2019 Finlandia Trophy Review: Pairs

The final event in the ISU Challenger Series has arrived, and somehow I’m still alive. Blogging while trying to balance honors high school and stay in touch with my friends is a bit of a challenge, but I’m rolling with it. I also have a little announcement at the end of this post, but first, let’s take a look at what happened in pairs at Finlandia Trophy.

I was pleasantly surprised by Mishina/Galliamov. As a Weaver/Poje fan and a Lara Fabian enthusiast, I’m a sucker for “Je Suis Malade”. However, I’m not sure if it quite works as well for a pairs program as it did for an ice dance program, and I’m not sure if it deserved a 74. Don’t get me wrong, their elements are big and I think they’re very talented, but to sell “Je Suis Malade”, you’ve got to be moving like crazy and doing your huge tricks at the end as Lara starts wailing. Looking at the protocols, they got all level 4s and no negative GOE, racking up a huge technical score. Her dress is pretty, but his long white tie was distracting me the whole time. The free skate was also very solid and they racked up a huge technical score. What’s amazing to me is the sheer technical quality in their elements. Hopefully they can keep it up throughout the season, because I think we just added one more horse to this race.

The short program was a huge step up for Efimova/Korovin compared to what I saw at Nebelhorn Trophy. I thought their scores were slightly low. Carmina Burana has been used so many times, especially in Russian skating, but it works for them. Alisa has this intensity in her face that almost reminds me of Yulia Lipnitskaya (they have a similar face structure and hair color so that makes me nostalgic). The free skate was a big victory too – everything except the final lift worked! For a couple that struggles with pulling it all together, this was a good run. I wasn’t so sure about the free skate music for them at first, but when the program is clean, it’s bomb. I’m a little worried about him  because he seems to get tired by the end of the program. He looks quite lean for a male pair skater, so maybe the lifts are more difficult for him. Anyhow, I love them. Alisa has such a great star quality on the ice, but I’m scared that Russian pairs is turning into a stampede, and I don’t want them to get lost in the shuffle because I think she has a rare quality.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you all know Lubov Ilyushechkina is one of my favorite pair skaters. She’s elegant, she’s adorable, and she’s one of the most underrated and talented pair girls in the field. I loved both Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch and Seguin/Bilodeau, so seeing Lubov and Charlie skating together is the best of both worlds. I think they’ve made huge progress since the small event a few months ago where they made their debut. They went for a triple twist and got no negative GOE for it, and the triple toes were pretty clean. I saw a lot of people complaining that the program was too “standard”, but I don’t mind it. I’d rather see them play it safe and skate clean than risky and sloppy. The exit to the lift was stunning! With her bob cut and the gold dress, she reminds me of a classy lady from the 1920s. I like the free skate even better. Lubov got the chance to show off her amazing flexibility in the lifts, and the catch-foot on the pair spin is to die for. They botched the landing on the twist and doubled a side-by-side jump, but the throws and other elements all looked sublime. The French song really fits their graceful style. When I saw her in that lovely blue dress with the French music, the first thing that popped into my head was Fleur Delacour from Harry Potter. Charlie did a great job too, but Lubov has such an it-factor that I ended up watching mostly her.

Ziegler/Kiefer had a rough go of things again. I really hope they’re okay because they seem to be having a lot of technical problems out of the gate. However, both programs are beautiful. The SP has a lot of choreographic content; it doesn’t just feel like crossovers. I’ve seen a lot of free programs set to lyrical music, and not all of them have worked, but this one does. I can feel some powerful emotion there. I really hope we can see these programs clean on the Grand Prix, because they have so much talent.

I was really impressed by Olivia Serafini/Mervin Tran in the short program. The short program is cool and unique; who would’ve thought to mix Moonlight Sonata with Lukas Graham? The twist needs help, but overall the elements weren’t bad. The first half of the free skate was rough on the technical side, so unfortunately it took the air out of the performance. To be honest, I’m surprised he’s continuing his career, but if this partnership works out, I’ll be happy for them.

Last year, Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud came onto my radar as “that good-looking young pair”. And they keep looking even better. The SP had some technical issues, but the program is cool and the costumes even cooler. I was super excited for the free skate because it was choreographed by Eric Radford. And you know what? He did a dang good job. It’s a shame the elements went haywire, because I think this program could be really good. They looked rough at the beginning of last year too but turned it around quickly, so I hope they can do it this year too.

Well, that’s a wrap on Finlandia Trophy. Next week, I’m planning on doing a big preview post for the Grand Prix events, so stay tuned.

Now for the announcement I promised. Last week, I posted a big old blog post about the toxic culture of the figure skating fandom. While I was writing, I realized how much I take for granted the skating fans who are loyal, respectful, and supportive towards their skaters. It’s easy for the kind words to get drowned out in all the screaming matches, so I want to draw attention to the good folk around here. Each weekend, at the end of my blog post, I will give a shoutout to a person who makes this sport a better place.

Aaaaaaand the inaugural shoutout goes to…Claire Cloutier. Claire is one of the most knowledgeable, respectful people in the world of figure skating. When I first joined the Twitter fandom in 2016, there were very few people who wanted to talk pairs with me, and even fewer who knew all the statistics about them. But Claire took me under her wing like a cool aunt who knew more about pair skating than Yoda did about the Jedi. Her blog, A Divine Sport, is the reason I started blogging. She’s a true analyst of the technical side of things, but she also appreciates the art and innovation that figure skating has to offer, and while her emphasis is on pairs, she supports skaters of all disciplines. She’s also mastered the art of keeping it real without personally attacking the skaters. Her interviews with high-profile skaters serve as an example of how interviews should be: informative, interesting, and respectful. Check out her blog A Divine Sport and follow her Twitter.

Until next time, happy skating, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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