World Championships Pairs

The World Championships in Saitama have come and gone, and it all feels a bit like a sleep-deprived dream. I did manage to stay up and watch all the pairs live. The things I do for skating. It feels like it’s been a long time coming… maybe almost too long? I did feel that some teams here would have benefited from the season being not quite so long, although the reserve is also true, it helped other teams. It’s all comes down to the very difficult balance of maintaining form and peaking at the right time – what a contradiction! While it wasn’t perhaps the best skated competition – the free programs in general were a bit rough, a bit nervy, with the exception of the final flight – it certainly delivered in suspense. It did not turn out to be anti-climatic!

Actually, I think on the whole I was pleasantly surprised with the teams at Worlds and how they are all developing. I think everyone is making improvements. It was too bad that the field was small, especially now that the free skate has been expanded to 20 teams. It really should have been 21 teams (still on the small side) but Suzaki/Kihar and Alexandrovskaya/Windsor were both out with injuries. I guess the upside is that everyone made it to the free skate – great experience in itself – instead of one lone team being left out. That would have felt very sad. It also meant that I could kind of keep my cool during the short program in the knowledge that teams with wonderful, clean skates were not going to cut. So, in the end, it was a bit of a win-win.

I don’t think I can hide that I wanted my Chinese teams and Baby Russians  to skate well and receive the love and adoration from the judges they so richly deserve. I also really was looking forward to James/Cipres skating their way to a gold medal. (It seemed in the cards.) All my dreams did not come true but there were still some things that made me very happy.

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Junior World Pairs

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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Pairs Round-up

With all the National and European and Four Continent and other competitions going on, I have fallen seriously behind in pairs figure skating. I have quickly discovered that I just cannot keep up with recapping competitions. (The Grand Prix season nearly killed me). But I do love pairs, so I just have to talk about them, and now that we have a bit of a break before Worlds, this might be a good time to review field and see where our teams are at.

The pairs field has thinned out this season with retirements and splits and recovery from injury, as is typical following an Olympic season, so we don’t have the same depth that we saw, say last season, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a good field. We have some excellent teams competing. I’ve discussed the pairs at Russian Nationals here but I went on a bit of a rant about the US pairs here, but I haven’t commented on either Europeans or 4CC – first note: I was quite happy about both those podiums – so let’s do a run down.

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You have to admit this photo is kind of hilarious. Some people look happy.

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And this one is just cute. Everyone seems quite pleased and the girls are really crouching down for Cong Han.Read More »

Russian Junior Pairs 2019

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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One Busy Weekend of Skating

I have so many things I would like to do and constantly seem to be finding myself behind these days, so I am going to record some of my thoughts from this weekend while they are still fresh and hopefully get more in depth with the pairs from Europeans and multiple Nationals later. We’ll see how it all pans out. We’ve also been seeing lots of new dresses lately and I want to get to them too. Anyway, despite the time differences and the internet’s best attempts to keeping me from watching skating programs, I fared pretty well. There are a few things I haven’t been able to see but that, I’m pretty sure, is because they aren’t out there and never were.

Someone shake that man’s hand!

Yes, someone really does need to shake Patrice Lauzon’s hand, and Marie-France’s and Romain’s. I really think the work they are doing is tremendous. There has been a number of comments about the Gadabois group being over-saturated at the moment, and yes, they have a lot of teams, but I think we should maybe just send everybody there. They are doing a lot of good work. Not every program is a hit and not every couple has delivered in competition but their teams steadily improve and in general their skaters genuinely seem happy about their training situation. And, from the wide variety of programs and styles we see this season, they seem to be doing fairly well at developing each team individually. Their American teams have all made huge strides, some in a very short period of time. Chock/Bates, in my opinion, have never looked better; Hubbell/Donohue seem to have reached a new level of confidence and power in their performance; Hawayek/Baker are breaking through but it’s not just a “paid their dues” step up the ladder. They seem to have a fresh energy and I think their material is the best it has ever been. And of course, they still have the top team, and good luck anyone in catching them.

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