The Judges’ Table Does Skate America 2017

Figure Skating: 2017 Skate America

So, uh, that was an event. 3 competitors withdrew during the event alone (two of those happening during the free skate), and many others found themselves competing injured. Boyang Jin has two sprained ankles. Ashley Wagner’s ankle is infected. Maxim Kovtun hurt his foot. Daniel Samohin and Adam Rippon both dislocated their shoulders in the middle of their programs. And this is all after Anna Pogorilaya, Dabin Choi, Jorik Hendrickx, and Tobias/Tkachenko had to withdraw due to injury or illness in the weeks and days leading up to the event. It’s been a rough Grand Prix season all around, and I’m pretty sure that no one’s joints will ever be the same again. But in the midst of all this insanity, we also saw incredible comebacks and a bevy of personal bests from skaters looking to assert themselves as possible Olympic participants and medalists.

Thanks to these six judges for sitting at The Judges’ Table for Skate America 2017!

Gabrielle T. (@Gabrielle_1209)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I skated for ten years, competing locally. Now, I enjoy watching skating from the stands (or anywhere I can find Wi-Fi)!

Irina G. (@annafly13
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I am a dedicated fan and photographer and love being part of figure skating events. I never travel without a camera and have thousands of pics from the events.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Yuna Kim at Sochi in 2014.

Jared A. (@JaredMAllen) | Instagram
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I’m a lifelong fan of the sport and decided to learn how to skate, purely to have more info to influence my judgements! Now I’m a competitive skater myself and I absolutely love it.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years?  Satoko’s FS in Boston.

Madi L. (@not_lipton) | Tumblr
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I am an avid figure skater and figure skating fan. Sometimes I spend way too much money traveling to watch competitions but make up for it by teaching learn to skate with my home club.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Tessa and Scott’s Sochi short dance.

Margaret D. (@elysiondream)| Tumblr
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan, if any. Like a lot of people, I became a figure skating fan during the whole Nancy/Tanya saga. I fell in love with the combination of art and athleticism and knew I would be a lifelong fan.
Favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years: Mao Asada’s free at Sochi.

Rafael Q. (@HRHtheDentist)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. Been skating since I was 3, following competitions closely since 2009, etc.

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Be honest: how much of this event did you *actually* watch?
Gabrielle: Too much. To the extent that I am surprised I didn’t have to withdraw from watching it with all the craziness that happened.

Irina: I worked as a photographer at the event, so I watched everything from the beginning to the end.

Jared: All of it! The event was very crazy in person.

Madi: All of Ice Dance and Ladies and then a little bit of Pairs and Men

Margaret: All of it.

Rafael: Everything except the few free skates that NBC didn’t show *fan thworp*.

Who had the best performance of the event?
Gabrielle: Satoko Miyahara. Normally, I am not a Satoko fan. I didn’t love her programs at NHK and I was expecting her less than ideal skates there would rock her confidence. But, after Skate America, I love her SP! The details to the choreography are so beautiful. She looked like she was floating. And, most importantly, she looked happy!

Irina: Maia and Alex Shibutani’s short dance. It was such an amazing combination of music, latin dance flavor, technical precision and artistic expression that it gave me goosebumps. They managed to keep the audience’s attention from the first second to the end. I think it is the best short dance in their career.

Jared: I’m torn but I’m going with Adam’s FP. He muscled through that under rotated lutz and dislocated shoulder and delivered a beautiful seamless (thereafter) performance that won the free skate.

Madi: Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker’s Liebestraum FD. It flowed so seamlessly and they really improved on their step sequences.

Margaret: Nathan Chen in the short. The triple axel was a bit scary, but the rest of the jumps were gorgeous, and he was just really into the program.

Rafael: Adam Rippon’s free skate. For all the talk about “to be the best you need to have more than one quad,” Adam proved that it still all comes down to how you perform that day. Even after dislocating his shoulder on the opening jump, he came back and nailed the rest of his skate and delivered on his performance. (If he had landed the 4Lz cleanly with a +GOE, that would have been enough to overtake Nathan’s lead assuming he made the same mistakes.)

Who improved the most from the last time you watched them skate?
Gabrielle: Kaori Sakamoto – I really enjoyed her Amelie FS! It is obvious how hard she is working to grab one of the Japanese spots. Besides the solid technical elements she really sold the theatrics.

Irina: Serafima Sakhanovich. Last time I saw her was at Skate America 2016 in Chicago, where she fought for each element. This past summer she was so close to ending her skating career, but then decided to give it another try and joined Evgeni Plushenko’s Figure Skating Academy. Obviously, she benefited from that move and regained her confidence.

Jared: Without having seen her live and only a couple times online, it was very surprising to see Bradie Tennell skate so well. Really appreciated her smooth quality, jump consistency, and her posture and extension.

Madi: Haven Denney and Brandon Fraizer (we’re actually landing the jumps now!).

Margaret: Probably Takahito Mura. He was a disaster at Skate Canada, coming in last with a score in the 180s if I remember correctly. He wasn’t amazing here, either, but his jumps were better, and he managed a respectable seventh place finish with a score of 212.

Rafael: Even though I knew the scores that Bradie Tennell put up at Lombardia, I hadn’t watched her performances this season. Compared to Nationals last year, she seemed like a new skater. I can’t wait to see her in San Jose!

Which performance was the most underscored?
Gabrielle: I think this will be an unpopular opinion, but I thought the competition was relatively correctly scored, especially in comparison to the other GPs. If I had to pinpoint a case of “underscoring,” I think Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro should be getting higher PCS in both programs, but pairs isn’t my specialty.

Irina: Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed. I’ve been watching this couple closely over the last few years and I think they have improved so much. I always like their choreography and musical interpretation, but for some reason their scores do not reflect their progress.

Jared: Stellato/Bartholomay opened the pairs short program with a beautiful performance, that was not comparatively slow in person. Was very surprised with their placement and score after the short program and it looked like they were too.

Madi: Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker’s Rhumba SD. Call me crazy but even with their questionable twizzle level loss, I still think they were completely low-balled.

Margaret: I was a bit surprised by how low some of the short dance scores were, particularly Cappellini/Lanotte and Hawayek/Baker. I thought their short dances here were better than at their previous events and expected them to get season’s best scores, but they didn’t. I guess the tech panel was really strict on levels.

Rafael: Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte’s short dance was surprisingly low, but given how the rest of the dances were scored it wasn’t that bad. I don’t know quite enough about the Rhumba pattern to know exactly why they didn’t get any levels on it but I’m sure that they will work it out before Euros and the Olympics.

Which performance was the most overscored?
Gabrielle: Again, I thought that Skate America was scored pretty well! But, I would be giving Satoko less in GOEs on her jumps in the short program. The combo looked a bit cheated to me. I would have had her in first, but I would not have scored her past 70.00.

Irina: Cappellini-Lanotte’s free dance was kind of slow and not too exciting for the second place. I liked their short though.

Jared: Believe it or not, the judging here was pretty fair regarding inflation. Perhaps the Shibs were overscored compared to everyone else because the dance judging was harsh for everyone but them.

Madi: Maia and Alex’s SD. I think it looks good but I don’t think it’s quite at the level where it should be scored in the high 70s/low 80s quite yet.

Margaret: Honestly, I didn’t feel like anybody was really overscored here. If I had to choose, maybe Satoko Miyahara’s short? Just a little? I don’t know. I might have given Kaori Sakamoto the lead in the short.

Rafael: I don’t think any of the performances were overscored this competition. The technical panel was pretty strict in all disciplines, I didn’t see any egregious UR calls (or lack thereof), and the dance callers must have been in a really bad mood.

Out of those skaters and teams who finished in the bottom half of their events, who had the best performance?
Gabrielle: Not necessarily at the bottom, but I was so happy for Serafima Sakhanovich’s success! I really enjoyed her in juniors and I am glad to see she has found both the love and ambition for skating again. She has rebounded from her poor senior competitions in the last two years.

Irina: Shiyue Wang-Xinyu Liu had a very good free dance. I watched them at practices and I think they have a lot of potential to grow.

Jared: This is hard because a lot of faves “underperformed.” I’ll go with Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro; she looks amazing in a lift! He has improved too!

Madi: I think once she has her programs down, Karen Chen will be the force she was at Worlds last year. On Gold Pond is one of my favorite SPs of hers.

Margaret: It’s a shame that Liam Firus’s free was chacked in the NBC coverage. He had a fall on the opening quad and I think maybe popped one of his later jumps, but it was still a fairly strong skate. His “La La Land” program is absolutely delightful! Gorgeous skating skills, too.

Rafael: I was really impressed by Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu, particularly their free dance. That lift where he flips her over his back using her leg is BONKERS. But aside from that, their line and extension has really improved since they started on the senior Grand Prix.

Who has the most to gain at their next competition?
Gabrielle: Bradie Tennell – I think she’s competing in Zagreb next week against Karen. If she beats her, and skates cleanly again, she has solidified her argument for consideration on the Olympic Team.

Irina: Bradie Tennell had a fantastic debut at Skate America. She held the fort for the US ladies and showed a strong ability to handle the pressure of competitions. While other ladies have a heavy load of expectations, with two clean programs, everything becomes possible for her at the Nationals.

Jared: I’ll have to go with Bradie Tennell. With this fabulous GP debut, she can make an impression at Nationals (I’m not sure if she’ll be competing until then), and maybe upset the Olympic conversation!

Madi: Nathan Chen. If he’s clean at GPF and in the Olympics, the gold is his for the taking.

Margaret: Ashley Wagner’s next competition is Nationals, with Olympic spots on the line. She deservedly was named to the team in 2014 despite a poor showing at Nationals due to her otherwise strong results, but that’s not the case this season, so I think she really has to skate well in order to earn one of those spots.

Rafael: I think if Adam Rippon can medal at the GPF, he could solidify his place in PyeongChang. I would be surprised if he wasn’t named to the team after his performance here, especially considering he is still beating Nathan on PCS, but a GPF medal wouldn’t hurt anything.

Who has the most to lose at their next competition?
Gabrielle: If Karen Chen doesn’t skate well, she will not have had a good competition since World’s 2017. That success can only carry her so far if other US girls keep beating her.

Irina: I hope Karen Chen will finally get herself together and will once again demonstrate what she is capable of. Her title as well as the Olympic team are at stake.

Jared: Ashley Wagner has some work to do at Nationals. She nearly lost to Bradie here, and Mirai will be hungry at Nationals as well. If she is to be national champion then she’s got to remain healthy and committed.

Madi: The Shibs. GPF will be a tough outing for them with all three of the US teams making the event. Not to mention Nats looms on the horizon so this is only match one to see who will come out as US ice dance’s #1.

Margaret: I think the Shibutanis. Right now, with two wins on the Grand Prix and the highest season’s best scores behind Papadakis/Cizeron and Virtue/Moir, they seem to be the number one American couple and favorites for the Olympic podium, but the Final will be the first time this season they compete against Chock/Bates and Hubbell/Donohue, and the momentum could change depending on the results.

Rafael: Ashley Wagner definitely. I know that she wasn’t really talking about the ankle infection going into the event (I had no idea until she stopped her free skate), but she is really going to have to buckle down, make sure she is healthy and skate lights out at Nationals to prove that she should still be given a spot. She is capable of it, for sure, but when you have Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu, Mariah Bell and Karen Chen who all could feasibly end up on the podium, it’s going to be a real fight for those three spots.

What surprised you most about this event?
Gabrielle: I was surprised the Shibs didn’t score closer to 200. I thought that since they were at home late in the season, USFS would have tried to give them international scores closer to Papadakis/Cizeron and Virtue/Moir. I think the Shibs were scored fairly as I don’t see them at the level of the other two teams but they are higher than the next highest tier.

Irina: Flies and insects fighting for their lives on the ice that seemed to come down from the ceiling, and, of course, the funny if not absurd sight of Adam picking them up from the ice before his FP. Also the opening ceremony was strikingly absent.

Jared: Wow this competition really delivered with the drama and surprises! Danny Samohin dislocated his shoulder basically right in front of me; very shocking. Also, Ashley’s withdrawal was a shock; it literally sucked the energy right out of the arena after Bradie got everyone riled up.

Madi: What didn’t surprise me about the event? All craziness aside, I was blown away by Kaori Sakamoto and her Moonlight Sonata program. I didn’t think I’d be able to appreciate this piece on ice but she did such a beautiful job.

Margaret: All the injuries and withdrawals! I wish speedy recoveries to Ashley, Adam, Daniel and Maxim. Also, Bradie Tennell was a pleasant surprise! Getting over 200 and a medal in her debut senior Grand Prix event is very impressive.

Rafael: Where to begin? Withdrawals, shoulder dislocations, bugs. Skate America had it all!! But as far as the actual skating is concerned, I was surprised by the technical panel for the Short Dance.

The experts always get to make “bold predictions.” Make a bold prediction about something that will happen in the remainder of the season.
Gabrielle: Although they are the favorites for the Japanese team, only either Wakaba or Satoko will make it, and the other spot will go to an underdog. Hubbell and Donohue will become US team #1 if they skate clean at the GPF and the Shibs show any slight errors.

Irina: As tough as Russian Nationals are going to be, Sergey Voronov should make the Olympic team. He delivered two good performances here at Skate America and at NHK in Japan. It’s really time for him to grab the chance. Bold? Let’s see- Maia and Alex will win the Olympics!

Jared: Adam Rippon will be in the top 5 at the Olympics; Mirai is our 2018 National Champ; Gabby and Guillame will win the Olympic gold.

Madi: Honestly at this point all my predictions have been wrong but I’m going to be one of those crazy conspirators and say a top ice dance team pulls out of the GPF.

Margaret: These are my hopes more than actual predictions, but I would love to see Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon win Nationals together, make the Olympic team, win a medal in the Team Event, and Ashley win a medal in the individual event. Also, I’d love to see a healthy Weaver/Poje on the ice dance podium, too!

Rafael: Evgenia Medvedeva will withdraw from the Grand Prix Final to focus on Nationals and the Olympics and Kaetlyn Osmond will end up on top of the podium.

Option bonus question! By now, we know a number of qualifiers to the Grand Prix Final. make up a new qualification rule that that helps your favorite skater from this event compete there.
Gabrielle: I intended this to work for Kaori, but it also applies to Satoko — Since the GPF is in Japan, any alternates that are Japanese get to compete at the Final.

Irina: A lot of times I watched some very clean run-throughs at practices that were followed by not too successful performances. I wish athletes could be rewarded with some extra points based on practices before going into competitions. Those who are well-prepared deserve some bonus.

Jared: Well Adam made it so I’m good! Perhaps skaters who skate to Twilight in the short program can qualify so Han Yan can make it to Nagoya.

Madi: If you won the Junior Worlds Dance medal in 2014, you now have an automatic spot in the Final (Hawayek/Baker).

Margaret: Considering the circumstances, I’m glad Ashley withdrew and didn’t make the Finals. I’d much rather she take the time to completely heal her ankle and get back in fighting shape for Nationals, but if she was healthy and failed to earn a spot the usual way, then maybe…if you’ve been to the Final at least five times, you automatically get a berth?

Rafael: Canceling the entire event and letting skaters just count their best finish from last year’s Grand Prix series.

Anything else to add about this event?
Gabrielle: I showed my friends, who are NOT skating fans, Adam Rippon’s iconic interview with Andrea Joyce after his FS and they are all quoting him now. What picking up bugs and dislocating a shoulder does for your fame! Now let’s just hope I can report to my friends a GPF medal for Adam in a few weeks!

Irina: Since I was part of this event, I would like to mention that Lake Placid is a very beautiful place, with a lot of Olympic history. The figure skaters acknowledged that the Olympic spirit motivated them to do their best. When it comes to the atmosphere outside the rink, it was very warm and welcoming. Staff were very friendly and helpful, and I hope the skaters felt it too.

Jared: What a large, lovely audience in Lake Placid! Glad that the USA brought the fans to their GP this year. Satoko gives you everything you want in a performance; so happy she was able to come away with a win here. Also wish someone had told me those flies were of the stinging variety; would have brought protection!

Madi: I think Cup of China lost its reputation as Cup of Disaster…

Margaret: Congrats to everybody who qualified for the final, but Skate America and pretty much the entire Grand Prix series this year has been a nightmare. Let’s hope that the rest of the season will be better!

Rafael: Shoulders and ankles are canceled. The end.

What did you think about this year’s Skate America? How did our judges do? Leave us a comment to let us know, then sign up to judge a future event!

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