I know, I know...all my fellow figure skating bloggers are quicker on the draw on these but for me, Ice Network is like TiVo...I can watch it whenever I want and so I've had a bad habit of planning things on the weekend and watching the competition on Sunday/Monday.
But I've caught the action and I'm ready to give my take on things...
In Ice Dance I was so worried about Samuelson and Bates not making the podium, coming into the Free Dance in 4th. And then on the dance spin Evan lost his footing and plopped down to the ice and I was like, "Oh no...that does it." But a ray of hope as Russians Gorshkova and Butikov were less than stellar and actually dropped a couple of spots securing the Americans a place on the podium. I honestly thought that the Italians, Faiella and Scali would have an easy victory...not the case. After winning the compulsory dance, it was a bumpy road with the French team of Pechalat and Bourzat (who were exceedingly more polished here than I've ever seen them!) winning both the OD and the Free Dance. Luckily for the Italians, their lead all the way back from the CD held and they took the title (barely). That also means I 'barely' accurately predicted the podium!
UPDATE: Ooops! I looked at my predictions below...and I didn't get this one right. I actually had Samuelson and Bates pegged for silver...guess my limb broke!
Among the men, I was dissapointed that Stephen Carriere came undone and failed to either medal or make the Grand Prix Final. This is the second year in a row that NHK has been unkind to him. Stephen made Tomas Verner a very happy fellow! Takahiko Mura showed the depth of the Japanese team with a strong performance and a respectable 5th place showing. Patrick Chan is clearly the class of Canada now but Kevin Reynolds is proving to be quite the competitor as well. Not one, but two beautiful quads in his free skate to capture 4th place (I have to tell you...that is exactly why I pegged him for the bronze...maybe next time!). The bronze medal went to Yannick Ponsero who looked leaps and bounds more comfortable here than he did in Canada. He too opened with a gorgeous quad toe to get a strong program underway. The silver went to Johnny Weir who started very strong but then towards the end of the program he doubled a jump and singled another. Even still he had strong scores and continues to show his attitude change and his new approach to training continue to pay dividends. On a nit picky level, I'd like to see him not front load his free skate so much...and always try the quad. Johnny's jump technique is solid enough that he can almost always keep that jump on its feet. Nobunari Oda won the men's event with a solid free skate (he too threw a quad that was mostly successful). He, like Weir, also had some jump issues here and there but overall he looked very fit and he skated with tremendous speed. The response from the Japanese audience was overwhelming and at one point you could tell he was really trying to hold back some tears. For Oda it was mission accomplished as far as restoring some credibility.
The pairs event was rough. Dube and Davison didn't look themselves at all. About the only element, aside from the lifts, that went right was the triple twist. All of their jumping elements were flawed, they were slow across the ice, and they lacked the spark they usually have in their skating. I don't think this team has helped themselves this season by choosing such a rough cut of Carmen either...it just doesn't suit them. They got the bronze medal only because the all the other teams before them had rough skates as well (well...that...and the fact that even on a bad performance their skating skills were far superior to the teams that had skated prior to them). The bright spot on the evening was the Americans. Inoue and Baldwin, while not as technical as the other teams, did turn in a pretty good performance for the silver. After John fell on the opening triple toe (which despite the fall, I give him credit for rotating it. So often he just does a double and he has to get his head around doing the triple) went on to skate very well. They scaled back from the throw triple axel, opting for a double instead, but it was done well. Solid lifts, amazing side-by-side unison on the spins, and overall...not too shabby. A silver for them was a bit of redemption after their awful showing at Skate America. The winners were China's Pang and Tong. They too had some side-by-side issues but the throws were amazing and they breezed pass the field. I'm still not sure I like the program...I warm up to it about the time it switches from that bland tango music into Concerto de Aranjuez.
Last season, the Japanese ladies didn't fare well at all, with Nana Takeda barely pulling off a bronze. This season it was a clean sweep of the podium for the Japanese women. Poor Ashley Wagner after a promising start in the short got bit by the same bug that got her at Cup of China...wrong edge here, downgraded jump there, and lower than expected component scores and she again finishes just off the podium. In her defense, I just love this 'Spartacus' program and I think she's getting undermarked on the component side of things. Again, how Laura Lepisto can beat her continues to baffle me. Yukari Nakano pulled of a comeback performance to rally back to the bronze (and make the Grand Prix Final). After a clean skate, she was visibly emotional as scores of flowers, teddy bears, and other goodies rained down upon her as she took her bows. These Japanese ladies are under such stress from the press (rhymed!), especially when they compete at home, and it is a relief when they skate well. A lesser known Japanese lady whose actually been around for sometime took the silver. Akiko Suzuki, who actually won the Finlandia Trophy early this season, had a solid performance of her own, showed some flair, and was genuinely pleased with herself and I think a bit surprised when her result came up. But the show stopper was without a doubt Mao Asada who oblitereated the competition. She opened up with a gorgeous triple axel and then...decided to do a second in combination (a separate post is coming on this combo alone), ridiculous! She went on to land everything else she was planning with no wrong edge deductions and nearly all positive grades of execution across the board...this is not the Mao we saw in Paris...this is a Mao that can take on Yu-Na Kim. she was absolutely stunning.
So the Grand Prix Final is set. I'll do a separate post later to talk about that in greater detail. The competition in Korea is going to be fierce. If per chance you missed Mao's amazing performance, fret not...I have it here!