There's so much to talk about from last weekend's Skate Canada that I needed two parts to not make my analysis of the competition look like a novel. If you missed it, I've taken a look at the men's event, namely Patrick Chan vs. Yuzuru Hanyu. Here are my thoughts on the rest of the stellar competition that was Skate Canada.
Rocker's #SCI15 coverage
1. Wagner delivers
Every year, it seems like we are seeing Ashley Wagner reach her ceiling in some combination of technical capabilities and competition performance. Two years ago, it looked like the Olympics were it, but she came back last year even stronger, and it looked like Nationals was it. But Skate Canada marked yet another high in Wagner's now ninth season on the senior ranks. Three personal bests in one competition - it's tough to not be impressed by that.
What was a pleasant surprise to a lot of skating observers was her short program, which she is less known for. If you look at Wagner's body of work, it's the free skates that stand out, starting with the transformational Black Swan, then Samson and Delilah, and now her signature Moulin Rouge. But her short program this season is shaping up to be a breakthrough for her artistically. She can do more than just dramatic character pieces - this samba short shows everything that's great about competitive skating with everything that's great about show skating. It's a fun, energetic, technically-difficult 2:40 minutes, and it may be the vehicle for her to really shine on the world stage this season.
It's worth reiterating that Wagner has really blossomed as a true musical artist on the ice. And you really can see it at Skate Canada when you juxtapose her performances with those of the other skaters. She delivered two very different genres of programs incredibly well - and there was not a letdown at any point in either program. You definitely see it with Elizaveta Tuktamysheva in parts of her free skate, you see some of it in Kanako Murakami's short program, you see it in parts of Alena Leonova's short program. But at this point, Wagner is among the very best in performance and interpretation - incredible especially if you look back and realize that she started off as the technician with middle-of-the-road artistic potential.
2. Rippon's lutz strategy
No, he's not rotating the quad lutz yet. But Adam Rippon and his team would not put an element out there that they have zero confidence in. We've seen that Rippon is capable of 1) rotating the jump, and 2) landing it on one foot. And even if he were to have it called underrotated, it would have a base value of 9.50, greater than a triple axel.
A lot of people have asked if it's worth it for Rippon to keep it even if it doesn't have a high hit rate. And in general, it is, partly because of its base value and partly because it still allows him to do a full eight triples. His other real option would be to replace it with a double axel, which is worth less than fall on a fully-rotated or underrotated quad lutz. You can argue that a clean program is better than a program with a fall - and it's generally true - but in the long run, he needs a quad to be competitive on the world stage, and the quad lutz is his best option at this point, and, if he ever really gets it even semi-consistent, it would be a game changer for him.
3. Sophomore pairs on the rise
That Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford won Skate Canada was completely expected, so I won't dwell on that. But it's great to see two pairs, now in their second season together, take some strides in international competition. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro took their first Grand Prix medal together (Moore-Towers, of course, had lots of previous success with Dylan Moscovitch) and saw their PCS increase quite healthily from last season as a result of stronger skating and greater connection.
U.S. pair Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran were fourth with side-by-side jump errors, which are definitely too common for them right now, and a watered down second throw. The fact that they scored 170+ with these deficiencies show you what kind of potential they have - and that the international panels already appreciate how great they are. Castelli and Tran both had lots of success with their previous partners, but they are definitely even better now that they have paired up. Clean those side-by-sides up and get that throw triple lutz, and they could make it really interesting at Nationals.
4. Rocker lightning round
- Give it up for Tim Dolensky, who put down a career-best free skate to finish 6th in the free and 7th overall - definitely promising for a guy whose triple axel can be just MIA in competition.
- Get well soon: Valentina Marchei/Ondrej Hotarek had to withdraw after Hotarek suffered a concussion in practice - not a great season for these injuries.
- Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje and Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani impressed with their free dances - you always wonder if the Shibutanis will get more respect with the international judges.
- The side-by-sides of the day are triple lutzes (!) - Duhamel/Radford, Marchei/Hotarek, and Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer attempted them - first time in skating history that three pairs have attempted that element in one event.
- Michal Brezina fell four more times at Skate Canada (he's now at 15 falls this season - counting Skate Canada, Nebelhorn, Lombardia, Nice, and Finlandia) - hope he gets some rest and not let these performances spiral out of control.
- Also in fall city was Kaetlyn Osmond, who looked so good in the first 45 seconds of her short program (monster triple flip-triple toe and triple lutz) and then after a nasty hip fall on a flying spin fell another six times after that. She looked great at Nebelhorn but injured her ankle in practice before the short. Like Brezina, you hope that she is able to get over this quickly.