Unlike the previous Grand Prix event, with its long list of remarkable firsts, 2015 Skate Canada was more about the expected wins of the favorites (in pairs and ice dancing) and about particular comebacks (the Russian dancers Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev and, above all, Patrick Chan). Still, Skate Canada had its own part of drama (the failures of both Yuzuru Hanyu and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva in their short programs; the duel between the Olympic gold and silver medalists in the men’s event, won in Canada by the latter), as well as firsts (16-year-old Japanese Yuka Nagai taking bronze in her debut at the senior Grand Prix circuit; Canadian pair Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro winning their first Grand Prix medal as a team) and memorable moments (Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin’s revelation of a free dance, Maia and Alex Shibutani’s impressive readiness for the season – and their gorgeous free skate to “Fix You” by Coldplay, and, more than that, the shining, sassy presence of Ashley Wagner, the best of all in the ladies event).
With all these in mind, Inside Skating gold medal goes to… Japan’s Daisuke Murakami – for his boldness to bring something new to the table (his triple Lutz-triple Loop combination was a joy to the eyes) and for his overall performance in Lethbridge, Alberta, at this year’s edition of Skate Canada.
by Florentina Tone
One thing is sure: 24-year-old Daisuke Dice Murakami was on the top of his game at his first Grand Prix event of the season, performing two almost flawless programs in Lethbridge, Alberta, and finishing the overall event on the third place. One might even say he was better than that – and Daisuke himself looked somehow disappointed when the scores and final placement were shown, but, later that day, the Japanese skater said that his coach, Frank Carroll, helped him look at the bigger picture and put things into perspective: “As soon as I finished my performance and my marks came up, I was a little upset, obviously, that I dropped to third. Then my coach, Frank Carroll, made me realize that I was on the same podium as the Olympic medalists, and that’s when I decided, «Yeah, I did a good job»”.
And he truly did a good job at Skate Canada, Daisuke Murakami, leading after the short program – a fluid, touching performance, to “Bring Him Home”, by Josh Groban, including that rare and wonderful triple Lutz-triple Loop combination – and then keeping his composure during the free; he was last to skate, with both Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan giving their best in Canada. Performing to “Anniversary” by Japanese musician Yoshiki, Daisuke Murakami skated with ease, confidence, musicality – and Yoshiki’s piano was a great match to his beautiful lines. He looked tired and lacking energy to the end of the routine – his two successful quads, one in combination, might have had something to do with it – but he did start the season on a high note and his coach was more than satisfied with his student’s performance. After all, we all saw a thrilled Frank Carroll in the Kiss and Cry, with his hat and everything, praising Daisuke: “It was good. You did a good job, what can I tell you?”. The Japanese’s next Grand Prix event is Trophée Eric Bompard.
Skate Canada’s gold in the men’s event went to 2014 Olympic silver medalist, Canada’s Patrick Chan (“Mackie is back in town”, as the song in his short program says, and Patrick seem ready to pick up where he left off more than a year and a half ago), while the silver went to 2014 Olympic gold medalist, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu (even if you take out the jumps in his SP – and this was really the case in Lethbridge, Alberta, that Chopin program is still a masterpiece and I’m thrilled he decided to keep it for one more season…). But my praises also go to Adam Rippon (4th in Canada – he does have a great set of programs this season), Nam Nguyen (5th in Canada – he grew taller, and so did his programs) and Alexander Petrov (6th in Canada – an elegant skater, paying attention to the music).
In the ladies’ event the lights were all on Ashley Wagner. And how could they not be? The 24-year-old American skated a bold, inviting, sassy short program, to “Hip Hip Chin Chin” by Club des Belugas, and, at the end of it, I felt like shouting “Yeah, Baby!”, as the song says.
First of all, a confession: I’ve been a fan of this musical piece ever since Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated to it in Moscow, at 2011 Worlds – and I’m thrilled Ashley Wagner decided to bring out her “inner Tessa Virtue” this season. She really does justice to the music – as Tessa did, a while ago – and, if I may say so, some of her Components Scores should have been skyrocketing after this SP, because this lady can truly perform. Wearing a red lipstick and Marissa Castelli’s wonderful dress from a couple of seasons ago, Ashley was flawless in the short (the hips, the shoulders, the everything!) and received in return 70.73 points, a personal best and, consequently, one more reason to celebrate. “Wow, that’s great!”, she burst when seeing the marks and then added, looking at her coach, “That’s more like it!”.
As for Rafael Arutunian, he kept repeating “Good, good, good” – and, though reserved (as he usually is), you could sense his enthusiasm. With these scores, his student moved to the next level – and Ashley herself explained during the press conference: “Today was an awesome day for me, a personal best. That is something I can be very proud of. I feel I came here very well trained and prepared. I was able to go out under pressure and deliver”.
A day later, Ashley Wagner was Satine, from Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!” (a second life for this program choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne), and, in spite of some under-rotations, the American didn’t hold back and sold the program brilliantly, winning the fourth Grand Prix event of her career and looking ahead with confidence. “To go out and deliver that performance and receive that score with the mistakes that I had I think it’s really a good sign for things to come this season”, she said during the press conference. Her next Grand Prix assignment is NHK Trophy.
Worrisome performance from the World champion
Not as convincing was the World champion en titre, Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, whose short program in Lethbridge, Alberta, was exactly the opposite of her grandiose music, Jeremy Olive’s Carmina (based on “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff). Doing a long preparation for the triple Axel, Elizaveta changed her mind and performed a double instead – and from that moment on the program seemed to be out of her control: the Russian doubled the Lutz and overrotated both the jumps in her triple-triple combination. A struggle that routine was – and only the Components Scores kept her on the 7th place at the end of this particular segment of the event. And, harsh as it may seem, without her jumps (she is a terrific jumper, Elizaveta), the whole composition looked barren and empty; and worrisome, I might add, for a lady who will try to defend her World title next year in Boston.
A day later, Elizaveta regrouped and landed all the jumps of her “Peer Gynt” routine, including her biggest asset, the triple Axel (not perfect, but still). The best of the night in terms of scores (133.62 points), the program still looks to me a work in progress – and I have to ask myself how much of the original choreography of Stephane Lambiel was actually kept in the present form of the routine. It will grow as the season progresses, I’m sure, but I would love to see the Russian lady working on her Components more. She was 2nd in Canada and her next Grand Prix assignment is Trophée Eric Bompard.
16-year-old Yuka Nagai won the bronze medal in her debut at the senior Grand Prix circuit (the musical choices do put her skating skills into the spotlight) and I have to say I like Kanako Murakami’s short program (“El Tango de Roxanne” suits her great and she really dissolves into the music). When it comes to Elizabet Tursynbaeva (4th in Skate America and 7th in Skate Canada), she is a talent, for sure; she only needs to put her nerves behind, when entering the rink. Or, better said, make them work in her favor.
As for Kaetlyn Osmond, four seasons ago, she was taking Skate Canada by storm, surprisingly winning the gold with her exuberant, enthusiastic skate to “Carmen”. She still has the spark – but, on the road, lost some of the confidence. Which is totally understandable: a long list of injuries kept her out of the rink and in Lethbridge, Alberta, this year, she again had her share of bad luck, finishing the overall competition on the 11th place.
I would have given two golds in the ice dancing event
Give me two sets of gold medals for the ice dancers – one for each segment of the competition – and I’ll know who to give them to. I’ll say this: watching Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje skating their Strauss short dance was like watching the New Year’s Concert in Vienna – and you all know I’m a fan. My first gold medal goes to them, as they looked (and danced) like royalties in Lethbridge, Alberta (and, as someone funnily pointed out on twitter, “I have to rewatch this program, since Andrew looks like the King of Spain”). Leaving jokes aside, this brand new short dance the Canadians put together in the three weeks that passed since Finlandia Trophy is already a hit; skated with ease and flow and confidence, featuring them and their million dollar look, but also wonderful changes of hold, beautiful choreographic touches and Strauss music (you can’t miss with this music), the short dance put Kaitlyn and Andrew in first at the end of this particular segment of the ice dancing event, ahead of America’s Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev.
A day later, it was Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani’s free dance that held my interest and got my praises; and I’ll give the Americans my second imaginary gold medal. Because, truly, that was a golden package in Lethbridge, Alberta, from music to costumes, to Maia’s loose hair, to their glorious twizzles and Peter Tchernyshev’s wonderful choreography. Most of all, I loved the airy atmosphere of their free dance – as if they were breathing with the music, as if we were all in a bubble of beauty and calmness. Technically, everything the Americans did looked spot on and some of the choreographic details were to die for – as it was the case with Maia leaning on Alex to take a couple of steps further. “How do we mark art? It’s a knife edge to separate them”, the British Eurosport commentators summarized the difficulties of deciding which couple was better at this year’s edition of Skate Canada. In the end, it was the Canadians who won the actual gold, while the Americans had to settle with silver. Their next Grand Prix assignments are Rostelecom Cup (Kaitlyn and Andrew) and NHK Trophy (Maia and Alex). Looking forward to their next encounter – if everything goes according to plans, the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona.
Blades on the ice, as if they were cutting butter…
Bronze medalists at 2015 Skate Canada were Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev – or, should I say, Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky? At this point of the season – and coming from a long break, due to Dmitri’s surgery, they looked clumsy at times and not yet having the sharpness they used to have. But they are young and talented, Ekaterina and Dmitri, and in Lethbridge, Alberta, you could sense they were hungry to come back in the competitive arena.
As for the other Zhulin team in Canada, Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin, I absolutely loved their presence (and presentation) both in the short and the free. From where I stand, the two Russians showed considerable improvement since last year – and I only wished the Components Scores would keep up with their progress. Their short program, to music from the Japanese anime “Howl’s Moving Castle”, was light, and airy, and funny, and playful – and the skaters’ blades on the ice, as if they were cutting butter. Whilst the free dance, to “Torn” by Nathan Lanier, was completely the opposite: powerful, dramatic – but still holding an aura of elegance and sophistication. A gorgeous, detailed free skate – already one of my favorites this season – and the best I’ve seen them skate so far. “The goal for this season is to make a big step forward – and do that beautifully”, said Ksenia and Kirill in an interview for Inside Skating and, with Skate Canada’s experience in mind, they seem to be on the right track. Their next assignment is Rostelecom Cup.
In the pairs event, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won their fifth medal in a row at Skate Canada (and their second gold, after the one they got last season) and Canada won one more medal (the bronze) in the same event, through Kirsten-Moore Towers and Michael Marinaro (unlike last year, they are now looking like a team – and they did receive standing ovation for their short program, to Etta James’ If I Can’t Have You). As for me, I just love the talent this young team has, Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, silver medalists at 2015 Skate Canada, after being third last year. At 20 and 23 respectively, Evgenia and Vladimir seem to be a perfect match, with a great future ahead. This season, they’re skating to music from “Lord of the Dance” in the short and to Chopin selections in the free. Their next assignment is Trophée Eric Bompard.