Liza T rarely gets praise from me when it comes to her programs which is why I'm shocked I like both this season. I have to shake my head at all of the wrist-ography and shimmying in the SP, but overall it's a solid vehicle for her. I love the way she performs it and I think it could be a real crowd pleaser. Same thing for the FS; I like the music and I think the choreography works really well for Liza's style of skating. The most impressive thing was her jumps in both programs. That light, easy, effortlessness is back in her jumps; she didn't look like she was reaching for any of them...they just came to her. The timing was good, nice height, soft landings...The last time her jumps looked like this was back during the 2014-2015 season when she went on a tear and won nearly everything. The competition in Russia is deeper than ever BUT if she can start hitting those jumps consistently (and maybe even throw that triple axel in somewhere) she could be a dark horse for that 3rd spot this year.
I'm glad Elena kept her "Porgy & Bess" SP from last season. I think it's definitely one of her stronger programs and it should serve her well again this season. I'm liking her Latin FS as well. The attitude and feel of Latin music works really well with Elena's style so I'm feeling this program for her. It's looking like it could be her strongest FS in the last couple of years once she settles into it. The jumps were okay...just okay. Elena's jumps have been hanging on over the past two seasons despite her growth spurt. She looks much more mature and striking on the ice now but she has to find some solid consistency in her jumps if she wants to make a case for that 3rd spot on the Olympic team.
On the Fence...
I like Maria as a skater. I have since her junior days. She's pleasant to watch and...she's pleasant to watch. Yeah...that about sums her up and that's a problem. Pleasant is good but it's not great, and considering how deep the Russian talent pool is she needs to be great. Maria is a solid technician but she's not Medvedeva or Zagitova. She's a solid performer but she doesn't have that sparkle like Radionova or Tuktamysheva. To combat her shortcomings Maria needs to bring more to the table in terms of her programs and packaging. Her SP is nice but I forgot it shortly after watching it. I like her FS to "Clair de Lune" but I don't know if it will leave a big enough impression on the judges after she leaves the ice. I think her programs for this season are okay but I'm not too sure if they are what she needs to make her stand out and grab the judges' attention the way she needs to this season.
I like about 93.5% of Evgenia's SP. As always there's some convoluted story behind the program: I think this one deals with her soul leaving her body and flying around and then she dies at the end or something?...I have no frickin' idea. I love the music (Nocturne 20 is my favorite Chopin piece) and the movement within the program is nice. There's not a lot of pantomiming or odd movements which is a welcomed departure for her. I don't like the additions to the music (heartbeats and breathing) and all of the mimed gasping at the end just looks stupid BUT I do like the program overall.
On the other hand, I do not like her FS...at all. It's like they didn't even try this year. Her program is 90% backloaded to combat Alina's 100% backloaded program. Worst part is she didn't need to do that. Evgenia has the respect and talent to maintain her positioning without cheapening her skating to that level. I didn't really care for her FS last year but at least it was a complete program. Despite whatever overly pretentious story they try to sell us on for this mess, it can't disguise the fact that this is a shitty program. It's her weakest FS to date and that upsets me SO badly! Evgenia is a talented and beautiful performer...but Averbukh and his craptastic, hokey, look-at-me-I'm-so-deep-and-artistic choreography ruins her for me.
The sad part is Evegnia will likely break scoring records with this program and that is going to make me want to put my fist through a wall. I figure if I start processing it now maybe I won't care so much once the season gets started...
Alina's "Black Swan" SP starts off quite nicely. I like the starting position and the moves into the spiral...but that's about it. Once she gets into the elements there really isn't any kind of performance or substance in between. Just element to element to element. Alina kept her "Don Quixote" FS from last year and, to me, that was a mistake. It's a juniorish program. Once you move up to the senior level you need to make every effort to skate like a senior lady. I think Alina looks the exact same as she did last season which is both good and bad: good because she's still on form and hitting her jumps and steps; bad because she doesn't look like a senior lady to me. Sadly it won't really matter how immature the program is if she nails all of her jumps which are all in the bonus. Her massive TES will cause them to bump her PCS up to match and just like that she'll be one of the top "women" in the world.
Those were all of the videos we got this year. We didn't get to see Anna Pogorilaya or Polina Tsurskaya or several others so there will be more to see once the season starts. Hopefully some of these skaters will re-think their choices and do better...but I'm not holding my breath.
I guess we'll see...moving on.
2017 JGP Riga Cup
Daria Panenkova (RUS): 66.65 (SP) + 119.15 (FS) = 185.80 - 1st
Daria is a typical Eteri skater: backloading, tanos/rippons galore, difficult content and pretty solid nerves. Her SP was clean albeit a bit detached. Other Eteri students we've seen so far this season (Alexandra Trusova, Anastasia Tarakanova) have stolen the show in terms of performance and really drawing in the audience. Daria isn't that kind of skater. She was nice to watch but she didn't stand out aside from her jumps. Unfortunately the jumps gave her issues in the FS (doubled one triple and fell on another) but thanks to her strong performance in the SP she was able to come out on top. If she plans to compete with her training mates, Daria needs to work on her skating skills and her performance.
Rika Kihira (JPN): 55.05 (SP) + 125.41 (FS) = 180.46 - 2nd
Coming in I expected Rika to be the one to beat at this competition. Unfortunately she got off to a horrible start. I'm assuming it was nerves or something, but whatever it was Rika could not seem to get her feet under her in the SP. She fell on her 3F combo and fell again on her lutz. The disastrous SP left her in 6th place. Thankfully she was able to battle back in the FS. She went for the 3A, rotated it, but still fell. The key to that jump is rotating it because even with a fall she still netted 4.50 points (5.50 for the jump minus 1.00 for the fall) which equals a very well done 2A. Despite the early fall Rika went on to land 7 triple jumps including a 2A-3T and 3Lz-3T in the bonus. She won the FS and moved up from 6th place to finish 2nd overall.
Emmy Ma (USA): 59.92 (SP) + 112.70 (FS) = 172.62 - 3rd
Emmy was a breath of fresh air at this event. I loved her SP. Lots of maturity, presence and performance and the judges really liked her. She earned the highest PCS of the segment despite placing 3rd which is a very impressive feat. Emmy is not as technically advanced as she needs to be to contend in a fully stacked field but the fact that the judges respect her skating is a big deal. She skated last in the FS with a medal on the line and aside from two under-rotations (a loop and double axel), she delivered very well. Her reaction after her performance was so cute and her reaction to learning she'd won a medal in her first JGP event was priceless. Congrats to her for being the first American to snag a medal in this series.
As for the rest...
Alisa Fedichkina (RUS; 171.98, 4th): I've always enjoyed Alisa's skating but she's struggled over the last year or so with a growth spurt. She had a strong (and lovely) SP, finishing in 2nd place and setting herself up nicely for a medal. Unfortunately an under-rotation and two doubled jumps lost her too many points and she missed out on a medal by only 0.64 points.
Other Competition Notes: Yuhana Yokoi (JPN; 169.59, 5th) had a strong competition. Her FS music had ADD (too many edits of "Burlesque") but it was fun to watch her. She looked like she was enjoying herself...Ashley Lin (USA; 161.23, 6th) is a lovely performer. Her jump technique is worrisome though; she tucks her legs when she's in the air. That could cause a lot of problems in the future...
There is no JGP event this week but we'll still have a packed week of skating. There are two big Senior B events going on this week. The U.S. International Classic will take place on September 13-17 and it's a packed event: Karen Chen (USA), Marin Honda (JPN), Mirai Nagasu (USA), Kaori Sakamoto (JPN), Mariah Bell (USA) and more. Also this week is the Lombardia Trophy which takes place September 14-17 and includes headliners Carolina Kostner (ITA), Wakaba Higuchi (JPN), Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS), Amber Glenn (USA) and the senior debut of Alina Zagitova (RUS).