Part I: The Men
Another epic post. Hey, it's -41 here with the windchill (Celsius, though when it gets at that temperature, celsius and the other crazy nonsensical system that I can't spell are about the same), and today is an indoor day (I started writing this last week, and with the windchill, it bottomed out at -58.6... but some of my comments about Nationals seem off now. Oh well)
I've mentioned elsewhere, but for me – I tend to look at the Olympics as the climax to the previous four seasons of figure skating. The various narrative threads that got explored need to be tied up to my satisfaction (or else – shakes fist!!!). A good example of a satisfying ending would be the Nagano Ladies: the last three World Champions on the podium, a great rivaly in the top two, Chen Lu's beautiful comeback and reaction to her skate (heartbreaking). All retrospective, but still. It's beautiful to see when it happens correctly. When it doesn't, well, it's rather depressing.
So how would I like to see the rest of the season play out....
Canada Firstly, a strong nationals performance from Patrick Chan. Yes, I'll cough up to pretty much dismissing him as a medal candidate after Skate Canada (you'd think I'd learn after dismissing Joubert after TEB, wouldn't you?), but a strong Nationals performance will make me flip back so hard it'll cause whiplash. He's clearly got the stuff, and I think he can compete with the quad kings without one (which he won't get), which makes him fairly unique (Oda and Lysacek I think will need a quad, but moreso because I think they'll go for it. If that makes any sense. In other words, because we know they've got a quad in the repetoire and we know they're talking about adding it, they'll be held to that standard) For the second spot, I'd like it to go to Sawyer. Ten doesn't impress me, Chipeur is regressing from last season (watch his 4 Continents performance from last year), and Reynolds is too much of a wild card (thought that 3-3-2 he does near the end of his program is awesome). Sawyer got a GP medal (in the weakest field, admittedly) and really does stand out for his musicality and flexibility.
As for the other Nationals, I'd like to see Daisuke Takahashi beat Oda (if Oda competes); Ponsero doing well (pretty pretty please?) - though frankly, I'd rather see Amodio/Ponsero and Preaubert at the Olympics rather than Joubert (no denying that the latter earned it, though). And American nationals? Simple: I want Lysacek, Abbott, Wier, Rippon, Carriere, Bradley and Mroz to skate brilliantly (is Miner competing seniors nationally?). Should be simple, right? Lysacek's skating this season like a champion (in terms of confidence and what he's laying out on the ice), but this is a pretty diverse group of skaters with at least two masterpieces for programs (Rippon's and Abbott's short programs). And I want Michel Brezina to push Verner. I don't want Verner to implode or anything (I really enjoy both his programs, and probably more so than Brezina's), but I really would like to see improvement from Verner, and maybe the pressure of losing the number one spot will light a fire in him. Didn't hurt Buttle or Lysacek.
Now, at Euros, I want only one thing to happen and it's Stephane Lambiel on top. I doubt it'll happen – everything posted here and elsewhere isn't positive, but I'd love him to get gold at Euros. For that to happen, it'll take Plushenko withdrawing (and maybe Joubert as well), but that's what I want. Presuming 4CC is depleted, it'll be cool to see Denis Ten get his first senior ISU medal, though that really depends on who the US, Japan and (even) Canada sends.
Now, the Olympics... Okay, some stats first
In the Vancouver quadrennia (2006 worlds to 2009): four world champions, three multi-medalists/four one-time medalists, seven medalists total
In the Turin quadrennial: three world champions, three multi-medalists/six one-time medalists, nine medalists total.
In the Salt Lake quadrennial: two world champions, four multi-medalists/one one-time medalist , five medalists total
In the Nagano quadrennial: two world champions, three multime-medalists/four one time-medalists, seven medalists
In the Albertville quadrennial (skipping Lillehamer for obvious reasons): two world champions, three multi-medalists/four one time medalists, seven medalists
To me, this speaks clearly to the breadth of field currently competing. Now, it is a bit misleading. One time medalist implies “one hit wonder,” and given that my analysis groups skaters like Elvis Stoijko (one medal in the SLC quadrennial), Alexi Yagudin (one medal in the Turin quadrennial) and Lysacek, Lambiel, et al in that category... well, not entirely a fair representation. But in general, the diversification at the top (four world champions in four seasons (which we've also seen in ladies, again, which is unprecedented) and the way the standings get shaken up consistently (see Verner's topsy-turvy relationship with the top ten/five) speaks to said breadth. And to me, I'd love to see that continue at the Olympics.
Unfortunately, that means no Plushenko (well unfortunately to me. Not so much to others I think). One of the stories of this quadrennial has ben the decline of Russia. Their medal haul is at a scant 25% this quad what it was in the previous four quadrennials. Before Plushenko came back, there was a fair chance that the nation (as Russia/Unified Team/Soviet Union) wouldn't win any gold medals for the first time in 50 years. Now with his confidence and jumping abilities, he's the top contender (again). Which is boring for me because I don't like watching him skate.
I really did want Chan to win gold, but like Buttercup says, I think his skating would progress more readily if he misses out on the podium. But who knows how long he wants to go for. Beyond him, Takahashi is my favourite and he's got two gorgeous programs. My desired outcome (that has a reasonable shot at happening – and only if Plushenko withdraws and the universe redraws itself)
01. Daisuke Takahashi
02. Patrick Chan
03. Tomas Verner
04. Brian Joubert
05. Jeremy Abbott
06. Stephane Lambiel
07. Evan Lysacek
08. Nobunari Oda
09. Takahiko Kouzka
10. Samuel Contesti
This top ten is rather shoddily put together, admittedly. I had a hard time balancing plausibility (pretending that Plushenko won't show up) and what I want.