Skating Off-Season News Roundup: Half of Japan Announces Music

Medvedeva and Miyahara highest-ranked of many skaters announcing their music this week, which also include a lot of Japanese skaters making cliche music choices.

This week saw the closest thing so far this summer to a major new team up, but mostly the news was music. It was especially the week for it in Japan. The Japanese federation announced their national team this week, and the annual Team Japan summer show Dreams on Ice is currently going on in Shinyokohama. In anticipation, the Japanese news articles abounded about who’s skating to what. Thanks to them, it was also a week to play warhorse bingo, as many of the sport’s main standards proved to have takers among them, or from elsewhere in the world.  Right now we have only photos of Dreams on Ice, but hopefully we’ll soon have videos of some of these programs being debuted.

But it wasn’t just in Japan. In Russia, World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva announced her music choices in an interview translated by TAHbKA at Figure Skating Universe. The Chopin music for her short is on the common side, but her free combines a rarely used George Winston track with two tracks from The Leftovers. Whether her free involves the end of the world remains to be seen, though knowing choreographer Ilia Averbukh, there’ll probably be a story and a bit of miming.

All she says for sure is she’s following the practice of training mate Alina Zagitova of extreme jump backloading. Not entirely, since she’ll still have one jump in the first half. But all the others are later, including the signature triple flip-triple toe jump combination she’s traditionally done early. Hopefully that’ll keep her from getting bored the way she did last season, where she started throwing in invalid extra jumps just for kicks. Here, she’s doing something that will instead increase her scores, even if she probably doesn’t even need to.

Back during the 2015 season, Satoko Miyahara announced herself as arrived and made the world podium while skating a long program to Miss Saigon. Not wanting, apparently, to following the trend of reusing old programs this season, she decided to instead go back to the source and skate to Madama Butterfly. It might suit her even better than the musical did, and it’s only Giacomo Puccini’s third most skated-to opera, mostly because it’s not as easy to carry as Tosca or Turandot. Really, the main problem may be the inevitable comparisons to Mao Asada. But Miyahara’s one of few skaters who can survive such a comparison.

The two warhorse Puccini operas were not forgotten. Marin Honda also did her announcing early in the week, and she’s using Turandot. Though she is the highest-profile skater to use it in more recent years. And she’s likely to be good at skating to it. Plus for her short, she’ll do two heavily used tango standards: Tango Jealousie and La Cumparsita. That’s less her style, but as she moves up to the senior level, trying and mastering a greater variety of styles is sensible enough a course.

So far, no one in Japan is skating to Gladiator, another longtime standard. But over in Canada, Gabrielle Daleman first had her fans vote for which program music they wanted revealed on Twitter this week. It turns out with her long, she’s taking care of that:

At least “Gladiator Rhapsody” is a much less used version of that soundtrack. Beautiful track, too.

Another Canadian lady was already using Libertango for her short, but now we’re getting another one of those, and another Japanese lady tango short, courtesy Mai Mihara, whose free skate music was already known, but her short music is news. She and Alaine Chartrand may not truly face off directly against one another, though there’s a good chance they’ll share a competition or two. She and Honda, on the other hand, may well prove each other’s top competition for the one of Japan’s two Olympic berths Miyahara hasn’t locked down already, so it may take two to make a tango showdown at Japanese Nationals.

Unlucky in her Grand Prix assignments is Mirai Nagasu, who is at the same two as Medvedeva, and keeping her own short program to the same Chopin piece. When there came a report from the Aerial Challenge this decision wasn’t set in stone, some wondered if she might blink and change her program. But she’s not really directly in competition with the much higher-ranked Medvedeva anyway, and this week, she updated the season music information to her website, and the short programs stays for now. Meanwhile, she’s taking a turn skating her free to Miss Saigon. There are multiple selections from that musical which are perfect for her as she currently skates. So it’s probably a good choice, at least provided none of the other top American contenders skate to it.

The trend this season of going back to even older programs was also remembered this week. Sort of. Takahito Mura skating to Phantom of the Opera back in 2015, when everyone did. Now, he’s skating to it again. But he also says he’s not only getting completely new choreography, but even a different cut of the music, so he’s not really reusing it. He’s just skating to a very overused piece of music that at least one other significant man is also using this year.

Rika Hongo’s music was late news, getting out just now. She’s keeping the Carmina Burana short from last season, and getting a new freeskate to the soundtrack of Frida. In contrast to so many pieces of music named this week, the latter’s a piece that may not be used enough. Whether Hongo, who struggled far too much last season, will be able to do justice to it, however, is a question currently unanswered.

Staying junior is Rika Kihara. She will make a go at landing more triple axels and winning everything on the junior level to La Strada, another movie soundtrack standard. She’s also bringing in the Piano Guys, whose music has come into common use in the past half-decade, skating her short to their “Kung Fu Piano.”

At least Yuna Shiraiwa’s going a bit more unusual. Her short is to Claude Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin, and her long to Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. She too is moving up to the senior level, so at least she’ll help vary the music on the Grand Prix. The short program especially is the delicate kind of music not all skaters can pull off.

Maxim Kovtun also gave a brief interview in Russian this week, which included his music. His long is to Pink Floyd, which is right up his alley, but his has a flamenco short to make for a bit more variety. Of course, he still has to skate well enough for it to matter, which he did not for a large part of last season.

For further clichés, we got more details on Vincent Zhou’s programs, as IceNetwork’s blog series about his long continued, and in posting it to Twitter, they threw in his short program music. At least “Chasing Cars” is a much more unique choice, Cinematic Pop version or no. But not only do we now have confirmed that the Romeo + Juliet free including “Kissing You,” which is the most famous thing from that soundtrack and so often used, but it seems likely that closing step sequence Zhou talks about sounds like it might be to be “O Verona,” which is even more overused. Hey, at least they admit to it in the article.

Of all the interviews done this week, the one Ashley Wagner did as part of ESPN Magazine’s annual body issue, on stands yesterday, was the most revelatory in more than one way. She talks a good deal about her body, how she uses it, and the demands of her sport. But the shocking part is the revelation of her suffering from a crazy five concussions. We’ve known about her struggles with her spinal cord and heart going crazy, but not of the toll her injuries have taken on her brain to this day. Her photos are a little NSFW, due to her showing the butt muscles she makes heavy use of, but being ESPN body issue nudes, they’re certainly tasteful.

But the most intense story to make the rounds this week about recovery from injuries was one told entirely in video form. Last weekend, Nicolas Buckland posted it to YouTube, covering the injury and recover of partner Penny Coomes:

The entry deadline for the first Junior Grand Prix event in Brisbane is late this month, though countries can still send placeholder or TBA entries in and actually make their decisions later. That’s close enough the first assignments are starting to come in Some countries do all their assignments early, usually ones with fewer top skaters to compete for the berths. Australia is one such country, announcing the disposition of all of their initially allocated berths. The big news there is that, despite earlier comments indicating they wanted to make the senior circuit, Junior World Pairs Championpions Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor have bowed to their fate and accepted spots on the junior circuit instead.

Skate Canada has now published their selection criteria, which will rely on their upcoming Summer Series to fill out the roster. However, skaters who are “long-listed” already are already getting assignments, with the federation sending notifications to some of them, including Majorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha, the Junior National Ice Dance Champions who have nearly medaled on the circuit twice and have a good chance at finally doing this year. On her own Instagram Lajoie announced they would be in Brisbane, and on that of Junior Women’s National silver medalist Emily Bausback, assigned to the fifth event in Croatia, she indicated in the comments they’d be there too.

We also have our first official entry to the Olympic roster. The Spanish federation published their criteria for the team, and, since Javier Fernandez is on a far higher level than everyone else in the country and their only medal contender, they’ve gone ahead and named him up front. All other spots, which will probably just be the second men’s berth and ice dance berth they got at Worlds, will go to whoever gets the higher combined scores from Nationals and the Golden Spin of Zagreb in December. At least in theory, though the Spanish federation has ignored their own criteria once in the very recent past. (And the dance berth may ultimately be decided by who has citizenship.)

And finally, other officials are looking even further forward, to 2022. This week the International Skating Union announced the makeup of a working group for trying to get synchronized skating into the Beijing Games. The panel has members from three of the four big countries, as well as China and Sweden, and a chair from Finland, which is one of the world’s strongest countries in synchronized skating. Sweden’s pretty strong too. The main problem they’ll have may be convincing officials to allow in an event which has so many participants; those who organize Olympics prefer increases to the number of athletes they have to take care of to be minimal.

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