Skate America – The Pairs

This was an interesting pairs competition, with a lot of teams making their Grand Prix debut (5 or the 8). It was also interesting because the results weren’t in lock step. There was movement in the placings from second to seventh between the short and free programs. There weren’t a lot of clean performances but that’s maybe a bit much to ask, especially of pairs and especially with new rules, this early in the season. (The theme of the short was “Not the performance they were looking for” and the free wasn’t that much better.) Still, there were some interesting developments for many of the teams as their season unfolds.

pairs skate america

Tarasova/Morozov

Evgenia looks great in her red dress; I think it’s the best dress she’s ever had. But the program…  On the first viewing, I gave them a pass. I thought it was an improvement over their first short but nothing special. Now, the second time, I thought it was trash. It’s only downhill from here (for me anyway). I sincerely think they should go for a third short. They’ve got four weeks until Rostelecom. The program is not creative, original or musical. It’s not even particularly fun or exciting to watch. It looks like something a Junior team would do. The choreography mostly seems to be composed of arm movements. I don’t know why they won’t take some risks and stretch themselves artistically – that’s the only way they are really going to grow. They are doing something new in the free but this short is so much of the same old that it’s a situation of one step forward, three steps back. In terms of elements, I know they want me impress me with the height and length on the throw but I refuse to be impressed until it has a better landing. I do give them credit for the terrific death spiral.

The free is a much better program all round and much better for them. It’s elegant and although I don’t think it’s very original, it is a new style, so yay for that! There are some nice transitions and movement. I am wondering about these throws. Are they trying to make them bigger and haven’t mastered them? Is that what is going on? (Are they preparing for a quad??? I doubt it.)

I’ve given up expecting them to create some kind of emotion for me. They don’t make me feel anything but it is an odd situation though that they have beautiful lines but they don’t have a lot of beauty in their performances. I’ve never though, “That’s beautiful” while watching them. They never melt with the loveliness of it all. They have speed and power but not beauty. I want someone to work on this conundrum and solve it, please.

But barring a total transformation, I think their approach should do something that just overwhelms you with their power and blows you away. What I really want them to do is pick some boldly Russian classical music that they can skate with stone faces and the attitude of, “My blades will do the talking for me” and at the end you will feel breathless from the drama and speed of it all. I want Rachmaninoff 2.0. I want something that at least has a little excitement because it is sorely lacking!

I’ve done a little research and I have some suggestions, since it seems someone needs to take them in hand. So, why not try one of these:

I think these offer some scope for the imagination. Surely something could be done with them.

Wow. That was quite a rabbit hole I went down there. Let’s continue.

Efimova/Korovin

This is a program with some originality and musicality. I love the choreographic lift right at the beginning and her long edge out of the real lift, curving right around. And they bring some intensity to their performance and some subtlety (she’s got some nuances), which I really enjoy. I love the look she gave as they headed towards the twist, which was excellent. The step sequence was a real highlight too. It’s too bad about the spins. That is one element that they can do really well, as they’ve shown. Judging by their trajectory of late and their interaction in the Kiss and Cry, their whole situation seems to be working well for them. I continue to be impressed by the commitment they bring. They are not playing out there. And I really felt like they were just flying across the ice!

I know their free isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I love watching her little face. Jumps were an issue here and they really need them to be able to compete at home, however, this competition was a really big deal for them and I think nerves were an issue for sure. In the end, though, they came through with lots of quality on their pair elements.

They made a really interesting comment in the press conference, the one after the free skate (I think). They said that it was their first competition in a different continent and they were very nervous. How many Russian pairs skating on the Grand Prix would say that? Usually they’ve had so much experience as Juniors competing around the world. I think it just shows how much patience they have had and how much hard work they have put in to get to this point.

Next for them is Rostelecom where they will be competing against some of the same teams and a deeper field. I really hope they feel more settled, less nervous and are really ready to go for it!

Hase/Seegert

What a great job in the short program – in third place and deservedly so with clean elements and good performance. I liker her dress but I wish their costumes weren’t so matchy-matchy. Something about his outfit seems awkward to me. Who wears a grey suit and mint green shirt? They clearly out-skated their national rivals and really, had the best short of the evening, although I wasn’t holding my breath for them to be on the podium. The last competition they had a great short and a pretty terrible free. I knew the free skate was going to tell the real story.

So, rougher for sure in the free skate but improved over last time. At least now they have seen, and everyone else has seen, what they can do when they skate well and go clean. They don’t compete again until the final Grand Prix, France, so they have lots of time to train and build. This is a team that I like – I’m glad they got some attention.

Cain/Leduc

During the short, I was feeling that perhaps they have a ceiling and they may have reached it. There were some good elements, some not and lots of personality. I’m not really into it. It reminds me a bit of Marchei/Hotarek’s short last season, which I also wasn’t really into. And I don’t really like her dress. Maybe it’s the pink?

They aren’t the American pair team I want but I guess they are the one I’m going to get. They seem to be the only team who can get it together. They are one of the teams who have seen the opportunity and are capitalizing on it. I still think they have a ceiling. (How much can the twist, throws and lifts – the pairs elements – realistically improve? That’s what I was asking myself.) I don’t think they are the team with long term potential but in the current pairs scene in the US, and even internationally, as other countries are rebuilding their pairs post-Olympics, they are going to do well. I don’t really remember the program, unfortunately. The W/E soundtrack is like that. Man, I feel like such a grump when I talk about this team. I better just move on.

Scimeca/Knierim

The costumes for the short were improved from Nebelhorn and I like them. I’ve decided. Chris’ collar just looked so much more comfortable this time around and they seemed more gold and robotic to me (maybe it was just better quality video). I’m I’m on board for the program too. They opened really well with the twist but problems otherwise…  Having marks on par with Cain/Leduc isn’t what they wanted but I can see them getting much higher marks.

I am on board with both the programs, actually. I really enjoyed their lifts and I think the program has potential to really be a showstopper at the end there. (Back to back throws, one hand lift!) Now that is has come out that they are sans coach, some of the weird mistakes make a bit more sense. They must feel a bit discombobulated. I hope they find a good situation. I sort of hope they can mend fences with Aljona though because I think it was working! Their skating was really the area they needed to work – they’ve got the pair elements – and I was so glad that that was happening. I hope they continue to focus on it!

Digerness/Neudecker

The other German team! Just kidding. Not their best but it was clearly a very big moment for them to go out and skate their program.

I think the free is quite nice. It was really nice to see them go out and give a good performance and be so happy with their skate! That was great to see. I think they have nice qualities and I think the other American teams need to pay attention. They are still quite unsophisticated but they are making strides and they are nice to watch. Also, their mistakes don’t reflect a feeling of thing-aren’t-working-here like quite a few of the other American teams. It’s just a feeling of were young and inexperienced but we can get this. I’m really glad that they got the Skate America pick. I think they made a good impression.

Question: Is that her real hair colour?

Hocke/Blommaert

I think the “Malaguena” short is a good vehicle  for them. I really enjoyed Annika’s performance and flaming red skirt. She is a joy to me. I was also impressed with their speed and attack – it was almost too much, like things were getting away from them. I think not competing before the Grand Prix hurt them. Everything is there – you can tell it is right there and they almost have it all – but it was sloppy. The ending was definitely awkward. It looked like they made some kind of mistake as she unraveled but then she hit the final pose and you realized it was on purpose. I think they need to clean that up or change it. I’m a bit worried about Reuben though. What is the white patch on his temple? Did he have brain surgery? Is that why we haven’t seen them?

I am not as sold on the free. I think the music doesn’t do enough. I think it’s a little monotonous and when it does begin to build it’s too little too late to really justify it’s use. I don’t think it’s a great pick. Still, I like her catsuit and I think the first lift is a stunner! Maybe the program will develop over the season. There are some neat moments but clearly, it was a rough go. Just a bad one to write off? Maybe nerves and adrenaline? Maybe they just weren’t prepared? Whatever the case, I’m quite disappointed. I thought they could really be a scene stealer this season. I should have known better. It’s sophomore year and it never goes as expected. They are back in three weeks at NHK, so I hope they work REALLY hard between now and then. They just need to pull things together and I think they are a team capable of that, from what we saw last year anyway.

I’m still slightly worried about Reuben’s head but until I hear differently, I will assume it’s not an issue. (Athough when I finally got a look up close it looked more liked his hair was dyed which seems like a weird choice.) I am also mildly worried because they looked pretty pissed with each other afterwards. I hope this doesn’t melt down like Mari and Reuben!

Walsh/Michaud

My doubts are becoming more and more serious all the time. The short was a really disastrous outing for them. It was really too bad for them. They looked a bit shell shocked and I’m sure she was in a puddle of tears afterwards. She was really not happy with herself.

And then it happened all over again in the free! For the free – I quite like the program, actually. And I still love her dress and I will always be happy to see it but she doesn’t seem to be able to land anything these days though. With their earlier competition, I was wondering if she had grown a bit and there might be partnering issue but the lifts are probably their best elements and actually, he is quite impressive in them. His turns are terrific. And the twist was better here than in the short. The more I I think she probably has grown a bit issue for the twist, I think. A bit of a growth spurt would effect her jumps but I compared videos with Junior Worlds last season and it doesn’t look like anything much has change. I wish I could tell for sure. Maybe it’s just a total nerves and confidence issue? I’m just not sure, from their reactions, if this was a completely unexpected turn of events or if this how things have been going in general and they are trying to work through the issues. Maybe the latter. Well, we’ll see what happens next week at Skate Canada but I’m not expecting an amazing turn around. It’s just so sad to see performances like these when people finally get that big chance. The timing, the timing. It’s just not working for them right now.

Next at Skate Canada we will see: Alexandrovskaya/Windsor (another Grand Prix debut); Moore-Towers/Marinaro; Ruest/Wolfe; Walsh/Michaud; Peng/Jin (Yay!); James/Cipres; Boikova/Kozlovskii (another debut) and Denny/Frazier. This could go a few ways.

 

 

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