Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In Short: The Short

Skate Sign
Snowy Boston, 12/31/09

The title of this post may be something of a misnomer: my comments on last night's Olympic figure skating event are anything but brief. I managed to fill several pages with my thoughts on the men's short programs; in fact, the lengthy diatribe below is actually the pared down version of the original manifesto.

I realize that my commentary is unsolicited, and I'm guessing that you probably don't care as deeply (nor as dorkily) as I do about this event, so please do not feel any compunction if you choose not to read this entire post.  I actually encourage you to spend your time doing something more worthwhile than reading this post, such as watching these heart-warming (and completely realistic) scenes from The Cutting Edge.

However, if you'd like to know what I think...

Here is the run down on the top contenders, in the order they are currently ranked after Tuesday night's short program:

1) Yevgeny Plushenko.  Yes, he skated a clean program. And yes, he landed a quad. But throughout his performance I kept wondering if the video had a technical glitch, because his choreography didn’t seem to match the music. AT ALL. I really think you could have set his program to ANY piece of music and it would have worked equally well. That is definitely not meant as a compliment.

Yevgeny is a technical skater, known primarily for his jumps. I will say that he included more choreography in this program than I’m used to seeing from him. But it wasn’t great choreography. It looked like he borrowed it from Elvis Stojko. (I don’t mean that as a compliment, either.)

2) Evan Lysacek skated a good program, feathery costume notwithstanding. He landed his triple Axel (good boy) and his other jumps were big and solid. He certainly had more speed and emotion than we saw from Yevgeny. But I still have the same complaints about the program that I did after Nationals – there’s just something frenetic and awkward about it. Arms and long legs flailing. He kind of reminds me of a spider. And I don’t like spiders. Also, maintaining speed is good, but the choreography felt rushed (not good). I have to wonder if the tears in Evan’s eyes at the end of the program were caused by a feather allergy? Evan, loose the feathers, man!!

3) Daisuke Takahashi – I hadn’t seen him skate yet this season, so I viewed his program with completely fresh eyes. Right off the bat, I liked what I saw. There was emotion, and the choreography fit with the music. His jumps weren’t exceptionally huge, but they were clean. He lost some speed on his spins, but they were still interesting. He maintained a good intensity throughout, and even looked like he was enjoying himself. Overall, I liked it. Wasn’t blown away by it like I was by Jeremy’s performance at National’s, but I liked it. Good job, Daisuke!

4) Nobunari Oda takes a really long time to set up his jumps. I don’t like when skaters do that. He did have some interesting choreography after those initial jump passes; guess he just wanted to get the jumps out of the way before focusing on other elements? I get that but I don’t love it. He had some cool positioning in his second-to-last spin. Overall, though, I wasn’t impressed and I’m somewhat disappointed that he’s in fourth place after a program like that. Yes, it was clean, but it was fairly forgettable.

5) Stephane Lambiel. Stephane is a cutie-patootie who bears a certain resemblance to my high school Homecoming date, but that is neither here nor there. He was pretty hot stuff a few years back – winning silver in Torino, then going on to be world champion. Since then, he’s faltered a bit and struggled with injuries. He came out of a brief retirement to try again for Olympic gold.
First off, Stephane is an amazing (maybe even unparalleled?) spinner.1 For his music, he chose William Tell (who doesn’t love that?). After a couple of small bobbles going into and coming out of his second jump, Stephane skated fairly cleanly. His footwork sequence showed the most imagination of all the skaters! I liked his short program, overall. His long program is going to have to be really clean and really wowzers, though, if he is to end up on the podium. Also, I would like to see him either cut his hair or use more gel. It’s too floppy. Minor detail, really. Good job, Stephane!

6) Johnny Weir has spent much of the Games thus far hiding out in the Olympic Village for fear of attack by anti-fur activists. The boy knows how to bring the drama, eh? The opening jumps of his program were very nice, though Weir also tends to leave too much set-up time before jumps. Not as bad as Nobunari Oda, but not my fave. He was sassy and vampy, and overall it was a clean performance. I don’t have too much to say about it, actually. It was solid, but the judges put him into sixth place. This is a tough competition. I do wonder why Weir was speaking Russian in the kiss-n-cry. Thoughts?

15) Jeremy Abbott – my heart, my love, my Jeremy. He is currently seated in 15th place after the short program, which makes me sad but I can’t say it’s undeserved. I think nerves got the best of him. The smooth & sure connection he made with the ice at Nationals wasn’t quite there in Vancouver. Most damning, though, was that he popped2 his second and third jumps. The rest of the program was clean, but it looked like the fire had gone out. Jeremy wasn’t “in the zone.” Poor kid!! He’s capable of much better.

(Did any one else find it ironic and cruel that the music playing in the arena after his program was Van Halen’s “Jump”? Jerks!)

18) France’s Brian Joubert entered the event as one of the favorites – he’s a former world champion – but is currently in 18th place. He had a misstep on his opening jump and a really bad fall on a later jump. He held it together, though, and maintained great speed and energy throughout the rest of his choreography. Fun techno beat! I could have done without that Running Man dance move, however.

To sum up, it seems likely that - barring any major mistakes - Yevgeny, Evan and Daisuke will share the podium after Thursday’s long program. But just who will get which medal is still up for grabs. Of course I’m hoping that Jeremy redeems himself with a stellar skate, but there will be no medals for him. I’m keeping my eye on Stephane and thinking good thoughts – it’s not impossible for him to medal, especially if any of the top three skaters open the door with a mistake. And Johnny Weir will be Johnny Weir; he always keeps it interesting.

And that's all she wrote.  For now...

1 The Swiss are all great spinners. That may seem like a sweeping generalization, but it’s pretty true. Denise Biellmann, for whom the Biellmann spin is named? Swiss.
2 For those less obsessed savvy than me, "popping" a jump means he didn’t complete the intended rotations.

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