by Florentina Tone
Alena Leonova: there’s a reason why she is a World silver medalist. You got to love Alena’s short program: she’s not skating to Chaplin-themed music, she is indeed Chaplin! As some of her fellow Russians (Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov…), she too is looking for redemption after last year’s failure to make the Russian team for the Olympics in Sochi. And, looking at her version of Chaplin in Kelowna, Alena seems ready to put all that behind, starting anew and turning to a type of program that she loves so much: she and Chaplin are definitely a great match.
At the end of a playful, joyful routine, the Russian skater raised an imaginary hat, as Chaplin would do, and I felt like doing the exact same thing for the joy she offered me while skating. More than that, Alena headed to the boards practicing Chaplin’s walk and I for one was conquered. You could hear people in the audience shouting “Harasho!” and the 23-old-skater smiled; a wonderful, large smile: she was glad to be back and I was too. The tango she skated in the free, well… that’s another story: a struggle that program was from the beginning till the end. Alena did try to appropriate this type of music, but, in the end, the tango didn’t do her justice. I wish skaters would evaluate more carefully their musical choices: there are, probably, tons of musical pieces out there suiting her style of skating. The tango? Not so much.
Anna Pogorilaya: Stravinski’s Firebird suits her great. In Anna’s case, it’s completely the opposite: the 16-year-old Russian skater doesn’t seem to truly relate to the music she uses for the short (Adagio), but she might turn into a very convincing Firebird by the end of the season – and by that I mean the Worlds in Shanghai. Sure, the free program still needs polishing, but the goods are definitely there: a difficult routine, awarded with a great technical score. Artistically, I feel that Anna still has work to do, but Stravinski’s Firebird might be just the right piece of music to put her into spotlight. In Kelowna, through Anna, Russia won the second Grand Prix gold in the ladies’ event; and we might see a team of Russian girls leading the ball in Barcelona.
Satoko Miyahara: a blue-yellow butterfly, spreading her wings in the air. I’ll say it loud and clear so that everyone can hear: I’m already a fan of this wonderful Japanese skater, Satoko Miyahara. Skating to The magic Flute by Mozart in the short program (a really mature choice for a 16-year-old girl), this talented petite skater amazed me with her ease and simplicity. Wearing a blue dress with shades of yellow, Satoko was like a butterfly in Kelowna, floating over the ice, her beautiful arms in the air. And her interpretation of “Miss Saigon” in the free might very well be one of my favorite programs this season and, surely, the highlight of the ladies’ event in Kelowna. I was thrilled and touched – and I would definitely have had her higher on the Skate Canada’s podium.
In Kelowna, at Skate Canada, Ashley Wagner shined. To me, the 23-year-old American skater hasn’t really captured the essence of Khatchaturian’s Spartacus, but the free program, to music from the movie Moulin Rouge, was the best skate I’ve seen from Ashley in a while; and the type of program she needed for the Olympics. As Satine in Moulin Rouge, Ashley literally shined in Kelowna: great music (matching her theatrical style), great interpretation (what a wonderful actress she is) and a silver medal atop of that.
A final reverence to the following: Veronik Mallet (what a wonderful short program she skated in Kelowna: Chopin’s Waltz No. 7 suits her beautifully), Hae Jin Kim (I love her arms in the air, the overall atmosphere of her programs), Rika Hongo (she attacked the routines with loads of confidence; technically, she’s already very good), Brooklee Han (a very classy, elegant skating during both of her Grand Prix events), Viktoria Helgesson (for carrying on with the short program in spite of an incident that probably messed with her mind a little bit…)
The final rankings at 2014 Skate Canada International
1. Anna Pogorilaya, Russia, 191.81 pts
2. Ashley Wagner, United States, 186.00 pts
3. Satoko Miyahara, Japan, 181.75 pts
4. Courtney Hicks, United States, 174.51 pts
5. Rika Hongo, Japan, 171.47 pts
6. Alena Leonova, Russia, 164.15 pts
7. Alaine Chartrand, Canada, 156.22 pts
8. Brooklee Han, Australia, 146.80 pts
9. Hae Jin Kim, South Korea, 143.43 pts
10. Veronik Mallet, Canada, 142.25 pts
11. Viktoria Helgesson, Sweden, 139.67 pts
12. Julianne Séguin, Canada, 136.95 pts