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Natalia

Figure Skating Competitions...the artistic side

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This being a Winter Olympic year, and Salt Lake City '02 right-around-the-corner one month from now, there seems to be more than the usual interest from 'cross-over' balletomanes who also admire artistic figure skating. Even DanceMagazine names a skater or two among its 'Dancers to Watch in 2002'! [uS ladies-singles skater Sarah Hughes is one, I believe.]

In Russia, figure skating is most definitely accorded equal status with ballet...you can't love one without loving the other. The Protopopovs are Russia's answer to 'Margot and Rudi' and so on.

So...how about kicking off a pre-Winter Olympics discussion on dancers-on-ice? Who, in your opinion, are the artists on ice of the present? Is the state of the 'fine art of figure skating' (as Dick Button often calls it) going to pot because of the emphasis on quad jumps...or are there a few true artists yet to be found out there?

I'll get this started:

I see a lot of artists, despite the emphasis on 'quad' jumps. Americans could tune into the finals of the Senior men at the US Nationals last night on ABC. [Tonight it will be Senior Ladies short programs on ESPN & tomorrow are LIVE finals of Senior Ladies on the ABC-Family cable channel starting at 8 pm EST for three hours, to be repeated on ABC on Sunday afternoon at, I think, 2 pm EST. Check you regional TV schedules for exact times.] Getting back to last night's Sr men's finals....did you notice how the one man who captured the hearts of the audience & truly skated WITH the music -- Todd Eldredge -- won the Sr men's title *despite* his lack of a quadruple jump? He beat the reigning titlist, Tim Goebel (a.k.a. 'Quad King'), who gave, IMO, a lackluster and mechanical rendition of 'An American in Paris' despite landing two of his three planned quads. There is huge debate this morning on the various skating websites about whether Todd or Tim deserved the title.

On another level, there is even bigger debate as to whether or not the bronze medalist last night -- Washington, DC's Michael Weiss, with (to me) a beautifully choreographed & artistically-delivered program to Puccini melodies -- deserved to make the Olympic team above the somewhat-clutzy Matt Savoie or the floating-but-lightweight Johnny Weir, who ended in 5th and 4th place, respectively. [Weir, IMO, is a true artist; at 17, he has time to develop some 'oomph' to his style. I really like him.]

Ladies preview: Ballet fans should look out for Sasha Cohen, currently in 2nd place, ahead of world bronze medalist Sarah Hughes (Dancemagazines's selected one). Sasha is, IMO, a true ballerina-on-ice; she hits exquisite positions in her spirals! [i'm only a bit miffed that she -- of all people -- is trying to become the first woman to land a quad. Come on Sasha - you don't need it!!! You are an artist.] Only reigning US & World gold medalist Michele Kwan stands ahead of Sasha at this point. Also be on the look-out for current-4th-place Angela Nikodinov, who has gained a very balletic style since working with the late Elena Tcherkasskaia. Angela's long program will be GISELLE. Michele is skating an LP to SCHEHERAZADE. Sasha Cohen will be CARMEN (in the Schedrin ballet version, I believe). Sarah Hughes is the only top lady not skating to ballet music; she is skating her LP to a Rachmaninoff orchestral medley I think....she skated to DON Q last year.] Some exciting TV viewing coming up this weekend.

Calling all ballet-and-skating fans. Opinions, please!

- Jeannie Szoradi

[ January 11, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Of all the female figure skaters that've come along over the last decade or more, Sasha Cohen's artistry stands out. She's still so young and has so much more room for growth; I find it exciting to think of her future. I hope injuries are kept to a minimum; she's coming off a bad year. I was excited about Michelle Kwan early on when she was about the same age but even she didn't have the balletic qualities of Cohen.

Todd Eldgridge is certainly the most accomplished US male skater and right up there with the two Russian men in my opinion, with the exception of jumping ability. But he's his own worst enemy. I can't bear to watch him in major int'l competitions any longer - he finds a lot of ways to defeat himself. Of the two Russians, I'm hoping Alexei Yagudin will be the winner. His routines are powerful, well-choreographed, and his costumes are sophisticated rather than gaudy and cheap-looking. He's strong in every area that counts in figure skating.

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Good points, vagansmom! I certainly agree with your assessment of the two Russians (Yagudin & Pluschenko). Plushy's latest costume for his new LP makes him look like 'The Tin Man on Acid.' He's a wonderful jumper & spunky character (not to say 'cocky'!), nonetheless. This should be a very exciting Olympics for the men.

You might also want to keep an eye on Japan's Takeshi Honda, who is one of the most artistic men around; I sure hope that he can get his jumps together in Salt Lake (so that he not be buried in 17th place after the short program).

[ January 11, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Yagudin is easily my favourite in the men's field. He has everything technically and is a beautiful interpreter of music. I think his last 3 short programs and 'Winter' most especially rank among the best ever. I think the necessity of the quad (well a quad AND a quad-triple) have hurt him though. I worry he won't have the stamina to finish a clean program.

I've been more than the disappointed in the progress of Plushenko. He has wonderful presentation and isn't afraid to be lyrical. Back in 2000, I would have thought he was the most 'balletic' of the men's field. But he sure is making it hard to see with his skating these days! He hides his best qualities with over- gesturing. I think his Michael Jackson number is way too overdone. But I guess the contrast to Yagudin does make things more fun.

Goebel has improved in leaps and bounds - he was into some serious shoulder-slumping when he first came on the scene. I used to shout that the boy needed a ballet class or a hundred!

And good ol' Todd - he's has he best lines, positions and spins out of all of them. I just think something's gone a little awry in his choice of music - nearly always movie soundtracks! I think Michelle has the same kind of problem - trying to be original by picking unusual and unfamiliar pieces of music and it hasn't really worked. I wish the two would skate to something more proven and powerful because then they'd be near unstoppable. Maybe that'd be taking the easy way out. But I look at the pairs team Sale and Pelletier skating to one of the most loved and romantic and over-used pieces of all time (Rachmaninoff) and still looking so incredibly fresh and original.

[ January 11, 2002: Message edited by: sylvia ]

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Hi, Sylvia - thanks for your comments. I'm glad that you mentioned the Canadian pairs team of Sale/Pelletier, who are so s-m-o-o-t-h on the ice & know how to draw an audience into their drama. As nice as their new Rachmaninoff LP may be, there is talk that they will be dumping it to return to their 1999/2000-season program 'Love Story'...more movie music. But, I admit, they skate exquisitely to it (as they did in the recent Grand prix finals, which they won). I'm still trying to decide whether to favor them or the gorgeous Russians, Berezhnaia/Sikharulidze, for gold in Salt Lake. [i'm a little partial to the alumni of St. Pete's Yubileiny Palace of Sports/Tamara Moskvina's emporium...I used to skate there when I lived in St Petes! No - not compete; just skate in circles & fall flat on my tush every now & then. wink.gif ]

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Jeannie, I'm more than a little biased to Bereznaya and Sikharulidze myself. I so badly want them to win this year because the create such beautiful clean images on the ice. That and the fact that I doubt they'll stay for another Olympics.

I've heard the talk about S&P scrapping Orchid for Love Story. I hope that's not the case. I adore Love Story but Orchid has a much maturer feel and from artistic or presentational point of view I don't think it any less than Love Story.

I'm also rather intrigued by some of the discussion I've seen on incorporating romance and passion into programs to score higher presentation marks. I haven't seen B&S's new LP myself but I've seen talk that it has a much more romantic feel than we're used to seeing in them. That and the comment Sikharulidze made -"now we have to kiss to win"! And I've seen it in Shen and Zhao as well (who's presentation marks are now much higher!) I hate to think that pairs are incorporating this into their programs to boost their presentation marks. S&P are more than that - they're lifts are the most exquisite I've ever seen. Gordeeva and Grinkov conveyed passion in their skating without being overt, their Moonlight Sonata being the best example. I had hoped B&S would do the same.

[ January 11, 2002: Message edited by: sylvia ]

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Well, I checked out Todd and Tim last night and I have to say although Eldredge was not at his best he still beat Goebel all around. Goebel's trying, he really is, but he just doesn't seem to know what to do with his upper body. It's not easy to watch him, and I suppose one shouldn't be prejudiced by this, but it may be unavoidable. (I read somewhere that he is taking some ballet lessons, but they don't seem to have sunk in yet.) The choreographer tried to work with this by giving him some shrugs and offhand what-can-you-do gestures, and he couldn't manage even those gracefully. And he still can't relate to the music. Maybe Tim should just skate to bells ringing and whistles going off. His jumps are beautiful once he's up in the air, but his telegraphed preparations seem to go on for about five minutes.

Re: choice of music. While I agree that you can skate an exciting program to familiar music, I don't think that any skater who tries skating to something that requires a subtler relation between music and movement than we often see should be encouraged and rewarded for doing so. (In other words, all skaters currently doing a "Don Quixote" program will be allowed to continue, but anyone who creates a new one may be shot on sight. I'm also starting to feel the same way about "Meditation" from Thäis.)

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Funny that you should mention 'Meditation' from 'Thais,' Dirac. That's the theme/music of Berezhnaia/Sikharulidze's new pairs LP, mentioned by Sylvia in the post above yours.

I agree, Sylvia -- nobody needs to get overtly sexy to convey romance, not that B/S's 'Thais' does this. I wasn't aware of Anton's comment of the kiss, by the way. Good grief!

Back to the familiar-vs-unfamiliar music, dirac et al. Dick Button was right, in that Johnny Weir's LP music, last night, was too remote..it didn't have a beginning, middle & end. There's lots of unfamiliar music with highlights, crescendi & such. Weir may have been hindered by his monochromatic music. *In last season's Grand prix Finals, Michele Kwan skated to one of the most ineffective pieces of music imaginable for this sort of competition: Bartok's 'Miraculous Mandarin.' Someone gave her the message &, thank goodness, she never tried it again! My point it: there's nothing wrong with skating to unfamiliar music -- we don't need an endless parade of Carmens, Don Qs, and Gladiators -- but it should be carefully selected so that it appeal to a general audience...not to mention those 'nine grey men & women' sitting in the jury box! They tend to be rather conservative & love the traditional stuff, after all.

re. Tim Goebel last night. Good grief - Lori Nichols (his choreographer) should tell him to stop doing that 'dumbo look' at the start of the 'American in Paris' program. I've seen it three times now and, I swear, it appears as if he is looking around for the nearest bathroom! I finally realized, last night, that the looking around with glazed eyes & open mouth was part of the choreography. It's especially funny because it occurs just before his music commences...so it looks as if there is a problem that needs to be rectified before he begins to skate. Kill it!

[ January 11, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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I missed the men's competition last night but I heartily agree with the comments about Tim Goebbel's skating. It's a shame he's only now paying attention to his upper body. Any of you remember Elaine Zayak? (I think that was her last name.) Boy, could she jump, but everything else about her skating was painful to watch. Midori Ito as well. Another great jumper but that was it. And then there's Surya Bonalyi (Sorry, I've probably massacred the spelling there). I wish that jumping weren't given such great importance. It certainly has value in the sport but there's so much else to figure skating. And judging by how rare it is, I'd have to say that clean lines, artistry and musicality ought to win out over jumps. Seems that there are more people who know what to do OFF the ice (in midair) than on it.

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Hi!

The men's event last night disappointed me overall-not a good sign for medal chances in SLC. Todd Eldredge deserved to win last night, but that kind of performance will not win an Olympic medal. The quad is essentially a requirement to make it on the podium and the international judges have made it clear this season that they will give the edge to Goebel when he lands the quads.

I also find Eldredge a bit bland-all the programs and costumes seem pretty much the same. Great spins and line, but his program doesn't jump out at me.

Goebel is definately capable of a much better performace than he gave last night. He looked tired and/or nervous last night. I suspect he was more focused on making the Olympic team, and was playing it a bit too safe. BTW, he landed just one quad (quad salchow-triple toe). The 4-toe he fell on, and the 2nd 4salchow he omitted.

Goebel would have easily led the SP had he not fallen on his spiral sequence, BTW and a second quad in the LP may have given him the national title. His tech marks were better than Eldredge, and the presentation marks not that much lower.

Weiss was way overmaked in both the SP and LP-international judges would have been much more severe in the SP deductions (they aren't trying to keep someone in contention for an olympic spot). If he skates like that in the Olympics, he will find himself too far down after the SP to even think of getting a medal. A two-footed quad and two touchdowns in a LP won't get you anywhere near a medal either. He may have better presentation than some of the men, but I don't find his chereography that interesting-and it doesn't matter anyway if he can't do the jumps.

Savoie's "clunkiness" got him to the Grand Prix final two years ago, so the judges obvious don't think it's an issue. He certainly deserved 3rd in the SP, and I would have preferred him to mak the Olympic team. IMHO, Weiss has had his chance and is not producing. I think Savoie's chances at the Olympics are just as good, and Savoie is the future.

I skate at the same rinks as Johnny Weir and know his coach, and he a very special skater. Not only is he just 17, but he didn't even start skating until he was 12. He landed his first axel one week after beginning skating lessons.

You really have to see his skating in person to appreciate it-he just floats over the ice and his spin positions are wonderful. I have to agree that his LP this year is not a good choice-though I believe that had he not had so many injury problems, the program would have been worked on a lot more. BTW, I suspect he is still feeling the effects of a stress fracture in his foot/leg. He has landed quads, but is not attempting them now because of the stress fracture. His future is bright-can't wait to see how he progresses before 2006!

Kate (who is sore after two sessions at the rink today)

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Has anyone seen Sale/Pelletier in their long program set to 'Tristan & Isolde'? It's absolutely beautiful and it's too bad they're not doing it in Salt Lake City, even though the 'Love Story' program is wonderful. I hope they take the Gold.

I'm surprised nobody's yet mentioned the exquisite Swiss skater, Lucinda Ruhe (sp?). She turned professional a year or two ago because she didn't have the jumps of Slutskaya or Kwan. But her spinning ability is breathtaking. Her speed, artistry, inventiveness and ability to remain in one spot on the ice during her very difficult spins is incomparable. I urge all skating fans here to watch Lucinda Ruhe at the first opportunity.

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Just watched the Women's Short Program, and it was really quite wonderful. So many fine performances. Sasha Cohen was just breathtaking, in my opinion. Her line is exceptional, she really has speed and covers the ice incredibly well, and the jumps were all clean. Excellent performance!

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Yes, Victoria - it was quite an evening of exceptional ladies short programs, wasn't it? I hope that tonight's finals (long programs) are equally brilliant.

Sasha Cohen did not disappoint. And I adore the line & fluidity of Angela Nikodenov. Jenny Kirk, who trained seriously in Boston Ballet Academy during the ages of 9-to-14, also has exquisite line...and Ann-Patrice McDonough...and tiny Beatrisa Liang?? Well, Michele Kwan -- who was quite powerful & moving -- will be looking back tonight.

My only small complaint among the top women skaters is the slight gawkiness in the highly-touted Sarah Hughes. Don't get me wrong - Sarah is a very accomplished skater with powerful jumps + long lines..but there is a certain gawky quality to her skating. Just look at some of the bizarre positions that she hits in her footwork sequence. Maybe that's where my years of watching ballet kicks in & I can tell the difference. I'm sure that most of you did, too. [sarah, by the way, actually beat the two women who are heavily-favored-for-gold at Olympics, when she defeated Irina Slutskaya & Michelle Kwan at Skate Canada, this past fall. So, obviously, Sarah is doing many things right. But her positions & general all-arms-and-all-legs gawkiness bother me.]

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I just finished watching tonight's Women's program - they were all, obviously, very good.

I am not a skating aficionado by any means, yet I couldn't help but be glad for Michelle Kwan - I guess I always like it when someone who's been competeing for the longer time wins...and the fact that she chose to do it without her longtime coach was pretty inspiring too.

No question that Sasha Cohen is terrific for all the reasons you all have cited, and I felt really badly for Nikodinov(sp?) - I happen to think her ballet moves were beautiful - her upper body and arms were obviously Bolshoi inspired...

However, oddly enough, I really am very taken with Sarah Hughes - even though I do see a bit of that "gawkiness" that you refer to Jeannie...I can't help it but I think she's refreshing to watch. She may not be so completely "finished" as some of the others but to me her natural enjoyment is a major plus...She's only 16 but there is something special about her in my eyes...we shall see.

They all did very well and I enjoyed watching!

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I missed tonight's women's finals - I hope to see the reruns tomorrow afternoon (I went to see "The Lion King" instead - finally!).

Just wanted to address the comments about Sarah Hughes: I have the same problem with her skating as mentioned by Jeannie. I've been trying to figure out what, exactly, it is. She's certainly improving practically minute by minute. I THINK what seems off to me lies in how her upper and lower body aren't quite working in tandem, but I'm not sure. They don't seem to work smoothly together all the time. Taken in isolation, one could say her positions are excellent but put both halves together and there's still a slight disjointedness. I'm not completely positive that's what it is and would love it if someone else better versed in ballet can explain it to me. I've been trying to figure out for some time exactly what it is that I don't like about Hughes's skating, esp. because I'm usually in complete agreement with Dick Button. And he adores her skating.

All the other real skating afficionadoes seem to also agree that she has superb technical positions - they rave about her foot being just exactly the right height, her back so straight, etc. I think that she's got a coltishness about her that's still quite raw and gets her into trouble on occasion. She hasn't quite gotten used to her grown body and it's like her energy is sometimes flying out in all directions.

I can't wait to see the reruns tomorrow.

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I think you've hit on it, Vagansmom! "Coltishness" is the right word - I am wondering if because she is tall(or appears to be) that this might be a growth spurt thing...just like what can happen to dancers?

I'll await the experts. smile.gif

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Watching Sarah Hughes last night I felt the problem is primarily her shoulders, which go up in a lot of positions she takes, especially her spirals. But you are also right about her body just not quite coming together with the length of her arms and legs. Perhaps she is still growing! There is a lack of coordination right now in terms of her upper body, but that makes it even more amazing to me that she pulls off all those jumps so well.

I thought Kwan was totally amazing last night, and Sasha Cohen is certainly right up there, with incredible potential and so much natural talent. I thought Ann Patrice McDonough was very lovely, but did not care for her mixed up R&J music arrangement. Also liked Jenny Kirk very much. Nikodinov had a disappointing performance, which is really too bad, as she is also very lovely. But what a wonderful group of young American skaters in the Ladies field right now!

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IMHO,

the biggest artistical problem with skaters is their shoulders, which sometimes are up around their ears. And I am not talking about when they are up in the middle of a triple flip/axle/loop etc. It really bothers me to watch a skater who has some good choreography not use it. Someone needs to tell them how awkward they look!

I really liked Sasha C., who looked like a little Russian ballerina. I thought she outperformed Michelle Kwan. I was also rooting for Jenny Kirk, becuase of her Boston ballet training, and because she has been through a hard year, with her mother passing away. On her arabesque spiral, (gliding penche arabesque) her knee was the straighest, and her leg more behind her than any other of the skaters. And her shoulders weren't up! Actually, I thought most of the girls didn't have the shoulder problem, except for Sarah Hughes...

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Whew...that was a great Ladies finals, wasn't it? I saw it last night but didn't want to come & read your comments until I knew that most of you had the chance to see it on the ABC rerun this afternoon.

Kwan - totally deserved her first place....and I don't always say this about her! (Worlds 2000 is case in point.) This time, she really put it together with great jumps and an ease of presentation. She certainly had the 'excitement factor.'

Cohen - the true ballerina on the ice. Exquisite...but that final flop-over pose must have been improvised!

Hughes - ummmm....I guess that I don't get it. I would have loved to have seen Nikodinov above her (had Nikodinov not doubled all those triples in the last third of the program). Hughes pumps her back up & down doing cross-overs which makes me think of (shhhh...not too loudly) Surya Bonaly a bit. I don't feel relaxed seeing her skate. *But, I agree with all of you, that she continues to improve. I am especially glad that she is no longer flashing her howdy-doody grin all the time, like she used to. It took away from the dignity of the slow sections in last year's DON Q.

Nikodinov - like Dick Button said, 'liquid gold'! How very sad to see her drop her concentration after that one fall. It is a joy to see her skate.

Kirk - yeah...she moved up a place to 5th! Her balletic training really showed throughout the program.

McDonaugh - another wonderful skater!

Pairs finals -

Ina/Zimmerman - They really look like champions now, although this was far from their best program. After four years of training with Tamara Moskvina (who also coaches Berezhnaia/Sikharulidze of St. Petes, Russia), it is finally showing. Bronze medal in Salt Lake??? Well...I'd love to see it but 5th is probably more realistic.

Scott/Dulebohn - well...nice lines; a bit of the all-legs-and-arms gawkiness of Sarah Hughes. I honestly would have placed them behind the younger, 3rd-place team, who (to me) were far more polished in technique, artistry & had the 'oomph factor.'

Kalasevich/Parcem - I had them as clear silver medalists. So confident & polished. Although very young (I think that this is just their first year in the senior level?), they seemed more sophisticated that the more seasoned #2 team who will go to the Olympics.Ah, well...

Sorry that TV didn't show the Ganabas (brother & sister of Iraqi or Iranian heritage). Year after year, they put on an amazing program & get ditched by the judges...and the crowd boos the judges like crazy. Maybe next year...they're still very young (mid teens).

- Jeannie

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I saw the women's free skate as a rerun today. I paid really careful attention to Sarah Hughes's shoulders, thanks to having read Victoria's comments before watching. I agree - her shoulders really are up much of the time. But I also think now that she bends too much from the waist and her neck is strained forward more than the other skaters. All that, taken together, gives a rather gawky look. She may conquer it yet though; she's certainly improving very quickly. Because of that, I suspect she's a joy to teach.

Nikodinov is, like Hughes, tall yet there's none of that upper body gawkiness. I noticed that she didn't pitch her upper body forward as much as did Hughes. I felt sorry for N. She's such a lovely skater, but she's another one, like Eldridge, whom I often steel myself against liking too much. Too often, her nerves seem get the better of her. This competition must've been a terribly hard one for her to lose though - I do feel for her.

Jennie Kirk shows so much promise. Her ballet training gives her a clear advantage to my eye over, say, Hughes. But Kirk, like Hughes, has a way of hunching her shoulders up terribly during jumps. It drives me crazy to watch.

Well, I really looked forward to seeing Sasha Cohen's long program...and I was disappointed! Not in her execution of her program, but in its content. I didn't think it was a well-choreographed piece at all; in fact, it was the least interesting skate of hers that I've seen. She did it justice but I'd have liked to have seen more variety in between the jumps; this is a skater who's capable of infusing everything with her own special magic.

Had Cohen's program been more interesting, I'd have said she deserved the gold over Kwan. I really think it was her program that prevented that. However I have to wonder if the judges would've allowed Kwan to NOT win the gold, given a clean, solid performance. In any case, it was well-deserved. Kwan skated cleanly and incorporated much more interesting choreography than did Cohen.

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Scott/Dulebohn - well...nice lines; a bit of the all-legs-and-arms gawkiness of Sarah Hughes. I honestly would have placed them behind the younger, 3rd-place team, who (to me) were far more polished in technique, artistry & had the 'oomph factor.'

Tiffany (Scott) and Philip (Dulebohn)have only been back in training for a little over two months because Philip had a stress fracture in his hip which kept him off the ice and on crutches for a long time. Nationals was their first competition of the year, so their programs were not as polished and perfected as those of the other teams.

It's probably not so apparent to those not familiar with skating and skating judging, but

Scott & Dulebohn got more credit from the judges because their program is much more sophisticated and complex that Kalesavich and Parchem's: S&D's cheoreography&footwork are more difficult, and I think they had more difficulty in lifts and jumps. I'm not particularly fond of this program, but the performance definately deserved 2nd place. S&D definatley have a much better chance at the Olympics than K&P.

Kate (who is a little biased since she knows Tiffany and Philip redface.gif )

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Wow, I thought that I was going crazy re:Sarah Hughes, but I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who isn't crazy about her skating. I find her incredibly awkward to watch, with her jumping ability her only saving grace. I find her footwork decent but her upper body positions painful, and her bent knee and dog-at-fire-hydrant leg in her spirals make me cringe (they all do that to some extent, but her's are particularly ecarté while she's supposed to be in arabesque). When she first came on the scene 3 years ago I was really excited to see such a nice crop of young skaters, and although she's progressed a great deal I find it's only been in one area--athletic not artistic. I've been watching skating for a really long time and I totally agree with a previous post, she's perhaps in the same league as Midori Ito, Suriya Bonally, Irina Slutskaya (more in the past than lately) but she's certainly not the next Ekaterina Gordeeva, Kristy Yamaguichi, Michelle Kwan or the budding Sasha Cohen. IMO, I think you should have to have a 50/50 combo or close to it to win major competitions which is why the LP is worth so much.

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sneds - Thanks for enlightening us on Scott/Dulebohn. Although I still prefer the 3rd-placed couple to them, from an aesthetic point-of-view, I agree that S/D have a better opportunity to score well at Olys, as they represented the USA at last year's Worlds...and placed amazingly well (top 10) for a first-time pair at that championship! My hat's off to them and to the entire US Olympic Figure Skating Team. It's a very strong delegation of skaters. On to Salt Lake City & may the best blades win!

[ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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I'm not sure about a pure 50/50 ratio. This is a sport, not an art form, and finally it must be judged primarily, although not exclusively, on athletic terms unless it wants to lose credibility as a sport. Isn't that part of the reason for the emphasis on jumps in recent years?

Maybe Hughes' slight awkwardness and lack of polish is largely owing to growing pains, as Victoria suggested, and she doesn't have the elegant slender line that Kwan exploits with her Vera Wang camisoles, and that natural grace that never seems to desert Kwan even when she's down on her butt. Hughes does smile too much, but then many skaters do, or so it seems to this non-expert. I used to enjoy watching Kwan throw her arms open and beam during her spirals, but now it's starting to look like a shtick. ( Maria Butyrskaya is not necessarily my favorite skater, but at least she's not always grinning like the village idiot.)

To go by the behavior of American judges, I don't think it really matters how well Hughes or Cohen do. Kwan has a lock on the top spot, unless she does something really disastrous. (I'm not saying she doesn't usually deserve the top spot, but there have been times when I've gotten the feeling "the fix is in.") They'll just have to wait until she retires or gets injured or something. (Of course, the Olympics are another matter, as Tara Lipinski knows.)

Jeannie, I saw their "Meditation" program and thought it was OK. I was just listening to Anne-Sophie Mutter's recording of this warhorse, and reflecting that she plays it as passionately if she'd never heard it before. So I suppose it is possible to breathe new life into the familiar.

Are the pairs skaters actively encouraged to put the romantic stuff into their programs? It would be interesting if skating choreography used the pas de deux format in different ways. I'm thinking of the Agon pas de deux, for example, where yes, it's a man and a woman and it's sexual, but there are other meanings tucked away in there as well. Christopher Dean has made a few attempts in this direction, I think.

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Re the pairs skating and romantic displays: I remember that, years ago, back when Peter and Kitty Carruthers, brother and sister USA pairs team were competing, that was a big problem for them. They were siblings. It was felt by the various commentators that the Carruthers team suffered in their choreography. What do you do as a skating pair when you can't feign romance? - was the overriding question. Good question. What kind of chemistry between the two skaters should be reflected? I assume lots of thrilling lifts and throws, of course, but what story do you tell with that routine?

I was looking forward to seeing the choreography pf the current US pairs team featuring a brother and sister but they had to pull out of the comp due to injury.

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