The 2014 Winter Olympic Games


It seems like every holiday or birthday we celebrate is often 'the best one ever'! The same really rings true for the Winter Olympics, now doesn't it? There's a certain majesty and glory that the Olympic Games possess that it's hard to really translate into sufficient language I find. Our innate patriotism suddenly rears its head as we find ourselves in elevator conversations about sports we'd never even consider watching on any other occasion or in my case, drooling over Scandinavian snowboarders with mohawks. We keep a running tally of how many medals our country has won and briefly enter the worlds of athletes around the world through their heroic and heartwarming stories. For us die-hard figure skating fans, it really IS Christmas. The coverage isn't just good, it's fantastic. Live figure skating right at our fingertips with great commentary and extensive media coverage on everything from television to radio, blogs, podcasts, social media and print. Hell, I'm sure there are skywriters too, I just haven't seen them. In short, the Olympics are like this special treat, this special festival that give us that little bit of inspiration to "reach... just a little bit higher" like in Gloria Estefan's 1996 Olympic theme and be that little bit braver ourselves, don't they? It's hard not to get caught up in that sea of inspiration and ride the wave. The skating in Sochi be couldn't be any more exciting, could it? Things are happening that we were almost sure would but even more things are happening that we never, in our core, expected. That's the excitement, isn't it? On the ultimate stage of these skater's careers, dreams are being achieved, personal goals are being met and sadly... dreams are being crushed daily as well. The whole 'thing' though is like the ultimate experience and learning curve and whether our favourite skaters end up with the hardware we wish they would have or not, they surely will grow from the experience and learn something about their own mettle. Please keep in mind with all of this Olympic coverage on Skate Guard as always I'll post videos of some of the most standout performances. Many of them might be geoblocked in your country, and for that I apologize. Around the time of the Olympics, videos go up every minute and come down and get geoblocked just as fast. If you're unable to watch videos in your country, I've got some great advice for you. Go to YouTube, and under your search settings you can select 'Upload Date'. If you type in keywords for the competition or skater you want to see, you can narrow it down to 'Today' or 'This Week' and usually find just what you're looking for in minutes! NOW... from the best to the rest, here are my thoughts on the figure skating events at the Olympic Games we'll never forget:

THE TEAM COMPETITION

Well, here's how it is. A lot of people aren't huge Evgeni Plushenko fans. I can't say that I am a huge one either if we want to get real here. Many questioned his selection to the Olympic team before it was even announced. Maxim Kovtun beat him 'fair and square' at the Russian Nationals and Sergei Voronov and Konstantin Menshov both medalled at Europeans (ahead of Kovtun), certainly faring well in Plushenko's absence. For whatever reason, a lot of skating fans seem to have this quiet 'hate on' for skaters that they feel should have retired long ago for whatever reason, as if it's their decision to decide who should and shouldn't compete anymore. PRETTY sure that's up to the skaters themselves. I'm a firm believer in doing something as long as you love it, and if that's competing in skating that's fine by me. It's not like there's a long line-up of professional competitions these days to give the skaters that love competing an outlet as they grow older or become 'done' with the ISU way. I don't think anyone complained when Torvill and Dean, Brian Boitano, Katarina Witt, Gordeeva and Grinkov's came back to compete at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics for the thrill and experience of it and any Olympic Gold Medallist who wants to give it another go gets my respect for their perseverance and dedication to a sport they obviously have a great love for. The fact of the matter is, those words were really eaten with a fork, knife and a big old lobster bib when Plushenko went out in the men's short program of the team event and went clean in front of a Russian audience, nailing a quad toe/triple toe, triple axel and triple lutz. The Olympic Gold Medallist's score of 91.39 beat reigning World Champion Patrick Chan. Let's think about that for a moment and put it in a little context. Did anyone see THAT coming? That's how figure skating competition works. You don't see it coming. You can't. It's about who delivers when it counts, and Plushenko did. Now... that said, were his scores generous? Yeah, they sure were. But you know what? A lot of people's scores are - fan and judge favourites included. Plushenko was not the only one to post a big score in the team event's men's short program. Yuzuru Hanyu stood atop the leaderboard for Team Japan with a HUGE score of 97.98 and a program that included a quad toe, triple axel and triple lutz/triple toe combo. Hanyu's PCS score was slightly less than Patrick Chan's, who even with less than secure landings showed his always superb skating skills and the quality of in his skating in his 3rd place short program that featured a quad combination as well. The men skating in the short program had some great performances ALL AROUND - Florent Amodio, Peter Liebers and Matthew Parr all went clean in their efforts. Sadly, it wasn't Jeremy's night. And you know what? That's OK. His program was still the most exciting, interesting and enchanting and the problems on his quad combination and the singled axel really mean nothing. This is a team competition and this was his first effort of three in Sochi. The men's competition is what matters and one off skate means nothing. He's a fighter and I have every confidence he'll come back swinging like he did in Boston and tear the roof off the rink.


Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov's short program not only set the crowd, the crowd, the crowd on fire at the Ice Palace but showed just why they are world record holders. Their twist was absolutely huge, their side-by-side triple toes textbook and their throw triple loop was not only PERFECTLY straight in the air but had enough airtime that she could have easily done her air or answered a few texts while she was up there. Their performance, however spirited and technically perfect, was not the performance of the night in my opinion. The problem is, I don't find this program to be 'all that and a bag of chips' (as they'd say on a 90's Jenny Jones episode) anyway. Patriotism or cries of bias be damned, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford's short program was not only the most technically difficult and inspired, but clearly the most spirited. Skating to "Tribute", music that Eric composed himself in honor of late coach Paul Wirtz, Meagan and Eric checked off EVERY element in their mental list with EASE... a big, secure triple twist, side-by-side triple LUTZES and a fabulous throw triple LUTZ, along with the most difficult transitions in the book. In their first Olympic appearance - before the Olympic ceremonies were in even held - to go out and skate lights out like this... well, it brought tears to my eyes and warmed by soul like a shot of ice cold Russian Stoli vodka. I'm sorry. Volosozhar and Trankov ARE phenomenal skaters, but they aren't 10 points better than a clean Duhamel and Radford. That's where my issue with the good old IJS system comes into play. If you've got two teams executing required short program elements and one of them is doing side-by-side triple lutzes and a throw triple lutz cleanly AND has a much more spirited, ARTISTIC program, then we're putting too much emphasis on these 'transitions'. Congratulations on your asinine footwork sequences and entries. They don't MOVE me. And that's what I have to say about that. Italians Berton and Hotarek (who beat Meagan and Eric early in the season at Skate Canada) also laid down a clean skate that made the world take notice, as did China's Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang. In perhaps the scariest moment of the pairs short program of the team event, France's Morgan Cipres sent his partner Vanessa James into the air in a triple twist that was so tilted it could have been a HUGE and dangerous disaster. I think I jumped just as high myself watching it.

After the dust settled, after the men and pairs had their turn duking it out on Olympic ice in the team event's debut in Olympic competition, Russia narrowly led the way in the team standings with 19 points to Canada's 17. China, Japan, Germany and France followed with the U.S. team sitting in 7th after Abbott and Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir's efforts, leaving the pressure on Ashley Wagner and Meryl Davis and Charlie White to qualify the U.S. a spot in the free skate and a chance at a medal.

My frustration with the IJS system of skating and judging was at feverish pitch by the end of day 2 of the team event, which certainly didn't look promising for the rest of the figure skating events. In the team event's Short Dance, the skating itself was really quite out of this world. Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the event as expected with their "My Fair Lady" program. Their program was fun of speed however it came across as very Disney. Sureness, patterns & edges ALL there all though. They were spot on as always, cementing 10 points for their team and a score of 75.98. I personally thought Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's short dance was the performance of the Short Dance. They owned their program and presented it with confidence, passion and heart. Despite the tiniest of issues on Tessa's second twizzle, Tessa and Scott's Finnstep section was bang on and their closing lift too. They SOLD their program and only ended up 3 points behind their rivals and training mates, making it clear that they're really making ground with the judges and it's not over yet. The morning of this event, author Beverley Smith released a piece for The Globe And Mail that talked about an alleged backroom collusion between Russian and American judges to ensure Meryl and Charlie win the gold in the dance event in exchange for Russia's gold in the team event. You know, hey... I don't trust the ISU, these federations or judges ANY more than the next guy nor have any 'head in the clouds' attitude that nothing shady's going on. If you can do it for 100 years, another judging system is NOT going to stop you. And it hasn't. That said, what pressure for both teams to skate under and they pulled things off wonderfully. I didn't agree with Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev's lead on France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. Both teams showed their speed, concise steps and great edge work, but the French team's performance quality and projection was miles ahead. I forgot for a second what I was watching! There's always some confounded explanation in 'the levels' you'd need a math tutor to explain. Math has never been my strong suit. I also thought that Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte's dance was fabulous. They have such a light, joyful quality to their skating and this vehicle really had that timeless, old cinema style that really helped their skating shine. Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland didn't post the score they wanted, ended up with 52.93 for their Short Dance today but their talent shone and I'm confident they'll come back guns blazing in the 'real' dance competition.

The Ladies Short Program in the Team Event produced some of the best skating I've seen in a Ladies Short Program in quite some time and the most yelling at the TV on my part in a long time too. You should of seen me... wrapped in a blanket and yelling like a crazy cat lady. Alright... should I rant first or rant later? "Imma" start now, m'kay? What did I get out of this? If this is the way we're going to be judging figure skating and asking skaters to skate, the ISU needs to go home because it's drunker than a Russian vodka tester. The event was replete with clean performances, including Julia Liptnitskaia who won the short program with a total score of 72.90, Carolina Kostner who finished 2nd with a score of 70.84, Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond, Ukraine's Natalia Popova, Great Britain's Jenna McCorkell and near clean performances by Ashley Wagner, Mae-Berenice Maite and Kexin Zhang. You know, here's how it is. Julia Lipnitskaia's great. Don't get me wrong. She contorts her body into some sort of pretzel from a Cirque Du Soleil coffee shop and can reel of the triple/triple combinations like nobody's business. She's youthful and fearless and I love that. But is the maturity there? It's great for her age but she's NOWHERE near Carolina Kostner in my opinion. The jump technique is not PRETTY to watch, the adult quality not there. It's like watching a 15 year old ballet wunderkind going against a Prima Ballerina. The teenager is inspiring, but the Prima Ballerina's the Prima Ballerina. Carolina Kostner delivered such a moving, exquisite "Ave Maria" program that she even drew a huge response from the very pro-Russian audience. Yes, her triple toe/triple toe and triple loop WERE easier when compared to Lipnitskaia's triple lutz/triple toe and triple flip, but come on now here... to give Julia a PCS score of 33.51 ahead of Wagner, Osmond and Asada? Was I watching the same event? Carolina's program was ethereal, BEAUTIFUL and difficult. Sigh... And now that brings me to Mao Asada, who fell on a triple axel attempt and turned out a wonky looking 'sketchy boo boo' triple loop/double loop combination to finish third ahead of Ashley Wagner, Kaetlyn Osmond and the rest. What kind of message is that sending? Whatever message it is, I'm not buying it. Mao's skating has some wonderful qualities like speed, maturity and elegance and like Kostner, she's a very packaged skater so I get it in a sense. However, NO ONE who goes out and skates clean with a triple/triple combination and personality, speed and flair like Kaetlyn did today (or Ashley for that matter... who was FABULOUS in her own right in making her critics eat it with a fantastic skate) should be rewarded by being held down under a big name who had an off day. Again, call Archimedes. He'll explain away those "levels" with an abacus I'm sure. News flash: if we're not rewarding the skaters who deliver on that day, whatever 'system' we have, we're are doing it WRONG. Another example from these short programs: Germany's Nathalie Weinzierl, who floundered on 2/3 jumping passes and still finished ahead of a clean Jenna McCorkell. Again, something something "levels". I'm over it. The system's flawed and I think that's the bigger issue here, but what do I know? After the scores were tallied, the five teams set to advance to the Finals were Japan, Italy, the United States, Canada and Russia.

None of the pairs were perfect in the free skate, but there was a lot of impressive skating going on. Russians Ksenia Stoblova and Fedor Klimov gave a rather uninspired skate to "The Addams Family" but aside from one problem on the side by side jump combination when Ksenia singled the second jump in the combination, they were technically outstanding. I've seen a lot of skaters perform to "The Addams Family" over the years, and this was by far one of the most choreographically weak in my opinion. They had such fun music to work with and really didn't use it all! Fedor looked more like Beetlejuice in his striped tux than Gomez Addams and I'm not sure who Ksenia was going for but it certainly wasn't Morticia... more along the lines of Juno The Case Worker from Beetlejuice. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch were also technically oustanding, their only mistake being a step out of the side by side triple salchows from Kirsten. Their program had speed galore, energy and choreography but ended up with a PCS score of 64.85 to Ksenia and Fedor's 68.06. Again, I don't get it. I thought that Berton and Hotarek AND Castelli and Shnapir both showed guts and determination in their programs. Despite mistakes, they fought all the way throw, the Italians rebounding from a rough start that included a painful fall from Stefania on the side by side triple salchows and the Americans giving the throw quad salchow a very valiant attempt and coming back to nail their final throw, the triple salchow, after Marissa fell on her second side by side triple pass. The Japanese pair, God love them, unfortunately weren't even in the same league as the other teams, looking tentative and slow throughout their program and cautious on even a double twist. That said, they were up against really experienced teams and despite several errors, really gave it a good effort. And that what it's about. I was concerned for Stefania Berton, who left the ice holding her hip after her awful fall on that side-by-side jump. Someone get her some Ben-Straight! They certainly don't have Ben-Gay in Sochi... All kidding aside, I hope she's okay for the pairs competition and comes back full force. They are a team to watch.


After the pairs event, it was clear that this was probably going to be a fight for the gold between Russia and Canada, but then the media seemed to latch onto a new element of the allegations that a fix was in for Russia to win the team in event in conjunction with Davis and White claiming the gold in Ice Dance. The Canadian skaters were getting drug tested out of the blue like crazy - at all hours of the night and even inexplicably hours before competing. Michael Slipchuk from Skate Canada attested that this was certainly unusual but hey... the show went on. First to take the ice to skate their free skates in the Team Event were the men. Evgeni Plushenko delivered classic Zhenya fare with his "The Best Of Plushenko" free skate, a self-indulgent 'greatest hits' compilation of music he's skated to over the years. He skated as well as he could have, laying down triple/triples and a gorgeous quad toe, but as always... it was jump, jump, jump with nothing but a lot of showboating and gesturing in between. His PCS score of 86.72 to Jason Brown's 79.22 made absolutely NO sense whatsoever and as far as I'm concerned can't be explained away with any sort of creative bookkeeping. The whole concept of "PCS" as opposed to Presentation is founded on transitions, choreography and skating skills, and although you have to respect Plushenko's dedication and technical excellence, that score was more inflated than Ottavio Cinquanta's ego. Kevin Reynolds but his boot problems behind him and delivered a technically outstanding program, laying down THREE quads (a la Tim Goebel) and finishing a strong second and showing he's back and ready to compete. He looked very focused and his program itself had a lot of great nuances that really help him in this judging context. Tatsuki Machida (whose "Firebird" program I love - costume and all!) had a great skate as well, making his triple axel look like a walk in the park but also played victim to Plushenko's generous scoring. The real crime was the Jason Brown's 4th place finish. No, it wasn't the same skate as Boston but it still had me on the edge of my seat ENTRALLED and was the only performance of ANY of the free skates that moved me emotionally. He had a couple little hiccups including a miss on his triple salchow but still delivered the best PERFORMANCE of the men's event and his PCS score in relation to Plushenko's was like a big fat joke. Whether you dismiss the hullabaloo over a judging 'scandal' as hoopla or not, the reward that Evgeni reaped here was questionable at best. On a side note, watching Meagan Duhamel in the 'kiss and cry' needs to be a TV show of its own - she is priceless!


The attention turned to the ladies and the skating they put out on the Iceberg Palace ice was just as exciting. Julia Lipnitskaia again reeled off every triple jump in the book coupled with amazing flexibility, awe inspiring spins and a maturity beyond her years but the maturity was again not there in my opinion... or certainly not to the extent that the hype surrounding her skating suggests. She did lay down a serious gauntlet for Yuna Kim, Mao Asada and all to go against in the ladies event and her consistency suggests that she simply can't put a foot wrong. Like Plushenko in the men's event, her PCS scores were again generous: 69.82 put her well ahead of the rest of the competition. Gracie Gold had a golden moment, silencing her critics and skating a flawless program that was highlighted by two triple lutzes (one in combination with a triple toe) and a double axel/triple toe combination. She couldn't have done anything more in the jumping... or "transitions" department. Akiko Suzuki, the veteran of the field and Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond both fought hard through their free skates, showing that they weren't going down without a fight either... I think we can expect big things from both in the ladies event if they are on their 'A Game'. Kudos also go out to Italy's Valentina Marchei, who in her Olympic debut looked strong, confident and on top of HER game in a program that featured two gorgeous triple lutzes.


The free dance was the final event in the Team Event and set the stage for a soap opera "As The Twizzle Turns" showdown between rivals and training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Japanese and Italians almost acting as opening acts for the showdown but delivered really good skates of their own and although they weren't in contention for a spot in the top three, showed great form and great programs nonetheless. Russians Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov had one of the best skates with their "Swan Lake" free dance, showing off their speed, power and classical Russian ice dance style in front of an adoring Russian crowd and showing their promise. Many people believe this team to be stronger than Bobrova and Soloviev and I'd be pretty tempted to jump on that bandwagon if they skated like this every time. Come on... those twizzles were to die for. Textbook. Then it came down to the wire. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's only misstep in their mesmerizing and subtle free dance was a slight hesitation going into a lift and I don't think they could have skated that particular free dance any better had they tried. Meryl Davis and Charlie White went out gangbusters as usual, delivering their free dance with speed, power and attack. In my opinion though, if you compare the twizzles in those particular dances, I might say that Tessa and Scott's were a little neater. I don't find myself emotionally moved or affected by either dance to be honest - Bolero's they are not - but I can't say I really 'GET' a seven point separation between the teams and I wouldn't want to be in Tessa and Scott's shoes... it's really no different than being a pairs team competing against Tatiana and Max. It has GOT to be frustrating. That said, I think both the Canadians and Americans and Russians are two outstanding teams cut from different cloths and both deserve our utmost respect and appreciation. I wouldn't want to judge. I'll tell you that much.

Congratulations to all of the NEW Olympic Medallists from Russia, Canada and the U.S. including some of my own favourite skaters - Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Jeremy Abbott, Ashley Wagner, Kaetlyn Osmond and Jason Brown among them. I couldn't even imagine that feeling. They've worked so hard for so many years and what an amazing sense of team spirit this event inspired and what a GOOD idea it was to bring it to the Olympic Games.  It certainly got things started with a bang and we couldn't have asked for better skating. Better judging on the other hand? I think that's a very reasonable request. I hate to say it, but I think we're in for more of the same. I wouldn't be surprised to see Evgeni Plushenko on the podium in the men's event or Julia Lipnitskaia with a gold medal around her neck in the ladies, that's for sure.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov Jr. - 'the Russian team' - have been together just less than four years, but their individual experience as pairs skaters shined in the ease in which they executed their elements. It is no surprise they are the current world record holders for any Pairs Short Program with the 83.98 score they earned at the 2014 European Championships. They skated the same program that won the the team event Pairs Short Program set to former Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian's "Waltz" from the play "Masquerade". Considering that "Masquerade" is a dark story of a woman who is killed by her husband after being falsely accused of cheating, Tatiana and Max certainly gave a lighter (through dramatic) interpretation of the music's story and the name of the game for them was their solid execution of every element that reflected in their TES score with high levels and GOE's. I can't even FEIGN interest writing out the words 'levels' and 'GOE'. How depressing is that? They honestly DO deserve great scores for the quality of the elements they do, but their program is NOT the most difficult nor in my opinion the most soul stirring.

If you look at the difficulty of the jumping passes alone, Savchenko and Szolkowy, Duhamel and Radford AND Stoblova and Klimov had them beat. They follow in the footsteps of the so many great Russian/former Soviet pairs legends, but I don't find myself moved in the same way by their skating I was by other Russian teams like Gordeeva and Grinkov or Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze for instance. They remind me more of Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev in the styling and choreography they portrayed in this program. Skating clean, they earned a score of 84.17.

Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, students of World Champion and Olympic Medallist Ingo Steuer, returned to the familiar, ditching their "When Winter Comes" short program and opting to dance to a familiar tune, recycling "The Pink Panther" music they had previously used in their free skate during the 2010/2011 season. It's always a risky move to show up at the Olympics with a brand new program, but they are not the only skaters to do it. If you're skating to something that you're just not feeling, sometimes going back to something that fits like an old shoe can be the best thing for you... been there myself! I can't say I'm crazy about "The Pink Panther" as an elite level program, unless you're going in a really funny direction like Laurent Tobel did, but it's not really up to me. I just think that as skaters they are a bit better than a vehicle like that. Technically, they were brilliant, landing side-by-side triple toe-loops, their triple twist and a difficult triple flip, but they were ranked under 'the Russians' by almost five points with a score of 79.64.

The second Russian pair, Stoblova and Klimov, were rock solid in their short program, finishing third with another clean program (featuring a huge and clean throw triple lutz) and earning a score of 75.21. Like their teammates, I didn't feel a huge emotional connection with their program but that said, I like their short program much more than their 'Addams Family' free skate which left me feeling completely flat in the Team Event. A ton of respect has to be given to former Olympic Medallists Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China, the veterans of the field, who turned in a very strong performance of their own to find themselves in very real striking distance of another Olympic podium with a score of 73.30. In fact, the scores of the teams ranked third through seventh all fall in a five point range, meaning that that fight for medals in the free skate really and honestly is anyone's game. As RuPaul would say... "and DON'T fuck it up!"

Olympic Silver Medallists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (feels so good to say that!), who were absolutely radiant in the team event's Pairs Short Program once again took to the ice to perform "Tribute", a moving tribute to late coach Paul Wirtz set to music specially composed by Eric himself. Not only is this program beautifully crafted, it's the most technically difficult. Their side-by-side triple lutz alone has a base value of 6.00 points, which is 4.1 points more than the side-by-side triples attempted by favourites Volosozhar and Trankov and Savchenko and Szolkowy. Again, the throw triple lutz in Meagan and Eric's program has a base value of 5.5, which is 0.5 more than the throw triple loop in the Russian's program. They nailed that throw triple lutz and landed their side-by-side triple lutzes this time too! It's not just about the big ticket elements for these two though. The quality and difficulty of little details like the CRAZY transition into their death spiral is something, for instance, that really makes their skating stand out. I really felt that they were swindled for points in the team event, especially in the PCS marks and based on their program's difficulty and quality, again here too. At any rate, a second medal at these Winter Olympics is in reach from fifth place and if anyone can do it, it's them.

Kristen Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch (ALSO now Olympic Silver Medallists) are every bit as talented as the rest and showed off not only their daring lifts and sound pairs skills in their short program set to the same music that led them to a 4th place finish at the 2013 World Championships, "Motley Crew" from the "Micmacs" soundtrack. Choreographed by Mark Pillay, this program was filled with energy, personality and detail and that reflected in their PCS marks. Coached by Canadian Champions Kristy (Sargeant) and Kris Wirtz, it's easy to see Kristy and Kris in this pair. They were solid as a rock, with controlled fireworks on their twists and throws. Sixth place and a score of 70.92 place them in the running for a medal as well!

Team U.S.A. was well represented by The Skating Club Of Boston's Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, who delivered a clean program under immense pressure to find themselves in the top ten. Marissa and Simon certainly benefited from the experience of competing in the Team Event and handily earned themselves an Olympic Bronze medal in the process and if they skate like they did today, they will surely find themselves in the top ten. Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, the team who stole the stole in the free skate at the 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston (a city's name you always have to say with the accent just cause) were positively brilliant as well, crusing through their side-by-side triples and throw triple lutz like they were nothing. Being both of these teams first Olympic Games, it's really so incredible to see them have such grace under pressure. Felicia and Nathan find themselves disappointly in 14th under Italians Berton and Hotarek, who certainly didn't have the skate the Americans did.

Canada's third team, Saskatchewan's Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, who skated in the third group are are so talented in their own right. They weren't perfect technically today, but they put on one of the best shows going. If they were nervous, you couldn't have guessed! As a side note, he is CUTE! Just sayin. Another great performance that really stood out was that of France's Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who looked confident and on their A game in a flawless program that was surely vindication for their skate in the Team Event's short program. All in all, for team after team this was how they WANTED to skate on the world's biggest stage, and it's wonderful to see so many teams go clean or close to it.


After the short program, the pack was close but the win almost seemed phoned in back in October for the Russian team of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov Jr. Though it seems in the eyes of the international judges that they can do no wrong, the fact of the matter remains that on the ice they aren't either. The quality of their elements really IS outstanding. It's not like the judges are dishing out some grave miscarriage of skating justice as they seem to be with Plushenko's PCS marks but they aren't being skimpy either. Tatiana and Maxim's marks are a little theatrically high every time I find, but that said, they are great. That's simply fact. After four years of hard work, sweat and tears, they join legendary Olympic Gold Medallists of the past like Ekaterina Gordeeva and the late Sergei Grinkov, Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov and Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev as the latest in the line of great champion Russian pairs skaters. The new Olympic Champions performed a program set to "Jesus Christ Superstar" and dazzled with their difficult lifts and a triple twist that defied gravity but they weren't absolutely perfect. They showed their humanity, they fought through the entire skate and I have to admit it was touching to see them crack that steely focus and show so much raw emotion after skating the biggest performance of their lives in front of their home country. Despite skating clean in both of the short programs they had skated so far in Sochi, there had been a certain buzz about this particular program when they fumbled at the European Championships and were outscored by Stolbova and Klimov in that segment of the competition. However, disaster was what it really would have taken to pry that gold medal from their hands based on their short program lead alone and they didn't only fend of the competition, they threw down a quite a resplendent performance and earned a score of 152.69, even if it wasn't their very best. They join a long list of Olympic Gold Medallists in pairs skating that have most recently included Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier and Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.


With regards to Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, as I said before the complete lack of any big girl choreography in this program gets on my last gay nerve. Fedor looked more like Beetlejuice in his striped tux than Gomez Addams and I'm not sure who Ksenia was going for but it certainly wasn't Morticia... more along the lines of Juno The Case Worker from Beetlejuice or little Wednesday playing dressup. I know, I should tell you how I really feel right? That said, they really had the skate of the night and really couldn't seem to put a foot wrong, not only completing every single jumping pass in their free skate but doing so with confidence and speed. With a final score of 218.68, their effort wouldn't be enough to unseat their teammates, but it would be enough for the silver medal many didn't expect from this pair, including myself. They were exciting and they earned it.

The German team of Savchenko and Szolkowy, thought by many as the Russian's biggest challengers, laid down a very strong effort in the short program and wanted nothing more than to duplicate it in their free skate set to "The Nutcracker", a program choreographed by David Wilson in collaboration with the team's coach Ingo Steuer and certainly tailored to the Russian audience. Their big risk element that could have been the deciding factor between an upset and silver was a throw triple axel slated for late in their program but after a complete disaster on their opening side-by-side jump sequence, it was clear that their quest to end their career with the skate of their lives was over. The whole program was overflowing with difficult elements that rivalled the Russians - a throw triple flip, side-by-side double axels and complex lifts, but the choreography itself simply wasn't them and did them no favors. If I look back to their "Out Of Africa" program from years ago, this "Nutcracker" program just wasn't the vehicle that did it for me. A gold medal out of their grasp after their early mistake, a fall on their gutsy triple axel attempt right at the end of their program put that final nail in their coffin. Their bronze medal was, in my opinion, a gift.

China's Qing Pang and Jian Tong deserve a standing ovation from all skating fans for their long term
dedication to the sport and last hurrah. Making their debut at the World Championships in 1999,
Sochi was incredibly this team's fourth Winter Olympics, moving up steadily from ninth to fourth to win the silver medal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver right behind teammates Shen and Zhao. Skating to "I Dreamed A Dream" from "Les Miserables" (like U.S. team Zhang and Bartholomay and so many other skaters at these Games opting to interpret Schonberg's iconic score), their program was a beautiful backdrop for their skating which has stayed at such a competitive level for so many years. Their swan song wasn't to be enough for a medal again after a problem right off the bat on their opening double axel/double axel jump sequence set the mood for a program that seemed to have an emotional disconnect to me, although their twist was so nice and big and their throws not only had great height and security but distance as well. It wasn't their Susan Boyle moment, but it was a really good skate they can and should be proud of.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Kristen Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch and Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers are all champions in my eyes, and that's not just because I'm from Canada. They are plucky teams with personality, solid skating skills and great attack in their programs. They are modern and not just doing the same heavy, overused, copycat programs that their competition are. They all went in different directions with their programs - Meagan and Eric interestingly choosing "Alice In Wonderland" after skating in the opening number of last year's "Stars On Ice" with the same theme and Two Steps From Hell's "Everlasting", Kristen and Dylan going with a Fellini Medley (a traditional choice yet big, brassy music to complement their style) and Paige and Rudi (like Meagan and Eric) going with a Danny Elfman score, "Oz The Great And Powerful", a sharp contrast from their more playful short program.

Meagan and Eric's program had a huge level of difficulty, with attempts at side-by-side triple lutzes and a side-by-side triple salchow/double toe/double toe combination not to be overshadowed by a throw triple loop and throw triple lutz attempt. The Quebec duo wanted to have a great skate and match or exceed their personal best score of 130.96 from last year's World Championships where they won the bronze medal. Their transitions were clever, creative and difficult; their choreography sweeping and eye-catching. Sadly, they weren't perfect. Although their side-by-side triple lutzes were AMAZING, they weren't perfect. A fall on the side-by-side triple salchows and a hand down on their throw triple lutz were just enough to end their hopes of moving up from fifth and fighting for a medal, but that said, their skate still had more excitement than the German pair who WON the bronze in my opinion.

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, on the other hand, had one of their very best skates, nailing everything in their Nino Rota free skate with confidence and verve with the exception of one doubled side-by-side jump but their score of 202.10 still wasn't enough to catch up to the flawed pairs who placed ahead of them. From a casual viewers point of view, that's clearly something that's wrong with the current judging system but at any rate, they should be damn proud of how they skated. Fifth at the Olympics - and seventh for Meagan and Eric - are results to be proud of. Paige and Rudi weren't able to come from behind and ended the competition in 14th, but what's not to love about them? They really have a huge future in Canadian and international skating.

So many other exciting moments happened outside of that top medal race of teams - China's Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao skated a very strong performance and executed a QUAD twist whereas Americans Castelli and Shnapir also turned in a gutsy performance, going for a throw quad salchow and landing it on two feet. So brave, so fearless and so talented they are. Americans Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay had a great Olympic debut too that they really need to be incredibly proud of - their love of skating and talent shines.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

When you have that many talented men all fighting for spots in the top ten, it becomes a game of who can stay on their feet and check off each element in the list. Naturally, some did and some didn't and their placements in this part of the competition will really set the stage for who will realistically have a shot at a medal. That said, "it ain't over till the fat lady sings". Who's got a viking helmet? Oh, wait, we aren't in Lillehammer anymore, Toto. I couldn't help but having this sinking feeling in my stomach that Plushenko would be rewarded again uber generously for his efforts regardless of his skate. Call it part hunch, part analysis of the Team Event. It turned out that none of that would even matter, when Plushenko did the not so shocking and withdrew from the men's event after reportedly injuring himself in the warm up. Having not attended his practice the night before, part of me wasn't surprised at all to see him withdraw (injury or not). Part of you has to wonder somewhere deep down if this wasn't written on the wall after Plushenko had stated previously that his real interest in competing at these Sochi Olympics was participating in the Team Event. I suppose in anchoring the Russian team's victory in the Team Event, his goal of winning an another Olympic gold medal was completed. I'm not downplaying or trivializing any injury Plushenko sustained, I just knew in my heart of hearts after not attending last night's practice that something was up.


Yuzuru Hanyu, the sensation from Sendai and the talk of Tokyo, was one skater heading into these Games many considered as a very real threat to the momentum that Patrick Chan has been building for years and years into this Olympic season. A gifted jumper and an emerging artist (yes, emerging), Hanyu has shown great grace under fire and won the Grand Prix Final this December on home soil in Fukuoka, Japan ahead Chan and other top international skaters. His short program presented to "Parisienne Walkways" by Gary Moore was also choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle and full of sophisticated choreography that pushed the 19 year old to higher heights than his soaring jumps. He didn't disappoint, going clean with all of the big tricks and besting Chan. His opening quad toe-loop was textbook and the triple axel and triple lutz/triple toe combination that followed were beautiful as well. With a score of 101.45, he not only took the lead after the short program, but his PCS score of 46.61 wasn't far behind Chan's either.


Patrick Chan has been the World Champion the last three years running and the benchmark for the other skaters he competed against. Like many of the world's best in all four disciplines, there is often a certain frustration with the extremely high PCS scores he garners despite sometimes error prone performances... that 'Chanflation' business. His short program in Sochi was aptly set to Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Elegie In E Flat Minor" choreographed by a genius skater in his own right, Jeffrey Buttle. Chan looked poised to deliver the skate that everyone expected from him when he started off strong, executing a beautiful quad toe/triple toe combination but a step out on his second jumping pass, the triple axel was that slight margin of error that opened to door for Hanyu to sneak through. He may not be first but an Olympic gold medal is still firmly within his reach as both he and Hanyu are in a two man race for gold, their scores being almost ten points ahead of the rest of the pack who will fight for bronze.

European Champion Javier Fernandez, the prodigal student of 2 time Olympic Silver Medallist and World Champion Brian Orser, is such a star. Skating to "Satan Takes A Holiday", quirky, fun music made famous to skating fans when Robin Cousins skated to it professionally, Fernandez' skating and program had Brian Orser written ALL over them and that is most certainly not a bad thing... just sayin. This particular performance was by no means what he wanted with mistakes on all three jumping passes - a problematic landing on his quad salchow, a foot down on his triple axel and a step out on his triple lutz/triple toe combination, however he posted a more than generous score of 86.98 to keep him in the running. I don't really get it. Sorry guys.

Daisuke Takahashi, who like Ashley Wagner faced criticism through no real fault of his own by being selected to represent his country at these Olympics after finishing off the podium at his National Championships, made it in the news again recently after it was revealed that the composer of his short program music "Sonatina For Violin In C-Sharp Minor" had fraudulently attributed the music to himself. In drag queen speak, he stole someone else's number. That NEVER goes over well! None of these things really speak to Takahashi's character, beautiful mature, adult, majestic skating or his determination all season to make this Olympic dream happen again for him. Defending his Olympic bronze medal from the Vancouver Games would be a HUGE task for Takahashi, but his skating was magnificent here. His program, choreographed by Kenji Miyamoto, is a beautiful program in and of itself even if you completely remove the jumps (much like Abbott and Brown's programs). Although deserving of high class PCS marks, his opening quad wasn't to be and a 4th place finish, considering the showmanship and finesse of both American skaters, seemed a bit forgiving. If two skaters miss their quads and land the rest and both deliver gutsy performances, there shouldn't be an over 10 place gap in the standings nor an over 5 point gap in the PCS marks. I just don't agree.

Skating to an orchestral arrangement of Coldplay, one of the best skates of the competition came from Germany's Peter Liebers, who went clean with a beautiful quad/triple combination, triple axel and triple lutz and finished 5th behind Chan, Fernandez and Takahashi, who all made mistakes. Was he robbed? He was robbed blind. Liebers, with a classy and well choreographed program designed by Lori Nichol, finished behind Spain's Fernandez, who had errors on all three of his jumping passes. Riddle me this... do you need to have a bigger 'name' to get a bigger result? In this case, I guess you do. Joubert too, was clean, and was certainly farther back than the Spanish skating star who's full of talent but just didn't deliver on this occasion up to his true potential. 

Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown, who each respectively gave BLOWOUT performances at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were admittedly the skaters I probably most wanted to see. For every little bit of perceived patriotism you may have noticed in my conversation about the pairs event, throw that around the window. I can gush about Jeremy and Jason's skating with the best of them. Jeremy, the four time U.S. Champion, skated his short program to Jun Miyake's "Lilies Of The Valley" by Pina and this program really stands in a class of itself. It's choreographed by 1980 Olympic Gold Medallist Robin Cousins and when it's skated well, it is a complete masterpiece. Jason's short program is a showstopper also. The 19 year old kept his short program from last season, a beautifully constructed program by the genius Rohene Ward skated to Prince's "A Question Of U". Both skaters skated with such heart!

Jeremy took a TERRIFYING tumble on his opening quad toe and had me terrified to death that he was seriously injured. I can't even imagine what was going through his Mom Allison's head. It was seriously reminiscent of the fall Candice Didier took in her free skate at Worlds years ago - like call an ambulance scary. He got up to a thunderous applause from the Russian audience and came back like a scrapper to land a great triple lutz/triple toe and gutsy triple axel and sold the rest of his program like a total star. If anyone deserves an Olympic gold medal for grit and determination it's Jeremy. I won't lie, he had me all teary eyed. Moments like that program are what skating and life are all about: getting back up and fighting with every fiber of your being! Strangely, the fact that he got up and fought is what Jeremy's career has always been about to me... not giving up. In a post skate interview, Jeremy reflected on his performance with the beautiful words: "I think my personal story has always been about perseverance and always getting up when you fall, so maybe I'm not Olympic champion, but if nothing else I can teach the world that you can get up". Beautifully, beautifully said.
Jason Brown two footed his opening triple axel but like Jeremy, came back strong to land a great triple flip/triple toe and Tano triple lutz and gave a performance full of confidence, personality and that uncompromising artistry that's made him such a popular and revered skater. Brown sits in sixth, his "Riverdance" free skate set to be performed in the final flight of men tomorrow and will it make me cry again? It so will! Jeremy Abbott inexplicably sits in 15th place, more than 10 places behind Javier Fernandez, who was unsuccessful in all three of his jumping passes. You figure that one out. I sure can't.

Skating to "Mutation" from Cirque Du Soleil's "Amaluna", 2007 World Champion Brian Joubert showed us why he's continued to compete in the ISU ranks. It's funny, despite a drop in the standings the last couple years, the quality of his skating has drastically improved in time and he still has so much to offer. Brian's got this great of mix of raw athleticism and magnetism that draw you into his performances regardless of whether or not he lands his jumps or not. There's just something about that man that I really like. Brian skated as well as he could have, landing a great quad toe/triple toe combination to open as well as a triple lutz and squeaking out his triple axel to go clean. His PCS scores, as always, were the factor that kept him lower in the standings than he would have liked, but you have to appreciate Brian for delivering a great program when it counted. "Washed up" he is absolutely not.

I found Han Yan's scoring to be generous as his program had about as much personality as pizzazz as a watered down drink and I don't quite get his eighth place finish ahead of skaters like Denis Ten in 9th, Machida in 11th, Brezina in 12th, Verner in 13th or Abbott in 15th. Though technically a strong contender when he's on, his skating does nothing for me. Kevin Reynolds, who landed three quads in his free skate in the Team Event to win an Olympic silver medal, kind of imploded in the short program here, finishing 17th behind a clean as a whistle Jorik Hendrickx to put himself out of the running. With his technical skills, he can certainly put this AC/DC disaster behind him and rebound with a skate for the ages if he skates up to his potential. Sadly, Liam Firus, the rookie and surprise third man on the Canadian team, found himself in the second to last position after skating first and having a rough go of it.


In the free skate, battle for gold was clearly between Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, the leader and new short program world record holder, and Patrick Chan, the favourite. Both skaters, with a loyal following of fans (judges seemingly among them) skated strong short programs, albeit the three time World Champion Chan's not technically perfect. With the very high scores Patrick gets from judges even when he's not clean, the task of claiming Olympic gold for Japan's Hanyu would be even harder. Yuzuru really had to be as sensational as he was in the short program. His free skate, performed to Nina Rota's interpretation of "Romeo And Juliet" was choreographed by Canadian choreographer David Wilson. Did he create any sort of a moment with his performance? In my opinion, not particularly. The gold and silver medals were phoned in after the short program scores and it didn't really seem to matter how either Hanyu or Chan skated. Hanyu wasn't disastrous, managing a quad toe, two triple axels and two triple lutzes, but a bad fall on a quad salchow and a step out and hand down on his triple flip rendered him cautious and really detracted from any sense of momentum in his program. It was enough though, and his Olympic gold medal was well earned based on his spectacular short program performance. That said, if this performance as well as Chan's were enough to win Olympic gold and silver medals ahead of skaters with clean, inspiring performances, the IJS judging system officially has had its moment of completely ruining skaters for Olympic viewers. It's a shame that these two skaters performances on the Olympic stage were the catalyst for complete confusion, but sadly, that's "how things are".


With his parents Karen and Louis Chan in the audience, Patrick Chan took to the ice to skate his tour de force of a free skate set to Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" and "Concerto Grosso" by Arcangelo Corelli, a program that like Hanyu's was choreographed by David Wilson. I couldn't even imagine seeing two programs you'd created and nursed to perfection with these skaters being compared on such a grand scale. That certainly has to be a testament to Wilson's brilliance. After stepping out of a big triple axel in his short program, you had to know that in addition to the quad, Patrick wanted to nail that triple axel in style in his free skate. A tour de force today was not. After opening strong with a gorgeous quad toe/triple toe program, both Patrick's jumps and musical interpretation pretty much fell apart. He stepped out of three jumps and doubled others and in my opinion, his choreography and interpretation was nowhere like it normally is with this program. As with Hanyu, the judging was phoned in. Both skaters scored WELL above skaters like Jeremy Abbott and Brian Joubert, who stayed on their feet and delivered fine performances and I'm left scratching my head. A ten point lead over Jeremy Abbott in PCS alone? Judges, get over yourselves. You may be keeping in line with the status quo, but you are not judging the programs that I'm watching apparently. Although a marvellous skater and now an Olympic Gold and Silver Medallist, this was not the Olympics Chan almost certainly envisioned.


Denis Ten, who missed the first part of his season due to illness and skated an imperfect but impassioned short program, skated his free skate to Lori Nichols' choreography. His music was the always dramatic "The Young Lady And The Hooligan" by prominent Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Ten's short program placement of 9th was a blessing in itself - he outranked Sweden's Alexander Majorov who handily landed a quad in his short program. His free skate would be enough to vault him from 9th to win the bronze medal and although he flubbed his last two jumps in an otherwise exceptional skate, I actually thought as compared to Hanyu and Chan, his program had a lot more meat. His medal win over Spain's Fernandez, in the judge's eyes, was moreso about his TES score, and his quad toe, triple axel/triple toe and triple axel had a lot to with that. I just find it ironic that he again finished behind Chan at a major event after skating a program that was arguably more put together. It doesn't matter though. He's a great skater and good on him for winning the Olympic bronze medal that didn't even seem possible earlier this season.

Spain's Javier Fernandez elicited what were in my opinion EXTREMELY charitable scores to say the least for his marred short program, clearly had the respect of the judges. To say Javier isn't a phenomenal skater is completely untrue and unfair, but to say he wasn't helped out a little wouldn't be true either. In the free skate, he redeemed himself by leaps and bounds (literally) with a program that featured two quadruple jumps right at the beginning: a quad toe and a quad salchow/double toe combination. A couple doubles here and there were just the difference between third and fourth and his PCS score of 89.14 wasn't enough to catch up with Ten's almost ten point lead in the TES scores.

As the reigning Olympic Bronze Medallist, Daisuke Takahashi of Japan had proven that he was still in the running for the medal when the judges awarded him a score of 86.40 in the short program and a fourth place finish despite an underrotated quad toe that he stepped out of at the beginning of his program. I think Daisuke wanted this Olympic moment to happen as badly as ANYONE, and his free skate just wasn't enough to even come close, even in a night of sub par skating. A triple lutz/triple toe and triple axel highlighted the better moments in his program, but errors on his opening quad toe and second triple axel really ended any hopes of moving up in the standings. Disappointingly, his sixth place finish is no indication of how great Takahashi is when he's on his A game.

Tatsuki Machida, who also represented Japan in the free skate of the Team Event, is an accomplished
free skater in his own right. He's won international competitions left, right and center and finished just off the podium at this December's Grand Prix Final. His free skate this season was set to Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird", music made famous among figure skating fans when it was performed by Toller Cranston, who is just - let's face it - pretty much the best thing ever. Machida is pretty outstanding in his own right. The 23 year old from Hiroshima, Japan shows in his skating an understanding of the music he's interpreting and has a solid jumping technique that he demonstrated that like Jeremy Abbott in a short program, if you miss your first jump, you CAN get up and fight. The fall on his opening quad didn't set the tone for the rest of his program, which was actually excellent. He got a quad toe combination in there, two triple axels and many triples LATE in the program, giving him that bonus. A 5th place finish at the Olympics is nothing to sneeze at. Good for him!

Germany's Peter Liebers really was the surprise of the men's short program, skating a fantastic and clean program to an arrangement of Coldplay's "Clocks" that included a gorgeous quad toe/triple toe combination. In the free skate, the 25 year old son of former East German international competitor Mario Liebers showed his modern, European style and grace under pressure with his program performed to an arrangement of Queen's "Who Wants To Live Forever?" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" choreographed by former Japanese competitor turned choreographer Shin Amano. Not only is Liebers a really good jumper, but I appreciate his dedication to skating and music choices. We see enough Carmen's, am I not right? Although he got a nice triple axel/triple toe in there, problems on a few of his jumping passes including his opening quad dropped him in the standings to 8th but that said, I don't think that his prominence at this event was anything a lot of people necessarily expected. It's proof and parcel not to count out strong and consistent jumpers who don't have the names or judge popularity of the rest of the field.

Jason Brown's "Riverdance" program is one of the most moving, memorable programs I've seen skated in ISU competition in the last ten years. Completely musical, exquisitely choreographed and full of exuberance, from his opening stance to the program's climax with it's perfectly timed triple flip and extended back leg lift into a triple lutz with the arm variation, it's really an exciting ride from start to finish that has you tapping his toes, cheering along and getting emotional. I've always felt an emotional connection to this music, as I explained earlier in my blog about the U.S. Championships in Boston that I'd skated to the same music myself at my first Provincials, the program being one of the most special I ever skated. When the draw had Jason skating last, you just knew that no matter what happened, there was going to be magic and if he skated well, confusion among viewers who wanted that gold medal around his neck if he skated like he did in Boston. That's how people who don't give a damn about TES and PCS scores view skating. They want the 'best skater' to win, and with the way Brown skates, he is a hell of a lot more exciting to watch than anyone in that final group. He wasn't perfect, struggling on both of his triple axel attempts and popping open his second double axel before throwing it back in there in a moment of true grit. The program didn't lose any bit of its excitement despite a few jumping bobbles yet these PRIZES of judges still gave him a lower PCS score than a bumbling Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu, and placed him an incredible 11th place in the free skate, dropping him to 9th overall. You really can only laugh at this point. Your system's busted, Cinquanta. You might want to get on that, honey.

Both Czech men competing in this event were devilishly handsome and full of natural talent. 23 year old Michal Brezina is a former champion at Skate America in 2011 and 27 year old Tomáš Verner is a veteran in the men's field, having won 10 Czech titles, 6 senior Grand Prix medals and the 2008 European title. Brezina actually started off CRAZY strong in his free skate, landing 2 quad salchows and a triple axel back to back and looking poised to make a move, but he unravelled a little bit later on to end the competition in 10th to his teammate Verner's 11th.

After his courageous and inspiring short program, it was hard to even think that we'd see Jeremy Abbott skate his much loved "Exogenesis" free skate. The fall he took looked to be excruciating; the fact he got up didn't even seem possible. With his parents Allen and Allison in the stands to witness his final Olympic moment, Jeremy Abbott had what I think was the best skate of the ENTIRE men's free skate, wisely leaving the quad out of his program and opting for a triple toe instead. He landed two triple axels (one in combination with a triple toe) for a grand total of seven clean triple jumps in his free skate and two double axels and was kindly rewarded by moving up to 12th overall in an otherwise hot mess of a men's free skate. How big of them. At any rate, judges scores be damned, these Olympics were a testament to Jeremy's "get up and fight" attitude and I don't think he could have asked for a better performance in the free skate. His program was ethereal and exciting, his determination fierce and his story only the more remarkable by doing the impossible on the Olympic stage. We can't rely on a leaderboard to determine who the real champions are, and Jeremy is the real Olympic Gold Medallist in my heart.

Like Evgeni Plushenko, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games marked Brian Joubert of Poitiers, France's fourth appearance at the Olympics and none of them, sadly, resulted in a medal for the three time European Champion and 2007 World Champion. Despite consistent success over the years, a steady improvement in all areas of his skating and a clean short program, the French star found himself in a position to make a move but behind skaters who had fared far worse with their jumping passes. Considering jumping is Joubert's forte, the judging didn't make all of the sense in the world. The quad was what Joubert was counting on in his free skate to Jaoquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" as he'd counted on it for years - Joubert was the first skater to land 100 quadruple jumps in competition. Joubert delivered a really solid skate here actually, landing two quads and a triple axel to finish a ridiculous 13th overall behind skater after skater who quite frankly, in many cases, blew it. I don't even know what you say to this shit. And shit it is. Good for Brian for skating what's almost likely his last Olympic free skate SO well and shame on the judges for relying on the current popularity of these skaters to dictate their final placings. They had no problem rewarding Plushenko with GENEROUS scores for his stop and pose programs, so I don't see why Brian Joubert's suddenly being dinged for his '6.0' style of men's skating. Oh wait, 'we're in Russia'.

British Columbia's Olympic Silver Medallist Kevin Reynolds was one skater that could have easily played the 'spoiler' role and really turned in an upset but his results in the short program, 17th, would mean he was really skating for redemption and not a medal. After missing much of the season due to boot problems, the Olympics were Kevin's first international appearance of the season. Today's answer to Tim Goebel with quad attempts galore, he skated to the sweeping "Excelcius" by Larry Groupe and was all about going big or going home. He did it a bit of both, making mistakes on a good number of his jumping passes including his first two quad attempts, but did land a beauty of a quad toe, which helped him move up two places to 15th. After a disappointing debut at the Olympics, Canada's third men's entry Liam Firus failed to qualify for the free skate.

The lesson to be learned by all of this is not that these skaters aren't talented. They sure as hell are and to think otherwise is just foolish. The quad race inspired by this gymnastics style scoring system that compares apples with apples has left no room for special moments and if the International Skating Union chooses not to come up with a system that rewards success and not just difficulty, we'll be in for more Olympic medallists with less than memorable performances. In turn, casual viewers will shake their hands and change the channel, skaters will become even more streamlined and I'll develop an ulcer to go along with that well-used liver o'mine.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

The story of the ice dance competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics would - as we all expected - be about the fierce rivalry between Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, two teams who have won Olympic medals, World Championships and legions of fans around the world. Are they both immensely talented teams? You bet! Was beating Davis and White possible for Virtue and Moir? Yes, but not easily. The American team had set the bar so freaking high score wise all season that it would come down to the minute details and deconstruction of both team's short dances to determine who would be ultimately victorious... and what the judges judiciously decided were appropriate scores.


Hailing from Michigan, Meryl Davis and Charlie White are two time World Champions and six time World Champions and it seems everything they touch turns to gold. They've been heralded by fans of the IJS judging system for their speed, program difficulty and consistency, and it's no wonder why. Their short dance set to Loewe's "I Could Have Danced All Night", "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me To The Church On Time" was a dazzling display of pulling off frighteningly difficult choreography with ease, good dance holds and edges and as always, their lifts were the stars of the show. Their twizzles were neat, tidy and in perfect unison and that's the most crucial factor in that short dance. Let's face it - synchronized twizzles are INSANELY hard! As many would have called it, they reigned victorious in the first part of the ice dance competition over their training mates with a score of 78.89, breaking their own Short Dance world record. Definitely the kind of skate you want to have at the Olympics!

Olympic Gold Medallists and recent reality TV stars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who train alongside Davis and White with shared coach Marina Zoueva were the picture of emotion and artistry on ice. You can't overlook the difficulty and edge quality of their dreamy program set to a Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald medley of "Dream A Little Dream Of Me", "Muskrat Ramble" and "Cheek To Cheek". Perhaps more than the Americans, their skating blooms with emotion and heart. I'm not saying Davis and White don't have it because they clearly do, but the Disney facade of Meryl and Charlie's short dance seems plastic in comparison to Tessa and Scott's musical interpretation. Technically, the strong points were the edge work, holds and back positions however from a judging standpoint, the judges made it clear they weren't going to take the plunge and give them the lead, placing the Canadian duo second with a score of 76.33. Getting real with you all, I personally don't agree with this decision. There was nothing to nitpick about Tessa and Scott's skating today - the twizzles were gorgeous as was their step sequence and their closing rotational lift was right on the money. Their performance, most importantly, made me feel something. Davis and White's lead isn't insurmountable, but the writing almost seems on the wall. That's not pessimism, that's realism.

Rounding out the top five were Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat and Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. Each demonstrated a command of the ice, strong musical interpretation and excellent skating skills, however personally when it came to the program itself, France's Pechalat and Bourzat had the competition beat hands down in my humble opinion, and like Are You Being Served?'s Mrs. Slocombe, "I am UNANIMOUS in that!" The Russians Bobrova and Soloviev, for instance, improved their musical interpretation and sold their Marilyn Monroe program with much more conviction that they did in the Team Event Short Dance, but their skating appeared frantic and I thought that posture wise there were plenty of issues with the UPPER body and free legs. It just looked a little out of sorts in places. There just seems to be a lot more obvious effort being put into the footwork in places (particularly the opening)... definitely not the program the French team had an in my opinion, in terms of actual skating skills. In outpacing their teammates, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (that's Katsalapov, not Catsupalov) really shined in a lot of ways - particularly in carriage, attention to detail and SPEED. The program BUILT to the end and all I could think of with their closing "Sing Sing Sing" section was Rose Nylund cartwheeling in the Golden Girls' dance competition: "I better do this alone!" That finish was spectacular, but I thought personally in terms of the start to finish, Pechalat and Bourzat's presentation gave them the edge. I am becoming fast fans of Ilinykh and Katsalapov though, and have no issue with the third place finish WHATSOEVER.

Canadian teams Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam were both such stars here. I do feel, however, that underscoring went on with Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje's "42nd Street" short dance, which is right up there. With medal quality skating, great ice coverage and a hearty interpretation of the music, their masterful translation of tap dancing to ice came from their work with Toronto choreographer Geoffrey Tyler. Other than the unison on the twizzle section, the carriage and edge quality was very reminiscent of Bourne and Kraatz and if you're talking TES, they should be right up there with the best. As a good friend pointed out, they scored 70+ at Skate Canada. Why this went down is questionable. I don't know if there's this unspoken rule that two Canadian ice dance teams can't both have medals around their necks, but the Russians seemed to have no problem winning two medals in the pairs competition. Just putting that out there. I'm not saying that I would have had Kaitlyn and Andrew in the top four, but fifth or sixth would have been more appropriate.

"I want to talk about... Madeline Ashton". No, not really, although I love that movie to death and pieces. I do want to talk about Maia and Alex Shibutani, Sara Hurtado Martin and Adrian Diaz Bronchud and Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland though. Their performances may not have them in the running for medals, but they were extraordinary and full of personality, difficulty and heart. There's that 'it factor' that all three of these teams have and their love of skating just shines when they take to the ice to twizzle and maverick through their programs. They're special skaters you just can't help but cheering on and smiling along with. And those are the skaters whose performances you remember at the end of the day!


The free dance... Meryl and Charlie's "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" free dance from last year was absolutely to die for. It was like a big old chocolate cake with a dollop of extra chocolate on it and some chocolate on the side... you know, for dippin. There was musicality, drama and such solid skating technique. This year, they chose to go in a completely different direction and tell the story of "Sheherazade", the legendary Persian queen whose charm, storytelling ability and intelligence saved her life from Shahryar and made her Queen. This wasn't Oksana Baiul rolling around on the ice to "The Feeling Begins" (which I loved by the way), but it's still a very theatrical and detailed program with excellent speed, footwork, edges and fantastic lifts. I'm really quite in awe of this team's music choice because they really are a team that has always excelled not only technically but in their ability to tell stories in these epic style programs. It's really a lot like Anissina and Peizerat, if you think about it. That's the comparison that I make. They came into the free dance with a hefty advantage as the leaders and a two and a half point lead on Tessa and Scott, but they didn't cake walk through their free dance either. This program is clearly SO well rehearsed that they have the ability to go out and just do it, and do it they did. In winning the Olympic gold medal, they made history - no other U.S. ice dance team has ever won Olympic gold - and showed not only their technical prowess but their supercharged guns blazing energy. Whichever dance you ultimately prefer, you have to give it to Davis and White. Their skating is of an Olympic gold medal calibre, and if it was to happen in their careers, now was the time. Congratulations to them both!


Last year, I wasn't in love with "Carmen". It's hard to love "Carmen" when you've seen it a million times and you're constantly comparing it in your head to so many previous interpretations, including Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov's, which to me was really my favourite ice dancing "Carmen". That said, it grew on me and by the time of the free dance at Worlds, I was really starting to appreciate the merits and difficulty of Virtue and Moir's interpretation. There have been some clear criticisms of their free dance this year - that it's too much like the free dance that won them Olympic gold in Vancouver and that the lifts are somewhat recycled. I can see both points in some ways but I really have to say that I think this program is like a trip down a wonderful memory lane and in many ways, a summation and conclusion to such a vast and shining career. The program grew and developed over the year and in this outing, was simply exquisite. Things improved and came together naturally from the start of the season until this Olympic moment, and the power of both skaters to use edges and good ice dancing technique to help tell their story on the ice was the mark of brilliance. I look at this dance this way as compared to Davis and White's: you can have a shot of vodka or a beautiful glass of pee-knot noyer (that one's for Doug Mattis). In the end, the judges in Russia favored vodka and hey, vodka goes down smooth and is a fabulous time too. Tessa and Scott should be incredibly proud of the longevity of their career, three Olympic medals and a swan song to competitive skating that was gorgeous, captivating and larger than life.

As for the "fix" that was supposed to be in before the competition even started, we'll never know. Scores are anonymous and if you're Canadian and give credence to the idea or even show unabashed support for Tessa and Scott, you're 'ridiculous'. I've even had Americans who prefer Tessa and Scott's skating tell me that they'd never dare say so publicly. Personally, I think both teams are both out of this world but can honestly say that I prefer Tessa and Scott's programs because I feel an emotional connection to their skating. Technically, you can't say a bad word about either team unless you're just trying to extrapolate riddles from edges. I'm just thankful they both skated so well and can both proudly call themselves 3 time Olympic medallists... and Olympic Gold Medallists.


The race for the bronze really came down to two to three teams. In the short dance, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov RUS had posted a score of 73.04, giving them the slimmest of leads over two time European Champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France. Another Russian couple, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev were closely behind in fifth place just ahead of Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. The whole thing was very interesting, really. As much as many argued that the judges had it wrong in giving the Short Dance to Davis and White over Virtue and Moir, the placement of Ilinykh and Katsalapov over their teammates was right on the money. In the free dance, we were comparing two very traditional classic dances from the Russian teams with Pechalat and Bourzat's more abstract interpretation of "Le Petit Prince". Though I thought Ilinykh and Katsalapov's "Swan Lake" was big, bold, fast and sharp as anything, I personally found Pechalat and Bourzat's dance to be more interesting - full of really exciting lifts and engaging choreography that drew you in to the performance. Ultimately, the judges elected to favor the Russian team's more classical style, something I don't think I would have predicted months ago considering the seeming push of Bobrova and Soloviev as Russian's 'team'. I'm disappointed, but I'm not upset.

Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje's tango free dance which was masterfully choreographed AND conveyed, didn't get the kind of marks from the judges that I actually think it should have as compared to Bobrova and Soloviev or Cappellini and Lanotte. They skated their program with conviction, finesse and a quality to their edges and footwork that was actually more refined that Bobrova and Soloviev in my opinion. They finished seventh overall. Canada's third entry, Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam ended the competition in eighteenth despite a really nice Olympic debut. I predict brighter things in their future as a team, as with Virtue and Moir's probable retirement from the "amateur" ranks, there will be room for movement in the very deep field of Canadian senior ice dancers.

As I stated when discussing the short dance, three standout teams from the pack were the "ShibSibs" Maia and Alex Shibutani (whose Michael Jackson free dance was BEYOND fun), the British team of Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland who also interpreted Michael Jackson's music with flair and fun and rising stars from Spain, Sara Hurtado and Adrian Diaz Bronchud. Their placement of 13th doesn't do their skating justice by any means. German team Nella Zhiganshina and Alexander Gaszi, who dazzled with their innovative zombie program last season, fell a little flat with their character piece this season in terms of interpretation, but I think if they stick in next season and go back in the truly avant garde direction, they'll have really taken advantage of a niche.

All in all, the ice dancing competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics played host to some of the most exciting ice dancing we've ever seen at the Olympics from an incredibly deep field. Regardless of any of the skaters participating's results, they should be insanely proud of their role in a competition of epic proportions that was skated so very well.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION 

I think it's safe to suffice that the ladies short program at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games was NOT what any of us were predicting to happen. ANY time you have Yuna Kim and Mao Asada competing for a title against each other, they are clearly the epicentre of conversation. Both skaters are Olympic medallists, World Champions and have ridiculously huge fan followings. Here, at these Games, there's been SO much hype about the fifteen year old Russian ladies skater Julia Lipnitskaia that for a good week there, many thought that SHE'D be the skater that Yuna and Mao would both be trying to play catch up to. Throw Akiko Suzuki, Kanako Murakami, Carolina Kostner, Adelina Sotnikova, Kaetlyn Osmond and three crazy talented American ladies skaters in the mix and you've got high stakes skating on your hand... and high stakes skating it was.


With pre-season and early season rumblings of planned comebacks of skaters like Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir and even Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, I have to admit I was slightly skeptical as to whether or not we'd see at Yuna Kim at these Olympic Games making a run to defend her title. I had no reason to be skeptical. She'd won last year's World Championships in a very convincing fashion. I guess I'm just surprised a little when anyone has the determination to try to defend or reclaim an Olympic title. Look at some of the skaters who have had that confidence: Katarina Witt, Christopher Dean, Irina Rodnina, Sonja Henie. These are/were incredibly confident skaters who just commanded the ice. I'm in no way, shape or form saying Yuna hasn't and doesn't, but hers is much more of a quiet, knowing confidence. As they say, still waters run deep. Yuna is a LEGEND in Korea...and Asia period for that matter - we're talking Hollywood blockbuster superstar. Her rivalry with Mao Asada and other Asian skaters has made skating on that continent MORE popular that was in North America from 1994 to 1998, if you can even imagine something like that possible. With an understated, powerful program to "Send In The Clowns", 'Queen Yuna' showed us once again why she's skating royalty. Once again, she flew through her triple lutz/triple toe combination, triple flip and double axel with such ease that she made it look easy and with a score of 74.92, took a lead that she maintained all the way through the final flight to make her the leader after the short program.

I don't know why I'm so surprised that Adelina Sotnikova is sitting in second place because I have no good reason to be, really. The seventeen year old from Moscow was the delight of the Russian crowd, nailing all three jumping passes in her short program to garner a score of 74.64 and second place. As dazzling as she was, I personally would have second and third place reversed in the standings based on the difficulty and choreography of Kostner's program but the fact that Carolina Kostner's PCS score even bested Yuna Kim's is enough to make me pleased as punch. The planned difficulty of Sotnikova's free skate coupled with her score here really give her a convincing chance at a medal, and that would certainly be something, now wouldn't it?

Just like in the Team Event, Carolina Kostner produced such a heartfelt, refined "Ave Maria" program that she even drew a huge response from the very pro-Russian audience. Yes, her triple flip/triple toe and triple loop WERE easier when compared to Kim's triple lutz/triple toe and triple flip, but the fact that she was given the PCS scores and top three placement she deserved here were enough for me. Like with Abbott in the men's event, this is skating that reaches out and touches you. The kind of skating that SKATING needs. Carolina's program was ethereal, BEAUTIFUL and difficult and I feel her skating was a service to the millions watching that just wanted to feel something from a skater's performance in the ladies event. She sits in third with a score of 74.12, a good buffer of points over 4th place Gracie Gold and a very real chance at a medal if she skates her gorgeous "Bolero" free skate to its greatest potential.

Eighteen year old Gracie Gold has that "it" girl factor and the jumps to back it her. She was brilliant in the Team Event and I personally think her decisions to make changes to her programs and coaching team paid off in dividends. Gracie is the kind of skater who really benefits from the judging system she's competing under and I think we can say that she's made great strides in the second mark as well. She certainly proved her critics wrong with an OUTSTANDING performance here that featured an excellent triple lutz/triple toe combination. Sitting in 4th place at the Olympics, her shot at a second medal at these Games is very much within grasp.

When Julia Lipnitskaia skated brilliantly in the Team Event, the whole world suddenly seemed to find their new star. She's got the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, maturity beyond her years and some of the most consistent triple/triple combinations in the business. What's not to love, right? As much as I was crushed that Alena Leonova narrowly missed a spot on the Russian Olympic team after very strong performances at Russian Nationals and Europeans, I have to hand it to Julia. As much as there are nitpicky things like the aesthetic of her jump technique that bother me, she's so young, so vibrant and SO strong. I KNEW after that Team Event that it was clear she was the ladies skater that we'd see playing spoiler at these Olympics and I was almost right. The fifteen year old Muscovite was prodigal in her short program set to "You Don't Give Up On Love" by Mark Minkov, doing great service to Ilya Averbukh's choreography and wrapping up the short program in 5th place. The program on the triple flip only showed her humanity and I still think that her shot at a medal is entirely possible. I do feel that her PCS scores have risen suddenly in a dramatic fashion that I don't really consider plausible, especially as compared to skaters like Akiko Suzuki and I don't agree with that. I do, however, think that she's clearly ridiculously talented and even if given a little help in the PCS department, she may not have needed it based on her difficulty and "levels" in the TES scoring.

I'm a huge fan of Ashley Wagner. Her skating is adult, mature, sophisticated, fresh and exciting. I saw her skate in Stars On Ice last year. Our seats were in the front row right on the ice and what impressed me even more than the gorgeous triple loop she landed literally right in front of me was the twinkle in her eye. There's something so human and so exciting about the way Ashley skates that makes you take notice. She has that 'actress' quality like Katarina Witt has that just commands you to watch her and like her. I think "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is a great vehicle for her. Her program went really well here, despite a -1.70 GOE score on her triple flip/triple toe combination. She again looked radiant on the ice and gave a PERFORMANCE and made people take notice. In 6th place with a score of 65.21, she's still in the medal hunt.

When I said in my review of U.S. Nationals that I saw a lot of hope for the future in Polina Edmunds, I underestimated this young skater. Anyone who can reel of a triple lutz/triple toe combination like it's nothing at age 15 is a skater we want to be paying close attention to. She delivered a wonderful performance here and really surprised me by finishing in 7th. She more than justified her position on the U.S. Olympic team and proved that she's a skater as much in contention as the rest. If I had a hat on, I'd take it off. Instead, I'll just raise this cup of coffee in her honor!

I don't care what you say, Kaetlyn Osmond is where it's at. Her Fosse short program, choreographed by the fabulous Lance Vipond, is exuberant, entertaining and exciting: the three E's. The fourth 'E' should be elements, because she's got them going on to. She may be attempting an easier triple/triple combination than some of her biggest competitors, but there is quality and strong technique in everything she does and her PCS scores definitely need to be higher. She's putting on a show, not putting on a pot of hot milk to help us fall asleep. Her skate here wasn't as dazzling as that of the Team Event, but it was great nonetheless. In 13th place, a top ten finish at these Olympics is entirely possible for her and I predict it will happen.

I thought Mao Asada's placement in the short program of the Team Event was a gift on a silver platter and unfortunately, Iher disappointing 16th place finish here was again not an indication of her incredible talent. I think back to 1997, when Lu Chen (the defending World Silver Medallist) went to the World Championships in Lausanne and had that disastrous short program and didn't even qualify for the free skate. Sometimes shit just happens, and that's what happened today for Mao unfortunately but hey, look at Lu Chen. The next year, she was back on top form and on the Olympic podium for the second time. Mao's skating, like Yuna's, has that understated elegance that makes us forget how just how difficult her programs are. I've always admired Mao's resilience and determination and despite sitting being almost 20 points behind Yuna Kim right now, I have every faith she'll have her own 'Nagano moment' like Lu Chen and fight back. It's not about a medal at this point and I hope she just goes out and skates for the love of it.

Some of the other skaters that I really have a lot of love for that are competing at this event include Brooklee Han, who I had the opportunity to interview - she put forth a great effort, Maé Bérénice Méité of France, whose skating I CANNOT say enough about (what an underappreciated star she is!) and of course, Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami - whose skating I appreciate deeply and enjoy so much. Canada's second entry, the talented Gabrielle Daleman, presented a great effort on this grand stage she's been presented with and ended the short program in 17th.

The free skate... When Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze finished first in the pairs competition at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake ahead of Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, it was apparent that something was gravely wrong. It wasn't Jamie or David's fault or Elena and Anton's fault. They just went out there and gave great performances - you know, like every skater hopes to at the Olympics. I think Adelina Sotnikova gave a great performance today. She landed a triple/triple combination and backed it up with a host of other triple jumps in front of her home country and no one can take that from her.


You're never going to get everyone watching figure skating - skaters, judges, fans, coaches, casual viewers, officials, federations and journalists - to agree on anything. People don't have to agree on everything. That's kind of how the world works. I'm a right-brained person in every sense of the idea. I am terrible at math, and could care less to be honest. I don't enjoy watching skating to count triple jumps or decipher "grades of execution", "levels" or any of that foolishness. I don't have any desire to crack the Da Vinci Code. I think that's why I have such disdain for the current judging system... BECAUSE it separates each element and doesn't look at the whole. It's a left-brained system designed to judge a performance, and a performance is a right-brained thing. It's being evaluated in a way like you'd evaluate tumbling or something, like some sort of floor routine... and based on the way that things went down today with a technically brilliant but flawed underdog Sotnikova somehow beating brilliant skates from Yuna Kim and Carolina Kostner, I had a real hard time digesting all of this, perhaps more than many other controversial wins.


I found it funny. When I was talking about the men's event, I had a new follower of the blog really passionately disagree with me about my disdain for the IJS system. I do feel I'm entitled to my concern with it, and I'm certainly not alone. I get that there's a generational thing going on sometimes and that this system may be the only one that some ever knew. I do think the 6.0 system was better and I'm not ashamed to say it. Yes, there was corruption. Yes, there was scandal. Of course there was. But there still is. I'm not saying the Olympics was rigged. I'm simply not saying that. The point I am trying to make is that the best PERFORMANCE did not win the ladies event. The best PERFORMANCE should win a figure skating competition. Simple as that. There are pros to the IJS system. It's not all bad, but Jesus... do we all have to walk around like robots blindly accepting every result? Is that good for the sport? I personally don't think so.

Adelina Sotnikova absolutely deserved a medal, although I do feel it should have been a bronze behind Yuna Kim and Carolina Kostner based on the performances, not the math. 224.59 seemed outrageous for a program that didn't have a deep emotional impact, had jump issues and a spiral that looked more like a leg fling. The PCS scores seemed to come out of nowhere and I am concerned that this win will put a lot of undue pressure on Adelina if she decides to continue her competitive career (which would hardly surprise me given her age). Being the first Olympic ladies champion in HISTORY from Russia will assuredly place a lot of weight on her shoulders at home. Wow... I need to stop myself. Enough negativity. God knows there's enough of that out there. Let's talk about the good stuff! We saw some amazing skating.

All three of the American ladies - Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds - represented their country and themselves with gusto, guts and class. Kaetlyn Osmond, though not perfect, fought through her performance and showed us 'what she got and what she workin' with'. Maé-Bérénice Méité gave a magnificient performance to make the top ten. Perhaps most memorably of all, Mao Asada showed the same determination that Jeremy Abbott did in the men's event by fighting back with one of her best skates (triple axel and all) and managing to rise in the standings from 16th freakin' place to 6th, finishing third in the free skate behind Sotnikova and Kim. One of the most amazing things I've seen in Olympic competition. I for one am just so impressed by her... and absolutely not shocked at all. If anyone had it in them to fight back like that, it was definitely her! Akiko Suzuki, a skater I just love, concluded her competitive career today with class, elegance and an 8th place finish. She's one skater that has certainly left figure skating better than she found it .

I think that if we have to look at the positive here, we have to look beyond the judging competition and look at how far the sport has come technically that we have ladies skaters landing triple/triple combinations not only on the medal podium, but outside of the top ten. That really is incredible. My biggest concern, however, is that I'm becoming a psychic. In December, I wrote "Say It Ain't Sochi: The Elephant In The Room". Give it a read. I think some of what we saw today really rings true. Call me Miss Cleo but don't call me late for happy hour... Hey Girl Hey!

I'll leave you with one last thought. Remember the great skating that we saw today at all through these Olympics. We SAW those Olympic moments and performances, and they were our gifts from the skaters that performed them. Like anything, figure skating is not perfect, but one competition result or one judging system I disagree with will NEVER deter me from my lifelong love for the best sport and art in the world. Anyone who's ever skated knows that magic of carving out an edge or throwing yourself into the air and landing a jump perfectly and there's something so desperately special about it all that no judge, technical specialist or calculus equation can properly qualitate. Skating is beyond that and skating is better than that.

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