Thursday, January 27, 2005

2005 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

I was very happy to finally see some of my most anticipated skaters compete last weekend. Unfortunately, I missed the Ice Dance competition. What I did manage to see on Saturday night were the Pairs LPs and the Men's LPs.

I won't go into a list of all the elements that the skaters performed, but I will try and highlight some of the key aspects that distinguished one from the other.

Pairs LP

New Entry -- Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto
This team showed what an advantage they have over other pairs teams: their experience. Langlois (pronounced lang-loh-wa) and Archetto had a very nice start to their skate. The opening poses were full of edges and spread-eagles, very interesting to watch and not easy to perform. The next element for them was supposed to be a throw triple loop, but Langlois didn't feel very secure and so she downgraded it to a triple toe instead. That would have been fine, except she two-footed the landing. This is usually a solid element for her, but having missed it, she became rattled and it showed in the next 2 minutes of skating. Both partners missed the SBS 3toes, and Archetto did not catch Langlois as securely as he should have in the throw triple twist. They did have a lot of height in this latter element, though. They attempted a second set of SBS triple toes, and they both missed again. After this, their nerves seemed to settle down a bit, to the relief of their fans and themselves, too, I'm sure.

Their star lift into a carry lift was very nice, their SBS spins were well in synch, and the rest of the program began to pick up momentum. Their BODS and spiral sequences were exquisite, showing the nice clean lines and curves. The highlight for many people was surely the "leap of faith," a hop and then right into the throw triple salchow. That ups the level of difficulty for the throw jump because right before it, the team did not have a chance to prepare. Just when you thought they had delivered all the goods, they showed us a straightline footwork sequence that was intricately woven between edgework and toe tapping, fast and electrifying. It took my breath away. They finished very strongly with the FIDS and a combination spin.

If you're confused about my "experience" comment, let me explain now. For any other younger team to have made the mistakes L/A made at the beginning of their program, they would not have been able to recollect themselves to spectacularly in the second half. They would have been too devasted and too nervous. L/A's experience saved them, and it helped them to earn the bronze medal. Score wise, they were only 8 points less than W/F, but the reason for that is the intricacy of their program. At no point in L/A's routine did they stand around and make gestures. Even when they were trying to "take a break" from performing all the big tricks, they were still doing some kind of footwork. Had they not made the crucial mistakes of missing both the SBS triple jumps, they would surely have won 2nd place.

Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin
Marcoux (pronounced mar-koo) and Buntin started very strong with some very nice footwork that involved edges and turns on their skates, and went straight into the SBS 3toe, then a hop into the 2toe. This is a beginning with fireworks. It was absolutely thrilling! The SBS (side by side) 3 toe is hard enough as it is, but to make themselves do footwork before they got to jump, and then to do it in combination with the 2toe! That requires perfect timing and perfect execution. If either of them lost an edge in the preceding footwork, the crucial SBS 3toe would have been ruined. If the 3toes were to be faulty, then the 2toe combination would have suffered. This sequence of footwork and jumps is worth so many points, and there are a tonne of places they could have messed it up. It's BIG RISK!

This is the pattern that repeats itself throughout their program. Their elements were not performed one after another, but in sets. For example, they did a set of Russian folk dance steps into an overhead lift. With most other teams, they'd do crossovers and crossovers to prepare for the lift, which requires precise timing and balance. What M/B did was they added to the difficulty of that lift by doing footwork preceding it.

Their BODS was exquisite and their combination spins were also very nicely done. The only problem they had was losing synch in the SBS spins, and they missed their 2nd set of SBS 3toes.

I have to say, though, I love the lifts performed by the teams of Richard Gautier. They all change position at least once in the air, and then they have the most flirtatious exits. The woman is always swinging out or twisting out of the lift. Both these qualities add to the difficulty of the lifts.

Wakamatsu and Fecteau
This is another team that can perform incredible lifts. I think this is the first time that I've seen Gauthier working with a female pair skater who has such incredible flexibility. Wakamatsu is originally from Japan, who discovered that her singles skating is not going to take her to the top of the Japanese National Team. She then moved to Canada and skate pairs with Jean-Sebastien Fecteau. They make such a lovely skating pair because he always treats his partners with such care and grace, and Wakamatsu is so lovely on the ice. Her flexibility allows her to make such nice clean lines in all her poses.

They started off with a Japanese style greeting, and there was not a lot of skating involved. Next, they did crossovers to enter the throw 3salchow. The 3twist was nice, very high, and then they did the SBS 3toe + 2toe combination. That was lovely. At this point, their skating starts to degrade because they are skating very far apart when they enter their SBS 2axels, which he missed. At the midpoint of the program, nothing much happens. They perform a sort of dance, but it's not really skating. Then they pick it up again with a star lift that changes position to a carry lift, and then back to a star lift. The changes of position is very difficult to do, especially if you're going from a regular lift, which requires the man to skate these steps and he makes these revolutions across the ice. When he goes into the carry-position, which does not have steps, he has to change his skating tempo. Then, while most other teams would just end the lift there, Fecteau changes tempo again to resume the revolving steps to complete the lift. All this time, Wakamatsu assumes the nicest positions in the air. She has such lovely extension in her legs down to her toes that it makes the lines so clean and exquisite.

At one point, W/F are performing the BODS and she loses her edge. then they do some SBS spins, and they prove that they can regain their focus after a major mistake. They follow with the BIDS, completing 2 revolutions on the ice, and then a straightline set of footwork. This was really nice. The finale is one of my faves of all time. They go into a lift with her doing the splits, her body stretched forward and her head resting next to her foot. The flexibility on this girl is amazing! Then, just when you're catching your breath at such a lovely sight, she folds out of the split and her body "tumbles" out of his hand and they strike their end pose. It's a ballet pose where her entire body is suspended by her legs, which are clinging to his arm. It's so beautiful!

I'll end my reviews here and I'll return later to write some more.

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