Here is my report on the ladies' competition.
Ann Patrice McDonough! No, she didn't compete, but there she is in the printed program, stunning in dark red, in a full page ad for Capezio Skatewear. I cut it out and framed it!
1. Michelle Kwan. There was definitely something wrong. When she came out to skate she spent quite a long time kind of stomping around trying to seat her foot in her boots. She tied and retied her laces several times. Although she got the biggest opening applause of any of the skaters, she seemed distracted and did not relate to the audience like she usually does.
Whatever the cause, my girl just didn't have the eye of the tiger. I think she two-footed both of her last two jumps, she had a wonky landing on her double Axel, and an awkwardness between the jumps of her triple-Lutz / Double Toe. Overall, I would have to say her performance was ordinary.
Of course, Michelle's ordinary is anyone else's to-die-for, but still... I wasn't crazy about the new dress, finding it sort of generic. The music did not help her. To me, it sounded tinny and without the full-throated orchestration that it needs for its emotional impact. (Maybe the fault of the audio system, but other music sounded OK.)
I could not tell that the choreography was any different from Campbells, except for a new variation in her combo spin. (It looked like an interesting position -- I’ll be looking for it again when the show is televised on December 18.)
Skating first is definitely a handicap, especially for a skater like Michelle, who depends on drawing emotional energy from the response of the audience. It's not just the shortened warm-up time or the fact that under ordinal scoring the judges have to leave room for later skaters. It is more that the audience is not really into the competitive flow of the event yet. If you skate last, the arena is electric with the excitement of, "After that fantastic performance Irina is in first place, but now here comes Michelle, do or die!!" or whatever. It pumps up both the audience and the skater.
I gave her a 5.6, 5.7 (matching the scores of the Russian judge, LOL.) As soon as Michelle's skate was over I knew Irina had it in the bag.
2. Sasha Cohen. I'm with Dick Button. For the first 30 seconds of her program, you wonder how anyone can possibly ever beat Sasha. She glides across the ice like an ethereal spirit. Even her jumps seem as if she is just lifted into the air by magic. (For most skaters the energy they put into these elements is apparent -- you can actually see them clenching their butt-muscles for the effort, LOL.)
Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. I, and a good part of the crowd, thought Sasha was held up on both the tech and the presentation scores. She got straight 5.3’s in technical. I suppose we should derive confidence from the fact that all of the judges agreed. But four of the five judges gave 5.1 or 5.2 to Angela Nikodinov, whose only technical errors were one doubled triple attempt and the singling of her double Axel. And two of the five judges put Sasah ahead of Jenny Kirk in technical, although Jenny hit five triples (I think) and had only one fall.
The presentation mark, too -- yes, Sasha is a vision of loveliness, wonderful extension and flexibility, etc., etc., etc. But it is how well you present your program that is being judged. I thought that Sasha’s program lost its focus -- although she still did some nice elements --after the three falls.
I didn’t care for Sasha’s Nutcracker music. It seemed too big and grand for her style. The swells of the music call for the skater to dominate the ice, and for this performance anyway, Sasha wasn’t doing that.
3. Jenny Kirk. Her best performance of the year. The judges evidently don’t give any credit for flat-out drop-dead beauty, because she only got 5.4s across the board for presentation (5.6 from the American judge -- after all, Jenny might be our third lady at Worlds again, LOL)
I thought she opened with a triple-triple, but maybe it was only a triple-double (a little bit shaky on the landing of the first jump.) Followed by a 3-Lutz / 2-toe and three more jumps that were pretty nice, although she had to struggle to hold a couple of the landings. She seemed to tire later in the program, leading to a fall. But she came right back with a very solid triple Lutz near the end.
Jenny’s weakest area is her spirals, IMO. Much room for improvement there.
When her scores came up, the audience gave a lusty BOOOOO! I don’t think the boos were specifically because the audience felt that the judges had held up Sasha unfairly over Jenny. Just that they didn’t like the low marks (tech scores 5.4, 5.4, 5.4, 5.1 and 5.2).
Speaking of the third American lady, Jenny made a loud statement that she is not ready to abdicate just yet.
4. Alissa Czisny. Home town girl makes good. Very nice performance. Opened with a 3-Lutz / 2-toe, I think she completed 4 triples in all. She did do some Sasha-esque flexibility moves, such as an Ina Bauer (held only very briefly, however), a forward Charlotte, a Beaver Cleaver, and some spiral moves. She needs to stretch out more and hold her positions longer. There is still a youthful quality to her overall skating.
She did a much better Bielmann than Slutskaya.
Nice outing for Alissa. This is her breakout season for sure, and she has made the most of her opportunities. There was quite a bit of disagreement among the judges about 4th, 5th and 6th place. It could have gone any which way for the last three ordinals.
Shizuka Arakawa was heavily promoted in the program and in the videos that ran on the Jumbotron. I wonder if Shizuka wishes now that she had come, since Michelle gave a beatable performance, nor was Irina’s out of reach.
5. Irina Slutskaya. Excellent performance by the comeback kid, especially since she has three back-to-back competitions in a row in three different corners of the globe. Clear first. She did 7 triples in all ,including a triple-triple, two more combinations, and excellent straight-line footwork.
Her catch-foot change edge spirals (backward and forward) were only OK. Bad traveling on her final combination spin.
IMO Irina’s program is not intended to grab your emotions, wring your heart, turn your soul inside out, make you fall in love -- that sort of thing. Rather, she goes about her job in a efficient and workmanlike manner, checking off one finely executed move after another. I don’t know whether this is the ticket to CoP success or not. Three of the five judges (Japan, Canada and France) gave Michelle higher presentation scores than Irina, despite an emotionally limp effort from Michelle.
But Russia and the US gave Irina 5.9s for presentation. I agree, at least in so far as Irina presented her program with outstanding confidence and aplomb. I gave Irina 5.8, 5.8
6. Angela Nikodinov. What a shame that someone had to finish last. Angela skated great. Only two mistakes, neither of them major. The main thing is that she didn’t fall apart after an error or two. She fought back and finished strong. In fact, her best triple was the one she hit right after doubling her third jump.
The judges as a whole gave her scores that were at the same level as Kirk and Czisny, and it worked out to 6th place for Angela. Another round of Boos from the audience. I don’t know if I can say she was robbed, but she gave a very nice performance and it is too bad she couldn’t have been rewarded better for it. Unlike Sasha, Jenny, and Alissa, at least Angela stayed on her feet.
I scored it: Slutskaya, Kwan, Kirk, Nikodinov, Cohen, Czisny.