Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Philadelphia Summer Championship: Recap Part 2; Senior Women's Short Program and Senior Men's Freeskate

(Photos taken on my I-phone).

On Friday, July 20, the senior ladies short program took place. It was a wonder that my sister and I made it there at all, as there was heavy traffic and circuitous detours off of 95, as several of the lanes were closed. We were an hour late, which is unfortunate because we missed Ashley Cain (at least according to the program we did. I'm not sure if she was there or not), but we felt relieved to sit inside the cool arena after a long afternoon of driving in the hot sun. My notes aren't as thorough for this portion of the event.

The first skater I saw was a skater from Canada named Roxanne. I thought I'd be able to look up her last name in the program later, but it turns out there were two Roxanne's from Canada (Cournoyer and Rheault), so I can't be sure which one it was. This Roxanne skated to an instrumental version of "Summertime," which was fitting for this competition. She wore a beautiful navy blue dress, and had a confident strong presence on the ice. I noticed that she had a smile on her face throughout. Her score was 49.92.

Next up was Brittney Skarulis, 17, representing the Skating Club of New York. A quick google search for Brittney brings up her Twitter account. Her description on the account said that she appeared in a BMW commercial for the 2014 Olympics. She skated to the song "Life" by Italian pianist and composer, Ludovico Einaudi. My sister used the app, Sound Hound, to identify the music. We both liked this piece of music and commented that it was good for skating. Brittney fell on a spin. I missed her score.

Veronik Mallet, 20, representing Canada: skated to Waltz No. 7 in C-Sharp Minor by Chopin. The music was great skating music--it had highs and lows and built throughout the program. Mallet landed a nice triple toe-double toe combination, fell on a triple flip, but came back with a good double axel. Her skating quality was strong, and she had a pleasant facial expression as she skated. I liked her overall package and the way she presented herself. Her score was a 52.53.

(Photo Courtesy of Google.com).

Emily McNally, 20 (program did not say what rink she represents): skated to Nero Two Steps from Hell from the album Archangel. The music had great tension, push, and drama. McNally skated in a tattered white costume, which made sense to us once we found out the title of the music. My sister commented that the concept was "reminiscent of Johnny Weir's Fallen Angel" program. I liked her skating, but felt she needed more commitment to the choreography and more tension in her skating to match the music. She also could have held her ending position longer. Her score was a 33.75. (Side note about McNally: I found this article from NBC Connecticut that says she is--or was--a volunteer subject in a study about the effect that spinning can have on figure skaters/if there should be restrictions. I recently read the book Frozen Teardrop, a memoir by the "Queen of Spin," Lucinda Ruh. The book chronicles Ruh's serious, chronic health problems over the years, believed to be caused by a series of small concussions sustained over the years from the force of spinning).

Selin Kang, representing the Ice House of New Jersey Figure Skating Club: skated to the classic piece, "Pas de Deux" from the Nutcracker (dance of the Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy). Kang landed a triple flip and a nice double axel. I missed her score.

(Kang performing her final spin and in her final pose, taken with my I-phone).

Kyra Lowery, representing the Columbia Figure Skating Club: skated to the Thoroughly Modern Millie soundtrack. Lowery's music featured lyrics at the end--the first one in the women's event (that I heard) to use lyrics. Her score was a 25.61.

Polina Shelepen, 18, representing the Israel Skating Federation. Schelepen is a 2-time junior Grand Prix final silver medalist and a Russian national junior silver medalist. After competing for Russia through 2012, Shelepen began competing for Israel. I'm not sure what her music was, but I wrote "Techno tango" in my notes. Her costume was unique a long black dress with a silver rope draped around it. I noticed a bit of disconnect between her movement and facial expression--or lack thereof--and the music. The following dialogue ensued between my sister and I:
Me: "I don't think she likes the music."
Devon: "I don't see why she would."

She landed a nice triple lutz-double toe loop combination, and earned a score of 35.84.

(Photos of Shelepen performing her final combination spin; camel spin into catchfoot spin, into Bielman position. Taken with my I-phone).

I missed the last group of skaters because my sister and I needed to eat dinner before the men's event, but overall,I enjoyed what I saw. I missed seeing spirals--only one skater that I saw did one. I also noticed, as with the men's event, that there was a lot of slips on spins; edges were not hooking and didn't seem secure. I realize that skaters who come to this event are trying to gain experience, and it's early in the season. I'm just making observations. As a fan who typically watches elite skating on TV, when you watch a lower-level event live, you gain an appreciation for how difficult skating moves are, and how much practice it takes for edges to become secure.

Senior Men's Freeskate:

Later that evening, after dinner, Devon and I returned to watch the men's freeskate. On our way to our seats, we saw several "celebrity" sightings: Mary Scotvold, Mark Mitchell, Jeff DiGregorio, Pam Gregory, and Rocky Marval.

First up was Christophe Belley, from Canada. Belley skated to Tosca, a classic "warhorse" for skating. However, there's a reason that piece has been skated to time and time again: it's great music. Belley wore a white, silk shirt and black pants. I liked the simple costume, which accentuated his nice long, lines on the ice, but I thought maybe a bolder color for the top, could have added something. The program opened with a triple axel-single toe loop, right on the swell of the music, a good choreographic choice. The rest of the elements I jotted down looked like this: second triple axel--fall out, triple flip-two footed, triple lutz--fall, triple flip, single loop, nice spread eagle, split jump needs more stretch and extension, nice arm movements. Belley's score was a 93.79.

(Belley mid-jump, and during a spin variation in his combination spin. Photos taken with my I-phone, sorry so blurry!)

Ross Miner, 23, representing the Skating Club of Boston:

Miner skated out in a maroon shirt, that reminded me of costumes he's had in the past (in fact, maybe it was an old costume); nevertheless, great color. Miner's music was "Romanza" by Andrea Bocelli, simply a wonderful song with excellent vocals (you can't argue with the beauty of Bocelli's voice). This program made me a huge fan of the new vocals rule. Miner started out with a double axel, which was likely a triple axel that he doubled. On his next jump attempt, he went for the triple axel, but fell. The rest of his elements, that I wrote down, looked like this: triple lutz-triple toe, single axel (he was really going for that triple!), double loop, triple lutz-half loop-triple salchow, triple flip, double axel. While watching this gorgeous program, I recorded my sister's commentary: "Strong and easy--that's what skating should look like. It was a pleasure to watch, just pure skating. It was athletic and smooth. He's able to make a moment. Other skaters go through the motions and connect the elements, but it doesn't feel that way with him. It feels natural and easy."

In my commentary of the short program, I said that I didn't find Miner's short to be very compelling. The opposite was true with the freeskate. Even though it wasn't anything revolutionary, it was beautiful skating that was a pleasure to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed it and greatly look forward to seeing how this program develops throughout the season. Miner's skating isn't flashy, it's pure. His skating is about the skating itself, not the gimmick. As my sister and I joked, he's the "anti-Evgeni"! Miner's score was a 137.65.

Alex Aiken, 23, representing the First Coast Figure Skating Club:

Aiken wore all black, which is always a great costume choice (less is more!). His music was "Finlandia, Opus No.6" by the London Symphony Orchestra. It was a great piece of music, great for skating because of the power, the highs, and the lows. The elements that I recorded were: triple toe loop, triple axel, single lutz-double toe, triple axel (short of rotation), triple lutz-half loop, double salchow, triple flip, double loop, double axel. My sister and I really enjoyed this program and both commented that it was the strongest one we've seen from Aiken. I remember feeling a disconnect with programs he's had in previous years, both in music and choreography; this program just felt different. It was a more complete, mature package. I'm not sure if Mary Scotvold is choreographing for him, or just working with him, but perhaps her presence has made a difference in his skating this year? His score was 105.62.
(Photo courtesy of Google.com).

Manol Atanassov,22, representing Bulgaria:

Program started out set to the traditional movie score to "The Godfather." The beginning of the program contained the following elements: triple flip (fall)-double toe loop, triple axel (short of rotation/fall), 'Tano lutz (double).

At this point in the program my sister said, "It looks like he's thinking through the program." Which is probably true for a lot of skaters, considering this is the summer, these programs are still new, and this is likely the first time the skaters have competed their new programs.

Atanassov's music then changed to a "Godfather" electric guitar cut, which sounded like "muzak." His elements were: double axel-triple toe (fall), triple lutz (fall), triple loop (turn out), single salchow.

The program really lost steam after it changed from traditional "Godfather" to "Muzak Godfather." Or as my sister called the music shift, "Godfather meets Transiberian Orchestra!" The beginning of the program was more enjoyable because the traditional "Godfather" music was more effective, and it matched his costume of white shirt, red necktie, and black pants with black suspenders. When the music changed to electric guitar, we didn't feel the traditional costume matched it. The whole tone of the program shifted, and not for the better. The traditional costume with the non-traditional music didn't mesh. It also appeared that Atanassov couldn't keep up with the frenetic music. Later when we saw Atanassov in the stands, Devon quipped, "There's the guy who had the Godfather identify crisis!"

Maybe Philippe Candeloro ruined "Godfather" programs for everyone, as his masterpiece is hard to live up to, but I'd have to think that Atanassov is capable of having a more cohesive program if he stuck to the traditional music cut. His score was a 78.66.

(Photo courtesy of Google.com).

Nicolas Tondreau-Alin, representing Canada:

Tondreau-Alin skated to "The Artist" soundtrack. His elements were: quadruple toe loop (fall), triple lutz (fall), double axel, triple toe loop, triple lutz-double toe-double loop, triple loop. He was "off" on his jumps; however, I enjoyed his skating quality. He had good music, good costume, and had a pleasant performance quality. His score was a 104.93.

(Tondrea-Alin performing a cannonball sit-spin variation; photo taken with my I-phone).

Jimmy Ma
, representing the Skating Club of New York:

Skated to "Adios Nonino." Ma landed some clean jumps, including a triple toe loop, a triple lutz (with good height!)-double toe loop, and a triple loop. Ma needs to develop more of a musical connection; his skating seems kind of generic. If he can find a way to make himself stand out, that will help him improve and grow as a skater. His score was a 94.69.

(Photo courtesy of Google.com).

Emmanuel Savary, 16, representing the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club:

Savary wore brown pants, a tribal-print belt, and a red shirt with gold sequins. Devon and I weren't sure what look Savary was going for, until the music started: "The Lion King" soundtrack. The bold colors and tribal print made more sense to us then. I only noted a few of Savary's jumps: a triple loop (beautiful in the air)--fall, and a triple flip. Overall, my thoughts about Savary's freeskate are similar to my thoughts in the short program. He has a nice look on the ice; he's tall with long arms and legs, he has interesting positions on his spins and great flexibility, as he exhibits with his Bielman spin. Savary is returning to the ice from injury, and he's only 16, so he's a work in progress. He could try to emote more during performing, but I suspect he was thinking through his program, given it was his first time competing in awhile. I look forward to seeing what Savary is able to do this season. I didn't catch his score.

(Photos taken with my I-phone).

The last skater was Charles Dion, 22 from Canada:

Dion's costume with a picture of a heart made sense once his music began to the sound of a heart beat and the strains of "With or Without You" (originally by U2), played by 2 Cellos, filled the rink. This music is a personal favorite of mine. Dion landed a triple loop, a nice triple lutz with a soft landing,and had a nice sequence of spread eagles and leap-frog positions. The program was very soft and gentle, very pleasant. The ending could have been bigger, it didn't really build and kind of just stopped, but overall, I really enjoyed the program.

His score was a 111.08.

To read a really compelling article about Dion and his inspiration, click here.

(Photo courtesy of Google.com).

My sister and I were sorry to see the competition end! Our favorite of the day was Ross Miner's seamless and beautiful Andrea Bocelli program. We would have loved to have seen more skaters. Once again, the event was a fun one to watch, and we look forward to attending again next summer! We wish the skaters who competed all the best of luck in the upcoming season!!

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