Friday, February 29, 2008

Walking In, Olympic Champion

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Genius of Sandra Bezic

Back when figure skating was under the 6.0 system, real artistry was able to be performed by the best skaters in the world. Today, most programs are choreographed by Lori Nichol, David Wilson, Tom Dickson and Nikolai Morozov. Unfortunately, skating is missing the choreographic genius of one of the world's finest choreographers.

In a world cluttered by GOE, downgrades, PCS and TES, skating might just be moving away from what made it popular in the first place: the emotional connection of movement to music. Programs used to be able to tell stories and transport viewers from their living rooms onto the ice.

Her work has shaped figure skating immeasurably and is greatly missed by those who continue to struggle with seeing the rationale behind decisions made by the ISU.

Remember when it was about skating?

The work:

Katarina Witt

Lu Chen

Kurt Browning

To Be Continued...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Random Videos

Fluff about how Brian Wells came to skate with Shelby Lyons:

A look back at Russian pairs throughout history---from the 1992 Olympics.

Isabelle Duschenay was a piece of work!

The performance that won Meno and Sand their first world medal:

Midori Ito's encore from the 1992 Olympics Gala:

Kristi's first exhibition performance paid homage to Edith Piaf:

A 90's version of "Yankee Doodle Dandy"

Traci Wilson interviews Kristi backstage.

Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wylie skated a special exhibition together at the gala:

A cute interview with Wylie and Kerrigan:

Tonya Harding's first attempt at skating her long program at the 1994 Olympics.

Her second attempt.

Nicole Bobek did her part to keep the USFSA on edge.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Men's Winter Cup

Paul Hamm began his comeback effort with a strong performance at the Winter Cup last night. Hamm displayed readiness to compete with the best in the world and may be able to challenge for the Olympic All-Around title if he continues to improve over the next few months. The American Cup will be his first international competition since the 2004 Olympic Games. This is a welcome development for the USAG men's program who desperately needs Hamm if they hope to challenge for a spot on the podium. With a few more months of training and the opportunity to fine tune his sets at Nationals and the Olympic Trials, Hamm could challenge for several individual medals in Beijing.

Paul Hamm's scores:

Floor Exercise: 16.000
(1st Place)
Pommel Horse: 14.350 (Tied for 6th Place)Paul made a few errors, but is capable of contending for a spot in the event finals.
Rings: 15.550 (3rd Place) This event is where Paul has made the most improvement. Rings have never been his best event, but his extra strength training is paying off. Hamm could add considerable tenths to the USA's team total.
Vault: 16.300 (2nd Place) This is another event where's Hamm's score could boost the team total.
Parallel Bars: 15.250 (2nd Place)
High Bar: 15.350 (2nd Place) This is another event where Paul will really make a difference.
AA: 92.800 (1st Place)

The biggest surprise of the meet was the strong performance of Raj Bhavsar. If Bhavsar can hit again in the finals, the selection committee will have to consider naming him to the Olympic Team. Bhavsar's scores could help the USA be much more competitive in Beijing.

FX: 13.500 (33rd-Tie)
PH: 14.550 (3rd Place)
Rings: 15.800 (2nd Place)
Vault: 16.250 (3rd Place)
Parallel Bars: 15.200 (3rd Place)
High Bar: 13.700 (28th Place)
AA: 89.000 (2nd Place)

Sasha Artemev was 3rd overall with an 88.900. His best performances came on pommel horse - 15.150 (Tied for 1st Place) and on parallel bars with a 15.150 (4th).

David Durante failed to finish in the top five on any apparatus, while Guillero Alvarez was only able to muster a fourth place finish on pommel horse with a 14.450.

Blaine Wilson's return to competition was successful. Wilson competed on four events and recorded a sixth place finish on rings (15.150) and a fourth place finish on vault (16.200). The five-time national champion also tied for seventh on high bar with a 14.600 and tied for fourteenth on floor (14.350) after stepping out of bounds.

Other notable performances:

Kevin Tan: (4 events only)
PH: 13.650 (Tied for 14th)
RG: 16.350 (1st)
PB: 14.950 (Tied for 7th)
HB: 15.000 (3rd)

Jonathon Horton: (4 events only)
PH: 11.450 (Tied for 60th)
RG: 15.400 (4th)
PB: 14.750 (9th)
HB: 14.850 (4th)

Complete results available:

Although the scores are likely inflated, the 2008 Winter Cup scores present interesting new lineup possibilities for the Olympic Games. With Morgan Hamm, Sean Golden and Justin Spring added to the mix, the Olympic Trials will be infinitely more competitive.

The USA Men's scores from the 2007 World Championships.

Team Finals:
G. Alvarez: 15.600 FX, 15.600 VT
A. Artemev: 14.775 PH, 15.600 VT, 15.500 PB, 13.750 HB
D. Durante: 14.225 PH, 13.575 HB
S. Golden: 15.575 FX, 15.375 RG, 16.100 VT
J. Horton: 15.625 FX, 15.150 RG, 15.400 PB, 14.875 HB
K. Tan: 14.525 PH, 15.825 RG, 15.200 PB

Scores By Gymnast:
Jonathon Horton
Team Prelims: 15.475 FX, 14.150 PH, 15.325 RG, 15.375 VT, 15.500 PB, 15.075 HB
Team Finals: 15.625 FX, 15.150 RG, 15.400 PB, 14.875 HB
All-Around: 15.625 FX, 13.975 PH, 15.250 RG, 16.075 VT, 15.450 PB, 14.825 HB

Alexander Artemev
Team Prelims: 14.750 FX, 15.375 PH, 15.950 VT, 15.400 PB, 14.825 HB
Team Finals: 14.775 PH, 15.600 VT, 15.500 PB, 14.875 HB
Event Finals: 15.175 PH (6th)

Kevin Tan
Team Prelims: 14.575 PH, 16.050 RG, 15.300 PB, 12.825 HB
Team Finals: 14.525 PH, 15.825 RG, 15.200 PB
Event Finals: 16.325 RG (4th)

Guillermo Alvarez
Team Prelims: 15.700 FX, 13.500 PH, 14.650 RG, 15.650 VT, 14.675 PB, 14.000 HB
Team Finals: 15.600 FX, 15.600 VT
Event Finals: 15.600 FX (4th)

Sean Golden
Team Prelims: 15.200 FX, 15.225 RG, 16.000 VT
Team Finals: 15.575 FX, 15.375 RG, 16.100 VT

Dave Durante
Team Prelims: 14.225 FX, 14.500 PH, 14.625 RG, 16.625 VT, 15.075 PB, 14.625 HB
Team Finals: 14.225 PH, 13.575 HB
All-Around: 13.700 FX, 14.750 PH, 14.875 RG, 15.725 VT, 15.300 PB, 14.475 HB

With Paul Hamm, Raj Bhavsar, Blaine Wilson, Justin Spring and Morgan Hamm back in the picture, it is likely that many members of the 2007 World Team will not be named to the Olympic Squad. Most at risk are Dave Durante and Sean Golden. Durante does not offer any usable scores for team finals and Golden's scores are easily replaceable by Morgan Hamm and/or Justin Spring.

The Germans finished in third place at worlds with a team total of 273.525, while the USA was fourth with a 272.275. Replacing Durante with Paul Hamm could make up most of the gap between the two teams.

This is how the Americans would've done with Paul Hamm competing in place of Dave Durante and Raj Bhavsar competing in place of Sean Golden.

Note: One tenth has been subtracted from each score earned at the Winter Cup in order to account for inflation. The World Championships scores are used for the gymnasts who competed at both the Winter Cup and the World Championships.

For this scenario, Horton has been pulled from rings and Artemev has been pulled from vault.

P. Hamm: 15.900 FX, 14.250 PH, 15.450 RG, 16.200 VT, 15.150 PB, 15.250 HB
J. Horton: 15.625 FX, 15.400 PB, 14.875 HB
S. Artemev: 14.775 PH, 15.500 PB, 14.875 HB
K. Tan: 15.825 RG
R. Bhavsar: 14.450 PH, 15.700 RG, 16.150 VT
G. Alvarez: 15.600 FX 15.600 VT
Team Totals: 47.125 FX, 43.475 PH, 46.975 RG, 47.950 VT, 46.050 PB, 45.000 HB
Difference: + 0.325 FX, -0.050 PH, +0.625 RG, +0.650 VT, -0.050 PB, +2.800 HB

Conclusion: The USA is in good shape to challenge for a medal. These scores would have the USA competitive with Japan, which is probably overly-optimistic. This could prove to be legitimate in sixth months if Morgan Hamm and/or Justin Spring are up to full speed. In that case, Kevin Tan's comparative advantage on rings may not be enough to name him to the team. Guillermo Alvarez's prowess on floor could also be jeopardized with both Hamm's competing. It is too bad that Paul and Morgan took time off; both had the goods to earn fistfuls of gold, silver and bronze at the last three world championships.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Great Rivalry

Kristi Yamaguchi could give Kimmie Meissner useful advice about handling criticism from the press. The press moved Yamaguchi to focus solely on singles, much the same way they have pushed Meissner to make a coaching change.

The press had a field day when Yamaguchi lost two competitions during the fall of 1991. Both Tonya Harding and Midori Ito beat Yamaguchi with performances that included strong Triple Axels. The two losses only causes Yamaguchi to work even harder, leading her to the top step on the Olympic podium.

Shortly after splitting with Rudy Galindo, Yamaguchi scored a big win over Ito at the 1990 Skate America International. (She even lands a Triple Salchow!)

Ito couldn't match Yamaguchi's balanced program.

The 1991 Nationals were supposed to catapult Kristi Yamaguchi into the 1991 Worlds as the reigning US Champion. Yamaguchi lost the event 7-2 after Harding (who skated to Batman) landed a Triple Axel.

Tonya's shining moment:

The Triple Axel wasn't enough for Tonya to win the 1991 Worlds.

After having two throat surgeries leading up to the World Championships, Midori Ito's season was best characterized by her short program in Munich.

Ito's loss of confidence was obvious during her long program.

Yamaguchi's loss at Nationals fueled a fantastic performance in Munich.

Yamaguchi tried her best, but was unable to get a Triple Axel in time.

Ito made changes after Munich and was peaking for the 1992 Olympics.

Yamaguchi's Triple Salchow continued to plague her as she entered the final stretch.

Ito scored a critical victory in Paris. The press assumed the Olympics would be a showdown between Ito and Harding. Whoever landed the Triple Axel was supposed to win the Olympics.

Yamaguchi fought back at the 1992 US Nationals and finally won a title the senior ladies event.

Midori Ito seemed unstoppable when she first arrived at the Olympics.

Yamaguchi was a picture of consistency during her Olympic practice sessions. Practicing in Megeve helped her avoid the heat of the press. When she returned, it was apparent that there would be a showdown between the "athlete" and the "artist" for Olympic Gold.

The draw for the short program.

Under immense pressure, Ito's final practices rattled her nerves. Bonaly's controversial practice furthered Ito's downward spiral.

Disaster Strikes.

Harding actually landed her Triple Axel during the warm-up.

Harding took a risk and wound up two spots behind Ito.

The pressure was affecting the entire field on the night of the long program.

Yamaguchi nearly locked up the gold medal with this long program victory. It would've taken superb efforts from Ito and Harding to overcome her lead entering the long program.

Ito fought for her long program and turned her luck around. The last 90 seconds of her program created a frenzy.

It was all too overwhelming for Laetitia Hubert. A strong short program found her in the unexpected position of challenging for a medal in front of her home crowd. She would forever be coined "the human zamboni" by skating fans.

Ito was relieved for the competition to finally be over.

Kristi backed up her gold medal by winning the world championships. She is the last female Olympic Champion to defend her title at the following world championships.

Her winning ways continued as a professional. Yamaguchi was undefeated in 1992.

Ito would eventually rain on Yamaguchi's professional party.

Kristi did not like losing her world professional crown. She returned determined to regain her thrown.

It appeared that Ito would ruin Yamaguchi's party again.

Yamaguchi unleashed her newfound fierce sex appeal.

With a bevy of prize money available in the many pro competitions, Yamaguchi was well prepared for 1994-1995 and her earnings continue to increase three years after winning her Olympic title.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Oksana Baiul fluff from the 1998 World Pros.

Mishkutionok and Dmitriev's command performance from the 1994 Olympics.

Nicole Bobek fluff from the 1995 World Championships.

The infamous "Dragon Lady" fluff.

Kristi Yamaguchi fluff from the 1996 US Pro Figure Skating Championships.

This and That

News continues to pick up as just six months remain until the summer games.

1. Three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Maurice Greene announced his retirement from track and field. Injured will prevent Greene from challenging for another Olympic Gold in the 100 meters. Greene, the 2000 Olympic Champion in the 100m, will now focus his attention on coaching and various business efforts.

2. Valentine Piacentini, Italy's former #1 table tennis player, has been banned for 20 months (effective last June) for testing positive for cocaine at the Italian Championships. This marks yet another doping scandal to rock the sports world this year.

3.The USA's Tyson Gay guarantees that he will be substance free when her attempts to be the first man since Carl Lewis to win Olympic Gold in both the 100 and 200 meter races. It is a sad moment for the sports world when an athlete has to vow to be substance free.

4. The Beijing Olympic committee is currently testing x-ray machines in two of its subway stations. If the machines are successful, the committee hopes to boost their anti-terrorism efforts by installing the machines throughout every subway station in the city.

5. Although he split from his longtime coach last month, 24-year-old Jeremy Wariner vows to break Michael Johnson's 400m record of 43.18 seconds by or before the summer games. Johnson is Wariner's agent and mentor.

6. Fresh on the heels of media speculation that she should make an immediate coaching change, Kimmie Meissner has left coach Pam Gregory to train for Richard Callaghan in Ft. Lauderdale for the next six weeks. It is undecided whether this is a temporary or permanent switch. Callaghan is a known task master and pushed Todd Eldredge, Tara Lipinski and Nicole Bobek to the best form of their careers. Meissner hopes to rebound from a rough season and earn a medal at next month's World Figure Skating Championships. The USFSA is counting on Meissner to deliver a strong performance in order to assure that the USA will have three ladies eligible to compete at the 2009 World Championships. Meissner, the 2007 National Champion, finished 6th out of 6 skaters at the Grand Prix Final and then tumbled to seventh at last week's United States Figure Skating Championships.

7. Mattie Larson, last month's USOC Athlete of the Month, finished first on floor (15.350) and second on balance beam (15.400) at this past weekend's WOGA Classic. Larson's scores are solid, but the new senior competitor will need to improve those scores by a few tenths if she hopes to sway the selection committee to name her to the Olympic Team. Larson decided to remain a junior international elite in 2007, forgoing a chance to qualify for the 2007 World Championships. If Larson is to make a bid for the Olympic Team, it would be extremely beneficial for the AOGC gymnast to be named to the Pacific Alliance squad. The 2007 Jr. Pan American Games currently rank as Larson's biggest international event.

Friday, February 1, 2008

This and That

As the games approach, athletes are beginning to make their mark in 2008.

1. This week's national team training camp saw a lot of athletes competing upgraded routines. Shawn Johnson showed her Amanar on vault (2 1/2 Twisting Yurchenko), while Shayla Worley and Nastia Liukin are now performing double twisting yurchenkos. Vault will play a key part in distancing the team from the Chinese during team finals. Peszek is also said to be training an Amanar, while Jana Bieger showed a tucked rudi on vault. Jana's full twisting double layout is now consistent on floor, improving her A score and her chances to make the 2008 squad. Mattie Larson continues to improve and could peak just in time for the Olympic Trials. It is rumored that Peszek will be the 4th American competing at the American Cup. This is a plum assignment, but she will face tough competition from Worley, Johnson and Liukin.

2. Johnny Weir officially withdrew from the Four Continents Championships. Weir will use the time to make sure he is maximizing his levels and point totals. Don't be shocked if Weir has a Quad Toe in the short program at Worlds. Weir could also be ready to unveil a Quad Salchow at Worlds. If Weir is able to perform a Quad Toe+Triple Toe in the short program, he will have the ability to achieve a significant lead with his high PCS scores.

3. Jeremy Wariner, the reigning World and Olympic Champion in the 400 meters, split with longtime coach Clyde Hart. The split was due to an inability to reach a contractual agreement over Hart's salary. Hart claims Wariner wanted him to take a cut in pay, despite his salary being higher than most coaches. Wariner's agent, Michael Johnson, says the split shouldn't affect Wariner and feels his client is still on track to repeat as Olympic Champion.

4. Michael Phelps returned to competition last weekend and won 5 of the 6 events he entered (he entered the 6th event, the 50m freestyle 'just for fun') after breaking his wrist two months ago. Phelps claims the injury was just what he needed to be motivated to take his training up a notch. Phelps' efforts last weekend are significant because they are faster than the results he achieved at the same event last year. Ian Thorpe's recent statements may fuel Phelps even further. Thorpe feels there is "no chance" Phelps can break Mark Spitz's record of seven Olympic Gold Medals. Phelps and two training partners recently spent three weeks training at high altitude.

5. Amanda Beard also competed last weekend and nabbed a bronze medal. Beard hasn't competed much since 2004, but expects to be ready by Olympic Trials. NBC Olympics posted an extensive interview with Beard.