Cup of China – Free Ladies (2012.11.03)

Well, we’re back with the ladies now, on the heels of a so-so dance competition. Thankfully the short ladies the day before lived up to its billing and while it never reached great heights technically (with the exception of the leader, Julia Lipnitskaia), it was all still interesting, with 14-16 years old fighting like pros and pros (Mao Asada, Mirai Nagasu) skating like they were 15 again

Or almost

At any rate, with wonderbaby Lipnitskaia leading and Mao Asada on her heels, we were promised a real fight on our hands

Unfortunately, it appeared that Bingwa Geng, CHN, got injured in morning practice and had to withdraw, and so we moved on straight to

Wonderbaby no 1, part 2, aka Ying Zhang (15), CHN

Because she was the first to skate we actually got to see a lot of her with her coach just before she took to the ice, with the camera turning around her coach’s back, allowing her to see a worried and stressed out face a young girl shouldn’t have to make unless it’s for the exams at the end of the school year

All very dramatic. If only the cameramen had the same flair when filming actual skating *sigh*

Anyway, Ying Zhang began as badly as her expression led us to believe, namely with a fall on the triple lutz. But then she passed near the camera in the curve and you could just distinguish a little grimace of annoyance, at which point I started to wonder if maybe she wouldn’t revolt a little

And she did just that

Sure, she had one more fall one one double axel, and all of her jumps weren’t perfect (underrotated triple toe-loop comes to mind), and she didn’t have either the triple flip or loop in her program, but I think it’s pretty telling that she would end up with the fourth highest base value in technics of all the girls having skated first. When she got up, and then again after her fall on the double axel, you could tell that she had enough of this s*** and decided to take the bull by the proverbial horns. As a result, not only was her technics was decent, but her own interpretation got that much sharper and you didn’t feel like she was a little girl lost in the middle of the ice anymore

All in all it should be a good experience for her, and let’s hope that she can learn from it and get on to even better things

Even her coach isn’t looking for the nearest exit and trying to run away this time <3

Marks: 46.97 + 42.30 -2.00 = 87.27 (130.65 overall)

Sofia Biryukova (18), RUS

Somewhere in Tokyo, Shizuka Arakawa wants her dress back

Oh dear, Turandot. How many Turandot/ Nessun Dorma have we had since the beginning of the season? I know it’s one of the Favorite Musics to Fall Back on for Uninspired Choreographers Around the World (TM), but it feels like we have a lot more of this than any other recent season

Oh well, at least it’s not the pedal-stuck-electric-guitar version Adam Rippon had the bad taste to have us listen to so I guess we should be thankful for that (although it did have an awful cut about two-thirds of the way in)

What’s not helping is that poor Sofia here was left to deal with that belter of a music on her own, without a proper choreography. Mind you, she did her best: some of her body lines were great and her arms positions in particular were very elegant

But none of this is enough to make up for the technical mistakes that marred this program. It started badly with a double lutz instead of triple and it continued badly all the way to the end. Not that she didn’t try to save what she could of this sinking ship and she managed at least NOT to have a hard fall, which looked like a lost cause on a few occasions out there


I agree, because clearly, there’s something that happens in there when she skates that get her to miss what she shouldn’t and it’s not exactly the first time either. She didn’t look out of breath at the end, merely frustrated, so I don’t think the lack of physical preparation has anything to do with it

As nice as it is to see her not looking worried, isn’t it about time for her to start getting annoyed with herself and find a solution?

Marks: 37.07 + 45.90 = 82.97 (127.36 overall – currently 2nd)

Joshi Helgesson (19), SWE

All sorts of very uncharitable comments come to mind  when I see that dress (especially with that pose *roll eyes*), so let’s just leave it there and move on

Just like both girls before her, she starts with a complete miss on the triple lutz (and in her case a heavy fall) and continues as well as she can, which, just like Sofia Biryukova before her, doesn’t amount to much – her only clean triple is the salco, and she then proceed with an underrotated triple loop, another underrotated triple lutz in combination and a pletora of doubles. And she isn’t 15 anymore so she cannot invoke that excuse either

What also fails her compared to Biryukova is the quality of skating. It’s all a bit messy, and her “port de bras” and general upper body posture are totally lacking

But those things could actually be resolved fairly easily with some classical training and one thing she’s got that can’t be taught is personality. In that sense, the music choice is a pretty intelligent one because this kind of perky, playful music is definitely where that personality can express itself the best and you can tell she actually enjoys herself out there, even when things don’t go her way like this evening

Nonetheless, there’s a lot of work left to be done…..

Marks: 38.16 + 47.60 – 1.00 = 84.76 (134.43 overall – currently 1st)

 Amélie Lacoste (23), CAN

She really didn’t look that stressed when taking her position on the ice. And very pretty dark blue dress to boot

It’s almost impossible to discuss this program because to say that she made a complete mess of it would be an euphemism. It was bad enough that we were all wondering watching this live what had befallen her in the last 24 hours for it to go quite THAT badly, especially the day after a pretty brilliant short program. Was she ill? Injured? Had something happened in her family?

From her Twitter account we now know that it was none of the above and it was just one of these days when NOTHING seems to work. It was all the more painful to watch that you could see her struggle her way through it all, trying to take control of a program she could feel was slipping through her fingers, but she just never managed to do that. It’s not about the technical mistakes anymore, is about that feeling she’s being defeated by herself despite her best attempts not to let that happen

Oh please Amelie don’t cry. Forget it ever happened and we’ll do the same

Marks: 31.06 + 48.97 -2.00 = 78.03 (135.46  overall – takes 1st place)


And because no one does kitsch supporting quite the way the Japanese can (and because we need a bit cuteness after that painful first group)



Wonderbaby no 3, part 2, aka Zijun Li (15), CHN

Her dress would be eye-roll inducing on just about anyone else, but she looks just adorable and THANK YOU for coordinating with  Mao Baby Fan above (and you have to love the amount of details at the end of her sleeves, which unfortunately I couldn’t manage to cap properly)

Actually it’s not the only think Zijun Li deserves our thanks for. She also went out there and skated her heart out and even two falls, one on the triple (f)lutz and one on the second triple flip never dragged her down. It wasn’t rage, more like *oh well, these things happen but I know I can do it* And although she underrotated her triple lutz and both triple flips (by about one quarter) it was still the most demanding content by a mile at this point, and would remain so until the last skater. As long as mother nature and maturity don’t come and start messing with her physique badly enough for her to lose all of her technical points of reference, China may finally have a say at world level in the ladies category once more

Artistically, well, it’s very junior-ish as you’d expect. But again, it was an astute choice of music to go for Sleeping Beauty (and especially for the particular section they went with) because if she’s ever going to be able to skate to this looking every bit the ten-years old ballerina, it would be now. She’s also pretty elegant and while she lacks the quality of port de bras of other, older athletes, it’s still all very watchable

Also, there is little choreography, but it can make sense with such young athletes as you’d want to let them focus on the technic and get them to do more complex choreographies latter on – and in this particular case, it does seem to work quite well that way

So yeah, thank you for getting this event back on tracks

And isn’t it nice to finally have a whole K&C smiling – with good reasons?

Marks: 51.58 + 51.27 – 2.00 = 100.85 (160.06 overall – currently 1st)

Kiira Korpi (24), FIN

And we’re back to the oldest lady of the competition

What’s particularily annoying and frustrating BOTH with Kiira Korpi is that it’s the same story, again. And again. And again

And again

And that story could probably fit on the back of a (larger?) stamp:

Beautiful. Pretty good and solid technician.

Beautiful. Elegant but somewhat repetitive skating

Messes the unexplainable

Once again, it all started so well: triple toe-loop combination and triple lutz with perfect edge so of course, the collective world of figure skating waited with bated breath if this was going to be the time when she finally put it all together, what with her first major competition of the season and all that

Well, no such luck. She managed to pop the flip and the loop both and ended up with singles in both cases

Going in blind trying to find consistency there on her left and not finding it

Crazy. It’s like she doesn’t want to win, not subconsciously

On top of that remains a huge question mark over the artistic: we’ve seen her skate this program or any variation thereof more often than I care to think about and she’s one of the skater who has the musicality and skating skills to go well beyond that. Maybe even getting to play on a different register would free her mind from her constant fretting over the jumps

Just saying

Of course, the judges are still completely infatuated with her so they’ll still give her a whole point more than Zijun Li in performance *sigh*

Marks: 51.03 + 59.14 = 110.17 (169.86 overall – takes 1st)

Mirai Nagasu (19), USA

This girl wins the award for most tense athlete taking the ice hands down

Then again, maybe she had reasons to be tense. It’s not as if there had been any splatfest or a popfest or any other -fest and on first view I wouldn’t have been so worried although I had doubts on some of the jumps landing

Hinsight is a wonderful thing. So are replays and protocols

One thing for sure is that the judges must have had all kinds of fun with the replays because of all her jumps, she landed ONE triple correctly, namely her triple loop in combination with the double toe-loop. You don’t need to be professor emeritus in figure skating to do the math and realise it’s not a lot

On top of that, she wasn’t selling it nearly as well as she did the day before. Sure, the music doesn’t help – Camille Saint-Saens is not exactly Benny Goodmann – but on top of that, she took her K&C personality

to the ice and unless she’s skating a requiem, it’s just not going to help. Even her movements lacked convinction and attack

So a half-successful return – just need to extra quarter….er, make that half – turn on those jumps

Ah, ALMOST a smile!

Marks: 45.89 + 57.81 = 103.70 (163.46 overall – takes 2nd)

And Kiira Korpi makes it to the podium!

Mao Asada (22), JPN

Is there a clause in the JSF (Japanese skating federation) contract that says all skaters affiliated must skate at least once to Swan Lake? Seriously WTF with that?

I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect to see Mao Asada nearly as much as the hundreds of Japanese (and quite a few Chinese) fans.

While I wouldn’t say she disappointed, there’s no denying that she’s not completely there yet either. Just like Nagasu, while there was no fall, she did double her (f)lutz and there were a few underrotations – including on the the triple toe-loop in combination with double axel that needed no replay. It’s telling enough that she was only three points technically ahead of Kiira Korpi and Zijun Li. And of course, no sign of the triple axel, but I’d say she’s well-inspired to focus on the getting the rest of her technic together before moving on to try and reconquer that particular jump

Artistically, it’s difficult not to think of other Swan Lakes recently skated by Japanese and in particular this mamooth in the room that is Arakawa’s winning short back in 2004. Thankfully, unlike Arakawa’s or any other recent Japanese Swan Lake she actually tackles the classic version of it, which cuts any attempt at comparison short

I think she has a lot of space to develop this program further but she’s not there yet. Then again, she went through quite a few doubts I touched upon in my report on the Short Ladies so this might explain in part why this program doesn’t feel complete yet

Of course, there’s no denying that Mao Asada is one of the most beautiful skaters in the ladies’ field at this level, both in terms of skating skills and of grace on the ice, and the last minute of the program is by far the best and most spectacular thing of the whole ladies’ competition, but the three minutes before that will need to go under some revision for this swan to take off majestically

Like I said, there’s no one quite like the Japanese fans

And Mao wins the award for biggest teddy – easy!

She also, incidently, takes the lead – not that we care nearly as much

Marks: 54.53 + 64.34 = 118.87 (181.76 overall – takes 1st)

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

Amazingly, she had the same all-business expression on her face than she had the day before and you would have been forgiven to think she had this competition in the pocket considering everyone before her had mistakes and/ or omissions – we all did

But all was not perfectly well in Lipnitskaia-land: there was already a first alert on her first combo which was wobbly on both landings although she managed to hold it together (weighing NOTHING helps in such circumstances). Unfortunately for her, she wasn’t able to do the same on her next combo and this time the fall was unavoidable

If you haven’t seen it, you can’t imagine the “oooohhhh” of utter surprise in the audience – biggest one we heard in the whole competition so far

(Of course, I’d like to note that despite these mistakes, she had the most ambitious technical content of all the girls, so she was also taking bigger risks)

There’s something about it that’s almost reassuring though. She’s not a machine, and it’s a kind of moral victory for the more mature but also graceful and emotionally open athlete out there, which is all the more comforting after we’ve been talked to death by commentators of all languages how much more fantastic these little girls were. Yes, some of them are fantastic, and Lipnitskaia must be one of the most striking in a long line of fantastic wonderbabies. But I find pretty funny how they are quick to forget that for most of them, they are still going to go through considerable physiological changes and very few go through this experience with their technical abilities intact

Maybe though, Julia Lipnitskaia may manage that transition better than most. When she saluted the crowd, she was all smiles. But before and after, she was very upset and she was about to cry when she realized she wouldn’t win but ONLY finish second of her FIRST EVER SENIOR COMPETITION

Yep, there’s still some way to go, but this girl could go far

Marks: 57.43 + 57.43 = 114.86 (177.92 overall – takes 2nd place)



2 thoughts on “Cup of China – Free Ladies (2012.11.03)

  1. Pingback: Cup of China – Free Men (2012.11.03) | XC FS

  2. Pingback: Cup of Russia – Short Ladies (2012.11.09) | XC FS

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