Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Russian National: Dance competition

Domnina and Shabalin lead after Compulsory Dance

The Russian National Figure Skating Champions kicked off with nine dance teams performing Tango Romantica for the Compulsory Dance (CD).

As expected, current World Champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Moscow Oblast (MOB) easily won this segment of the event with 45.17 (22.00/23.17) points. The students of Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponossov have not competed at all since their triumph in Los Angeles last spring, but they looked as if they have not missed a beat. The couple was smooth and confident throughout, and gave a commanding and expressive performance.

"We were very eager to show our programs to the audience and judges," commented Domnina afterwards. "Finally we got out. We have really missed competing"

"We are lacking competitive practice a bit," added Shabalin. "We skated well, but we do have a room for improvement. All our programs are 100% ready, but the question is whenever we will be able to skate them 100%".

Full article.

Domnina and Shabalin maintain easy lead after Original Dance

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Moscow Oblast (MOB) maintained an easily lead after the Original Dance (OD), while Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer of Moscow (MOS) and Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (MOS) are nearly tied for second. In a very close fourth place, is Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko (MOB).

Domnina and Shabalin gave a solid debut of an Australian Aboriginal Dance, which profusely stood out amongst the other teams who perform Russian Folk dances. Apparently, this was exactly their intention.

"We wanted to surprise everyone by our dance," Domnina later explained. "We did not want to create another Slavic dance and have considered a lot of options, including Scottish folk. But eventually we settled on this one. I guess it really makes everyone stop and take the notice. For me it was a shock at first. I could have never imagined myself in such a style. It was a new challenge for us. I thought it was just crazy, but once we have tried it, we immediately fell in love with it."

The debut went over relatively well with both audience and the judges. The couple was entertaining and expressive and stylized all their moves well to match the character of the dance. The current World Champions received a level four for their twizzles and lifts, but their step sequence received only a level three, placing first in the Original Dance (OD) with 66.54 (30.92/35.62) points and overall (111.71 points).

Full article.

Domnina and Shabalin win third national title

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin took the Ice Dance title, while Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Moscow (MOS) edged out Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer (MOS) for the silver.

Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko (MOB) maintained a very close fourth with just over two points keeping them from the podium.

Domnina and Shabalin's free dance debut did not go over as well as they had hoped. Domnina stumbled on the second twizzle, which received level two, and their combination spin was rated only a level three. In addition, the current World Champions appeared tense and tentative, which prevented them from fully committing to the performance.

On a positive side, the team has created new lifts for the dance and with more mileage, the dance has the potential to become one of the most emotional programs of the season. They placed first in the free dance with 103.06 (46.75/56.31) points and overall (214.77 points) to win the title.

"Our performance was not as good as it could have been," admitted Domnina at the press conference. "I made some little mistakes. They did not make a difference in the end, but the aftertaste is a bit heavy. But as I have said before, we are just happy to compete here and get the feedback from the judges. We know what we have to work at. We will review the performance later."

When asked to rate their own performance, Shabalin replied: "It's a bit hard to quantify such things, but as you have seen, there were some glitches in the program. I'd say it was around 70% of our potential."

His partner, however, disagreed claiming that 70% is too generous. "It was more like 60%... or, rather, on your part it was 70%, and on mine no more than 60%."

Full article.

Kavaguti and Smirnov win third consecutive national title

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of St. Petersburg (SPB) defended their overnight lead to win their third consecutive national title.

Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov (SPB) maintained second overall to win silver, while Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov of Perm (PRM) took the bronze.

Kavaguti and Smirnov did not attempt a throw quad Salchow, but landed two clean triple throws, side-by-side triple toes, and a sequence of two double Axels.

"Today our coach told us before the start not to attempt a quad throw," Smirnov later explained. "Even though we have landed a clean one in the morning practice. She told us that in the present circumstances it would be better to do a "simple" triple throw. You have seen the rest yourself: high flight, great landing, and Yuko's smile. You have to ask Moskvina for her reasons, frankly, we were a bit upset by her choice."

Though the students of Tamara Moskvina aborted one of their lifts, the overall level of their performance was much better than during Grand Prix season. The team expressed the waltz character better, and were smoother and more confident than before. They earned an ovation from their home crowd, and placed first in the long with 142.60 (67.92/74.68) points and overall (220.61 points) to easily defend their title.

"Winning the third straight title is as pleasant, as it is difficult," said Smirnov afterwards. "It's one thing to win the title once, but to repeat again next year and then the next is a completely different story. Believe me, it is hard."

"I think we have skated this program better in the Grand Prix event in Japan," he continued. "Today was a good performance, but I got worried during one lift. I was able to fix it quickly, but the aftertaste remains."

Mukhortova and Trankov gave an emotional performance which was very well received by the crowd, however, from the technical standpoint, it was their worst run-through of the season.

Full article.

2010 Russian National: Kavaguti and Smirnov prevail after Short Program

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of St. Petersburg (SPB) prevailed over Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov (SPB) with a 3-point-lead in the Pairs Short Program.

The students of Tamara Moskvina were the next to last to skate, and gave a commanding and inspiring performance to Camille Saint Saens' The Swan. The defending champions who kept last season's program, were able to capitalize on the mileage and enchant the audience with their excellent flow and strong elements. The team had minor problems with a catch on the triple twist, but landed clean side-by-side triple toeloops and a throw triple loop to receive 78.01 (41.27/36.74) points.

"Our impression from the performance is very simple: we skated well," said Smirnov. "Both me and Yuko are satisfied. However, we had not have a chance to ask Tamara Nikolaevna [Moskvina] for her opinion, so we don't know whenever we fulfilled her goals or not. The beginning of the season was rather tough for us. I could even say that were discouraged, but we had felt strong support from our team: Tamara Nikolaevna, Igor Borisovich Moskvin, our choreographer Tatiana Druchinina, and all other people who believed in us. We will try to live up to their faith tomorrow."

Mukhortova and Trankov, who skated first out of 12 couples, opened their Appassionata program with a strong triple twist, but Mukhortova stepped out of her triple toeloop. The current silver medalist were otherwise clean, and the overall impression from their performance was very strong. The team appeared to be relaxed on the ice and their lines and unison were the best in the field. They currently sit in second place with 74.82 (38.87/35.95) points.

Full article.

Ksenia Makarova crowned new Russian Champion

Ksenia Markova of St. Petersburg (SPB) won the ladies event in a tight field of four. Alena Leonova (SPB) rose two spots to to claim silver, while Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (SPB) catapulted from 10th to third overall.

Tuktamysheva skated first in the second warm-up group, and the standard she set proved to be unmatched throughout the event. The performance of the Glazov's native was marred only by an uncharacteristic fall on a triple Salchow in the second half of the program, but she was otherwise clean.

Tuktamysheva, who will finally be able to compete at Junior international competitions next year, delivered six clean triple jumps which included a solid triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination and an impressive double Axel-triple toeloop-double loop with excellent flow out it.

Compared to her performances last year, Tuktamysheva improved the quality of her jumps, which are higher and cover more distance than before. In addition, her flamenco was full of little hand gestures to sell the theme and the skater never fell out of character throughout the routine. The 13-year-old placed first in the long with a score of 124.57 (73.69/51.88) points and third overall (173.53 points) to win the bronze.

"It was easier for me to skate today than yesterday," said the student of Alexei Mishin after the end of the competition. "On one hand, I like my long program more. I feel more comfortable in it. On the other hand, after the disastrous performance in the short program, I had nothing to loose, so I tried to relax and just enjoy myself on the ice. I think today I gave 95%. Unfortunately I had that one fall, but I skated well otherwise."

The coaches, Svetlana Veretennikova and Alexei Mishin, agreed that their student excel in the long program. "She pushes herself too hard, getting all eight elements in a short program clean is too much of a pressure. The long program give you more freedom, you can do you what you want, you could be creative and we do just that."

Full article.

2010 Russian Nationals: Biryukova wins SP

The Ladies event at the 2010 Russian National Figure Skating Championships is a two-fold competition. With only half of the competitors being age-eligible for ISU Championships, securing a spot on the Olympic team and winning a medal at Nationals are not necessarily the same thing.

Sofya Biryukova of Moscow (MOS) took the lead in the ladies short program after performing a clean and passionate routine to Libertango.

Biryukova landed a solid triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination and solo triple flip, but her double Axel out of a spread eagle was somewhat tentative. The student of Viktoria Volchkova posted 62.97 (37.93/25.04) points which included a +3.00 bonus that the Russian Figure Skating Federation awards to ladies landing a clean triple-triple combination.

"It is the first time that I participated in Senior Nationals," said Biryukova at the post-event press conference. "I'm very pleased to be here and skate so well. I felt a lot of support from the audience today."

Biryukova (15), who was who was born three weeks after the July 1st cut-off, also confessed that she did not expect to do quite so well. "In the beginning of the season I was not even sure that I would qualify for the Nationals, but as the season progressed I grew more and more confident and started to believe that I would be here. I am so happy to do so well today."

Ksenia Makarova of St. Petersburg (SPB), another Senior Russian Nationals debutante, is virtually tied with Biryukova with 62.75 (34.49/28.26) points. The Junior Grand Prix finalist attempted the same jump content, however the second triple in her triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination was underrotated. Nonetheless, higher program components scores for her floating and smooth interpretation of music from the Ladies in Lavender soundtrack allowed her to catch up with her rival.

"For me it is also the first National championship and I am pleased to skate so well," Makarova said. "I skated pretty well, but I was so tired... maybe because it was my debut. You always can perform some elements better, but I think it was my best performance in this season. At the most important moment, too. I think it will be easier tomorrow.

Full article.

Evgeni Plushenko takes back title after 4-year hiatus

Evgeni Plushenko of St. Petersburg (SPB) won the men's 2010 Russian National title with a powerful, but flawed performance of his tango routine. Sergei Voronov (SPB) finished in second overall, while Artem Borodulin (MOS) maintained third place for the bronze.

Plushenko popped his planned opening quad toeloop into a triple, but immediately landed a clean one afterwards. He was not able to land his second triple Axel on the first try, and fell out of a triple Salchow landing immediately after the successful execution of that jump later.

"I went for the second quad because I missed the first one and had to do it to rectify the situation," explained Plushenko. "I am happy that I was able to land a triple Axel in the end. Perhaps there was a certain euphoria right after it and this is why I fell on the Salchow."

The student of Alexei Mishin was rather critical of himself at the post event press conference. "On the scale of five, I'd say it was a weak three. It's impossible to win any major competition skating like that. I will work on it more and train more. But to some extent it's a blessing in disguise. There was a lot competitions and I was skating better and better on every one of them, so it's natural that there is a decline. The good thing is that it happened now, before the Europeans. I plan to do two quads at Euros: a quad-triple and quad solo."

The 2006 Olympic Champion rearranged his program on the flight without previously consulting his coach. "I had a triple Axel-triple flip sequence, but decided not to do it because the Axel turned out to be a double."

He posted another record breaking score of 171.50 (79.00/92.50) points for first place in the long and, with a total score of 271.59 points, easily won the event.

When challenged by the media about his marks, Plushenko was quick to point out that he is not the only one to score a notch or two above what he is getting internationally. "I am not the only one who has high scores here. Look at the second place in the Short Program - he got 95. Borodulin got 82. Do you think he skated like 82? It's only natural, it's Nationals."

Full article.

2010 Russian Nationals: Plushenko wins Men's SP

In the Men's event, Evgeni Plushenko of St. Petersburg (SPB) posted an unprecedented score of 100.09 (54.05/46.04) points (including +3.00 bonus for landing a clean quad-triple combination) to win the short program.

The 2006 Olympic Champion also produced a strong triple Axel, but turned out on the landing of a triple Lutz out of steps. He previously doubled the Lutz in his short program at the 2009 Rostelecom Cup in October.

"Today it was not my fault," explained the skater at the post-event press conference. "After landing, my blade was caught in the tracing on the ice and I could not move freely to compensate for the rotational momentum. So I was just turned around and there was nothing I could have done. I have to say that the quality of the ice here is less than perfect. You could see puddles of water in the corners and besides the ice is somewhat brittle. But it's a valuable practice for everyone. It means that in the better conditions we will be able to skate even better."

Compared to his performance in October, the student of Alexei Mishin has improved the overall flow of his program to Concerto Aranjuez, as well as the speed of his spins. However, despite his record breaking score, Plushenko (who missed 1.5 weeks of training because of a meniscus injury) was rather modest in his assessment of himself.

"I think it was far from perfect," Plushenko elaborated. "I am satisfied with what I was able to do given the circumstances, and I am very grateful to judges for awarding me a bonus. But I have merely done my job here today. I'm satisfied, but I know that I can and should do better. My goal is to skate clean. I know that it is not easy, but this is what I hope to do at the Olympics. What I did today is not the way I want to skate at the Games, but I guess it is good that I have some things to on work on in the near future."

When asked about whether or not his victory at Nationals is a foregone conclusion, he admitted that he is fairly confident that he will be included in the National team for the European Championships and Olympic Games.

Full article.

Asada secures Olympic berth at Japan nationals

Mao Asada won the Japan women's national figure skating championships Sunday to secure a place on the Vancouver Olympic team.

Asada, first after the short program, began the free skate with a triple axel and was solid the rest of the way to finish with 204.62 points for her fourth straight national title.

"I'm glad that I had no major mistakes today," Asada said. "I was just trying to concentrate on my program and wasn't thinking about a fourth title but I did have the Olympics in mind."

Akiko Suzuki also booked a trip to Vancouver after finishing second with 195.90 points, 0.17 points ahead of Yukari Nakano.

Miki Ando, who had already secured a place in the Olympics, was fourth with 185.44 points.

The 19-year-old Asada had struggled in the International Skating Union's Grand Prix series this season and was looking to re-establish herself as a gold medal contender at the Olympics with a strong performance at nationals.

Asada will make her Olympic debut four years after she was left out of the Turin Games due to the age limit despite impressive results in senior events, including a victory at the 2005 Grand Prix finals.

"It's been a long four years," Asada said. "The Olympics have been a goal of mine for a long time and I'm very relieved."

Suzuki moved up from fourth place after the short program with a solid free skate. Her only mistake came when she lost her footing after a triple loop.

"I was able to skate up to my abilities today," Suzuki said. "It hasn't really sunk in yet that I'm going to Vancouver but I will do my best to prepare to show the world what I can do."

Daisuke Takahashi wrapped up a place in the Olympics on Saturday by winning the men's event and will join Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka in Vancouver. Oda secured his Olympic berth when he finished second in the Grand Prix finals earlier this month. Kozuka was third in the men's event Saturday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Sebestyen nets record ninth Hungarian title

The Hungarian Figure Skating Championships took place over the weekend in Budapest, Hungary, with the most dominant Hungarian ladies’ skater in the past decade, Julia Sebestyen, winning her ninth title by over 60 points. Hungary will be represented in the Vancouver Olympics by one skater in the ladies’ competition and one ice dance team. Both spots were earned at Nebelhorn Trophy in September.

Sebestyen skated a solid free skate with five triples, and she seems to be in the best shape she has been in years. The 2004 European champion won her first Grand Prix medal since 2006 earlier this season at Skate America. Sebestyen’s gold marked her 13th overall medal at the Hungarian championships, with her first medal dating back to 1995. She will be competing in her fourth consecutive Olympics in February. Katherine Hadford, who competed for the United States for a number of years, picked up her second Hungarian silver medal and fifth medal overall.

In the men’s event, Marton Marko bested three-time and defending champion Tigran Vardanjan to win his first Hungarian title. In pairs, Viktoria Hacht and Kristof Trefil were the only competitors, taking their first title.

The ice dance competition featured the promising up and coming team of Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin, who won their second Hungarian title. This marks Hoffman’s seventh gold overall at the Hungarian championships. Zavozin competed for the United States and was the World junior champion in 2005 with former partner Morgan Matthews. Hoffmann and Zavozin will join Sebestyen on the Hungarian Olympic team.

Fernandez and Lafuente crowned Spanish champions

Without any other competitors in the senior ranks, the Spanish Figure Skating Championships served as coronations for the two youngsters, Javier Fernandez and Sonia Lafuente, who will be heading to their first Olympics in February.

Lafuente, 18, just missed qualifying for the free skate last season at Worlds, finishing 26th in the short program. But she earned her way to the Olympics earlier this season with her eighth place at Nebelhorn Trophy.

Fernandez’s 19th-place finish at last year’s World Championships was the first top 20 finish by a Spanish male figure skater since Dario Villalba’s 15th-place finish at the 1956 World Championships. As a result of his finish at Worlds, he qualified a spot at the Olympics for his home country. Only 18, Fernandez is already armed with a strong arsenal of jumps, including the triple axel and the quad toe.

Amodio wins French Nationals, ticket to Vancouver

National championships have always been a major challenge for skaters all around the globe, especially in traditionally big skating countries. France was no exception this weekend. Nationals were held in the newly opened rink of Marseille, in the deep south of France, close to the Mediterranean Sea, with one major target at stake: a ticket for Vancouver for the men and the pairs. While Florent Amodio has won both the title and his selection for the Games, the selection process remains open in the pairs.


Brian Joubert withdrew from the French National Championships as expected, but he was nonetheless present in the stands, to watch the fierce battle to determine who would accompany him to Vancouver next February.

With three world class skaters vying for one single spot in the Olympic team, many thought that the short program would play a determining role. It was not the case, however, as all three main contenders skated a nearly flawless program. Yannick Ponsero came out in first place, thanks to the only clean quad of the field. Ponsero landed a magnificent quadruple toe to double toe combination, as well as a perfect triple Axel, which owed him a unanimous +2 GOE. He faltered however at the beginning of his circular step sequence.

Florent Amodio, fresh from the junior ranks (Amodio won the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in 2009), skated a very artistic program, and successfully landed his triple Salchow to triple toe and triple Axel to take the second place. Alban Préaubert also skated flawless and landed his triple flip to triple toe and triple Axel.

The free program concentrated all hopes -- and energies. Amodio emerged first tonight, more than 7 points ahead of Ponsero and Préaubert, thanks to a faultless free program.

No Olympian in ice dancing

There was not nearly as much at stake in the ice dancing event, as both quotas for Vancouver had already been allotted. Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, the 2008 World gold medalists, are still in the "ramp up" process after Delobel welcomed her 1st child early October. The duo did not expect to participate in those nationals, as they are currently working hard in their home rink in Lyon to get ready in time for the European Championships. The French Federation had qualified them for Vancouver much earlier in the season anyway.

Full article.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wagner looks for any edge in fierce US competition

Ashley Wagner is looking for any edge she can get.

Wagner was the lone American to qualify for this weekend's Grand Prix final in Tokyo. While that meant yet another long flight, jet lag and more time away from home, the 18-year-old couldn't wait. The United States has only two spots for the Vancouver Olympics and a half-dozen women who could get them, so any opportunity to perform her programs in competition before next month's national championships can only help.

"Also, it's a really great experience because I'll be competing against the girls that are going to be at the Olympics," Wagner said. "I feel that's going to give me a little bit of an advantage over the other American girls."

Wagner was last in Friday's short program. The free skate was Saturday.

Despite finishing third at the 2008 U.S. championships and winning two bronze medals at the junior world championships, Wagner barely got any mention coming into the all-important Olympic season. Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen was coming back, Rachael Flatt had finished fifth at her first senior worlds, and former national champ Mirai Nagasu was rejuvenated after switching to coach Frank Carroll.

But it's Wagner who's been the best of the bunch so far, medaling at both of her Grand Prix events.

"I just wanted to be out there having fun," she said. "I wasn't very happy with my year last year. Obviously it was decent, but it wasn't my best. I wasn't skating for myself, I wasn't out there skating to skate. I was skating to reach other people's expectations."

Wagner switched last season to Priscilla Hill, Johnny Weir's former coach. Though some wondered about the move -- she seemed to be progressing quite nicely under former coach Shirley Hughes -- Wagner knew she needed more to have any chance at joining the world's elite.

She had the jumps. But figure skating is a blend of athleticism and artistry, particularly under the current judging system.

Hill improved Wagner's technique on her spins, and gave her some serious art-titude -- so much so that she won the free skate at last year's nationals with her dazzling "Spartacus" program. Wagner wound up fourth, an impressive finish considering she was 12th after the short program.

"She's been able to make my skating so much more well-rounded," Wagner said of Hill. "She has completely flipped my skating around. Not to say I'm not grateful about what my other coaches have given me because they got me to where I was when I came to Priscilla. But she's really just been the icing on the cake."

"It might be a while before I reach that perfect level of skating I want to reach," Wagner added. "For now, though, I think we're improving and things are going pretty well."

Rachael Flatt balances Olympic hopes, scholarly dreams

Ask anyone who's ever laced up a pair of ice skates and they'll tell you about the precariousness of balance. From the hack who can't make one revolution on a city ice rink without clocking a child to a hockey goalie to Michelle Kwan, balancing on an eighth-inch steel blade is one of life's physical Rubik's Cubes.

Then talk to Rachael Flatt about balance. How the 17-year-old lives her life makes ice skating look like walking down a movie aisle.

Not only does the Cheyenne Mountain High School senior skate, not only does the two-time national runner-up have a good shot at making the U.S. Olympic figure skating team, but she also has academic achievement that dwarfs her athletic prowess.

She has never received a B in a class. Ever. While most elite skaters try learning Western Civ online (yeah, right) or their moms teach them in their living rooms, Flatt is taking a full load at Cheyenne Mountain: Advanced Placement English, AP physics, AP calculus, AP French.

In between, she's practicing up to five hours a day in preparation for next month's national championships. She will then apply to the nation's top universities — she's leaning toward Stanford.

If all that makes you tired, don't feel bad. Flatt has amazed family and friends ever since she was 4 years old when she lifted off the back of the commode to see how a toilet worked.

"We actually said, 'Rachael, education's for life and so that should be your priority,' but we've always encouraged a work-hard, play-hard attitude," says her father, Jim Flatt. "To have a semblance of a normal high school life has been part of her success formula."

Normal life, however, doesn't equate with anything Olympian. If she earns one of the two Olympic spots allotted the U.S., Flatt will be thrust onto the world stage with a much more intensive spotlight than anything she has experienced on international ice or in a public school classroom.

Though an American skater is not favored to medal in Vancouver — the sport has been dominated recently by Asian athletes — women's figure skating breeds Olympic surprises. After all, ice is slippery.

Flatt will have nothing to lose — the same situation for American Sarah Hughes in 2002, when she shocked the world by winning gold in Salt Lake City, and for Shizuka Arakawa, the Japanese veteran who did the same in Turin in 2006.

Excelling in handling pressure

Yet Flatt doesn't sit around her house dwelling on the two biggest skates of her life, the ones that will make or break her Olympic dreams. She's too busy conjugating French verbs or solving a physics equation to fear pressure.

"It's a good pressure," she says. "Don't get me wrong, I don't try to ignore it, but I take it in stride. I've learned how to deal with it."

It helps to have family support. In that department, Flatt won the gene-pool lottery. Jim Flatt is an MIT grad with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and is president of a biofuels company. Her mother, Jody, has a Ph.D. in molecular biology and is a retired biotech scientist.

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Rachael Flatt says.

She is sitting in the lounge of the World Arena Ice Hall, where she spends much of her life. It's not always her escape from academics. Sometimes she combines the two, studying in between arduous skating sessions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lambiel skates through pain at Swiss nationals

Stéphane Lambiel's spirit is willing, but so far, his body isn't cooperating as well as he hoped.

Although the Swiss star won his ninth national title in Lugano last weekend, the two-time world champion struggled with his jumps.

"When Stéphane trained hard this fall, his groin problems came back," Peter Grütter, Lambiel's long time coach, said. "Since then, we have to work very carefully in practice and always have to see what is going to work on that day. He can only train seven or eight hours per week."

The 24-year-old skater, who is attempting a comeback to competition after skipping last season with a groin injury, admitted he was not in top shape.

"Before each practice and competition I do a very special warming-up program," Lambiel said. "I can no longer just warm up for six or 10 minutes and then do one jump after the other."

At the Swiss championships last Saturday, Lambiel received a whopping 244.23 points (including a two-point national bonus for trying a quad), outpacing his international personal-best, 239.10, earned at the Grand Prix Final in 2008. It is unlikely a panel of international judges will be as generous.

Although he rotated quad toe loops in both his short and long programs, he stepped out of the landing in the long. He had no triple Axel, executing several excellent double Axels (with +2 and +3 grades of execution). Some triples, including the flip, were shaky, but he collected many points for his excellent spins and exciting step sequences. His program components ranged up to 9.25.

"I reached my goal here in Lugano, but I need more time on the ice," Lambiel said. "At my next competition at the European championships [in Tallinn, Estonia in mid-January], I will be better."

He is not the only European man struggling with injury. In late November, Brian Joubert injured a ligament in his right foot while practicing a Lutz. Evgeni Plushenko is troubled by a painful left knee, likely due to over-training quads and quad combinations. Both these skaters say they hope to return in time for their national championships later this month.

Full article.

Four Frenchmen battle for two Olympic spots

As everyone knows, the Three Musketeers of Alexandre Dumas' famous novel were in fact four (Athos, Portos, Aramis and D'Artagnan). Today's French male skating is about the same, with Brian Joubert as the leader, Alban Préaubert and Yannick Ponsero as the perennial "best enemies" and Florent Amodio as the new comer. Two of them only will be selected for the Olympic Games. French nationals, to be held in a little less than a week in Marseille, should be one of the main milestones on the road to Vancouver.

Amazingly enough, Joubert was already declared qualified by the French Federation last summer, in order to let him focus more on his preparation than on his selection.

Joubert's goals are clear.

"If I can grasp any competition and victory," Joubert said, "I will take it. If I can keep my European title, I will. Yet it is not my goal for this season. I want to be 100 percent at the Games, not before."

Joubert's early season was by not his best by far, with a fourth-place finish at the Trophee Eric Bompard and a gold medal at the NHK Trophy. He injured himself two weeks ago while rehearsing his triple Lutz. His foot was successfully operated on the next day. Ligaments had to be repaired, but his bones were not hurt, so Joubert hoped to come back rapidly to the ice. He nonetheless had to withdraw from the ISU Grand Prix Final. He resumed training earlier this week.

"I am landing triples -- Salchow and toe loop mainly -- without any problem", he said. "I am a bit more reluctant on the loop. Yet, obviously, I am not trying the Lutz or the flip," he added.

It is still unknown if Joubert will withdraw from the French championships, but he should at least be in the stands in Marseille to watch his colleagues.

Amodio is by far the lesser known of the four, yet he is also the one to watch. Amodio has reached international fame only on the Junior Grand Prix so far. Last season, he won one ISU Junior Grand Prix (Sheffield) and the Final. He did not fare nearly as well at Junior worlds, however. He then prepared for his first season in the senior ranks.

Full article.

Lysacek claims top spot in latest rankings

American Evan Lysacek took over the top spot in the men's field this week after his gold-medal performance at the Grand Prix Final in Tokyo. The 24-year-old skater previously claimed victory this season at Skate America and came in second at the Cup of China. His 3975.70 points outpace his closest rival, Grand Prix Final silver medalist Nobunari Oda, by over 600 points. Lysacek was second in the standings last week behind Brian Joubert, who slipped to third after not competing in the Grand Prix Final.

Other notable shakeups in the men's standings include Yannick Ponsero's four-spot jump to No. 11, a climb made possible by his NRW Trophy win, and Yuzuru Hanyu's appearance in the top 20 based on his Junior Grand Prix Final title.

Yu-Na Kim remained entrenched in the top spot for the ladies this week, just as she has been since the start of the season. The Korean superstar won the Grand Prix Final gold last week despite losing the short program to Miki Ando, who stood pat at number four after capturing silver in Tokyo. Junior Grand Prix gold medalist Kanako Murakami experienced a big jump, moving from No. 20 to No. 15 with her win over the junior ladies. Ashley Wagner was also on the move after placing fourth in Tokyo. The American jumped three places to land at No. 11.

Unsurprisingly, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao are the talk of the pairs division after crushing the competition en route to gold at the Grand Prix Final. The Chinese couple moved two places to No. 6 with their latest dominant performance. The 2006 Olympic bronze medalists set a new international judging system record with an astronomical tally of 214.25. And with Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, the Junior Grand Prix pairs winners, climbing to No. 12, it looks like China's proud tradition in pairs competition will continue without a hitch.

Ice Dancing
Meryl Davis and Charlie White remain at No. 1 after outdistancing longtime rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada in a battle royal for ice dancing gold at the Grand Prix Final. Virtue and Moir's silver-medal performance, however, allowed them to claim the No. 2 spot and pass Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who withdrew from the Grand Prix Final for medical reasons. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat climbed to No. 5 with a bronze medal in Tokyo, and U.S. junior competitors Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani moved up to No. 15 despite failing to take home gold at the Junior Grand Prix Final. The sibling team left Tokyo with bronze after battling a tough ice dancing field.

Weaver, Poje move one step closer to Vancouver

There were no Thanksgiving celebrations this year for Canadian ice dance bronze medalists and two-time world competitors Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. They were training in the United States during Canadian Thanksgiving in October and training in Canada last week when Americans were enjoying their turkeys. It's okay; they don't need a special meal to make them thankful that a bronze medal at Skate Canada helped improve their chances of earning Canada's second ice dance spot for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

"We've been really working our tails off this year. Of course, we know there are only two spots," says Weaver, who readily acknowledges the first dance spot is going to two-time world medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. "Having that motivation really drove us to work so hard. Getting a medal at our Grand Prix was a huge success. It's a great token to know that our improvement is being noticed."

This is the fourth season together for Weaver, 20, and Poje, 22. The possibility of making the Canadian Olympic team took a huge step forward last June when the Texas-born Weaver became a Canadian citizen.

"Canada is the most embracing and supportive country and federation to the athletes," she says. "It's amazing the preparations that are going on right now. There's such a buzz about the Olympics everywhere you go.

"I think we got a little tiny bit of a taste of what it would be like at Skate Canada. It's been a while since we've done an international at home. The crowd was amazing. The best audience that I think I've ever had in my life. Everyone was supporting us.

"It was really exciting and it got us all fired up for what the Olympics would be like. I don't want to get ahead of myself. We're still taking each day at a time. We have a really big job to do."

Helping Weaver and Poje along the way are their two coaches. The couple divide their time between Toronto, where they train with 10-time Canadian ice dance champion Shae-Lynn Bourne, and Detroit, where they're coached by Pasquale Camerlengo.

Full article.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 ISU Senior GPF

1 Evan LYSACEK USA 249.45
2 Nobunari ODA JPN 243.36

3 Johnny WEIR USA 237.35
4 Jeremy ABBOTT USA 235.38
5 Daisuke TAKAHASHI JPN 224.60
6 Tomas VERNER CZE 192.32

1 Yu-Na KIM KOR 188.86
2 Miki ANDO JPN 185.94

3 Akiko SUZUKI JPN 174.00

4 Ashley WAGNER USA 162.07
5 Joannie ROCHETTE CAN 156.71
6 Alena LEONOVA RUS 156.55

1 Xue SHEN / Hongbo ZHAO CHN 214.25
2 Qing PANG / Jian TONG CHN 201.86

3 Aliona SAVCHENKO / Robin SZOLKOWY GER 200.38

4 Maria MUKHORTOVA / Maxim TRANKOV RUS 198.35
5 Yuko KAVAGUTI / Alexander SMIRNOV RUS 183.01
6 Dan ZHANG / Hao ZHANG CHN 180.25

Ice Dance
1 Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE USA 169.44
2 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN 168.22

3 Nathalie PECHALAT / Fabian BOURZAT FRA 147.62

4 Sinead KERR / John KERR GBR 145.33
6 Vanessa CRONE / Paul POIRIER CAN 135.99

2009 ISU Junior GPF

Junior Men
1 Yuzuru HANYU JPN 206.77
2 Nan SONG CHN 204.99

3 Ross MINER USA 196.09

4 Richard DORNBUSH USA 191.80
5 Grant HOCHSTEIN USA 187.92

Junior Ladies

1 Kanako MURAKAMI JPN 160.53
2 Polina SHELEPEN RUS 159.29

3 Christina GAO USA 151.47

4 Ksenia MAKAROVA RUS 147.29
5 Anna OVCHAROVA RUS 144.96

Junior Pairs

1 Wenjing SUI / Cong HAN CHN 160.45
2 Narumi TAKAHASHI / Mervin TRAN JPN 145.80

3 Yue ZHANG / Lei WANG CHN 137.19
4 Tatiana NOVIK / Mikhail KUZNETSOV RUS 134.33
5 Kaleigh HOLE / Adam JOHNSON CAN 132.17

Junior Ice Dance
1 Ksenia MONKO / Kirill KHALIAVIN RUS 141.21
2 Elena ILINYKH / Nikita KATSALAPOV RUS 139.36


4 Kharis RALPH / Asher HILL CAN 124.75
5 Ekaterina PUSHKASH / Jonathan GUERREIRO RUS 119.50

2009 Skate Canada

1 Jeremy ABBOTT USA 232.99
2 Daisuke TAKAHASHI JPN 231.31

3 Alban PREAUBERT FRA 212.28
4 Michal BREZINA CZE 202.32
5 Samuel CONTESTI ITA 202.25

1 Joannie ROCHETTE CAN 182.90
2 Alissa CZISNY USA 163.53

3 Laura LEPISTÖ FIN 158.52

4 Mirai NAGASU USA 156.83
5 Akiko SUZUKI JPN 147.72

1 Aliona SAVCHENKO / Robin SZOLKOWY GER 206.71
2 Maria MUKHORTOVA / Maxim TRANKOV RUS 185.71

3 Jessica DUBE / Bryce DAVISON CAN 166.93

4 Anabelle LANGLOIS / Cody HAY CAN 159.95
5 Caydee DENNEY / Jeremy BARRETT USA 157.09

Ice Dance

1 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN 204.38
2 Nathalie PECHALAT / Fabian BOURZAT FRA 185.07

3 Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE CAN 165.64

4 Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV RUS 161.68
5 Emily SAMUELSON / Evan BATES USA 160.76

2009 Skate America

1 Evan LYSACEK USA 237.72
2 Shawn SAWYER CAN 203.91

3 Ryan BRADLEY USA 198.12

4 Florent AMODIO FRA 197.58
5 Tomas VERNER CZE 194.06

1 Yu-Na KIM KOR 187.98
2 Rachael FLATT USA 174.91

3 Julia SEBESTYEN HUN 159.03

4 Fumie SUGURI JPN 148.99
5 Elena GLEBOVA EST 148.71

1 Xue SHEN / Hongbo ZHAO CHN 201.40
2 Tatiana VOLOSOZHAR / Stanislav MOROZOV UKR 171.82

3 Dan ZHANG / Hao ZHANG CHN 168.19

4 Keauna MCLAUGHLIN / Rockne BRUBAKER USA 165.37
5 Amanda EVORA / Mark LADWIG USA 148.33

Ice Dance
1 Tanith BELBIN / Benjamin AGOSTO USA 195.85

3 Alexandra ZARETSKI / Roman ZARETSKI ISR 171.77

4 Jana KHOKHLOVA / Sergei NOVITSKI RUS 168.25
5 Kimberly NAVARRO / Brent BOMMENTRE USA 160.89

2009 NHK Trophy

1 Brian JOUBERT FRA 232.70
2 Johnny WEIR USA 217.70

3 Michal BREZINA CZE 217.48

4 Daisuke TAKAHASHI JPN 214.29
5 Jeremy ABBOTT USA 208.45

1 Miki ANDO JPN 162.55
2 Alena LEONOVA RUS 160.85

3 Ashley WAGNER USA 155.99

4 Yukari NAKANO JPN 152.35
5 Laura LEPISTO FIN 152.19

1 Qing PANG / Jian TONG CHN 199.65
2 Yuko KAVAGUTI / Alexander SMIRNOV RUS 193.05

3 Rena INOUE / John BALDWIN USA 158.78
4 Caydee DENNEY / Jeremy BARRETT USA 151.43
5 Mylene BRODEUR / John MATTATALL CAN 150.71

Ice Dance
1 Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE USA 201.97
2 Sinead KERR / John KERR GBR 177.73

3 Vanessa CRONE / Paul POIRIER CAN 165.89

4 Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV RUS 160.01
5 Xintong HUANG / Xun ZHENG CHN 154.90

2009 Cup Of China

1 Nobunari ODA JPN 239.58
2 Evan LYSACEK USA 232.17

3 Sergei VORONOV RUS 220.39

4 Samuel CONTESTI ITA 207.85
5 Yannick PONSERO FRA 195.12

1 Akiko SUZUKI JPN 176.66
2 Kiira KORPI FIN 163.27

3 Joannie ROCHETTE CAN 163.18

4 Rachael FLATT USA 157.71
5 Mirai NAGASU USA 155.38

1 Xue SHEN / Hongbo ZHAO CHN 200.97
2 Dan ZHANG / Hao ZHANG CHN 186.49

3 Tatiana VOLOSOZHAR / Stanislav MOROZOV UKR 170.79
4 Meagan DUHAMEL / Craig BUNTIN CAN 157.60

Ice Dance
1 Tanith BELBIN / Benjamin AGOSTO USA 194.51
2 Jana KHOKHLOVA / Sergei NOVITSKI RUS 180.57

3 Federica FAIELLA / Massimo SCALI ITA 179.92

5 Alexandra ZARETSKI / Roman ZARETSKI ISR 156.86

2009 Rostelecom Cup (aka Cup of Russia)

1 Evgeni PLUSHENKO RUS 240.65
2 Takahiko KOZUKA JPN 215.13

3 Artem BORODULIN RUS 201.55

4 Johnny WEIR USA 198.55
5 Kevin VAN DER PERREN BEL 189.33

1 Miki ANDO JPN 171.93
2 Ashley WAGNER USA 163.97

3 Alena LEONOVA RUS 160.06

4 Alissa CZISNY USA 158.30
5 Mao ASADA JPN 150.28

1 Qing PANG / Jian TONG CHN 191.33
2 Yuko KAVAGUTI / Alexander SMIRNOV RUS 180.14

3 Keauna MCLAUGHLIN / Rockne BRUBAKER USA 160.55

4 Vera BAZAROVA / Yuri LARIONOV RUS 156.28
5 Nicole DELLA MONICA / Yannick KOCON ITA 150.86

Ice Dance
1 Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE USA 201.10

3 Ekaterina RUBLEVA / Ivan SHEFER RUS 163.32

4 Vanessa CRONE / Paul POIRIER CAN 157.00
5 Anastasia PLATONOVA / Alexander GRACHEV RUS 153.22

I'm back!

I'm soooo sorry I haven't been updating lately, but things in College got really interesting, lol. You are probably thinking "then why didn't you just ask a friend to update it for you?" Well, let me tell you, not even one of my friends is a figure skating fan, they have no idea where to find the info, what's important and what's not, when the competitions are, etc... why am I friends with people who don't get the sport? Anyway, the thing is, now I'm on my summer holidays, which means I will be more than able to update the blog! We have some exciting events coming up, like the US Nationals, who hasn't already tried to guess how the US Women Oly team will be... Czisny, Flatt, Wagner, Nagasu... will Cohen even show up? We have the Olympics! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Olympics are two months away! And then Worlds, will there be a surprising winner like Kimmie Meissner back in 2006?

I'm sorry again! I promise I'll now dedicate myself to update this blog and do nothing else until I'm done with it (like I have a lot of things to do besides trying to not die of boredom)

Oh, and I will also start tweeting the results and scores in my Twitter, feel free to follow me! (I apologize for the... eh... weird things I may tweet sometimes and for my OJMD (Obsessive John Mayer Disorder)).