With the second Grand Prix event, Skate Canada, complete over the weekend, it’s time to take a look at what transpired at the competition. My first look will be of the most unexpected defeat of the event, along with a much more expected victory, accomplished with some unorthodox costume choices.
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¡Viva la España!
He may not be as big as Real Madrid, but Javier Fernandez made some history for his country by winning Spain’s first gold in a Grand Prix event on Saturday at Skate Canada. Skating fans will remember that Fernandez had what many consider to be his career-changing competition at Skate Canada last year.
Monopoly no more
So why’s this significant beyond being a first for Spain? The biggest reason is that Fernandez’s win came at the expense of a loss for Patrick Chan. Yes, he had a horrible Japan Open and he took second at World Team Trophy individually, but this was his first loss in a non-team full competition since a silver at Rostelecom Cup two years ago.
WATCH: Fernandez Skate Canada short program
WATCH: Fernandez Skate Canada free skate
Mistakes in both programs contributed a great deal to Chan’s loss, but of more intriguing note was the PCS advantage of less than three points that he had over Fernandez in the free skate. At Skate Canada last year, the gap was 5 1/2 points. And I would argue that his free skate this season is of higher quality than his free skate last season.
WATCH: Chan Skate Canada short program
WATCH: Chan Skate Canada free skate
Now, of course, it’s tough to compare marks across competitions. But what we saw at Skate Canada and Japan Open will be indicative of the shift this season. For a while, Chan was heads and shoulders above the rest, with both great skating and great quads. And that distinction afforded him the advantage of much higher PCS marks, which kept him high even with a few mistakes here and there. Remember last week’s reputation discussion? That’s exactly it.
In some ways, it’s a combination of factors has closed the gap between Chan and the other top men this season. Daisuke Takahashi was the first – his brilliant skating at the end of last season, which resulted in his year-end defeat of Chan at World Team Trophy, turned the tides on their budding rivalry. Second was Chan taking four falls at Japan Open, which gave the judges a reason to look elsewhere for great skating. Note that at Japan Open, Takahashi and Evgeni Plushenko, not to mention the no-longer-competing Jeff Buttle, all scored higher in PCS.
And third, skaters who were right on the bubble are stepping up to skate strong programs with superior technical merit. Fernandez saw an opening and jumped right through it. The judges aren’t immune to these shifts in momentum. I expect that the PCS advantage the Chan has enjoyed will continue to stay slimmer than it was last year. Takahashi, who will be making his Grand Prix season debut this week at Cup of China, surely knows what transpired this weekend.
The Germans go wild with fabric.
I think I’d be grossly understating it if I said that viewers found Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy‘s costumes this week to be interesting. Certainly rarely orthodox in choreography or fashion, the World champs took it up a notch this past weekend. The name of the game seemed to be maximization of colors.
WATCH: Savchenko/Szolkowy Skate Canada short program
WATCH: Savchenko/Szolkowy Skate Canada free skate
Costumes aside, I found their free skate to be more successful in choreography than their short program. Though they had Hypercolor-inspired costumes in the short, the program itself generally fairly conventional in layout and construction.
But with their free skate, they are trying to break the mold of the hundreds of Bolero programs that have littered the landscape since Torvill and Dean made cool in 1984. Almost 30 years later, any time “Bolero” is mentioned, there seems to be a palpable sense of exasperation. It’s a different take on the music, and that’s what I appreciate. The program itself is still a bit raw and disjointed in parts, especially in the middle section of lifts. Hopefully, it will grow to fulfill its promise.
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