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Nationals: Day 3

Mens. Wow. Just Wow.

In all honesty, Ryan should be going to the Olympics. But…I get ahead of myself. Before we talk about the big four, some really great performances were put in by some fellows who will probably never stand on the podium and for whom this was likely their only/final shot at Nats. Maybe you can find their performances on you-tube or something like. We’re going to get Ice Network, just to take a second look at some of these never-televised folk. Michael Solonoski, for instance, doesn’t really have the reliable triples, and his footwork and spins tend to be levels 2 and 3, but he’s a pleasure to watch skate. A really good performer. Tommy Steenberg was another with attitude-plus and a killer  performance quality.  Parker Pennington attacked the William Tell Overture with style and great fun (esp the line work to the “giddy-up” section) Jonathan Cassar opened to a guitar version of Schindler’s List that was magical, both visually and…audio-ly. I don’t know if this hauntingly beautiful version is on the soundtrack as they say, but for someone who is getting really tired of the standard version, I was stunned. It was so beautiful and Jonathan interpretted it to perfection.

The upcoming lads were looking good. Brandon Mroz took this last year to totally revamp his skating technique. That’s a gutsy move, but I think it will pay off in the long run. His footwork was great. Might actually make it to level 4. And he has a quad-toe. Armin Mahbanoozadeh put in a solid performance, but fell a bit in the standings, Keegan Messing from Alaska continued to be a real crowd pleaser and if he gets his jumps and spins cleaned up so that he quits giving up points to downgrades, he’ll be great. And then, of course, there is Adam Rippon, who has it all and just ran into the wall. In the long, he kind of came apart just a bit and missed jumps he’s hit all season. If Brian Orser can manage to hold the artistic lad together, he’ll do very well.

The big four. First up was Ryan, and he, without question, stole the night. He always always always entertains, but words cannot express and the tv cameras cannot fully capture the brilliance of this performance. He skated to the music of Mozart (from the Amadeus soundtrack) and absolutely personified Mozart himself—at least as Mozart was represented in the movie/play Amadeus. From the moment he stepped onto the ice, he minced, trotted, and schmoozed his way into every heart in the arena. It was, without question, the funniest performance I’ve ever seen on the ice, live or on TV…(Sorry, Scotty and Kurt!) and yet, to start things off, he does a huge, brilliant quad somethingorother. In fact, I should probably mention that I think he actually did a quad combo, then a solo quad. (I didn’t write it down and don’t remember those things. I hate the quad. It’s fast and ugly and rips up skater’s hips…but I digress…)

Once that technical obstacle was out of the way, he just exploded into the character and while the program was technically brilliant, that was not what anyone in that arena…except, possibly, the technical crew…was thinking about. The performance will be available all over the internet. If you didn’t catch it on TV, find it on line…then magnify your giggle factor by about 1000 and you’ll begin to comprehend how wonderful it was to be in the arena that night. Everyone was roaring.

And his sheer technique was infinitely improved over his last time here, in 2007, when he hopped over Johnny to take silver.

(One of the best moments of the night was after the awards ceremony—where they actually award four medals, not three, BTW—when, as the lads stepped down from the podium, Johnny turns and “hands” Ryan down with a bow, as if Ryan were a grand duchess. Ryan, of course, played the moment to the hilt. My camera, of course, was turned off.)

Ryan’s scores were brilliant. Unfortunately, he’d had a disastrous short on Friday. Had he skated as he usually does on Friday, he’d have ended in second place and been going on to the Os, and the world would get a chance to share the magic. Personally, I think the O committee should have him come in and do it for the Championship exhibition! Or opening ceremonies. Anything to get it in front of the world!

Poor Adam had to follow that up. He’s a very different skater and very young, and he did OK, but made several mistakes.

Then Armin, who skated solidly, but he is a kid just up from Juniors. He’ll grow quickly, now he’s shown to himself he’s competitive. He ended up in the top ten…not sure where. But very respectable.

Then Evan. I have to say, I loved Evan when he first came on the Senior’s scene. He’s always had a great dance quality, used that long expressive body to perfection… and great technical. Unfortunately, to my eyes, he’s really become horribly commercial, both on the ice and off. It’s like you might as well plaster dollar signs all over his body, and esp in his eyes. Every piece of his choreography is calculated, both in design and execution, every word that comes out of his mouth sounds scripted to be the “perfect representative of America at the Olympics and beyond”…I keep expecting him to break out in a plea for world peace…when what he really wants is to make a lot of money. He even talks, very carefully, in the interviews about how his perspective changed when it became a business rather than a sport. Changed, folks. Past tense. He’s lost, IMO, everything it means to be an Oympian, and embraced some false facade that seriously turns me off.

Anyway, let’s talk about his skating. Good. Solid. Fell on his quad, flexed his (very nice) muscles frequently beneath his grey, Vera Wang ruching, and at the end, acknowledged his minions gracefully. I’m finding him creepier and creepier.

(and after the award ceremony and the group picture where each medalist is given a flag, he signed one autograph of someone there with the photographers, then simply skated off the ice without so much as a backward glance or wave, his flag and flowers wadded in his arms. Probably had interviews scheduled. Gotta get that solo airtime, yes? Compare that with the other three, who went immediately to the fans to sign autographs and take pictures and had to be run out by the Zamboni, and you might begin to get a feeling for my impression of Evan. Now maybe he had promised that afore-suspected interview, but I guarantee you, the other three would have received the same requests for interviews, and they put the fans first, not the dollar signs.)

Back to the competition: Next up was Johnny. Oh, dear. In all honesty, I think the biggest difference between Johnny’s success or lack there of and the other three is that, to hear him talk, he never has truly embraced the new system. I think he’s resisting to the bitter end turning his art into numbers, and that’s affecting his approach to his programs.The problem is, his art is also a sport and to compete, you need to have quantifiable elements.

And yet, I so felt for him as he came out on the ice. It had to be a horrible moment. The last time he was here, it was the culmination of a disastrous season with a routine that, I believe anyway, completely confused his skating muse and had him truly lost as an artist. It was, I believe, the first constructed for the new scoring system, tho I c/b wrong. The outfit he’d been skating in all season was, in a word, hideous. He was supposed to be portraying Jesus, which I think was a serious mistake in the first place, for a lot of reasons, but it inevitably raised a controversy in the press and among fundies he simply didn’t need at that point in his career, but the outfit itself turned that elegant, sylphlike body into an ugly grey block. Quite an accomplishment. His entire self image had to have been called into question that season and his performances of this routine routinely showed that. I thought the first time I saw it that it was in every possible way so counter to what made him special that it was no wonder he couldn’t skate it.

He showed up here in Spokane with a whole new costume. Black. Sleek. Much more Johnny…but it was the same program with the same spiritual (you should pardon the term) baggage. His short program that year was beautiful. He came into the free skate neck and neck with Evan…and Evan put down the best performance of his life…the best I’ve ever seen him skate, before or since…right before Johnny had to skate.

He tried to ignore it. You could see determination written all over him. But he’d been fighting this program all season, and he just couldn’t lay it down that night. A fall. Some minor errors, and he was in third place.

Well…Sunday 2010 it was deja vu all over again. He had to skate right after Evan again, and Evan had laid it down, not nearly as brilliantly, but very well. Talk about spiritual baggage. Did he meet the challenge? Well, he didn’t fall down. But he did lose a lot of points when he singled a triple axel combo. And he wasn’t magical. He was wonderful, as his skating always is, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Evan, tho it did keep him ahead, barely, of Ryan, whose short had put both Evan and Johnny to shame.

After all this drama, poor, quiet Jeremy came out and did nothing except skate an absolutely flawless program with quads and highest level spins and footwork, and, well, he won. I hate to say it, but that’s about all I can say about Jeremy. He’s a hell of a skater. He’ll represent us well in Vancouver. Will he change the sport? I don’t think so. Will his skating change lives? Probably not. But then, neither will most skaters. Johnny will. Johnny has.

Ryan? Frankly, Ryan might be able to give professional skating a much needed shot in the arm. He could just be the best thing since Scotty Hamilton, in that respect. I just hope Stars picks him up and gives him the chance because National Championship or not, his star shines the brightest.

Ryan, you were unbelievable.

5 comments to Nationals: Day 3

  • OrionSlaveGirl

    One of my Facebook comments about Championship Men’s Long:

    “(I’m) still laughing today 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!” 😆

  • smartcat

    Thought Ryan’s long program was a delightful, funny and totally *there*….but who are these young men who are skating now…had a feeling that I was watching the 2014 Olympians.
    I am so glad to see your opinion of Evan, Jane ji,,,,,even with the fall he struck me as a perfect automaton…..no soul, no huge passion…….unlike Johnny, who seems to be returning to his old self. I think Johnny is elvish….and it is difficult for elves to adjust to the mundane world……I’m getting a little wonky here……. 😉

  • Efanor

    Efanor is answering for me because I’m on the wrong computer and this one doesn’t know my password (Neither do I) but it knows Efanor’s.

    Johnny’s short was darling…very interactive with the audience…and quite different from what I’ve always been most attracted to in his skating. But in a good way. This was his choice of a change. I got the feeling in 2007 that he was fighting the program at his very core. Prior to 2007, what I always loved was, exactly as you say, the fey, elvish quality. He seemed almost unaware of the audience, like a forest creature we were watching through a veil of sun and shadow dancing to and for himself. There was this deliciously voyeuristic quality to it. You didn’t want to sneeze for fear of scaring him off.

    Evan just…bothers me. Even his responses in interviews just sound so … programmed.

    Oh…that “Be Good” logo on Johnny’s jacket is for a documentary series that just started on Sundance Channel about Johnny. It’s fascinating. Did you know he started skating at 12!!!! and on a “backyard pond” that was a flooded, frozen over cornfield with stalks sticking out through it? Incredible. Anyway, if you can catch it, it’s Johnny-style funny and fascinating.

  • Bri

    It really annoys me that the networks continue to operate under the assumption that the star event of a figure skating competition is the ladies! They indulged themselves by showing the top ladies’ short programs, and the final two flights of ladies, but for the men we got only a ridiculous artsy-fartsy montage sequence showing “artistic” angles of snippets of the men’s short programs, and only the final flight of men’s longs. Poop on NBC!

    Ryan’s long program is truly a star turn. I could spank that boy for blowing his short LOL! I’d love to have us send him to Vancouver.

    And I was instantly taken with Rippon. The first sight of him we got on the broadcast, the lighting was really reflecting off the applique on the bodice of his costume, making it look like it was intended to represent fire. Combined with that curly, sticky-up blond hair, he looked a bit like a torch LOL! It was quite a first impression. He’s a really beautiful skater. What we got to see of the up and comers was extremely encouraging–we should have a dyanamite international team over the next few years :^)

    • The US sports channel (116 for our comcast cable) has quite a bit more coverage than NBC. And they repeat it a lot, tho the ladies still get way more coverage. I’m putting everything I’ve got onto DVD. I’ll send you copies.

      Ryan has worked so hard since 2007, when he won … bronze? silver? … to clean up all his technique…he deserved a spot on the O-team. Adam will almost undoubtedly be on the next Olympic team. I haven’t seen him miss all season and I think this is a very good reality check for him, considering the way he fell apart in the long. It should only toughen him up. Brian Orser is absolutely the MOST fun coach to watch, not to mention he gets amazing results. But he’s over there by the K&C living the program with his skater, complete to throwing up his leg for an edge jump! He’s wonderful. His little gal, Christina Gao, is another to look out for in the next wave of female skaters.

      As you know I totally agree about the balance of coverage. A question to our neighbors in every direction: are we the only country in the world with this ridiculous obsession with little girls in skimpy dresses and tights? I think the press’ coverage feeds the push to get little girls doing triples long before they have mastered doubles, which makes them learn triples with sloppy technique that haunts them the rest of their career, which gives us competition after competition filled with little girls falling on their behinds and coming off the ice in tears. Ever since Michelle faked her way into her senior tests and hit the national stage, we seem to be haunted with this “the younger the better” where it comes to the ladies…L-A-D-I-E-S…competition. (More on this in a post some time this week. Suffice to say, I’ve done a lot of thinking about it in the last 48 hours.)

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