Here are our judges for Rostelecom Cup 2016!
Have been a fan since 1994.
Di L. (@magicaleggrolls) | So You Want to Watch Figure Skating
Sleep-deprived for skating since the 2010 Olympics. I post streaming links and other resources at So You Want to Watch Figure Skating. One time I met Takahiko Kozuka and accidentally touched his armpit.
Emily W. (@Em_Wilmes)
My first live figure skating event was the 1998 World Championships. I have always loved figure skating and still bust out my skates occasionally and attempt a Karen Chen-esque spiral (although I am not as successful as she is). My first foray into publicly sharing my skating opinions came last year, when I was one of USFSA's Fan Bloggers. Now I just tweet, mainly about the fit of the mens' pants (looking at you, Jorik).
J.J. (@RealDetective) | Tumblr
One time Meryl Davis told me happy birthday and another time a security guard told me he took a picture of me and Zach Donohue but he unknowingly never actually pressed the button and I didn't want to ask Zach for another picture. It was all very sad. Except for the Meryl part. Which made being old worth it.
Kara M. (@NamasteRead)
I took lessons from 13-15, but ended up quitting during Freestyle 1 due to lack of finances and talent (ha!), but I've been a fan of figure skating since Katarina Witt skated at the 88 Olympics. I used to practice jumps in my basement in my socks. Sasha Cohen forever!
Tiffany (@TiffLangston) | Tiffany Langston
I met Paul Wylie at #Worlds2016. Really, my life is complete at this moment. Everything else is bonus. Seriously, I've been a skating fan since I watched his Olympic long program in 1992 (I feel so old). Took a bit of a break for a couple of years, came back strong around 2008 (the Evan/Johnny drama was everything) and have enjoyed every minute of being able to communicate with other figure skating fans through social media. (My IRL friends just don't seem to get it.)
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Aiden: All of the mens and ladies, very little ice dance and pairs.
Di: Almost all the ladies and men live, caught up on pairs and dance medalists after.
Emily: I watched all of it, with the exception of like 30 seconds when I dozed off during the ladies' free because I was so. damn. tired.
J.J.: The ladies, the men, the top pairs, Weaver/Poje (so, all of dance.)
Kara: All of it except for the first group of men during the free program.
Tiffany: All of it, though I only got to watch a couple of segments live. Bless whoever puts the British Eurosports videos up on YouTube.
Who had the best performance of the event?
Aiden: Anna Pogorilaya’s FS was my favorite so far this season. It seems her medal at Worlds has really given her the confidence to become a more consistent skater (which is much appreciated as she was scary when she was off). I loved everything about both her programs and can’t wait to see her and Medvedeva compete against each other this season. I think she was scored very appropriately and definitely agree with her winning both skates.
J.J.: I probably actually cried watching Anna Pogorilaya's short program. She was super confident from start to finish, flirted with the audience, understood her music, and her power is outstanding.
Kara: Anna Pogorilaya. She's not my favorite skater (though she is growing on me), but there is no denying her confidence has improved, her jumping skills have improved, and her overall skating skills have improved. She's turned from a skater you just know is going to bomb into a skater you can count on to skate well.
Tiffany: Javier Fernandez's FS was an absolute beat down. I had picked Shoma to win, but am so happy for Javi. Similar to his performance in Boston where he just skated through and stole the crown. While I think a clean Hanyu will still beat a clean Fernandez, I don't think a Hanyu with even 1 mistake will beat a clean Fernandez (which is a departure from previous seasons).
Aiden: The answer was easily Julia Lipnitskaia and then she hurt herself and ended up in last. However, I am sticking with her because her SP was a great improvement and her FS was great up until the injury. It was, at the very least, a glimmer of hope that the great skater from 2014 is still fighting to re-emerge. It was nice to see her jumps and spins at a more consistent, improved level.
Aiden: I thought Zijun Li’s FS was underscored just enough to put her into fourth instead of third. Li’s artistry was beautiful throughout her program which I think should have been enough to put her over Courtney Hicks. Hicks’ jumps got a lot of height, but I think the overall quality of most of Li’s elements exceeded Hicks. I think this may have more to do with personal preference between the two skaters rather than an issue with judging. Li was a little more polished, but Hicks did have six triples to Li’s five.
Di: I'm not sure there were any egregiously underscored performances. The judges were mostly going in the other direction.
Emily: I felt like Weaver/Poje's free dance was underscored, especially PCS. They are engaging to watch and I think this new program is great for them. Their short dance was a little "meh" but I certainly think they should have won the free dance event. Also, #JusticeForZijun
Tiffany: The dance judges have been blessing folks with unreasonably high scores for this point in the season...for everybody except Weaver/Poje. I think both of their dances are really good, though maybe not as smooth and effortless as they will be in a few weeks. I feel like they've been relegated to Shibutani purgatory (that time after you win some World medals where you continue to skate well but don't get respect from the judges). With Tessa & Scott's return, I fear W/P are out of real contention for this Olympic cycle. I don't know if they're planning to compete until 2022, but if they are, some space may open up for them. But at 27 & 29, respectively, I imagine they'll be one of the pairs we see retire after the 2018 Olympics.
Aiden: Overall, it seemed to me that there were no gross overscoring in the mens or ladies. There were a couple programs I personally didn’t think were quite as deserving as the judges - Elena Radionova’s SP and Javi’s components score for his FS - but can understand why the judges would have thought so. With Javi, I think I am just ready to see a different side to his skating but it seems he’s under the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. It seems this season both reigning world champions used very similar programs, just different music.
Out of those skaters and teams who finished in the bottom half of their events, who had the best performance?
Aiden: Deniss Vasiljevs’s free skate was one of my favorite performances of the entire event. I absolutely loved his step sequence and his performance kept me captivated throughout its entirety. I really hope he can continue to develop over the next few seasons as I think he could become one of the best in the years to come.
Kara: Julia Lipnitskaia. It all started out SO well. I have no doubt that if she had not gotten injured, she would have medaled here. Even the free program started out well. Her jumps were clean, fast, and solid. Her spins have always been excellent. The only thing I wish she has is a bit more emotion in her skating this season. Her short program felt a bit lackluster in the interpretation. But the rest of it was stunning to watch.
Tiffany: I don't mean to stick with dance, but I'm so impressed by Pogrebinsky and Benoit. They have performed beautifully in both of their Grand Prix events. I cannot wait to seem them progress.
Aiden: Anna Pogorilaya. In Japan, against Satoko Miyahara on home ice, Anna has the opportunity to win her second Grand Prix assignment, to make it to the finals after not making it the last two seasons, and to further solidify herself as one of the top two Russian ladies. The momentum of a successful Grand Prix season could easily build an even increased confidence for Anna going into Russian Nationals, Europeans and Worlds.
Di: I doubt anyone was expecting Zabiiako/Enbert to win the silver medal here, but they now have a shot at qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. (This entire pairs event was deeply confusing.) Bobrova/Soloviev's unexpected win also puts them in an interesting position heading into the Grand Prix Final. Of course, they were skating in Russia, which no doubt helped their scores considerably, but if they can keep their momentum going, the ice dance standings might see some movement in the near future.
Emily: Let's talk about Alexei Bychenko, shall we? Wow. what an event for him. I think most people (read: me) pretty much wrote him off with fellow Israeli Daniel Samohin coming on to the senior circuit. However, he is proving that may in fact deserve his country's only spot at Worlds. Comparing their scores from their first Grand Prix events of the season, Alexei finished with almost 29 more points. Not bad for someone who is basically 80 in skating years. I think he has a lot to gain at his second Grand Prix event, as continued momentum could carry him into a showdown with Daniel that could lead him to Worlds. Go Alexei!
J.J.: Kaitlyn and Andrew already suffered a huge blow at worlds, so I'd like to think positively and say that they can use the time until Cup of China to regain the inspiration and freedom that I felt their performance/very obvious Morozov program lacked here. Also probably get their levels up.
Kara M: Julia, if she can skate anymore this season. I haven't heard how bad the injury is yet at the time of this writing. For her, the next skate will be Russian Nationals, I believe. Placement is super important for her there if she wants to go to Euros and Worlds, and then start aiming for the Olympics next season. This injury could seriously cost her in the long run and I am incredibly sad about that.
Tiffany: Anna Pogorilaya is running with the momentum she gained at the World Championships this year. A 20-point victory here was telling. On paper, she should most likely win NHK by a comfortable margin as well (though I think the judges at NHK will score Miyahara more favorably than those in Canada). If Pogo wins at NHK, the Grand Prix Final becomes a battle for Russian supremacy. Bring on the popcorn!
Who has the most to lose at their next competition?
Aiden: I would say Elena Radionova and Courtney Hicks seem to have the biggest hurdle of the ladies with a chance of making it to the finals and the most to lose in that sense. Radionova and Hicks will compete against each other in China along with other medal contenders: Ashley Wagner, Kaetlyn Osmond, Mai Mihara & Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (I still never can count her out!) One mistake could be the difference between making it to the finals or not.
Di: It's sad to see a talented team like Weaver/Poje fall in the standings, but their performance at their next Grand Prix event could be the final nail in sealing how the judges regard them this season. They'll want to come back with stronger performances to keep themselves in the conversation.
Emily: I think Max Aaron has a lot riding on this season. He has slowly slipped down the U.S. Men's totem pole, and with the Olympics on the horizon, he is heading in the wrong direction. A strong performance at Cup of China followed by a good showing at Nationals would be beneficial to him. Even if he doesn't make the Worlds team this year, there's a chance he could snag a Olympics spot if the men get that third spot back in Helsinki (see bold predictions below). Also, I just have to mention Max getting called by two judges for a costume violation, presumably for his pants being too tight. God bless him.
J.J.: I'm just going with the obvious. One of the men's competitors, let's call him Aax Maron, needs to set himself apart from the rest of the US men who are all unique in their own way, to get past nationals or a consolation Four Continents spot. Maybe it would help if he can in two weeks somehow blow Boyang Jin and Patrick Chan out of the water, get four more quads, or somehow confound people into thinking he's Adam or Jason for GOE and PCS purposes if his quad sal doesn't regain consistency.
Kara: I'm going to go out on a limb and say Elena Radionova. She skated well here, but it was definitely not her best. With Pogorilaya and Medvedeva currently consistent and on top, she cannot AFFORD to have a bad skate if she wants to stay in the mix with them. I'm a huge fan of hers and I don't want to see this happen, but I'm no longer as confident in her skating as I was before.
Tiffany: Weaver and Poje have to do well at Cup of China in order to have any shot at maintaining rank heading into 4CC and Worlds. They face the Shibs, who have impressed so far. A 2nd place finish for W/P (assuming the Shibs win) may not be enough to get them to the Grand Prix Final, which would be a huge blow since they're the 2x defending champs.
The experts always get to make "bold predictions." Make a bold prediction about something that will happen in the remainder of the season.
Aiden: World Champion Anna Pogorilaya. Not overly bold, but bold enough considering the seemingly unstoppable consistency of Evgenia Medvedeva.
Di: Polina Edmunds will withdraw from US Nationals. Yuzuru Hanyu will go to Four Continents, but won't win. #BOYANGMAN will somehow defend his World bronze medal.
Emily: Virtue/Moir will not win the GPF, or Worlds. The U.S. Men and Pairs will both earn 3 spots for the Olympics (hey, you said be BOLD). Anna will overcome Evgenia and be our new Russian Queen. Ashley Wagner, World Champion.
J.J.: After a wild time machine experiment gone wrong at Grand Prix Final, we see 108 years into the future that Tessa and Scott still have not won the Grand Prix Final and US pairs just forgot to happen at all. Something about a goat too.
Kara: Pogorilaya will win Worlds. I know we all want Ashley Wagner to do well there, but both of Pogo's programs are Worlds caliber, and her training is excellent. Javier Fernandez only gets the bronze at Worlds this year, and he is beaten by both Shoma Uno and Yuzuru Hanyu. Patrick Chan won't even medal.
Tiffany: Bobrova and Soloviev will win Europeans in a stunning upset. Weaver and Poje will finish 3rd at Canadian nationals. Pogorilaya will beat Medvedeva at Euros, but Egvenia will exact her revenge at Worlds. Shoma Uno will beat Hanyu at Japanese nationals, but Hanyu will also have revenge at Worlds. All the men who will make the Euros podium competed at Rostelecom (Fernandez=gold, Kolyada=silver, Bychenko=gold).
This week's optional bonus question is exactly the same as the last two weeks'. I promise we'll get something new next week, you guys. But for now: the ice dancers were given the option to use hip hop in their short dances this year, which is definitely causing some skaters to step out of their comfort zones. What unlikely hip hop song do you want to see in a short dance this year?
Aiden: I'm not a big ice dance follower. However, Having attended Skate America, all I can comment on about the rap is that just because it is a choice it doesn't mean people have to choose it. Some did perform well with the rap, but most of it has come off as cheesy to me.
Emily: Okay.... I have a lot of ~opinions~ about hip hop music and the short dance. First of all, I think it's AMAZING that the ISU included it as an option this year-it provides a fun challenge for the teams and I think it was also a strategy to pull in more fans. However, some teams seem to be using a pretty loose definition of "hip hop," and believe me I have read all of the ISU's guidelines on it. There are certain teams that are using famous songs by beloved POP stars and calling it hip hop (*cough* Canada *cough*). Other teams (the Shibs) have found actual hip hop songs to use, along with actual hip hop choreo (and I thank them for it). With that said, if a team got out there and busted out a step sequence to the Wu Tang Clan's "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" I would cease to exist on this earth entirely and be assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
J.J.: I don't trust any current competitors to time their choreography perfectly out of the silence into Nate Dogg's line "smoke weed every day" in The Next Episode by Dr. Dre but that would set a short dance apart for me. They would certainly get a deduction and have to change this program immediately but #ART. In lieu of that, somebody (zach) should scrap their short dance and figure out how to use Differences by Ginuwine.
Kara: LOL. So many. Hip Hop Is Dead by Nas, California Love by Tupac, Gin and Juice by Snoop Dog, Mo Money Mo Problems, I mean why not take it way back and jam all the WAY out?
Tiffany: I would love somebody to skate to "Changes" by Tupac. I think you could actually make quite a nice dance out of it, as it's a bit slower and more lyrical.
Anything else to add about this event?
Aiden: I can’t discuss the event without at least mentioning Alexander Majorov’s bloody nose. Too bad it didn’t happen last weekend for Halloween. He fought through it, though! And that was a LOT of blood. I give him a lot of credit for being able to finish - one-handed!
Di: I'm still not over Gordei Gorshkov dressing as a literal wall. (On a more serious note, I wish Julia Lipnitskaia hadn't tried to finish her free skate after injuring herself partway through. Wishing her a speedy recovery, but hoping she won't push herself too hard.)
Emily: Alright, I was going to talk about Julia in the "who has the most to lose" section but that seemed a little harsh. It was heartbreaking to watch her during the free skate. It's hard to see any skater struggling, whether it's physical or mental. I hope she can recover and get back to skating like the little Russian superstar we fell in love with. Hats off to Alexander Majorov for pushing through a nasty bloody nose and completing his entire free program. I also appreciated that he plugged his nose during his step sequence and spins to avoid splattering blood all over the ice. Shoutout to the Russian men for their unwavering commitment to truly ridiculous shirts.
J.J.: I will go down swinging with Alexei Rogonov's medal and double sals, he is the only pairs skater that matters until I argue that Marissa Castelli was robbed next week. Not eating it on a twist probably helped, too.
Kara: The pairs even was the most "zzzzzzzz" of the whole thing which is why I have not said anything about it. The only programs I remember are Savchenko/Massot and Marchei/Hotarek. The rest of them were completely unmemorable.
Tiffany: The judging on a whole wasn't nearly as atrocious as Skate Canada, so that's something?
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