And just like that, the first Grand Prix event of the 2018-19 season is in the books. Many skating fans know to manage expectations in a post-Olympic season - and there were definitely times at Skate America when we saw that the skating level was not what it was at this time last year. That said, there were also many other times when we were blown out of the water by what we saw in Everett. A few quick thoughts before we set our sights on this week’s Skate Canada.
2018 Skate America play-by-play/videos
Short: MEN | LADIES | PAIRS | DANCE
Free: MEN | LADIES | PAIRS | DANCE
There was a lot of talk this past weekend about whether or not the calls on Vincent Zhou’s jumps were particularly harsh. For the most part, the calls looked consistent with calls that he may have gotten in the past. The one questionable call for me was the quad flip in the short program, which I saw live and in replay to look clean. Beyond that, these other calls were ones that would have been called in previous seasons for a tough panel.
And it extended beyond Zhou - it wasn’t just him who was on the other end of the tough calls. There were other questionable calls that looked pretty good in real time and replay - Matteo Rizzo’s clear wrong edge on his flip in the short program, Laurine Lecavelier’s downgraded triple toe in the short that I saw as underrotated only, a couple of Polina Tsurskaya’s underrotations, Bradie Tennell’s triple toe in the free skate, and some of the unclear edge calls, like Sofia Samodurova’s flip edge in the free.
Is this a sign that panels are going to be tougher this season onward because of the updated definition of underrotation? It’s too soon to tell, but nothing from other competitions I’ve seen this season has led me to believe that this was anything but an anomalous tough technical panel. We will have to get some more data into our sample before drawing any conclusions there.
But you know who WAS clean?
Satoko Miyahara! For a skater who has never been known for her squeaky clean jumps, Miyahara certainly was squeaky clean in Everett. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her put together two programs as clean as the ones that she delivered this weekend. Surely, some of this success had to do with not being as injured as she was last season, and some of it had to do with her jump work over the summer with Ghislain Briand in Canada.
After the free skate, Miyahara noted to me that she has been focusing a lot on using her arms and upper body more to assist her jumps, rather than just relying on her quick rotations. It definitely paid off in her win at Skate America - we will see if she can continue that this season.
Also, the last group of free skates in the ladies’ event was phenomenal - the warmup I watched was worthy of a final group at the World Championships.
Refinement for Tarasova/Morozov
One of my favorite transformations was Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov. With Maxim Trankov on their coaching team, their choreographic direction seems to have shifted for the better. Both of their programs this season look fresh and refined. And with their already incredible foundations as pair skaters, this could be a season where we see them break through as the complete package.
Chen takes it easy
I guess if you call four quads in your two programs taking it easy, that’s what Nathan Chen did en route to a blowout win. Much like last year, Chen’s plan is to be gradual in working his way up in the number of quad jumps. Here in Everett, he did quad flip in the short and one lutz and two toes in the free. (Oh right, and two-for-two on his triple axel, what?) It gave him a sense of freedom in both programs to focus more of his energy on choreography - a good step, especially given some of the jump-to-jump skating that he did at times in his free skates.
As he progresses in this season and adds more difficult technical content, you wonder if he can maintain (or even improve) his attention to the in-betweens. He knows it’s a must … and perhaps after this weekend, he might know that six quads is no longer a must anymore if he can deliver artistically as well.
Oldies but goodies
A quick shout to Michal Brezina and Sergei Voronov, who took silver and bronze at ages 28 and 31. We continue to witness longer lifespans for figure skaters, and their success here will no doubt set examples for others to follow their lead.