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Four Continents Figure Skating Ch'ps


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The Four Continents is to the Americas, Asia, Africa & Australia as "Europeans" is to Europe and it's going on this week in Colorado Springs, USA. But the *main* reason why I'm writing this bit is to bring to your attention the fact that, for the first time in international skating history, a skater from India, Ami Parekh, is competing & one of her programs is to "La Bayadere." Neat, huh?

The following link is to the US Figure Skating Associations website on the meet which, in turn, takes you to information on Ami's Bayadere program. This list might include a video or two...but this link is to only a list (wink)


Regardless of where she ends up in the standings, this is a big honor for Ami and for her country.

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There was a young woman from India who competed in an ISU event over the past year. I'm not sure whether it was a Junior Grand Prix or one of the second-tier international competitions like Ondrej Nepala, but she has been described as being at the level of a good recreational skater who had started private lessons. She earned around 5 points for her SP and less than 10 points in her Long Program, apparently completing few elements; by comparison, the lowest score in the SP at Europeans was 23.97 and for the LP was 61.52.

I hope Ms. Parekh has a good showing in Colorado Springs.

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What year was it when the weather at the Olympics was so severe that all but indoor events were postponed? So it was almost all-skating all the time. I made a snide remark to a friend speculating on appearances by such distinguished athletes as the number six skater on the Bolivian team. As our planet has shrunk at increasing rate, it seems the most formerly unlikely places provide fertile ground, if the talent and resources can find each other.


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Helene, I think that was 1948-St. Moritz, when even Dick Button had to shovel the snow before he skated (& won). Carbro/Carley, you may be thinking about 1984 Sarajevo, when the weather was so warm; every single compulsory dance in the ice dancing competition was shown on TV.

Going by the clip of the Bayadere LP on the USFSA webpage, Ms. Parekh seems to have solid double jumps and nice flow. In other words, she is further ahead than the junior skater described above.

p.s. Before we giggle at the Latin American skaters - Mexico's ladies did well enough at last year's 4Cs championship that they qualified for three entries (the maximum number in one event) this year. Wow!

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I love the Latin American skaters -- the two young women from Mexico had more presentation skills in their fingers than many of the higher ranked skaters both at 4C's and at Europeans, but because until very recently they had no triple jumps, they would get 4.X's under 6.0/OBO or 4's in PCS under CoP. Bogus.

In order to increase participation in 4C's, the ISU has allowed each nation to send up to three skaters in each discipline, instead of having to qualify, like at Worlds and Europeans. At those competitions, the number of participants is determined by the placements in the prior competition:

One participant:

In 1st or 2nd earns three places for the next year

In 3rd-10th earns two places for the next year

Lower than 10th earns one place for the next year.

Two or three participants:

Top two placements are 13 or less earns three places for the next year

Two top placements are 28 or great earns two places for the next year

Two two placements are 29th or more earns one place for the next year.

For places 1-16, the actual placement is calculated. For the 24 that make the LP, no one earns more than 16 points (earning points is negative in this case.) In the past, when there were qualification rounds, those who didn't make it out of qualis got 20 points and those who qualified for the SP, but not the long, got 18 points. This works the same way for dance, where there are still three rounds: those in the Compulsory Dance who don't make the Original Dance get 20 points, and those in the OD round but don't make the Free Dance get 18 points. Anyone who makes the Free Dance (top 24) gets a maxium of 16 points.

It is very difficult for countries to earn additional places, and while it is still difficult to retain three places -- 13 points means a 1st and a 12th, a 5th or 7th, a 4th and 9th, etc., which is not easily done except among the strongest nations -- it is still difficult to earn two from one, but it is relatively easy to retain two -- the max of 16 points means if one person is the last qualifier, the other person needs to be top 12 -- unless there are only two bottom level teams after the retirement of a top one, like what will happen with Lithuania dance for next year's Euros.

The highest skaters for Mexico at 4C's last year were Michelle Cantu (16th) and Ana Cecilia Cantu (18th). If the Euros/Worlds qualification rules were applied, there would be one place for the Mexican women in Colorado Springs this year.

Yay for Ms. Parekh. Tugba Karademir from Turkey started with a 2A in 2003 in Malmo, and was 10th at this year's Europeans.

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Then there was a post 1984 competition, I think 1992, because Klimova/Ponomorenko were top competitors, and I didn't see US coverage in 1988. Scott Hamilton was commentating for CBS, and the CD that year was the Polka. There was a montage in which Hamilton made fun of the ice dancers, and for that I've never forgiven him.

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The first day of competition is complete. Spoilers follow.

In the Men's SP, Jeffrey Buttle leads by over three points, but second place Jeremy Abbott, recently 4th at US Nationals after a weak Short Program, is a surprise, and he has the highest technical score by a sliver. Ryan Bradley, the US silver medallist, is in third, slightly ahead of Evan Lysacek, another surprising result. (Lysacek is 10.68 points off of the lead.) Emmanuel Sandhu had a disappointing skate and is in 4th place, followed by China's Jianliang Wu, who is only 1.46 points behind Sandhu, despite scoring 6.73 less in component scores. (Sandhu will have a greater advantage in the Long Program, where the PCS are multiplied by 2.) Christopher Mabee, the Canadian silver medallist, is in a disappointing 8th. None of the top names for China or Japan are competing in Men's.

In the Pairs SP, Shen/Zhao lead by over 3 points over Pang/Tong. (Olympic and Worlds silver medallists Zhang/Zhang are not in the competition.) Inoue/Baldwin and Marcoux/Buntin trail in 3rd and 4th. The young gold medallists from the US and Canada, Castille/Okolski and Dube/Davidson, are languishing in 7th and 8th, about 15 points off the lead, and are behind the US and Canadian bronze medallists.

In the Compulsory Dance, like at Europeans, the Golden Waltz, Dubreuil/Lauzon lead Belbin/Agosto by .82. Two more teams coached by Igor Shpilband, Davis/White of the US and Virtue/Moir of Canada, are about 5 points behind, within .27 of each other, with the 4th place US and Canadian teams about four points behind them.

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Thanks for the recap, Helene. Quick comments:

What a shocker with the men. Abbott's LP was spectacular at Nationals, so I am not surprised at what he's able to achieve with a clean SP. Evan the 3rd-best man in the SP - oh, my - how quickly the world turns; he's almost sure to go up in LP...he always does. To think that Abbott isn't even slated for Tokyo Worlds, with Johnny Weir (not here) going as the #3 US man!

Pairs - I can just see & hear the usually-overly-proud John Baldwin, Jr (of US pair Inoue/Baldwin, recently dethroned of their US title) strutting and declaring "we're the #1 US pair...#4 in the World...blah-blah" due to their standing after the SPs!!!

Dance - Well...a lot can happen between the CDs (never USA champs Belbin/Agosto's strength) and the finals but...can I smell a bit of foretaste for the Canadians, Dubreuil/Lauzon, rather than the USA team, being the North Americans that make the podium in Tokyo? I hope not. (p.s. - I'm still betting that, if all skate perfectly, the young Russians, Domnina/Shabalin, will be crowned World Champs in Tokyo. That theory is now circulating widely; not just me but I'v been saying it since the early part of the autumn series. The miracle is that the French were 'allowed' to win Europeans, which they well deserved, IMO.)

Ladies start today - a key will be to see how Nakano of Japan does in relation to Meissner. I love Suguri of Japan but she did not make the Japanese Worlds team, as did Nakano. I consider Canadian champ Rochette a wild card - sometimes great, usually iffy.

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Shen/Zhao won the gold inthe pairs event, as expected. Pang/Tong second. Those two will most likely also be on the podium at Tokyo Worlds next month. Inoue/Baldwin were 3rd and, thus, gain a bit of sweet revenge over their disappointing 2nd-place finish at Nationals last month, i.e., John can continue to toot his trumpet. (ha-ha)

The 'wild card' among ladies won last night's short program -- Joannie Rochette of Canada. World & US champ Kimmie Meissner is in a shocking 6th-place. Even more shocking is the reigning World silver medalist Fumie Suguri way down in 12th place or something like that.

In dance, Belbin-Agosto inched ahead of Dubreuil/Lauzon to the #1 position, but only .31 (one third of a point) separates them. Anything short of the gold would be bad for Belbin/Agosto, who were #2 in the World two years ago, then slipped a bit last year.

Four Continents -- usually a sleeper of a competition -- is mighty exciting this year. Men & Dance finals today; ladies finals tomorrow. Let's see if US champs Lysacek (for the men) and Meissner (for the ladies) can pull up from their respective disappinting positions.

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Cygneblanc - Aki Sawada of Japan -- who was only 6th-best at her national championships -- was the star of the night & the only lady to have skated cleanly and with energy. Sawada is in 3rd place going into the finals BUT she earned the highest tech scores of the night.

Comments, along with standings so far:

1. Rochette (Canadian champ) - 3rd best Tech score + 3rd-best Presentation score = 1st place overall. Stumbled in her combo but overall good.

2. Hughes (USA's #2 skater) - 2nd best Tech (despite fall on combo jump) + 4th best presentation. Fall on either her solo triple or the 2nd jump in her combo...don't recall which right now. Punches her way through the choreography - energy if no finesse.

3. Sawada (Jap #6 skater) ...see above...star of the night, IMO.

4. Czisny (USA #3 skater) despite fall in the combo jump earned the highest presentation marks. Only lady to top 27 points in the presentation score. Spectacular spins, spiral edges, musicality, etc, etc. If she could land all of her jumps, she would be a force on the international scene.

5. Yan Liu (China #1 skater) - lyrical, lovely

6. Meissner (USA #1 and World champion) - only NINTH in technical scores...lower tech score than two unknown Korean skaters, imagine that. 9th in Tech not only due to fall on 3lutz in her combo but a weak & wobbly layback that earned only "Level 1" mark. However, a World Champ is 'propped up' with 2nd-highest Presentation mark. hmmm....

7. Yoshie Onda (Jap #5)

8. Dan Fang (China #3)

9. Chae-Hwa Kim (Korean #1 champ...although Yu-Na Kim, their star, did not compete at nationals & is not here) - beat Kimmie in tech scores....

10. Xu (China #2)

11. Gimazetdinova (Uzbek)

12. Fumie Suguri (Japan #4 skater - who was #2 in the World just last year & a 'force' for many years...) - TWO falls...but 5th best in Presentation mark...very sad end to her career, unless a miracle occurs tomorrow.

Fumie's quick fall, in the midst of the new judging system, makes me wonder: Maybe Michelle Kwan knew what she was doing by silently departing the elite ranks? Even Sasha Cohen -- should she even bother trying to re-integrate herself to the elite ranks after her present Hollywood stint? One by one, the 'stars of the late-'90s/early '00s' are falling by the wayside,e.g., Sokolova & Volchkova of Russia, Sebestyen of Hungary, Suguri & Onda here, the elder Finnish ladies, etc. 2007 is becoming the first true "Year of (Mostly) Fresh Faces" since the early 1990s, when the ISU 'professionalized' the so-called amateur ranks and, thus, discouraged the retirement of top skaters following an Olympic cycle. Finally, finally. That is, in all honestly, why I believe that the Worlds Championships in Tokyo next month will be the most exciting Worlds in a long time. The field is wide open, with very young stars from Asia, North America and Europe. The only real exceptions are the great Shen/Zhao of China and 'elderly' Petrova/Tikhonov of Russia in Pairs & Denkova/Stavisky and a couple of other teams in Dance. But even the dance event could well be won by a young Russian team that ranked 6th or 7th last year.

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Thank you for the update on the Ladies SP, Natalia!

I'm really glad to see Yan Liu has done so well. She's a lovely, lyrical skater who hadn't scored well this year until now. The bets were on tiny Binshu Xu, who from her performance at Skate Canada has more speed and attack than Liu, but doesn't finish her movements or interpret music nearly as well.

Suguri's skating was made for 6.0/OBO. She generally started off strongly and fast, especially since the judges ignore the flutzes in the opening combo, and Suguri's was as obvious as Cohen's. She had a fantastic 3F. Then her programs would fade, and she would lose speed, with a double here, a landing without flow there, a double foot a little later. Her spiral is still the worst among the top 10 skaters, with bent knees and mediocre back position.; under OBO, she could hold the positions for a perfunctory amount of time, and the duration of CoP spirals has doubled-tripled, making a bigger impression, and in her case, not a good one. However, pre CoP, her last two-three elements would be a low-level circular footwork sequence at great speed, a simple spin, and a great low-mid-level combo spin ending in a blinding scratch. This was tailor made for the OBO system: make a big splash at the beginning and fast impression on the end. (Add some cognitive dissonance and stir.) It is not compatible with CoP, at least on the technical score, because each element is marked real-time, her 0's and -1's in the middle elements are hurting, and the complexity needed for the later elements to gain higher levels do not play to her strengths.

Her strength has been consistency, but she is a workmanlike skater, in my opinion, the greatest disappointment I have ever had after seeing someone live for the first time. Arakawa had been inconsistent during her career, although she attempted much harder content by comparison, and the strength and depth of the Japanese women is a recent phenomenon of the last five years.

I'm looking forward to seeing Sawada's program!

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Thanks a lot Natalia

Suguri's just too weak for COP. You need to have very strong elements and she hasn't. Although some of her jumps can be good, her spins, spirals and footwork are weak.

This judging by element is questionable to my mind: you can have good elements, but not the complete package. I wonder how a program like Lu Chen's 1996 FS would be marked now. It was one the most beautiful FS of skating history, but I guess the spins, spirals and footwork would receive low levels.

I hope Kimmie will recover.She seems to be a very hard worker and a well rounded teenager, which isn't always the case. But I can't wait to see Caroline Zhang and Mirai Nagasu at junior Worlds!

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Wow, Kimmie Meissner, aka The Kimminator, did it, with a 9-point lead in the LP over second place Emily Hughes. All of her components scores were over 7, and her technical score was over 6 points higher than Hughes'. SP leader Rochette was 3rd in the LP and won the bronze medal.

From the scores, Czisny did not have a strong skate. She had 3.0 in deductions, which would indicate at least two falls, and possibly three, if she didn't have a time deduction or lose part of her costume on the ice. (Her LP dress this year is a stunner.)

Poor Yan Liu -- a 15th place in the LP and 9th overall, to place the lowest of the three Chinese women. Binshu Xu may not be polished, but she scored almost 13 points, or more than 40% more in the technical score than Liu. It's really not Liu's year, especially in the LP's. If Xu is sent to Jr. Worlds, China may send Dan Fang to Sr. Worlds.

I clicked on some of the skater bios. Amy Parekh, who's skating for India, was born in Jersey City (LOL, just like me :)) and top-ranked Mexican Lady, Emily Napthal, was born in Skokie. Jocelyn Ho, who skates for Taipei, was born and reared in Canada. Of the two women who didn't make the finals, Stephanie Gardner, who skated for Brazil, lives in California -- her ISU bio doesn't give birthplace -- and Kristine Lee, who skates for Hong Kong, was born in Worcester. (But she lists her hometown as Hong Kong, so it may mean that's her permanent home when she's not training in Simsbury. One of her coaches is Ilia Kulik, of Olympic God and Center Stage fame.)

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Wow, Kimmie Meissner, aka The Kimminator, did it, with a 9-point lead in the LP over second place Emily Hughes. All of her components scores were over 7, and her technical score was over 6 points higher than Hughes'. SP leader Rochette was 3rd in the LP and won the bronze medal.

Meissner is a competitor, and she does tend to do a stronger LP than SP (not quite a bad as Lysacek, but still usually stronger in the long). I'd read somewhere that she could only fly in in time for the SP because of USFSA commitments and missed all the practices, which would explain the even weaker than usual SP. It sounds like Pam Gregory has her peaking for Worlds again which bodes well.

From the scores, Czisny did not have a strong skate. She had 3.0 in deductions, which would indicate at least two falls, and possibly three, if she didn't have a time deduction or lose part of her costume on the ice. (Her LP dress this year is a stunner.)

I know she has a lot of fans, but I really don't see Czisny as a year-in, year-out contender. She just doesn't seem strong enough either mentally or physically. Whenever I watch her skate, I feel like I'm just waiting for her to fall apart.

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