Citizen at last!
Amid all the craziness that was Skate America, we quickly forget one of the biggest pieces of news from earlier in the week - Bruno Massot passed his German language exam on his third and final try and will officially become a German citizen in time for the Olympics. He and Aljona Savchenko won the pairs' event in strong fashion, and thanks to a 150+ free skate (and despite a back injury that Massot dealt with throughout the week). The only other 150+ free skate this season was recorded by Wenjing Sui/Cong Han. The Grand Prix Final will be [fire emoji].
An unexpected detour
Things were going basically as planned for Nathan Chen this season on his trajectory toward the Olympics. He had been steady this season in his increase in difficulty and in his improvement in performance quality. And after a phenomenal short program - I recommend you go watch his step sequence (this is how you make bunny hops look good) - his trajectory took a dip with a mistake-filled free skate. The mistake on the flip completely threw him off and he never really recovered from it.
Good news? He did it where it didn't count for much. Other good news? He became the first person to land two quad lutzes in one program.
Lake Placid was apparently where skaters go and do things to their shoulders. Daniel Samohin and Adam Rippon dislocated their shoulders bracing themselves on errant jumps. Because he had suffered that injury before, Rippon was able to pop - or "shimmy," as he noted - it back in after his and skate the rest of his free skate clean. Samohin was less fortunate, though, as he took a hard fall and couldn't recover from it. He has since posted on Instagram and seems to be in good spirits. The latest word on Sunday was that he would be able to resume training in a few weeks.
One foot out the door
Oh, and more withdrawals. The audience was shocked when Ashley Wagner stopped halfway through her free skate and withdrew. Earlier in the week, she revealed that she had been dealing with an infection at her ankle that took her off the ice for a few days immediately before Skate America. During practice earlier in the week, she had been drilling jumps - with one fall in three days - like I haven't seen from her since 2016 Worlds. But on Sunday, her jump quantity decreased in the morning practice and noticeably in the warmup prior to her free skate.
Like many skaters (Massot included with his back this week, Rippon included with his shoulder injury over the summer, and Chris Knierim included with his knee over the past few months), Wagner is often reluctant to bring up injuries. But with Grand Prix Final qualification on the line, it would have been a boon to her chances at the Olympic team had she made it to Nagoya. After all, Olympic qualification is of utmost importance, and withdrawing from this event had no upside for Wagner, especially given how Karen Chen had skated earlier in the event.
Her ankle infection will heal, but now it's a question about Wagner's confidence going into the U.S. Championships. She will have to channel every bit of her experience in San Jose.
Miyahara is (almost) back
If you asked me on Thursday if Satoko Miyahara was going to win this competition, I would've laughed in your face. She was tentative in practice, popping and underrotating jumps, and lacking that confidence that we've always seen. And as she recovers from the injuries she's had the past year, you think that this competition would be a way for her to make incremental improvements on her so-so showing at NHK Trophy. But she got stronger each day, getting back to what we expect from her when it counted. Some of her jumps are still iffy on rotation, but she got them called clean at the competition, which helped her to the gold.
Either way, she's back and will have another few weeks to get improve toward Japan Nationals. It's going to be a close race. (Oh, and let's not forget that Kaori Sakamoto just forced her way into the Olympic team conversation.)
A new face, a new contender
Three years ago, Bradie Tennell won the junior title at the U.S. Championships. Her results since have been middling, as she dealt with injuries that hampered her training. But back and healthy, Tennell has had the best fall of ANY of the U.S. women, capped off with a bronze medal this weekend in her senior Grand Prix debut. With her difficulty and consistency, and her competitors' lack of consistency, she goes into San Jose next month as more than just a contender for the Olympic team - she is now a favorite for the national title.
Shibutanis bring their best
It was a career-best competition - Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani were brilliant in their Skate America win. Their short dance was absolutely the strongest I have ever seen them perform. They are always technicians, but they rarely push their programs to the limit. We finally saw that in Lake Placid, particularly in their short dance. Their ice coverage was superb and they were pushing their elements to the limits. There's even more that they can do to go all out in their choreography, especially toward the end of their midline. But toeing the line between control and disaster is what brought them to new heights, and a personal best.