The Grand Prix season always seems to bring its share of new stars and surprises. Roman Sadovsky was a bit of both in November, when he unexpectedly won bronze at NHK Trophy.
Not many picked the 20-year-old Canadian skater to medal at NHK, which featured an impressive field of men’s competitors, including two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. But Sadovsky seized the moment in Sapporo, impressing judges and fans with his sweeping quad Salchow jumps and elegant programs. His medal was a bit of a surprise; yet, it was something he’d been building toward for several years.
Alexander Johnson is starting a new chapter in his life this spring. After a 9-year career at the senior international level, which featured two top 6 finishes at U.S. Nationals and a Challenger Series medal, Johnson is shifting focus from competitive skating to his first full-time professional job in finance and a budding side career in figure skating choreography and coaching. Johnson hasn’t closed the door on a possible return to competitive skating; but for now, his priority is exploring these new opportunities.
I recently had a chance to chat with Johnson before his appearance in Ice Crystals, the annual club show for the Colonial Figure Skating Club in Acton/Boxborough, MA. Johnson spent several weeks at Colonial this spring, teaching and choreographing for Colonial skaters and working with different coaches, including 1980 Olympian Sheryl Franks and 1992 Olympian Konstantin Kostin. During our chat, Johnson shared some thoughts on his work at Colonial, his approach to choreography, and his programs for Ice Crystals.
A couple days ago, I was reminded again of all that we lost on July 19, when Denis Ten was killed in Kazakhstan.
Russian skater Sergei Voronov announced that Denis had choreographed his new short program. Usually I love it when gifted skaters try their hand at choreography; it’s wonderful to think of their artistry carrying on, even after they’re no longer skating. But this …. To know that Denis Ten’s first year as a choreographer was also his last, just left me with an ache inside. Continue reading “Remembering Denis Ten 1993-2018”→
This past weekend, I went to Colonial Open in Boxborough, MA. Colonial Open is one of the first club competitions of the season in New England, and it’s only about an hour from my house, so it’s fun to go and see some early-season skating.
Colonial Open typically attracts a fairly strong field of skaters from the Boston/New York metropolitan areas. The competition includes singles skating only (no pairs or dance). This year, I saw the Novice Men, Junior Ladies, and Senior Ladies events at Colonial, plus some bits of Intermediate and Junior Men. Of these divisions, Junior Ladies had the most competitive field, so I’ll cover that one first. Note: I tried to keep track of the skaters’ jump elements, but there may be a few errors; my apologies if so! Continue reading “Colonial Open 2018: Report”→
Later this week, U.S. champion Nathan Chen will seek to win his second Grand Prix event of the season at Skate America. Prior to the competition, he took some time to chat with the media. Chen discussed his work with his new choreographers, his costumes for the season, and his progress with college applications. Check out my article about Nathan Chen for Figure Skaters Online!
Skating fans are pretty lucky. Every season, there are many good, and often great, programs to enjoy. Once in while, a perfect program happens. It’s a rare and special thing: When the right piece of music and the right choreography all come together at a particular moment in a skater’s career. When it happens, the program becomes part of the skater’s success, even part of their public identity sometimes. A perfect program may become iconic; a part of skating history. Continue reading “A Perfect Program: Patrick Chan’s Chopin LP”→
I adore ice dance & mens, but don’t follow these disciplines as closely as pairs & ladies. So instead of doing full reviews, here’s a post with my own personal highlights from these events!
Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier
Piper/Paul were definitely my favorite couple in the dance event. I absolutely love their programs this season and find them so innovative. The music selections are unusual, and the choreography is intriguing. I know that some people feel their programs border on the bizarre, but I really enjoyed them at Skate America.
One thing that makes Piper/Paul’s programs work so well is they appear very well trained and prepared this season. Watching them on practice and in the competition, they looked very secure in all their steps, lifts, and partnering and had very good flow over the ice. I didn’t see any slips, mistakes, or bobbles. Their odd, quirky programs work because of Piper/Paul’s solid execution.
Another thing I noticed, seeing Piper/Paul live, is how well matched they are physically. They have similar builds and a great height differential for dance (not too much or too little). And their contrasting coloring is striking. They just look good together. I think they are well matched in terms of personality as well. Paul has such strong partnering skills, but it’s Piper who really sells their programs and choreography with her exuberant personality.
I was disappointed to see Piper/Paul place only third. I’d have liked to see them higher. Their total score of 157.58 was well off their personal best of 165.22, set last year at Worlds. I can’t speak to their technical levels, but I’d like to see their PCS much higher, particularly in the FD. Hopefully their scores will improve over the season. For now, they’re a great pleasure to watch for any audience lucky enough to see them!
I quite enjoyed Sinitsina/Katsalpov’s Swan Lake SD. This is a traditional waltz that works. I thought their movement fully captured the sweeping, joyful feel of the waltz, and the dance was lively and light, rather than staid. Viktoria’s white tulle dress and Nikita’s white-ruffled shirt matched the theme nicely.
This couple seems to be gelling, after a slow start last season. They look more like a team this year. Watching them on practice, I was most impressed with Nikita’s skating skills. His flow over the ice is very smooth and his knees are soft.
Anastasia/Colin’s Beethoven FD was one of my favorite dances at the event. They express this music so well, the program goes by very quickly, and there is much joy and passion in their dancing. It was just a lot of fun to watch.
Anastasia/Colin placed a solid 5th. They scored well with their FD, but were held back a little bit by their SD. Hopefully we’ll see them in another competition before U.S. Nationals.
I really like Baz Luhrmann’s surreal, fantastic film version of The Great Gatsby, as well as the score from the movie, so I quite enjoyed Yanovskaya/Mozgov’s FD to this music. I thought they did well capturing the decadent romantic glamor of the move. Their costumes reflected the theme well, too, especially Anna’s.
This young Russian couple placed 6th. Just up from juniors, their look is not as polished and developed as the top teams. But I enjoyed them.
Wang/Liu’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon FD was a nice surprise.
We don’t often get to see Asian-themed programs in ice dance, so I really enjoyed this number. There’s a lot of cool lifts and transitional moves that use Wang/Liu’s significant height differential to good advantage. The costumes were great, and the program was crowd-pleasing. A good package for them.
What a gift it was to see this young man at Skate America. He is truly special; one of the biggest talents I’ve seen. His long program was thrilling. The whole program went by so fast, and the last third amazed me. When he hit the quad/double combination, the crowd started to go wild, and it just built from there. The cantilever into his final spin was so cool, and the crowd was on its feet even before he finished. Wonderful. As I said to a friend, these are the moments you live for as a skating fan—the moments that just sweep you away and remind you why you love this sport.
I love almost everything about Shoma’s skating—the softness of his knees, his gorgeous jumps, his commitment to his choreography, his flair, his daring, spontaneous quality on the ice. Even his costumes get an A+, as far as I’m concerned. I already can’t wait to see more of this young man.
Max deservedly won the event with 2 very good programs. I was so happy to see him landing his jumps with ease and flow here, and his speed is very good. He really is doing a much better job carrying his performance through the whole program, not just doing moves here & there between jumps. He is a far more complete skater these days than when he won his national title.
I quite enjoyed Max’s Black Swan LP; the program suits him surprisingly well. My favorite moment is when he flaps his “wings” toward the end. Instead of the usual refined flapping you see in Swan Lake programs, Max moves his arms up and down in a stiff, purposeful, masculine way that’s very effective and a real highlight. Fun to watch, and a great victory for him.
Han Yan’s SP/Practices
I loved seeing Han Yan on practice and in the SP. His skating skills are so strong and gorgeous. I love watching him enter his jumps with so much speed. It makes the jumps look fantastic. His short program was quite good.
Unfortunately, Yan once again had a very disappointing LP with many mistakes. It’s such a shame. He has tremendous potential as a skater–I hate seeing him flop like this.
Jason had a decent outing at Skate America to win the bronze.
I like his programs this season, especially The Piano LP. But I worry the choreography is just too complex and intricate and does not allow Jason to build sufficient speed and flow for his jumps. Seeing him live, the difference in speed/power between Jason and skaters like Shoma, Max, and Han was unfortunately quite apparent. Unless things improve significantly in his next Grand Prix, I’d like to see Kori/Rohene dial back the complexity of the choreo a bit before Nationals. I love the programs, but the bottom line is, Jason has to be able to build enough power for the jumps.