Tag Archives: ISU Grand Prix

I’m Afraid I’ve Not Been In

Sorry about that. Things have been kind of crazy busy around here lately and sadly, the blogging had to take a hiatus. I’ve missed a lot of marvelous goings on, but hopefully things will be up and running properly again shortly. I have, however, tried to stay on top of my Twitter whilst away, so you should be following me, because I am told it is such a delight.

Things I am so sad to have missed commenting on:

  1. The Muppets on Saturday Night Live with Jason Segel.

    NBC.com

  2. Kermit visiting the Weekend Update desk for a special segment of “REALLY?! with Seth and Kermit”(he’s not a puppet, he’s a real live talking frog). Also, I signed a petition about that whole pizza is a vegetable thing, and it’s still making me sick to think about.

    NBC.com

    NBC.com

  3. Most of the Figure Skating Grand Prix season and the final (although, to be fair the failure there has a lot to do with the failure of AT&T U-Verse to carry Universal Sports).
    Charlie White and Meryl Davis, Free Dance for the Gold/ UniversalSports.com Reuters

So really, two things. Also the Savoy Cocktail Project, which will be back up and running shortly. I had a dinner party and tried out some Cocchi Americano… I was very pleased.

I have also started watching How I Met Your Mother, which—for the vast numbers of people surely wondering—is now available to stream on Netflix. Note it.

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Skate America 2011: Brezina Shrugs, Van Der Perren Lands Huge Quad & A Silver

What with the paltry network offerings of the figure skating Grand Prix series and my schedule this past weekend, I have only seen parts of the men’s competition in Ontario, California—fair disclosure.

Michael Brezina delivered a phenomenal short program, putting himself safely ahead of the entire field going into the free skate.

UniversalSports.com/AP/Jae C. Hong

29-year-old Belgian veteran, Kevin van der Perren (who you may recall as Skeletor skating to “Night On Bald Mountain” during the Vancouver Olympics) completed his short program in fourth place. On Saturday afternoon, he roared into first place with his free skate to the score of Man in the Iron Mask (which I personally feel strongly about as an under-appreciated body of cinematic music), fueled with a huge quad toeloop. The program was great fun to watch, and I have to say I am glad that contrary to beliefs during the 2010 Worlds, van der Perren has continued to compete. He says this year is all about European Championships for him.

I am also glad that the “Night on Bald Mountain” era is behind us, because I am still traumatized by that final vignette of Fantasia viewed as a child.

Following van der Perren’s long program, three more skaters took to the ice including Daisuke Murakami, Takahiko Kozuka and finally Michal Brezina.

Murakami suffered a disappointing long program. Kozuka came in just behind van der Perren (combined 212.48 to 212.09).

As Brezina entered the ice, the big question commentators pondered was whether he would really go after the gold, or just play it safe. Brezina delivered an overall underachieving performance, dropping points here and there, choosing not to attempt a quad, falling on a triple loop, and singling a lutz. Aside from those errors, the skate felt a little lackluster, and commentators seemed almost ready to crown van der Perren king for the day. Somewhat surprisingly, Brezina (who appeared frustrated and disappointed in the kiss and cry area) still managed to finish four points ahead of the field with an even 216 combined score (although van der Perren did win the free skate event of Skate America).

UnivsersalSports.com/ AP

This announcement was followed by the most boring and rather bizarre of reactions. Rather than displaying signs of relief at the win, Brezina sort of shrugged with a bemused and rather unamused expression. He later complained about his coaches, saying that he had wanted to go out on the ice and try for two quads, but they had persuaded him to play it safe. Presumably, his expression is the result of the fact that even though he won, it was not the win he wanted. Alas.

Sidenote: I still hate half and half costumes.

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Scott Hamilton Returns: Commentary at Skate America

Sure, Michael Weiss’ commentary based on working with various skaters on Stars on Ice and his empathy for newly risen senior skaters provides interesting insight to the world of figure skating. Tara Lipinski‘s subtle cattiness is splendid at times. And Tanith Belbin is just sweet as sweet all the time, especially when she is offering to find scissors to trim costumes that are too long.

But you cannot beat Scott Hamilton for amaze-tastic commentary. It is not possible.

Skate America 2010 witnessed the return of live in-house commentary by Scott Hamilton, supporting roles awarded to Tracy Wilson and Terry Gannon. Performances were peppered with cries of “Ding!” “Bam!” “Aughauhgghhg!” and “Niiiiiice!”

It was magical.

The dramatic verbosity kicked off immediately with the pronouncement that the participants of this Grand Prix “come to begin a new four-year journey at Skate America.”

While my heart was still doing flips over the return of Scott, he went ahead and elaborated that after an Olympics year “There’s kind of this almost chaotic changing of the guard. You got these grizzled veterans out here, some of these girls are eighteen years old—Carolina Kostner she’s 23—but they’ve got these young emerging talents coming up behind them and kind of nipping on their heels and sometimes getting past them and it’s like, ‘Wait, it’s MY turn!’”

Armin Mahbanoozadeh/Matthew Stock/Getty Images

Let’s get straight to my favorite gems.

“You wanna have the confidence, all that you can muster into the triple axel..and beautiful! That was nothing but neck, that was awesome!” regarding 19-year-old American men’s competitor, Armin Mahbanoozadeh’s free skate to music from Avatar.

In the realm of Scott saying things as I think them, “a lot of interesting body positions [Mahbanoozadeh’s] using in his spins.”

We’re on the same wavelength. Isn’t it great?

Anyway the young American had a great skate, beating his personal best thus provoking a jubilant Terry Gannon to declare, “His best has been—for the free skate—just over 121. And how ‘bout just waving at it as he sails by it?!” as the 143.56 score pops up.

Which is, naturally, how I feel about deadlines of course.

Then Scott nearly orgasmed over Adam Rippon’s trademark lutz jumps with both arms over his head which no one else in the world does (Brian Boitano does one arm over his head). One could almost see Scott leaping out of his seat in excitement.

Daisuke Takahashi/Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

And then all three of the commentators wrote an ode to the wonder that is Daisuke Takahashi (all the while, each of them pronounced his name differently), despite a free skate peppered with technical mistakes. A catalog of the madness? Of course:

“He’s an incredible showman. Because of his presentation he has about a six point buffer in the free skate program.” ~Wilson

“It’s the quality of every edge, his presence, the way he interprets the music—and then you throw on his extraordinary jumping ability on top of that.” ~Hamilton

“Look at this footwork, look at the way he moves!” ~Wilson

“So tight, so crisp, every movement is just bam, bam, bam. It brings the audience into the performance.” ~Hamilton

“As he flirts shamelessly with the judges!” ~Wilson

“No one in the world can really deliver choreography with that kind of dynamic. No one touches him in that regard.” ~Scott

If I had more time, I would have forged those comments into a sonnet. Possibly Scott Hamilton has already written one in his spare time.

At any rate despite the whole “moments of brilliance, sloppy at times” (Wilson) issue in Takahashi’s free skate the Japanese World Champion still placed first with countryman Nobunari Oda in second and Mahbanoozadeh slipping onto the podium for the bronze: “I heard the audience cheering for me and as I ended and I saw them standing, I just couldn’t believe it it was a great moment for me… I truthfully wasn’t even expecting to land on the podium, it’s beyonf what I was thinking would happen. I’m just ecstatic, maybe it will sink in tonight, I don’t know… I just feel like I wanna be considered competitive among the world’s best and I think today was a step forward.”

Bravo.

The ladies free skate presentation was prefaced by a replay of fabulous new Japanese lady Kanako Murakami’s short skate, which is adorable and marvelous and made me fall a little bit in love with her at the Grand Prix Japan. Scott cried out in joy for her jumps and Wilson enthused, “Well she’s the bright light that’s already shining through, heading to the Olympics four years away, and I say with four years to improve, her timing could be perfect. She’s got a bounce to her step , she’s a bundle of enthusiasm, she’s so much fun to watch!”

True story.

She does the whole nod emphatically to her coach and then race away to her starting pose, reminding me of Mirai Nagasu’s typical pre-skate demeanor.

Kanako Murakami and coach Machiko Yamada/Universal Sports

She and Scott opened energetically crying, “Triple toe biiiig—and triple toe ! LOTS of speed coming out!”

It wasn’t her most magnificent skate, but she still scored a 110.98 (total 164.93) placing ahead of US Champion, Rachael Flatt… and everyone else for the gold in her second senior Grand Prix event!

Plus, her coach Machiko Yamada is super glam, wearing fabulous scarfed and sunglasses all the time. Love.

Flatt was her typical “Reliable Rachael” self—a phrase of which commentators will apparently never tire. Scott, in a frenzy of praise at the end of her program elucidated, “There’s a work ethic there! If you can just skate like that everytime—and she does—you’re going to have success!”

Thanks for the explanation of her success, Scott. I thought maybe she never practiced or something.

“Ding!”

“Bam!”

“Niiiice!”

Thank you Scott. I look forward to Nationals, where I imagine you will also be commenting.

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Show Tunes & Sartorial Slip-ups: Figure Skating Grand Prix China

No idea what is happening here, but I'm scared. It's Pechalat and Bourzat of France from the exhibition gala. Jane and Tarzan? George of the Jungle? I just don't know./sina.com

As Words to Bumble illustrated during the Olympics, figure skating is dependable entertainment for two reasons: show tunes and wacky costumes.

I searched and searched for an adjective that gets across all variations in figure skating costumes, but wacky seems to be the only one that covers the range of emotions: terrifying, hilarious, unfortunate, clownish, retina-scarring, theatrical, character-driven, etc. I demand a lot from my adjectives.

As you may know, I love a good show tune and I am a firm believer that no figure skating competition is complete without at least one solid skate to old Broadway. The Cup of China weekend featured men, women and couples gliding away to the tunes my youth (I didn’t have Disney movies, but my grandma owned every musical ever on VHS).

Frederica Faiella and Massimo Scali/IceDance.com

The Italian ice dance couple, Frederica Faiella and Massimo Scali take their show tunes so seriously that not only is her costume a faithful adaptation of Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot gown from My Fair Lady, but the couple apparently worked with an Italian actress to make sure that they were presenting a true-to-the-film interpretation through their facial expressions, costumes and choreography. Too bad the hemline of Faiella’s skirt is so authentically long that Scali’s skate got caught in it, causing some major drams towards the end of their program, thereby marring overture selections from one of my favorite musicals of all time (tied with The Sound of Music, if you must know).

Shmoops.

And then it happened again in their long program at which point I’m pretty sure Tanith Belbin (who was commenting) lept out of her seat, told Andrea Joyce to hold her horses for just a moment, ran, got a pair of scissors and attempted to FedEx them to Beijing overnight.

Tomas Verner/UniversalSports.com

As usual, a nice sturdy English tweed suit did not interfere in anyway with healthy “outdoor” activity. And it was well-tailored. Thank you Beau Brummel for you legacy (if you get that reference and you did not go to graduate school with me, I thank you).

Speakng of three-piece suits, guess what Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic skated to?

You are right: Dancing in the Rain. He wasn’t wearing a three-peice suit, but he was wearing a vest and you know how I love a vest. He also pantomined an umbrella. Adorable!

Alena Leonova/UniversalSports.com/Getty Images

The UniversalSports.com slideshow caption person for the “Fashion Two-Cents” series (WHY am I not that person?) took major issue with Verner’s pastels, but here’s the thing: if you are going to perform to show tunes, then the pastels are just going to be unavoidable. I once designed a set that was all pastels for Bye-Bye Birdie. Did I want to use all pastels? Did I want to be involved in that atrocity of a musical? The answer is NO. But sometimes these things are unavoidable. Show tunes is show tunes.

Plus have you seen some of the other costumes people are wearing?

Bronze medalist Alena Leonaova, for instance, brought yet another Harlequin clown disaster basket into our lives, complete with pompoms, tiger stripes and a rainbow sherbert color palette. She’s spunky and energetic and all, but that’s still just not OK.

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev/Ice-Dance.com

 

Back in the world of ballroom dance on ice, Ekaterina Bobrova, also of Russia (with partner Dmitri Soloviev), brought this strange number into our lives, which brings me to reflect on the unfortunate shared genetic sequence between ballroom dancing and ice dance… I know you have seen Dancing with the Stars, and I know you know those costumes are unacceptable to human life.

Akiko Suzuki/UniversalSports.com/Alexander F. Yuan/Associated Press

In a disturbing turn of events, silver medalist Akiko Suzuki chose to wear an incongruous flower-patterned white thing for her free skate to… Fiddler on the Roof?

I know, I was confused as well and here I concur with the UniversalSports.com fashion critic (oh the jobs I don’t have). It’s not that her get-up is inherently offensive (although, let’s face it: it is not great)—it just doesn’t make any sense, something is just off.

So the last show tune of my latest figure skating pondering is kind of a bust. I’m sorry. I can only hope that Skate America this coming weekend will bring more fodder for my ramblings.

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Oh Mirai, Mirai: Cup of China Ladies’ Free Skate

Mirai Nagasu with Cup of China winners Takahiko Kozuko & Miki Ando of Japan/UniversalSports.com/Tatjana Flade

It was a flashback to last year’s Cup of China. It was a flashback to last year’s World Championships. Mirai Nagasu skated into first place after the short program and the next day fell apart for the free skate. Aptly put by commentator Andrea Joyce, “[There’s] a pattern here that she would love to break.”

So. Much. Insight.

Nagasu is sadly known for a strong short and then a rough free skate in which she simply cannot hold thing together. Despite a great start to the program with a three jump triple-lutz-double-toe-double-toe combination, she continued to miss jump elements and suffered several downgrades, culminating with a fall in the second half of her performance.

My kitchen was a sad place whilst I watched the drama unfold.

Nagasu’s first place ranking perverted into that roughest of place finishes: fourth, and just out of reach of the podium.

So that was also a flashback to last winter, when Nagasu finished fourth at the Olympics.

Lots of flashbacks.

Nagasu was last on the ice for the free skate competition, coming shortly after “once again Miki Ando [had] thrown down a challenge to the teenager from California” (thank you Andrea).

Way to freak out Words to Bumble’s favorite, Miki Ando. Way to freak her out.

Commentator Tara Lipinski reflected that, “There’s so much more pressure on Mirai this season, and if you can’t get your head in the game and block everyone and everything else out, it’s really hard to focus on your elements.”

I mean, her retina may also have been scarred from some of the costumes she had seen over the course of her weekend in Beijing, so her vision may have been compromised.

Mirai Nagasu/Getty Images

On the upside, her costume was inoffensive and fitting for a program skated to music from Memoirs of a Geisha. And in addition to her opening three-fer combo, she landed two lovely two-fer combos right after she wiped out on a jump. Way to get back up.

And although she was clearly not a happy camper when it was all over, she still smiled for her bows, she tried a smile and wave after her scores… even though she and coach Frank Carroll then beat it post-haste to get the hell off camera.

Fair enough.

So… Frank, Mirai and I are all hoping for a happier free skate at her next Grand Prix event in Paris, France. /I would like to spend a weekend in France shopping, eating and watching figure skating.

Miki Ando/sports.cn.com

And what about—you might ask—the lady who won it all, Miki Ando?

She’s pretty fierce, and probably still pretty mad that she placed 5th at the Olympics, right behind Ms. Nagasu. She skated a clean free program, the only one of the ladies to do so, prompting Lipinski to declare that “She is one of the best technicians” in women’s figure skating. At the end of her program Joyce exclaimed, “She has really thrown it down—so to speak.”

Joyce sounded just a little bit as though she wished she had gone for an alternate wording on that one.

Ando finished 25 points ahead of Nagasu and was joined on the podium by fellow Japanese skater Akiko Suzuki and Alena Leonova.

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Mirai Nagasu In the Lead for Cup of China Short Skate

Mirai Nagasu/ UniversalSports.com/Alexander F. Yuan/Associated Press

Mirai Nagasu finished in first place after the ladies’ short program at the Cup of China Friday, making a fierce return to the ice after summer largely given up to recovering from a stress fracture in her right foot.

It looks like all that time de-stressing on the beach with friends and family did her good. Olympic champion Evan Lysacek—who trains with Nagasu—told commentator Tara Lipinksi that coming back from the injury has made Nagasu a much more focused competitor. Hopefully this will help her overcome nerves that took such a toll at the World Championships last March where she also placed first in the short program, but ended up a disappointing 7th.

Nagasu appeared confident as she entered the ice, after one last powwow with coach Frank Carroll. As the camera showed her emphatically nodding while Carroll spoke, Lipiniski commented on her enthusiasm and they way Nagasu always just looks like she wants to get out there and get it done.

And she did.

Mirai Nagasu/ UniversalSports.com/Alexander F. Yuan/Associated Press

She opened with a perfect triple lutz-double toe combination that got even Lipinski to raise her voice, hung on to her second jump, and delivered her trademark layback spins—the type that prompted Johnny Weir to exclaim that she was missing bones in her back at the 2010 Worlds.

The great thing about Nagasu is her presence on the ice, the character that she brings into her programs–something often missing in young skaters. For this season’s short program she skates to music from The Witches of Eastwick, and watching her face you cannot help but get swept into the performance.

Lipinski commented not only on Nagasu’s great facial and body expression, but the on the improvement of her jumps which have become much bigger over the summer, summing up, “That is a pretty impressive return to the ice for Mirai Nagasu.”

Mirai Nagasu/UniversalSports.com/Alexander F. Yuan/Associated Press

At the end of the entire field Lipinski reflected on all of the ladies and said that she certainly thought Nagasu deserved her first place finish for the shorts.

 

All the same, the margin between the first (58.76), second (57.97) and third place (56.11) finishes is miniscule, so the free skate program is sure to be intense. Akiko Suzuki of Japan finished the first leg of competition in second and fellow Japanese skater Miki Ando stands in third.

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Grand Prix Catch-up for Japan and Canada, Ready for Cup of China

Rachael Flatt/DailyLife.com/Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

First and foremost, Rachael Flatt got a haircut. So now we match. That is what’s important here, right?

Secondly, she—and many others—continue to wear awkwardly colored tights. There are taupe tights, there are overly-tan tights, there are tights that can’t decide whether they are nude or a very sheet black. This ongoing problem continues to distract me endlessly during the ladies’ programs. I can’t help it.

But seriously, what has been up with our faves from last winter/spring on Words to Bumble?

I have already expounded of the wonderfulness of Jeremy Abbott’s season debut—so check that out if you missed it.

Rachael Flatt was the élite American lady representing the United States at the same competition—the ISU Grand Prix Japan NHK Trophy. She won the free skate with her “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” program, maintaining the vaudeville-y burlesque music type from last season. She raked in 107.35 for the long program with a total of 161.04 overall, taking her to the podium for a silver medal, mirroring Abbott’s podium placement in the men’s competition.

Words from commentators? First of all, “This is a year, a post-Olympic year when you take it up a notch and announce,  ‘Listen, I am going to help dictate what the next four-year cycle is going to be like.’ It starts right now.”

Well.

At any rate it looks like Flatt has been working on her audience engagement a bit, getting some more emotional connection into her skating, etc. Commentator Tara Lipinski said, “I think what she’s been working on is her artistry—the second mark, the presentation. And she’s adding more facial expression and emotion, but I think she still needs to focus on paying attention to developing the basic flow of her skating and extension.”

Carolina Kostner/NPR.com/AP

Either way, she was solid enough to open the Grand Prix season with a trip to the podium for silver behind Carolina Kostner of Italy (with serious skin-tone fabric issues) and ahead of newcomer Kanako Murakami.

Meanwhile, Meryl Davis and Charlie White dominated Ice Dance and took home the NHK Trophy for their competition, closing with a tango featuring their usual grace, perfect synchronicity and the occasional truly weird and impossible looking lift.

Not a bad start to the international season for Team USA.

To follow-up, last weekend Alizza Czisny took home the gold at Skate Canada with 172.37 points (which, thank you NBC, will not be airing until this coming Saturday). The men’s title went to Canadian Patrick Chan, with American Adam Rippon coming in third.

Meryl Davis & Charlie White/UniversalSports.com/Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

 

And coming up this weekend, possibly airing never on NBC? The Grand Prix Cup of China will see the return of Words To Bumble ladies’ favorite, Mirai Nagasu who will be skating to “The Witches of Eastwick” and “Memoirs of  Geisha.” The girl must really like John Williams, but then… who doesn’t?

I will miss her “Pirates of the Caribbean” program, but always treasure the memories. Kind of like how I miss Jeremy Abbott’s Beatles program, but will just have to treasure the memory of the purple vest outfit and Beatles love.

Very much looking forward to seeing how Nagasu looks in China. She will be my personal highlight of the goings-on, but the United States will also be represented by Amanda Dobbs and Kristine Musadembra.Miki Ando of Japan should also be great to see.

In the men’s competition look out for the return of Brian Joubert of France, in the market to erase Olympic memories of No. 16. Ross Miner and Brandon Mroz of the US will compete as well.

There is a slide show of skaters to watch on UniversalSports.com for the Cup of China, if you want to know it all.

Recaps and ponderings forthcoming.

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