Olympic Eve Tidbits
Two more program change backs, some poorly uploaded press conferences, and another retirement.
The Olympics are now only days away. The skaters are already arriving in Korea. Since NBC got to broadcast the Super Bowl, they included an Olympic commercial staring Nathan Chen, though their commercial featuring Evgenia Medvedeva is far more awesome:
Yevgenia!!! On Ice
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) January 31, 2018
The mainstream media is doing its normal ritual of paying attention to the sport for the first time in four years. They have often been hilariously incompetent in their reporting. Sports Illustrated even predicted the ice dance silver would go to a team that retired four years ago. They also seem to have noticed for the first time that all skates can now use vocal music, even though they’ve been doing so the entire quadrennium. Although they may have actually noticed that one last month, when Jimmy Ma’s “Turn Down for What” short went viral.
They are no doubt disappointed that Ashley Wagner and Jason Brown, the last singles stars left from the 2014 team, both just missed qualifying this time around. Although they’re both getting attention anyway, Brown in the form of a New York Times article waxing about him and unnecessarily insulting the other U.S. men.
Amid all of this, substantial news is a little thin on the ground. At least when it comes to skaters, though a recent CAS decision related to other Russian athletes makes the still likely fate of Ksenia Stolbova and Ivan Bukin look even more outrageous and painful.
Two More Program Reversions
The biggest announcements of those Olympic-bound this week were yet two more skaters going back to last year’s programs. The first announcement was from Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres, bringing back what’s a bit of a signature piece for them:
It’s not even clear which free skate they’ll do at the World Championships afterwards. They certainly expressed no discontent with this season’s program. But this is one piece nobody minds seeing again.
The other is the guy who only got into the Games last week. Michael Christian Martinez, unlike the French, describes his return to last year’s Vanessa Mae short program as something he’s hoping will get him to skate better. Unlike them, he has not been skating well lately, and makes clear how glad he is just that he’s getting to skate in Korea.
Pre-Olympic Press Conferences
The various members of the American Olympic team did press conferences in these final days, and most of them are now up on IceNetwork. Except the audio quality is terrible, and Karen Chen’s only has the first eight minutes, and that’s if you can get them to stream at all. Thankfully some of their quotes have been published, or at least tweeted. FigureSkatersOnline and skating blogger Jackie Wong have been especially good for the second of those.
It was Wong who gave us a thread of the ever-quotable Adam Rippon, Although he’s currently on a “humble tour” since contrary to his words before Nationals, he was lucky to make the team, and he knows it. His most interesting words, as has been the case a lot since then, are about his being an inspiration and influence, as both an openly gay Olympian and as an artistic skater. Basically he’s hoping to inspire people to be themselves. And wear tight mesh shirts.
There isn’t a huge amount of news from the press conferences. Madison Chock & Evan Bates talk about some alterations to their short dance. Maia & Alex Shibutani are similarly working on their free dance again. The “Fix You” callback in it really was disconcerting, so hopefully they’ve fixed that. Nathan Chen was asked about his quadruple jump content, of course, but said he hasn’t decided on it yet. Vincent Zhou’s just trying not to underrotate them. Alexa Scimeca Knierim & Chris Knierim, on the other hand, fully intend to go for their quadruple split twist in both the team and individual free programs, and this time they really hope not to two-foot the landing.
Though the most moving part of the last’s conference were probably the gratitude they expressed towards coach Delilah Sappenfield, who was especially good to them when she was hospitalized. On a personal level it certainty hasn’t been an easy two years for either of them; he also recently lost his father and uncle. But they’re finally getting their coach to the Olympics after she’d been disappointed on that front twice in a row, and they’re particularly happy about that.
Indeed, there were a lot of sentiment in these conferences. All the skaters credited those who’ve helped them and those who’ve inspired them over the years. Perhaps the most interesting was when Karen Chen cited Mirai Nagasu as one of hers, after she watched her performances at 2014 Nationals while at home with a broken foot.
Those (Possibly) On Their Way Out
But while the Olympians said their final words, packed their bags, and boarded their planes, a few skaters who weren’t so lucky also had a few things to say. Perhaps even the three American ladies going to the Olympics haven’t gotten as much attention as Ashley Wagner. Although she’s headed to PyeongChang anyway, to do media work. With the sport clearly pushing her into retirement, it’s probably an easy way for her to transition into the next phase of her life. This week, there was even a small movie about it.
And meanwhile, last week, we got a definite retirement confirmed out of China:
— SkatingChina (@SkatingChina) February 2, 2018
According to the computer translation, she officially retired at the end of last year. The reports of it had already been flying around after she pulled out of her Grand Prix events. Many think it likely the Chinese federation drove her into it, because she wasn’t willing to let them dictate all her decisions to her. In any case, it’s a sad ending for she who was once the most promising Chinese ladies skater since two-time Olympic medalist Lu Chen, but never lived up to that potential. Her only major senior international medal was a bronze at the 2014 Four Continents Championships. But perhaps her most thrilling moment was when she stole the show at the 2013 World Championships:
We also got word on two Russian skaters. One Julia Lipnitskaia, announced her retirement back in the fall, and has since been active as a commentator on Russian TV. But now she’s moving into a little coaching, and it looks like she might be taking Elena Ilinykh with her:
The two of them will be spending March running a skating academy, mostly for children. They’re working Maxim Miroshkin, a pairs skater who hasn’t competed since 2015, so it’s a safe bet he’s retired now, though there was never an announcement. But for Ilinykh it’s harder to guess. When she & Anton Shibnev pulled out of Russian Nationals in December, the stories flew around that partnership had ended. He was never her equal anyway. She may have had enough. Or she may look for a new partnership in the summer, and is just doing this until then. There’s a chance Olympic-bound dancer Dmitri Soloviev will be available then, since his current partner likely won’t be skating, while he may still be. For someone with two Olympic medals already, he may be her best shot at a partner on her level.
Still to come are announcements on the team competitions, although Japanese star Yuzuru Hanyu has already said he’s skipping that. That should come within days. Should any court try to give Stolbova or Bukin a reprieve, they too must do it very, very soon.