Skating Off-Season News Roundup: Skate Detroit and Other High-Profile Programs

Zhou lands multiple quads while Nagasu attempts triple axel at Skate Detroit; Gracie Gold and Karen Chen among those announcing their music.

Up until now, following club competitions has been a matter of taking what reports we get and hoping someone uploads footage. Not so with Skate Detroit. Those who didn’t shell out the money for the livestream were already anticipating on-demand footage on IceNetwork later, but thanks those fans who did watch live, especially magicaleggrolls, we ended up getting the three senior competitions reported on and uploaded to YouTube. Although we don’t having scoring protocols, so we can’t be sure which of all their jumps got ratified.

When the competition started, all eyes were on Vincent Zhou. This week had seen the posting of a video interview with him by Ted Flatt and another IceNetwork blog about his long program, where he talks about aiming to eventually have six quadruple jumps in his new free. He then did his short, pulling off for the hard quad lutz combination and nearly pulling off the quad flip. But it was in the long program he made his quadding abilities clear, going for five, and standing up on four, including the lutz and flip solo. That he doubled one and fell on his axel didn’t keep that from being notice served. The programs themselves have potential, though he doesn’t feel grown into them yet.

Grant Hochstein also hit the ice in Detroit after the publication of full-length interview this week, where he talked a lot about his new programs and also revealed this season will be his last. The jumps in his short didn’t go as well as he would’ve liked, but things went a little better in his long. In both programs, the music and choreography play to his strengths perfectly, and he scored high with the latter, though he still ended up third overall to Keegan Messing. Messing, who switched to representing Canada a few years back, skated two light programs he may do pretty well with.

Mirai Nagasu too tried to follow up talking the talk by jumping the jump, in this case the triple axel. She ended up having three programs in which to do it, because the ladies were divided into two qualifying groups, and the top six skaters from each skated their longs in a final third round. The groups weren’t divided evenly though; she and Courtney Hicks, the other major name here, were in the same group. Nagasu managed to stand up on the axel twice: while skating her short program, and then in the final free skate. She visibly didn’t rotate it either time, though, and extra trouble with her short allowed Courtney Hicks to narrowly win their group.

But Nagasu won the final with what might have been the performance of the competition. She stood up on all eight triples there, her triple flip-triple toe looked rotated, and if the program isn’t too original, she still does it well:

Hicks was the one with more to gain from this competition. Her troubles last season left her off the Grand Prix roster, and she now wants the empty host slot at Skate America. And she didn’t do too badly for herself, distancing everyone in the field besides Mirai to ultimately come in second. She went for the hardest combination, the triple flip-triple loop, but only stood up on it once, and even there the rotations were dubious. More successful was her work in improving her presentation, in a pair of dramatic programs where she makes heavy but not overbearing use of her arms.

The pairs skated their short and long programs as separate events. Here too, an open host slot at Skate America was in play, with multiple candidates for it in the field. After only competing only once last season, Jessica Calalang & Zack Sidhu established themselves as among them by edging out National pewter medalists Deanna Stellato & Nathan Bartholomay in the short, and beating them decisively in the free. After skating to Prince a year after everybody else did, they did their take on Carmen, which shows potential.

Although it wasn’t their first competition of the season, this was the first actual look we got at Stellato & Bartholomay. They’re continuing to go for harder jumps, most of which they struggled with, but their side by sides lutzes in the free looked really good. Even after a painful fall on the split twist and another on a throw quad attempt, her expression is impressive. It was in the short program too. The twist wasn’t the scariest moment of the competition either; that was when Brian Johnson dropped partner Chelsia Liu on the closing lift in their blues short. They tried to be a bit more graceful with their third-place free skate, but even there she too was thrown by a painful fall. None of the other American pairs made themselves look good as candidates. Making their competitive debut after their own newly published interview, Winter Deardorff & Max Settlage looked like they might after the short, but had a dismal last-place free.

The most anticipated programs we saw this week, however, weren’t from this weekend. Days after announcing his programs, Jason Brown debuted them last weekend at the much smaller Skate Milwaukee. We first got to watch them as a series of Instagram clips, before they were combined into proper videos on YouTube. It doesn’t make for the most ideal viewing, with Brown continually skating out of the camera’s view. But we can see some of the charm of his short, and hear his newly composed beautiful long program music:

Sneak peeks also continue to appear. We got one from Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit of their short dance when they performed it in an ice show last week. Unfortunately it’s not high quality enough to see that much, but they do seem to be enjoying it, as they claim. Over in Australia, we got ten seconds of choreography from Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor, but that clip is soundless.

Giving us clips of both her programs was Belgian skater Leona Hendrickx, as her brother Jorik had done earlier in the summer. She’s gone techno: her short program uses Madonna’s “Frozen” with probably more techno remixing than necessary. Her free program is to Gotan Project’s “Differente,” and is techno tango:

At least she takes to it.

As other skaters debut their programs, the highest-profile skaters who have held out on us are also starting to finally announce their music. Although some of them are still a little ambigious. Javier Fernandez, for instance, who according to Spanish TV is “representing The Man of La Mancha.” So it looks like he is indeed portraying Don Quixote, and it sounds like he’s skating to the Broadway version of the tale. But it still isn’t quite clarified.

More definite were the announcements of two of the top U.S. ladies. Unfortunately our new National Champion seems to be going for the clichés. She posted this week that her short is to El Tango de Roxanne,” and her long is to Carmen. On the other hand, it seems we narrowly escaped her skating to Tosca. At least with Carmen, there are multiple selections she might use. Both choices play to her strengths too.

More interesting are Gracie Gold’s music choices. Her short program music, Barbra Streisand’s “People,” from Funny Girl, isn’t the easiest piece of music to make work on ice. This doesn’t sound entirely unlike what Marina Zueva did last Olympic season, when she choreographed Gold a Gershwin short that she had changed by Nationals. Though this music is a bit softer and more poetic, so perhaps she thinks this is one she can pull off. Her free skate music, La Bayadere, is a little more commonly used, and should be easier. Gold even compares it to the Sleeping Beauty free Zueva also choreographed for her four years ago, and she kept through the season to some of her best success.

With the South Korean Junior Grand Prix qualifying event and the first of their Olympic qualifying events coming up next week, we got music choices from four Olympic hopefuls. Da-Bin Choi, who earned the two ladies spots at Worlds, will attempt to earn one of them with Broadway tunes: “Papa Can You Hear Me” from Yentl for her short, and “I Feel Pretty” and “Maria” from West Side Story for her long. After she rocked a new mid-season Steven Universe/La La Land short last season, it’s kind of disappointing she’s not keeping it, but at least we know she’s good with showtunes. So-Youn Park, whose season was derailed by injury, is keeping her Aranjuez free skate and combining it with a Black Swan short, for much overused music drama.

At least the two of them each have a good chance of making the Olympics. The odds are against June-Hyoung Lee and Jin-Seo Kim. But they’ll be trying next week. Lee will skate his short to Il Volo’s “Eternally,” which combines Charlie Chaplin with grand romance, and his free to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Kim’s free, like Lee’s short, will combine moving scoring with Italian singing, in his case the much more warhorse combination of the original Mission score with “Nella Fantasia.” At least the music for his short, Chris Mann’s version of “Need You Now,” is more unique.

Junior Grand Prix finalists Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov were the latest Russians to reveal their music choices in a more general interview. Prince’s songs hasn’t quite left the ice dance scene either; their short dance will include the Tom Jones version of “Kiss,” which they probably chose over the original version because it segues better with Domino’s “Baila Baila Comigo,” their other piece of music. Their free dance choice, Love Story, is more common in the other three disciplines, but hardly unknown in ice dance. It was apparently the choice of their coaches, and they point out how it allows them to try a different style from their free dance last year, which is fair enough.

Sadly, not all of the news from Russian juniors is good. This week Amina Atakhanova put her profile up on multiple ice partner search sites, indicating the end of her partnership with Ilia Spiridonov. Then, on her ask.fm, which she has since disabled, she revealed some uglier details. Spiridonov apparently dumped her on Thursday, with either him or their coaches having made the decision and formed a new partnership behind her injured back while she was getting treatment. His new partner, Lina Kudriavtseva, showed herself able to do technical content in Russia’s internal competitions last year, although she is still so young it’s hard to predict how she’ll cope with reaching full growth.

That’s not the only new partnership we got news of this week.  Allison Reed, youngest of the Reed siblings, has come back and found herself a new partner, this time in Lithuania:

Saulius Ambrulevicius switched to ice dance from singles only a few years ago. Reed’s been at it longer, gotten better results than him, and even been to the Olympics, though she hasn’t competed since 2015. They’ll likely never be able to hope for the Olympics, since it’s very hard to get Lithuanian citizenship, but Reed may still get him further than he’s gone so far.

Next week are multiple competitions, including the first official international event of 2017-2018 season, though it’ll be another month before the season truly gets underway. In the meantime, this update’s probably going to be on Sunday most weeks.

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