TMC's report on Finlandia Trophy 2014 | Golden Skate

TMC's report on Finlandia Trophy 2014


Record Breaker
Jan 27, 2014
......including a lengthy preamble and very likely a subjective epilogue

I promised to write about my impressions, so - finally - here they are. I want you all (who said they were looking forward to it) to know that I'm really sorry I'm rather late in delivering this report! Suffice it to say that both work (Sunday & Monday) and a subsequent family emergency (all through Monday-Tuesday night) have limited my computer time, so I haven't been able to be quite as timely as I would have liked to. Also, please mind that I write for a living so I type really fast and partly because of that and partly because I have a serious case of keyboard diarrhea, this one's going to be long and by no means strictly limited to the topic at hand :biggrin: So if you are only interested in what I thought about the competition, do skip the next few paragraphs ;-) For now, I only have time to talk about the short dance; tomorrow I'm hoping to add the men's short and ladies' free.

This was my first time at Finlandia Trophy, and also the first time I saw singles figure skating live since the early 90s (!). One reason for this lack of experience is that I don't like to go by myself and I haven't been able to get anyone to go with me in the past, another is that I've lived abroad for years and not had the chance to go anyway. The main reason is that for some unknown reason I developed a phobia of watching skating , either live in person or live on tv, because I became obsessed with the idea that some accident involving heads being split and throats being cut and gallons of blood on the white canvas of ice was bound to happen if I watched a competition. I guess I took the "don't step on the cracks in the sidewalk" -obsession to the next (figure skating) level.

Disclaimer: Currently, my main interest is in Men's Singles, followed by Ice Dance, Ladies and Pairs. This has not always been the case; I give credit, first and foremost, to Katarina Witt and especially Michelle Kwan for making me a fan of figure skating, followed by Oksana Baiul and Surya Bonaly. Sometime in the late 90s I lost interest in the ladies , apart from Kwan. I suppose this was partly because I found Surya's style so thrilling compared to the others. Her style gave me the kind of thrills that the other ladies just couldn't match, so I turned to the men. Urmanov, Candeloro, Yagudin and Plushenko captured my heart, until I moved abroad for college and dropped out of figure skating, due to embracing the boho lifestyle and not having a tv set, and the internet being at a stage where AltaVista was the main search engine and Youtube was just a pipe dream. Obviously my fear of witnessing a gory accident meant that I didn't go out of my way to watch figure skating in any case.

Since I got back into skating, I still find the men more interesting but I do enjoy the ladies a lot more now that there are less crossovers and more transitions (I prefer the IJS #sorrynotsorry). I've also got more and more into ice dance, since the rules relaxed a little and the programs became more daring and exciting. This past weekend was also the first time I ever saw Ice Dancing live!

So, in other words, because I'm not as familiar with all the disciplines, I may get things wrong and ruffle some feathers, for which I apologise in advance. If I get some facts wrong, please do correct me :) Because I know that so many new members have joined the forum in the past months, and because I personally don't like to get hung up on tech issues, I will try to keep my tech jargon to a minimum and instead share my renewed childlike wonder at how freaking amazing skating can be!

Friday - Not that I saw anything then

Because of my cats (who are the minions of the antichrist - it's a long story) I missed the ladies short programs on Friday. I was disappointed for sure. I did read the news and updates so I knew who had done well and who hadn't reached their potential. I'm a fan of Samantha Cesario and I was sorry that she only managed 5th place. I was surprised that Efimenko was third! I'm also a fan of and was definitely not surprised by Elizaveta Tuktamysheva getting the points that she did; she seems to be going from strength to strength.

Speaking of Elizaveta, are there any Russian or Russian-speaking or other knowledgeable linguist members reading this who wouldn't mind confirming something that bothered us to some extent? Like I said I don't want to attend events like this alone, so this time my mum came with me. She's a Russophile through and through, with some understanding of the language, and she kept telling me how annoying it was that Elizaveta's name was mispronounced in the announcements (fair enough, I found it grating when they said "Colin McMaynus" myself). She says it should be pronounced more like "yelizaveta", and from watching countless cross-country skiing competitions I myself have learned to say "yelena" instead of "elena". What would a Russian person prefer? Is it better that people take the time to learn the correct pronunciation or does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? I'm sure a lot of people would say that it's no big deal, and I can definitely understand their point, but for myself I think that learning the correct pronunciation and spelling is a small enough effort that you should be able to do it if you cared, and it is also a sign of respect. As a side note, this is partly why I find it hard to take people seriously when they complain about someone named "Marai" being left off the Olympic team...

Saturday - Finally, we get to the rink!

Before I get to the actual competition, I want to say that I was very impressed by how well the event was organised. From making a big event out of the starting order draw to collecting mittens from all over the world to a sauna tent and hot tub right outside the arena...the organisers really went all in! No space outside the typical boxes was left unexplored, and best of all the skaters appeared to love it. The faces of Alexander Gazsi and Max Lindholm as they're climbing into the sauna with beers in hand and relaxing in the hot tub are just priceless!

Attendance was much better than I had expected as well. As could have been expected, Ice Dance attracted fewer viewers, but by the last event - Men's free - the place was packed. I was pleasantly surprised by how loudly supportive the audience was. We Finns as a people are generally not that excitable and we tend to be more subtle in our commendations, but that was not the case here! All skaters received appreciation: encouragement when they made mistakes and raucous applause when they did well. It was of course only to be expected that they would cheer their countrymen and countrywomen the loudest, but every skater from whatever country they represented was certainly made to feel welcome and appreciated. I was especially happy that the Mexican pair was welcomed with huge applause! I've watched many of the videos and the audience reaction that you can hear in them is about a tenth of what it actually sounded like.

All in all, almost everything about the event exceeded my expectations - apart from one thing: the victory ceremonies. Instead of the usual medals + flags + national anthem, the top three got on the podium and were presented with flowers and gift bags. The winner/s also received a trophy and a considerable amount of money from the Finnish federation. The "ceremony" was stylish and brisk, but I was left with a feeling that something was missing. First of all, no medals were awarded. Secondly, no flags were raised, and no National Anthem was played. Now I could personally do without the flag and the anthem (just because I'm such an "Imagine by John Lennon" hippie at heart), but I can't help feeling for those skaters who motivate themselves day after day by imagining the weight of that medal around their necks, by visualising the flag that they hold dear rising in honour of their effort, or in the best case scenario by imagining the notes of their national anthem filling the building while they stand on the highest level of the podium. I don't know why they decided to bypass these traditions, and we weren't given any explanation. I know I'm not the only one who found this confusing, or at least was curious about the reason behind the decision, so I would love to learn what the thought process was that led to the elimination of the usual trappings. I will not for one second believe that any lack of money was the reason behind this decision.

Ice Dance - Short Dance

If you're not a skater or if you've not been a parent or a relative or in any other way spent time at a skating rink where elite skaters happen to practice, there is no way for you to know - however many programs you watch on TV or videos you see online - how immensely different it looks live, compared to tv/video. When the first group took the ice, after about ten seconds we just turned to face each other, mouths hanging open, and simultaneously gasped "THAT SPEED". I remembered enough of seeing singles figure skating live to be able to tell the difference: it was not only the speed but the sound! It was eerie how their skates made almost no noise whatsoever. Having been brought up and schooled in a country where girls take figure skating in PE as a norm and on top of that regularly spend hours upon hours on community rinks pretending to be michelles and oksanas (this was still possible in the 80s when winters were cold), I knew that it was all but impossible not to make a sound with your skates. Then these ethereal fairies from another dimension took the ice and just flew past us….it was weird and awesome at the same time! One of my favourite anecdotes is the one about how the Shibutanis decided to take up ice dancing, and basically the same happened to them: they sat near the boards after their singles competition I presume, killing time by watching the ice dancers, and when the couples just flew past them so fast that they could feel the blasts of air they generated, these kids decided that ice dance was the way to go.

After I'd got over the speed-shock, I tried to watch all of the pairs warming up so that I could imitate Alex D's great reports ;) Basically between being so overwhelmed by witnessing something so amazing and having to answer a million questions my mum had about who was wearing what colour dress and what they could possibly have been thinking about choosing those ruffles or that neckline, all I managed to write down was that Stepanova/Bukin, who were the favourites to win, were crazy fast even compared to the other teams who seemed fast to us anyway, and that during their twizzles Alexandra's skate caught the ice, which caused us to gasp and grab each other even though it was just a warmup.

Like I said, Stepanova/Bukin were the favourites to win, and the fact that they had to go first might have caused some nerves in other teams. Not them! Throughout the dance they showed really good control of movement, and even the twizzles that were a bit iffy in the warmup were absolutely perfect when it mattered. The speed that they showed in the warmup slowed down a lot towards the end of the program. They were certainly among the best in this competition, but I would have liked to have seen more assertiveness in Ivan. It was not only him - in my opinion only two men in this competition really brought the fierceness and command required in the paso. The others were good but not dominant in the way I would have liked to see them. Ivan was certainly not bad or weak in any way, but their dance gave me the feeling that they were equal, whereas I have always thought of paso doble as a dance where both the lady (the cape) and the man (the bullfighter) are fiery, fierce and passionate, but ultimately it is the man who controls the cape; he must wave it forcefully so that it snaps in the air, not fold it tenderly into a closet with bags of lavender potpourri. Everything else was in place in this dance, all that was lacking in my eyes was more personality, character and forcefulness from Ivan. The program as a whole was good and the lift I thought was beautiful.

I am generally extremely wary when I have to assess a team or a skater that just happens to represent the country I happened to be born in. I'm always afraid that I may not see or register their mistakes because of some sort of subconscious patriotic feeling, so I tend to go (maybe sometimes even too far) to the opposite direction and evaluate them even more harshly than I would others. The same applies to any favourite of mine no matter where they are from: I tend to notice even the smallest mistakes that someone who is not a fan might not even pay attention to. I guess that comes from caring how they do and wanting them to do their best. I know if they make a mistake they will think about it a lot, and I guess on some subconscious level I go through that disappointment with them even though they do not know it and it won't help them :D So, the next skaters to take the ice were Olesia Karmi and Max Lindholm of Finland. Since the days of Rahkamo/Kokko, Finnish ice dancing has been pretty quiet. Basically we have three pairs who battle it out for the spots in international competitions. Olesia & Max won the national championships in 2012, but came third last year. I was not expecting much, partly because none of the Finnish teams have been exactly dazzling internationally, and partly because this team was not the one that was expected to shine. But my word, shine is what they did! They seemed to be faster than Stepanova/Bukin, although not as clean. The choreography was also not as packed as the Russians. But they just flew across the ice, and their twizzles were really good. Olesia seemed to be really comfortable with the rather theatrical role that the dance requires, and as for Max - well, he was one of those two men that really managed to capture the character of the dance. I've watched a lot of Dancing with the Stars, and Max managed to recreate that curved line with the pelvis thrust forward and the shoulders back that is so difficult even on a hard floor, let alone on slippery ice whilst wearing skates.

About Reed/Rogov I noticed their nice lines and I loved the creative part of the paso sequence.

When the Mexican pair Moreno/Moreno took the ice I remembered the feeling I had when the Sochi audience were cheering for the first Brazilian figure skater. It seemed like the audience was extra supportive because they knew that it was a rare treat to have a team from somewhere other than the usual countries, and that encouraging and supporting this pair would in turn encourage and support other pairs from countries where figure skating is not huge and where it is therefore even more difficult to get to the level that they are at right now. It goes without saying that they were not going to end anywhere near the podium, but that didn't matter. They showed great fighting spirit and their twizzle section was good. There was just so much joy oozing from them both that you couldn't help but cheer for them!

Henna Lindholm & Ossi Kanervo are the current Finnish national champions, so the pressure was on for them. Unfortunately they let the pressure get the better of them and looked nervous and tentative throughout their short dance. Both seemed very hesitant, Henna was a lot slower than Ossi, and they were both struggling to keep their edges. For a moment I thought that they were just out of practice because Ossi is going through the compulsory national service at the moment and because of that they do not have as much time to practice, but then I remembered that all three men of the Finnish ice dancing teams are doing their service at the same time. It may be that Ossi needs the regular practice more than the other two in order to feel confident in competition, or they just happened to have a bad day. Their successful free dance the next day would suggest the latter.

Germany's Zhiganshina & Gazsi were the next to skate. I'd seen their short dance on the internet when they performed it in Oberstdorf, and I was not impressed at all. To be honest, I felt sorry for them; Both the packaging and the theatrics in the beginning put me off whatever they were going to do with the rest of the program. Just before it started I even said to my mum next to me "you're gonna see something really weird now, but it's going to be nothing compared to their free. That's just bat-. crazy". Boy was I wrong. It was not only tons better than Nebelhorn (and I do suspect that seeing it live makes a lot of the difference), it was so good I would have actually put them in first! I thought I hated the choreo, and I'm still not convinced that I even like it, but their performance of it was just so much better than anyone else's that I thought choreo schmoreo, those edges should get 1st! The speed, the edges, the control - everything was superior except the twizzles, which came suddenly out of nowhere and disappeared as quickly, making no particular impression. But the beauty of the step sequence more than made up for those. Apart from the Finns (obviously), Nelli & Alex got the biggest applause, along with the winners and the US team.

Cecilia Törn/Jussiville Partanen: I just loved their starting lift. It just appeared suddenly and was as smooth as anything. Cecilia used to skate singles but has now changed to ice dancing, and she looks like she's in her element. She's just so controlled and relaxed. Their twizzles were nice and sychronised, if slowish. Their paso pattern on the other hand appeared to have pretty good speed.

I missed the last couple to skate for some reason I can't remember, but I did see Cannuscio/McManus, who came next to last. I mentioned earlier that only two men - in my opinion mind you - managed to capture the spirit of the dance, and Colin McManus was the other one besides Max. Having met and talked with Colin after their performance, I can appreciate his effort even more because his personality seems to be the polar opposite of the fiery bullfighter. He's truly an actor and a chameleon! From the first few seconds he established the character of the dominant male and he didn't let that control go till it was over. He's one of those rare male ice dancers that draw the attention to themselves, instead of acting as a sort of frame or pedestal for the lady. Charlie White is one, as is Nikita Katsalapov. I made notes in my notebook of all the dances and skates, and while I have numerous bullet points under most of the names or couples, under Cannuscio/McManus I have a massive "COLIN!!!!!" followed by "Best choreo by far" :D I also loved this couple's attention to detail. Their scores were really low so they managed only fourth after the short, but I overheard a lot of people talking about them as the most impressive team. So, as soon as they get that tech in gear, they'll surely be a force to be reckoned with. I'm a huge Weaver/Poje and Shibs fan, but Cannuscio/McManus have a choreo that just speaks to me, and that's why their SD is my fave this year - so far! Things may change once I've seen them all and once the other ones have been polished to their brightest shine.

Men - Short Program

I'm a fan of the short program because I happen to have a short attention span (I also love the Short Dance, although I know that's not a popular opinion). There's something comforting about knowing exactly what to expect: this many jumps of this kind, this many spins, a step sequence. Simple! The short and the long are certainly both challenging, but because the short program is, well, short, it presents a different kind of challenge to the skater. There is not much time to get the audience going, so when a skater succeeds in this - manages to draw the attention to himself in a really short time and keep it there - that is to me particularly special. If you manage to get the crowd on their feet in under 3 minutes, with a very limited number of those wow-elements, you have truly succeeded.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting many such skates on Saturday, if any, since the men's entry list had gotten shorter and shorter as the competition day neared. Yuzuru Hanyu's withdrawal was a loss, but seeing the progress that some skaters had made over the summer somewhat made up for the lack of "big names".

I was especially looking forward to my favourites Misha Ge and Adam Rippon, and I was also interested in seeing how Alexander Petrov would handle himself in a senior competition. Of the other competitors I didn't know as much; Alexei Bychenko I remembered from the Olympics as well as Nebelhorn 2013 and 2014, Sergei Voronov of course has been around for a while now and had just competed at Nebelhorn. I enjoyed his short last season, and I especially enjoyed how he crushed all of his old scores, getting new PBs in everything at Euros 2014! Having read that Skate Guard interview with Justus Strid, I was also looking forward to seeing his new programs live. Of the two Finns I really only know something about Valtter Virtanen. He hails from my hometown, or rather the city where I was born and where I spent the first 20 years of my life. But as impressive as that is (LOL), I admire this guy so much! He's not only a great figure skater (by Finnish standards), but he is also a medical student and not a slacker at that either. Imagine combining the training hours of a figure skater with the study hours of a med student - his days must have 48 hours when the rest of us are struggling with 24 (as is evident from how late I am with this report ;-) ). He's such a celebrity in my former hometown that this past summer he received his own Hollywood walk of fame type star from the city :D

Did I hear someone yawn and grumble something like "Get to the skates already"? Fair enough ;-)

First up was Alexei Bychenko (ISR), who skated to La Traviata which just happens to be my all time favourite opera. He seems like such a sympathetic fellow, I can't help but like him - his facial expressions and reactions in the k&c after his short in Sochi are just precious. He's looking so disappointed one minute and so pumped the next as he's giving a pep talk both to himself and his coach: "We'll do it in the free!". (The reason I remember this so well is not because I have a freakishly good memory. It is because I see and hear this at least once a month when I go on our national broadcasting company's online Sochi-on-demand service to watch Jason Brown's SP. Alexei skated before Jason and so Alexei's k&c is where I stop the fast-forward.) Unfortunately I can't remeber if he "did it in the free", because for me - nice as he seems to be - his skating is pretty forgettable. I don't remember his programs because usually they aren't bad or good, just average. He has the quad and everything else is OK - not atrocious, not spectacular.
He did a couple of great 3As in the warmup but then had a wee stepout in the performance. He popped his 4T and then did a decent 3F-2T. My favourite part of his program was that weird/awesome twizzley entry into a spin. It looked so strange and yet so cute! Overall, there wasn't much in the way of choreography. He does try to use his arms to create some movement and expression, but unfortunately those movements often seem like an afterthought. It's especially noticeable when he does some big gesture that has obviously been planned to coincide with something big happening in the music. Often the musical "peak" happens and he thrusts his arms out just half a second behind the music, as though he suddenly remembers "oh yes must move arms at this point in the music". He's certainly not the only one doing this; from what I've seen the majority of men, ladies and pairs skate with the music, and the skaters who can clearly feel, live, and express the music are in the minority. I suppose this is something that can be practiced, but the ones who have this innate talent seem to be able to weave it into their skating without much effort, and they therefore have an advantage over the others. But only if they have the jumps and the spins as well! In this skate, I saw the best musicality in the step sequence. Once the duet/chorus of Libiamo ne' lieti calici kicked in, the audience got more and more into it and so did I :)

Next on the ice: Viktor Zubik, Finland. I'm sorry to say I'd never heard of him before seeing his name in the entry list. Probably a good thing, since I had absolutely zero expectations. First of all I loved his costume. I got the feeling that I'm watching a sailor on shore leave from the battleship Potemkin, having fun before all the maggots and the revolution and everything generally going south :D Now I'm a pacifist through-and-through but an enthusiastic student of military history nonetheless, and I happen to enjoy military type music very much. Especially if it's Russian. I've travelled in that country (and Ukraine) many, many times and seen countless performances of folk dances. The first five seconds of the program confirmed what I'd suspected based on the costume: it was going to be military/folk, it was going to be Russian, and I was going to love it. And I did.
I thought Viktor looked pretty confident from the start, and that confidence let him pull off a nice 3F-3T to start with. He fell on the 3A but it was close, so I was happy to see the attack going into it and happy that he left that fall behind and went on with the program as though nothing had happened. His last jump was a 3L, which was passable. The first half of the program seemed almost as empty as Bychenko's, although Viktor had more arm movements and they certainly fit the theme. Once the jumps were over and the step sequence got underway, he just grabbed the audience and wouldn't let go :D The StSq had wonderful little touches of Russian folk dances, as well as the spin right after. Getting from that spin to the last he encouraged the audience even more, and the final spin was great! Although the spins in general lacked speed, I was impressed by his musicality and attack. He just went for it 100%! And it's well that he did, because that attitude and approach earned him personal bests in tech, pcs and total SP scores. Good job, Viktor!

It is amazing to watch any skater or team perform live, and it is even more amazing if you've seen videos of their performances before. But what is most amazing is to see a skater you admire (or let's face it, fangirl/boy over) perform a program for your eyes only. And this is what it felt like to me, from the moment Misha Ge took the ice to his finishing pose. I've heard it said of a few skaters that they have the ability to make you feel like they are skating just for you, even if there happen to be 20.000 other people in the audience. I was always a bit sceptical when I heard this - if I'm sat in the farthest seat available and can't catch their eye, then surely I won't feel like I'm the one and only member of the audience for them - but now that I've seen it with my own eyes, I know it's not just diehard fans seeing things they want to see. I suppose this is what they mean by "The skater radiates energy resulting in an invisible connection with the audience" in the description of the Performance/Execution component.
I'm relatively new to the MG fandom, having only really paid attention to him in the past season. I loved his Olympic skates, and how could you not? No matter what happens tech-wise, he brings such entertainment, presence, artistry, passion and I believe truly heartfelt feeling to the ice every time.
After worlds, he sent out a series of tweets describing his disappointment and how he felt that his artistic efforts were not appreciated (at least this was how I interpreted them). He said he had realised that he needed to change if he wanted to get those scores up, and that it would be difficult because he felt very strongly about being true to himself and not trying to fit into some kind of predetermined skater paradigm. It broke my heart to read those tweets, and I felt that he had some very good points. I felt that his PCS could have been higher but also knew that they wouldn't before he got his TES up as well. Still, he can be a bit dramatic at times. Basically those tweets said "you've finally defeated me, you heart-of-stone skating establishment you, I got the message, I will stop trying to be original and do what you want me to do. I will try to be what you want me to be rather than what I want to be".
I felt sorry that he felt that way, but at the same time I thought that there's no way he will be able to squeeze himself into some cookie cutter form and leave his personality in the locker room, whatever he thinks. And luckily I was right. Instead of purely slaving over his tech and creating a run of the mill basic program just to get his points up, it's obvious that he has spent the summer really working on his SS and his tech, and I can't see that his performance or interpretation have suffered at all as a consequence (that was probably what he feared might happen, based on those tweets). Those qualities were still there in abundance, and it was wonderful to see how much better the quality of his skating is now.
Compared to the skaters that came before, the very first seconds of Misha's new program let us see that his Twitter hashtag #NewMisha is not just a fleeting fancy - he truly presents a new and improved self on the ice. Here was someone who not only skates with heartfelt feeling emanating from every movement, every expression and every extension, but someone who also pays attention to the technical aspect. His edges, smoothness, speed, completed movements all spoke of intense training during the off-season.
His first element was a 3A. From where we sat it looked scary and like there was no way he would land it - but he kept his cool and landed on his feet (foot?) all right. I loved the choreography from the start (and wasn't I amazed when I learned after his free that he's done both of his own choreos!!??). Especially since one couldn't help comparing it to the previous skaters' performances...those had fine armography to go with the crossovers, but with Misha I felt like every part of the body was connected, present and accounted for and had a job assignment to finish. And they did :D The movement of his entire body was just so musical and balletic. He performed to a song that absolutely required exceptional musicality, and that is something this guy has in spades. It's a shame he flutzed and underrotated his 3T, but 'tis early season yet and those are not irremediable mistakes.
One thing I noticed and found remarkable: Although Misha's spins tend to be on the slow side, when he does a change foot spin he hops on the other foot as though he were a weightless woodland fairy frolicking on blades of grass. It looked like the tiniest, most quiet little hop, and I'd never seen such ease of transition from anybody else. Others may be able to do it as well, but I've obviously not been impressed enough to remember.
I loved the way he attacked the step sequence, and so did the audience in general. His final spin was just fantastic, and he seemed to be so into the performance. Which then cost him a deduction for going over the maximum time. But never mind that, the audience adored him, I was getting proper chills from the start to the end, and by the end I welled up a little. I'm hardly one to write fan letters, but I did write a little note to Misha that I tossed on the ice after the free, because I felt that he might like it. To be completely honest, my main motivation was selfish - I just wanted to share the amount of feelings I had after witnessing his program with someone I knew was sure to get me ;-). Score-wise I thought he was a bit undermarked, especially when you think of the progress that has happened - I'd put his SS firmly over 7 right now - but his PCS weren't too far from his PB so it's not like he has to climb a huge mountain to get further. Which we saw in the free program the next day.

The last to skate in this group was Adam Rippon, who together with Voronov was the favourite to win going in, and my favourite along with Misha. I'd seen video of his short program and I'd really liked what I'd seen. I love the music, the concept is sophisticated and mature, and the costume is appropriate. The cherry on top is that even though the costume has suspenders, there's not even the faintest sign of suspenderography in the choreography. During the warmup I paid the most attention to Adam, partly because as far as I knew this was his first big competition since those unfortunate US Nationals, and partly because I'm a sucker for Lutzes, obsessed with the 'tano versions, and simply cannot get enough of the Rippon variety. So I was hoping to see a few, and the skating santa granted my wish: a beautiful R3Z-3T right in front us. Although Adam seemed okay during the warmup, I got a feeling that I should prepare myself for a fall or two - don't ask me why. Perhaps he looked a bit tense, maybe his shoulders were up...there was just something there that told me that he was worried, so in turn I prepared myself for some mistakes and falls. (I do have to do some mental preparation; I find falls so devastating compared to other mistakes that if I didn't steel myself, I would have to watch with my eyes closed. And this applies to all skaters, not just my faves. I want everybody to stay on their feet!)
This time I was able to follow the warmup a little better, but being a dutiful daughter I still spent most of that time answering the many and varied questions my mum had. While I was excited to inform her about the Lutz jump and the history of those beautiful variants, she was much more interested in admiring how well-developed the male skaters, err, lower bodies were - I mean all bass, no treble ;) Apparently those areas were not as….protruding in skaters when she was following the sport decades ago, and we came to the conclusions that the reason was probably that the jumps were bigger, thus requiring more ammunition in that area, and that we ought to tone it down a little in case some kids heard our scandalous commentary :biggrin:
Like Misha's, I loved Adam's program from the start. The costume combined with those little kicks and flicks of the wrist in the beginning just brought a whole scenario into my head: it's the 1940s. Here's a young man who has spent the night with his friends, eating well, smoking, drinking, laughing and dancing. He had the time of his life but had to leave a bit too early for his liking, because he has to be up early for something. He's taken off his coat and necktie, poured himself a brandy and put the gramophone on. He's so restless that he just has to move: he's happy, elated, anxious, frightened and eager, all at the same time. He finds that the only way he can release the tension caused by all those mixed feelings is to dance as though that was the last thing he'd ever do. So, he dances around his nice bachelor pad, sometimes catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror and sometimes lingering before a photograph of a loved one. As the music intensifies, the negative and uncertain feelings fade and the pure joy of being alive in this moment takes over.
Whatever Adam and his choreographer had envisioned this program to be about, I got exactly the feeling I just described as the program went on - because that's what Adam looked like to me. He went from lighthearted movement to nerves to a realisation that whatever bad happens (UR! Fall! Stepout!) something great is just around the corner (a successful, beautiful combo!), and finally an acceptance, a relaxing, and a newfound joy. (Why, I'm starting to sound like some philosopher here - I hardly recognise myself!)
Anyway, while everyone can clearly see from the videos the change that happened after that combo, you could totally see/feel it from the stands as well. I don't know how it's possible because he was facing and moving away from me, but I could just tell that he had the biggest grin on his face a few secs after coming out of that spin. I'ts like his whole body & mind relaxed, got confident, and was just yearning to express that newfound joy and share it with us. Then we were treated to that most beautiful layback (yes that loud "oooooh" was probably me) and from then on it was just snazzy steps and unbridled joy for both him and us. It made me so happy to see that he lived in the moment and refused to let those early mistakes have an effect on the rest of his skate. By his final pose he looked like he'd just finished one of his best skates :)

During the next warmup I was being hassled by my seatmate to point out which skater was which and - again - explain what on earth the costumes were all about. Sadly, I had no answers to give, apart from "that's Petrov, that's Voronov, and the costumes either have something to do with the music or not, I couldn't tell". I'd only seen pictures of Justus and Valtter and I hadn't done my homework re their program music or costume, so to my embarrasment I couldn't say which was which. (I need to get a new pair of specs.)

The first one to take the ice was the Sweden-born but Denmark-representing Justus Strid. (My first bullet point under his name reads "TB to 80s Scott Hamilton Costume" :D )
As I mentioned, I'd read his interview on Skate Guard and that was basically as much as I knew about him. From that interview I'd learned that Justus had in fact won medals in Swedish nationals, but decided to move to Denmark because his preferred coaches were there. After four years in Denmark he began skating for that country. I don't know if he has dual nationality or ancestry in Denmark, and I wonder what the requirements are if you want to "change countries" within the Nordics. In any case, he came across as a sweetheart in his interview, and I found it interesting that he is coached by his big brother Kalle, himself a former competitive skater for Sweden, and Kalle's former training mate Martin Johansson. Kalle was very, very animated at the boards and absolutely lived the skate with his brother, that was so cool to see.
Unfortunately it was not Justus' day at all. His music was the soundtrack from the movie Kung Fu Panda, which I've not seen, but as an 80s kid I recognised the sweet sounds of Kung Fu Fighting and immediately thought that whoever skates to this I will love it!
Some time has passed (and I am sorry about that, again) since I saw the skate, and I don't remember much of it apart from the step sequence, which I thought went quite well, all things considered. I remember thinking that the fall on the 3A looked like it HURT, and then he fell again on the flip and popped the Lutz in the combo. Correct me if I'm wrong. My notes read: "Great music - That fall HURT - Sad jumps - Audience loving it (StSq/Music)". Poor Justus looked absolutely crushed, and getting a score a full 20 points off his PB must have hurt. I hope that he saw the group of Japanese ladies who were sitting in front of me and waving Danish flags!

The first thing that I noticed about Sergei Voronov was his outrageous speed! I'd watched his programs in Nebelhorn and basically all I could remember from his short was that "wth just happened?" choreography in the beginning. To me it looked like he was playing a bird about to take flight. Like I could see how that choreo would look just about right to Firebird, but Danse Macabre? I honestly didn't know what to think. Like before with Nelli and Alex, I felt a mixture of amusement and secondhand embarrasment. But like before with Nelli and Alex, now that I saw it live it didn't look that ridiculous at all. I was so confused I felt like a cartoon character with question marks floating around my head: how can this be the same yet so completely different? I'll never know or understand, but I know that I will in future be a lot more forgiving when judges give crazy marks to crazy choreo. Now I really understand how it can look completely different when you're actually there.
Because he popped his planned quad in the beginning, the early part of the program looked a lot emptier than some other skaters' - I suppose it is because when you're preparing for a quad you can't mess with too may transitions and you have to do a quite a few crossovers to gain the necessary speed (unless your name is Yuzuru and you can just do one in your sleep straight from a horizontal position, at least that is what I imagine he does). Then when that quad doesn't happen, it just looks like an easy, transitionless 3-3 . While Adam rallied after his botched jumps, Sergei seemed to carry the disappointment of the popped quad on his shoulders through the program? But maybe it was just his personality, or that his choreography that didn't exactly allow joyous facial expressions like Adam's? In any case, he did flash a (perhaps rather wan) smile at the end. The highlight of his program was definitely the step sequence. It may not have had the smoothness of Misha Ge but it was relatively fast, interesting, and nearly every step and turn matched the music, which is something I always appreciate. Another favourite part were the last two spins and the transition between them, as well as that cute-as-anything head tilt accompanied by a cheeky smile at the very end. I was impressed by his musicality, although I would have liked to see more control and finished movements - but then it's early days yet and this program will look so much better six months from now, I'm sure. Oh and I have to add my final bullet point: "HUGE SCORE!". With the flimsy landing on the 3A and the slowish spins, I was expecting around the same scores as Nebelhorn. Instead, he got 4 points more iirc.

I'd been looking forward to Alexander Petrov's skate a lot. He had certainly impressed me in his Junior events - where he looked nothing like a junior - and I was wondering if his junior status would become more evident when skating in the same competition with some pretty good senior men. Well it didn't, not to me at least. Apart from running out of steam a bit towards the end, which is only understandable when you have to go 30 seconds longer than usual, this 15-year-old kid from St Petersburg more than held his own.
Petrov appears to be one of those rare wunderkinds who can not only do the jumps but also present very credible artistry. Sometimes they seem to be - at 15 or even younger - already connecting on a very deep level with that mysterious source where all art springs from, while there are many who will never even find the path there, no matter how much ballet training, theatre and mime they do. Like Sandra Bezic once said (and I paraphrase): there's room in figure skating for all kinds, artistry and athleticism and everything in between. This is great because otherwise it would just get boring. Some prefer the thrill of the big jumps, others appreciate the subtleties and low-key elements more, and most just love all of it.
But when true artistry and true athleticism come together in a skater, great things are possible - and expected. When it happens at an early age, it's just that much more impressive. When it comes to "men", I think that Alexander is currently the one who possesses the best of both these attributes, and his counterpart in the ladies has got to be Wakaba Higuchi, at only 13 years of age (!). (Just my opinion, mind you).
So, as much as I'd been impressed by Alexander in the JGP, my memory is like a sieve so by this time all I seemed to be able to recall was that he had a costume for his free that looked like a negative of Yagudin's Winter costume :D All I needed was to hear the first notes of the music; it all came back and I just grabbed my mum's arm and (poor mum) practically shouted in her ear "you gotta watch this, this kid is a phenom! A PHENOM, I tell you!"
So we watched, and were duly impressed, and our minds were thoroughly and comprehensively blown to smithereens. First of all, within a half second you forget that this is a teenager. I'm not fond of the expression "old soul", but if I were to use it anywhere this would be the occasion. No 15-year-old should be able to move like that and own that movement, own that music…heck, own that whole arena. There was absolutely no sign of nerves or hesitation, just a huge load of confidence and a look that said "you just wait and I'll show you!".
If I got a bit of a Plushenko vibe from the way Voronov played to the crowd, that same gentleman came to mind watching Petrov as well. And not only because of those landing arm positions and delayed rotation of the Mishin school of skating; those are just tricks that can be learned. In Voronov I saw flashes of Plushenko the showman, in Petrov's eyes and body language I saw the self-assuredness and certainty that Plushenko always had; that deep-rooted confidence that can be perceived as arrogance but is really just a knowledge of yourself and your capabilities. I rarely saw Plushenko and felt that he was hesitant in going into a jump, for instance. I don't know that I ever did. It's the same with Petrov; he knows he can do this, he has done this hundreds of times, he goes for it without fear and comes out victorious. The fact that Plushenko didn't - and neither will Petrov - always come out victorious doesn't matter. It's the rock-solid belief in yourself that does. If you let any doubt in - even though it's only rational and logical to admit that nobody's perfect every time - you're asking for trouble. And pops.
So back to the actual skating. Out of all eight skates this one just flew by. Both because it was so awesome and because this kid is fa-ast! From that first moment he captured your attention and wouldn't let go until he was ready to. I think I sat there with my mouth open all throught the program. It helps that I love the music, of course, but I don't think anyone can deny that he did justice to it, which is not an easy task. I loved the fierce arm movements he matched to the music, and that 3A was just out of this world. Not only did it look easy-peasy, the Plushekoesque "whaddya think about that, then?" arms on landing took it to the next level. It's as though he's saying "what do you mean 'hard jump'? It's such a walk in the park for me that I can forget about it the second I land and just take some time to show off my beautiful arms - you know you love them!". It was also such a pleasure just to watch him do crossovers: his basic skating is already very good. Other than that, my notes for Petrov read "hand/arm - Beautiful 3A - beautiful air & landing positions - great step sequence in character if not always exactly to music - lack of transitions? - MY FAVE!" I watched the skate again today and I must ask myself what on earth I was thinking when I wondered about those transitions. All I can think is that I was so eagerly looking forward to the next cool trick that I didn't even notice how much he was doing in between. One of the judges had the same first impression as me, giving him only 4.25. Well boo that judge. Petrov's BV was bigger than Voronov's and he did end up with just about a point more in TES. But from where I was watching Petrov was in all aspects at least as good as Voronov - even their spins were at times equally slow and at times equally fast. I'm not saying Voronov was horrible or didn't deserve to win the short. But in my opinion Petrov deserved to be first. The difference came in the PCS, where Petrov received lower scores probably on account of being a junior. And I do understand that there are some good arguments for doing this. I'm sure Alexander was happy with his skate, mistake and all, which is the most important thing. He will get his medals before long :)

Valtter Virtanen rounded off the competition. I was pleasantly suprised by his skating and his program. I loved his costume (I'm a sucker for dapper 3-piece suits and old-timey clothes), and the music appeared to suit his skating style very well. I was happy that he (almost) stayed on his feet ;) During the StSq I kept thinking "Did Jeremy Abbott have a hand in this" :D All in all it was a nice program and he seemed to enjoy it, plus he got a SP components PB so I wasn't the only one who liked it.

Ladies - Free Skating

After a short break and a spot of lunch, it was time to get back to our seats. The arena was at the very least half-empty during the short dance, then it filled up a little more for the men's event, and as could be expected, the ladies free skating drew the biggest crowd. The place was also full of little girls who were obviously skaters. They roamed around in groups, giggling and fangirling and being generally adorable. Whenever I stood in a queue for a coffee or something, there would be a mom with a pre-teen daughter or two, and the kids would invariably be practicing jumps :D They were all so well-behaved and cute!

Of the ladies roster I was surprised to see that there were only five skaters I hadn't seen before/didn't recognise: both Gailes, Bressanutti, Artemieva and Rabe. They may be famous for all I know, and I may even have seen them but promptly forgotten about it, but since I don't really follow ladies that much I tend to tune out when I try to watch a JGP/Senior B from start to finish. l watch my favourites and I will also check out those who appear to be popular here on GS - and those who appear to be unpopular: most of the time if a skater arouses that kind of passion, they are worth checking ;) Also if someone suggests a skater to me I will make a point to watch some of their programs. But for me to go out of my way to personally attend a ladies competition requires some extra special talent to be present, and that is the kind of talent that both Samantha Cesario and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva have in spades. When I heard that Sammi Cesario was keeping her long program for this season, I was sooo happy! It is my 2nd favourite program from the last quad, after Ashley's S&D and Yuna's Les Mis (I prefer some attitude in my ladies ;) ). When I saw that she was coming to Finlandia, I was surprised when I realised that even if none of my other faves in Men's and Ice Dance came, I would still buy a ticket and travel all the way to Espoo, just to see that Carmen!

Anyways, back to the ladies in the first group! For some reason I missed Ieva Gaile's performance - I guess I was queuing for coffee and stopped to admire the little girls' Salchows for too long or something. I did get back in time for Helery Hälvin (EST), whom I remembered from Nebelhorn because I thought she has a cool name and a gorgeous dress. I also remembered that she didn't have the best skate there, so I was really happy to see her do so well here: nearly 20 points up from Nebelhorn in total points. She seemed like a completely different person from 2 weeks before. What a difference a smile makes!
Latvia's Kristine Gaile was a bit tentative throughout her skate. She had beautiful spins, though, especially her lovely, fast layback spin.
I'm laughing as I write because it is so obvious now that I know next to nothing about ladies figure skating :D I have the protocols next to my notes here, and it looks almost like the more downgrades and negative GOEs, the more praise I have given! Bressanutti (ITA) may have made one mistake after another, but all I've written is "Gorgeous costume - lovely old gramophone music - A fine 3-2-2 - Long limbs, long lines - Lovely landing positions - Excellent use of ice surface". But what can I say, she made an impression!

Next up was our own Emilia Toikkanen. I'm not sure if there was an injury issue or illness or something, but she just wasn't feeling it that day, or the day before? I thought the choreography of her long was good-ish and the skating was lovely as usual, but neither went with the music. The louder and more intense the music became, the slower the choreo and the skating. Curious. Another thing I thought was curious was her dress. It was beautiful in its own right, but I'm not sure how it fits this music. I Dreamed a Dream is a lament, sung by a poor lady who has just been sacked from a crappy job in a factory and on top of all this she's dying. Yet Emilia's dress reminds me more of something that a rich factory owner's daughter might wear? I can't help thinking that she the rich kid on the block, dancing to Fantine's grief. Am I taking this a bit too far? :D Oh well, I'm probably the only one who even thinks about stuff like this so much. In fact based on my ramblings in the Men's Short section I'm pretty sure I am indeed the only one weird like that - that I know of at least :D

Apart from the few bobbles and the falls, I found Camilla Gjersem's skating very enjoyable! Her dress was divine (yes that is important to me, what can I say). She has an air of happiness about her, almost like rays of happy skating sunshine radiating from her, especially when she smiles.

Maria Artemieva on the other hand didn't even have a dress, which threw me for a moment. No I'm kidding! I must say that during the warmup I was sure that her suitcase had not made it to Espoo and she just had to skate in a bathing suit and business shirt. I was expecting someone to run in at any moment, waving a garment bag with her dress in it. But no, this was her actual costume. By the end of her program I'd done a nice 180 from "that has to be a mistake" to "what were they thinking" to "actually, that looks pretty cool and I like that it's different" to "she must be cool and edgy, I wanna hang out with her and talk about spirals". It didn't distract me from the performance, and she was obviously feeling comfortable since she went and broke all sorts of personal best records.

I can't remember who said that Fleur Maxwell was lowballed in PCS? Whoever it was, I totally agree with you. I really, really - really - enjoyed her skating. I don't understand how so many of her scores remain below 6? She has a maturity to her style that some of the young 'uns that are getting close to sevens or even over don't yet possess. I liked both her and Artemieva, but to me it looked like Fleur was steadier on her skates and speedier when going into jumps. She used her arms expressively, but unlike some of the others, the movements she made within the choreo flowed into each other quite seamlessly. So how Fleur gets 5.75s and Maria gets 7s I don't get, but then I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination.

I feel awfully shallow saying this but Eliska Brezinova's hair partly ruined her skating for me :( I couldn't concentrate on what she was doing because my eyes were constantly drawn to that awkward ponytail...I'm not a hairdresser but my fingers were itching to take some scissors to it, give it a nice trim, apply some shine serum and maybe run a straightener through it a few times. Or else just put it in a bun. I know that some people are going to argue that it's just hair, it's not important, it's superficial etc. And I would agree to a degree. And then I would counter with: Why show up with frizzy/unkempt hair if it's not absolutely necessary? If it distracts the viewers, it might also distract the judges and we don't want that. At the moment her hair looks like it was pulled into a messy ponytail for practice after a quick dye job with products from some brand like "Hair by Tonya Harding". It just looks so...incongruous with her pretty competition dress.

From distraction to attraction: Finally the final flight - or the "hot group" as they say here in Finland - took the ice for their warmup. Watching those five skaters and Carmen fly across the ice...Suddenly I had butterflies in my belly that for some reason also had claws and kept pinching my tummy. Probably because I was half excited and half terrified. I was 99% sure I was going to see at least one great program (Liza) so I was really excited about that. I was also fairly sure that there would be pops galore from certain skaters but they would still be way overmarked ;-) I had made my peace with that and would make an effort to keep my big mouth shut and clap politely, instead of letting out loud squeals of "WHAT? HOW?". I didn't know what to expect from Rika Hongo, but I knew she would have to bring it if she wanted to win the war of the Carmens. Of course Samantha's program is perfect so that was unlikely to happen. On the whole, I just wanted them all to do as well as they could and be fairly scored.

At this point I didn't know how consistent Sammi generally is, so when she took her starting position I went in full "pleasedon'tfallpleasedon'tfallpleasedon'tfall" mode. I needn't have bothered. While this performance was not as fast and forceful as some others, she sold the last sequin out of that program and the audience bought it. It was such a great start to the final group! It got the audience going and after that, they were basically so excited they were going to appreciate the heck out of any and all programs after that. Having three (!) Finns in the group just energized the crowd even more, and Liza's incredible performance was the perfect way to end the event. If I'd had to design a starting order for maximum audience participation I couldn't have done better than this.

After Samantha had warmed up the audience, it was Juulia Turkkila's turn. I don't know why, but I always think of Polina Edmunds when I see her. It's like they could be sisters :D I guess it's the long long limbs and the blonde hair. As skaters they are very different for sure. This time Juulia's performance didn't go as well as she must have wanted and expected, so I felt really bad for her because she looked so disappointed after she finished.

I have a soft spot for Jenni Saarinen because I used to have the same surname. Oh and also because her skating skills are gorgeous and she does a cracking 2A. So good in fact that I believe she could very well get a 3A. And when she does and becomes super famous, I'll have to find out if we're really related so that I can start name dropping :D I do like her program and packaging. If the ethereal princess look is your thing, this is a pretty good representative of that genre. Jenni is not only light on her skates; she has beautiful, lyrical arm movements from her shoulders to her fingertips. I liked how she lived in the moment and left those falls behind her as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Out of the current crop of Finnladies I think she has the most potential to make something great happen.

After Jenni we got a second dose of Carmen from Rika Hongo, which was pretty interesting. It could have been a disaster for one or the other, but luckily it wasn't. They were both excellent, and I didn't find myself thinking "well Samantha did this better" or "I wish Samantha had done that part more like Rika" at any point. My only problem was with Rika's dress (again? Really?). For a while I thought she had really bad posture, but then I realised that the cut of the back of the dress only gave that impression. No big deal, but I must have missed some of her moves while I was trying to figure that out.

Liubov Efimenko, who took a surprising second in the short program, had a really ambitious free program. After a beautiful 2A-3T the jumps kind of left her, and she looked increasingly alarmed and laboured as the program went on. I felt bad for her by the end but obviously I shouldn't have since she received a personal best score anyway…

What can I say about Elizaveta Tuktamysheva? She's awesome. That's it. Her jumps are big and beautiful and just come out of nowhere. From the very beginning her whole being was sending out a message: "Here I come, I want this and I WILL take it". There was no hesitation anywhere, just determination. Although the first half of her program I felt was a bit on the empty side, the second half more than made up for any lack of transitions in the beginning. I like a program that has a clear story arc or otherwise is designed to build towards the end. Just when you thought that she had to be exhausted by now, she produced this burst of energy from somewhere and just increased her speed. I know her outfits for both the short and the long have received a lot of criticism, but I like them both. They're different and they fit the music well. Plus she looks comfortable, so if that helps her perfom to the best of her abilities then that's all to the good.

I'm back with the rest!

Just managed to write most of this by Friday, then I got busy with something or other and thought I'd come back to check some stuff and maybe make some changes over the weekend - and then promptly forgot about it! Thanks for reminding me brushalley :) I don't know how people with busy jobs, children and families cope: all I have at the moment are two cats and myself and I feel like most of the time is spent running around like a headless chicken: D

Saturday had been an exciting but full day. I was staying with my parents because they live about half an hour from the rink by car, and my dad had given us a lift there Saturday morning before driving up to my house in the country to pamper/admonish the cats (remember they cost me my Friday night's skating!).
Neither of us had been there before and we were a bit lost since we had to make our way back using public transportation and we had no idea where to go. Following some people we managed to find the right bus stop. What with waiting for that bus and then waiting an hour for another, it took us over three hours to get back to my parents'! So it was past 11 pm and we were absolutely knackered. Nevertheless, as I mentioned in some other thread, my mum had in the course of a day gone from "Can't be watching figure skating anymore; it's way too splatty and the points are weird" to "So when's the next big competition we could go to? Euros in Stockholm in January? Start planning and booking, girl!” I am not even kidding! So, as soon as we walked in, she goes straight to the computer and finds the competition recording online and sits down to watch the ice dance again :)

Apart from the Yelizaveta/McMaynus controversy, mum had been most unhappy about how the information about the mittens was given, or rather that not much was. Seriously, we'd spent many months knitting (her: probably less than 1 week) and designing & finishing the decorations (me: about 3 months) and finally sending them off. Now the MC was making a point to tell the audience several times how it was the "figure skaters' moms in Finland" (Saturday) to "figure skaters' moms from around the world" (Sunday) to finally "Figure skating fans" (later on Sunday) who had done the work. Dude, do your homework!
I did ask an official in passing what would happen to the rest of the mittens (apparently they received hundreds of pairs!), and she said that while the winners would get the ones they had picked as the "best" (no ours weren't in this category :D), a pair would be given to all participants with a little note inside with the contact details of the knitter. So that I thought was pretty cool!

My mum seemed to be sorry about the fact that she wouldn't be able to give her mittens to her favourites Alexandra and Ivan, so she decided to make sure they'd get something special from her anyway. On Sunday morning we went through her basket of knitting, which is always filled to the brim with everything from all different sizes of mittens to socks to gloves to scarves (at the wrong side of 70, watching tv and knitting is pretty much all she does in the evenings ;) ). We picked a nice pair of purple woollen socks for Alexandra and another, more manly pair for Ivan, and with these in tow we headed to the rink.
I bought some wrapping stuff on the way and before the event started we got some coffees and sat down and started wrapping in the rink restaurant (which is so cool: it's at the rinkside so you can basically have a long lunch with a very good view of the ice, and next year I think I'm going to book one of those tables for the duration). We were talking about whether we remembered enough of Cyrillic letters to be able to write them a note in Russian. While I can just about write my own name, she is somewhat more proficient but was still a bit hesitant regarding the correct address and such. The only person sitting near us was a young man who obviously heard what we were discussing. He headed over and asked us if we wanted some help; he'd studied Russian and would we want him to write the greeting down so that my mum could then copy it in her own handwriting? How sweet is that!? We had a nice chat about the language and he did help us a lot. We thanked him of course, and couldn't stop talking about how nice this kid was all day. We saw him later sitting in the audience with his friends, and I have a feeling he may have been a skater himself. By the way, in one of the photos from the FT Facebook page, you can just about see the socks among the rest of the loot that Alexandra is holding :)

Ice Dance - Free Dance

So onto the dancing. The first to go were Anastasia Galyeta/Avidan Brown of Ukraine. Now I remembered Avidan because I started following him on Twitter a while ago purely because I was impressed by how he stated in his profile description that "Tina Fey is my spirit animal". So surely he is a genius! I was especially interested in seeing them because I'd missed their short. I did enjoy their music, which they skated to very well, but they still seemed a bit rough around the edges - although in my notes I've written "Juniorish - but gr. edges". I suppose the reason for the "juniorish" remark was the comparative slowness, which became more pronounced during the lifts. Nevertheless, I just :love: loved their second lift, which was unusual in a "is that a lift?" way but really beautiful nonetheless. Their spin-like ending was pretty sweet, too.

The Mexican siblings Moreno/Moreno were next. Their FD was one of my favourites of the event for many reasons: I liked their packaging and music, I loved their lifts and their spin (difficult entry!), and I really loved that throughout they looked like they were enjoying themselves so much! I think the audience responded to this as well; they received huge applause and it seemed like everybody was smiling after watching them :) In an unusually accident-prone ice dance event they were the first ones to have a fall, but it happened so quickly that I didn't even remember it before I saw it again later!

Cecilia Törn/Jussiville Partanen surprised me - I don't know why but Pink Floyd is pretty much the last thing I would have expected them to choose! As a huge fan of the Floyd I'm really glad they did, and as the choreography and the performance were up to par with the music, I was not disappointed but rather the opposite. Definitely one of my favourite free dances this season! The costumes looked great as did their attitude and attack. While they were a little on the slow side with comparatively shallow edges, they did have good twizzles and awesome D/W-esque lifts. This music could have been awkward when they were in dance holds - it doesn't exactly suggest ballroom - but they had the attitude to make it fit, especially during the circular step sequence. And when they got to Money to end with a bang, I was so excited I was ready to jump out of my seat :D I just love that song, probably because as I was trying to learn the bass when I was a teen that song was the first one I managed to play from start to finish without mistakes :D Cecilia and Jussiville seemed soooo much more comfortable with this music than the SD, so I'm hoping they'll get personal bests through the season with this dance. I didn't even think they were overmarked this time.

I didn't really know what to expect from Allison Reed/Vasili Rogov - not that I knew much about most other teams - but they certainly surprised me. First of all their costumes brought to mind some knightly tale, and fittingly their music was Romeo & Juliet. I'm guessing it was the soundtrack to the Baz Luhrmann film? I've not seen it so I don't really know. In any case, after some good twizzles and a super cool lift, the music suddenly went from something like Carmina Burana to some random hip hop and I just burst out laughing out of sheer confusion :D And then we went on to something like Ed Sheeran. I was so ??? I couldn't even concentrate on what they were doing for the rest of the program; I just kept expecting the next music cut and wondering what it might be - Kanye West or Gregorian chant? As a program it was certainly not bad, but I found it so eccentric it became a bit distracting. (I've since learned that Allison is in fact sister to Cathy & Chris Reed, by the way.) This couple was certainly the fastest and "glidiest" so far, so I'm not surprised they got good scores and climbed up two places to come fifth.

I was really looking forward to seeing Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus's free dance for the first time (out of all the dances I'd only seen Zhiganshina/Gazsi's before this event). After the short, Colin had described the program to me as "basically two dead people, dancing around the ice", and being a fan of the macabre and Danse Macabre, I was already excited. The story is of two corpses (Colin's character seems to have some touches of Frankenstein's monster as well) who rise from their graves to dance through the night, and they must return at the break of dawn. Like I've mentioned, I love a program with a clear story, and this one certainly had that. It began with both of them looking pretty stiff - as you'd expect - and ended charmingly with them kind of reaching out to the light of the world before bang! the door of the tomb was closed and they were back where they belonged. I loved everything about this program; the twizzles, the ridiculously awesome straight line lift, and the diagonal step sequence which really showed off their deep edges. Colin was as fierce as in their short, and I loved his armography. According to my notes I apparently found the choreography "mediocre", but I love it now. There are only three free programs I've watched multiple times since the event, and this is one of them (along with Törn/Partanen and Moreno/Moreno). Personally I would have put this slightly ahead of Stepanova/Bukin, not because the winning team's was in any way bad but because the story arc of this program spoke to me more (=I got what they were trying to do), and because they seemed faster, less hurried and more in control (apart from Colin's "omg how is he going to stay upright" twizzles during the steps). Also they seemed to gain speed towards the end and they placed their twizzles really late, making them even more impressive.

Henna Lindholm/Ossi Kanervo came back after a rather disappointing short with a beautiful, light ballroom dance that earned them a personal best score and fourth place in the competition. The program was so well designed to play to their strengths. It was sweet, airy, tender and delicate yet not slow or careful. Something about this program, for instance their close holds, left me with an impression of a throw-back program to the 90s, where there was more dance in ice dance (and less excitement, in my opinion). This was by no means a bad thing; in fact I quite liked it. I may not come back to rewatch it very often, like I did their program last season, but it was in every way a very good effort and really showed why they are the current number one team in the country.

Olesia Karmi/Max Lindholm
(is he related to Henna I wonder?) came on the ice and did the opposite of Henna & Ossi: a fight of a free after a strong short dance. Either the choreography was weird or they ran out of steam, but it seemed to me that as soon as the music sped up they slowed right down. I didn't even realise it was a tango before about halfway through! The best feature that I could remember were their twizzles, but other than that they appeared to be quite nervous throughout, probably due to their very good position after the short. This nervousness may have contributed towards the unfortunate and unexpected fall, which happened right in front of us. The second of the competition, and not the last! How they got a PB in components I have no idea, but then again I don't think I've ever seen them dance before and so don't know what their previous programs looked like. I don't know that this program is bad in itself; with a little practice and a lot of steely nerves this could become something really cool. Poor Olesia looked so crushed in the K&C I felt really bad for her.

Second to last were the leaders after the short dance and eventual winners Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin. I was not in love with their costumes to put it mildly, but I expected that they would have some relation to the music that would explain them. I was wrong. I don't for a second dispute their win (I'd have them comfortably 1st in the short - tied with Z/G - and 2nd by a smaller margin in the free), but I was left with the feeling that this program would be just brilliant with different music and different costumes, if you get my meaning. Their skating skills are really great and their lines are beautiful, they perform some amazing tricks, but they get lost under the costumes and the beautiful skating doesn't seem to relate to the music. I don't know if it's the music itself that just doesn't work for ice dancing - I'm a huge Davis/White fan for example and I've managed to watch their Eleanor Rigby from start to finish maybe five times if that (compared to about 13459998 times I've watched each of their other programs). It's just, well, boring I guess. Maybe it's because the song is about loneliness and so would suit a singles program better, or is that too straightforward an answer? I don't know.
In any case, my favourites in this program (along with Alexandra's crazy long legs) were their spin, which was the fastest of the event, and their gorgeous lifts. Their straight line lift was my 2nd favourite of all lifts in the competition. The same thing seemed to happen in this program as with Olesia & Max's: music goes up, speed comes down. Maybe it's a commonly used choreographic feature that I'm just not familiar with?

The last dance of the event was one that I'd been most looking forward to: Nelli Zhiganshina/Alexander Gazsi's modern Swan Lake. Of course I'd seen this program before in the Nebelhorn Trophy, and I think this tweet I saw around that time sums up my feelings regarding the program very accurately: "Nelli & Alex just batted edgy outta the park & right into *** Left Field" (@LePigeonBercy). Like their short dance, I'd been telling my mum all about it and now I was grabbing her arm again: "you gotta watch this and listen to the music; it has duck farts in it! And they mime snorting coke!" Well the acoustics at Nebelhorn must have been pretty awful because what had sounded like duck farts was actually a recognisable musical instrument and it did not sound at all bad when I was listening live. Again, like with their short program, I went from being sure that I hated the program to actually kind of liking it. A lot. My notes read "So so SO much better live, much better than SD" (I do write my notes in English, it's quicker that way). As well as that, I noted that they were fast but somewhat hesitant, and that their step sequence was choreographed very much to the music, which I always appreciate. Something that I'd missed before was that the music takes on a distinct dubstep flavour in the middle, which I obviously loved (what can I say? I love dubstep #Sorrynotsorry). They were the third couple to have a fall, and I was very sorry to see that as it had looked like they were just getting into the dance properly before that and then it took some time for them to recover. Nelli especially looked rather rattled for a long time afterwards. Recover they did though, and treated us to some absolutely spectacular lifts. The audience loved them as well, whooping and starting the applause well before the end of the program.

Men - Free Skating

I couldn't sit still; I was so excited to finally see the men perform their long programs. At the same time I was a bit sorry because that meant there would be no more skating, since there was going to be no exhibition. Bychenko, Petrov and Voronov were the only ones whose free skates I'd seen. What I was mostly looking forward to were my favourites Misha and Adam, obviously, and now Petrov as well. And the skaters that ended up leaving the biggest impression were Misha, Adam, and Justus Strid!

Alexei Bychenko started off the men's free skating event. His program was just as I had expected: neither remarkable nor completely unremarkable. Again, the choreography was sort of empty and his interpretation sort of vague. Mostly relying on hand and arm movement. I think he would have done much better in the 6.0 times, to be honest. Now with almost everybody packing their programs full to overflowing with transitions, his programs seem empty. 20 years ago they would have been pretty much the norm. But what he brought first in this competition was a perfectly adequate quad - and the first I'd seen live by the way, so thank you Alexei for that ;-)

The next skater had a somewhat more intricate choreography - the problem there was that it didn't seem to suit him at all. Viktor Zubik's short program played to his strengths much, much better. He started his free with a beautiful 3F, but then he popped his Axel and went down on the 2nd loop, after which he looked visibly alarmed/disappointment. When he stopped in centre ice for a moment and shook his head, at first I thought it was just him being disappointed but then realised it was part of the choreo :D In the end, he popped most of the rest of the jumps and had a really painful looking fall going into an Axel.
Viktor seems to be a natural skater, but this choreography felt unsuitable for him; he looks like a powerful, even explosive character, not a tender, romantic type. But still, I don't think it was a disaster by any means - it did look much worse live than when I saw it again online, which I found strange.

Justus Strid was a revelation! If Bychenko's interpretation was vague, Strid's was the complete opposite. The choreography was lovely, the costume appropriate. He truly lived the program. Not for a second did I feel like there was anything "put on", even though one might argue that the choice of concept & music has been calculated with the 2015 Euros in mind.
Kristina från Duvemåla is a Swedish musical by the guys from Abba (Ulvaeus & Andersson). It is based on a series of novels by the Swedish writer Wilhelm Moberg, of which The Emigrants is the first. This book is one of my all-time favourites (in fact, I studied it at Uppsala University years ago) and the story is close to my heart as well (my great-grandparents immigrated to the US & my grandfather was born in New York, although they obviously eventually returned to the home country). The story is about the hardships that a young Swedish family encounters, first at home and then along the way after they have made the difficult decision to leave everything and immigrate to the US. I'm assuming Justus is playing the part of Karl-Oskar, the young father of the family.
Justus had had a pretty horrible short program, so I was really happy that he managed to come back strong and show what he's capable of. His skating skills aren't the best and the performance was not without bobbles, but it had some spectacular moments: the step sequence and especially the choreo sequence were spine-tingling! I suppose it is partly because I was familiar with the story he was telling that I was so moved - whatever the reason, this was one of the three programs of the night that touched me the most. Unfortunately Justus was not happy at the end - I mean with his scores. Ashley Wagner's Sochi face was nothing compared to Justus' angry/disbelieving expression! I suppose it was his PCS that he was disagreeing with (and yes on watching the video he is quite clearly saying "fifty" in a "REALLY? FIFTY? What ARE you on?" type of voice :D ) I can understand that disappointment. Last year at Nebelhorn his PCS were near 60, this time only just above 50. While his SS and TR scores seemed fair, I felt that they could have gone well over 6 in the IN and PE categories, instead of 4.75s.

I loved Valtter Virtanen's costume the minute I saw it in the warm-up! It was a really cool ensemble and went well with his music, which was the soundtrack from Alexander. I was really impressed by his performance from the start as well. You can't skate as Alexander the Great and show any hesitation, am I right? All his movements seemed deliberate. I wrote in my notes that the choreography was "meaningful", though what I meant by that is a different question altogether :D I guess that there were choreographic touches in the program that really did make you think he was a military leader - some hand and arm movements, some little transitions here and there that just created the picture. You knew immediately what he and the choreographer were after, whereas with Zubik and Bychenko it was kind of just...aimless skating. Not that there's anything wrong with that necessarily, it's just so much easier to get the audience involved and interested when there's a clear feeling/story that the skater is trying to convey. I suppose this is the problem that many have with vocals in music - it might become somehow too easy, when someone spells out what they are trying to interpret. Could be, but let's hope not.
I must mention both of Valtter's step sequences, which were just lovely, and his final spin position was so brilliant - difficult and appropriate with the theme - that I'm afraid I went and whooped a little when I saw it :D

Sergei Voronov also made an impression from the start; his speed was just crazy all through the program, and I made note of how much better his ice coverage was compared to most of the others. Well, all of them really. His free skating music choices were interesting, to say the least. I have no idea if there was some sort of common theme to the pieces but by the end I didn't even care, that's how good he is at selling a program! The starting quad toe was a thing of beauty! It's a shame both quads of the competition happened so far away from me, I would have loved to have seen one close up. (On the other hand Petrov's 3A later was so massive that for a half second I wondered if it was really a quad ;-) )
I made a note that Sergei "stalked 3As" and had "slo spins", but then right after those came "OMG THE PE/IN!!!" It was impressive, no doubt about it. I still don't quite "get" this program, but he does and is such a showman when he's performing it that I couldn't help loving it all. With his blonde locks and blowing kisses it had Plushenko stamped all over it, but then again imitation is the sincerest form of flattery ;-)
Lastly I have to say that even though Adam Rippon's skate moved me more than any other program I've seen in ages, and I'm really happy that he won the free, I still hate the fact that Voronov lost all those points for the 3-jump combo because of that silly double-jump Zayak rule.

If the audience went crazy about Voronov, they loved Misha Ge no less, although their programs were like night and day. So his jumps were iffy and stayed so much in place they were almost completely vertical - everything else was just gorgeous. The quality of his skating is just so smooth! He did a lovely circular StSq (not that there are rules that specify the pattern any longer), and I was struck by how effortless it looked (unlike some of my other favourites at the moment…). Like Ice Dance commentators are always saying about great dance spins: it was just like butter ;) He generates a lot of speed with his knees and edges and the turns meld into one another smooth as anything.
I didn't love this program as much as I loved his short, partly because he was SO on the limit with the passionate interpretation. I don't believe any of it was fake, but I felt like at any moment he was going to go over that limit and it would look just...silly. He didn't, though, although of course everyone sees that limit differently and some may have thought he was well over it already. The audience there just ate it up! Misha is a great example of a skater that may not have the biggest tricks but has that X-factor that pulls you in and makes you love them despite that "lack".

I was jumping up and down in my seat in anticipation of Alexander Petrov; I had been so impressed by his performance the day before. I don't say program, although that was not by any means lacking, but performance because I felt that he is so special that he could do whatever program and just carry it completely by the strength of his performance. I read in an article or interview somewhere a couple of days later that "Petrov is the future of Russian figure skating", and my first thought was "well who else could it be?" Sounds like a tall order for a 15-year-old, but like I said - old soul ;-) Although admittedly in the long you could kind of see his age better than in the short. I can't really put my finger on why, and it wasn't because he got more tired towards the end - just something in his carriage.
While Sergei Voronov was clearly the faster Russian that day and his interpretation had more...substance I suppose it is, I felt that Petrov was getting quite close to him in almost everything else (although he did almost fall on a spin, the poor lamb!). His skating was again gorgeous, and his Axels are beautiful enough to make you tear up. Still, third place was fair enough; the younger Russian didn't quite have the control and finish of movement that day, compared to the elder. I also felt like coming after Misha Ge, his interpretation couldn't help but look a bit "young" in comparison. My notes just have "senior short - junior long" after a whole lot of gushing over his brilliant technique :)

The final skater and - to me - the absolute brightest star of the night was Adam Rippon. He had looked visibly nervous before the short, but not before the long. The difference could already be seen in the warmup. He just looked really determined and confident. His skating skills and interpretation were definitely no less impressive than the Russians. I suppose you could argue that they were no better either, and choreography is of course something that is pretty much a matter of taste, so I can completely see how one might prefer one of the others. But for me personally this performance touched something that I didn't even know I had. My stone cold heart of a cynic thawed a little :')
It could have been the combination of loving the music and feeling happy for him for redeeming himself after the short - that expression at the ending position was just heart-warming! I really can't say what it was that I felt so much in this program, but I was definitely not the only one - he got the biggest applause of the night with Voronov and Ge, and I overheard so many people in the halls just gushing over him.
Perhaps Voronov's program was too much like an exhibition piece and so it didn't stir the feels quite as much (there was maybe a little too much of that "look at me, adore me" attitude that sometimes bothered me a little with Plushy as well). Petrov on the other hand could occasionally feel like he was working through the program with the interpretation as a kind of frosting on the technique, while Misha Ge went in the opposite direction completely. Adam seemed to be in the moment for himself, and he just suggested that we follow him on the journey, instead of trying to force it or looking too pained about the whole thing. That's how it felt to me in any case.
I wasn't sure if the first Axel was meant to be a triple or a double - it certainly looked like a popped triple - but as he then went on to do two triples I realised that it didn't actually matter: the program seems to be composed so that in the beginning he has three opportunities to do two triple Axels, and if he pops the first or the second - well then we'll just call that one a double. Quite clever I thought! All the other jumps were so wonderfully built into the choreography that they truly felt a part of the program instead of it becoming a series of disconnected feats: big trick-skate-spin-big trick-big trick… Every jump seemed to belong somehow.
The control he has in his upper body, which is especially evident during the step sequences, was second to none. Everything just flowed beautifully with the music, and I found myself holding my breath not in anticipation of a mistake or a fall, but because it was all just so beautiful. I guess quite literally breathtaking!
As the music built towards the end, everything just got better and better - those spins were absolutely marvellous - and by the time he took his final pose, I felt like I could feel all that pure joy and elation together with him. If it sounds like I'm going a bit overboard with my praise, believe me I'm not expressing half of what I felt that night and I don't know if I could even if I tried.


Record Breaker
Nov 13, 2012
TMC - Thanks - Great report! Derfinitely worth the wait. :) (I hope everything is now serene in the TMC family/household.) Avidly looking forward to further installments. :)


Record Breaker
Aug 1, 2011
Being an ice dance fanatic, this was fab to read. Thank you! Looking forward to your report on the FD (nudge, nude, hint, hint).


On the Ice
Aug 7, 2014
Totally agree with you on Cannuscio and McManus, I saw them skate live and absolutely loved them!!

Skater Boy

Record Breaker
Feb 24, 2012
Thanks for the update. I thought Liza was a little undermarked but it is still early - I also think while some say it is to get her competitive that she is competing too much too soon. Didn't she get burn out a couple of years ago.


Record Breaker
Jan 25, 2013
Thanks for the update. I thought Liza was a little undermarked but it is still early - I also think while some say it is to get her competitive that she is competing too much too soon. Didn't she get burn out a couple of years ago.

I thought she was pretty fairly marked. 193 points is great for an SP with a 3T+3T as the combo and a FS with 6 triples and no 3-3 or 2A+3T, a sequence (marked down to 80%), and no 3-jump combo in the 2nd half. Also, her PCS was over 30 and over 62, which for her is pretty high.

I don't get why people are expecting her to be above 70 in her SP and above 130 in her FS... she's made incredible improvements after struggling the past few seasons, but she's not quite 200+ worthy yet.


Record Breaker
Nov 13, 2012
She improved her personal best SP and overall scores in two consecutive competitions, and I think that is great.:) But more importantly, she seems to be having fun out there again - I think she is definitely on the right track.:)


Record Breaker
Jan 25, 2013
She improved her personal best SP and overall scores in two consecutive competitions, and I think that is great.:) But more importantly, she seems to be having fun out there again - I think she is definitely on the right track.:)

And really, that is the first and foremost thing I look for in a skater. :) Especially after they've had a rough couple seasons.


Record Breaker
Jan 27, 2014
Thank you for your very detailed reporting...keep it up! :love:

Glad you liked :)

Live skating is just the best :love:

Thank you for a lovely report!

Isn't it just! Happy you enjoyed it

What a great report! It made me feel like I was there. Thank you!:clap:

You're welcome! That was what I wanted - I've read many reports here that have really made me feel like I had been there and I always loved reading them. So I thought I'd "pay it forward" ;)

Thank you for the report! Looking forward to your next entry. ;)

Glad you liked it, hope you like the new addition as well!

TMC - Thanks - Great report! Derfinitely worth the wait. :) (I hope everything is now serene in the TMC family/household.) Avidly looking forward to further installments. :)

Thank you! Everything's fine now, thanks. My husband is in Africa for work for a month and he had a weird health scare on Monday. He couldn't go to sleep on Monday night so I stayed up with him all night on Skype, trying to keep him awake by giving him the long version if this report :D Luckily everything turned out fine and he's as well as can be again!

Being an ice dance fanatic, this was fab to read. Thank you! Looking forward to your report on the FD (nudge, nude, hint, hint).

I'm working on it ;)

Totally agree with you on Cannuscio and McManus, I saw them skate live and absolutely loved them!!

They were! I've been trying to find a video but no luck yet :(

:clap: Thanks TMC!

You're welcome, happy you liked it!

Thanks for the update. I thought Liza was a little undermarked but it is still early - I also think while some say it is to get her competitive that she is competing too much too soon. Didn't she get burn out a couple of years ago.

You're welcome. Ladies' scoring is still a bit of a mystery to me, I keep forgetting what is a reasonable score and what is just outrageous :D

Thank you for the funny and great report :)

You're welcome & thank you!

Maria Victoria

Record Breaker
Jan 10, 2014
Just read (as in read, no skimming) your extensive and insightful report and loved it! I was smiling and nodding my head all the time while doing so. Looking forward to the rest of your account. :)


Record Breaker
Jan 27, 2014
Just read (as in read, no skimming) your extensive and insightful report and loved it! I was smiling and nodding my head all the time while doing so. Looking forward to the rest of your account. :)

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it!


On the Ice
Mar 15, 2005
Thanks for your inspired report. It was me (or maybe someone else did it too) who pointed out the Fleur Maxwell PCS mystery. I didn't see her LP live but I'm glad she landed so many jumps.


Record Breaker
Nov 13, 2012
TMC - I've just read some more of what you wrote (I cannot read all at once, as it is very taxing on my eyes - but, I promise you, I will be going back again and again - I'm just saving up some treats in store, and looking forward to it), and I wanted to say that I loved what you said about Liza - and loved, loved, loved what you said about Petrov! So many of the feelings that I could not have put into words - you did! Thank you! You're the best! :love: