Here are the judges for Skate America!
Mara B. (@missmaraskate)
I started out as purely an ice dance fan, after watching Davis/White on DWTS. Gradually, I was introduced to the other disciplines, and I've found myself enjoying all of them. I've never been to a live event...hopefully that will change eventually (hi Skate America 2017!).
Margaret D. | Tumblr
Like a lot of people, I became a figure skating fan during the whole Nancy/Tanya saga before the 1994 Olympics. Never been on the ice myself -- ha, I would fall right on my butt the second I stepped on it! -- but I just absolutely fell in love with the combination of art and athleticism and knew I would be a lifelong fan.
MJ C. (@arabesquing)
I can swizzle and stroke around a rink! That's about the best I can do as a skater. :P I've been watching skating since the Sochi Olympics and had the great privilege to attend 2016 Worlds in Boston in person! (And got drunk in the hotel bar while surrounded by skaters, but that's another story.)
Ryan S. (@SkateGuardBlog) | SkateGuard
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan, if any. Figure skating history blogger; former competitive skater; certified judge with CFSA (Skate Canada) under 6.0 system.
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan, if any. I fell in love with figure skating watching Plushenko's Euros 2005 FP on TV. After a few years I decided I absolutely had to learn to skate and now I'm teaching to kids. My fav skaters are Yuzuru and Shoma.
Find out more about the judges here!
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Mara: Nearly all of it! I missed the 1st group of the ladies SP but went back and watched Mao and Mariah, and missed a couple of ladies in the middle of the 1st group in the FS while trying to find a stream. I also missed the first two dance teams in the FD.
Margaret: All of it.
MJ: 95% give or take, I only missed a few skates.
Ryan: Everything but the first flight of the free dance and a couple of the lower ranked women's short programs.
Spiccine: All men and ladies SP/FP and FD, only a few videos from Pairs SP/FP and SD.
Who had the best performance of the event?
Mara: Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau were the only pair to have a clean free skate, which was extremely refreshing after watching all the other pairs struggle. They just make me so happy when they skate, and I'm (almost) never worried about their elements. I think they can realistically challenge for top five in the world, even without a quad.
Spiccine: Shoma, without a doubt! I know I'm a little biased here, but I do think he had the best performance, especially in the FP. He was really confident through all the competition, nailing almost all his jumps without losing a bit of his artistry. Great job, Shoma!
Mara: Not technically since the last time I saw her skate (I watched her US Classic programs), but Mariah Bell has made vast improvements since last season. She was 11th at Nationals last year, and with the score she got this weekend, I fully expect her to challenge for the podium this season. Definitely a good move on the coaching change for her, because it's certainly paying off!
Mara: I personally don't think Adam should have been over four points below Jason in PCS, but what do I know?
Mara: ...the entire dance event? Dance as a whole in general always these days? I know you can't accurately compare scores across events, but Madi and Zach would have won 2014 Worlds with the scores they got here. Maia and Alex would have won 2015 Worlds. Dance has gone crazy and I feel like it needs to be fixed. I understand the scores of the other disciplines going up, because they're doing harder elements, but correct me if I'm wrong...the free dance elements have stayed basically the same, right?
Margaret: Maybe Tarasova/Morosov's short program? Don't get me wrong; they definitely deserved to be in first, but I'm not sure if they were good enough to earn a nearly eight point lead over the pair in second. A five point lead seems more reasonable.
Spiccine: As I've said above, for once I don’t have many complaints. Gracie's SP was a bit overscored in PCS, though.
Mara: I really enjoyed both of Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit's performances. Their short dance in particular was entertaining. It was fun and character-driven, and I felt like they pulled it off well. And kudos for no jarring music cuts or unrelated songs!
Mara: If Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier skate two strong programs this week at Skate Canada, they may very well be on their way to the Grand Prix Final, and will definitely have made a strong case for themselves to be National Champions in January if they skate well there.
Margaret: I'd love to see Jason Brown make the podium at his next event (NHK) and possibly earn a spot in the Grand Prix Final. He would be the first American man since Jeremy Abbott in 2011 to do so, and I think that would really solidify his spot as one of the top U.S. men and put him in great standing come Worlds. (Adam Rippon has a chance, too, with his bronze, but I think Jason is more likely.) Another win for Ashley Wagner (and a spot in the Final) would also be a huge gain, especially if she's looking to trade in her World silver medal for the gold. I do hope her problems with the sequence in the long was just a one time thing, because I think this "Exogenesis" program can become another iconic number for her if skated to full potential."
MJ: No brainer here: Gracie. It was just not a good competition for her. That said, considering Evgenia and Wakaba (as well as Gabby and Mao) are with her at Trophée France, it won't really be a matter of whether she can gain back any medals (because a berth to Marseille seems very slim, if not impossible, without several implosions from competitors) but if she can simply improve on her scores and outlook going into Nationals, where she is the reigning champion.
Ryan: Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau. After winning a silver medal at the 2016 Canadian Championships here in beautiful Haliwood, this team missed the latter half of the season last year due to injury. It was like they hadn't missed a beat in Chicago. Their free skate was characteristic of what we've actually seen a lot of from them since they last moved up to seniors - consistently landing those big ticket elements and skating with an intangible ease and fearlessness. In winning their first Grand Prix, they can take that confidence and only build upon it as they face off against Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow next month. Make no mistake, this is a top tier team right now... not a 'team of the future'.
Spiccine: I guess Mariah Bell will likely have another GP's assignment after this silver medal, so great opportunity for her!
Who has the most to lose at their next competition?
Mara: If Gracie doesn't medal at her next competition, I don't know what that's going to do to her confidence. If that happens, we may very well see her off the World team for the first time since she turned Senior.
Margaret: Poor Gracie Gold... I just want to give her a big hug. She really needs to do well at her next competition and get some of her confidence back. It's heartbreaking to see her struggling so much after the disappointment of Worlds, but if she keeps skating like this, she's in danger of not even making the World team this season. I'm a little less worried about Mao Asada since we know that she was injured, and I have no doubt she'll start jumping stronger once she's fully healed, but with Satoko Miyahara being so consistent and Mai Mihara making a bit of a splash here, Mao does need to come back stronger than she was here to keep herself in the conversation for the Japanese team.
MJ: I'll go with Denney/Frazier: they'll be contending with reigning World champions Duhamel/Radford, as well as D/R's fellow Canadians Iliushechkina/Moscovitch and the long-term Russian pair Kavaguti/Smirnov. While they could certainly surprise and pull off another podium finish even in this field, I'm really most interested to see if their components will hold up.
Ryan: Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov. Although they won the pairs short program, they didn't exactly win it with a particularly memorable performance. They placed fifth in the free skate at their first Grand Prix of the season with a program marred by multiple errors which disrupted the flow of their program. Not the start to the season a top five team in the world would want. The quad twist attempt was quite frankly scary to watch and strategy wise, I don't think including it in their program is going to pay off in the long run.
Spiccine: Both Boyang and Gracie (if she's not going to withdraw). They have very few chances to qualify for the GPF and they'll need to win no matter what.
The experts always get to make "bold predictions." Make a bold prediction about something that will happen in the remainder of the season.
Mara: Mariah Bell will make the World team. The US pairs will get three spots for next year, when it counts most. (I know, I know, not very bold, but it has to happen eventually, right?) Nathan won't break himself this season. Shoma will win Rostelecom Cup ahead of Javier Fernandez. Boyang will skate his Spiderman program cleanly and it'll go viral because the world needs to experience #SpiderBoyang
Margaret: World Champion Ashley Wagner! Weaver/Poje remain the number one Canadian ice dance team, even with the return of Virtue/Moir, and win gold at Worlds. An American man makes the podium at Worlds. I don't know which one, but it will happen! (Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully?) Injuries unfortunately take out most of the top pairs by the time Worlds come around, but on the plus side, the U.S. pairs manage to earn three spots to the Olympics. And somebody does an exhibition to Yuri On Ice's "History Maker." (Paging Evgenia Medvedeva! Or maybe Kayne/O'Shea?)
MJ: Yuzuru and Patrick both manage to spectacularly bomb next week and Takahito Mura emerges with the surprise Skate Canada crown for the second time in his career. Sinitsina/Katsalapov have an even more atrocious free dance than Ilinykh/Zhiganshin. Wenjing Sui proves once again that she is Wonder Woman incarnate by recovering fully from surgery and getting all of her technical elements back in time for Worlds and finally capturing the championship with Cong Han in Helsinki.
Ryan: Canadian skaters will win all of the things! We'll be treated to a smörgåsbord of quaint articles about how skaters can't be competitive without a quad, replete with hand-wringing about the 'good old days' when American skaters won everything. Despite the many quads that are landed, people will still prefer watching Jason Brown, Adam Rippon and the other skaters whose performances they actually remember. After losing the Presidential race in spectacular fashion, Donald Trump will begin training for a second career as a men's figure skater. When questioned by reporters about his decision, he'll reply, "My quad's going to be the best quad you've ever seen. The quadingist quad. Believe me... it's going to be great, folks. All the other quads? Losers."
Spiccine: I hate predictions, because I'm always afraid to jinx my favs, so I'll go with: Papadakis/Cizeron will win the GPF, while Virtue/Moir will win Worlds.
This week's optional bonus question asked our judges about the ice dance requirements for the 2016-2017 season: 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?
Margaret: Heh, I know nothing about hip hop, but one of my all-time favorite programs was Daisuke Takahashi's Hip Hop Swan Lake, so maybe something similar? Hip Hop Phantom? Hip Hop Carmen?
MJ: ♪ I miss the old Kanye, straight from the 'Go Kanye / Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye... ♪ On a more serious note, if anyone can incorporate Nicki Minaj's verse in "Bang Bang" into a step sequence, I will love them forever.
Ryan: Girls, you know you better watch out, some guys, some guys are only about... That thing, that thing, that thing... "Doo-wop (That thing)" by Lauryn Hill.
Spiccine: Ok, I admit I had to research, because nothing came to my mind right away and I wasn’t sure which songs are hip hop and which are not. I'd say 50 Cent's "In Da Club", great song and I can already imagine judges's faces if a team'd really choose a song like that. XD
Anything else to add about this event?
Mara: I really, really hate watching skaters struggle. I just want to hug them all and tell them how awesome they are. The free dances were really well skated, but it felt like each program could have been a continuation of the one that came before it, especially in the last group. I'm really hoping they're all just saving more interesting choices for the Olympic season? The pairs podium was comprised of the three youngest teams in the competition... from youngest to oldest. The future is now!
Margaret: I was a little disappointed with the dance event, which was weird since ice dance is usually my favorite discipline to watch. I blame the fact that it seemed like a lot of couples have decided to copy Papadakis/Cizeron's style. I hope that there's a little more variety at Skate Canada. Also, so happy to see so many U.S. medalists this year at Skate America!
MJ: Tara Lipinski's comment about Gracie, on national television, that she needs to simply "snap out of" whatever funk she seems to be going through, which to me seems eerily similar to depression, something I have personal experience and deep ties with, was not only completely unnecessary, but also crude and insensitive. It utterly delegitimizes mental illness by portraying it as a mere state of mind that you can simply flip the switch on and off for, instead of an illness that needs real diagnosis and treatment. Coming from someone who retired at 15 years old and who never had the pressure of performing to her potential at a major international stage placed upon their shoulders as a young adult woman, it sounds like a bratty comment from a person who will never be able to fathom just how privileged they are. I'm not a fan of Gracie's skating, but if you criticize someone who's already down, and in such a way as to insinuate that it's so easy to just "snap out of it," then damn, I'm going to get up in arms and defend them to my last breath. Don't be like Tara.
Ryan: Tim Dolensky's "Mumford and Sons" short program choreographed by Ryan Janhke was one of the better paced and stylized men's short programs. With reference to the hip hop short dances, listening to commentators talk about how "new and fresh this style of movement is" all season is going to be really awkward. Kids these days with their rock and/or roll music! It's all so new-fangled, right? Ashley Wagner's live tweeting is as as delightful as her skating. I kind of want to be her when I grow up, and I'm already thirty four.
Spiccine: This was an amazing event, great start for the season!
What did you think about the first event of the Grand Prix season? How did our judges do? Leave us a comment to let us know, then sign up to judge a future event!