Yes, I’m going to use “Breznaissance” and squeeze it for all that it’s worth (thanks, CoopersChewToy).
Last weekend’s Grand Prix of Helsinki was GP #3, which means we are halfway through the Series on the way to the Final. It was really a rollercoaster three days, kicking off with short programs that had a fair number of errors and ending with some revelations that could say a lot about where this season is headed. A few thoughts before we move on to NHK Trophy this weekend.
2018 Grand Prix of Helsinki Videos
Short: LADIES | PAIRS | DANCE | MEN
Short: LADIES | PAIRS | DANCE | MEN
The Breznaissance continues
When I talk about the figurative rebirth of Michal Brezina’s career, it’s significant not only for him as someone who has been wildly inconsistent and saw his career stagnate, but also for the figure skating world as another showcase of longevity in a sport where better training and improved technique has seen the likes of Sergei Voronov and Carolina Kostner continue to succeed.
For Brezina, who has not medaled twice on the Grand Prix since 2011, the silver at GP Helsinki will very likely mark his second career appearance in the Grand Prix Final (there is only one, and very unlikely, scenario in which he doesn’t qualify). He has given immense credit to his coach, Rafael Arutyunyan, who has done similar things to other students’ career. The lag time seems to be about two seasons (see: Adam Rippon, Ashley Wagner, and most recently, Mariah Bell).
Related: Updated Grand Prix standings
And yes, at Skate America, you could have attributed it to a somewhat weak overall field. But in Helsinki, he was up against and defeated the likes of Boyang Jin, Mikhail Kolyada, and Junhwan Cha. While others faltered, Brezina rose to the occasion.
Who knows how much further up Brezina will climb? But his return to consistency, and with that, the return of the judges’ component marks, has been one of the celebrated underdog stories of the season.
A quad toe-WHAT??
Meanwhile, Yuzuru Hanyu was doing Yuzuru Hanyu things. Oh, no big deal, he throws out a casual quads toe-triple axel sequence, a first of its kind in the history of figure skating. And you know it was about creating history more than about maximizing points. The sequence, which was worth 15.40 points in base value taking the second-half 10% bonus into account), is barely worth more than a much less risky and certainly easier quad toe-triple toe combination (15.07 with bonus).
Side note: I’ve been pulling my hair out about the way the IJS calculates combinations and sequences for year, but that’s a whole different post.
Hanyu’s quad toe-triple axel wasn’t completely clean, but like, who cares? It was amazing.
It’s one thing to be a harsh technical panel, it’s another to be an inconsistent technical panel. The free skate in the ladies event may have been the most visible. For the most part, we saw calls that looked like they followed what we saw either in real-time or in replay. But when the scores came up, it seemed like there were jumps that looked iffy that had been called under for other skaters that weren’t called for Rika Hongo and then Stanislava Konstantinova.
It’s always tough to say because the panel has certain shots of the jumps that are different from the ones that we see on the ISU stream. You just hate for placements to be decided because of inconsistent calls.
That said, whether or not Konstantinova’s jump calls ended up hindering Kaori Sakamoto’s move to silver (which would’ve greatly strengthened her Grand Prix Final chances), Sakamoto took it out of her own hands after a disastrous short program that brought her down to seventh place.
Zagitova musters out a win
It wasn’t a particularly satisfying win for Alina Zagitova, who made a pretty major error in both programs in Helsinki, but a win is a win. Overall, her jumps didn’t look to have the pop or the ease that we’ve seen in the past - and it was particularly noticeable on her lutz, which usually has such a lightness to it.
And hey, for all my talk about her “mustering out” the win, she still won by 18 points.
We shouldn’t forget that Zagitova has actually upgraded her technical content in the free skate since last season to further maximize her base value. For a skater who has looked invincible many times in the past season, it’s certainly not easy at all to be so.