Notes from the arena
Hi guys, I'm back home after a great weekend at Skate America. It was my first live competition and I had so much fun. Anyway, I thought I would start this thread for the GS-ers who were there to share their comments. I'll post more in the individual threads, but these are just general thoughts:
1.) It was so awesome meeting GS-ers in person after all these years chatting on the board. We had a great GS meetup that included DorisP, CoyoteChris, Paul_E, MoonlightSkater and jdw715 on Friday night. We had several opportunities to meet more informally throughout the weekend -- so it was fun to check in and get everyone's take on the different competitions.
2.) It's definitely true that some people look better in person than on TV. I think that Mae Bernice Mette was that for me. She is an impressive jumper---but oh boy---my jaw just about dropped when I saw some of her jumps. Other skaters who I think are more impressive in person: James/Cipres; Meshnov; Machida; Bobrova/Soloviev.
3.) I ended up having a nightcap at the host hotel twice, which turned out to be fun for people watching. I saw a lot of skaters and coaches and it was fun watching the Japanese fans camp out and try to get photos and autographs of different skaters. As I mentioned in the men's thread, I did have a fun conversation with Brian Orser, who happened to be sitting next to me at the bar. I also got to meet up with some other fans, which was cool.
4.) Some of the complaints from the skaters regarding the hotel are definitely valid. The hotel, which is near the airport, is a good 15-20 minutes away from the arena and the schedule was SOOO tight that even as a spectator I didn't have much time to do much besides eat at the Chipotle or Panera across the street.
5.) My husband, not a skating fan, had a good time.
I think I'll post most of my thoughts here since I'm so far behind reading the other threads. I spent so much time at ice rinks that it was hard to get any time on the computer!
It was a great competition, and I felt like the skating was very high level for this early in the season, especially the ladies' competition. All of the exhibitions were fantastic, topped, in my mind, by the Chinese pair's Romeo and Juliet (wonderfully lovely and got a well deserved standing ovation) and Hanyu's fantastically fun performance complete with a quad! Beyond the skating, a couple of the highlights of my weekend included getting to meet Mr. Nicks who is, in my opinion, the best coach out there, as well as getting to meet all of the American pairs, the Israeli pair, and several of the men's competitors. They did have the ice network broadcast for earbug, so bring your earbugs to all the USFSA sponsored competitions. It was great getting to meet up with fellow forumites- charming people all. I'll have to look for you all at future competitions!
Overall, I just loved watching the Japanese men. So much expression to go with such strong technical skills! The depth they have is amazing, and I am very dissappointed they can't send five or six guys to worlds and Olympics.
Kozuka: J'adore. With the exception of the fall on his final jump (I'm blaming that one on the early season), he delivered the most complete set of programs for the competition. He seems like such a nice, quiet guy, and it translates into his skating style which I find to be perfectly expressive in his own quiet, stylized manner. His quads are solid but don't have the height of Hanyu's- something to work for this season. I got his autograph, which made me feel a bit like a teenage fangirl. : )
Hanyu: POTENTIAL. I actually liked Kozuka's interpretation better in the short program, but Hanyu's jumps were massive and done with (seemingly) great ease. I feel like he has a ways to go in the artistic side of things in competition, but if his amazing exhibition is any indication, the performance side of things will surely come. He still carries himself like a kid, but he is still a kid. Did Johnny Weir design his free skate costume? Or did he just borrow it from Johnny's wardrobe? : P
Machida: Now one of my favorite skaters. Much like the other Japanese men, he is so very expressive. He won all his practice sessions, landing jump after jump with great ease, often looking up into the audience upon landing as if to say "See, I got it." He still needs to work on some of his spins, but if he improves those and shows a consistent quad, I don't see why he can't be another amazing Japanese contender. I could watch his short program all day.
Menshov: I have to root for any skater who is 29 and still out there contending. When his jumps are on he is very good, but his jumping technique is wildly inconsistent and sometimes it seems, both in competition and in practice, that he is just hurling himself into the air with elbows and knees flying and his body crazily tilted. I liked his exhibition much more than his competition programs. Lovely blue eyes and blond hair.
Abbott: Choreographer and performer extraordinaire. Despite his mistakes I still very much enjoyed his long program. I worry about his popping of jumps as he pops a lot of jumps in practice and this seems to translate to the competition. Perhaps there is a habit there that, if broken, could improve his mental focus.
Brezina: I was really hoping to see him put together good programs as I feel like I still don't have a good idea of his skating. If he could put it all together it could be a lot of fun to watch, but I think he is one of those skaters for whom a clean program is essential to properly convey the choreography. He did nail a fair number of quads in practice. There is something about him that is just very likeable.
Verner: Gah! I don't know why he made the mistakes he did in competition. He is fully capable of more and very enjoyable to watch. I hope he can put it all together at his next competition.
Armin: He tried a quad! Still has his lovely style and expression, but I feel like he'll have to get consistent with that quad to get respect from the judges. I have first hand confirmation that I can actually pronounce his name correctly.
Razzano: Very nice in person. Had a chat with a friend of CoyoteChris's about his skating, and we agree that he is very pleasant to watch and competant technically but lacking in expression. He can have the same facial expression throughout an entire practice session, keep it walking down the hallway, and then maintain it through a performance. I think that's something he really needs to work on if he wants his skating to have impact.
Majorov: He has a very pleasant and watchable performance style. I did like his short program better than his long- I'm not sure his intended theme is coming through in the long program and the costume and choreography should be matched a little better. Not a fan of costumes with hoodies. He is able to blend the performance with the skills and I hope to see him do well in the future.
I'll make a separate post for the other disciplines as this one is getting a bit too long.
By far the best overall competition with lots of clean programs and very strong jump content. This field alone gives me hope that the lackluster years in ladies' competition are gone. I enjoyed all of the competitors' programs and feel like the placements and scores were, for the most part (exception:Adelina's short program), correct.
Wagner: She takes the ice as though she is telling it who is boss. Her scores were very deserved as she gave a command performance. The early season showed in a bit of lean in her final few jumps of the long, but she gives the impression that she knows she is going to land those jumps before she even skates into them. One two foot in the short program. She practiced a lot of triple-triples with great consistency, and I believe I saw a few 2A-3T combos in practice as well. She looks like she's ready to really make an impact on the standings. Very expressive in both of her programs.
Gao: She looked really good in practice and going into the competition many of us were commenting that she might be ready to become a contender, and she did not disappoint. Best style and lines of the competition by far. All three top ladies have very nice layback spins. The difference between now and prior times I've seen her is that she's developed a presence and confidence that are new.
Sotnikova: In practice I thought she looked unbeatable. She skates with great speed and expression and her jumps are explosive. Her confidence on the practic ice mirrored Ashley's, but for some reason it didn't translate to competition yet. In many ways she reminds me of Sasha Cohen, from looks to her expressive skating. Since Sasha is my all time favorite skater, I am an instant fan of Adelina's. Unfortunately she also seems prone to the token Sasha mistake in a program. I would be unsurprised to see her skate well at her next Grand Prix and make the final.
Marchei: Looked very good here. Both her programs suit her very well. Her exhibition shows that she has a future in professional skating if professional opportunities continue to exist. She is a showman (showwoman?) through and through and presented some of the most entertaining performances. She has the presence of mind to express even in the middle of her combination spin. I did not think her The Artist costume did her justice at all.
Imai: Her long program was just lovely. After the short I commented to my mom that I felt like the jazz music played just a bit above her style of expression, but I think the softer Mozart suited her perfectly. I was so happy to see her skate cleanly. Her jumps are smaller than the others, and this might hold her back a little. She tried a 2A-3T in practice, but it was consistently underroated and/or double footed. She had the prettiest costume of the ladies' free skate in a pretty lilac. I'm not sure if the color translated properly on t.v.
Meite: Like Mrs. P said, she is so much more impressive in person. Her skating and body style don't translate well on t.v. Seeing her on t.v. I thought she looked a bit soft, but in person she is all muscle and is slimmer than I thought she'd be. She should be Mae Bernice Mighty for all the power she has. I get the impression that she actually has to slow down going in to some of the jumps so that she won't overpower and overrotate them. That might be why some think her skating looks a bit slow. She could probably train 3A and quads with success.
Leonova: Practiced much better than she competed. She contributed to the triple-triple clinic that was practice at this competition. I still don't love her style but I feel like her programs suit her well even though they are very much Morozov's style. Her long program dress was a good look for her.
Helgesson: Her new hairstyle looks fantastic. She is a textbook picture of fitness, and I think she'll turn in some very solid performances in upcoming competitions.
Flatt: Her performances were nice to watch, but visibly VERY slow and I worry about her fitness level. She looked to be in shape warming up, but it did not translate to the ice. I'm sure her injury is impeding her. She had a lot of tape on her ankle visible under her tights. If only she'd learn to hold her shoulders down and back her skating would look so much better.
Hecken: Also enjoyable to watch and has the potential to do well at future competitions, especially in Europe. Practiced fairly well. She has a modern dance quality to some of her skating that fits her nicely. Despite her last place finish she still presented solid programs. Lovely costumes.
Pairs: A solid night of short programs followed by a lot of errors in the long, but it is early season after all. The Russians didn't quite look comfortable in this arena, and I wonder if the corners were a bit more rounded than in some other rinks. A lot of skaters ended up very close to the wall on elements. All of the pairs presented some enjoyable skating.
Volosozhar/Trankov: I agree with those that don't love their short program- the worst part is the machine gun sound effect used near the end. They skated it well, however, though I do think they could have chosen much better music. Their pairs elements and throws are the best of the field when clean.
Pang/Tong: This was not the strongest I've seen them but I still think they'll put together a respectable season. They presented a very lyrical skate to Romeo and Juliet that was a highlight of the exhibition. Their expression and connection continue to grow despite their struggles with injuries. She's even tinier in person.
Denney/Coughlin: Powerful performances and totally confident. I don't know that they'll ever look totally polished but they are so athletic that their skating is growing on me. I think they have the potential to improve their PCS scores and they might become a medal contender yet.
James/Cipres: I was rooting for this team as Vanessa and her previous partner trained at my home rink leading up to the 2010 Olympics. They presented two of the cleanest and most watchable programs of the competition. Their side-by-side jumps are a definate strength for them and I think they'll make a jump in the rankings this year.
Castelli/Shnapir: She is so tiny in person! And he is so tall! They skated one of the most well-recieved exhibitions complete with some classic dare devil pairs show skills. Their throws are huge but they'll need to upgrade their difficulty to contend for medals outside the U.S.
Donlan/Speroff: She is even tinier in person! Teeny tiny. Their style is beautiful, and I really enjoyed their use of ballet on ice. She confirmed that she has practiced ballet for many years. I really hope they can solve their jumping issues, but the jumps are definately a challenge, especially for Gretchen. She spent a bit of time working on her jumps during practice and warm-up, going back to the boards for help from her coach after botched attempts and usually pulling off one or two decent attempts after consulting her coach.
Montalbano/Krasnopolski: Did not skate up to their potential in the free skate. I did really enjoy their short program, including the familiar music. They practiced much better than they competed.
Last one. : )
I agree with the placements, and was pleasantly surprised by Bobrova and Soloviev. Like the ladies, this was a very strong and enjoyable competition. Davis and White seemed to be the actual headliners of the whole event with more people commenting about them than Abbott, Wagner, Gao, or Denney/Coughlin.
Davis/White: Look to be their old selves despite the coaching shakeup. Given some of the comments I read in the short dance thread, I'm not sure if their superior speed shows up well on t.v. They were by far the fastest and most athletic of the field. Giselle turned out to be a great choice, in my opinion, for the short dance. I think I'll wait to form an opinion on their long program, though it is certainly very athletic. I feel like they were a bit hit and miss with their expression in the long program, but many others commented that they looked very improved in this area. Perhaps I'm missing something.
Bobrova/Soloviev: Vastly improved and definately deserved their silver medal. They were better in competition than in practice. Ekaterina was warming up for the exhibition in the section just to the left of where I was sitting when they showed a video of the team's final few seconds of the long program, and she had a good chuckle about her ending expression. She's as cute as a button in person, and he's quite handsome, though not quite as handsome as Andrew Poje.
Weaver/Poje: Presented a very enjoyable short dance. Their long program still needs some work- it was lacking in speed in a few areas. His errors on twizzles probably cost them the silver, though their inconsistent speed probably didn't help. I think it'll be a great program once they get these problems solved. More speed would help the piece have more impact. They had by far the best costumes for the long program.
Kriengkrairut/Giulietti-Schmitt: A good step for them to beat the Germans. Their programs flowed seamlessly and show great potential. I wasn't sure this team had a lot of upside since they'd been just below the top level U.S. teams for so long, but I've changed my mind and think that this might be a very good season for them. They look very polished for this early.
Zhiganshina/Gaszi: I'm not a fan of their programs and costumes, but, as another spectator put it, I don't have a great appreciation for whimsy. They do pull off the theatrics well (better in the long than the short), and solid skating allows the programs to work.
Alessandrini/Vaturi: Both of their programs were very cute and pleasant to watch. Their Mary Poppins short got a great reaction from the crowd and was one of the more seamless short dances. They'll need to improve their speed and learn to skate a bit closer together to improve their placements.
Cannuscio/McManus: Another pleasant surprise. They've improved a lot over their junior efforts. They still need to work on their edging and speed, but they have a lot of potential to improve. I really appreciated their unique and well-done twizzles and their pleasant, classical style.
And I'm out of notes and need to go to bed to fight off the jet lag. I hope that this provided some insight and wasn't just a bunch of sleep deprived rambling. : )
Thanks for the reports! They were very detailed and I agree with many of the points you wrote here -- it's like you read my mind! I do agree that overall this was a good competition with most putting out at least one good skate.
Encouraging to hear that Ashley is doing 3-3 and 2A-3T in practice (lol, too lazy to go to them myself!). I hope we get to see both combos soon.
Interesting that you commented on Gao's style and lines. Her SP does seem to profile that a lot more than her past programs. I think also she doesn't look as awkward in her newish body as she did the past two seasons. Interesting to think of how puberty has affected skaters -- I think Christina's impact was very much physical while Adelina's is more mental (though she has filled out and I'm sure it's had impact)-- she clearly can do the jumps and programs, as you pointed out, but the central nervous system is a funny thing at times.
So great to meet you!