And so, after all the fanfare, the first Grand Prix of the season is now in the books. 2015 Skate America was full of great skating (and a bit of not so great skating). Two of the disciplines were won by the home team, with Max Aaron grabbing his first ever Grand Prix event and Madison Chock/Evan Bates winning dance. Evgenia Medvedeva took the ladies' title, while Wenjing Sui/Cong Han won pairs. As for the tidbits to take away from this event, let's have a look.
Rocker #SkateAmerica coverage
1. Max Aaron - no fluke
Was he a favorite? No. Was his win completely unexpected? Well, depends on how well you've been following him for the past six months. If you saw World Team Trophy in April, or if read my Skate America pre-preview over the summer, you'd be somewhat familiar with the artistic transformation that Aaron has committed to. Indeed, the skater we saw at Skate America, a budding artist who skates to the music, was the most different from what we are used to seeing, the jump machine who maybe paid attention to the music half the time. This dedication to the craft has given him a second wind. And this Skate America win - a first Grand Prix win for Aaron and the first Skate America win for any American man since Evan Lysacek's in 2009 - could be the start of something really grand this season.
2. Not too shabby debuts for Uno and Medvedeva
In fact, Shoma Uno and Evgenia Medvedeva both made a huge splash that automatically inserted them into the conversation of World podium contenders this season. Uno's free skate was brilliant, and had it not been for his fall on the quad in the short, he would've won the whole thing. What he showed was that he's getting much more comfortable battling the big guns (much more so than what we saw at U.S. Classic, to be sure). It bodes well for him.
Medvedeva held off a fantastic free skate from Gracie Gold with a fantastic free skate herself to win her first Grand Prix in the first try, something that her more well-known teammates, Adelina Sotnikova, Julia Lipnitskaia, and Elena Radionova, were not able to do. I'll be the first to tell you that I don't much care for her Tano variation on like every jump - partially because hers just doesn't have great shape - but I'll also be the first to tell you that I care a lot for basically everything else she has to offer to skating. Difficult jumps, musicality, expressiveness - it's all there. And she's more than ready to be taking on the best of the best.
3. Stolbova/Klimov's standing
Many were eagerly awaiting the return of Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov after they took post-Europeans off last season. Did they come back with upgrades? Yes. Are there quads involved? No (or at least not yet). At Skate America, they became the first pair to ever land a side-by-side triple toe-triple toe-double toe combination, which, to be perfectly honest, should be worth more than it actually is (but I won't get into how I feel about the IJS' treatment of jump combos right now ... again). They are launching their throw triple flip more than before - arguably the cause of the fall in the short program. And they have added side-by-side triple salchows, an upgrade from the double axels they used to do.
What comes with the new skills, though, is a bit more inconsistency. As they are settling in to more difficult programs, it will be interesting to see if they are able to put a couple of clean programs together in one competition and gain momentum from there - that's exactly what happened during the Olympic season two years ago when they had a mid-season surge on their way to Olympic silver. But what may be a bit alarming is that this is the second competition in a row where their PCS has seen a dip from where they were this time last year. There's no doubt that they noticed it. And we will all keep an eye on those PCS as they head into championship season.
4. Rocker lighting round
And because I could ramble on for weeks about other storylines from Skate America, here are some stream-of-consciousness thoughts, in one sentence each:
- Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov almost broke 100 in their free dance - definite momentum there.
- With their win, Wenjing Sui/Cong Han took their first GP and are working on a two-quad free skate - quad twist and quad salchow.
- Gracie Gold skated her best free skate in ages, and it's her strongest artistic effort ever.
- Gutsy Alaine Chartrand attempted - and fully rotated - a triple axel, though it was unfortunately the first of three falls.
- Great progress for Jason Brown, who looks 10 times better than he did two months ago with the jumps - and the best quad attempt we've seen from him in competition.
- And oh my, Denis Ten - please rest that injury.