice. Does some angsty moves (so has the Buttle votes) and some pandering/posing to the judges (ditto the Plushenko moves)....give him time. He's interesting. 91.42/148.57
Othman (Lunatico by Gotan Project) Ok, so I will admit, I am biased toward this boy. Something about him, how hard he was working in Canada last year at practices, and just his general sweet and modest demeanor. However, biased or not, I think this was a very interesting program, one of my favorites of the night. If he could just get either a 3A or quad, he could really be something. Started with 3Z barely held, but into 2T clean. Then, I think (maybe missed it some) 2A-3T combo. Very nice circular footwork, and the audience is with him on this, clapping along with him. Tano single "wally" jump (I think that's what it is) into a 3Loop, very nice. Very unique positions in the combo spin, a little slower, but not bad. 3S, really nice choreography, interesting and intricate at times. Nice sit combo spin, then a spiral into 3F-2t-2t. 3z looked two footed, then a nice 3s-3t. Camel-combo spin was great, and the overall program was just very well done. Partial standing O, personal best 110.92/167.22. Later when he and Lambiel were sitting behind me, he made a comment about me throwing the stuffies (this one landing right by a cameraman, who tossed it over the side for me)...so I told him he could be in charge of the next one. The boy throws a mean stuffie! And is a sweetie...the little older lady sitting next to him was asking him all kinds of questions, and then asked, "Oh, and which one are you again", and "Where are you from again"?
Lambiel (Four seasons) Kept his program from last year (Yay)...also kept his costume from last year (yeh, whatever). I was really glad to be able to see this program live. Started with his soon-to-be-patented 2A instead of 3A...sigh, sigh sigh. 4T fallout on the landing to 3T. Beautiful choreo (y'all know the program), uses his face and whole body to express the music...wonderful. 3S, then 2A. Circular footwork, WOW. Camel-combo spin very good, but then down on I think a second quad attempt. Pops 3F to 2F, then 3T combo, then 3Z-2t good. 3L on, then good sit spin combo, to final combo spin that is, of course, amazing, and he also gets a partial S.O. 146.25/210.70
Voronov (Pearl Harbor) So, he and his good smelling coach didn't come into our section enough, so no Urmanov sniffings today. Sigh. His 3F-2t is rock on, and he is of the Yagudin/Griazev school of HIGH and big jumps (when he hits them). 3A turnout to 2T, then 3S. Nice circular footwork, rather slow, then a huge flying sit spin...again, height is his thing. Very nice spread eagles, with very little bend at the waist...pops 3A-2L. 3L is clean, flying combo spin again is great, then a great camel-combo spin (I think nearly the best camel in the competition), straightline footwork is ok, then nice spread eagle to 2A good. 3S, 3F at the 4:12 mark...good combo spin to finish the program. Not a bad start to his senior grand prix career, last week and this. 107.38/165.73
Sawyer (Moments in Love by Art of Noise) Great music choice for him! Great style, fun choreography. Wow, what a nice performance by Sawyer. Starts with a good, fast spin, then 3F with a turnout on the landing...very cool music and choreography (somewhat Sandhu-ish in nature), nice 3A (maybe two-footed?), circular footwork that looked like it had a little slip in it, but his program is somewhat off-center in style, so maybe it was part of the footwork....another 3jump that I missed the entry, flying combo spin was nice, sit combo spin great also. Nice spread eagle to 3Z, then walley jump, leap, into 3L-3L, amazing...then 3S-2L-2L, 3F totally on. Footwork is great, again, Nice INa bauer into 2A and final spin combo with his amazing positions, and really, great program for him! At least half the audience on their feet, well-deserved. 128.42 is a personal best, and 195.17 total.
Takahashi (Phantom of the Opera) The first of the back to back duelling phantoms....Starts out the program, well, with a popped 3F to single...oh sigh....No Dai, no! 3A with fallout on the landing. Oh my. He is so fast, and so light on the ice...it's like his blades aren't even on the ice, he skims across it so lightly. Nice 3A-2T, and then a beautiful layback-type combo spin, he has such great back flexibility. Great circular footwork, then a very nice 3F-3T, and he's hitting this program again. 3z-2L-2L beautiful, then he falls off the edge going into a 3L, doesn't even get the jump up at all before falling. 3S clean, the fall on a popped 3F. Spin ok, a little slower, good footwork, and camel-combination spin solid....but oh my, a Dai meltdown is not what I was wanting (or him, for that matter). 129.41/208.21 and he's behind Lambiel....
Chipeur (Phantom of the opera) Part two of Phantom-ania. 3Z was HUGE, great height on it..then a 3A that looked TOO high, fall out on the landing. Sit spin combo with nice positions and speed. Good 3L and 3S, flying sit combo very high. Popped 3F to 2F, stumbles out on the landing...nice 2A. Spin combo good. Footwork is done with nice flair, maybe a little too much flailing arms for my taste...3T (I think) good, good second footwork sequence, then fallout and hands down on the final 3Z attempt. Overall, spins are good, jumps are HUGE, and choreo, well, parts of it I actually liked better than Takahashi...Daisuke did the phantom with almost hyper-manic choreography, where Vaughn was more mild, romantic style. The two of them combined would have been a fantastic performance. 116.82 is a "personal best" (they had no previous scores in CoP for him I guess), and total is 184.06. Not bad for the skater to be named later. Very nice interactions between he and his coach, they look like they get on quite well together, and he looked thrilled when asked to sign autographs and pose for photos later. Jamal tossed his stuffie for me.
Verner (something Mystic spirit voices something....Couldn't read the whole thing) Better costume than the still inexplicable one from the short program...this one nice white/black/red/silver, classy looking. Starts with a 4t, fallout on the landing, but it looked fully rotated....then 3F-2t (I think he was wanting a 3-3), and nice 3T, then 3S. Fall on the 3F, has some nice choreography with the footwork, but artistically, it seems still a work in progress...a little empty overall. Flyinc sit combo is nice, then pops a 3A. 3L is good, sit spin combo is clean and nice, straightline footwork is very nicely accentuating the music. 3F attempt this time is landed, and a nice combo spin at the end. Mildly pleasant, mildly empty, but could be really a great program later in the season I think. 120.85/192.15
Ponsero (DaVinci Code) Ever since his sad little face at Skate America last year, I've dreaded another Ponsero meltdown...was really hoping for better for him here. 3A is huge and high, almost overdone because he has a turnout on the landing. Then pops the quad attempt, and then a 2A. Camel-catchfoot (not quite donut) spin is very nice, although it slows a bit at the end. 3A-2t is huge, he has great height on his jumps, especially for a shorter skater....very impressive looking. Nice footwork, good flow and choreography. 3S-2L (I think) is nicely done, lovely spin combination, then a fall on a 3L. Flying sit is good, not as high as some like Chipeur or Voronov, but nice. 3Z-2t is clean, footwork is good, nice 2a. vERY nice spread eagle positions, into a good combo spin at the end. Nicely done in some areas, train wreck in others...but not a Skate America meltdown, thank goodness. Just mildly sucky with the jumps. Sigh. I am the curse of death for the skaters I like most....Maybe I should avoid live attendance at events! 120.41/189.46
Weir (Child of Nazareth) Well, starts with a 3A, puts his hands down on the landing. Then a 3S, and a 3Z, and it looks like he's shaken it off. Nice flying sit spin with intricate positions, not as fast as his spins usually, and at this point, I am putting aside my notebook, because I sense a Weir goosebump moment (not experienced for me since NHK Otonal performace)...alas, not meant to be. Started popping and doubling jumps left and right, spins sluggish somewhat...Nice choreography and expression, relating a bit more to the audience than usual, and good footwork. I think this program has the potential to be absolutely stunning....but wasn't there yet. Sigh. One of these days I'm going to see Johnny live and be able to experience the feelings watching him skate that I have in the past....just probably not in canada. 122.42/198.70
Saw on the television coverage that they kept showing Stephane sitting in the stands watching the other skaters as he maintained his lead...yep, sitting the row behind me, about 3 seats away...when Johnny finished, I turned around and said "Congratulations" to Stephane...he made a "well, maybe" face, and his coach smiled brightly. Here's hoping dance will not be a splatfest tomorrow.