Let’s Talk Grand Prix 2016: Part 1

Hey everyone,

I didn’t get to a full recap of either of the first 3 Grand Prix events of the season so I’ll cover that all now. Here’s a look at everything that happened at Skate America, Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup.

Dance

I think Dance is one of the most exciting events right now. I really have no idea how the top teams are going to stack up. There’s so many teams vying for 3 podium spots at Worlds. At the beginning of the season I predicted Papadakis & Cizeron, Virtue & Moir and the Shibutani’s to make the World podium. I still think that, but there’s a number of teams that really want to get back there.

Scott & Tessa are back!! And I couldn’t be happier! They came out at the Autumn Classic looking happy and refreshed. They really looked like they wanted to be there for the first time in a long time. I’m a big fan of both their programs. The Prince SD is fabulous, and Tessa looks amazing in her one-piece. The FD is modern and beautiful and everything I love about Scott & Tessa. These two look stronger than when they left. I hope this momentum continues. I hope they can stay near the top. They really are that good. NHK and their head-to-head with the French will be exciting!

Beyond the French Masters we’re yet to see the French. That should be exciting this week!

I fell in love with the Shib’s last season and I think they’re much improved over previous seasons but I definitely don’t love their FD yet. It’s lovely skating and very lyrical, but on first watch I found it a little boring. I do hope it continues to grow for them.

 

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I think Piper & Paul get the award for being the most improved. Their SD is amazing and clever and extremely well done. And I think their FD is going to be a great vehicle for them. They are so good at being themselves and doing it well – and it seems the judges are really ready to reward them for it now. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pass Weaver & Poje this season. I applaud Kaitlyn & Andrew for changing coaches and trying to reinvent themselves this season. They really needed it after this past season and they really needed to do something to stand out now that they’re not Canada’s #1. I’m just not sure it’ll be enough. It really makes me sad these two didn’t win Worlds in 2014. I’m pretty sure that will be their best shot. I had thought they might retire after Boston but I’m glad they’re continuing. I do enjoy their skating and I love looking Andrew.

 

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I’m as much a fan of Chock & Bates as I have been every other season. My least favourite team by far. It’s comparable to Gracie and Jason. I just don’t like them. Plus I really don’t think they’re as good as some of the other top teams. Bobrova and Soloviev are interesting this season. They’re out for vengeance after everything that happened around Worlds. I actually really enjoy their FD this season.

Overall, I’m enjoying the hip hop theme. It’s a fun element we’re not used to seeing in Dance. But as a result of these upbeat SDs we’re left with so many lyrical FDs. So many lovely, soft and beautiful FDs that are going to be hard to stay awake through in Helsinki.

Pairs

Pairs on the other-hand is probably the least exciting event this season. With so many teams injured it’s been a little empty at the top. Savchenko & Massot and Duhamel & Radford are easily the two at the top pushing the sport to the extremes.

Meagan & Eric debuted a throw 3A in their SP – fantastic! This season has started a lot stronger for them than last. Here’s hoping that momentum continues.

There are so many teams out injured right now! Really, all that’s left is Duhamel & Radford and Savchenko & Massot. These are the two top teams and both are trying to up the technical and gunning for that World title. It’s very exciting to see these teams push each other to extremes. Meagan & Eric are trying a throw 3A in their SP this season and Aliona and Bruno tried a throw 4S in their FS in Russia. It’s almost like the quads race in the Men’s event – everyone is trying to out-jump the other and when the skaters are on, it’s amazing. But a lot of the time it’s rather disappointing. I hope Pairs isn’t following in the same footprints. I still want to see quality. And I think these top two teams can do it. I think they can pull off the insane technical, along with the quality and presentation. I applaud Meagan & Eric, they have made tremendous improvement in this area but Savchenko and Massot likely have them beat there.

 

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There’s been a couple highlights from other teams. Congrats Seguin & Bilodeau on their Skate America title! How very exciting?! They started off the season so strong after the disappointing way they ended last season. But then, what happened in Russia?! They easily should have walked away with a medal and a ticket to the Grand Prix Final. It’s really unfortunate they couldn’t capitalize on that opportunity, especially with so many teams out right now. These two definitely still have a bright future ahead of them though! And those sbs 3L in the SP are excellent!

Tarasova & Morozov had a series of highs and lows just at Skate America. That SP was stellar, but the FS less so. These two have the skills necessary to become a top team, I just think they need better programs and some more personality on the ice. I find them rather boring.

Yu & Zhang are an interesting mix. First, I’m still very disappointed in the Chinese federation for splitting the original teams up. Why do we keep pairing young girls with Mr. Zhang?! At most, you’re going to get this next Olympics out of him, he’s old! Why not keep Yu and Jin together and try to make a run at multiple future Olympics. It boggles my mind. But for a first outing, this team did look rather strong.

Also, who in the world medalled in Russia?!? I had never heard of either of those teams prior to this event.

Ladies

I think it very interesting the World medalists from last season have won the first 3 Grand Prix events. I’m not sure I would have predicted that going in. But very impressive!

The Russian ladies are strong again this season and look like a force to be reckoned with. Evgenia looks to be as consistent as always. Though I am not a fan of her FS this season. The premise with the miming and acting is too similar to last season. Plus it’s a tough topic for someone who possibly wasn’t alive during 9-11 to address. I’m glad I don’t think she’s performing in the US this season. Anna appears to have maintained the consistency she found at the end of last season. I am glad for her. I am glad she’s figured things out. I enjoy seeing her happy. However, I can’t bring myself to enjoy her skating. I’m also not a fan of her programs. Even after seeing her in Boston I can’t get on-board. But at this early point Evgenia and Anna are looking like a lock for the World team. It’s that 3rd spot that will be interesting. Again Russian Nationals will be a bloodbath. I’m rooting for Elena. I feel attached to her after Titanic last season. I’m not sold on her programs yet this season though. I had wished she fix some of her questionable and scratchy landings in the off-season. I would also love to see Julia back in top form. I was excited to see her skate so well and appear happy in the SP at Rostelecom Cup – but that FS was sad. Poor girl. I hope she comes back strong.

 

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Ashley is looking strong. She’s skating with more confidence than we’ve seen from her. I love her presence on the ice and I love her programs and presentation and commitment to her choreography. All of these things she excels at, I just wish she had stronger jumps and I enjoyed her jumping style more. Gracie has had a very interesting start to the season. We saw her struggle through Skate America and heard some interesting comments in the meantime. It should come as no surprise that I dislike Gracie. Always have and always will. But do I want her to really think about what she’s doing and reassess why she’s doing it. She doesn’t seem happy and I don’t wish that on anyone. Ideally, I want an Ashley like skater with Gracie’s jumps. Perfect combination.

 

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Team Japan hasn’t had the best start to the GP series. Mao struggled through Skate America and poor Satoko was hammered by the tech panel at Skate Canada. I love that under-rotations were called so harshly at Skate Canada. I want skaters to have fully rotated jumps. I just wish they were called consistently across competitions. The call to invalidate her step sequence though was a little harsh. I hope Satoko comes back stronger with nice big jumps. She really is one of my favourite skaters to watch. Simply exquisite. Plus her FS is one of my favourites so far this season.

Team Canada’s been off to an excellent start! Gabby was solid at Skate America. I think her packaging this season is superb; her programs are definitely playing to her style. I really think she deserved the bronze medal at Skate America. The skating order really hurt her. Alaine was very strong at Skate Canada and also has great packaging this season. I do think Gabby has what it takes to challenge the best in the World, but I’m not sure about Alaine. There are some amazing moments but others that show she still has a lot of work to do. I think a permanent coaching change or just a change to somewhere more permanent could do her wonders. Right now I’d suspect I won’t see her in Helsinki. And then there is Kaetlyn. I am from Edmonton, I have coached at the same club Kaetlyn skates. And yet I can’t fully get behind her. I was so excited for her a couple years back. Finally a Canadian girl who could compete with the best. But then the injuries really took their toll. Injuries and a number of disastrous skates. I lost faith in her. Even now, she skated really well at Skate Canada but there were a couple moments where she fell out of her program. It weirdly makes it hard for me to take her seriously. I love the Ice Palace Club where she skates and Ravi has worked wonders on her but I do think she could benefit from skating at a different club with more skaters at the same caliber as her. It might have an effect on making her more competitive and reinvigorate her drive. I hope these girls continue to push each other through to Nationals!

Men

Finally the event I like to talk about most: the Men!

The season has been extremely exciting with all of the quads. It’s quad city out there! It’s insane how the technical game has gone up in just the past year. It all began when Yuzu couldn’t land that 3Lz-3T in his SP and switched to two quads. I’m enjoying it so far, even if the Men’s event is sometimes a hot mess.

I think Shoma is going to be a force to be reckoned with this season. He has come out strong – loaded with quads and killer edges. This boy is good. I wouldn’t be surprised if he beats Yuzu at some point this season, preferably at Nationals. I do love Shoma, a lot. I will wave my Japanese flag for him.

 

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Javi is also looking strong. His jumps look really good. My main concern is that he’s skating essentially the same program he did last season. I love Javi’s SP. Love it so much, because it’s different. It’s a different style for Javi. That FS though is the same as last year. How many times has Javi skated a showy FS like this? I’m officially tired of it. I thought last years was at least a good program. I’m not a fan of this one at this point in the season. But his jumps are looking good and the judges seems to be loving the program so all is good for Javi right now.

 

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Boyang had a bit of a disaster at Skate America. His programs are entertaining but I don’t see much of an improvement in the second mark. I had hoped to see that this season. Instead, when he didn’t fully have the jumps we weren’t left with much.

Oh the US men. I liked last season when Jason Brown just disappeared. It was excellent. I didn’t have to cheer for him in Boston. But now he’s back. He’s back with a couple programs that look exactly like every other of his programs. Very full, but full of the same easy turns as everything else he’s ever skated. My one positive thing to say is his jumps are looking stronger, and I’m happy he’s trying the quad. Even though it was under-rotated that was an excellent 4T attempt at Skate America. I really enjoy Adam’s programs and his performances. He’s highly entertaining and a very strong artist. I just don’t think he’ll ever be as strong of a skater as some of the men above him. Technically he can’t quite get there and while he’s brilliant artistically I feel his basic skating should be a lot stronger than it is. He needs far more crossovers than he should to get around the ice. I do prefer him to Nathan though. I think Nathan is the Boyjang of last season; just one quad after the other. It’s exciting the have an American man who can jump, but why can’t they combine Adam/Jason and Nathan into one skater. A think I’d be a fan of someone who was a combination of all three!

The main reason I disliked Patrick last season was his programs. This year I am a fan. I love his SP. Blackbird is excellent. And while his FS isn’t the most exciting, I can appreciate everything that’s been put into it. I am thrilled Patrick finally tried a 4S in his FS after talking about it for years. But there’s still no excuse for the other misses. These jump errors are not something an ice dance coach can fix! For someone who’s being out-jumped by so many, you’d think they’d hire a jump coach. But no. Even without the jumps though, Patrick’s skating will always be some of the best. I’m also happy Nam is getting his grove back. The jumps appear to be much more solid. Now just please get some speed! I want to cheer for you in Helsinki instead of Kevin Reynolds.

I don’t have much more to say about Yuzu than wasn’t already covered here. I’ll just say that I hope Yuzu and his team know what they’re doing this season. I hope there’s a plan to have him peak later in the season. I hope there’s a plan to have him test out his new layouts in these earlier competitions. I still think a clean Yuzu is unbeatable and I really hope I get to see that at some point this season.

Now on to France!  I’ll be back with another recap before long. Let me know if there’s something I missed in the comments.

Till next time,

– Justine Alyssa

2 Responses

  1. Hi Justine!

    Hope everything is well with you!

    I was in Helsinki for Yuzu and saw that amazing performance of Hope & Legacy. I was as if taken to the different dimension watching him dancing on the ice. He said he become the wind in the interview.

    Here is the one of the best fan-made video of the stunning night of Helsinki.

    https://youtu.be/AUKJ4ioX4dI

    • Justine Alyssa

      Thanks for the message. I was also in Helsinki for that amazing performance! It was definitely something I’ll remember for a long time. Thanks for the video. I hope to get back blogging again for the upcoming season!

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