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Thread: Caroline Zhang - Can She Regain Her Spot Among The Top US Ladies?

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    Lightbulb Caroline Zhang - Can She Regain Her Spot Among The Top US Ladies?

    First off, let me say that it's quite remarkable what she's been able to do in one season, jump from 12th at nationals last year to 4th this year. Now, I know some of you may see that 4th place finish and argue that perhaps, she already HAS regained her spot- but keep in mind she skated pretty well while the others have some work to do, to put it mildly. Also, the competition is going to get tougher with Wagner re-emerging, Gao & Zawadzki, Gracie Gold possibly moving up next year, and other wildcards & surprises in store.

    The real question I'm posing is whether Zhang can reach that point where she can compete with Czisny, Wagner, and perhaps a revitalized Nagasu for world and Olympic spot(s) in the future. While she's shown great improvement, she's not quite (back) at that top rung yet. Everyone's talking about Gracie Gold, Agnes Zawadzki (and now Ashley Wagner) but where does Zhang fit in all this, if she can keep up the momentum?
    Last edited by R.D.; 02-01-2012 at 04:53 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by R.D. View Post
    First off, let me say that it's quite remarkable what she's been able to do in one season, jump from 12th at nationals last year to 4th this year. Now, I know some of you may see that 4th place finish and argue that perhaps, she already HAS regained her spot- but keep in mind she skated pretty well while the others have some work to do, to put it mildly. Also, the competition is going to get tougher with Wagner re-emerging, Gao & Zawadzki, Gracie Gold possibly moving up next year, and other wildcards & surprises in store.

    The real question I'm posing is whether Zhang can reach that point that she can compete with Czisny, Wagner, and perhaps a revitalized Nagasu for world and Olympic spot(s) in the future. While she's shown great improvement, she's not quite (back) at that top rung yet. Everyone's talking about Gracie Gold, Agnes Zawadzki (and now Ashley Wagner) but where does Zhang fit in all this, if she can keep up the momentum?
    I don't think we can answer that, and that's great! Because she will answer it, one way or the other. I have high hopes.

    Here's one reason: I remember there were a few years in there where she was the only American skater to do well internationally. I think that for all her technical lapses during those years, what she did have was a cool head for combat. This is a quality that doesn't have to change just because someone has a growth spurt. I'm banking on its still being inside her.

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    It's amazing how far Caroline has come since "the bottom fell out", in her words -- but I think the most major thing holding her back is her fitness level, especially her core strength. I feel like this lack of core strength is what's making her stroking slow and labored, her jumps small and muscled, and her spins slower (now she no longer has a stick figure like she used to). It's a *lot* better than the last three years, but it's her biggest natural weakness, and therefore she really needs to work on that aspect of her fitness. I'm sure doing pilates and other core exercises is a lot less fun than working on jumps or spins or programs, but she has to put in that time and effort to get to the "top rung". She has two routes, get fitter and powerful and start projecting the look of a top-tier "athlete" like Ashley and Agnes, or get willowy like Mao and Alissa and sell the delicate "dancer" look. I think her more natural path is to go with the dancer look, but while she has slimmed down a lot, she would need to slim down a lot more to get there -- I'm not sure that it would be healthy for her to try to attain that look. On the other hand, not everyone has the genes to be super athletic and powerful either, no matter how hard they work out. I guess on the whole, now that she seems to be past the worst of the puberty monster and has shown how disciplined/effective she can be in controlling her figure, I think the easier route for her may be to try to recover the delicate "dancer" look she had at a younger age, but with better jump techniques.

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    Quote Originally Posted by feraina View Post
    She has two routes, get fitter and powerful and start projecting the look of a top-tier "athlete" like Ashley and Agnes, or get willowy like Mao and Alissa and sell the delicate "dancer" look.
    In my opinion, it doesn't have to be so binary. I can think of plenty of skaters (like Michelle, Shizuka, Akiko) whose style can hardly be considered purely "athletic", despite the fact that their bodies aren't exactly willowy (for that matter, I don't think Ashley's style is purely athletic, either - especialy since she's started working with her ballet coach and learned to slow down and take her time).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Okami View Post
    In my opinion, it doesn't have to be so binary. I can think of plenty of skaters (like Michelle, Shizuka, Akiko) whose style can hardly be considered purely "athletic", despite the fact that their bodies aren't exactly willowy (for that matter, I don't think Ashley's style is purely athletic, either - especialy since she's started working with her ballet coach and learned to slow down and take her time).
    Michelle (in her best years), Shizuka, Akiko, and Ashley, all look(ed) much fitter than Caroline does now. I'm not saying they don't have grace or don't have great performances, but they don't strike you to have classical dancer figures. Yu-na Kim is another -- her only program that made her look like a delicate "dancer" was Lark Ascending, which I loved, but apparently she didn't find it easy or natural to perform that way.

    And I'm not saying that Alissa and Mao (this year) are not fit. Caroline needs to do a lot of core strengthening just to get to their levels of fitness. But to get to the level of the more athletic skaters, she would have to spend a lot more time working on her stamina, strength, stability.
    Last edited by feraina; 02-01-2012 at 03:56 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by feraina View Post
    I feel like this lack of core strength is what's making her stroking slow and labored, her jumps small and muscled, and her spins slower (now she no longer has a stick figure like she used to). It's a *lot* better than the last three years, but it's her biggest natural weakness, and therefore she really needs to work on that aspect of her fitness.
    It's interesting that you think her inability to get high spin levels as of late is related to a lack of core strength. I wonder if her coaches are aware of this issue and whether they are working to address it.

    I agree with RD that a more confident Mirai, a better trained Rachael, not to mention Gracie Gold would push Caroline down to 6 - 8th place at Nationals, so she still has a lot of work to do to be competitive with all those ladies.

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    I think it will be hard for her to keep up, particularly with Gracie, Agnes and the other youngsters. I'm afraid she might be disheartened that, after all the hard work she has put it, she was relatively clean at Nationals and still placed 4th. It might be too much of a task to improve in all the areas she needs to (core strength, spins, etc) while also maintaining her jumps.

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    Interesting point, Feraina, and one that it would probably benefit Caroline to consider.

    I seem to recall that even the ultimate willowy dancer, Sasha Cohen, started doing Pilates to strengthen her core. In fact, I hear that a lot of actual dancers (ballet and modern) swear by that method, which not only gives strength but also protects against injuries, especially of the torso.
    Last edited by Olympia; 02-01-2012 at 07:58 PM.

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    I have believed for some time now that Caroline's weight was her biggest issue. People talk about her slow speed, ugly mule-kick, poor edges and horrendous technique. But her speed, kick, edges and technique put her on 14 podiums. It was only when she gained weight that her problems started.

    I was very happy to see how much she slimmed down since October (!)

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    I agree, I think she fits the "delicate dancer look" model better. I believe she has the ability and the will to do well.

    Quote Originally Posted by feraina View Post
    It's amazing how far Caroline has come since "the bottom fell out", in her words -- but I think the most major thing holding her back is her fitness level, especially her core strength. I feel like this lack of core strength is what's making her stroking slow and labored, her jumps small and muscled, and her spins slower (now she no longer has a stick figure like she used to). It's a *lot* better than the last three years, but it's her biggest natural weakness, and therefore she really needs to work on that aspect of her fitness. I'm sure doing pilates and other core exercises is a lot less fun than working on jumps or spins or programs, but she has to put in that time and effort to get to the "top rung". She has two routes, get fitter and powerful and start projecting the look of a top-tier "athlete" like Ashley and Agnes, or get willowy like Mao and Alissa and sell the delicate "dancer" look. I think her more natural path is to go with the dancer look, but while she has slimmed down a lot, she would need to slim down a lot more to get there -- I'm not sure that it would be healthy for her to try to attain that look. On the other hand, not everyone has the genes to be super athletic and powerful either, no matter how hard they work out. I guess on the whole, now that she seems to be past the worst of the puberty monster and has shown how disciplined/effective she can be in controlling her figure, I think the easier route for her may be to try to recover the delicate "dancer" look she had at a younger age, but with better jump techniques.

  11. #11
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    If she has the will to be a top notch skater, she needs to start working on her stroking. It's the one thing that WILL hold her back.

    It's amazing, but (even though I am *just* an adult skater) when I added my "performance" coach into the mix (we work on presentation, choreography, moves in the field, and how things look including elements/entries/landings) and he really started forcing various stroking exercises into my skating schedule (more than just the current moves in the field test that I happen to be working on - some are very basic crossover exercises, some are basic turns/steps, some are non-crossover development of power exercises, some are more advanced turns) everything else started to improve (jumps, spins). Now I try to spend a good 20-30 minutes of every session just doing the various stroking exercises that are part and parcel of the "work" that needs to be done to be a good skater and some days ALL I do is work on those stroking exercises/turns. It makes EVERYTHING that much more secure and consistent and NICE. Yeah, it can be boring, but it is WORTH it.

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    Caroline seemed reasonably fast in her National short. I have to assume she is working on her stroking.
    She also seemed to have lost some weight. She looked a little leaner than at Skate America.

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