Monday, December 17, 2007

Turn of events!

What a conclusion to the Grand Prix Final. The phrase "the only constant is change" holds true this past weekend. Let's take a look.

In Ice Dance the field spaced out a little, but not much. Leaders after the short program, Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto couldn't hang on to that lead and lost by just over a point to the Russians who were third after the Original Dance. The difference was in the Technical Element Score where the Russians outdistanced the Americans by nearly two points (earlier at Cup of Russia they had managed to achieve the highest free dance total recorded to date). In fact, there was only about a two point spread on the Technical Element Score between the top 5 teams. The French team of Delobel and Schoenfelder dropped to third, but it was still fairly close. The Canadians Virtue and Moir were fourth despite a strong free dance and high technical marks. The Russian team of Khoklova and Novitski were fifth and the French team of Pechalat and Bourzat were sixth. The big picture here is that all these teams are skating great and really holding nothing back. I think we are in for a 'Battle Royale' in Sweden!

In pairs, unfortunately, Americans McLaughlin and Brubaker withdrew to injury. I haven't tracked down the scoop on that yet. Other than that there was little drama in the Pairs field, everyone maintained there position from the short (except Kawaguchi and Smirnov who moved up to fifth due to the withdrawal of the Americans). The Germans took the gold by just a little over 8 points, with Zhang and Zhang taking silver and Pang and Tong winning the bronze. Canadians Dube and Davison were fourth.

The men were fantastic! I toot the liberty of watching them on YouTube and I was really impressed. They all skated well with the top three skating very well! What a showdown between Lambiel and Takahashi. Lambiel was trailing Takahashi just a bit after the short and new he needed a strong skate. His "Flamenco" program, which in my opinion, is one of the greatest choreographed programs ever, was fast and precise. All the choreography was in place, amazing footwork, fantastic spins. His jumps were good as well. He stepped out of his triple axel a bit (he just recently put it back in the program) and had a little bit of wobble on his quad but overall it was very good. Takahashi started his program with a triple toe that was planned to be a quad. He came around the ice and threw the quad again and nailed it! He went on to land six more triples, four past the half way point. However, we wasn't able to hold his lead and barely came in second. The difference was in the choreography were Lambiel was over two points ahead. The bronze went to American Evan Lysacek who had a great program as well. Right off the top of the program he hit a beautiful quad toe/triple toe. The only major flaw came when he fell on a triple salchow. Johnny Weir had a strong free skate but lacked a quad and finished fourth. Patrick Chan improved from the short program and finished fifth while Van Der Perren struggled and finished sixth.

The ladies event was very exciting. The first thing to report is the real problems Kimmie Meissner is having, apart from finishing last with one of the lowest scores I've ever seen from her, she failed to land a lutz or a flip in her free skate. It is crystal clear, Meissner is struggling. A close race for the bronze broke out between Zhang, Kostner, and Nakano. Nakano gave it her best shot with a beautiful triple axel off the top. However a late fall on a triple toe and poor credit for some of her jumps due to a wrap left her in fifth place. Caroline Zhang who had been in second after the short pushed through her "Ave Maria" program with better speed. She finished fourth in part because of the incorrect edge deduction the ISU is now taking as well as a fall on her second lutz. Carolina Kostner held on to take the bronze. Her only major mistake came when she singled a planned triple flip. The big showdown came between Mao Asada (who pulled way up from sixth) and Yu-Na Kim (leader after the short). Mao opened her free skate with a big triple axel (slight two foot) and never looked back. She did receive the deduction on her lutx for flutzing it (they really are picky about that this year) but received almost all positive grades elsewhere. Kim came out with her cool elegant style and reeled off a triple flip/triple toe to open her program. She went down on an early triple loop but went on to hit everything else earning mostly positive grades. She didn't win the free skate, but her lead overall carried her to win her second consecutive Grand Prix Final Title.

Nice preview of things to come! Came Tanith and Ben get to the top step of the Ice Dance Podium? Can Kimmie shake off her demons in time for Nationals or is a new star about to shine bright? Can the Germans continue to hold off the Chinese in Pairs? Which one of these men who are all skating well emerge as the "leading man?" Stay tuned!

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