2019 World Figure Skating Championships Review: Men, Ladies, and Ice Dance

Hey everyone! Since I’m on spring break and have nothing better to do, I’ve decided to do a post about the other disciplines. After all, Worlds only happens once a year, and next thing you know, I’ll be whining all summer about how I don’t have any skating to watch.

Men: Lions, Tigers, and Pooh Bears, Oh My

I can’t find the time to do high school and work a weekend job. But Nathan Chen can study at Yale and win a world title. Truly, the guy is insane. I still laugh at that “Caravan” short program with the shimmies at the beginning, and I don’t know why they sent him out wearing what looks like a fancy ivory napkin tucked in his collar, but he killed it. And I love his free skate to “Land of All” – I think it’s one of the most unique, beautiful pieces I’ve heard in a long time. There isn’t much room for choreography with all those quads, but it was a solid performance and he deserved it. Were his scores a little inflated? Yes. But he still had the best performances of the event and earned the title of 2-time World Champion.

Yuzuru Hanyu is an incredible skater and it’s good to see him back in such great form. But he was not underscored. He got the scores he deserved for those performances. He doubled the salchow in the short and lost so many points, and he lost GOE and base value on his underrotated quad salchow. I would’ve had him much closer to Nathan on the free skate mark – Nathan’s PCS were definitely too high – but you can’t pretend he didn’t pop in the short. If he had skated clean in both programs, he would’ve beaten Nathan, but he didn’t. Given the fact that he was so seriously injured, I think a nearly perfect free skate and a silver medal at Worlds is something to be very, very proud of.

I don’t like Vincent Zhou for personal and political reasons, but I don’t mind his skating. Sure, he doesn’t have great skating skills, and his underrotations aren’t pretty, but I’ve seen many worse programs than Exogenesis and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I don’t cringe while I watch his skating. Does he deserve 87 for PCS? Not on your life. But I think he still deserved his medal here, since the other guys didn’t really bring their A-game.

Shoma, Shoma, sweet Shoma Uno…my heart broke. However, I can’t blame the judges for throwing him to the wolves; he slipped off the podium because he made mistakes. Trust me, I would much rather see Shoma on that bronze step than Vincent. I think he’s brilliant, and he’s one of the few male skaters I really enjoy watching. But that free skate was a hot mess. I hope next year we can see some more of that brilliant athlete he is, because he’s truly magical. Also, props to him for wearing purple velvet and actually looking good in it.

After such a rocky start at the first half of the season, I think fifth place is a little victory for Boyang Jin. He threw down a great free skate and pulled himself up from ninth to fifth.

If anyone was robbed, it was Mikhail Kolyada. I’ve been waiting all season to see that Carmen program in all its glory, and this was not too far off. It was amazing – one of my favorite Carmens ever. He’s the first male Carmen I’ve enjoyed; he has the perfect intensity and charm. But that *censored* short program…I miss the days of 2016 Worlds when we could get a clean short and a clean free in the same event from him. His basic skating is superb, and the judges who only gave him 88 for PCS deserve to be locked up for their crime. I’m going to put this out there – if he could consistently land jumps, he would be at Hanyu’s level. Unfortunately, that’s a big IF.

I really like Matteo Rizzo. I know everyone complains about how he skates to so much old-time rock music, but it works for him and it’s fun. I’d rather see a bunch of well-skated Queen medleys than a bunch of poorly-skated Phantom of the Opera programs. Getting into that final group after the short program is a huge accomplishment for him, and 7th place overall in his senior debut is excellent.

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Michal Brezina would qualify to the GPF and finish in the top 10 at Worlds, I would’ve told you to check your medications. But he delivered solid performances all season. Besides the fall on the final triple flip (which seemed to come from either exhaustion or excitement; I’m not sure which), he did everything he could. And again, more fun old rock-and-roll programs! Well done.

Am I ever gonna shut up about that time Jason Brown was second in the short program at Worlds without a quad and got a small silver medal? Nope. Dear future grandchildren, I will make sure you know this happened in history. To me, that was the highlight of the short program. His movements are so sharp, clean, and beautiful. And can I just talk about how much I love his makeover? He always looked like a Victorian-era hero with his long hair, but dare I say he looks even more handsome now? Skating to “Love is a B*tch” really awakened this sassy, edgy side of him I never thought we’d see, and he just exudes this smoldering intensity that catches your eye from the second he moves. Do I have a little crush on him? Possibly. Okay, yes. Since I was 11.

Andrei Lazukin is a good skater, but someone really needs to give him more interesting programs. No matter how clean he can skate, I just can’t get into it because the programs are so standard. I mean, his girlfriend Tuktamysheva is skating to Britney Spears in a sexy flight attendant costume. He needs to step up his game.

Other hot takes on the men: Samarin doesn’t have skating skills but I like that edgy short program, stanning Morisi Kvitelashvili is the quickest way to give yourself a heart attack, the Korean federation is a bunch of idiots for making Jun-hwan Cha go to so many competitions this season and tiring him out for Worlds, and Deniss Vasiljevs is a beautiful skater even though the jumps give him so much trouble.

Ladies: The Name on Everybody’s Lips Is Gonna Be…Eunsoo

I’m so happy for Alina Zagitova. She’s had such a tough year, and next season isn’t going to be easy with three amazing junior girls turning senior, but she got her world title. I actually don’t find her programs unattractive at all – they aren’t the most incredible Phantom of the Opera or Carmen programs I’ve seen in my life, but they’re nice. In fact, the music cuts in the short program have grown on me a bit because they don’t sound like the typical overused Phantom music cuts. Her scores were quite high, but like Nathan, she clearly deserved to win hands down.

I never thought I’d see the day I got to call Elizabet Tursynbaeva a world medalist. I’ve been a low key fan since I first saw her in 2015, and finally she’s made a breakthrough. But I didn’t expect the irony of it: Elizabet leaving Orser to train with Tutberidze, then beating Medvedeva, who left Tutberidze to train with Orser, with both girls skating similar-looking Astor Piazolla tangos. The sad part is that I think Elizabet’s scores jumped not because the judges appreciate her improvement, but because she is now Tutberidze’s student. When I first heard she was going back to Eteri, my first thought was “pray for our tiny princess’s safety”. But honestly, I think Elizabet is the only skater who benefits from Eteri’s technique. Eteri skaters are taught to jump with a child’s body, and they lose the technique after puberty hits, but because Elizabet is naturally tiny and has a more streamlined body structure, it works. I like to think Denis Ten is smiling up in heaven and cheering her on.

Last month, I was ready to strangle the Russian fed for sending Evgenia Medvedeva over Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. I still think it was unfair to Liza, don’t get me wrong. But Evgenia truly deserved every moment of this bronze. She came in like a champion and killed it, and I hope all her haters are shaking (I’m not referring to the people who just don’t like her skating, I mean the people who attack her character and harass her). I loved the new short program to Tosca; it suits her so much better than the original program to “Orange Colored Sky”. The tango free skate isn’t bad either. And can we just talk about that fierce victory face at the end of the program? Don’t be fooled, this girl is tough as nails. I actually don’t think she was overscored – at least not more than many other skaters at the event – and I’m happy to call her the 2019 World bronze medalist after all this.

I didn’t expect to see all three Japanese ladies shut out of the medals, but it was fair. First observation: Rika Kihira is braver than any US Marine. After the short program went awry, she threw down everything she had in the free skate and delivered. When I first saw her last year in juniors, I didn’t think she was very artistic, but this season she’s become a graceful little powerhouse. Her skating has a new drama and intrigue she didn’t have in juniors, without being dark and heavy. But in such a fiercely competitive field, there wasn’t room for any mistakes, and she just slipped off the podium. Hopefully she can win Worlds next year, because this girl is a jewel.

I screamed in agony when Kaori popped that flip. She was literally one triple flip away from a world silver medal. There’s something so light yet powerful about her skating that I just can’t get enough of. She finally got the highest PCS of the three Japanese ladies, which I consider a massive miracle but also justice. She has the best skating skills of the three Japanese girls; her speed is just insane. The crowd was cheering her on like crazy, and I think the judges really wanted to give her a medal, but the score came up just short. At least she has the National title and the small silver medal from the short program.

The Japanese lady I’m most concerned about is Satoko Miyahara. Yes, she’s beautiful. Yes, she’s consistent. But lately I feel like she’s at a standstill. She doesn’t have the technical difficulty to compete with a clean Kihira or the airy jumps to compete with a clean Sakamoto. While her jumps do look bigger than they did last season, they still aren’t big enough to get +5’s, and with her body structure and jumping technique, I’m afraid she won’t be able to land triple axels or quads. She has such exquisite movements, but she still lacks a certain power in her skating that prevents her from getting those huge PCS. I know the skating world will rake me over the coals for this suggestion, and I don’t like it any more than you do, but if she wants to maximize her points, she needs to get some pointers from Tutberidze’s skaters. Add a bunch of tiny transitions to boost those PCS, use a similar technique to land big jumps, and the judges will love it. Desperate times call for desperate measures, baby.

Bradie Tennell finally got the job done the way she can! I find the short program boring, but I really enjoyed the Romeo and Juliet free skate. After all this bashing about how she’s not “miss consistent”, it was great to see her deliver such a solid skate. She’s honestly improved so much from the first time I saw her; her emoting has improved so much. I love the deep violet shade of her dress too. But I won’t rest until she gets bangs, highlights, or a pixie cut.

It’s always a joy to see Sofia Samodurova. That Burlesque free skate was the best program of all the Russian girls this year. She has that special it-factor that draws you in – kind of like Javier Fernandez or Ashley Wagner. But her jumps are very small and low, so she can’t maximize her GOE under this system. Still, she has so much to be proud of. She came in as a dark horse, but she was fearless. Of the three Russian girls, Sofia was the only one who delivered consistently all year. She got the European title, a spot in the Grand Prix Final, and two glorious skates at Worlds that placed her in the top 10. I love her.

I don’t quite know what happened between Mariah Bell and Eunsoo Lim, and I’m not about to comment on the incident. I enjoy both of them as skaters, but I can’t judge their character from the outside. So I will stick to commenting on the skating. It really couldn’t have gotten more awkward than it did. Skating back to back, with their coach right there and Eunsoo performing to Mariah’s iconic music from last season…it all seemed like a scene from a movie, like the final fight in The Karate Kid.

Mariah’s programs are the best she’s had in her career. I’m a sucker for Celine programs, and the free skate music “Experience” is gorgeous. There’s a pure, simple elegance to her skating. It was good to see both her programs clean. However, a mostly clean Bradie is still beating a mostly clean Mariah. That means Mariah needs to find places to pick up more points. I would suggest a few more transitions to boost the PCS and also adding a triple-triple to the program. You can’t beat a clean Bradie without a solid tech score.

I adore Eunsoo, I have since I saw her in juniors. She’s exquisitely graceful, with delicate butterfly movements, but manages to still skate with power and personality. She reminds me of the good old days of skating: Yuna and Mao. She has the elegance, the charm, and the sass all rolled into one, and her dresses win the competition for me. The short program is just breathtaking. I love the free skate because she’s flirty and mischievous, but I still feel wrong about it because she’s simply too young to be skating to Chicago. General rule of thumb: if the music talks about “recognizing my boobs”, it’s probably not a great choice for a minor. And you know what’s the most infuriating part about this whole Eunsoo/Mariah situation? People are all loving Eunsoo because they feel bad for her, not because she’s an amazing skater. She deserves this kind of recognition for her sheer talent. She shouldn’t need to get slashed in the leg before people notice how good she is.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Worlds spots should be earned based on season’s bests, not based on country. It’s ridiculous to have 10 insanely talented Russians stay home while Kazakhstan sits on three spots they can’t even fill. Look, I get it that skaters from small federations deserve their chance to go to Worlds. I don’t mean to sound like Phil Hersh here. But when you’re forced to leave a Grand Prix Final medalist (Tuktamysheva) or a reigning world silver medalist (Higuchi) off the team, there’s a problem with this sport. There has to be a way where skaters can earn their way in without country limits, like at the GPF. Okay, rant over. Now on to ice dance.

Ice Dance: Score Me Like Your French Teams

I was never a Papadakis/Cizeron stan, but this year I’m finally getting on the bandwagon of appreciating their skating. They have the best basic skating skills of the field, and they deserved this win 100%. By eleven points over the rest of the field? Okay, perhaps not. But the tango suits them, and the free dance is lovely. I know they basically skate the same style every year, but at least we can count on a decent free dance every year. Side note: I wish Gabriella had worn the green dress for the rhythm dance from Euros, although the black is stunning too. Also, I didn’t think it was possible, but Mr. Guillaume Cizeron gets hotter by the day.

Sinitsina/Katsalapov’s rhythm dance is so good. Literally I don’t even like them and it’s good. They have gorgeous black costumes – simple but flawless, classy but attractive. But the first three minutes of their free dance render me comatose. Seriously, Zhulin, I do not intend to sit through three hours of monotony so I can see a few seconds of beautiful skating at the end. Nikita has great skating skills and incredible speed, but I think it throws off his balance and makes his twizzles look wonky. Guillaume, for example, can do the twizzles quickly without looking unstable. Nikita still looks a bit sloppy to me.

Hubbell/Donohue remind me a lot of Sinitsina/Katsalapov: powerful but sloppy. Last year’s FD worked with that style, but this year’s program seems to point out their weaknesses. Romeo and Juliet is great for a young team, like Carreira and Ponomarenko, but Madison and Zach thrive on sexy, bluesy programs, almost like James/Cipres in pairs. A sappy Romeo and Juliet is just below their level. I think Madison is the leader of the team – tall, powerful, and bombshell gorgeous – so why are they dressing her up like a medieval lovesick teenager? I always thought they would be amazing skating to “Rumor Has It” by Adele.

I love Stepanova/Bukin for their innovation. They’re fresh, they have sexy programs, and they keep me awake. They lack a little polish, but at least they have spark. I fell in love with them last year thanks to their Sia short dance (who else hears Latin pattern dance and thinks “Sia!”?), and this year they did not disappoint. I know everyone says their free dance is a rip-off of Hubbell and Donohue’s FD from last year but I honestly don’t see it. To me, this program was completely original and enjoyable. I would’ve had them above Hubbell and Donohue here: while H/D are better overall skaters, S/B had the better programs and performances.

Weaver/Poje’s rhythm dance was gorgeously smooth. They move like silk across the ice. Her dress looked expensive and glamorous, like champagne. The twizzles looked a little labored, which is nothing new, but everything else was glorious. As for the free dance, I loved the music so much when Denis skated to it, and they did a beautiful job interpreting it. Between Weaver/Poje’s tribute to Denis and Gilles/Poirier’s tribute to her late mom, the Canadian ice dancers were really giving all the feels here. What I love most about these two is their intensity. Kaitlyn literally looks like a soap star out there, Allison Sweeney should fear for her job! Overall, I think 5th place was a good finish for them and they can be satisfied.

Chock/Bates were robbed. Say it louder for the people in the back. When they first moved to Gadbois to train with Marie-France and Patrice, I cringed because I thought we were going to lose Madi’s diva power in favor of lyrical, Gadbois-style skating. But fear not – Madison Chock is alive and well. They lacked a little speed in the rhythm dance, but what they do have is sharpness. They’re more tentative but they get the job done, and I will always choose slower and sharper compared to faster but sloppier. Both programs are just blazing hot, and her costumes are stunning. Can I just say that she should star in the next Wonder Woman movie? Because come on…

Gilles/Poirier, like Stepanova/Bukin, are known for being innovative. However, this year something just didn’t quite click for me. This is a team that runs on quirk factor. We’re talking big, bold, flashy…heck, they skated a hippie-inspired program in neon bodysuits three years ago. The tango still had a Piper and Paul feel, but the free dance…Look, I know it’s a tribute to Piper’s late mom and I think it’s a beautiful thought. And it is a good program. But I miss that wild “Piper and Paul charm”. I wanted to love it, but something was stopping me. These guys have a lot of talent, but they keep making tiny, stupid mistakes or losing levels. They’ve had so many opportunities to seize the moment and something has always tripped them up. I’m not sure what it is, but since Weaver/Poje aren’t leaving yet, Gilles/Poirier need to figure out something fast.

Guignard/Fabbri are a very pleasing team to watch. Their tango is sultry, pure tango, and the FD to La La Land is refreshing. There’s just something nice about these guys I appreciate. Also can I give Charlene a standing ovation for her green dress?

I’ve loved Hawayek/Baker for years. Kaitlin is just so exquisite in that tango, and Jean-Luc’s edges are some of the deepest I’ve ever seen. But I’m afraid their biggest problem is the lack of size difference. They’re making it work as well as possible, but I can’t help thinking they could do better with different partners. It breaks my heart to say this because I love them together, but I think if they want to get to the top, that might be an option.

Another team I really like is Fournier-Beaudry/Sorensen. I’m so glad they switched to Canada and will finally have their chance at the Olympics. They’re so graceful; to me, they’re the epitome of classic ice dance. And her dresses are top notch.

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ROUNDUP:

If you’ve made it to the bottom of the page, congratulations. We survived Worlds. Now if you’ll excuse me, I NEED A BREAK and our Nintendo is calling my name! See you for World Team Trophy. Until then, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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