2019 US Classic and Ondrej Nepela Trophy Review: Pairs and Ladies

It’s the weekend, which means your favorite annoying skating blogger is at it again. So without further ado, here we go with my hot takes on US Classic and the Ondrej Nepela Trophy.

Best part about US Classic: WE GOT PAIRS!

Worst part about US Classic: altitude doesn’t mess around.

Of all the strange things I expected to happen in a skating season, an American team beating Russia’s number one pair by almost 11 points was definitely not one of them.

I really like Ashley Cain-Gribble/Timothy LeDuc’s programs. They looked solid, fresh, and ready to take on the season. They have a unique aesthetic; they’re a little unconventional, and I find that fun. They’ve been working their way up in the ranks little by little, and now I think it’s their time. Hopefully they can keep it up at their Grand Prix events, because I think they could be a serious dark horse.

Tarasova/Morozov looked so good at the test skates, but here it looked like altitude said “not today, Satan”. The doubled salchows and toe loops really cost them, as did the mistake on the lift. I saw some of their fans getting worried on the forums, but I don’t think this is any cause for concern. They’re still one of the best teams in the world, and I think they’ll look much stronger when they’re back in normal altitude and they’ve had a few competitions under their belts. I’m mildly fascinated by her costume for the free skate – it looks like a denim shirt. I’m eager to see everyone’s costumes at the Grand Prix, where the stream is actually clear enough to see them. Also, I keep forgetting she got married and now she’s Ashley Cain-Gribble.

Cain-Gribble/LeDuc’s scores were high – I don’t agree with them beating Tarasova/Morozov on skating skills. But to be honest, Ashley and Tim looked more prepared for this particular competition. And skating is supposed to be judged based on what’s done on the ice that day, not the past three years.

Cheng Peng/Yang Jin are a personal favorite of mine. Out of all the programs I saw here, I liked theirs the most. They are so versatile, and they have a unique chemistry I enjoy. The SP feels similar to last year’s “Ophelia”, which I adored, and the free skate is just stunning, even with the mistakes. It looked like the altitude wasn’t kind to them, either. I’m a little concerned about Cheng Peng’s side-by-side triples – she was landing them so well last year and here she didn’t. But hopefully it was just a fluke.

I love Kayne/O’Shea’s programs. Since they did a SP to “Take Me to Church”, I’ve been wanting to see the darker, edgier side of them, and this SP does the trick. You know me – I’m a sucker for Les Miserables programs, so I’m already a fan. Overall, I thought the performances were pretty good, despite the small glitches. I don’t like seeing such a gap between them and Cain-Gribble/LeDuc; I think these teams are much closer in skill than the judges would have you believe. But the whole time, I couldn’t help staring at Danny’s shaven head. Combined with the free skate vest, he looks like a banker.

I like Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov. However, at this competition they received almost no GOE bonus, even though they skated fairly clean. I just wish someone could teach Misha how to lift. They had lift problems for most of last season, and this didn’t look like much improvement. Then again, several pairs were making mistakes on lifts, so hopefully we can blame nasty Great-Aunt Altitude for it.

Now on to ladies.

First of all, let’s address the drama surrounding Satoko Miyahara. If you haven’t seen the program, she skated to Schindler’s List (a film about the Holocaust), and the straps on the back of her dress formed the Star of David. This sent Twitter into a frenzy about cultural appropriation, Israeli politics, and whether skaters should use music from films about terrible true events. I’ve seen a lot of different opinions on it, and I’m not sure if there’s one right answer to it. As for the program itself, I think Satoko does a lovely job interpreting the music. I personally love the Schindler’s List soundtrack, even though I don’t like the concept of the movie. If the piece was from any other movie, I would be saying this is an exquisite program. I still enjoyed her skating; I just don’t like the story behind the program. However, I’m uncomfortable with the dress. Although the Star of David as a Jewish symbol is totally fine, it could also be interpreted as the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, or even the Israeli flag, which is not a great look considering the Israel-Palestine conflict. I assume that Satoko isn’t trying to offend anyone, but I can see how it would be offensive, and I hope they swap out the dress quickly. On the technical side, I’m mildly concerned about her under-rotations popping up again, but at the next event the technical controller might very well call them clean, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Amber Glenn is amazing and underrated and that’s the tea. I really love her choreography, her music choices, and her costumes. I’m so excited that she has a Grand Prix spot this year; I think she could be a dark horse this season if she can deliver some good performances.

Young You surprised me a lot. I love how Yuna Kim inspired an entire generation of young Korean girls who all have beautiful lines, graceful spins, and lovely musicality. She’s truly a joy to watch.

In other news, I’ve officially become a fan of Ting Cui.

Moving on to the ladies at Ondrej Nepela Trophy: Alexandra Trusova is not human. I’m genuinely terrified for all the other Russian girls right now, because this little spitfire can jump. I don’t agree with her PCS – she’s more of an athletic skater than an artistic one – but I think her technical scores will carry her through the season well, as long as she doesn’t miss.

I love Kaori Sakamoto. I love The Matrix. Together, they are a deadly combination that I can’t stop watching. The short program had some mistakes, but I think it’s a strong vehicle for her. Let’s not forget how Kaori struggled at her first event last year and ended up becoming a national champion. I will argue that she has the best skating skills of all the Japanese ladies right now, and I think she was lowballed here. I look forward to watching these programs grow throughout the season, and hopefully they will take her to the World team again!

I’m going to sing the praises of another Korean skater: Hanul Kim. It amazes me how all the Korean female skaters have good music, good choreography, and good dresses. I can’t name a single one I don’t like.

Mako Yamashita had a few bumps along the road in her performances. I’m not a huge fan of her, but she has talent. Unfortunately, the field of Japanese ladies is like the doors to the mall at a Black Friday sale, so I wish her luck.

Last year, I died on the hill defending Stanislava Konstantinova from an army of haters. I still think she’s a beautiful skater and I hope she can turn things around, but this event was a mess. The programs are good – the short program is elegant and the free skate reminds me of Ashley Wagner’s iconic Moulin Rouge. I really want to see these programs clean, because I think they have potential. I prefer Stanislava’s Moulin Rouge music cuts over Sofia Samodurova’s, even though I adore Sofia.

It was a rough event for Maria Sotskova. I’ve admired her skating for a while, but she always struggled with underrotations, and it feels like the judges just dropped her after things started falling apart.

And that’s about all I have to say! I’ll be back next week with a review of Nebelhorn Trophy. Until next time, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s