And so, the 2008 Edition of the Grand Prix has come to it's conclusion...for Ice Dance we barely made it there! It was fun wasn't it. Six Events all chock full of intrigue and surprises. A huge (well, mostly huge) final with some surprising...and expected happenings.
Like I stated before, in Ice Dance, we were lucky to reach the end after a full 1/3 of the field decided to withdraw from the event. Khoklova and Novitski called it quits after the OD Warm-up, citing an upset stomach. Belbin and Agosto decided to pull the plug after the Free Dance warming with complaints of back pain from Ben. Aye aye aye! But that left the door open for Davis and White who managed a bit of an upset, taking the Bronze ahead of veteran Italians Faiella and Scali whose 'Moonlight Sonata' couldn't compete with the Americans' 'Samson and Delilah.' After a ridiculously clunky and awkward Free Dance, Russians Domnina and Shabalin still managed a good score and took the Silver medal (the fact that Free Dance was scored so well simply amazes me...they must have gotten the better selection of the 5 judges whose score counted!). But favorites and clear class of the field, Delobel and Schoenfelder of France skated away with the Gold...and their first Grand Prix Final title (hard to believe that a team that has been at this for so long is just now winning this event!).
I found myself completely shocked by the turn of events that took place among the men. First, like Ben Agosto, Joubert decided to withdraw prior to the free skate because of back pain. Apparently he sustained a bit of an injury on the morning practice. Patrick Chan who I had pegged to win this thing couldn't land a triple axel to save his life in Korea and finished last. Tomas Verner, who also had some technical issues, barely slid past Chan to finish fourth. Johnny Weir, had a solid free skate (still a little front loaded) and won the bronze. It reminded me quite a bit like his free skate from last season's worlds...steady, consistent, a little slow, but overall okay. More importantly, he continues to be solid and consistent, a testament to his new mental attitude and Galina Zmievskaya. Takahiko Kozuka, who had the lead after the short, crumbled a bit in his free skate and had to settle for the silver. After a solid opening, which included a quad he almost got done, he took a couple spills and had a downgraded triple loop. He actually finished behind Weir but had a solid lead after the short and was able to stay ahead of him. There was no staying ahead of, however, American Jeremy Abbott who showed he is a contended on the 'big boys' stage. An amazing free skate that earned him not only a killer technical score but amazing component scores as well and he took the Gold Medal, quite to his surprise. A new face for American Men's skating perhaps?
In Pairs, it was Russia's day with both teams coming in 5th and 6th. Mukhortova and Trankov, who again had a terrible outing with their 'Lady and the Hooligan' routine (it's time to ditch it I think!) brought up the rear while their countrymen Kawaguchi and Smirnov weren't much better and finished just ahead of them. The Ukranian team of Volosozhar and Morozov was uninspiring and finished fourth. Savchenko and Szolkowy had fall from grace and only managed the bronze after a terrible free skate. The Chinese teams reigned supreme, Zhang and Zhang taking the silver and Pang and Tong with a very solid free taking the Gold and earning their first Grand Prix Final Title. Three first time winners this season.
The ladies event, where to begin. First lets go back to the short where, as much as I love and adore her, Yu-Na Kim should not have had the lead...but she did. I could care less that Asada's Triple Loop on the back half of her flawless Triple Flip was downgraded, overall the program was better. Who pop's a Triple Lutz in the short program and still get's the lead...Yu-Na Kim! Fast forward to the Free Skate... and poor Miki Ando. What appeared to be an impressive skate, with what appeared to be a beautiful Quad Salchow in it. Interestingly, she ditched 'Giselle' for Saint-Saens 'Symphony No. 3.' But her celebration quickly came to an end when the scores went up. Half her jumping passes were downgraded (quad included) and her component score was less than great. After what she thought was a completely successful free skate, she found herself finishing last...unbelievable. Yukari Nakano didn't fare much better. Her usually consistent downgraded Triple Axel was not so consistent and she putzed her way through her program to finish 5th. Joannie Rochette skated better than she did in the short to finish 4th, however it was a far cry from what she was putting down in her previous Grand Prix appearances this season. As per usual, Carolina Kostner with a clunky program manages to win a medal, a bronze this time. The showdown really was between the top two ladies. Mao Asada again put down two Triple Axels, only this time she got full credit for them both! Those two jumps alone netted her 19.90 points alone. She went on to have a solid free skate (she did get a downgrade on her second flip) to easily take the lead. I'm noticing she's removed the lutz from her free skate and going with the axels instead...risky decision. Yu-Na Kim had a solid opening of her own but another popped lutz and then a fall on triple salchow and she couldn't over come the technical muster of Asada. Therefore she had to settle for the silver and Asada manages to reclaim her title (she last won the event in 2005, defeating Slutskaya).
That's it for the Grand Prix. Now we get to look forward to all the National Championships, Russia and Japan are first up with Canada and the U.S. in January. Stay Tuned! Also, here's the video of Mao Asada's free skate.
UPDATE: This (the blank YouTube video above) is beginning to infuriate me! How is it that the video is removed due to a copyright claim by U.S. Figure Skating? The coverage was Korean SBS! Out of pure spite for what State of the Skate calls the "Powers that Be"...here the video is again...Japanese coverage this time...let's see if the powers that be can get this video erased!