Controlling the quality of life. That's what she said.
I’ve come to realize that I enjoy watching the ladies field much less these days. Skate Canada did not do much to change this. There were some enjoyable performances, but as a whole none were memorable.
Under-the-radar Canadian teenager, Kaetlyn Osmond was a pleasant surprise with two very strong performances. Her movement on the ice is very smooth and flowing, and she has such a commanding presence. She is the first female Canadian skater I have truly enjoyed watching in a long while. The transitions in her short program were a bit jerky especially in and out of jumps, but it could have simply been the nerves kicking in and Osmond attempting to overcompensate while trying to keep her extensions sharp. Her free skate, although flawed, was very impressive considering how tough it is to capture to the essence of the music from Carmen (which was very wonderfully cut). I must give her props for having an above-average spiral that didn’t make me cringe. Despite having slightly sloppy footwork near the end of her free, she deserved this Skate Canada win.
One of the many skaters in the Japanese dynasty, Akiko Suzuki, brought her usual youthful energy (despite being quite the veteran) and landed herself in second. After a disappointing short program, she rallied to first place in the free skate but fell a a little over a point short of first overall. I have always preferred Mao Asada over Suzuki, but this skater’s perseverance is what impressive me the most – even with all this young talent surrounding her, especially in her own country, she continues plowing on and has been decently successful. The rest of the field didn’t wow me. I’ve always had a soft spot for Caroline Zhang, and though she has improved the entry to n’ landing of her jumps, she has lost a bit of the lightness and flow I grew to love. Even the speed on her once breath-taking spins has decreased. Her arm movement is beautifully expressive, but even with a clean short program, something seems to be lacking, which shows up in her consistently low scores. She chose a beautiful piece of music for her free skate, but the choreography didn’t suit her or the music. It probably didn’t help that her dress wouldn’t stay put. One thing I do applaud her for is still taking the time to showcase her beautiful spiral despite the (stupid n’ completely idiotic) new rules that basically allow female skaters to kick up to a spiral super quick before anyone notices they have no flexibility. It still annoys me that short programs don’t require a spiral sequence or even a single spiral anymore. Lastly, I should mention newcomer Gracie Gold. I was looking forward to seeing her join the senior ranks, but to be honest, I was a tad disappointed. Maybe I’m just old-school, but the jumps don’t concern me as much as the skating style and presentation. Although she proved to have good speed, but her movements are very jerky and she rushes through transitions. Her short program had one too many split jumps considering she can’t hit horizontal, and her spins were off-balance. Although skating to one of the most beautiful film scores ever composed, her free skate lacks any emotion or even musicality. Granted this is her first competition as a senior, but if I’m being completely frank, I don’t see much promise. At least Rachel Flatt started out as a consistent skater who had very solid jumps – Gold seems to be bouncing all over the place. Will she live up to all the hype? Only time will tell.
Finally on to the main event (in my book). Men’s figure skating over the past few years have proved to be enjoyable to watch, but it has also been frustrating to watch with my favorite, Patrick Chan not skating particularly well but being ridiculously over-scored. It seems that the judges have returned to Earth. Javier Fernandez has been an up-and-coming skater for the past couple of years. Each year he improves on his quality of skating and becomes more n’ more enjoyable to watch – this year proves to be no different. In his first Grand Prix assignment, he had two fairly solid performance that launched him to first place in the short program n’ free skate, thus pulling 10-points away overall from the rest of the field. I mean, three quads will do that for you. That’s a pretty commanding lead if you ask me. His spins are a bit off-balance as they travel a lot, n’ he needs to work on his stamina as his footwork gets slightly sloppy near the end of routines. His jumps are powerful n’ he seems so much more confident on the ice, making it easier for the audience to just relax n’ appreciate his skating. This guy will be a real spoiler the rest of the season.
Patrick Chan was…a hot mess. As always his artistry is impeccable n’ he has the lightness of Johnny Weir, but he can’t seem to pull himself together n’ perform a clean routine. Back when he wasn’t attempting quads, much less two quads in one routine, he skated so confidently. However now, even when he hits his quads, his triple axels n’ sometimes his easiest jumps just fly out the window. Nonetheless, his effortless skating style is a must-see. I must admit, I was a bit confused by the music n’ choreography in his short program as they sometimes didn’t seem to match. His free skate was oh-so disappointing, especially for a huge fan such as myself. Maybe he needs to go rehire a
batting coach I mean technical coach. Nice analogy Caruthers.
N’ now for everyone else. I think it’s only right that I mention the third place-man, Nobunari Oda. He’s been a fairly consistent competitor, n’ he’s definitely one of the top Japanese male skaters. However, I never quite warmed up to him. I do however appreciate his nice flow n’ decent spins. I am often confused about his choice of music, choreography, n’ even costume, which leaves me wondering if he’s trying to reinvent his skating style. His short program was very….odd. What is up with that choreography? If the point was for him to look like a clown, mission accomplished. His free skate was a step up. In typical Nobu fashion, he fought hard for that first quad. Next on my list is a skater I have enjoyed since his debut season – Florent Amodio. Before him, I had never truly enjoyed watching a French skater (aside from Brian Joubert skating his Matrix routine). Amodio brings such flair to his skating. Although he often gets carried away with the performance side n’ needs to work on jump consistency, he is always a joy to watch. Here are his short program n’ free skate.
Now here is a skater I have enjoyed watching since he first burst onto the senior ranks. Despite struggling with his jumps after an impressive quad, Denis Ten‘s short program was my favorite of the entire competition. He has matured so much in his skating presentation n’ presence on the ice. He has a certain lightness in his spins n’ footwork. Best of luck to him in the future!
This weekend brings us to Cup of China.As far as ice dancing goes, keep an eye out for Madison Chock & Evan Bates – I really enjoyed Chock with her previous partner. The men’s lineup includes China’s Nan Song, a young skater who has shown to have great artistry n’ presence, the yo-yo Brian Joubert, the amazing Daisuke Takahashi, n’ the up-and-coming ever-artistic American Adam Rippon. The ladies’ lineup includes none other than the graceful Mao Asada. Keep an eye out for China’s Bingwa Geng – if she’s able to clean up her jumps, her beautiful lines might just allow her to be a spoiler.