Monday, January 23, 2012

US Nats: Novice Sunday

The first few days of any US Nationals are packed. That's because all the Novices do their Short programs (or Pattern Dances for the Ice Dancers) the first day and they throw in the Junior Mens SP too. The second day, the Novices do their Freeskates (or Free dance for dance) to finish so then they do Novice awards and also start the Junior Ladies. It's a LOT of skating over two days.

Today I got there just as Novice Dance was starting. I experimented with tweeting after every performance. It was hard but doable but it killed my iPhone battery and I never did figure out how to log onto Twitter on my iPad. So I had to stop eventually.

Novice Dance

The first Pattern Dance was the Argentine Tango. This is an interesting tango because it's softer than a regular tango. So it can be hard to be soft enough to be an Argentine but sharp enough to be a tango. I am sad to report that most of the teams didn't mange it.

My favorites were Holly Moore and Daniel Klaber who ended up in second but only by a fraction of a point. The first place team was good too but they had a visible skid on their second pattern. Plus I thought Moore/Klaber's tango was more tango-y.

The other team I really liked was Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye. I thought their marks on the AT were low but I could kind of see it because this team is really small. They still managed to have as much ice coverage as the mid-pack teams but not as much as the top teams. But they did much better in the second dance and pulled up to 4th overall. That made me happy.

One interesting thing about the Argentine Tango this year is that the skaters could pick their own music. There were some interesting choices. For the Starlight Waltz that they did next, they couldn't pick their own music and I had "Once Upon a Dream" fatigue by the end of it.

For the Starlight, I again would have put Moore/Klaber over Miller/MacMillan but the judges had them in the other order and by a few points not fractions like for the first dance. I think I'll stand by my own judgment until one of those judges convinces me otherwise.

Which could happen as one of the judges is my former next-door neighbor. It's his first Nationals appointment and I'm very excited for him. I bet I could get him to explain the results in general terms after the event.

Novice Ladies

The Novice Ladies were next. The overall quality of their skating was good. Karen Chen who has been winning everything and is coached by my sister and niece's old coach, skated early. She had a fall but the rest of her skating is so good that she is still in first place. I threw her a cake pop! I hope she doesn't think some crazy skate mom of one of her competitors is trying to poison her with it!

Anyway, I was really rusty at jump identification so I just went and looked at the protocols and I see that Karen had a Triple Lutz-Double Loop for her combo. No wonder she's in first place. That's a hard combo that you don't even see that often in Juniors or Seniors! She also got a bunch of Level 3s and one Level 4 on the spins and footwork sequences. Her Program Components were high too.

The other two I liked are now in second and third, Amanda Gelb and Amber Gleen. Or as I think of them, the two AGs.

Novice Men

Three of the Novice Men from our section are skaters who I've seen grow up in skating. So it was fun to see them all make it to Nationals. My favorite is Kevin Shum. This dude has a Triple-Triple! But he also has a very mature presentation and always has to some extent. (That is to say, his presentation has always been mature for his level, not that it hasn't changed in 7 years!)

I guess you'd call me a Kevin Shum uber. I try not to get too excited about the younger kids because they grow up and stuff happens and then they aren't skating any more. (Plus I'm a middle-aged lady so too much gushing over young boys is creepy.) But sometimes I can't help myself. I'm not alone either. No one around me had seen Kevin skate before, but afterwards they were raving about him.

And also about Vincent Zhou who I had heard a lot about but was afraid wouldn't live up to the hype. I've seen him skate before, but he's very young and he used to be at a lower level than Kevin and Wilber so I didn't have a strong memory of him. He's really burst on the scene lately. He's one of those skaters I call 120% skaters. He's on every second, it seems, but in a cute way, not an obnoxious way. It's like he can't help giving 120%. Part of it that he's coached by Tammy Gambil and she is great at packaging younger skaters so their personality really shines. And it's their personality too, not some fake "the judges like this" personality.

Vincent is in first, slightly ahead of Kevin. The Free skate should be interesting!

The other area skater is Wilber Ji and he's really come into his own as a skater since I last saw him. He hasn't got the technical content of the other guys but his program was a complete blast. It was over the top and could have been oh-so cheesy and wrong, but he gave it the perfect combination of seriousness and irony and it completely worked. Too bad he's in last place though.

Honestly that seems a little low to me but I see from the protocols that his step sequences was only level one and he got negative GOE on a jump and both spins. That's fair, but sometimes the marks don't really reflect the accomplishment that skate was for that skater and I think this is one of those times.

The only other Novice Men I really remember are James Schetelich who had very strong jumps and is now in 4th place and Nicholas Vrdoljak, the third place skater. He was good but didn't float my boat. Sorry, Nicholas, it's not personal. It's a style thing. Like punk rock vs. classical music.

Novice Pairs

Okay, I admit it. Novice Pairs scares me and normally I avoid them. I probably should have this time too. This is the first pairs level where the teams are doing real tricks like you see on tv with the higher level skaters. Their lifts go above the guys head (well, theoretically), they do a split twist, they are doing side-by-side double jumps, etc., etc.

And it often goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Like today when the teams in the third group kept almost killing each other in the warm-up. Not on purpose. They just couldn't get out of each other's way. And one team, the one team I was curious about seeing because they are local and I remember the guy from when he was a singles skater, had the most disasterous warm-up. They couldn't do anything right and it got the point where I was upset enough that I wanted to yell out "stop trying to kill your partner and get off the damn ice!"

But I didn't because I try not to be a crazy woman at skating events. But pretty much that was the only thing holding me back.

Then, during the actual skating, the team before them had a bad fall. They were doing a lift and she went up but not very high (though it seemed like that was actually on purpose). But then she did something, I'm not sure what, and suddenly the whole lift wasn't balanced any more and they both fell. Not only that, he came this close to skating over her hand. When she bounced back up, she was holding her cheek and I could swear she was going to stop skating. But she shook it off and they went back and finished the program. It was messy with lots of falls but they finished. (Way to HTFU!)

In the "Kiss and Cry" she had ice on her cheek so she really did hurt it.

Then the team that upset me came out and I was so scared. But they were actually not too scary. The guy who couldn't lift her or throw her in warm-up did those things just fine and their only falls were on her throw jump and she also fell on the side-by-side jumps.

I have no idea what the issues were. (Just because one team member falls doesn't mean the other team member wasn't at fault.) All I know is that my heart was in my throat for their entire performance (because of the warm-up) and afterwards I ran up to the concourse and had an alcoholic beverage.

Seriously, I did. I was that upset by the entire event. And not just these two. They were the last two teams to skate and had the most obvious problems, but that doesn't mean other teams didn't get my heart in my throat as well.

And, no, I'm not going to name them. If you were there or watching on Ice Network, you know exactly what I'm talking about and, if you don't, well it's not important. The point is they drove me to drink, not who they are.

I do have to say one of the teams not only didn't scare me but actually skated like a real pair. That's pretty rare at this level. That team was Christina Zaitsev and Ernie Utah Stevens. They are in fourth place.

Junior Men

To finish off the evening and me and my head, we had Junior Men. I was familiar with none of them. The first skater impressed me and he's in first (Timothy Dolensky). The second skater impressed me and he's in 4th (Lukas Kaugars). After that it was the usual mix as these skater do their short program in random order. I also really liked the skater who ended up in third, Timothy Koleto and the 5th place skater (Phillip Warren) who skated to Stevie Ray Vaughan doing a Jimi Hendrix song! (My kind of music, baby.)

Okay, my readers who are in the know are now thinking... Nathan Chen, why aren't you talking about Nathan Chen? You know the guy in 2nd by .05 point who is winning everything.

I have to admit, I had mixed feelings about his skate. I hated the choreography of his program and his shiny copper shirt threatened to give me a headache. Plus his ice coverage was not good because he's tiny and has no power. But his technical content is amazing. He's got all the same goods as the other Junior Men when it comes to jumps and spins even though he's 12 and they are more like 15-20. So how do you grade that? It's a dichotomy.


As we left the arena, it started to rain. Way to go Mother Nature -- stay dry when we're indoors and only rain when we have to go out. And my head hurt. But not nearly as bad as it did at WDW so I think I'm going to make it through the week especially if I hide for most Novice Pairs tomorrow and don't attend any practices. I also figured out how to charge my phone so I should be better on the Tweeting. Much to the dismay of some of my followers who are used to me never tweeting and only about triathlon. Sorry! It will over in a week, I promise.
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