Saturday, January 26, 2008

U.S. Nationals Day 4

What a day! So much to was incredible! But I have to first start with some boos. The way the ladies were split into a morning and evening group for their free skates was just unfair and it sucked (I guess we blame NBC for that!). The fans didn't like getting up that early and it showed because the attendance in the morning was very low. It sucked for the competitors because their practice was at 6:10 a.m. and also it just plain sucks to skate early in the morning. The arena didn't have breakfast food and I was just plain miserable...but I got over it! Three finals today and all were spectacular in their own way.

In the pairs, Vise and Trent were unable to land their history making throw quad salchow but they were good enough to make it to fourth place with a respectable free skate. Castile and Okolski nabbed the bronze (and a spot on the world team, more on this in a moment) with a good free skate. For it being their first competition of the season they looked fairly well trained with a beautiful program set to "Sheherazade." It's clear however if they wish to improve their world ranking they'll have to add in side-by-side triples in addition to their double axels. The silver went to the veteran team of Inoue and Baldwin. They were also unable to land their history maker (throw Triple Axel) but were still able to have a decent performance (a bit slow at times...I still think they should be better trained than this) and also make the world team. For the first time in forever John hit his triple toe! The winners and easily so were McLaughlin and Brubaker. They had some minor glitches but showed great speed, excellent throws, and solid lifts. The only problem for them is despite the win they didn't make the world team. Keauna is still to young to compete at the event...get this...Rockne is now too old to compete at the Junior Worlds so I guess their competitive season will end at the Four Continents Cup. Big news though! At the end of their free skate John Baldwin proposed to Rena Inoue...and she said YES! The crowd went crazy and Rena burst into tears of was quite a moment!

In Ice Dance the standings amongst the top four remained unchanged after the free dance. Samuelson and Bates made a case for themselves by having a fantastic dance (except for a freak fall on an easy lift...but it barely disrupted the program). However, they weren't able to close some of the gap between them and bronze medalists Navarro and Bommentre. Speaking of which, they had a loose, jazzy free dance that put the crowd in an ultra calm and them on the world team! Davis and White came out with a free dance and held nothing back at all. They had great speed and unison and twizzles like you wouldn't believe. They solidified themselves as a team to watch as the season progresses. Tanith and Ben were simply the class of the field. None of the silly mistakes from the OD happened in the Free Dance. They were simply amazing and posted numbers that would be tough for anyone in the world to get close to. Really amazing skating!

The ladies...oh my gosh the ladies! If you didn't watch this on NBC you missed out on what was one of the most thrilling and shocking finals ever in U.S. Figure Skating history. Did NBC pick a great time to begin hosting this event or what! Two stories were playing: who would win the medals and who would make the world team (because so many of the top competitors are too young for Sr. Worlds)? Let's start with Alissa again as she found herself staying in 9th place. She just couldn't seem to stand up on her jumps falling on several of them. Now lets talk about the 7th place finisher...prepare yourself for this one...Kimmie Meissner. Kimberly was unable to land either a flip or a lutz and went down on all three attempts at them. You could see how dejected she was from her performance and you got the sense she just wanted to get off the ice, get on a plane, and go home. As she awaited her marks in the Kiss n' Cry she fought back tears as the crowd cheered for her and screamed remarks and adoration's for her to help cheer her up...all she could muster was a lipped, "Thank You." This performance not only leaves her well off the podium but in jeopardy of not even making the world team as three of the ladies that finished higher than her are old enough to go to the World Championships.

One of those competitors that defeated Kimmie is 6th place finisher Katrina Hacker. Katrina didn't have a flawless skate, but she didn't bomb either and was in fact better than Meissner this night. The USFSA will have to decide whether to send her or Kimmie to Sweden. The USFSA's rules are clear that the winner of the event earns a spot and then the USFSA picks the rest. Almost always it is in line with the standings at Nationals but the USFSA is not bound to those placements. Given Kimmie's competitive record (even this season she has twice medaled in Senior Internationals) I don't think it would be out of line for the USFSA to pick her over a competitor with no international experience...we'll wait and see. One competitor that knows she is going to Sweden is 5th place finisher Beatrisa Liang. Despite a couple of singled jumps, Beatrisa turned in a strong performance and earned a spot on the world team.

The top four skaters were near perfect. It was a thing to behold and can I say if this is the program we have right now...the United States' skating prospects look very bright! Caroline Zhang pulled up from 7th to 4th with a flawless performance that instantly brought the crowd to their feet! Her trademark move "The Pearl" drew the largest ovation for a non-jump element I've ever heard. I honestly thought with that performance she was going to rise all the way up to the top and win the title. Little did I know of the performances to come. Ashley Wagner nabbed the bronze with a tremendous performance which included a perfect triple lutz triple loop combo. Her only error came when she slightly overrated a double loop on the back end of a combination, no biggie. When her scores came up and she was ahead of Zhang she just looked shocked! Ashley is also old enough to compete at Worlds and can certainly pack her bags as the highest finisher that meets the age requirement. The silver went to Rachel Flatt who skated perfect (she in fact won the free skate!), triple/triples and all. There wasn't a single flaw to this program and she just beamed the whole way through, what a show stopper! However the night belonged to Mirai Nagasu, who despite falling on her opening double axel, came on strong to win her first senior ladies title. After her opening miscue she went on to land six more triples and despite placing third in the free (both Flatt and Wagner beat her), her lead from the short was sufficient to hold her to the title...what a new face on U.S. ladies skating.

Tomorrow the men skate and I don't know if my heart can take it if it's this dramatic!

Full results here.


Anonymous said...

scores were grossly inflated. This is not good. They decided to mark certain skaters down while not marking other down (GOE). By giving such a high scores to these ladies, they'll be really shocked (except Caroline Zhang who's been routinely marked down because of wrong edges etc) when they go outside of US to compete! Mirai scoring over 70 in short?? Yuna's highest was just 71+. C'mon let's compare Mirai's best with Yuna's: NOT EVEN CLOSE. And to say that Mirai's best short is a point better than Mao's best??? These judges are morons. With that said, I'm very happy that these juniors looked really good and US female figure skaters will look really good after the next Olympics. Perhaps even sweeping at the worlds after the next Olympic (if Yuna and Mao retires)??!

Aaron said...

I think at all nationals scores are inflated. If you look at the scores for Japan and Canada's nationals they are very big. I think all the top competitors are aware of score inflation and won't be too shocked when they compete internationally. This was actually a piece in the pioneer press (St. Paul's local newspaper) about this and explained exactly why it happens...I didn't read the whole article though.