Skating Off-Season News Round Up: Lots of Program Previews

Fifteen-minute “Making of” video of Ashley Wagner’s free skate one of multiple preview clips posted this week.

This was a week of preview clips, with multiple skaters providing fans with sneak peeks of their programs for next season. But perhaps the most elaborate preview is the full-out “Making Of” video, by longtime blogger Jackie Wong, of Ashley Wagner’s La La Land free skate:

The impression one gets is of both Wagner and choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne is that they are two people who really know what they’re doing. However much melancholia this program has, it’s clear Wagner’s really going to feel this music. She’s absolutely right when she says that even those who may have more technical content and/or skating skills than her can’t bring the drama like she can. With all that in place, she need not worry about her music being overused, even if her early public claim on it doesn’t drive all her competitors away from it.

A little shorter, but still a good watch, is the video of Alexa Scimeca Knierim & Chris Knierim working with choreographer Rohene Ward on their “Paint it Black” short program. It looks like they’re coming up with something very dramatic and a little dark, but not unlike what they’ve done before. Combined with a Charlie Chaplin free, and they’ll be able to show their versatility.

A week after the news of Zijun Li’s return to China was overshadowed by the great coaching retirement, we got a clip of her free skate on Weibo. No formal music announcement, but Shazam identifies the music as Yuko Toyoda’s “Galaxy,” a unique choice which she looks like she’s doing well with.

Poor Kaetlyn Osmond picked the wrong week to preview her short program on Instagram:

The poor quality of this clip is unfortunate in a week where we had multiple other video clips, all of them better quality. Meanwhile, while “Summertime” is so commonly used it doesn’t really belong to any particular skater, any Canadian woman skating to it risks being overshadowed by Joannie Rochette. This preview, sadly, does not make it look like Osmond can get out of that shadow.

To top it off, a handful of videos from both the Broadmoor Open and the Chesapeake Open from last week are now on YouTube. They’re all uploaded by the YouTube accounts of the skaters involved, and are lower level.  The only one of skaters on the senior level is of newly formed team Alexandria Yao & Jacob Simon. The reigning Junior National bronze and pewter medalists respectively, they debuted their Claire de Lune program:

They’re still a work in progress, which makes sense, since they’ve only been together half a year. As one, they don’t look half bad.

There are a number of Russian updates this week, including two more skaters keeping long programs from last year. One is not good news at all. Last year’s junior sensation Alina Zagitova was among the skaters interviewed, talking most about her family, and about her programs. Her short program is new. To tell a story about a pure white swan being greyed by the ugliness of the world, she’s using the soundtrack for Black Swan, and also The Middle of the World from Moonlight. This is potentially good match stylewise, though one wonders if the latter piece of music deserves to be stripped of its original context like that.

But she’s also keeping her Don Quixote free. That is far too juniorish a program for someone who might prove a major medal contender at the Olympics. It’s immaturity, exacerbated by the bombasticness of the music, was a little annoying even in the junior ranks. She does speak of reworking it, but it seems likely that won’t fix the root problem. She ought to take a step up, get a new free program that helps her grow out of that. This is a skater who could provide classic Olympic moments if things go right for her, but now it looks like she could only provide the kind you can watch multiple times with her short.

More understandable is Elizaveta Nugumanova keeping her Swan Lake/Romeo & Juliet free, as she announced on her VKontakte. She had a rough season and didn’t skate up to potential, and it’s a program she may well develop into this year.

But one of the biggest pieces of news out of Russia this week is one that involved one old ice dance team and one new one. It started with the sad loss of a once promising Russian man from the singles field, though have not lost him entirely. This week, Adian Pitkeev announced he wouldn’t be able to compete in singles anymore. The back injury that kept him all last season isn’t going away, and won’t allow him to do quadruple jumps, which you can’t be competitive among the men without these days. But later the report came he was going into ice dance with Alisa Lozko, another accomplished singles skater who nonetheless found she just couldn’t be competitive in Russia’s crowded field. Transitioning from singles to dance is not easy, and many who try to do it fail, but these two have skating talent on their side.

They also may or may not end with Elena Ilinykh on their side as well. Her and last partner’s status may be the bigger news to come out of this. Prior to this week, it was uncertain whether she was still skating with Ruslan Zhiganshin, or whether he had retired. Now, as she apparently considers coaching Lozko & Pitkeev, it sure sounds like Zhiganshin is indeed out. It’s still sad to lose him, and would be far worse to lose them both, if she can’t find another partner or doesn’t look for one, but at least we’d still have her involved in the sport.

We also had an interview this week with a pair of singles skaters who switched to pairs instead, and came out of it with the silver medal from Junior Worlds. Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii talked a good deal about developing the new skills required. They specifically declined to reveal their new programs, but said general things about them. More interestingly, they talked about training both quadruple split twists and quadruple throws. They aren’t the only pair going for either of those elements, but if they can actually make them consistent enough to try in competition, it’ll help them stand out from the other Russian pairs.

Another young pair are doing something no one at all in their country has done before: train outside it. As Bruno Marcotte sets about coaching wife Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford on his own in Quebec, albeit with some help from Florida-based John Zimmerman, an Instagram post from her indicates they’ve got another team with them right now:

It’s unclear whether this arrangement is just for the summer, or more permanent. But Tae-Ok Ryom & Ju-Sik Kim are on the roster for the Quebec Summer Skate in early August, indicating they’d be staying until at least then.

Were they from any other country, this wouldn’t be at all astonishing. But North Korean skaters have always been kept within their country for the most part, often only allowed to go out to qualify for and then skate at the Olympics. Ryom & Kim were already unusual in the sheer amount of international competitions they’ve attended. They’re pretty much the best skaters to come out of the country, and it looks like North Korea really wants a viable pair of athletes on international ice, if they’re allowing them to go abroad for months for better training. Or they may simply be worried about they’re making the Olympics, because the competition at the Nebelhorn Trophy is going to be maybe stiffer than it’s ever been. They’re definitely hoping to send them; that’s beyond doubt.

The Olympics were also the focus on a small amount of news we got out of Germany this week. First, Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis are confirmed as the ice dance team that will go to try to earn a berth at Nebelhorn. That was already likely, given they’re the top German team, and nearly qualified a berth at the World Championships. We also get an update on Bruno Massot’s getting German citizenship, since he still needs it; he’s passed his oral German exam, and failed the written one, but is about to retake it. The article headline is actually about him and Aliona Savchenko beginning their season at Nebelhorn, but that was another thing already likely; they often do, even when they won’t be competing for Olympic berths, having earned Germany two at Worlds already.

The German press, of all places, is also reporting that Javier Fernandez will end his career after the Olympics. He’s at an age where that’s not surprising, but it wasn’t inevitable. His fans and Spanish skating fans must now mourn, and hope all the more he goes out with an Olympic medal, which he narrowly missed winning in Sochi.

The Russians weren’t the only ones just stating their music choices without any previews involved. Over in Japan, so did World Junior bronze medalist Kaori Sakamoto. Her short is to Camille Saints-Sans “Danse Macabre” and her long to Amelie. These are common music choices, but not overused. She also speaks in the article of aiming to make the Olympics this year, but sadly the odds are against her there.

And finally, in a case of very odd timing, the International Skating Union published the official Grand Prix announcement Friday, a month after making assignments. Most of the announcement is boilerplate or things we knew already, but it does include the score requirements for participation. They shouldn’t be a problem for those looking to compete on the circuit, except that, unlike at the ISU Championships, they are required to have been earned last season; scores earned in the 2016 season can’t be used to qualify. Those who weren’t able to do so can still get them during the fall, though, before the series begins. There’s also a question of how well this will be enforced; it hasn’t always been.

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