The biggest progress in several years among the skaters
I can't help but think of Ashley Wagner and Julia Lipnitskaia. They've done tremendous work in getting where they are now! What are your thoughts?
In recent years there have been many skaters that I have thought were making significant improvements in comparitively short amounts of time, and some dazzling performances that hinted at future greatness if only they could be consistent.
But I think the most dramatic and impressive improvements have been Lipnitskaia's over the last year.
I went to Finlandia 2012 and saw her senior debut there, and she was technically impressive. However, I thought she needed more "expression", "emotion" and "maturity" at that time (unsurprising given her age)... some parts of her programs looked like gymnastics practice... and any imperfections resulted in a sulky face at the end. A technical, athletic, gymnastic wunderkind - but with great potential.
When I went to Finlandia 2013, I saw her again - and her improvements after just 1 year were astonishing. Everything she had before was undiminished or improved, but now she had "convincing" expression and emotion (by which I mean, I'm not left with that "bad actor" feeling, that she is simply "bolting on" expressive movements externally. Rather, she makes me feel that the story and emotion is flowing into her skating from within). And she is now using her gymnastic moves artistically - working them seamlessly into her choreography. Her skating looks more refined and elegant to me, and it "flows" better.
I wouldn't say she has reached the sublime artistry of Asada's SP at the GP Final - but I also don't think she's far behind.
Her jumps (subjectively) also seem bigger now, although her 2A still looks very low to me (perhaps to avoid overration?). She is even able to smile after performances, even if they weren't perfect :-D
Can she continue to improve at such a rate? Can she can get through teen growth spurts unscathed? I will be following her career with interest.
The next biggest/fastest progress in my opinion, has been Hanyu... his technical ability, consistency, and stamina have visibly improved in the last year or so (still needs more stamina though!), and it comes as no surprise to me that his PCS scores are starting to challenge Chan's (I think he earns his PCS for somewhat different reasons/strengths to Chan... but he still earns it). And he still has plenty of room to improve... how high can he reach?
I think the single largest progress I've seen in a skater within a year is probably Davis/White 08-09 to 09-10. The difference between Worlds 09 and their Nebelhorn Performance was huge. Patrick Chan is probably a close second with how much he improved after the disappointment at Vancouver.
Off the ice
Javier Fernandez. When you compare 1. where he started out 2. where he was going into the previous Olympics and 3. where he is now (assuming he sorts out his early-season issues), that's amazing progress for a skater who did not have the benefit of any sort of figure skating tradition as he was coming up.
You make good cases, Buttercup and Srin.
koatcue, I disagree about Ashley. She has been quite good even before the previous Olympics. Her improvement has been, IMO, marginal but her scores improved a lot because (a) she reduced a lot of the little costly errors she used to make like two-footed landings and (b) she has been able to string together a few seasons of good performances as the American #1.
Gilles/Poirier, especially Piper Gilles. Their Hitchcock FD is AMAZING and Piper actually looks plausible skating next to Paul now.
Off the ice
Actually, now that I think of it:
Yuzuru Hanyu, 2009 - 2010 - 2012 - currently.
It's steady progress, but it's amazingly fast steady progress. Back in 2009 I posted here that he'd likely be a candidate for 2018. Well, he could be a candidate then as well. Possibly with a 4A. Who knows with him?
Yuzuru turned 19 last weekend.
I tried to watch it and it's a great program, but while she may have improved, the gap between them remains big enough to be distracting.
Originally Posted by evangeline
Last year I would have said James/Cipres. Though he's been injured this year, so it's difficult to say where they would have been now - improved or not - if not for that.
ETA - Oh, just occurred to me. What about Peng/Zhang?
It's just, sorry, I didn't notice her before. And I always thought of her as a non-threat, but after her Black Swan I actually thought she could be a world champ.
Originally Posted by drivingmissdaisy
You mean on the 3A? That I can agree with. It's hard to believe that a year ago people were wondering whether he would make it seniors because he was struggling with that jump and now he has the highest overall (and SP) score among all the U.S. men going into nationals.
Originally Posted by noskates
But as for the rest of the skating, I'm not sure if it was a huge change. He's had the other stuff for some time now.
For sure, I would say Fernandez and Hanyu. Those two in particular have made great strides year after year (other than Fernandez this year so far). Obviously V/T's progress is practically unprecedented from inception as a pair to where they are now (even if both had been on the scene with separate partners). Wagner, and Kostner have also made considerable improvements when most had written them off around the time of Vancouver.
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Lipnitskaia has improved immensely. Can't believe I found her boring in 2011.
Changed her entry and timing of her flip (i.e., new flip) and axel. Gained back triple-salchow, double-axel-triple-toe combo. Increased power and speed in her skating. Improved centering and edge control on spins.
All after the ripe old age of 19, when most skaters are at a stage in their career when they only try to keep the level that they are at without incurring injury.