I just want to do some commenting on Junior Worlds before Senior Worlds is upon us. I mostly cared about the pairs, like I do, so that is what I am going to focus on. With the difficulty and risk the these pairs are attempting while still pretty new and young, it was nice to see a lot of good skating. The podium was a Russian sweep, as expected. They are all very strong teams but it was interesting to see how these teams fared against each other and dealt with the close competition between one another. It was also good to see these teams after a long break, at least for the fans, since the Grand Prix. You could see that many teams have improved in the past four months.
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It’s my favourite time of the year! That’s right, it’s Russian Junior Pair time. We are going to take a look at the pair field at the Russian Junior Nationals and a few others besides, and check in on how the field has changed in the past year. In preparation for the most wonderful time of the year, I have been trying to get my teams and their faces and costumes and names and coaches straight. I think I’ve figured everyone out but even if I don’t remember all their names yet, there are so may promising Junior Pairs! The competition was seriously good. Out of eleven teams there were only two falls in the short program (one jump, one throw). The free wasn’t quite so impressive – we started to see some pair lady tendencies come through – but with just five falls out of 22 skaters (almost entirely on jumps) and no failed or dicey lifts or bizarre element mishaps, it was quite a treat!
The pairs we see saw on the Grand Prix we saw again here (for the most part) but represent just a small portion of the field – usually they are considered the best but Russia really maxed their chances of qualifying their teams to the final, giving double assignments to five teams, and leaving a number of up and coming teams without the chance to compete on the Grand Prix this season. Yet, with their performances here and in other competitions, hopefully we will see them in the future. Fingers crossed! We have to remember that the field is incredibly deep – you can see how competition breeds a robust field – and at the same time that there are no guarantees here. At the rate the field changes it’s unlikely that we will see many of these teams make it to Seniors, although we may see some of the skaters.
Aside: I have been trying to make sense of the Cup of Russia series and I am not making much headway. What is the difference between the MC and KMC classes? (Let’s be clear: I’m dependent on Google translate here.) Normally I would guess Senior and Junior but most teams seem to cross the lines very easily and compete in either class and switch from competition to competition. But mostly, I don’t understand how a team qualifies for Junior Nationals. There are so many teams that don’t make it. What do you have to do? Earn points, placements, complete an obstacle course? I want to know.
Note: Three teams did withdraw, two far enough in advance to allow for replacements, but the field ended up one team short because one team was forced to withdraw due to illness at the competition. I don’t know the reasons for the earlier withdrawals. I can only speculate injury but I don’t actually know.
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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…
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Time to talk about what we’ve been seeing in the pairs this past weekend. Nebelhorn was certainly an interesting competition!
Efimova/Korovin – My babies! I’ll be honest, after Alisa and Alexander skated the free program I really wished for them to be on the podium and mentally I said that I didn’t care who had to fall to make it happen. I just didn’t realize I had wished quite so hard! This is a great start of them, and with a win perhaps they can garner some attention from among a very talented pairs field in Russia. They’ve got the twist and throws and they’ve got a nice presence and performance quality. Where they lack is the difficultly of their jumps, but as this competition showed, other teams have got to land the jumps for them to be an advantage. They came prepared, which I like to see, and they won. They didn’t win with a huge score but it still counts! Onward and upward, I say. The short program was a bit tough but they were really giving it everything, especially her, perhaps a bit too much. On the plus side, they really hit the side by side spins and the lift is terrific but she just seemed to lose her head a bit in the side by side jumps and then a stupid fluke fall in the step sequence. She was really beating herself up about it at the end of the program, you could tell. But, they came back and skated the best free in the competition. The lifts and energy throughout have really improved since the test skates. They still need work but I think they are on they’re way. And I forgive whoever made the program decisions for them. I love the short program and the free is really starting to work for them as their comfort increases and they perform more. I love when she comes out that throw salchow and just holds that edge. It’s a great moment.
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SO MUCH SKATING THIS WEEKEND! I could hardly keep up but I wanted to watch it all. Here are my thoughts on the pairs.
Junior Grand Prix – Canada
I’m just gonna comment on a few teams here:
- Mishina/Galliamov – Well, I think this team is going to reign supreme on the Junior Grand Prix this year and probably at Junior Worlds too. (I think they’ve got Kostiukovich/Ialin who will probably be their nearest competitors.) Ted is so right! We should all listen to him. Alexei’s footwork in the lifts is fantastic. And not only are they very good, they seem to be extremely consistent as well. I still get a bit of tense, forced-facial-expression vibe from Anastasia and it undercuts my confidence in them a bit. I want her to look out in the lifts too, not down at the ice. I know she has a lot to do out there and judging by the Kiss and Cry, they mean business, but I just want her to relax. (The short is a bit more relaxed than the free, I think, but it is from last season. I like the red dress she has for it this season.)
- Panfilova/Rylov – Beautiful lifts. Just beautiful. His footwork is terrific too. And throws! And twist! She just floats. I want to enjoy them as long as possible but when it comes to the jumps, I fear the writing is maybe on the wall. It makes me wish there were element awards, like Lift and Highest Twist. I would give them to Apollinariia to cheer her up. But! They still have many more years on Junior eligibility. So maybe there is hope for the jumps or if no, they can just continue to skate Junior for as long as possible and I will enjoy it. I’m sure we will see them in the Grand Prix Final.
- Kvartalova/Sviatchenko – A bit of a mini-disaster. They managed to place third overall but the free program was not good. Here, watch the short instead. (It feels a bit mean to say, “Here. Watch this trainwreck.”) I assume that on a good day the elements are there but I’m not seeing much else. She does not seem like a happy skater.
- Tang/Yang – I really like these guys. There fist time out and they have some good elements and they both seem engaged with the program and music, him especially. I think there could be good things here. Pretty dress too.
- Wang/Huang – First time competing for this team too. I really like her. She has such a naturally expressive face; she’s very pleasant to watch. I appreciated the different music that this team had too (was given, I’m sure but still) since everything else was music that’s been done before and almost everyone else had warhorses. I like her pink dress too. I’m excited to see these new Chinese teams develop! And I just want to say that it’s so satisfying to see the teams so pleased with what they have done. Junior Kiss and Cries are (generally) great for that.
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