It's not that hard to make adjustments to stroking technique, it's actually one of the easiest areas to make improvements quickly. One just needs to focus on it and be really committed to it (and I think this is the one area where she HASN'T truly committed, frankly, because she can "get by" with what she's got for the time being as long as she can rotate her jumps again).
I remember when Robin Wagner said that she worked out of plan with Sasha to improve her stroking as a foundation to improving her skating and they agreed on the plan. Say what you will about Sarah Hughes posture, her basic skating was very nice indeed, certainly it was better than Cohen's. Sasha's response to the idea of working on stroking was to go back to John Nicks.
It's boring work. Spins and jumps are a lot more fun. But if you look at the skaters who make it to the very top of the podium consistently, they all have strong basic skating. I believe to this day that if Sasha had had better basic skating, she'd have been a world champion. In her competitive days, Sasha never had it all - she always lacked strong edges and powerful stroking.
Agreed about Sasha's stroking. I didn't know that Robin Wagner had proposed to change that.
I used to read that the old Soviet coaches would have their students spend long periods stroking around the rink. When you see someone like Gordeyeva, you realize how such training paid off. A friend of mine who saw Gordeyeva and Grinkov live (I think in Skates of Gold) said that when they warmed up, they didn't skate together practicing moves; they stroked around the rink and practiced individually. She said they both were the fastest skaters out there—they really flew.
Tanith Belbin said that the first thing Natalia Linichuk said to her when Belbin & Agosto first went to her for coaching was that Tanith was too thin and needed to gain 10 pounds in order to improve her core strength and that this would help both her speed and flow, and enable her to hold her positions better in lifts and spins. IOW’s, in spite of what the Duchess of Windsor said, you can be TOO thin.
Speaking of practicing styles, Carolina Kostner warms up very, very slowly. She does a lot of stroking, a lot of MITF, and then doing quite a few big and beautiful single jumps, then double jumps, and finally barely one triple of each type before she gets off the ice. When I first saw her do this at a practice session at Skate America, I thought she was having a bad day. But it turned out that this is just the way she always does things, and she skated very well in that competition.
Caroline Z is just the opposite. She would get on the ice and immediately start jumping triples without much stroking or MITF or single/double jumps. I think it would have benefited her when she was younger to have a coach that taught her methodical practicing strategy.
I watched Sotnikova and Tuktamisheva practice at YOG in Innsbruck the other month and it was like night and day: Tuktamisheva got on the ice and immediately started jumping, while Sotnikova spent at least 20 mins just warming up doings steps and stroking. And IMO there was a huge difference between those two skaters in terms of the quality of skating skills, Sotnikova won hands down.
I guess you really have to take your time and practice those edges on a daily basis. Caroline had so much to improve on that she probably did not have time to focus on her edging too much - she first had to fix her jumping technique. Now that her jumps have improved a lot, I hope she focuses on the rest!
I loved reading the posts about the training habits of the best skaters. I has started to write about how the best skaters always start practices with a long session of stroking and then edge exercises and then deleted it before I hit the reply button. Michelle Kwan did the stroking warm-ups too and then the edge work.
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.
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.
Personally, I believe how she does at 4CCs will be very telling of where she stands in the big scheme of things. If she can upset Wagner for a medal, that would be huge. OTOH, if she finds herself behind the other two Americans, perhaps in the middle-to-lower top 10, she still clearly has some catch-up work to do. Traditionally she seems to do pretty well in this event, though- don't think she should have too much trouble here.