Pairs Round Up – Ondrej Nepela Trophy and Autumn Classic

I love live streams and youtube! Not long ago, I wouldn’t be able to see any of the skating this past weekend but now I can almost everything. [Amendment: now you can no longer see this videos because they’ve been taken down. You have to get them while you can.] It takes up all my time but I love it. I just wish more channels were like the Junior Grand Prix ISU channel with a live stream and videos, because unfortunately, no one on youtube seemed inspired to post the Ondrej Nepela Trophy pairs free program, so I have had to do without. I think I can watch every other skater except for the pairs. It wasn’t a big field but I was definitely curious to see how a couple teams in particular fared…

Ondrej Nepela Trophy

  • Cain/Leduc – So the good news here, for them, is that they basically repeated their performances from last week and so consistency is being established. Oh yeah, and they won. I don’t think I’m ever going to get excited about these guys (I agree with what TSL Dave has to say on this subject) but well done (and I do like the grey). But, there is a but. They only very narrowly won the free. Really, it could have gone the other way; while Cain/Leduc got the edge in PCS, the second place team got the edge in the technical elements. So, to summarize, two wins, but in small and not particularly strong fields; this isn’t going to translate into dominance (wow – I’m a downer  – and totally the kind of person who roots for the underdog). And here comes second…
  • Stellato/Bartholomay – Game on! I was hoping for some competition among the Americans pairs and here we go. Deanna and Nate had a fall in the short (although great side by side spins). I guess that lit a fire because by all accounts, they skated a pretty great free. I want to see it! I swear, I looked and looked. Please someone, pity me. The good news for these guys is that if they continue to perform well, they should see an improvement in their PCs. They haven’t competed much internationally yet. (I like the facial hair Nate has going on. I wish I could see their faces more clearly!)
  • Ghilardi/Ambrosini – I was happy to get a chance to see their short program, which I didn’t last week. I like it. I liked the music, which was a bit of a different take on the tango, and I liked her catsuit. It made it a bit unique in a year already flooded with tangos and really, some nice elements. I hope we aren’t going to see this pair a bit at the beginning of the season and then, bloop, never again. That sometimes happen when a pair isn’t on the Grand Prix and don’t earn a berth at their Nationals. But, Italy has two pairs to Worlds, right? I can’t think who else is going to take the second spot but these guys. So compete lots and prepare!
  • Kudiavtseva/Spiridonov – I wanted to see Deanna and Nate and I wanted to see this pair and I guess I’m not wishing for things again because it was a total jinx. Not only did we not get their free but their short got blocked on youtube as well. (Really, why do people object to people hearing their music while watching skating. You have to watch the skating to hear it!) But I was very curious to see this team, as they are fairly new and haven’t really competed much. Also, because he’s Amina Atakhanova’s old partner and since she’s paired up and skating again, I want to see what he’s doing (if you follow Junior Russian pairs at all). Also, I want to know if they are really a Senior pair or are just being a “Senior” pair for now, so they can get some competitive experience, etc., because they weren’t selected for the JGP. He is 20 at the moment, so they could be playing it either way. He also, apparently, likes composing music, if you care to know those kind of things. So, I don’t know if I will ever see them again but I’ve found other video on youtube of them, so they are real. Do not think this is a Polk-a-roo situation… But if you trust the results, they are real. They were in second after the short! And then, judging by the protocol, went down in flames. Haven’t quite got those throws under control yet but nice side by side spins. And still, they’re YOUNG.

Autumn Classic International

  • James/Cipres – Well, that answered some questions. Some people, you give them a world medal and they start to freak out; others, it just seems to seal their sense of belonging and confidence. James and Cipres seem to be in the latter group. Now they are at the top or near enough to it, they are going to be difficult to dislodge. They looked more assured and, I don’t know, smoother? Faster? Something.  Maybe they just seem to be skating more as a pair than ever. I am not wild about the short program and I know I am probably in the minority here. I found it a little wearing by the end but maybe I just need to give it time. I really did like their free program, although there are still a few moves that don’t entirely aesthetically please me. But, I have to really appreciate him in the lifts because he’s so good.  I just have one question: were her crosscuts always like that? I find them a bit distracting. No wait, I have another question too. Do you think these are her outfits or can we expect a change? She looks good but I’m sure the free program outfit is a repeat and I’m not sure that’s Vanessa’s style.
  • Moore-Tower/Marinaro – These guys didn’t seem entirely ready to complete. A bit rusty – that’s how I would describe their performances – which… okay. It’s early. It’s not like anything here was as bad as the US Classic. I think I always hope for a upbeat short program from them because I really like Kirsten in an upbeat short but I didn’t get it. I don’t know how I feel about their short – mostly, I don’t understand the music choice. If they were wanting to do something softer, along the lines of their free program last year, I think this is a bit of a miss. There are better choices out there, Julie Marcotte. (I know if I had to listen to this music everyday, it would annoy the heck out of me.) However, I really did like their free program. I think it will suit them very well. Their outfits are terrific! I feel like their lifts are overall improving, although something weird was going on in the second lift, the carry. In other news: Mike is sporting his best ever hair.
  • Denny/Frazier – I am happy to report that I think Denny and Frazier’s outfits are 120% better than last year, all around, and their programs are at least 50% better. (Let’s be honest, I think their short from last season was an unmemorable dud… ironically enough, making it memorable.) I really liked their “Billy Jean” short. I think it was my favourite short here. I find their twist and lifts so exciting and they should really capitalize on that. They have such speed and smoothness in them both. I think they are best in the American field. (Yes, I do.) Their free program is a bit like Seguin/Bilodeau’s last season, starting off quietly, not really commanding your attention and only starting to become interesting half way through. (I think there is a good deal to be said for the traditional fast-slow-fast.) However, I was really with them at the end. Again, those lifts! She got the jump in the short and it got my hopes up but it didn’t happen in the free. I guess the jumps are still not really there. But, I am feeling positive after seeing them skate!
  • Calalang/Johnson – I was very interested to see this debut. The elements look very promising. They look good as a pair. I was doubting but I think they changed my mind. The short, though, is a bit of a miss. I get that they wanted something sort of upbeat and Latin, sort of like a heat-wave-salsa-party-in-the-sun. But the music that they went with is a hard ask. I think they could have picked many other pieces that would have been much easier to interpret. The free look a bit more comfortable, which you need a a new pair. You want to be able to concentrate on the death-defying feats. I was really impressed with the ease of their lifts and the twist but I did not like the first position in the final lift. Digerness/Neudecker were doing the same thing and it is not attractive. Who is doing this? With what eyes are they seeing? But overall, I think they are in a good place to grow and improve. I will be very interested to see them at US Nationals.
  • Matte/Ferland – I wasn’t sure if this team were “Seniors” for this competition or Seniors for real, but I think they are really competing as Seniors now. Just checked and he’s 21. (Wouldn’t have guessed that!) So, a Senior debut and it always feels like a win when a team that skated together in Junior transitions to the Senior ranks. It was rough but they seem like they have some grit. Even when some elements did not go well, it didn’t throw off everything. Lots of things to work on, especially the lifts and twist, but great throws and spins. I think the free program has got a lot of potential. I think if it were skated clean, it could be good. There were some nice choreographic moments that I enjoyed and I REALLY liked her dress. He also has such a nice face. He looks so pleasant while he skates. I need to give a shout out to the peppy music in the short too! At least someone came through for me.
  • And can I just say how much I enjoy Ted and Debbie. I wish they would do the commentary on everything. Imagine how much fun that would be! Sassy twizzles and alliteration and speechful speechlessness. I loved when Ted instructed Dylan Moscovitch during his guest appearance that they don’t speak during the skating. I think it should be a new broadcasting standard. I also loved when Ted said he doesn’t comment on outfits because who is he to say. I, clearly, don’t have the same reservations.

More pairs to come! This fall is going to be busy.

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2 thoughts on “Pairs Round Up – Ondrej Nepela Trophy and Autumn Classic

  1. I thought James and Cipres in the south were crazy fast.
    Calalang Johnson have a great twist!
    I love Debbie Wilkes (she’s such an institution and she often says what I’m thinking and she has such a kindly voice – what’s not to love? Although I think she said Denny’s frazier had the best twist in the world. That seems kind of crazy. No maybe it was the lifts), and I’ve though for a while that Ted is a cut above most commentators

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