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Nationals: day 1

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Tracy Tanovich & Michael Chau from 2007 exhibition

Phooey. I was hoping to post daily, but I’m getting home exhausted and up barely in time to get myself out the door. I started this Saturday AM and almost missed the beginning of the Champ Pairs finals because I thought I had an hour more than I did. Guess I’ll try to catch up now.

Friday: Missed the 8:30 curtain call for Junior men’s short. Darn it. I love watching the younger skaters, and the men and dance are my favorites, regardless the level. But I wanted to get the Sandy post written, and we knew it would be a late night, so we slept in a bit, then got over to the arena in time for the Championship Pairs short program.

As I try to write this, I’ve decided I really do need to spring for a program. I didn’t take notes and I don’t remember names worth a plug nickel. Aw, well, for the free programs, I’ll be better on the names.

Pairs short: Not what you’d call world class, but some really wonderful moments along with some lows. Our champions from 2007, who had a dream competition that year, have just never come back after her injury the following year. They were good, but not great. Our current 2x national champs, Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, screwed up royally and had to have their component scores padded (IMO) just to keep them in the final flight for the free…which I don’t think they managed even with the help from the judges. I think they’re in seventh right now.

Their component score, compared with the component scores of the subsequent skaters, is my first serious beef with the new judging system since it went into effect. That second mark is where the judges, if they’re all on a mission, can seriously fudge the standings, and it looked to these old eyes like that was going on last night. But they’ll have to pull some serious magic out of the hat and the teams ahead of them will seriously have to screw up for them to be in the top two.

Personally, the way they’ve been skating, I doubt they’ll make it.

Last year’s silver medalists, Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, were magnificent. And they’ve only been skating together for two years!!!!! They skated to Firebird and were truly on fire. Her costume was a wonderful number with orange, red, yellow “feathers” of snippets of fabric that fluttered grandly, but what I loved most about their look was her new “do”. Last year she had the long blond, uninspired hair. This year, it’s bobbed, razored, sassy…with bright red or orange bits. I don’t know it those are colored or extensions that will come out after last night, but I loved it.

But the main thing was their skating which was wonderful. Fabulous choreography, brilliantly performed, fast, clean…and the most amazing save of a jump I think I’ve ever seen. It was a throw triple something or other, right in front of us. She had a lean in the air that I thought spelled total disaster, but she pulled it up into not only a saved landing, but gave it a really good runout.

Needless to say, they got a spontaneous standing O when they finished.

But the best moment of that short was the reappearance of the winners of the Novice Pairs from 2007. I’m kicking myself because I can’t remember their names, (I’ll get it up later) (Later: Tracy Tanovich & Michael Chau)  but they were one only a handful of skaters/teams I was seriously hoping to see, those I’d marked in 2007 as skaters to watch. There weren’t many. I haven’t known what happened to them after 2007, and was hoping they’d be here. They didn’t disappoint. Turns out they took second in Juniors in 2008 and first in Juniors in 2009. They’ve now moved up to Seniors. They’re still very young—she’s all of 13!—and tiny, but they’re crackerjacks on the ice with innovative choreography and personality plus…both of them. They’re out of Florida. I wish I had their “Drive” short program from 2007 on DVD. It was one of the most fun and innovative shorts I’ve ever seen…at any level. But of course, the TV coverage never showed that. Even tho they did it for the exhibition. But noooo…all we got on the TV coverage were the seniors, who were exhausted and hung over after partying,(That’s not true, Johnny and Alyssa were amazing in the 2007 exhibition skate…but I digress…) and the novice and junior ladies.

Well, last night, the magic was still there. They were a little slow in places, their unison was a bit off (I think she’s probably grown a lot in the last year…she’s that age and had the look) but it was a charming, exciting performance that gained them an even bigger standing O than the eventual winners of the short, and resounding boos when the scores were posted. I think the scores were probably legit…but it was a fabulous moment, and I can’t wait for their long program.

One of the neatest things about them is, it’s not all about her. He’s a very strong skater with beautiful split jumps and other moves that are highlighted in the between tricks moves.

Men’s…oh…boy. Have we got some depth appearing there. The future looks really bright for post Olympics competition.  The “big three” Jeremy Abbot, Johnny Weir, and Evan Lysecek (I put them in the order I think they s/b standing) were all very “on.” Perfect programs all of them except for Evan who stepped out of a triple axel.

I think Johnny, who skated second in a field of about 20, suffered a bit from skating so early, scorewise. He was absolutely brilliant last night, earning another spontaneous standing O. His skating has suffered in recent years from the attempts to turn him into a “manly man” skater in 2007. (My opinion, here, folks! based on nothing other than my own interpretation of how his entire demeanor changed that year.) And he’s finally “living” his programs again.

And yet, I’m worried for him if he makes the Olympic team. I’m just not sure he’s stepped up to the plate the way he needs to in order to be competitive with Evan and Jeremy, let alone the rest of the world. As stunning as his artistry is, they give the same component markings to Evan, and Evan’s a machine on all his jumps (save the quad) And I’m the base difficulty just isn’t there in his program to compete with Jeremy, who has the most amazing one-foot foot work into and out of his jumps, and gawd knows Johnny’s capable of just about anything…even a quad, if he’d ever put it in his program.

And there’s a couple of lads hungry to leap into the mix. Adam Rippon has been an extremely interesting skater to watch all season. He’s coached by Brian Orser and skates with a haunting magic that doesn’t fully come across on the telly. He’s got all the skills, and a triple lutz already named after him. It’s one step harder than the tano-lutz, named after Brian Boitano, which is a lutz with one hand raised above the head. The Rippon-lutz is done with both hands extended overhead.

Adam was wonderful last night…magical…until he ran into the boards following that lutz. He didn’t fall, and running into the boards isn’t really a deduction (tho it has to affect the component score), but he was shaken and went down on his final footwork sequence, causing a point deduction.

Nonetheless, he’s sitting in fourth place right now, and we no longer live in the era where the long program is basically sorting out the order on the podium of the top three coming out of the short. These days, where the results are based on total points earned by the sum of all elements performed in both programs…those podium blocks are up for grabs until the final skater skates.

And then there’s the adorable Armin Mahbanoozadeh. He’s another I had marked in 2007 as a skater to watch and he made his senior debut this year. He’s currently sitting in fourth, and looking very strong. He’s a very gentle skater. I think to be really competitive in the senior world ranks, he needs to find a fire inside and translate it to the ice…just for variety. I’d never want him to deny the gentleness he brings.

Another little cracker-jack skater comes down to us from Alaska. Keegan Messing took third in Novice men in 2007, and has moved up to the senior ranks this year. He’s being slightly downgraded on a few of his elements, but an enormous crowd pleaser. He’s very charmingly cocky.

Sunday’s finals should be lots of fun!

And tomorrow…championship pairs!

1 comment to Nationals: day 1

  • OrionSlaveGirl

    Cross-posted with minor edits from my Facebook:

    “I’m still laughing about Ryan Bradley’s long program yesterday. I have never, ever seen a long program that was so hysterically funny — he had the entire arena in the palm of his hand from the moment he took the ice. Prancing, mincing, simpering, foppish — Ryan WAS Amadeus!

    Johnny Weir skated well –just not brilliantly. He looked somewhat tired and not as inspired as he can be it: Johnny seemed to have left it all on the 20″ & 6″ warm-up, where he was on fire. Ryan Bradley was brilliant despite a few tiny errors.

    Extraordinary technical virtuosity: Evan Lysacek & Jeremy Abbott … mind-blowing. They reeled out extraordinarily difficult jumps like bullets spewing from a machine gun. Amazing — but it is Ryan Bradley who has my heart.” :wub:

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