Grand Prix assignments were accompanied by some other ISU announcements, and a lot of music announcements.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the International Skating Union. The biggest news of the skating world was the Grand Prix assignments yesterday. But they’d already released the full schedule of international events for the season, from the international ice dance competition that takes place alongside all the other ice dance events in Lake Placid at the end of July, to a novice singles event occurring in France right after the season’s closing team event. (Since, however, the season doesn’t really kick in until the Junior Grand Prix starts in late August, we will continue to have off-season news roundups until then).
The Junior Grand Prix was not forgotten; we also now have the official announcement and allocation of all berths, for which the rules went unchanged, meaning everyone got exactly the berths they thought they would. There were also details on Olympic qualifying, but that told no one anything they didn’t know already.
But one thing we won’t get next year is the Disson shows. For nearly 30 years, we’ve gotten a least a handful of these ice shows each year, and for over a decade now, if they haven’t been the only ice shows airing on U.S. TV, there have been very few others. But their producer, Steve Disson, has apparently had enough of them. Struggles to make money on them or even keep them on TV probably played a huge rule. Fans’ feelings about them have been mixed, but this is hard to take for American fans, mostly because they were all we had. We’re at least getting more airtime for competitions nowadays, but skating continues to struggle to stay marketable in the U.S. nowadays.
Russia too is scheduling its annual internals, including junior test skates August 10-11 and senior test skates September 9-10. But one of their top pairs skaters is confirmed as still looking for a new partner. Word from earlier this year is that after splitting from Vera Bazarova, Andrei Deputat was skating with former singles skater Alexandra Proklova. But now we’ve learned her injuries made pairs skating impossible, and she’ll likely retire. So far his other tryouts, including with former Junior Grand Prix champion Ekaterina Borisova, have not produced a new partnership. He still has a couple of months to find a new partner, though.
But there is at least some good news coming out of Russia. Julia Lipnitskaia, the darling of the Sochi Olympics, might have pretty much lost last season to injury, and fans grieved at the lack of her on the Grand Prix roster yesterday. But coach Alexei Urmanov was quick to assure everyone she’s not giving up just yet. The test skate in September may indicate whether she’ll be able to make it into the madhouse that is the race for the two open ladies spots on the Russian Olympic team.
In the opposite position is Misha Ge, the much loved skater from Uzbekistan who has spoken about possibly retiring this summer. For now he’s on the roster, but he clarified today his decision isn’t made yet. Since Worlds he’s been doing choreography for multiple other skaters, and he could certainly move on, if he really feels it’s time.
There was one medical emergency this week though it’s not one that should, in theory, interfere with the upcoming season. Gabrielle Daleman sent heads spinning Monday when she pulled out of the Canadian Stars on Ice tour and tweeted a little bit of news as to why:
The next day we learned a little more, including some incredible news: she’d skated at Worlds and won bronze while recovering from a ruptured cyst, and while also having another one, which she then had to have removed this week. That’s no small matter, though nor is it one that will keep her down for the summer. She’ll have plenty of time to prepare for the season.
But most of the news of the past two weeks is music related. The theme of the season continues to be the reuse of music, with updates on both Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez is relation to that, from freelance Chinese sports journalist Wei Xiong:
In Hanyu’s case, it’s particularly egregious, because he used that Chopin short program for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Even if he did set a still standing world record with it, you wish he’d do something else. As for Fernandez, perhaps we should’ve seen that one coming. This’ll mean he’s portraying characters in both his programs, which he likes. At least he last used it all the way back in 2013, when he had his breakout season. And he’s changing which program he’s using it for, which means this program should be a different beast from the last one.
Then again, we’ll see it for ourselves very soon. The first of Japan’s big summer shows, Fantasy on Ice, had its first performances this week in Makuhari, Japanese TV will show it Sunday night, and word is Fernandez debuted the new short there.
Also playing to their strengths are Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford. They already established they’re revamping their old Muse free, and now they’re also doing their short program to a cover of U2. “With or Without You” is a song choreographer John Kerr knows very well; he and sister Sinead once had a show program to the original. This is a much slower, sadder version, one that, if used right, can probably generate chills. Duhamel & Radford do that, they’ll settle the question about whether they have artistry once and for all.
One more straightforward keeping of a program will be by Mirai Nagasu. She said this week she’s keeping her Chopin short program. It didn’t get as much attention as her free skate, but it served her well.
American pairs in general might not have gotten many Grand Prix invites, but they still put themselves in the news with more music announcements. Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran, who got only one event, disclosed their new long program music:
Actually, she didn’t write out the full title even here, it’s “She Was Waitin’ for Her Mother at the Station in Torino and You Know I Love You Baby But It’s Getting Too Heavy to Laugh,” often just known as “Woman.” Since they can’t go to the Olympics anyway due to citizenship issues, they’ll just be trying to prove themselves, and hopefully at some point skate this new long program clean.
Ashley Cain & Timothy LeDuc, who were left out completely, announced both their programs. They admit their short program music, Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa’s “I’ll Take Care of You,” is a bit like what they used last year. It is, to the point you really feel like they’re doing the same thing. But at least the song itself is no longer one we’ve all heard way too many times. Their long will use music from the 2013 The Great Gatsby, which has been in common use since the movie came out, but is not yet overused, if only because there are a variety of songs on the soundtrack to choose from.
Nor were Duhamel & Radford the only Canadians announcing their long program music. So did Alaine Chartrand:
One suspects she’ll sell the hell out of this, and though she’s hardly the first to use this music, it’s not overused at all. Even if she’s currently struggling to keep up with Canada’s top two ladies, this’ll help her keep hold of the country’s third Olympic berth.
We also have a couple of men’s skaters also skating to pop/rock and/or covers. One is Michel Brezina, who looks for the moment like he’s going to compete this season after all:
His Instagram hashtags indicate the programs are to the Bootstraps version of “Stand by Me” and Rag’n’Bone Man’s “Human.” This’ll be a dramatic pair of programs. Of course, he’ll only be able to do them justice if he manages to halt his current spiral.
So too is Brendan Kerry, as we found out this week after getting a sneak peek:
Fans have since identified the music as Cinematic Pop’s version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
Along with Kerry’s preview, there was a good deal of news out of Australia this week, including Brooklee Han’s programs. Like many skaters, she’s keeping one of her program, in this case her tango free, while skating her short to “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. Both pretty cliché choices, especially now that vocals are allowed.
Nonetheless, she is prepared to battle Kailani Craine for an Olympic berth, at least provided the latter gets their country one in Germany. The Australian federation published their criteria for making the team this week, though it was obviously written before Worlds. According to it, Craine’s already pretty much earned the trip to Nebelhorn, where her chances of earning a berth are good. But in order to get the berth itself, she’ll have to continue to outscore Han technically during the fall.
Four years ago, Han got to the Olympics by beating out Brendan Kerry’s sister Chantelle. Now, she’s seemingly conceded the battle in singles, and gone into ice dance with fellow singles skater Andrew Dodds. They could easily rise to the top of that national scene quickly; no team in it right now is very good. They probably can’t get good enough fast enough to qualify for Korea’s ice dance event. But if they get to the top of Australia’s by January 20, they may well get into the team event. Australia isn’t the kind of country that can qualify for that easily, but there’s a question how many countries will earn three individual berths, which they have to do to be eligible. Australia has one in the men, can get one in the ladies, and is favored in the pairs.
Han’s training mates talked to same reporters. The most significant news to come out of that was probably Alexei Krasnozhon’s music choices. He’ll be paying tribute to his native Russia skating to the Bond version of the folk song “Korobushka,” while his long is to the famous “Now We Are Free” from Gladiator. As he moves up to senior level, it seems he’s confirming he’s aiming to be a showman, since both pieces of music are showman skating standards. But we pretty much knew that already.
Another American man with a music announcement this week was Grant Hochstein. He’s decided to try to do it with Phantom of the Opera:
Way overused, but there’s no denying it suits him. A lot.
“Je Suis Malade,” another choice that vocals have turned cliché. Jorik Hendrickx announced he’s using it for his short program:
At least, however, he is not trying to use the Lara Fabian version, since everyone who uses that inevitably comes off as a poor imitation of Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Pojé. In the comments, he says he’s using an unspecified male version which he has the ability to make his own.
Perhaps the most creative music-announcing Instagram photo this week came from French ice dance number twos Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac:
One hopes the program is interesting too, since we’re going to see it twice on the Grand Prix circuit, which is a bit vexatious considering some of the teams far their superior that didn’t get two assignments.
Perhaps the most painful thing there was the lack of events for British team Penny Coomes & Nicolas Buckland. They weren’t able to compete at all last season due to a broken knee, but could’ve gotten them as comeback skaters. Then Coomes tweeted:
This prompted hysterical reaction from fans who thought she meant she’d broken it again. Which would be absolutely devastating news, because it would mean no Nebelhorn Trophy either. So even if they could get their injury woes behind them by February, they wouldn’t have earned an Olympic berth. Great Britain could send another team to Obertsdorf instead, of course, probably Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson, but they wouldn’t be favored to earn it.
In fact, a day later, we still don’t have it absolutely confirmed she didn’t mean that. It may be a long week.