An empty arena and a wonderful senior Grand Prix debut for Jason Brown

I’m not sure what I find most disturbing in the event that opened Skate America (and the Olympic season): the numerous errors in that long-expected SP of Daisuke Takahashi or the fact that the arena in Detroit was incredibly empty for such a great panel of skaters.

by Florentina Tone

Skate America 2013 logo

I’ll start with the last one. The emptiness of the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit – and Detroit has become, in the last few years, the home of many wonderful skaters – is quite alarming: it shows that popularity of figure skating in the United States is, indeed, decreasing. When your town hosts, on a daily basis, so many great skaters, practicing in the ice rinks in the area, and when the same town receives the right to organize the first Grand Prix of the Olympic season, with a great panel of athletes slated to compete here, well, you got to be a fool not to attend. Or (and I fear this is the case) the discipline of figure skating really lost its appeal to the American public (and not only to them). The phenomenon deserves a thorough analysis – and we’ll do that at a certain point.

On the other hand, the popularity of this particular sport – a blend of art and athleticism – is incredibly huge in Japan; and I did saw a lot of Japanese fans in the first rows of the skating rink in Detroit, clapping and waving their national flags. Hats off to them! They’ve come a long way in order to root for their three athletes skating at this first Grand Prix of the season: Tatsuki Machida, Takahiko Kozuka and Daisuke Takahashi – first, fourth and fifth after the short program.

Japanese fans are always following their favorite skaters at the international competitions (here they are in Nice, at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships)

Japanese fans are always following their favorite skaters at the international competitions (here they are in Nice, at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships)

This brings me to my next line of questions. What happened to Mr. Takahashi? His short program – choreographed by Kenji Miyamoto on the „Sonatino for Violin” – is indeed a masterpiece. Too bad we couldn’t see it because of the errors: an underrotated quad toe with a fall, a not-so-convincing combo (triple Lutz+double Toe) and a shaky Axel (and this jump used to be his trademark…). So, yes, this wasn’t Mr. Takahashi’s best day. It was, on the other hand, a great day for Tatsuki Machida. His short program, skated on music from „East of Eden”, was flawless – wonderful and spotless like his white shirt. With 91.18 points, Tatsuki got himself a first place after the short, showing a huge determination to get one of the three spots of Japan for the Olympics in Sochi, next year. What a national championships it will be in Japan, in December…

„The future has become now”
But, for me, the highlight of the event was the performance of Jason Brown. The 18-year-old American replacing Evan Lysacek nailed a wonderful short program, on the music of Prince. Jason was at his very best: he staked beautifully, with confidence and enthusiasm. What a senior Grand Prix debut! Not including a quad proved to be a winning strategy for him, at least for the short program (and the quad was, indeed, the Achilles’ heel for every skater in the men’s short, except for Tatsuki Machida, who nailed a beautiful quad Toe-triple Toe). A chorus of enthusiasm followed Jason’s routine in Detroit: friends and fans complimented him on his facebook page, took pictures of his posters in the arena (one of them stated: „Jason, The Transition King”) and Johnny Weir congratulated him on twitter: „The future has become now. Well done and congratulations @jasonbskates and his coach Diva Kori!”

Congratulations are in order for Adam Rippon too, third after the short program. It wasn’t a perfect routine, that’s for sure, but it really showed a different face of the American skater: a more mature Adam and a mature approach to his skating – something that we’ve been waiting for a long time. As if, finally, Adam showed his true colors: beautiful, confident ones. And what a great choice of music: „Carmen” by Bizet (not something that you see every day in men’s skating). Ashley Wagner tweeted: „!!I’m so proud of you. You looked so good”.

Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon taking a picture with a fan, in Nice, at the 2012 Worlds

Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon taking a picture with a fan, in Nice, at the 2012 Worlds

As for Max Aaron, he seemed to have lost his enthusiasm from the 27th second of his program, when his quad Toe, one of his known strengths, proved to be unreliable. Artur Gachinski’s flamenco music is absolutely wonderful, like some of his steps – but his short program in Skate America was not. Artur seemed lost – and his Toeloop seemed lost too. Russian music really suited Russian born Alexander Majorov, competing for Sweden – seventh after the short program. But I’m mostly concerned about Mr. Kozuka’s beginning of the season. Last year’s winner of Skate America, Takahiko Kozuka has very difficult steps and a wonderful quality of skating (not to mention his SP music suits him very well), but he does not shine; he hasn’t found the winning formula – that little something that will make him stand out among the other top skaters. He is fourth after the short program.