Skate America: the good and the bad

I’ve chosen my identity for today: I’m a fan. And as a fan I’ll tell you that: living in the same era with Daisuke Takahashi, this amazing Japanese skater, gives me a wonderful feeling.

by Florentina Tone

Have you seen his free program at Skate America? If you haven’t, go ahead; you’ll thank me for that. If you have, you’ll agree: this particular routine, on Beatles Medley, might be the most appropriate ending of his skating career. Mr. Takahashi is happy, grateful and serene – and so is this program, which, during the season, will definitely turn into a masterpiece. “It will be getting better and better so much from now on”, said Daisuke’s coach, Mrs. Utako Nagamitsu, at the end of Skate America – and I’m pretty sure she knows her student.

A happy, serene and proud Daisuke Takahashi in Torino, at the 2010 Worlds; he had just won the gold.

A happy, serene and proud Daisuke Takahashi in Torino, at the 2010 Worlds; he had just won the gold.

The man who is genuinely moved by the music. When it comes to skating technique, he is second to none. He has the crowd on the palm of his hand. I admit: I haven’t said those words – but I wish I had. The commentators of British Eurosport aren’t sparing any compliments when it comes to Daisuke Takahashi; this is, actually, a short list of the things said in relation to the Japanese skater during the last seasons.

This time, at Skate America, Daisuke’s routines weren’t perfect. But if you take the jumps out of them, both programs are still gorgeous. Mr. Takahashi’s quality of skating is sublime – so, yes, I do believe his routines will become great at a certain point in the future. Preferably at Sochi Olympics, next year, in February.

As for the other competitors in the men’s event at Skate America, „Firebird” proved once again a winning card for the Japanese Tatsuki Machida, who won the trophy. Adam Rippon was second, with a wonderful performance on Debussy, and Max Aaron jumped from sixth to third (on a „Carmen” routine that reminded me of Tessa Virtue…). Daisuke Takahashi was fourth.

Blue-eyed Maxim Trankov, leaning his head on Nina Mozer’ shoulder. Tatiana, leaning on Maxim. Alongside, Stanislav Morozov, Tatiana’s former partner. One of the loveliest image of this year’s Skate America: the team – athletes and coaches – who’ll fight for the Olympic gold next year, in homeland Russia. I’m not a fan of their free program, I admit; but there’s one more thing to admit: skated on the music from „Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Russians’ routine is packed with difficult elements. And if they nail everything in Sochi, Russia will definitely win back the gold in pairs.

On the other hand, I found myself totally enjoying the routine of the Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch. When pair skating meets ice dance is wonderful – and this is truly the case. Their program – on Fellini Medley – seemed effortless; was joyful, smooth, playful.

Third at Skate America this year, my personal favorites: the Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, keeping their last season’ free program. Actually, given the fact that Alexander Smirnov recently suffered a serious injury, followed by a surgery, Ksenia and Fedor might have a shot at the third spot for the Olympics in Sochi.

The free dance of Meryl Davis and Charlie White was followed by standing ovations; and it was indeed a performance to die for, difficult and athletic. But I can’t help but wonder if this is truly the essence of ice dancing. When did ice dance turn into a rush to get the highest level on the lifts, on the spins, on the twizzles? I sometimes miss the freedom the ice dancers had in the past.

Skating on famous Italian music (“The Barber in Seville”, by Gioachino Rossini), Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte looked as if they were on the stage, not on the ice. The Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani entered the character of the music too, dancing on a Michael Jackson Medley. In Sochi (Russia), if I may say so, there will definitely be nationalism.

As much as I adore Mao’s short program I haven’t got the same feeling after the free. Skating on “Piano Concerto No. 2” by Sergei Rachmaninov, Mao didn’t manage to take me with her. I felt like she was in a hurry, after missing her trademark jump, the triple Axel, at the beginning of the program. I loved the step sequence, though. And I haven’t found myself involved in Ashley Wagner’s routine either. She nailed absolutely everything, but this „Romeo and Juliet” doesn’t seem to fit her; at least, for now. Maybe it will develop and become hers until Eric Bompard Trophy in Paris, 15-17th of November.

And I hated, I truly hated that Valentina Marchei missed almost everything in the long program. Such an exquisite composition and such a disappointment for her in the end… One thing is sure: what a potential this program has! Intriguing music, attention to details, wonderful quality of skating… It might very well turn into a gorgeous performance during the Olympic season. The Italian was flirtatious with the public, bold and beautiful; too bad her knees looked jellified. After the first Grand Prix of the season Valentina wrote on facebook: “Good morning Milan. Back home for a little while, with my family, to breathe a little bit of the atmosphere here! Skate America was a start, not as good as I wanted or as I was ready for in the long, but from there we know what to work on!” Fingers crossed for her at NHK Trophy, at the beginning of November.