I’ve spent a lot of time on the dance, so now I will take a bit of time to pay attention to the other ladies in the competition. Pairs has always been my favourite discipline, followed closely by the dance and ladies. It always seems to me that there are some many more interesting possibilities for movement when they are two people on the ice together. I love to see spectacular moves and unique choreography. And then of course, there are the dresses. Who can argue with that?
Note: I may have gotten a little carried away with this post. But it’s pairs!
Savchenko/Massot – Well, if you can’t appreciate the dedication or the skating that brought about their gold medal, I don’t know what to do. I think I might be even happier for Bruno. I was worried what he would do if Aliona did get the gold and he felt it was his fault. I will that I think Aliona has hit her stride fashion-wise. I think her two dresses at Pyeongchang were the best two I’ve ever seen her wear. Do you remember all those years of generally crazy costumes? She’s come a long way.
Ryom/Kim – I was so hoping these two would be able to be at these Olympics! Although they qualified, it looked like it probably wouldn’t happen. We didn’t see them from Nebelhorn to 4CC. But they made it and I loved watching them perform; they certainly performed well on the big stage. Their faces just shone. (Who could fail to feel uplifted with such a dedicated cheering squad.) I do feel though that their free program was a bit of a mismatch. French music for Koreans, in Korea? I also started to wonder if maybe she isn’t allowed to wear a dress but the gala proved that theory wrong. Their performance there was so sweet. They are the best propaganda to ever come out of North Korea. So, may I suggest that you keep entering them in international competitions and don’t have them disappear for months on end. They really should be a staple of the international pairs skating scene.
Astakhova/Rogonov – Here is another team that I am so glad had a chance to compete at the Olympics. They have been a very steady team for the Russian Federation in times of trial. And I always enjoy their connection and expression which is a little outside the typical Russian mold. They had a great short program but a bit of a disaster in the long. Too bad. I thought she in particular looked very nervous and tired right before. I read in an interview that Kristina prefers skating to something more serious or dramatic but was persuaded in the end that they should do “La La Land.” While I loved their earlier short program to The Artist (which is what I think they were going for), my suggestion is that next time, Kristina, stick to your guns. That being said, I sort of liked the yellow dress, even just for the colour … and I definitely liked the one for the short. There is something to be said for sleeves. I don’t think electric blue lightning is normally my thing, but I’m really liking it.
Yu/Zhang – These guys are sort of my favourites. I love how they command the ice. I don’t care about chemistry; they both have presence and I think they have two of the best programs this season. I think the occasion caught up with Xiaoyu in the free – everything seemed off – although it could have been her hair piece. It did not look right, not like at other competitions, and I felt like it was a sign of things to come. Or it just could have been her first Olympics. A lot of the first-time skaters or teams struggled to do two clean programs. However, they had a great moment in the short program. Glorious choreography! I expect good things from them at Worlds.
Peng/Jin – My other favourite team! They are really experiencing a sophomore slump which is too bad. I love their chemistry and their ability to express character on the ice. (And I just love her. Look at her! She can do drama.) I think last year’s short program success was unexpected and has been hard to recreate but I still like what they are doing. I was very disappointed not to see their free at the Olympics. I think the Butterfly Lovers program and her dress are very beautiful. Their issue was the side by side jumps when (almost) everyone else was having a good night. But when we look at all the Chinese ladies, they all had jump issues (and even some men). My suggestion is to work on that. Don’t worry about the twist or throws, you’ve got those covered. Don’t worry about doing quads. Focus on the jumps. My guess is they all just need a healthy dose of confidence and that will come from a solid amount of practice.
Sui/Han – Maybe these guys are my favourites? All the Chinese are my favourites! I think we can all agree that Sui and Han are masters of the short program. What they need to master now is the free. There is always something, or to be more specific, some things – they lose levels, make errors, weird things happen. If they can limit those mistakes as much as possible, it would be a big step forward. However, the hair could also have been a problem. It was not Sui’s best hair; it looked sort of uncomfortable with pins and slightly unbecoming. If I was Sui, it would have put me off my game too. Who cares if she can’t see! I want swishy hair. Also, there was a small change in short program dress, right? I’m sure this one had less beading on the sides than before.
Duhamel/Radford – I was so glad they returned to Adele and Hometown Glory. It is my favourite of their free programs. It just has such a great energy. I know it was the Olympics and all, but I was sad they changed to new outfits. I think I still like the blue better.
Tarasova/Morozov – So much has been said about Candyman. And it’s all true. It’s just flat out not a good program. It doesn’t stand up against other programs this season and it doesn’t bring out the best in this pair. But, what does? I think we all know that it has been a struggle to find music that they respond to and express well on the ice without seeming kitchy or dated! Their Rachmaninoff short, I think, has certainly been the winner in their body of work (a bit reminiscent of their short in their first year in senior) but it has been a long hard road; remember Lionel Richie; Lord of the Dance; Music; Chopin, otherwise known as Here-comes-Treble! …? (I don’t know how you mess up Chopin but they did.)
I don’t know where the problem lies. Is it the coach trying to put something on them that doesn’t fit? Is it Robin? (He and Aliona had some weird choices for which I used to blame Aliona but after the past couple years, I don’t know.) Is it the skaters themselves? If they have no real preference or distinct team personality, I can see how it would be hard to find something that works. Maybe that is why their team has sampled so wildly for music. Whatever the case, I want to make some suggestions because they are too good to skate to (much of) what they have been skating to. (1) Look at what has worked and what hasn’t. Learn from the past. (2) Take some classes. There is a big world of music world out there. Develop your musicality; figure out what appeals to you. Don’t depend on your coaches. Take some ownership! (3) Listen to what people are saying. The Olympics cannot be the first time they heard the criticisms of Candyman. It wasn’t a secret. They had lots of time to listen to the feedback and make changes. When something is so universally acknowledged, it’s time to give it some consideration. (They had the exact same situation last year!) This would prompt me also to suggest (4) that they seek a wider array of opinions on their work. Maybe try a new choreographer and get some fresh ideas. Be proactive! (5) They seem to be a stronger-short-program team, like Sui/Han. I think this may be a conditioning/training thing. They just seem to run out of gas in the free. Do more run throughs, guys. You look like you are dying out there.
James/Cipres – They have definitely found their style, they just need to stay the course. I’m not sure about their program switch. If it was Tarasova/Morzov, even with the short turn around, I would have endorsed it but there was nothing wrong with the Say Something program and I don’t think the change back to Sound of Silence did them any favours; it looked rusty. (Although I liked Vanessa’s outfit more than last year’s.) Changing a month before the Olympics? That just seems like nerves. And I think we should also talk about the never-entirely-there quad throw. Is it still worth going for it? Is it ever going to show up? Right now I think a big, clean triple throw could be worth more to them.
Marchei/Hotarek – Clearly, they were having a ball at these Olympics. I have been really hard on them (in the comfort of my living room while talking to the tv) in the past. I didn’t like their twist, or their lifts, or their throws, or their death spirals. I didn’t know what was going on in their programs and wanted to know what the heck was going on. But, they really won me over here. They just seemed irrepressible and on fire. They did three clean programs and how many other teams can say that? (Really, I think they may be the only ones.) There is one caveat however – that red polka-dotted skirt. Something is just not right… the waist? I am fine with her free program dress. It’s actually one of the more flattering dresses that Valentina has worn in the past few years. But why the half vest for Ondrej? Why? (Okay, I get the half-and-half thing going on but still, why?)
Della Monica/Guarise – There are times when their throws, spins, death spirals, lifts or choreographic movement really make me sit up and notice and I think, “Wow!” They really do some beautiful, unique things. But they never seem to be able to maintain it! It doesn’t help that I still don’t really know what their style is or if they even have one. They seemed to be going for a classical style a couple years ago but then there was Love Story and then they got all into matching unitards. I feel like they have been improving, improving, improving technically but they have never really found their voice at a team, so I think I should suggest that they work on that. I don’t think they are done but did you know this is Nicole’s third Olympics? (The same for Vanessa!) Matteo wins most improved hair. No man bun!
Seguin/Bilodeau – I always enjoy these guys. I love their connection on the ice. They look at one another! And I love watching Charlie. I think if they are able to stay healthy and whole, they will continue to improve and make their way up the standings. Now that they are healthy, their consistency, reliability, is starting to show again. They have had good programs on the whole with Marie France but I just want… I don’t know. More? More speed, more stretch, more range. I just think they have so much more they can do. They are nowhere near the extent of their ability.
Zabaijako/Enbert – He is my figure skating boyfriend. I think he is beautiful. She is beautiful too. I think together they can be quite charming on the ice, but this is a recent development. At the beginning, there was nothing. Then the blizzard got me a little. Now this season, I’ve enjoyed their music choices and there has been a tiny bit of warmth between them. I thought the ballet worked for them with the piano accompaniment, giving it a fresh take, sort of spare and elegant like them, until the orchestra butted in. I would have much preferred if they continued to warm up to jazzy covers. So, suggestion number one: no more costume changes. It’s silly and awkward and the flying flaps of material were sort of odd. If the story requires a costume change to convey it to the audience, it is not meant for competitive figure skating. I feel hopeful for these guys. They just need to cultivate that little spark and keep it going. I was also so happy that they changed this season from that terrible pair spin position to a nice one, so I have hope that will now change the lift where she essentially lies down to a more dynamic one for next season.
Moore-Towers/Marinaro – These guys have worked (!) and their free program is really becoming a great vehicle for them. I think they are developing in the right direction. They have a little more gravitas and a little more purchase. I think they just need more command of the ice. They don’t yet feel like they have big skating, I think. I love Kirsten’s dress for the free program this season. Sometimes I love what she is doing in the dress department and sometimes I don’t. Usually I will like one of her dresses in a season but not the other but this season it’s two for two!
Duskova/Bidar – These little babies! I was so happy to see them back on the ice after Anna’s injury and to skate as well as they did. Their free program, even with the minimal time they have had to train, looked better than at Nebelhorn, I thought, so that’s saying something. I even enjoyed the stripes, maybe not for everyday dress, but they were sort of whimsical. I don’t know if they should take every opportunity to highlight Martin’s flexibility, however. It doesn’t always make for the best spin position. (I’m thinking of the pairs spin here, not the side-by-side. The side-by-side would apply to Tim Leduc.) I am really interested to see how they continue to progress. It’s exciting to have such a young team in the ranks.
Same goes for you Alexandrovskaya/Windsor! Too bad about the short. But Divine Sport has it right. They really need to work on their interpretation and performance and get some better programs. (And I have not understood what she is wearing in the free all season, so I wasn’t entirely sorry to miss that.)
Scimeca Knierim/Knierim – I haven’t avoided talking about these guys, I just completely forgot about them. Oops! They didn’t make much of an impact here and I’m not sure what’s next for them. Chris has some jump and knee issues he needs to sort out and Alexa has been through quite a physical ordeal it seems. Will they be able to regroup and become really competitive again? I’ll be interested to see what happens. But if they are continuing, I would like to see more variety in their programs, some of spunky version of them on the ice and not just the lovey-dovey one. It just gets a little bland. Although, I feel like Chris has made strides in the performance department these past two seasons. He looks at her! And I have liked both of Alexa’s dresses this season.
Suzaki/Kihara – I want to say a final word to acknowledge these guys. Way to represent! They haven’t been skating together or either of them doing pairs for very long. The Olympics were a really big deal for them and having a Japanese pair is a really big deal for Japan. I hope they continue to skate together. They seem to get along well, so I don’t think it’s going to go the way of Kihara’s earlier Olympic partnership. But what I really want to know is what is going on with Sumire and Francis? Have they fallen off the edge of the earth? Where are they? What are they doing? I need to know.