We are over halfway through the 2015 Grand Prix Final, and almost done with the Junior Grand Prix Final as well. The first two days of competition have brought a mixture of joy and tears, and really more recently, it was the tears that dominated. Here's a quick look at everything that unfolded the past two days, and what it means for tomorrow and the rest of the season.
2015 Grand Prix Final + Junior Grand Prix Final
There was something foul in the rink in Barcelona for a few hours today. If you watched the competition today, you'll know what I mean. Between the junior men's free and the senior pairs' free, we had 20 falls in 12 programs. This wasn't mistakes from skaters you expect mistakes from, nor were some of these mistakes on really tough elements. You had Xiaoyu Yu/Yang Jin just going down for no reason, you had Daniel Samohin fall on two triple lutzes and his step sequence, you had Cheng Peng/Hao Zhang fall on a throw triple loop.
It was unexpected, and it was deflated. And let's hope it doesn't repeat tomorrow.
American international prospects
The dance teams were great. And frankly, that's expected. Ice dance is high-difficulty but lower risk than the freestyle disciplines. And right now, American dance teams are fantastic. We got #2, #4, and #5 in the competition right now. Was my Shibutani prediction maybe a bit premature? Maybe. But they haven't really been this close to the top teams in a while. At this time last year, you'd expect them to be in fourth with something in the mid-66s, not a point away from bronze. So it's progress, and it will be interesting to see if/how they move up in the free dance, which is their strength this season.
But oh boy, the pairs and ladies were something different. The issue with the Americans in singles and pairs right now is their inability to be consistent internationally. And the more you can be consistent, the more your scores will be consistent and escalate, especially if you deserve it. And it's especially important at a competition like the Grand Prix Final, where a fantastic showing can do wonders for the rest of your season. Just ask Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau, who took full advantage of the competition and scored three personal bests here. All of a sudden, their components are gigantic, and they are in the conversation in the pairs event like they never were before.
You can't say the same about Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim, who really could've used Barcelona as a way to catapult themselves into the top-5-at-Worlds conversation. Instead, they looked uneasy, with a fall on their quad twist in the free skate, something that they've never made that huge of a mistake on before. But perhaps even tougher so far are Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner, who, if consistent, can both be in contention for the World podium. Gold two-footed her combo and doubled the flip, which Wagner stepped out of her flip and fell on a last-ditch attempt to put a triple toe at the end of her solo loop. Clean programs for them would've safely put them in second and third in the 70s, instead, they are in fifth and sixth.
The big issue is not so much the placements, but more so the scores. Judges have been so used to giving the Medvedevas and Radionovas of the world big marks with their consistent technical content. And because of their consistency, their component marks have escalated as well. Gold and Wagner don't nearly have the consistency, and their lack of clean programs have stagnated their component escalation. If you want to know why the American ladies don't fare as well as the Russian ladies even if they skate cleanly, there's at least part of your reason. Is it absolutely fair? No. Component scores shouldn't escalate because you're consistent - but they just do.
Bottom line - both Gold and Wagner need to capitalize on these big competition occasions to get their standing up in the minds of the judges. Hopefully, the free skates will be steps up from today.
Hanyu gets another world record
What was billed as yet another showdown between Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan became a 40-point gap between a world-record Hanyu and a two-invalidated-element Chan. Hanyu was absolutely breathtaking, with a short program that was even better than the one he put down at NHK Trophy. And he became the first person to ever surpass 110 in the short program. Chan, on the other hand, tripled his opening quad and then had his triple lutz-triple toe invalidated because he repeated the toe in a different jumping pass - a no-no in the short program.
There will be no miracle for Chan of passing Hanyu in the free skate - a 40-point margin is just much too expensive for him. Chan's free skate is just a matter of saving face at this point.
Hanyu, on the other hand, will be chasing yet another world record tomorrow.