Much as I hate to admit it, the reduction of entries into the competition proper and into the free skates makes ISU Championships a lot easier to follow(pairs could still afford to have more than 16 teams in the final though; that’s just a little stingy). I was actually able to snatch a few hours sleep before getting up for a 5:00/5:30 start and while I felt a little tired yesterday afternoon I have no fear of falling asleep in front of the computer, and I don’t feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of skaters after watching the men’s event, or bored by so many guys doing the same thing. It also helped that after initially frustrating me in my attempts to see how the stream would respond to my new bandwidth, and I finally got it to work and justified paying five bucks extra for Worlds, IceNetwork worked like a dream. All in all I was in a much better mood by the time the big guns hit the ice than I’ve usually been these past two years.
Meanwhile, I actually went off Twitter during the final flight for the men’s competition and stayed off until the end of Oda’s skate, because a twelve point lead said Patrick Chan was going to win and I didn’t want to deal with the vitriol people would be tweeting before, during, and after his skate and scores(I do like that he was briefly trending, though; always good to see so many people still pay attention on occasion). Meanwhile, even if he was overscored, I don’t think there’s any disputing he pretty much deserved to win, and in fact all three of the medalists more of less deserved it; no bad performances on this podium. The placement that angered me was Michel Brezina, and that’s as much because he’s a homophobic asshole than because he came in fourth with two falls; the quality of the rest of his free skate can’t be denied.
Though sadly, so far most of the Japanese skaters aren’t rising to the occasion, and that goes for Takahashi & Tran in the pairs as well. Though you can’t really blame Takahashi for his skate’s bad timing, and at least he came back a beginning that could have derailed him completely. Yet with Oda having already blown it when he committed what wasn’t even the only Zayak violation that evening, by the time Kozuka took the ice you were painfully needing him to deliver, to make sure that out of the three Japanese men who all were supposed to storm the podium, at least one of them would actually make it.
Hopefully now he’ll no longer be the lowest ranked, though all three Japanese men will get direct entry into Worlds next year, so that’ll matter less. Meanwhile, coming within seven points of Patrick Chan’s free skate total when the latter made no major mistakes brings the hope that he can actually contend with him in the future alongside Takahashi. In fact, while Chan blew the field out today, and may even do so next year, by Sochi it will be another matter, especially with the emergence of Plushenko 2.0, as he has already been dubbed, who will likely only get stronger as those Olympics draw nearer. And that’s assuming noone comes back, though if Evan Lysacek did, it should be remembered he manipulates the code as well as Chan. Though one wonders if Plushenko won’t now withdraw his attempts to get his eligibility back, because there’s a serious question if he’d be able to stay ahead of his successor!
Meanwhile, in pairs, the expected two duked it out and Savchenko & Szolkowy actually skated their long completely clean, and on the rare occasions they do that, they’re still pretty much unbeatable by anyone currently competing. Though how long that will remain the case is another matter; from the time their short program introduced them to most of the world Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov were stealing the show(an extremely enthusiastic home audience obviously didn’t hurt) and the silver when Pang & Tong missed their jumping passes. Since now the Chinese are saying they aren’t going away just yet(their federation probably wants them to stay more than they do, at least until Sui’s passport declares her old enough for Worlds, what with the Zhangs losing the entire season to injury and China losing the third pairs spot for next year) it looks like it’s these two pairs versus a few Russian pairs for a while, though Kavaguti & Smirnov scored alarming lower even taking the fall into account, especially when their long program itself was so beautiful.
Though perhaps the most memorable two pairs were American and Canadian. Watching Yankowskas & Coughlin skate Ave Maria for the last time, all I could think was that there really are no words for what they have done with that program this year. The 6th place is something to be proud of to for an American pair. And I think in by their unique method of skating through a broken nose, and extremely well in the long program, Megan Duhamel & Eric Radford have announced themselves as some sort of presence in the future, and there was a sort of intangible beauty to their long program; maybe Canadian skaters do often have a little bit of magic to them, who knows. How far they’ll go remains to be seen, but they’re already a story to tell:
And that is yet another reason why pairs skaters are the most badass athletes in the world; thank you and goodnight.