Caroline has definitely made improvements on speed, as well as conditioning (in her core strengths especially) -- though she did slow down in the second half of the FS, especially right after missing the second 3F, when she looked momentarily surprised and frustrated.
Considering how much extra weight she's carrying now compared to a couple years ago (while at the same height), the fact that she's skating a little faster means that she has actually improved a lot on speed. If she skated now like she used to, she should be moving half as fast! I mean that from a purely biophysical point of view, not intending to be mean or anything. If she could slim down a little, then the improvements she's made in speed & strength would be even more apparent to the eye.
Maybe most of that extra weight she's carrying now is muscle, but there is a different optimal body shape for each sport. That's why top athletes in boxing, swimming, and skating look completely different even if they are all very "fit" in their own way.
She's taking a year off school to focus on skating this year, so hopefully this means that she can really get into tippy top shape. She may be rather unlucky when it comes to genes, but I also remember she always had a sweet tooth and didn't do much off-ice training until very recently.
Zhang's mature body shape (broad shoulders, long waisted, short legs) do not auger well for her to regain her former junior glory. She looks a little ungainly on the ice, even though she does look better skating wise than last season. She is faster, but that's not saying much compared to the other ladies who are much faster.
Re Brubaker & Marley - He still looks like he's skating with his baby sister. I feel this partnership was a mistake. There is absolutely no connection whatsoever between them. Quite boring to watch, imo.
From what I can tell from the video, the reason why Caroline Zhangs's SS mark is still low (even though she appears equivalent in speed through much of her programs to the other skaters) is the WAY in which she stroked through the programs. To a skater/practiced eye, she looks like she's really WORKING to generate any speed versus effortless flow that Wagner, Nagasu, Hicks, and Keiser seem to project to generate the same speed and flow.
I thought Nagasu's LP was insane. Seemed way more demanding than last year's program. I particularly liked the speed and the transitions (or at least the attempts). The backwards karate kick jump into the triple flip will be sensational once she lands it clean and the split jump into the spread eagle was great too....(although I agree it seemed to go in the wrong direction). The footwork also looked tricky with the catch foot twizzle (ala Mao Asada - Bells of Moscow) and who even tries that no hands spiral anymore?? I cant wait to see this program at nationals once she gets it timed out to the music.
Well Nagasu was 4th in the FS. Her triple toe loop in combo with the double axel was downgraded, as was the triple Lutz as was the triple flip and the triple loop was underrotated. All those jumps also had anywhere from -1 to -2 GOE. Even her footwork had -1GOE. I thought her program was sloppy but understandable having just returned from Japan. Let's hope she is in better shape for Nebelhorn.
I rewatched Mirai's FS last night, and felt more positive about it than initially. I think this program has potential. She had just come back from Japan and jetlagged, not to mention short on practice. That alone could explain the double-footing and under-rotation on jumps, and stumbling in her footwork. But if she's been training steadily since then, then I think her skating could be in great shape by the time GPs roll around.
I have to say, though, that at this point, Ashley's programs look more polished than Mirai's, and Ashley also seems to be paying more attention to the details, like the music and arm movements, posture, etc. Hopefully, Mirai will get better in these respects with more training -- Frank is a stickler for details after all.
Just watched Mirai's LP. I think the music was a bit of a mish-mash even though the cuts are from the same ballet. To me, the program doesn't flow and a big part of it has to do with how the score selections. Music started off with Prelude, goes into Spartacus/ Phrygia PDD adagio, then into Phrygia variation, then for some reason into Aegina variation (and ends on that, I believe). Artistically, the first third of the program looks a bit too generically placid, the middle part more expressive, and the last third looks too frantic. It'd be better off to cut the prelude portion and just skate to the PDD and variation scores, as this is where the choreography and music have most impact.
Also agree about Mirai's Y-spiral looking not the best and tentative, especially when compared with Shizuka's textbook perfect form. In Shizuka's case, her natural turnout at the hips and high extensions allows her to have an effortless look to her developpe a la seconde (or Y-spiral), also she does it with her torso correctly centered, not tilted to side (in ballet we call it cheating to reach higher extensions). But I don't think Mirai should over-stretch her muscles in order to have higher extensions, that's when you injure the muscles needed for petit allegro/ footwork/ jumps in ballet and comparably for jumps/ footwork in figure skating.
I'm surprised I actually liked Ashley's LP to Swan Lake, because I didn't think she'd be dramatic enough to pull it off. Perfect for her to choose Swan Lake Act IV score, if only for the dramatic emphasis as she's not the most emotive skater. The choreography works precisely because Ashley isn't trying to emulate a swan, that's the one mistake that dancers and skaters make when they do Swan Lake. Elegant arms with a touch of swan is fine, but too much bird-like arm flapping and it becomes a caricature instead. So bravo to Ashley and her choreographer for not taking Swan Lake too literally, after all it's originally a psychological fairy tale not an exercise in arm flapping.