Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Enough Phantom. There Is Other Broadway.

Hello, chickens. What have you to say for yourselves? I've been mainlining Elementary and Gracepoint for my Murder Thursdays, but most of my attention has been concentrated on watching bunch of figure skating. A. Bunch. Of. Figure. Skating. The return of figure skating season, of course, means the return of commentary by Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. 

Hello, darlings. Did you miss me?

What can I say about the overall theme of the Grand Prix of Figure Skating? Well, if you're super patriotic and you're looking to watch Americans succeed, perhaps this isn't the sport for you. 

Oh. I still have this on my hard drive. Do not even think for a moment I would delete this.

I freely admit that I am a bit hard on Ashley. I think she is overrated and I find her competent but not terribly interesting. I much prefer Gracie Gold (who has withdrawn from the Grand Prix final due to an injury), and skaters with less brouhaha surrounding them, like Mirai Nagasu and Samantha Cesario. Anyway. Enough about me. To the skaters.

Ladies' Singles

As was the case in Sochi earlier this year, the story is Russia, Russia, Russia. Four of the six ladies' finalists are Russian. They are ranked as follows: 

1. Elena Radionova
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva 
3. Anna Pogorilaya
4. Gracie Gold (W)
5. Yulia Lipnitskaya
6. Crashley Ashley Wagner
7. Rika Hongo (JPN)

Anyway, Ashley has more to contend with than the Russian ladies if she wants to find her way up onto that podium. Her teammate Gracie Gold has withdrawn, but Gracie actually got a gold medal in a Grand Prix event this season, and while Ashley qualified, she has not won any event. Gold's replacement, Rika Hongo, is someone Ashley needs to be concerned about. Forget beating the Russians -- the Japanese ladies' field is DEEP. DEEP LIKE A DEEP DISH PIZZA PIE ON A TUESDAY.  Rika is an amazing skater in the vein of the awesome Mao Asada and IMHO she has more of a chance to contend with the Russian girls than Ashley does. She is technically and artistically pretty sound, and she beat the Russian girls at home at the Rostelecom Cup just a few weeks ago.  No, she is not the complete package yet, but look out Pyonchang in 2018. Rika is my dark horse pick to win the Grand Prix final.

Yes, mama.

Elena Radionova has a gold medal from the 2014 Skate America and 2014 Trophee Eric Bompard. 

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva won the bronze medal at the 2013 European Championships and won gold at the 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy.  

Anna Pogorilaya placed first at Skate Canada and Cup of China. 

Rika Hongo placed first at the 2014 Rostelecom Cup and received the bronze medal at the 2014 Finlandia Trophy. She replaces Gracie Gold, who won a gold medal at the NHK Trophy, and bronze medals at Skate Canada and Nebelhorn Trophy. 

Yulia Lipnitskaya placed second at the 2014 Rostelecom Cup and also won silver at the Cup of China. The darling of the Sochi Games, Miss Thing has found herself some real competition in Elena Radionova. It's a good thing she's found something to light a fire under her, because homegirl has mad talent, but she has been falling all over the place since the team competition in Sochi. Get your head in the game, Yulia! 

Ashley Wagner is the silver medalist from the 2014 Skate Canada and the bronze medalist for the 2014 Trophee Eric Bompard. 

My overall comment on the Russian ladies is thus: They are good. They are very, very good. My favorite of the Russian girls, Alena Leonova, did not qualify, but you should totes check out her Charlie Chaplin routine from Skate Canada. Supes cute. I sort of find Elena Radionova and Yulia Lipnitskaya to be very similar in terms of technique and choreography. Elena thus far has been a bit more consistent, and Yulia kind of falls apart under the pressure. Anna Pogorilaya I feel is a bit overrated, because I don't feel her programs have been entirely clean, but I also realize that the judging doesn't severely penalize a lot of minor mistakes. That said, she is technically advanced. The only time her program actually grabbed me was earlier this year at Skate Canada, and at Cup of China she was artistically and technically meh. So we will see.

There was a lot of good skating during the Grand Prix series, and a lot of talented skaters who didn't qualify for the final. 

May I have a moment before I move on to the men?


Quoth the Tara, "There is other Broadway." See what you've done? You've upset Tara! 

There, there, Tar-Tar. Johnny will comfort you. 

If you aren't aware, the Powers That Be in the figure skating community have changed the rules and they are allowing all the skaters to perform to music with lyrics. I'm not entirely sold on this concept yet, but I think the idea would get more steam if people stopped doing fucking Phantom. I mean it. Everyone did Phantom, and the first year they let you use lyrics, what do you do? PHANTOM WITH BLOODY LYRICS. WHY???? When there is Chicago! Like. I mean. Why. Just a little more variety here, people. That's all I'm sayin'. 

Okay. The dudes.

Men's Singles

The leaders after the Grand Prix events 

1. Maxim Kovtun (RUS)
2. Javier Fernandez (SPN)
3. Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
4. Takahito Mura (JPN)
5. Sergei Voronov (RUS)
6. Yuzuru Hanryu (JPN)

As you can see, the Japanese men are pretty much dominating the field in terms of numbers in the Grand Prix final. Gold medalist Yuzuru Hanryu has been struggling since the Cup of China, after a hilarious unfortunate collision with a Chinese skater.

I'm looking for Javier Fernandez or Maxim Kovtun to win this event. Have I told you how much I love Maxim Kovtun? I effing love Maxim Kovtun. Look how adorable he is. Look at his little Spiderman jammies.

Javier Fernandez is awesome and does quad after quad. But he does not have Spiderman jammies. Thus, I pick Maxim. Well, really, I think it could go to any of these guys. I really love Javier and Maxim, but the Japanese men are very technically sound. I'm not a huge fan of the Japanese men. For me, they are kind of like Elena Radionova and Yulia Lipnitksaya -- very similar technique, music, and costumes. I don't see a whole lot of uniqueness among any of them, and I'd like some of them to start standing out artistically. However, I do like Daisuke Murakami, who trains with Gracie Gold and Frank Carroll, but skates for Japan. To me, he stands out a little more with a bit of his own style. Unfortunately, he did not qualify for the final, in spite of winning the gold medal at the NHK Trophy, so I'm hoping Maxim or Javi take gold. 

But no more Phantom. Seriously, you guys.

No. Just...no. (And no, that is not Charlie White.)


1. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS)
2. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN)
3. Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov (RUS)
4. Peng Cheng/Zhang Hao (CHN)
5. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN)
6. Yu Xiaoyu/Jin Yang (CHN)

The highest-ranking American pair, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, came in eighth overall, and did not earn a spot in the final. They are the second alternate for the final.  

For me, the pairs event is pretty up in the air. Stolbova and Klimov are the top-ranked pair, but they have Canadians Duhamel and Radford hot on their heels. However, I've watched all of these pairs this season and I feel the top two are pretty evenly matched. I mean, we're not looking at the difference between two Rob Lowes here

so the pairs event is anyone's game. If Stolbova and Klimov skate clean, they will win. But then again, if Duhamel and Radford skate clean, they will win. Or, it's entirely possible one of the lower ranked teams will come out swinging and end up with the gold. If I had to bet money, I'd put it on the Russians coming in first and the Canadians second, but anything can happen in competition.

Ice Dance

Okay, may I start with how utterly and completely blown away I was by the French pair of Papadakis and Cizeron?

I just can't even with these two. I just can't. He is so handsome, and she looks so much like Liberty Leading the People, and they are just ethereal. They came out of nowhere this season to win both the Cup of China and the Trophee Eric Bompard. 

If they skate the way they've skated this season, you will understand what I mean. Their free dance is so gorgeous, if it does not move you to tears, then you are dead inside. DEAD I TELL YOU.

However, it's not like this is a runaway. Like the Olympics, the only area where the Americans are excelling is in the ice dance. Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States are ranked first, with the Shibutani siblings also qualifying for the final. The rankings going into the final are as follows:

1. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA)
2. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN)
3. Gabrielle Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
4. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA)
5. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN)
6. Elena Ilinykh/Ruslan Zhiganshin (RUS)

And featuring Johnny Weir as Sparkly Loki! 

Like the Olympics, the only event where the Americans have a chance to win anything is the ice dance. Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the top-ranked ice dance pair, and they have every reason to expect a win in the Grand Prix. 

The Grand Prix of Figure Skating starts Friday at 8 p.m. on Universal Sports and at various times on NBC. It runs the whole weekend. I recommend Universal Sports for more complete, if tape delayed, coverage. I've been promised that Johnny and Tara will commentate. 

I leave you with pictures of Johnny Weir.

The Bride of Tarastein.

I give you evil alien Star Trek queen realness.

A star is born! 

Fosse, Fosse, Fosse!

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