The Rest of Recent Skating News
Other news include ISU Championship locations, another Grand Prix withdrawal and likely retirement, two more coaching changes, and a bunch of music announcements.
This was a busy week in figure skating. We knew it was going to be, because the International Skating Union held their Congress and made enough decisions to greatly alter the sport’s technical landscape, as well as have other major effects on the next two to four years. But the week also started with the reigning World Champion in ladies bailing out of the Grand Prix. The next day we learned she and the Canadian retirees are instead going on a “Thank You” tour of ice shows during the fall. It continued on with this summer’s ongoing coaching merry go round taking a reverse turn.
And those were neither the last Grand Prix withdrawal nor the last coaching change that took place this week. The end of it saw more of each, including the first significant students of a new Russian coaching partnership. It also saw announcements of where they’re hoping to hold the 2021 ISU Championship events. Plus with June well underway, and the first major club competitions pending, the music announcements are now coming at a steadier rate. One of the ice shows that took place this weekend even saw more program debuting. Unfortunately, right now, footage of the weekend’s ice shows is pretty limited.
Provisional Allotment of 2021 Europeans and Worlds
Along with everything else they did this week, the ISU made provisional allotments for four championships, two each for figure and speeding skating. The figure skating ones were for the European and World Championships, which will be held in Zagreb and Stockholm respectively. That the 2021 Four Continents Championships didn’t get allotted with them isn’t too surprising. That one often gets assigned much later; there are less cities willing to host it. The lack of a host city for the World Junior Championships is a little more worrying, But that one too has had problems; the worldwide economic crash of 2008 even caused the 2009 Championships to be reassigned, because the original host wasn’t willing to pay for it anymore.
Zagreb is a city figure skating fans are going to get more familiar with over the next few years. They’re already hosting Junior Worlds for the second time this coming season. They first hosted that in 1999, which was their first ISU Figure Skating Championship. It’ll be their second time hosting Europeans too. The first wasn’t too long ago, in 2013, which means they know how to do it. Even before they became a common ISU Championships host, the city had their long-running B event, the Golden Spin of Zagreb, which now typically wraps up the Challenger circuit.
This will actually be the ninth time Stockholm hosts Worlds. But it’s been a while; the last time was all the way back in 1947, when things were still quite different. After that Goteburg took over, hosting two more Swedish Worlds. But the city isn’t without experience in hosting a modern-day ISU Championships; they hosted Europeans for the second time back in 2015, as well as the World Synchronized Skating Championships just this year. So they too know what they’re doing.
Adam Rippon Probably Retiring, Definitely Skipping the Grand Prix
Since leaving PyeongChang with a team medal and a newfound stardom, Adam Rippon has been spending time being a gay icon and winning Dancing with the Stars, and by all indications, his competing again hasn’t seen likely. It’s looking even less likely now, when late this week he officially ruled out the Grand Prix, and said he “probably” wouldn’t come back after that either.
The reasons he stated were pretty obvious ones. He’s still got spoils of fame to enjoy, and when he makes a reference to the younger American men coming up, one needs to remember that he already couldn’t compete with the world’s top men technically, and that’ll likely just get worse. It doesn’t help matters that he’s 28, too old to last until the next Olympics even before he said he wasn’t going to try to earlier this year.
He wasn’t at Worlds, so unlike with fellow withdrawer Kaetlyn Osmond, his absence won’t affect the Grand Prix seeding, though he would’ve almost certainly gotten two assignments if he hadn’t ruled himself out now. More significant is the removal of him presence from the U.S. men’s field, and the only one of them he wasn’t competitive with was Nathan Chen. If he doesn’t show up at Nationals, they’ll all of them breathe just a little easier. The event will be quite a bit duller, though, especially when at least one top man’s retiring with him, and there’ll probably be more.
He doesn’t want to leave the sport, although he doesn’t say how he’s going to stay involved. He said nothing about coaching, and he doesn’t quite seem the type, at least not right now. More likely he’ll continue to skate in shows for at least a while.
Two More Coaching Changes
We’ve got yet another case of a coaching change from Russia to Canada. Although in this case a change by itself was inevitable. Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor had previously been dividing their time, working with Andrei and Galina Pachin in his native Australia, and Nina Mozer in her native Russia. But with Mozer now taking the season off, they’ve decided to have one new training base and one new coach:
Well! See you soon Australia. Katia and I are moving our main training base to Montreal from this weekend to work with Richard Gauthier and his coaching team. But firstly, we want to thank Nina Mozer for everything she has done. Nina started our pair team and has taught us good discipline. A big, big thank you for letting us skate in Moscow. We are extremely grateful to Andrei and Galina Pachin. Their vision and commitment is why we were able to start at all. Andrei and Galina believed we could be a good pair and helped build our careers. We are very thankful to both of them for all they have done. We are excited and motivated to start new opportunities and to keep pushing ourselves. Our short program choreography starts next week with Julie Marcotte in Montreal and the following week with Massimo Scalli in Detroit for our free program. Really looking forward to it all. @owi_aus @nswinstituteofsport @iceskatingaustralia @johnwilsonblades @edeaskates
Richard Gauthier most recently was coaching top Canadian pair Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford along with Bruno Marcotte. They dropped him before their final season, but he seemed to still being working with Marcotte’s other pairs, and now, with his choreographer sister Julie. Though it seems he’s going to coach the Australian team alone. But that’s not unknown, for coaches to work together with some students and apart with others. In any case, he’s certainly capable of taking Alexandrovskaya & Windsor up the next step; he’s done such things before.
There was a much bigger coaching breakup this year in ice dance, one long rumored both only recently confirmed. For a very long time, rumors went around that Angelika Krylova and Pasquale Carlemango would be ending both their marriage and their professional partnership. Finally, in April, with their last high-profile pair having left for Montreal, she returned to Russia. He apparently is now working with Igor Shpilband, once his great coaching rival.
She has teamed up with Oleg Volkov, who had previously worked with Alexander Zhulin. And as of this week, their biggest students are Betina Popova & Sergei Mozgov. After teaming up in 2016, they’ve spent the last two years just trying to get themselves established in the Russian field, which it might soon be easier to get the top of. This week they talked about their plans in general, including their decision to give the new coaching team a try. Things have apparently been tempestuous for a while with longtime coach Ksenia Rumiantseva, but this was the first practical alternative that presented itself; they couldn’t afford to flee to Canada.
They also speak optimistic words about how well they and Krylova are working together, although skaters who behave badly enough to get kicked out of group multiple times, even if they own it, can’t necessarily be relied on for much. Still, if they can perhaps mature out of that, Krylova’s got good enough a track record she could very well make them the next great Russian team.
More Music Announcements
Popova & Mozgov’s interview also included what was just one of multiple recent music announcements. Though some of those weren’t true announcements, but word that came from Heroes and Future, the ice show celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Nagano Olympics. We’ve even got a full account of Shoma Uno debuting his short program to Rodrigo y Gabriela’s version of “Stairway to Heaven,” which has found use in skating before. It’s not the first time he’s used this kind of Latin American music; he did so as recently as 2017. But this music is arguably better, so he’ll be improved in two kinds of ways.
Even more interesting is what Rika Kihira’s free program reportedly includes: Two Steps from Hell’s “Mercy in Darkness.” Obviously that can’t be all, since it’s less than a minute and a half long. But it’s enough to indicate she’s going in a more dark direction in what will likely be her senior debut; if this isn’t a style completely new to her, it’s one she hasn’t done during her junior years. She’s mostly known for the triple axel, but of course she wants to be known for more than just that. Word from the show also came that Sota Yamamoto, another junior sensation who’s still trying to come back from injury, is doing a classical short to Air on a G String. That’s probably just him doing something he know he can do well for now.
Also sticking to what she knows is Bradie Tennell. When she posted she’d just finished her free skate, she didn’t actually name music, but she did use one very telling hashtag:
The Romeo and Juliet she’s skating to, of course, could easily be Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Nina Rota, Craig Armstrong, a mix of them, or even one of the more obscure ones. But whichever one she’s using, her Juliet will be a character she’s good at, and one the skating establishment likes. We likely shouldn’t expect different from her, at least not for a while.
At least she’s likely to stick to it. Karen Chen had already gotten one short program all the way back in March, but she’s still in the habit of rejecting and replacing her programs:
Jennifer Thomas has seen some use in skating already. “Illumination – Fire Dance,” complete with samplings of a couple of skating music warhorses, is a piece of music Chen will likely express very well-if she keeps the program long enough for us to see it.
Also published this week as an interview with Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise. It’s mostly them discussing their careers so far, but they did also reveal their music choices for next year. Their short is to Joe Cocker’s cover of “Never Tear Us Apart,” and their free to the Tristan et Iseult Maxime Rodriguez original composed for Sarah Abitbol & Stephane Bernadis to skate to, and has found other takers since. Both are the kind of bold music that they’ve always tended towards.
As for Popova & Mozgov, they’re actually using one piece of music she’s tried already. She & Yuri Vlasenko performed a short dance to The Master and Margarita on the 2015 Junior Grand Prix, before they were told to change it. They spoke of skaters considering it unlucky, and it might have also been deemed too dark and odd for a waltz-based short dance. Though if they can enjoy dancing to it as much as she & Vlasenko seemed to, and he, too, has wanted to use it, that should be a good and intriguing show to watch this year.
Especially if they do have a corresponding rhythm dance to the well-matching “Tango in a Madhouse.” One problem with a year of tango-themed dances is they all tend to be similar to each other. So one trying to stand out and do something different, like they’re going to do, is always welcome. It’s a tango one can imagine them telling a story to as well.
This is especially true when we already effectively have our first “Cell Block Tango” program confirmed, in an Instagram from Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain le Gac. They don’t specify they’re using that, but saying it’s for the short/rhythm dance makes that much obvious:
It’s not easy to make an actual two-person tango work to this music, but perhaps they, too, are doing something different.
A Canadian team also trying to break into the top of their field also announced their free dance music, on their Facebook. Caroline Soucisse & Shane Firus are skating their free dance to the Weeknd’s “Earned It.” They’ll be hard pressed, though, to escape the shadow of Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres there.
So many skaters have now choreographed their programs one wonders how they’re all going to cope with all the technical rule changes the ISU just passed. They and their choreographers would’ve anticipated some of them, such as the jump limits, but the pairs especially may find themselves redoing parts of their programs. Hopefully no one feels the need to change their programs entirely over it.