The Grand Prix Final 2018 – The Juniors

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything but I’ve been really meaning to write about the Grand Prix Final! I was there! It was so fun! I know that it’s been almost a month (December maybe ate me alive) but I think I have a moment or two, so it’s now or never.

First off, it was a lot of fun. My sister and I met up in Vancouver and got to enjoy four days of watching and discussing skating. The arena was cold but with our fleecy blankets and smuggled-in food, we managed to keep warm and cozy. It’s amazing how quickly it all goes by when you are watching live. There doesn’t seem to be that interminable wait for the scores that you experience watching on TV. There is always something interesting going on, whether it’s watching the skaters’ body language or their interactions with their coach or the warm up going on or the replay of the performance. (There is also the added benefit of not yelling at a commentator for incessant chatter.) The audience’s reactions were interesting too. Some skaters really won the audience over, while others left the audience with just a tepid reaction. There was, too, the added silliness of figure skating culture (which is maybe my favourite part). What with the stuffies and the clapping in time to the music and the hair and the costumes, one can really entertain oneself! And you can’t ignore just the very high attractiveness factor. Is there a rule that everyone has to be beautiful?

I’m going to start with the Juniors and follow up later with the Seniors. I think this is going to be too much for one post…

JUNIORS

Dance

I really enjoyed the dance. There was a very high silliness factor (and attractiveness) going on. Some of the costumes were ridiculous, mostly in the Russian camp, to be fair, but I think Ushakova/Nekrasov win the prize. Their costumes made very little sense in either the rhythm or free dance. In the short, she was sporting Cindy-Lou Who hair and some shreds and tatters which I couldn’t make much sense of but his outfit, with the pagoda pant legs, was slightly crazy. Up top, I thought he looked a little like they were going for a medieval look but her look and the pagoda pants undermined this. Maybe her skates slashed his legs? Is that a tango look one would desire? I just really want more information.

un

I think my very favourite thing was his tassel in the free dance. He was just wearing a giant tassel, like a curtain chord, around his neck. I kept wondering if she was going to pull it. Maybe he was the butler? They certainly didn’t look like they went together. But she appeared to eat something at the beginning, so we decided that they were on drugs and that explained everything. It also led us down a deep rabbit hole researching Black Cat/White Cat, the movie soundtrack their free program music comes from, and it sounds like whoever wrote it was on drugs, so there you go. Bu really, with most of the Junior free programs we were wondering: what the heck? We weren’t really sure about the story for Shevchenko/Eremenko‘s free but our best guess involves her as some kind of healing angel he meets in a club? Khudaiberdieva/Nazarov seem to be more clearly about relationship trouble between a businessman and his girlfriend in a negligee. I did just love, love, love Lajoie/Lagha‘s free program to Warsaw Concerto. It is so well done – just beautiful. And she has one of my favourite dresses this season. In the rhythm dance, Eremenko‘s red mesh turtle neck and the suspenders and all is quite a look but I have to give points to Shevchenko for her dress. It is fabulous and it is also one of my favourites. Also, in general, it’s just a pretty good tango. I have a bit of a soft spot for them now. He was just so cute in the interviews after their win and he did just this fabulous dance split jump in their exhibition program. (The boy can dance.) But I just want to know, whose luggage is it? She arrives with it, he leaves with it. Was she returning it or is he stealing it? What’s in the luggage?

Ladies

Talk about psychological warfare. I don’t think I have ever seen a more intense warm ups. It was pretty serious and sort of no holds barred out there. I love Ye Lim Kim. I was so happy to get to see her skate. She is quite, quite beautiful on he ice. Tarankanova is fun to watch too. She has some style. I really hope it is developed more. (And the good old classical/rock mix seemed to be making a comeback among the Russians at the Final!) It was really nice to see Kanysheva come through too. She definitely won the free program/music/dress award among the Russians. Here dress is beautiful and so is the program and music. She’s a triple threat! Among the Eteri girls, Kostornaia is very much my favourite. Her skating is a wonderful combination of grace and power. I wonder why she is allowed to not do quads? (Or maybe not allowed to do quads?) It was a good thing for her  at this competition anyway. Her skating really spoke for her, won her more fans, and the cleanliness won her the competition. Her exhibition program was a bit of an eye-opener for me too, just in terms of her artistic range and ability. It was quite a good and I hope to see her branch out. It was definitely better than the Romeo and Juliet she’s been saddled with. (Some many Romeo and Juliet’s here!) Although, I have a bit of a soft spot for her dress. The program really needs the full Zeffirelli music to be worthy of it though.

kostornaia

However, nothing can really compete with the Trusova‘s programs. Her programs really are terrible. I was so happy to see her in a new dress for the short. It’s good but it couldn’t save the program for me, and the free… I just don’t know what’s happening and her outfit for the free is really, really bad. Some needs to remove that flap ASAP. It would be fine except for the flap, but with it, it’s awful. Her programs also can’t hide and perhaps even highlight, that there are a lot of jumps with not much in between and when the jumps aren’t going well…. there’s not much there. In fact, I feel like there is less than before. Perhaps because all her energy is spent on the quads? Shcherbakova meanwhile has me truly concerned. She is so tiny and she looks like she is going to snap. Trusova and Kostornaia are tiny too but they both seem to be solid muscle. Shcherbakova just looks far more… vulnerable. Her practice outfit of flesh-toned long sleeves under sparkly leotard with padded shorts just emphasized it. And then to watch her attempt quad after quad after quad with hard, hard falls was a bit wrenching. Even more so when she was visibly upset and trying to hold back the tears and control her emotions. (We were able to sit quite close during practice.) She was right on the edge. But she would look over at the boards and then go try again. Her emotional state surely wasn’t helping her jump attempts and with the failures causing her to become even more upset, it seemed like a real recipe for disaster to me – the kind of situation that leads to injury. It made me very uncomfortable to say the least. And then after the practices she had, to go for the quad in competition? It wasn’t going to happen. And really, she doesn’t have to do quads. None of these lady do. Why does she think she does? Bottom line, I don’t like to see tiny little girls emotionally throw themselves into very difficult jumps on a very hard surface and no one step in.

Men

The men are never my big interest but there were so many wild cards in this group, it made it a very interesting competition. After the short, I thought there was a very good change that Gogolev could win because Pulkinen was super inconsistent in practice – lots of falls and pops. I thought he may not be able to hold on to first but wow, he really sort of crashed and burned there. Like him, Hiwatashi and Siao Him Fa were pretty inconsistent, some big jumps but lots of things just getting out of control. Gogolev was really fun to watch, quite consistent in practice and the contrast between him practicing quads and the junior ladies was quite interesting. He did not practice the quads repetitively, he did not drive himself into the ice, and the jumps themselves did not seem so stressful – whipped entries, heavy landings, spectacular falls. It just seemed like a much more reasonable load, which I was happy to see anyway. Of course, his jumps are very good –  the triple axel is big and the quads have an easy quality to them – but I was quite impressed by his spins too. Really, lots of good things there all around.

gogolev

The same is true of Gumennik. The kid can spin – I love his Russian doughnut spin (that’s what I’m calling it) –  but the big take away here for me was just how small he looks. I was really surprised to see that he is actually taller than Gogolev because I never would have guessed. I really enjoyed Shimada. He seems like such a good natured kid too, laid back and cheerful. He’s also quite noodlely but he can get the job done. I was really happy to see him make the podium! I was maybe even more happy to see him get a flower crown.

Pairs

Junior Pairs! I was in my glory! I was so excited to see all of these pairs skate. I was so happy for Mishina/Galliamov but Mishina especially. I wonder if she wondered at one point if she would ever get back to the Grand Prix Final and here she was. Although, I feel like I called it. I’m pretty sure I said at Junior Worlds last year (really last year, 2018) that she was going to take over the world and here we are. The short program wasn’t their best but and they nailed that free program and I felt like they showed a lot of character and determination. I feel like they’ve really grown as a pair and made good on their early promise last season. They feel like an equal partnership. (And Alexander does his job in contributing to the high attractiveness factor. He is a very good looking young man.) That triple-triple combination has been going really quite well for them. I’m sure they will be packing that up and taking it with them to Senior where I expect to see them next season. I’m just impressed by how stable she seems in all her throws and jumps. Their lifts still needs work, particularly smoothing out the entrances and exits. But that is true of most of the Juniors (and quite a few Seniors). I just hope that it is something they work on. But I think the real discovery for me was how much I love their short program and the music. I knew I liked it but I LOVE IT. My sister and I really studied those lyrics and I have to say how much I appreciate that song now. It’s sort of genius. And I feel like it’s kind of daring to skate to a song that satirizes your country. Good for them! (They know, right? Yeah, I’m pretty sure they know.) I love at about 16 counts in when they do their arms moves. Love it. I also love her throw landing held forever in the free!

mg

I also love watching Kostiukovich/Ialin. They seem to have an interesting dynamic. (I would love to be the fly on the wall or the bird on the ice and in practices.) She seems like a real firecracker. I’m not sure why they feel that Polina should be upside down in every ending pose but it certainly adds to the entertainment. Their short program was terrific and has really improved. I enjoyed Survivor much more than the Jungle. It still seems to me like they are marking the free program as they go through – they need more animation and commitment, I think. M/G get the throw award, and I might give K/I the twist award, but Panfilova/Rylov get the lift award. They just float across the ice. Well, and really they could rival for the throws and twists. I felt like Apollianariia was on a very serious mission to get on the podium. They had a bit of a rough Grand Prix season, so they definitely had the motivation and I was really happy they were able to put it together in the end. The two other Russian teams had some issues. Akhanteva/Kolesov were not as consistent as we have seen but they also aren’t as commanding on the ice. And they have a truly ugly and fairly bizarre dance lift in the middle of the free program which I just can’t understand. What choreographer thought that was a good idea? Why would they keep it? They seem so young too, her especially so, even though she isn’t the youngest girl. In this competition, anyway, they seemed like the least formed team… meaning they don’t really have an identity as a pair. Poulianova/Sopot on the other hand appear so much older and mature, but still things are just not coming together for them. My sister and I decided that part of the problem is that she sort of seems to fade into the background but really with throw landings like that she is the star of the team.  They need to focus on her as the star and right now, his presence sort of takes over, but really we should all just want to look at her. Makeup, hair, something! They need to do something for her to take center stage and command our attention cause she kind of deserves it. She needs to to be the star. With Feng/Nyman withdrawing we didn’t get to see much of them. It’s too bad because at their best, they could have mixed things up a little bit. Hopefully we see them at Junior Worlds!

I do want to say that I loved watching live but also I really wanted to hear some commentary so I could get an idea of other people’s reactions, so having the ISU Junior Grand Prix channel was wonderful! I really appreciate Ted and Meagan was just such an added bonus. I loved her input. It is exactly the commentary I want to hear.

To wrap up, I’m just going to leave this here for us all to enjoy and hum and sing for the next week:

It takes a certain kind of man with a certain reputation
To alleviate the cash from a whole entire nation
Take my loose change and build my own space station…

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