Cup of China 2012 – Short Ladies (2012.11.02)

My first report ever on the Ladies. I guess it says a lot about how meh! the whole ladies’ side of figure skating has become of late, with only a few really rousing, memorable performances of late, most belonging to Yu-Na Kim – with a handful of touching Carolina Kostner programs and some nice moments offered by the Japanese girls. One program by Leonova

And that’s about it really

So with Yu-Na Kim not bothered to come back for the GPs, Carolina Kostner and Miki Ando sidelined and Leonova forgetting how to jump at Skate America, that leaves precious little to look forward in the Ladies field this early season and I was tempted to skip this category altogether once again

Except, we were promised Mao!TheReturn, Mirai!TheOtherReturn and a whole bunch of assorted Russian and Chinese wonderbabies for this Cup of China. Surely it’s worth a glance or two

 

Wonderbaby no 1, aka Ying Zhang (15), CHN

Speaking of wonderbaby – I looked like that when I was TEN!

The poor thing started her program with a terrible fall on her triple lutz attempt (which drew huge oooohhhh! from the public – funny how the Shanghai crowd was so vocal during falls yet didn’t think applauding the athletes at the end of their performance was worth the effort), and unfortunately for her, she didn’t think of adding a jump to her other triple so that the points for the combination went of the window right there

More positively, she didn’t let the fall unsettle her and she skated the rest of her program clean with some very nice spins thrown in. Of course it was all very junior-ish and there wasn’t any real choreography to speak of but it was well-presented to a music that was neither an offence to the human ear nor one of the figure skating musical tropes which made it all very bearable

She looks happy to be there at least. Her coach, not so much

Marks: 22.95 + 21.43 – 1.00 = 43.38

Sofia Biryukova (18), RUS

Unfortunately for her, she’s now expired the wonderbaby best before date, and she is neither Mao Asada nor Mirai Nagasu, so very few people are really bothered about what she does

Including the ISU and the Russian commentator on Sport 2 BOTH who announced she’d be skating to Seven Years of Tibet when it was obvious within 10 seconds it was all spanish rhythms

*trying to imagine Buddhist monks playing castanets and failing miserably*

(she was actually skating to the Mask of Zorro soundtrack)

To be honest, I thought she had more presence on the ice than all of the wonderbabies of the competition combined, and while the choreography was sketchy at best, she skated with some convinction and you can see she knows how to move and finish her gestures which is something skaters usually acquire sometime beyond the age of 16 you know, when they get old

She however didn’t help her cause at all by falling on the triple lutz, double-footing her triple loop-double toe-loop combination AND underrotating both at the same time

She’s looking just a bit more happy than she should at those marks….

Marks: 21.42 + 23.97 – 1.00 = 44.39, currently 1st

Bingwa Geng (18), CHN

I was so sure she was Chinese wonderbaby number 2 but actually she’s already 18 o_0

At least they didn’t mess up when they announced the music she’d be skating to, which means they still care a little

She however didn’t capitalize on that and went full out to offer us a complete catalogue of jumps mistakes: fall on the triple salco, double-footed triple toe-loop and simple axel. And she had no loop, flip or lutz was on the menu. Ouch

Presentation-wise, again no hint of choreography but the arms movements were finished at least some of the time. Unfortunately for her she took THAT Butyrskaya music (Scene d’Amour) and they just don’t skate in the same galaxy, so that was always going to work against her as well

She looks like she’s about to cry :(

Alas, seeing her marks isn’t gonna help

Marks: 16.27 + 21.26 – 1.00 = 36.53 – currently 3rd

Wonderbaby no 2, aka Julia Lipnitskaia (14), RUS

The latest in a long and prestigious line of Russian wonderbabies, she comes to this competition – her first senior GP – with an air of invicibility and a reputation of never failing at anything, be it in competition or even in training.

Now after that kind of setup, you’d expect to find out that actually, she crumbled under the weight of the expectations on her frail shoulders

In that case, she clearly never got that memo

It’s all the more remarkable that she isn’t just happy to land her jumps  with all the rotation – and we’re not talking just any jumps either: triple lutz- triple toe-loop, 3 flutz (yes, she’s isn’t completely perfect) and double axel – but she also has spins to die for

(or at least hurt very badly if I ever attempted something like that)

and her choreography is full, with all sorts of transition steps crammed in

The only thing she’s not doing right, at least yet, is interpretation she goes through the motions with remarkable speed and accuracy, so it’s very cleverly disguised, but what she’s doing is executing, not interpreting, and not all her movements were exactly on the music. Then again she’s 14 so I’m really not taking a dig at her there, and frankly I am shocked at how low her transitions and choreography were judged because those were definitely there

Awww, still a baby

Marks: 35.25 +  27.71 = 63.06, currently 1st

Wonderbaby no 3, aka Zijun Li (15), CHN

Anything that would have come after Lipnis-wonder-tkaia was surely going to disappoint because – wow! Or at least that’s what I thought when Zijun Li took central stage

Now, she didn’t quite pack the same punch Lipnitskaia did and admitedly, her skeleton isn’t made of the same flexible matter as the Russian’s, but she did more than hold her own with a totally clean program – even her triple flip was on the right edge (IKR! who would have thought?)

To cap it all, she also managed to skate with real vivacity and clearly has an ear for the music. Again, her choreography wasn’t nearly as full on as Lipnitskaia, but she’s also more outward with her focus which means that she engaged the spectator more. Or at least that’s the way it felt from behind my tv screen

Marks: 33.79 + 25.42 = 59.21

THIS CONCLUDES THE FIRST GROUP

SECOND GROUP STARTS

Joshi Helgesson (19), SWE

She looks SO MUCH like her sister – sans peroxide blonde

Joshi Helgesson really was unlucky: she was skating right after two successful wonderbabies AND just before Mirai and Mao. On top of that, we already Kiira Kopri to fill the blonde Scandinavian niche. Then again, I was sure we’d barely notice Zijun Li and look what she did so maybe I’m wrong to think it’s going to be a filler program?

Er, not this time

She does try to look fierce though. Mainly fails, but still <3

There are quite a few things that are wrong with this program. Which is a shame because conceptually, it’s a good one, and I like that she’s trying to go a completely different route compared to Viktoria. And her choice of musics from Cirque du Soleil is great, especially Taiko. However she does lack the attack and speed necessary to skate the later

Then there’s the technical elements: she did  try the triple lutz with a Boitano but fell pretty heavily, and while the rest was ok, a triple salco double toe-loop combination is just not going to take you very far at this level of competition

And frankly I am not sure why she’s looking so puzzled because she really wasn’t robbed….

Marks: 25.93 + 24.74 – 1.00 = 49.67 – currently 3rd

 Amélie Lacoste (23), CAN

At 23 she’s the second oldest girl in the competition – am I the only one feeling SO OLD at the moment?

We already saw that program at Skate Canada just one week ago. Amélie Lacoste goes for pretty dangerous territories musically with the Feeling Begins. It’s not just that it’s been used several times in figure skating: it’s been used with THAT program and how could anyone who’s seen this not forever associate this music to them:

 

To make matters worse, Amélie Lacoste didn’t skate very well at Skate Canada and the choreography felt more like an collection of movements than a whole, which to this music is always going to look awful

Funny though how things can change in one week: it’s almost as if it isn’t the same girl who is skating, and all for the right reasons I am happy to report. It was sharp, it was clean and it had the right intensity. The only thing I’m not sure about is the speed at the very end of the program just before the last spin that didn’t match the crescendo of the music but I’m really splitting hairs there

Great to see her so happy

Marks: 30.25 + 27.18 = 57.43, currently 3rd

Mirai Nagasu (19), USA

I love how almost all the commentaires I’ve heard of the short ladies  essentially commented on how she’s heavier than she used to be and  compared to “some of the other girls during the evening”

PEOPLE, SHE’S 19, NOT 15 ANYMORE, SHE’S A GROWN WOMAN, GET OVER IT!

Seriously, I don’t remember Katarina Witt ever getting all that flack back in the day (or maybe I was just too young to remember it?) and she certainly weighted more than all those wonderbabies. But at least you didn’t want to feed her for fear that she’d faint in the next minute or so

/Rant

Normal service can resume

Well maybe she isn’t as light in her steps but one thing’s for sure:

WELCOME BACK MIRAI!

There was a lot of interrogations after she left Frank Caroll this summer and well, we’ll need to see in the long term how it all works out. But for now I can confidently say It’s the most lively I have seen her skate in a  while. It’s not just the choice of music, Benny Goodman’s Downhill Special, although it’s an interesting one for her, but there’s a new playfulness to her skating – it’s not careless youth and more the decision of a girl who’s had some difficult times to just go for it and have a good time

Sure, she can’t threaten the tiny Lipnitskaia, both because her technical content his lighter and she underrotated – a word Lipnitsakai I’m sure has never heard of – the second trple toe-loop of her combination

Now if only she would bring a bit of that joie de vivre to the K&C :(

Marks: 31.04 + 28.72 = 59.76, currently 2nd

Mao Asada (22), JPN

Well, if we are talking about a return for Mira Nagasu, what can we say about Mao Asada, who comes back from the brink of retirement following a difficult season sportively, but more importantly personally?

Let’s get the technical out of the way first: level 4s everywhere, underrotation on the triple flip of the combination though. Pretty much great everywhere else

But what about that program? There’s been a lot of comments live about how this was very reminiscent of her 15 years old self and well, it seems that it was choreographed precisely with that idea in mind, as a kind of return to sources

But skated as a 15 years old? Have you seen the 15 years old in this competition? Because I have and no of them could have possibly skated quite like that. Just llike Nagasu, it’s a differen energy now, made almost poignant when one remembers what she’s been through this year

So glad that she decided to stay – turns out she had more to give us after all

Just one thing: could you just burn that dress though? Thanks :p

Marks: 31.83 + 31.06 = 62.89

Kiira Korpi (24), FIN

That’s the grandma of the competition :D I’d say she still looks pretty good for the rip old age of 24…..

As always impeccably coiffed and beautiful dress.

As always, totally unreliable when comes money time.

And what’s the most irritating thing is that she actually nailed all her jumps in the warmup, so it’s not as if she was having technical difficulties. It’s purely mental, and for once, I’d say her age is against her: if at 24 she still doesn’t manage at all to find the key then it’s going to get more and more difficult to get there

So yes, she’s a wonderful, feminine, elegant skater but unfortunately, no matter how badly the judges want to push her forward, she always find a way to make sure even they can’t reasonably help with that

PS: if you want a drinking game where you’re sure to fall in an alcoholic coma, take two sips of anything stronger than beer everytime Eurosport’s commentators use the world “beautiful” to refer to Kiira Korpi. Works every time

Well, in their defence they may have a point…..

So yeah, to sum it up, once more utterly frustrating because she could do so much better than a fourth place here

but actually is lucky not to have been placed behind Zujin Li

Marks: 29.26 + 30.43 = 59.69 – takes 4th place

THIS CONCLUDES THE SHORT LADIES

RESULT

1. Julia Lipnitskaia

2. Mao Asada

3. Mirai Nagasu

4. Kiira Korpi

5. Zijun Li

6. Amelie Lacoste

7. Joshi Helgesson

8. Sofia Biryukova

9. Ying Zhang

10. Bingwa Geng

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