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Sep 11, 2016

Russian Test Skates 2016: Ladies SPs

First impressions of the new ladies short programs at the Russian test skates this season! Please insert usual caveats when it comes to evaluating early-season performances at a non-competitive event . . .

Sep 6, 2016

The New Quadsters

Observers of men's figure skating currently live in exciting times. In 2002, Timothy Goebel set the bar for quadruple jumps in a figure skating program by including successfully three quadruple jumps (including a quad salchow) in his long program at the Salt Lake City Olympics. Although there have been three-quad long programs here and there since 2002--Takeshi Honda in 2003, for instance, or Javier Fernandez and Maxim Kovtun more recently--the uppermost echelons of men's figure skating had seemingly maxed out at one quad short programs and two-quad long programs for years (that is, when they were actually attempting quads at all--see, e.g., the dark days of 2008-2010). But something must have been in the water (or ice) last season, because the quadruple jump arms race suddenly escalated to astronomical levels. The Dreadnought equivalent of men's figure skating in this regard was arguably Boyang Jin, who uncorked an insane and unprecedented 4Lz-3T out of nowhere at the Cup of China, along with two quads in the short program and four quads in the long program for good measure. Then Yuzuru Hanyu obliterated multiple world records with his own two quad short programs and three quad long programs at the NHK Trophy and Grand Prix Final, before Javier Fernandez finally upgraded his short program to include two quads at the 2016 European Championships. By the time the 2016 World Championships rolled around, it was clear that one needed at least two quads in the short program and three quads in the long program (including one in the second half) to sit at the big boys' table. The quad arms race did not abate even after Worlds, because Shoma Uno then managed to get the first 4F ever ratified at the Team Challenge Cup.

With various videos of Yuzuru Hanyu's (very good) 4Lo at practice floating around the Internet and murmurs of more and more skaters upgrading their quad arsenals, it would not be surprising to see every single type of quadruple jump--besides the axel--attempted by the men this upcoming season.

With all this in mind, this post is dedicated to three young men--teenagers, quite literally--who are at the vanguard of the quad arms race:

Sep 1, 2016

A Change

In the latest twist to the perennial off-season coaching drama of the figure skating world, there appears to be confirmation that Nikolai Morozov is now coaching Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (!!!).

This development is paradoxically both unsurprising and surprising at the same time.

Aug 28, 2016

Satoko in Space

Let's talk about Satoko Miyahara.

As of now, I am fascinated by her new astronomically-themed long program set to Holst's The Planets suite (Venus and Jupiter, it appears) and the music of Star Wars. For brevity's sake, let's call it Satoko in Space. My response to the program wasn't a love-at-first sight situation: the first time I watched Ms. Miyahara perform Satoko in Space several weeks ago, I though it was kind of bland and was rather bemused by the redolent blast of Jupiter right at the very end. Admittedly, I was also slightly disappointed that it wasn't a voidy mystical/Jedi-themed program using Holst's Neptune with the badass fadeout ending I was secretly hoping for (before you laugh, just imagine Ms. Miyahara doing her layback as those haunting female voices in Neptune quietly fade away into nothing, representing that whole "there is no emotion, there is only peace" vibe).

Jun 5, 2016

Through a Glass Clearly

Describing what a skater does in a program--the elements, the transitions, the turns, and so on--is one thing. On this front, there is so much to say about Papadakis/Cizeron's free dance this year. Take the lifts, for example. In a blatant repudiation of the current trend towards acrobatic dance lifts that are all but accompanied by a TA-DA!!!!! sound effect no matter what mood the music is trying to convey, Papadakis/Cizeron's lifts in this program for the most part stay low, subtle, and are seamlessly incorporated into the program in a way that suggests that the elements are in service to the overall choreography instead of the other way around. But the lifts are in no way easy despite the obvious lack of Ms. Papadakis being thrown around like a rag doll--look at Mr. Cizeron's low positions throughout the first two lifts, for example, or the way Ms. Papadakis smoothly moves through her positions to the beat of the music. Or I could go on and on about how To Build a Home perfectly displays Papadakis/Cizeron's skating skills, their speed, their ease on difficult turns and steps, their astounding ice coverage throughout. Like no other competitive program I've seen before, Papadakis/Cizeron's To Build a Home is the skating equivalent of a Brancusi: an ideally-proportioned, deceptively simple wonder comprised of smooth effortless elements flowing together to create a beautiful whole.