Tag Archives: Mirai Nagasu

Four Continents Championship: Exhibition Videos

Just for fun, as the Four Continents Championship was not aired in the U.S., enjoy some exhibition skates and a medal ceremony.

Why not.

Ladies medal ceremony. I wonder how much practice goes into those pre-podium fancy bows?

Going in podium order, first up: Miki Ando’s celebratory performance, skating as her usual graceful self in yet another white, long-sleeved, high-necked costume. It happens.

Mao Asada’s exhibition performance. I love Asada because when she’s in the zone, she can have this expression like she will just go ahead and end your life if you cross her. Not necessarily in this tulle-skirted exhibition, but after all, there’s no need to strike fear into hearts during the exhibition. Cannot wait to see her defend at Worlds. Also, dear lady throwing triple axels left and right. Fierce.

Mirai Nagasu looking vaguely surprised to hear her name (and possibly relieved to note that the announcer did not again mistake her for a representative from Japan), skating a fun EX after a belated proof that she can indeed take the other American ladies, despite flubs at U.S. Nationals

Daisuke Takahashi soaking up the love from the crowd. Possibly because he won the Words to Bumble Craziest Figure Skating Hair Award; probably because he’s been a top Japanese competitor for a long time.

FYI: there’s a pretty jazzy encore, so if the “Amélie” program is not your thing for some reason, stay tuned because the double feature starts around 4:20.

Yuzuru Hanyu skating to U2. I could make a really bad joke about dizzying nature of figure skating and “Vertigo,” but I’ll just mention the opportunity. Here it feels like he is just skating through the music, but nonetheless, he is Japan’s rising men’s star.

Please someone make the pleather go away. Not OK.

Jeremy Abbott’s adorable exhibition skate to Plain White Ts. He has a prop!

Exhibitions are so fun. Yes?

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Four Continents: Mirai Nagasu & Jeremy Abbott Strike Back

The Four Continents figure skating competition serves as a counterpart to the European Championships, bringing together athletes from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania in a warm-up for the upcoming World Championships in March.

Mirai Nagasu/ UniversalSports.com/ Wally Santana/ Associated Press

Mirai Nagasu and Jeremy Abbott of the U.S. both suffered disappointment at Nationals this past January, where neither delivered a strong enough free skate (after Nagasu led and Abbott stood in second coming out of the short program competitions) to represent the U.S. at Worlds in Tokyo next month.

Nagasu was swept back by Alissa Czisny, despite a solid long program that still garnered her a bronze finish; Abbott suffered a couple falls and could not stand up to the positive energy behind Ryan Bradley, coming in just off the podium in 4th place.

Of course, bronze and one step off the podium—in the great scheme of things—are not to be sneezed at, but Abbott was the defending champion (and fourth place is always rough city in medal sports) and Nagasu has serious demons to battle whenever she leads in the short.

So basically, this Four Continents competition took the place of Worlds for Nagasu and Abbott this season.

They made the most of it.

After a strong short program that landed her in fourth position, Nagasu finally hit the perfect Memoirs of a Geisha free skate that has eluded her all season, winning her the bronze behind Miki Ando and Mao Asada (World Champion) of Japan, leading the American women at Four Continents.

The aerial view of a spin element around 1:45 is a neat vantage point not generally shown. The whole program was delightful and the expression on Nagasu’s face at the end because she knows it, is priceless.

Mao Asada & Miki Ando/ UniversalSports.com/ Reuters

Yay, podium!

Also the announcer accidentally proclaimed that she was representing Japan before a hasty correction was made. Hello awkward.

Abbott came out of the men’s short program in second position and delivered his season’s best in the free skate (148.98, 225.71 total), likewise landing himself on the podium with a bronze medal, the leading American man.

I love that Life is Beautiful free skate. Love it.

Sandra Bezic agrees, calling it “one of the most beautiful programs I’ve ever seen.”

Like Nagasu, Abbott prevented a Japanese podium sweep, standing behind Daisuke Takahashi and newcomer Yuzuru Hanyu.

Hanyu, Takahashi, Abbott/ UniversalSports.com

So, dear Mirai Nagasu and Jeremy Abbott: Way to strike back. Words to Bumble ❤ you.

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Ladies Figure Skating Nationals: Czisny, Flatt & Nagasu Battle It Out

Alissa Czisny/ UniversalSports.com/ Chris Keane/ Reuters

Alissa Czisny spent this season turning her skating around after nearly retiring last year when she failed to make the Olympic team. She came into the U.S. Nationals as the new 2010 Grand Prix champion.

Rachael Flatt went into Nationals as the defending U.S. champion, knowing no woman has managed to defend her title since Michelle Kwan in 2002.

Mirai Nagasu came out of the short program with a narrow lead, only to continue her pattern of coming up short in the free skate every time that she has led in the short program, including her performance in last year’s World Championships and this year’s Cup of China, despite coming in 4th (highest of the American women) at the Vancouver Olympics.

It was über dramatic.

The three top U.S. women were virtually tied going into the free skate competition, Nagasu in the lead, followed by Czisny, with Flatt in third.

Czisny skated first of the top three, displaying the new form she has been working on this season: “there is a calmness, a focus about her skating that we have not seen before,” said Sandra Bezic. Technically, Scott Hamilton explained, “it’s how she rotates, her air position has changed ever so slightly.”

It was a dreamy free skate, and Czisny’s face said it all throughout. And depend on Hamilton to say it in that Scott way: “Alissa Czisny has it all and she just delivered it, what a comeback!”—along with various undefinable exclamations as usual, building up to her final score of 191.24.

Mirai Nagasu/ UniversalSports.com/ Chuck Burton/ Associated Press

And Mirai Nagasu had to skate right after that.

Before the top three skated, commentator Sandra Bezic said of Nagasu, “She’s an artistic being, so you never know what she’s going to bring to the table; one day it’s divine and the next it’s a mess.”

Unlike past examples of Nagasu’s fall from first place in the short program, she fought this one out, but no one could catch Czisny.

Comments?

Scott: ““Knowing Mirai for as long as I have, and knowing how volatile she can be—especially when the pressure’s on—after Alissa Czisny took all the air out of the building, she [Mirai] took command of that ice and she delivered a fine performance, that was very, very strong.”

Sandra: “She did [deliver a fine performance], and she looked genuinely afraid when she started, when she took that opening position, and  it looked like she battled her demons throughout, it wasn’t the joyous performance that we’re used to from Mirai—it was work.”

So that was rough, again—but it could have been a lot, lot worse.

Before she started her program, coach Frank Carroll was heard to say, “Believe in yourself, get out there and do it. You’re the best skater in the world. Believe it.”

During her “Memoirs of a Geisha” skate, Nagasu stepped out of a double axel a bit and had some balance issues on a spin sequence, which are usually her strongest point. Her final score came to 177.26, well behind Czisny and hoping to hang on to second place so as to make the U.S. team for Worlds in March.

On the upside, she has changed her costume since earlier in the Grand Prix season and I like this blue incarnation better. So, there’s a sartorial win.

Rachael Flatt/ UniversalSports.com/ Chuck Burton/ Associated Press

Rachael Flatt was last to skate (and people are still busy commenting about her short haircut), delivering an unusually unreliable performance given her reputation. She had a couple of mistakes at the beginning, mistakes that made it impossible to catch Czisny. On a combo that she almost lost, Scott’s verbal contortions changed ‘beautiful’ to a cry of lament: “beeeeeuuuuuuu-ooooooooohhhhh…”

Yeah.

Comments from Flatt?

“That was frustrating.”

Needless to say she came up second to Czisny with 188.38, in all likelihood claiming the second American spot at Worlds in Tokyo this March (the U.S. only has two spots this year because the American, including Flatt and Nagasu, did not score high enough last year).

Whamps.

All three however have been named to the U.S. Four Continents team.

Christina Gao/ UniversalSports.com/ Chris Keane

Andrea Joyce obviously got to stalk the champion when it was all over, getting a joyful and grateful snippet from Czisny: “I’m just so happy to have gone out there and done the best that I can do and really come back after last year… being able to find my love for the sport again.”

Newcomer that I liked?

Christina Gao. She’s speedy and surprisingly tall, and only almost knocked into the boards after a combination. Sandra says “the future is hers,” and that “Christina is just magical when she’s on.” I really enjoyed her Yellow River Concerto program. She finaled with a  167.20, finishing in 5th.

So that’s that. Not too many commentary gems from Scott, but we’ll see what I can pull for the men’s programs. We shall see.

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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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Sparkles, Sequins, One Glove & a Disco Ball: Olympians & Other Stars On Ice

Ice Dancers: Davis& White, Belbin & Agosto

[tweetmeme source=”JohannaAP25″]
These days there is only one national tour allowing enthusiasts to see their favorite figure skaters. The Ice Capades folded in 1995 after over fifty years of kitschy entertainment, Champions on Ice went out of business in 2008, and Stars on Ice is the last tour geared towards audiences looking for competition style skating rather than novelty shows aimed at children (i.e. Disney on Ice).

Group Finalé

Not that this prevents a certain level of highly entertaining kitsch. There are group numbers with loads of sequins and outrageous Star Search lighting during which tour members flit about to the likes of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” and “I’ve Got the Music In Me” (Kiki Dee Band), among other selections that will make you giggle, including one number incorporating a giant disco ball for extra fun.

It is also vastly entertaining. Vastly.

At the risk of sounding a touch over-excited: There is nothing like seeing Olympic athletes perform in person. Truly. Especially when you have your own personal Scott Hamilton (read: Kathleen) to comment, gasp and clutch with you.

Group Skate #1

After the opening group number, the show began with Mirai Nagasu skating a version of her competitive short program to music including “He’s A Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean (I told you there would be multiple instances of pirates after the golden dollar debacle).

For reference, this is the program during which she spun so fast at the Olympics that she got a bloody nose on the way to a fourth place finish in Vancouver. Mere weeks later it was the program that garnered her a personal record at the 2010 ISU World Championships and first place going into the free skate with the break out performance of the competition.

Nagasu is purely delightful, the girl is going places; like she says, “I just want people to know that I’m the future.” Her signature grace on the ice came across even in the upper levels– sprightly footwork, fluid lines and unrivaled spins were a joy to witness in person. One might think that watching the same program for the fourth time [after televised coverage of Nationals, Olympics and Worlds] would have been old hat, but it was nothing of the sort– if anything, I just knew what I had to look forward to from the moment she stepped out onto the ice.

Mirai Nagasu

Suffice it to say that seeing what Nagasu can accomplish in the coming 2010/11 season will be terribly exciting, and I look forward to watching her show the world what she is capable of.

Second up, another Olympian in the form of Jeremy Abbott– another Words to Bumble favorite– who did not make out quite as well in either Vancouver or Torino for the Worlds. Sadly he did not perform his Beatles short program from the competition season, but he did don another classy mildly bedazzled shirt for a skate to Michael Bublé’s “At This Moment.”

Jeremy Abbott

The unfortunate thing about Abbott is that as delightful as he is when he is on, he clearly tends to succumb to nerves after even a minor slip up. During his second solo on the ice Abbott had a few issues and touched down on the ice once or twice, never seeming to recover from an early issue.

Comment from Kathleen: “That boy really knows how to swivel his hips.” This is why she is my own personal Scott Hamilton.

Incidentally, Stars On Ice was founded by Scott Hamilton when his Ice Capades contract was not renewed in the mid-eighties.

Olympians Meryl Davis and Charlie White skated their Indian original dance from the 2009/2010 season. Theirs was one of the few at the Olympics that was not entirely scarring, and its energetic pace definitely translated well as a piece of entertainment to keep the show going. Their crazy lifts (like the one where Davis stands on the back of White’s calf) are responsible for my growing enjoyment of ice dancing, which I often find to be a bit trying, frankly.

Meryl Davis & Charlie White

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto gave a narrative performance to Jason Mraz’s “If It Kills Me,” telling the story of a relationship over the years, from childhood into adulthood, complete with props and multiple costume changes. It was pretty adorable.

Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto

Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto

Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto

Alissa Czisny

One of the most distressing aspects of the evening was the low energy of the audience. It was pretty obvious that the lack of enthusiasm was dragging on skaters throughout the evening, most notably Alissa Czisny’s second solo, “I Like the Way You Move,” which should have been a particularly high-energy number.

Michael Weiss on the other hand was particularly adept at connecting with the audience with a rocking crowd-pleaser performance of “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” complete with my favorite thing ever: back flips!

There was clutching, there was gasping, there were joyous exclamations with each jump– and it was not just Kathleen and myself–everyone was loving it! I always miss back flips, I think there should always be more back flipping– it just brings joy.

Michael Weiss

However, the ultimate crowd favorite was Olympic champion Evan Lysacek (and how relived am I to be writing about his figure skating skills again instead of Dancing with the Stars!?). I had wondered if he would perform the date that brought him to the dance. He did not, but what he did was amazingly fabulous.

Evan Lysacek

Picture this: the crowd goes insane when “our” Olympic champion is introduced. He appears on the ice… Is that a singular sparkling glove that he is sporting?

Yes it is.

What are those dulcet tones that I hear? Oh, Michael Jackson? Oh, “Man in the Mirror?” Yes, please.

I die. So much joy. Just… watch it. Do yourself a favor. Try to be cranky after that.

Evan Lysacek

As you may surmise, clutching ensued. That was one of the most entertaining things I have ever seen. And they say Lysacek is boring and mechanical. Did they not note the glove?

Sheer joy aside, the one thing I took home from watching Lysacek skate is that he is one tall man. It never really came across to me while watching televised events, but seeing him in person– I repeat– that is a tall man. He towers over other skaters, even alone on the ice his height dominates, which may be part of why he is so impressive. So says Kathleen.

Todd Eldredge

Other members of the tour:

The ever delightful Todd Eldredge: Discuss the fact that Eldredge has been skating since I first started watching… and he is still awesomely at it.

Yuka Sato has been on the tour for several years and is also Jeremy Abbott’s coach, so this has been an interesting little exercise for them figuring out how to tour together as colleagues rather than coach and coachee.

Yuka Sato

Lastly, Sasha Cohen skated as the only survivor of Champions on Ice. Apparently in the figure skating world, the dissolution of previous ice tours and the dominance of Stars On Ice is chuck full of drama– drama for another time perhaps.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience. A little bizarre, a little campy, but also fantastic. There was a little something for everyone: classical pieces, pop programs, campy musical theateresque group numbers, Olympic caliber programs from the faces the world learned to love in Vancouver– overall good times. Plus, when you have gotten used to sitting through an entire night of compulsory dances, the variety brought the best of the best into one whole.

Sasha Cohen

So if you have ever pondered trekking out to see  a figure skating tour, I fully recommend the experience. If you cannot make it out: check out the gallery of additional photos from the night on Long Island.

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