U.S. National Skating Championships 2003, Dallas, TX
Posted 14 January 2003 - 12:30 PM
Until we hear from rk and others, I've found this link to the U.S. Figure Skating Association's official coverage, for statistics, photos & such:
Among the goodies on that site is the following strating-order for the first phase of the top Senior Ladies competitiors...and it's a GREAT draw for Sasha Cohen...OK for Hughes & Kwan...sad for Amber Corwin, who skates first, when judges rarely award the higher scores, no matter how well one skates. The Sr Ladies event begins Friday; ends on Saturday night (prime-time on ABC TV in the US??? it's usually shown live).
Posted 17 January 2003 - 09:34 AM
I've only been to Dallas once before in my life and that was about 35 years ago. So I'm not finding anything familiar here and of course Dallas has that President Kennedy memory. Not to get too political either, but this is the state with more executions than the rest of the country combined, and the state that brought us not one but two presidents named Bush...but people here are warm and friendly, even if the weather isn't, and coming to USFSA Nationals is an experience that every skating fan should have. I am so glad to be here.
Got here yesterday in time for the Men's and Ladies' Short programs. To my thrill, our tickets were upgraded to a better location. Sadly, there weren't as many tickets sold as expected. But by Saturday for the long programs, I expect to be back up in the cheap seats, and glad to have tickets at all.
Because this is a SPORTS event, rather than an ARTISTIC event, (something I might be inclined to quibble about), the rules of engagement are different. The audience shouts things to the skaters (not during skating, but before and after), the person next to you might be eating a barbeque sandwich (this is Texas, after all) and drinking a 24 oz beer, the spectators get up and walk in and out at will. This can be distracting to those who are accustomed to (generally) polite ballet audiences, I will make an exception for the annual free-for-all known as the SPAC gala.
Ah, but the skating. I'll talk in reverse order about what we saw, starting with the Ladies'Short. This is a very deep field. I don't think the USFSA has to worry about talent here, current and up and comers. Amber Corwin (who has been around for a long while) started things off with a lovely, lyrical program--better than I have seen her skate for a long while. Amber is not especially flexible, but she gave this program everything she could, and it was wonderful to see. She held on to first place for quite a time, but was eventually knocked down by the BIG THREE. Of those three, Michelle Kwan was the star and she was rewarded by a first place finish. Her skating was exquisite--she was relaxed and seemed joyous--truly happy to be on the ice. No tension from her. She has an arabesque that could be the envy of many ballet dancers, and she doesn't rush out of the position. She uses the entire rink surface to show everyone in the place this beautiful line. Sarah Hughes was not good. She seemed tired and out of sorts. She has had injuries, I know, but if her long looks anything like this short program, she will not receive, nor does she deserve, the national title. When she first showed up on the skating scene, I was not especially fond of Sarah. The Salt Lake Olys were definitely her moment in the sun--she just leaped into that fray and conquered it, and imo she deserved that gold. Now I am not really liking her again. Sascha Hughes has been my favorite because I just love her balletic style, incredible flexibility and precise footwork. She flubbed her combination jump early in the program and I was afraid that would set her up for disaster, but she recovered nicely and was clean for the rest. And her arabesque is spectacular. Her signature move is similar to the "head-to-the-knee" in Bizet, and it really really works. So those three were placed in this order: Michelle, Sascha, Sarah. Correct, in my opinion, except that....
I am not sure that Sarah should even be in third. For me, the big wonderful surprise of the night was Jennifer Kirk. Much was made of her training with Boston Ballet, but until last night, I didn't see the goods. She always looked frail and weak to me. NO MORE! She has developed into an enchanting skater, with an exquisite line and a radiant aura. am I gushing? She impressed me that much! I felt so bad for Angela Nickodinov. I have always loved her skating. In the warm up she looked relaxed and confident, but her program was just not good. She completely choked, as has happened to her many times.
One to watch would be Alissa Cizny. Her sister Amber also competed. They are totally different skating types. I think Alissa will make it big, if she can hang in there and not burn herself out. Of Amber I am not so sure. Alissa needs to work on upper body--her hands in particular. She seems to be very young and I think she will be a beautiful skater. She has the idea in her legs and lower body already--she just needs some time. So watch for her.
As for the men: the men's competition has become so much about the jumps, especially the quad. Who can land one? Who can land two? Which ones? OK, confession time for me. I can't always recognize a quad. They turn so darn fast that I can't count it. So I don't even try. I just look for beautiful jumps that are landed cleanly. I can't even always tell what the jumps are--except for the axel and the lutz, which are the easiest to recognize.
Timothy Goebel is in his expected first place, because he is a jumping bean. His upper body work has gotten much better, but he still has a long ways to go, I think, before I will call him a beautiful skater. Those shoulders have to COME DOWN and RELAX!! He needs some sessions with a ballet coach. I was very pleased with Johnny Weir who is in second place. I'll try to pay closer attention in the men's long and have more to say about the men. Yesterday was all about the women for me.
Today will be Ice Dance and Pairs finals. I'll be back with more news.
Posted 17 January 2003 - 10:07 AM
I know how you feel about Sarah Hughes...I bet she was held up...Olympic Champ, after all. If she fails to make the World Team -- and she'll have to really bomb to not be held up by the judges & Jenny Kirk or AP McDonough will have to win the free skate -- then maybe folks will not be so harsh on young Olympic champs who decide, then & there, to turn professional. (Remember how everyone criticized Tara for turning pro at age 15, in '98? Hey - quit with the gold, I say!)
Another Kwanfest in the making...at least it sounds like Michele was truly radiant out there. Good for her. And Sasha is hanging on in #2; OK, not bad for her at this stage!
I'm delighted to read about Kirk's development. And the artistic Johnny Weir too! yeah!! I love it when the artists score high.
But what happened to poor Michael Weiss, the Pride of Washington, DC?? Another clunker of a program? Maybe he'll pull-out another miracle-performance, as when he won Trophee Lalique, earlier this season.
I sure hope that my mom takes great care in setting the VCR buttons....she usually does.... No US Nationals on Russian TV.
Posted 17 January 2003 - 12:12 PM
Hughes has indeed been injured, and during a year with many other distractions for her. It's hardly surprising, and I think it would certainly be justified, for that to be taken into consideration.
Posted 18 January 2003 - 08:40 AM
I have never been a Michael Weiss fan. My tastes run to the Poet rather than the Power, as anyone who has read my gushing over Peter Boal and my tepid response to Jock Soto can attest. (In Jock's case, I am more talking about build here, than power, as he is..well you know, I don't have to say it, do I?) So I would much rather watch Johnny Weir or Matt Savoie than Weiss, or Goebel either, for that matter. And I so miss the good old days of Todd Eldredge, Paul Wylie, Brian Boitano..oh go for the really good old days---John Curry!
I will say about Timothy Goebel that he seems like such a sweet young man, I love his infectious grin. Michael Weiss, from what I have observed, is a complainer. I don't want to hear it--I don't want to hear that if he had nailed his quad (instead of landing it on his knees) he would be in first. He didn't, and he isn't. And just how long is he going to hang around doing this, anyway? I sound so harsh, even to myself, but I don't think its going to happen for Michael any more. His strengths are stronger now in other skaters, he has made attempts to improve his weaknesses but it just isn't working. He isn't going to be a Lyrical Artist, ever.
So there. I am hoping for Matt Savoie to make a great showing later today. Shepherd Clark is also still around, but he did very poorly in the short.
In the Ladies', Angela Nickodinov has withdrawn, citing a flare-up of an old injury. I am sorry about it and wanted to see her skate again so badly. No hope for her for the World Team, so I can't blame her for trying to rest her injury. Re all the talk about Sarah: yes she is definitely being held up, from what I can see. Fine, I guess. She has had tons of pressure with the SATs and college applications (having just gone through that last year with a "normal" child, I do understand the difficulties of that process), her injuries, the media blitzing her all the time, no wonder she is exhausted. But I do hope they don't just hand her the National
Title tonight, unless she has the skate of her life and everyone else bombs. She earned the Olympic Gold, and that is the difference.
[gossip snip!!! A.T.]
I have some words about the Dance and Pairs finals. I'll put them in another post as this one is getting pretty long. What I will say here, to tantalize you--is that it is a shame that we can't send 6 ladies to the worlds, and forget the pairs. They were that bad.
Posted 18 January 2003 - 10:09 AM
The US has a lot of work to do, if we want to be competitive on the world level in Pairs and Dance. Personally, the skaters are far more important to me than the nationality, but if the USFSA doesn't want to be totally humiliated at Worlds, they had better get on those coaches because both final rounds looked pretty bad.
Let me say that I am still very glad to be here, and to have had the opportunity to see these events. What these skaters do is so difficult that you just have to be awed. I had hoped to see better, but there were some moments of beauty that I will treasure. 99.9% of us can't do this stuff--any of it. Me--I can't stand on ice!
In the Dance, Lang/Tchernyshev bested Belbin/Agosto, a reversal of the standing after compulsories. Both teams will go to Worlds. Belbin and Agosto did their Elvis program. Well. I am not an Elvis fan, I am tired of Elvis programs, and I don't like this one at all. They are wonderful skaters and I like them, but in this program they are not really dancing together. To me, they look like two singles skaters who meet up from time to time. At one time, there were strict rules in Ice Dance about seconds of separation--doesn't apply anymore, I can see. Lang and Tchernyshev were fine, a few small mistakes, too. My favorite couple came fourth, Galler-Rabinowitz and Mitchell. Lovely line, elegant costumes, melodic music and and an easy and smooth style. I think they will be going places. The third place couple wasn't especially memorable. As for the rest of the field, it all looked the same to me: pulsating music, gyrating bodies, tacky and tackier costumes.
As much as Dance wasn't what I had hoped it would be, Pairs was worse. Every couple made at least one big mistake, most made several. Every couple, save the last one, fell at least once. The last couple, Orscher and Lucash, managed to stay on their feet for the entire program, and were rewarded with a second place finish. They are "solid" skaters, as opposed to ethereal skaters--power, rather than poetry, as I discussed earlier. And yet their silver medal was well-earned, even if I am damning with faint praise, and I have no quibble with their finish. There was crashing into the boards, some blood (not evident, but there were a few injuries requiring stitches), there was a disastrous pile-up of Steiglers--Johnny fell and then Tiffany fell on top of him.
There were also some wonderful moments. Jennifer Don (also competed beautifully in singles) and Jonathan Hunt were strong AND poetic. Larisa Spielberg and Craig Joeright (4th place) have some of the biggest twists and throws that I have seen, outside of the Chinese pairs. The two going-in favorites: Scott and Duhlebon (1st) and Kalesavich and Parchem (5th!) were just not "on". Scott and Duhelbon were better, but they weren't good. Kalesavich and Parchem were bad. I don't really see any of these couples being competitive on the world level.
I suppose it is cyclical, but the state of US pairs skating is not good. And I didn't really see too much in the way of up-and-comers.
Posted 18 January 2003 - 12:35 PM
I'm looking forward to the ladies finals tonight. Because of your reports, Rkoretsky, I'm especially anxious to see Jenny Kirk skate. In the past, I've thought that she has potential but as of yet, I haven't seen her blossom into a contender.
Posted 18 January 2003 - 09:21 PM
It was lots of fun. G'night!
Posted 19 January 2003 - 06:54 AM
As hard as it is to watch a disaster on TV, being In the Moment is infinitely worse. The Men's Long program got off to a fairly good start yesterday afternoon, especially compared to the last event I had seen--the Pairs--and there were a few guys in the early flights that are definitely Ones to Watch. Standing out in that pack for me is Ben Miller, who finished way down in the standings and has a long way to go in terms of technical issues, but who has the most elegant and lovely classical line.
Everything was going along nicely. There were falls and misses, but that is expected in the early part of the competition. Then, in the last flight, just as the bright stars were coming out, disaster struck. Johnny Weir had a freak crash into the boards. It happened under where I was sitting, so I couldn't see it, but it was impossible to not be dumbstruck by what had happened. He asked for a restart and tried valiantly to begin again, but it was out of the question. He fell into a bizarre looking split on his first jump attempt, bowed to the audience and left. Devastating.
Johnny's accident must have completely freaked the rest of the field out, because no one fully recovered. Matt Savoie crashed too (he was way too close to the boards) and his bootlace became undone. He tried to continue, and then his boot started to fall off. So he had to restart as well, and was penalized (severely, I thought) by the judges.
Tim Goebel had two hard falls and two other major mistakes. Michael Weiss saw his moment and came away with the title.
Time for me to go! I'll be back.......
Posted 19 January 2003 - 08:19 AM
I had the same reaction as you, rkoretsky, when I heard Weiss had won. He's by no means a favorite of mine either but he did the job-I wish I could've seen his skate.
Saw the women's skating last night. Wow! I wouldn't have wanted to be judge at that event. I was disappointed with Cohen's skating and I'm reaching a point where I wonder if she's going to be the Todd Eldridge of women's skating - all that potential, all that talent, but she's her own worst enemy.
It certainly appears that jumps shouldn't be a problem for her - she can fully complete the revolutions before heading down as compared to many- most- of the other skaters who are still turning on the way down. In Cohen's case, it seems to be her own nerves that interfere.
I even wondered if the judges were too kind to her with their marks. McDonough certainly had a much better skate last night. Although she doesn't have Cohen's impressive technique (who does?), she skated a lovely clean program with confident triple jumps. If the judges were actually influenced by which skater they'd prefer to see at the Worlds, well, I'm starting to wonder if Cohen might be a victim of her nerves there too. It hurts to say this because there's no skater I'd rather watch than Cohen but perhaps McDonough would be a better choice to send to Worlds.
But Michelle Kwan! Oh my goodness! Every time I think she should quit competing, she comes through with a dazzling skate like last night's. You just knew she was "on" and it was such a gift to see it. I was in awe and very, very glad for her. I had that lovely spine-tingling feeling as she reached her straight line footwork portion of the program; the commentators kept saying that she was "in the zone" but I think she brought all of us into that zone with her-it was a thrilling place to be.
And Sarah Hughes - what a fighter. Now THAT'S a competitive skater. While I wasn't impressed with the quality of her skating - she DID look rusty- it was so interesting to watch her fight her way through her program. Her knee was bent oh so much of the time, but apparently that's from a not completely healed knee injury. Disregarding the knee, she managed to pull off everything important, albeit without a very good line. But you just know that, now that she's headed to Worlds, she'll do what it takes. While I've never been a fan of her style, she's managed to impress me by her will power and spunk. I'd still love to see her work very seriously with a ballet teacher.
I'd never seen Ye Bin Mok skate before. Strong skater, just needs to learn how to invite the audience in to her world. Perhaps such a strong skate will give her the confidence to do just that. If she can, she's certainly a skater who can challenge the others in an already strong field.
Jenny Kirk: She and Sasha Cohen may be cut from the same cloth. In general, Kirk looked so much stronger than in previous years. That impressed me because her body is now that of an adult whereas the last time I saw her skate, she still had the stick figure of some adolescents. Knowing, too, that she'd lost her mother this past year made it all the more impressive that she was able to not only keep focused on her skating, but continue to strengthen and improve.
But like Cohen, Kirk appeared to be a victim of her nerves. I get the feeling in her case that she doesn't expect to be able to pull off those jumps. I hope she can pull them together because she's such a lovely skater to watch. I'd also like to see her work with new choreography; I felt that there was too much idle time on the ice. One reason why I've always loved to watch Kwan skate is that, even in preparation for her jumps, there's little idle time. The choreography accounts for those periods of building up to the jump and except for the second or two prior to lift, her skating is still interesting to watch. Kirk needs more of that.
It's too bad the USA can't send 6 skaters to the Worlds. It's going to be interesting to see how this field shakes out in the next four years. I feel sorry for the three young ladies who end up being a victim to such a strong field. In other years, Kirk, Mok, and McDonough would have been fighting it out for a place on the podium, if not first place, then second or third.
Posted 19 January 2003 - 02:56 PM
I've always liked Michael Weiss, as I noted on another thread somewhere. When not coming on as Macho Man, he has shown flair, musicality, deep edges, and other old fashioned virtues. He just has trouble coming up with the goods when it counts. Here he did the figure skating equivalent of Winning Ugly; not at his best himself, he needed Goebel to bomb, and Goebel did; he needed someone to beat Goebel, and Ryan Jahnke -- nice tano lutz, Ryan -- did that. Well, like Timmy or not, he's the only American guy who can give the Russians a game at the moment, so the best of luck to him. I'll also note that his jumps are beautiful as well as prodigious -- when he's on, they have a wonderful airy ease, and he seems to land on a down pillow. We didn't see this Sunday, alas.
I am pleased to report, after complaining about Kwan's recent performances, that she made me eat crow and I gobbled it down as if it had been caviar. When she's In the Zone, it's as if she's absorbed the music and it's carrying her along on a current; she seems to be making it up as she goes and the jumps have a fluid inevitability -- they're not big and she frequently loses speed coming out of them, which makes the triple-triple combinations so tricky for her, I think -- but she just sort of rises out of the ice and back down again. The ABC commentators were almost grudging in their admiration -- they're dying to crown Cohen as the new ice princess, but Kwan clearly has other ideas.
Hughes was underestimated again, and again she defied the naysayers, including Peggy Fleming, who wound up with egg on her face after plumping heavily for Cohen. Good for you, Sarah.
I'm afraid Dick Button is losing it. I admire many things about Cohen's skating, but she is not technical perfection out there and to say so, repeatedly, is a tad misleading. I hope she can get it together -- that was not good to look at.
McDonough is often proficient but mechanical, which may be what the judges slapped her wrist for. (I often feel that if I tapped her, she would go ping.) Jennifer Kirk's skating, for me, is pretty but without force.
I have more to say, but don't want to take over the discussion. The big story for me was Ye Bin Mok, but more of that later.
Posted 19 January 2003 - 06:48 PM
Generally speaking, this program worked the reverse of the Men's Long: the early flights were fraught with falls and difficulties and the competitors kept getting better and better as the evening went on. Granted, this is the way it SHOULD be and the Men's was truly a series of freak incidents that ended, not with a bang but with a whimper and with palpable relief from the audience that it was over. The old ABC slogan "The agony of defeat" was never truer than it was on Saturday afternoon, and I am still broken hearted for Johnny Weir and Matt Savoie.
Four minutes is an eternity for a young skater to be alone on the ice, and many of my favorites from the short fell victim to that. Alissa Cizny didn't look anywhere near as polished and prepared as she had in the short, and I just want to reiterate that she needs more time. Even my wonderful surprise from the short, Jennifer Kirk, couldn't sustain for the long. I agree with the above that she is also bested by her nerves. However, overall her skating is still one thousand percent stronger than it was, even last year.
Regarding Jennifer Don, she is new to me. I love watching her, but I would really like her to concentrate on pairs with her partner Jonathon Hunt. They are needed in pairs and not in ladies-- the competition in ladies is so deep that she would have much better chances in pairs. They have only been a pair for about 6 months, I understand. Give them another year and they will be formidable.
Another poster mentioned Andrea Gardiner. Andrea is very strong. She is a powerful jumper and has PRESENCE on the ice. But again, the field is so deep that there probably won't be any room for her.
AP McDonough dazzled the audience. I don't know how well that carried through to the TV broadcast. There was loud booing for her 5.2 and I felt the same way. I would have placed AP above Sasha (and I am a Sasha fan!). Sasha's skating is exquisite, but she fell--twice, falls that interrupted the flow of her program. AP skated to Puccini--could you TV watchers see the butterfly on her costume?--and in the segment to "Un Bel Di", with the drama of the stabbing motion at the end--it was extremely emotional and anything but mechanical, if I might respectfully disagree. Maybe a little bit over the top, truthfully (although I adore schmaltz, so it was fine with me).
Yes, Sarah Hughes pulled it together and she earned her spot on the world team. But even so, her performance was conservative, very safe, and--the best word I can come up with is "dutiful". She did what she needed to do to secure her place. I have great admiration for her, although I prefer the skating of others. I didn't see excitement or joy, I did see relief. She is an incredible young woman--a high scholastic achiever and, from what I have seen in interviews, a truly nice kid who makes her bed at home ( are my kids listening? they don't do that!). Her knees WERE bent throughout the program. I hope the injury didn't kill them!
Yebin Mok truly was a wonderful surprise. She is very similar to Michelle Kwan in style and technique. Hopefully there will be room for her and we'll all get a chance to see much more of her skating.
Ah. Michelle. Everything that needs to be said here, has been said. She was magic on ice and I am thrilled for her.
One of the best things about being live there is NOT having to hear Dick Button's annoying comments throughout every program: everything from "truly first rate position" to "now that should have been done much better". It was wonderful to only have to hear the music--almost all of which was Rachmaninoff by the way. He seems to have been the composer of this year.
One of the people I met had this comment for me when I told her that this was my first time at Nationals: "Now you'll be hooked! See you next year!". And maybe so. In fact I am thinking about making a fast trip to DC for the Worlds at the end of March. Any Washington area BAers want to develop another passion? Juliet....are you listening???
Posted 19 January 2003 - 07:00 PM
1. In the Men's, watch for Parker Pennington. He is another elegant skater with a beautiful classical line.
2. Sarah Hughes skated to La Bayadere. I thought the music was not well suited to her style or personality. Any other opinions?
And now I'll be going back to ballet.........
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