I know that the World Championships and the Olympics are the pinnacle of figure skating prowess, but to be honest, this weekend might just top them all when it comes to a figure skating fan.Not only are the U.S. Figure Skating Championships taking place in Detroit, the European Championships are also taking place in Minsk! We viewers get to enjoy double the axels, flips, and toe loops, plus the double rolling of our eyes at yet another interpretation of Carmen or The Phantom of the Opera (seriously, Alina Zagitova, don't you know there's way better soundtracks of TPOTO out there instead of the film version?).
This weekend is a special treat for me, because I am able to go to Detroit and attend the free skates for both ice dance (Saturday) and the men's (Sunday) competitions! I'll be posting about my experiences tomorrow and next week. There will probably be some video included!
If you missed any of the U.S. or European Championships, I'm sure that The Olympic Channel will be re-airing them in the coming week!
Watching figure skating on television (or online) is a very different experience than going in person. The commentators need to transmit that vibe from the arena to the people in their living rooms. Not only that, they can break down what jumps are supposed to be and whether a turn is under- or over-rotated. Why did someone fall? They can usually tell you.
However, in person I'm looking forward to feeling the vibe of a figure skating audience. It should be a lot of fun!
NBCSN recruited Ashley Wagner to be the color commentator for the women's skate at the European Championships, and she did a nice job analyzing the skaters, with most of whom she's very familiar.
Tanith White is the underrated commentator on the NBC broadcast. And not only does she do the ice dancing broadcast where needed, she also does coverage of other sports, as well!
Tara and Johnny still are fun, though they have lost their shiny spark that they had found five years ago. I think NBC had to talk to them about certain aspects that they needed to make sure to cover. But their charm still creeps out; Johnny actually said that Bradie Tennell was actually channeling Maleficent in her short program!
This round of U.S. Championships are being done without a few key athletes that people know. Gracie Gold and Wagner were both supposed to be competing, but Wagner chose to take a step back for now and Gold pulled away due to health. Adam Rippon retired from competitive skating, the Shib Sibs aren't competing at all this year, and Mirai Nagasu is recovering from hip surgery.
Former world champion Evgenia Medvedeva finished seventh in the Russian National Championship and didn't qualify for the European Championships. As a matter of fact, the top three Russian ladies from that championship - Anna Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova, and Alena Kostornaia - none of them were old enough to actually compete in the European Championships! (They have to be 15 before July 1 of last year, and they were all 14 or younger.) That meant the fourth, fifth, and sixth best Russians actually are representing their country, including Olympic champion Zagitova.
Brian Orser is probably even more well known now than he was back in his competitive days because of the athletes he has under his wing. Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez, Jason Brown, and Evgenia Medvedeva all train in Canada with him.
So if Fernandez is competing in Minsk and Brown is over in Detroit, then where was Orser going to be? Well, Thursday evening he was in Belarus, and I sense that he's not going to be making several cross-Atlantic flights this weekend to get to Michigan. Too bad - it would have been awesome to see Orser in person.
Show Some Flair
After seeing those same 2018 skating routines so many times, it's refreshing to see our favorite skaters doing something new. (Even if it's Carmen.) Even Nathan Chen looks more relaxed with his long hair - I approve, buddy.
And what's better than new routines than new outfits?! Mikhail Kolyada is sporting a nifty black-grey-white outfit that looks way better than anything he wore last season. And Latvian's Deniss Vasiljevs was rocking some bright yellow pants to accompany his disco routine. But someone needs to tell the men that puffy sleeves does no one any good.
For the ladies, there are more of them wearing pants, which I absolutely love. I adore the color Mariah Bell wore for the short program, though seeing all those straps criss-crossing on her back makes me feel pain.
So Javier Fernandez got to go out of the European Championships on his own terms - with a gold medal, no less! I'm going to miss his artistry - plus that dude is so good-looking. I do have to ask: can you do the same free skate two years in a row? He did The Man of La Mancha last season, too! I always thought skaters were required to do something new every season!
I really love the pair's skaters from France: Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres. They won this year's Grand Prix and took the European crown this week. They didn't get an Olympic medal in 2018, but the way that they are skating, I hope they can carry their charm into 2020!
Speaking of France, there really isn't anyone better than Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron right now. Since Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir aren't competing this year, it's all about the French pair. No one is really close, to be honest - not even Hubbell and Donohue. (Speaking of Madison Hubbell, did you know she's engaged to Spanish ice dancer Adrian Diaz? I did not! It would be fun to see them skate together just for funzies.)
Tennell has really grown this season. I'm glad she's chosen some music with more depth that allows her to emote something besides happy. However, even though she's one of the top skaters in the U.S. right now, I don't see her ever rising to the top of the world stage.
I'm pretty disappointed in the crowds in Detroit. Even the ladies' free skate had quite a few empty seats in great locations! Were the tickets too expensive? (I bought tickets, so I should know, and the answer is yes.) Especially when going back and forth between Minsk and Detroit, the Minsk rink is always full - even if it's the middle of the week.
I adore the musical choices of Starr Andrews. Last season her free skate featured Whitney Houston and Starr Andrews herself. This season her free skate was "Under African Skies" by John Herberman and she skated to the arrangement perfectly. She had rhythm sections, smooth sections, and all the movement that was choreographed just fit so well into the piece. She's still young; hopefully her jumps will grow into her musicality!
I am not at all disappointed that Zagitova finished second in the European Champiionships. Russia is basically a figure skating car factory: manufacture one skater to win, then discard it when another better one comes off the line. Why do you supposed Medvedeva ended up leaving Russia altogether to train?
I thought I couldn't get more annoyed at the ice dancing rhumba that was performed by every single team last season for the short program, but the tango romantico got pretty close. Almost every team picked music with a frantically playing violin and accordion (or "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago). It was refreshing when a team went outside the box, like Papadakis and Cizeron.
It was great to see far more clean programs this year. I think some of that has to do with the rule changes that emphasized a clean overall performance instead of giving way more power to the jumps. Although I do see a lot more American ladies doing spins with their arms over their heads to get a few more points here and there.
Geez, Alysa Liu, you're only thirteen and did three triple axels in competition? And she danced to John Williams' music for her free skate. I think she gained about a bajilion more fans from this weekend, and I really hope she doesn't falter the older she gets. Just take the energy all the way to Beijing, girl! (By the way, she can't even compete in this year's World Championships because she's not fifteen yet!) If Tennell doesn't have the international star quality, I think Liu does! (Don't let us down, honey!)
I'm very excited to attend some championships, and I'll be live tweeting as well. Have a great weekend watching figure skating!
I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The Cauldron! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!