Here we go with part two of my pairs skating coverage from the 2017 Rostelecom Cup. I am really digging getting back into skating. I’m also digging my big glass of red wine, but hey, the two are not mutually exclusive. You’re probably not curious, but in case you are, this is what I do when the hubby’s at work. Eat mayonnaise on everything, drink red wine, listen to Ellie Goulding, and watch figure skating. If the hubby were home, we’d be watching Dexter. Not sure what this says about us, so let’s move on.
If you missed the short program, click here. If you’re caught up, let’s dive into the long program. Shit, they call this the free skate now, don’t they? I need to get with the times. If you’d like to follow along, here’s the video I watched on YouTube. The commentary is in Spanish, which I find amusing. Salchow is salchow in any language.
Pairs Free Skate
Sumire Suto & Francis Boudreau-Audet | Japan
- Oh, shit, a Beatles medley. I will not hold it against them. I will not hold it against them.
- Hmm. Very traditional outfits here – navy and high-necked and sparkly. I would have liked to see something a bit more casual with a Beatles medley. Wait a second, this is a weird Moulin-Rouge-style uber-dramatic Beatles cover medley. I wonder if this is a trend this year – first we had the Tears for Fears cover in the short program, now this.
- Yikes, there was a bit of a collision on the split triple twist there. The Spanish lady commentating didn’t seem to think it was a problem, though, so maybe I’m over-interpreting.
- She doubled her jump on the side-by-side triples. Got the throw though, at a dramatic point in the music. Good for her!
- Whoa, that lift looked like it went really wrong. He didn’t get his elbows locked and she was just kind of perched over his head. Did that look off to you guys, too? Again, the Spanish commentator lady didn’t say anything, so maybe it only looks wrong to me.
- Okay, that was a nice touch – an ice-dance-style straightline lift where she’s standing tall above him like a figurehead. When she comes down, they lock hands and go straight into a throw, which she held onto with a hand down.
- Is that a smile I see on her face? Is she the Beatles fan? She’s really cute.
- Okay, this is the kind of death spiral I’m not a fan of – right leg high and left leg bent rather than straight. No me gusta.
- Wow, that’s some surprisingly good unison on the side-by-side spins. So many couples are off – it’s nice to see them nail it.
- It was totally obvious choreography, but I smiled when she placed her hand in his as the lyrics said “I wanna hold your hand.”
- The Spanish commentator lady thinks they did mucho mejor que something. This is where it really helps to know nouns.
Technical elements: 39.14
Did they get rocked on the technical or did the judges really like the presentation? With the bobbles on the jumps and the lift, I’m guessing they got really rocked on the technical. These two remind me a little of Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen from back in the day. Both really good skaters, but I never had a strong sense of their personal style. I hope these guys can develop that more as they get better and better.
Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran | USA
- Ooh, her dress is mauve and sparkly. I dig it. And they clasped hands in a little show of encouragement before taking their starting positions. Say it with me now…awww.
- They’re skating to “Woman” by Shawn Phillips. Not familiar. We’ll have to see how this plays out. Remember their disastrous music choice in the short.
- Really good speed, you guys. And a nice split triple twist. Bonus points for the high kicks on the way in. And by “bonus points,” I mean in my imaginary scorebook. Doubt the judges reward it.
- Erm, those were double toes instead of triple toes.
- This is a nice lift – oh crap, now we have the splits-over-the-head thing. Really, guys? Really?
- Wow, she held that throw – “salvado,” said the commentator. Saved it. I understand that much Spanish at least.
- Good unison on the pairs spin.
- I’m not sure I’m digging this song. It’s meant to be soft, but the voice is jarring in parts. One second it’s super deep, then it’s a little shrill. It’s hard to explain. Just watch and see what you think.
- Wow, they’re all over the place with these second side-by-side jumps this time. Yikes.
- Man, she hung onto that second throw, too. She’s fighting for it.
- She’s doing the look-pained-as-a-visible-form-of-emoting thing, but it’s not as over-the-top as the Italians in the short. I’ll allow it. It is figure skating, after all.
- Very nice position in the last lift! The catchfoot thing actually works here, I think.
- Holy shit, that was the most creative death spiral entrance I’ve ever seen. She skated around him and leaned backward, further than I thought she would, and almost further than I thought she could maintain, as if she were going into the death spiral on her own. Then they caught each other’s hands and went into the traditional death spiral. Wow. Just when you think it’s the same every time…
- They were a teensy bit off the music at the end, but nice energy throughout and good speed. Yay!
Technical elements: 57.54
Just like the first couple, they got a little rocked on the technical because of the boo-boos. I think these two would be helped IMMENSELY by different music choices. They have speed and flow and these weird song choices are not playing to their strengths, like, at all. Maybe a pulsing sci-fi or thriller movie soundtrack or something. Techno seems too obvious. Get something orchestral but with a strong beat behind it, and I think they’ll really have something.
Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer | Austria
- Ooh, that’s a very nice sparkly navy dress for her! Like the deep side slits on the bodice. Not wild about his sparkly shirt, though. That’s just weird and untucked. This is skating, though. The dudes’ outfits are always pretty rough.
- Nailed those triple salchows.
- They’re skating to an orchestral version of “Yellow” by Coldplay. I really love this song. It totally works without the vocals.
- Dang, that split triple twist was almost lateral. Was it meant to be that way? I can’t tell.
- They nailed that second set of side by side jumps. Yeah, baby! [Update: during the replay, you could see he didn’t do the third jump in the sequence until he saw her start to do it. Miscommunication?]
- OMG, you guys, this song is so great orchestrally. I’m loving the way it’s soft but with plenty of build and volume. It sounds like I’m talking about hair, but I’m not.
- Wow, look at that back entrance to the hand-to-hand press lift – super hard. You can see them prepare it for a bit too long, but dang, I’ll give ’em a two-count because it looks hard as hell. Oh, honey, no, why the splits-over-the-head thing? Et tu, Austria? It’s okay, I still love you.
- She’s on fire tonight – nailed that throw triple flip! At least I think it was a triple flip. Where’s the commentator when you need her?
- Here’s another interesting way to enter the death spiral – with a shoot-the-duck entrance. I’d forgotten about this particular entrance. It’s not my favorite, but she made it work by getting really low on the knees.
- Music has shifted now – we have a female vocal cover of “Fix You.” Please don’t be some terrible version that ruins the gorgeous mood of “Yellow.”
- Nice unison on their side-by-side spins. Wow, they held that final sit spin for quite a few rotations. Impressive.
- You know, I really love a good flip-out dismount from a classic overhead lift.
- Oh, wow, that throw was fantastic with the music! Spot on.
- I love the way it looks like she’s hugging him in their pair spin. These two are super cute. I’m a fan.
Technical elements: 57.49
This leaves them in second place, with, like, everyone else left to skate. I would have put them ahead of Castelli & Tran, but that’s just me. I really like this couple. Their programs had a similar sound and feel, which works for them. They were both lyrical covers, and where a shitty cover can break you, good ones can lift you up. I’d like to see what else they can bring, but for Olympic season, these are super solid programs.
Julianne Seguin & Charlie Bilodeau | Canada
- They’re skating to “Where’s My Love?” by Syml. I am not familiar. Let’s see how this goes. Okay, a few notes in and it’s a piano ballad. They already had the slow, eerie Lorde cover in the short program. Is it showing enough depth to do another slow song?
- That was a pretty high split triple twist. I like it.
- They didn’t do so well on the side-by-side triple jumps. His timing is off.
- That was a nice lift, mostly because there were no splits-over-the-head.
- Damn, he stumbled again on the second set of side-by-side jumps. Calm down, dude. You got this.
- There’s one of the death spiral variations I’m not too keen on – the one with a leg raised. I’m sure it’s required to hit an edge or something, but it’s just not pretty visually.
- Aw, that was a nice sequence. It was just a couple of connecting moves where he picked her up and set her down and picked her up again and set her down. No throws, no lifts, just a little motion and connection, but it looked tender.
- Holy crap, that was a cool entrance. He did a spreadeagle and then picked her up for an overhead lift. That looked amazing. SHIT, you guys, she slipped coming out of that. Could have been bad. Wow. Her heart must be racing!
- Nope. Heart not racing. She is one cool customer because she just landed the throw triple loop. She’s a fighter.
- I really like the choreography here. It’s subtle, and maybe not complex enough to do battle with the Russians, but come on…look at him brush his long hair out of his face. Is it choreography or just him? It fits either way, which I guess means stylistically this is spot-on for them.
- Look how long they held that last lift in the air. They traveled pretty far across the ice, waiting for the right beat of the music for him to plunk her down. Again, a nice choreographic touch.
Technical elements: 57.69
They’re currently in first place, with all the Russians and the Italians yet to come. I like this piece. It made me like them together more than I did with the Lorde program. That one was just…distracting. This suited them better. It emphasized their connection better, too. If I were their coach, I’d try to go with a fast song for their short program. Really punch up the speed and the athleticism, and then keep this more lyrical side under wraps until the free skate.
Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek | Italy
- I think they’re doing what Seguin & Bilodeau did, which is use the same mood and feel for both programs. In the short, they did a character piece with lots of facial expression and overacting. It can work, but it’s tough. Look at the opening pose above. You can guess what we’re in for. It could still work, but part of me is, like, ugh, didn’t we already do this?
- The music is “Amarcord” by Nino Rota.
- That was a pretty darn good split triple twist. She rotates really fast in the air.
- She’s got a nice line. Not quite as polished as the Russians, what with the pointed fingertips and all, but I’d really like to see a different style from them. You know. For shits and giggles.
- Oh, man, she fell on the side-by-side triple toes.
- But she nailed the second side-by-side jumping pass! Good for her.
- And now she nailed the next throw. After that initial fall, she’s nailing.
- Okay, pantomiming isn’t all they’re doing for presentation, is it? They’ve got some speed and some technical chops, but dude, I really want to see more from them.
- Not very good synchronization on on the pair spins. The Spanish commentator lady said something to that effect.
- Well, okay, her character pretending to step on his character’s foot is pretty cute.
- That was a nice leg position for her in that press lift. That was a pretty good lift sequence overall. No splits over the head. Phew.
- And that was a nice connecting move after a tabletop lift there. She stood on his leg as a visual midpoint between lift-up and lift-down. A nice touch of choreography. Someone was thinking.
- Damn, another triple throw nailed. She’s on fire.
- They finished a few beats off the music, which is tough when you’re posing. It looks a little silly when you strike a pose and it’s already over. Such is the danger of posing.
Technical elements: 62.70
That’s good enough for first place; however, I’m not wild about this placement. I think the Canadians should have it. True, she hit her throws like no one’s business, but she had a fall and the style just isn’t there for me. At least not after the short, where we saw everything already. I think there’s more depth here, but someone’s falling asleep at the wheel when it comes to music and design.
Kristina Astakhova & Alexei Rogonov | Russia
- Oh, oh, oh, her yellow dress is so pretty! I can’t even. That’s a really good color on her.
- They’re skating to music from La La Land. My gut reaction? Ugh. We’ll see if they can help me overcome that.
- Good side-by-side jumps, though.
- A few happy hand raises and hip twists timed to the swing music. It’s almost pantomiming, but not quite.
- Wow, that was a spectacular split triple twist. You go, guys. Also nice side-by-side triple salchows.
- And a really good lasso lift (I think that’s what it’s called). They did a sort of extended dismount where he catches her leg. That’s a nice touch. Milk that move for all it’s worth. I approve.
- I’m just not wild about this music. To use a metaphor, I feel like they’re trading on a currency that’s not valid in this country. La La Land has color-saturated rich visual backgrounds that give it a magic feeling. Here, we have Russian ads on the baseboards. It’s just not translating the way it does in an immersive movie experience. So the mood is getting lost for me and it’s not sucking me into their performance.
- That was a great connecting move where she does the splits and he lays her over his leg. See? I’m all for moves that have the splits, as long as the crotch visibility factor is kept to a minimum. Let’s refer to this as CVF, shall we?
- Two throws – one where she hung on and one where she two-footed.
- Ooh, he did a catchfoot on the way into a death spiral. Never seen that before.
MINI RANT: Okay, they just did something that irritates me a bit. When you move half a second faster than your music and the slow section is about to switch to a fast section, JUST WAIT before adopting the big smile and jazz hands of the fast section. I know that’s how you’ve rehearsed it and you’re probably relying on muscle memory right now, but that half second makes you look silly. All I hear is the last note of the slow section, but you’re already smiling and emoting like its carnival in Rio.
- The final pair spin is slow, but the music is crescendo-ing. The speed will probably improve over the season as they get more familiar with the program and iron out the kinks.
Technical elements: 67.46
Yep, that’s enough for first by a pretty good margin over the Italians. Although I wasn’t wild about the theme, I still really like their line and their overall look. Some really good connecting moves here, and I’m a fan of their lifts and triple twist. Really, the only problem I had was the music choice. Their execution was great.
Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov | Russia
- Everyone’s favorite man-bun is back! Man, every time I see these two I just want to keep looking. They’re so visually striking.
- They’re skating to Carmen, which explains the black and red outfits. But look at the stark simplicity of her dress. And note the fact that HE’S NOT WEARING GOLD BRAID. OMG, this is such a step forward. When was the last time someone skated to Carmen or a toreador-inspired piece and did not wear either a bolero jacket or gold braid? I feel like they should get an extra point just for their admirable costume restraint. Can someone please make that happen?
- That was a good split triple twist, but yikes, she fell out of that throw triple flip.
- These two skate with the most unison of all the couples. I don’t know how they do it, or how long they’ve been together. But so many of their movements, from strokes to the extension when they hold out their arms, is in unison. Hats off to these two for that.
- Eek, now she fell on the side-by-side jumps. One of those awkward falls, too, where you think she might save it and then, nope, her foot goes out from under her. Hang in there, lady.
- This is Carmen, so you have to expect this, but I could do without the repetition of the hands-sliding-down-her-sides-to-convey-sexuality. You know, in case you didn’t already know Carmen was kind of a hooker. You’re already wearing a skintight dress, honey. We get it. It’s the choreographer I have the issue with, not her, but you get my drift.
- That was a beautiful back press lift. Not super crazy about the bent leg part of the lift. Something about the leg angle just looks off, inelegant, to me.
- Oh, check that leg extension from a deep-knee bend as she goes into that death spiral. Me likey.
- Shit, that’s a really really nice rotational life that went straightline for a few beats before going rotational again. Mixing it up. I like it. Shit, that’s another neat-o lift! She did a cartwheel and then he lifted her up. Super cool.
- Oh, man, she fell on that last throw. That’s rough, especially in front of a home crowd. Here’s the good news. They finished, and he’s laughing and smiling. He’s trying to comfort her instead of being pissed. I like that. She looks like she’s in shock, but he seems totally chill. I think I would like this dude in real life. He just has a gentle, comforting air about him.
Technical elements: 62.23
This puts them in first place. Wow, their presentation mark is 8 points higher than the last couple. I get it, though. These guys just have something. I get the sense that they work really hard together, but that they don’t like each other much. I don’t get a sense of real emotion between them, but they’re both so good they can fake it. I’m finished being Freud now. We can move on.
Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov | Russia
- Look at her dress! More yellow! The polka dots are super cute. I wonder what they’re skating to.
- OH HOLY JESUS, TELL ME IT’S NOT TRUE. “Candyman” by Christina Aguilera? Are you fucking kidding me? In an Olympic year? I will shit twice and die if this program wins the Olympics.
- Oh, man, you guys, this is stylistically terrible. If they wanted a ’40s jazz feel, why not just do “Bei Mir Bist du Schoen”? This is just a shitty rip-off of “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy.”
- That was the biggest split triple twist EVER. Call Guiness. Apparently the shittiness of the music has not affected their ability to kick ass. I mean, look. These two barely fit in the same frame when I took a screenshot.
- This song is destroying any style they have. I can’t take them seriously while this music is playing.
- Wow. That throw was un-fucking-believable. She flew. And the landing was so smooth and secure. Mad props to her knees.
- Fantastic side-by-side triple/double/double toes. They are really bringing it technically. If only I didn’t want to stab my own ears with a pencil.
- And here we go with a lift that’s technically very good, but has splits-over-the-head and thus a high CVF.
- The music has now shifted. We’ve gone from Xtina to a male vocal cover of “Fever.” Our situation has not improved. Who put this together? Did no one say, hmm, this…how do I put it…does not flatter them at all?
- I’m serious. The style game is weak in this program. The connecting moves aren’t there because the music isn’t giving them anything to work with.
- Those were pretty good side-by-side spins.
- Another music change. Another jazzy female vocal. Kelly Clarkson? More Xtina? Who knows, but it’s bad. This is way too jumbled. Are we doing modern-sounding covers? Are we keeping it old school? I’m so confused. This is not blending well. Remember those “Will it blend?” videos. This does not blend.
- Now we have a song that may or may not be Elvis. There are way too many tempo, time period, and song changes. It’s literally destroying my ability to watch the program. And also my will to live. It’s that bad. They call this a free skate, but this demonstrates the inherent peril of freedom. You are free to fuck up.
- They finished way too far off the music. Ugh. This is a hot mess. I love her dress. She is so freaking cute. And they kick ass technically. But I am not going to enjoy watching this program all year. Please, for the love of God, someone, find their coach and do something to fix this. They deserve better.
Technical elements: 73.79
That’s a monster score, and technically well deserved. I have no idea why the judges rewarded them with this presentation mark. The program felt disconnected and forced. It had weak choreography and few connecting moves of any interest. For my money, their jumps and throws are out of this world but the choreography of Stolbova and Klimov is far more entertaining and difficult. But what do I know? I’m just a drunk American spectator.