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Olympic Ladies' FS: Yuna Kim

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Skating around to get the feel of the ice back after being backstage for so long.

Oh yes.  Within the first five seconds, she's already established the choreographic mood of the program, with syncopated timing and dance. Watching this directly after seeing Sotnikova's -- it's a world apart.

3lutz-3toe is better than Sotnikova's.  Beautiful.  Unreal.  Perfect arcs, steady pace in rotation, good speed coming out of the jumps which seems just impossible to me, clean trajectory, clean landings like Kostner's although Kostner's quality is a hushed whisper and Kim's is a noiseless glide.  Both exquisite.  +3.

Gorgeous syncopated steps into the buildup for the 3flip, which is another master class in a smooth sailing jump with evenly timed rotations.  +2.

Good character to the Piazzola tango music, quiet effortless 3salchow-2toe.  +1.

Directly into a flying camel Harding camel (yes, named after that Harding) sit change sit twist upright.  The extraordinary thing about this spin is that it came right after a jump combination.  The centering was good, the speed was decent, the positions lovely.  +2.

Ahhh, I'm all about this tango-inflected circular step sequence!  Here are a few things I love about this sequence:  the path of the circle goes clockwise, against the natural rotation of the skater.  She turns clockwise and counterclockwise both.  She spends almost all of the sequence doing one-foot skating.  She uses all eight edges while doing so:  forward and backward outside and inside edges on each foot.  She does this all with tango tempo, attitude, and subtlety.  Her steps pick up on different elements of the music at different times, too.  Seriously, this is good.  +3.

Rest section, then building up speed for 3lutz.  I thought the landing looked like there was a small error on it, but in slow motion it looked clean.  The jump itself was huge and blazing fast.  Looks like a +1 from home, but probably would have been +2 in the arena where I could have gotten a sense of the immense ice coverage.

Ahhhhh!  A glorious Ina Bauer into 2axel-2toe-2loop!  Oh, I do wish there were more time in these programs for skaters to hold those stretch moves like Ina Bauers.  So beautiful.  This jump combination is very well done and she achieved that miracle, a loop jump at the end of a combination that isn't cheated on the takeoff.  I like her little smile during this sequence.  She knew she did it well.  +2.

Looking tired now, a bit labored into the approach to the big 3salchow.  +1.

Yes, tired; her shoulders are starting to come up.  Nice layback with three changes of position, good speed and number of rotations.  I can hear Dick Button in my head, sniping about the position of her free foot, but she held her positions cleanly and the centering was spot on.  +1.

Oh, tired champion.  Spiral step sequence directly into a 2axel, gutsy to put that move at the very end like this when she's exhausted.  Gorgeous textbook jump.  +2.

Very good ending combination spin, gorgeous straight forward camel position onto on an outside edge, gorgeous broken sitspin position, good center on each foot, good speed on back sit, 15 forward rotations and 13 back rotations.  +2.

It makes no sense that one judge gave this skater, in this performance, a 7.75 for "Transitions/Linking Footwork/Movement."  What?  Where?  What about her transitions, linking footwork, and movement was anything but exquisite?  8.50 for "Skating Skills" and 8.25 for "Choreography/Composition" when she delivered everything in character, utilized almost all of her connecting steps to add to the program's meaning, and reached vastly more of the rink's area than Sotnikova?  This is simply incorrect judging.  Again, they had to artificially depress the numbers in order to produce the result they wanted -- I can understand that the judges wanted the result to be Sotnikova as champion so they had to fudge the numbers in whatever way they could to get that result, and I actually have sympathy for the point of view that rising to the moment at the Olympics is a score-able element...but those are not the criteria set out in the rules that people used to prepare for the competition, and that's what makes this unfair.

Her program was much, much more difficult than Sotnikova's.  Instead of using the time between the jumping passes to rest and skate on two feet without much regard to the music, she poured her concentration into highlighting every beat of the music to create an overall performance.  This is so much harder.  It's in a different league.  It is comparable to what Mao Asada achieved and, in my opinion, harder than what Kostner did, as Kostner had a bit more empty space in her transitions and packed her expression into that magnificent ending step sequence whereas Kim carried the theme of the program through a great many more expressive connecting steps, with fewer steps devoted just to building up speed or getting from one element to another.

In other words, Kim, Asada, and Kostner could have done Sotnikova's choreography in between the jump and spin elements, but Sotnikova could not have pulled off any of theirs, simply due to being at a younger stage in her career and not having had time to develop those skills yet.  The sophistication -- by which I mean technical difficulty, although in a slightly different area than the technical difficulty involved in jumps and spins -- of Kim's program was several grades higher than Sotnikova's, and that means her achievement in landing jumps of equal size and quality to Sotnikova's is actually a greater achievement, trickier to manage when she's expending so much more energy and concentration in total.

3lutz-3toe
3flip
3salchow-2toe
3lutz
2axel-2toe-2loop
3salchow
2axel

Seven jumping passes, like all the other ladies.  Repeated triples are lutz and salchow, slightly harder than Sotnikova repeating flip and toe.

So, I don't know how I would have ranked Kim vs. Asada if I'd been watching those two free skates in the arena, live.  It's hard to compare two programs when one skater goes 16th and the other goes 24th; this is one of the disadvantages of bombing the short program, and the difficulty of comparing impressions accurately must necessarily be resolved in favor of the more recent memory -- this is only fair in a sport that involves live judging.  I'm guessing I would have gone with Kim's FS over Asada's because Asada had more tiny little quality errors on her jumps than Kim did, but I really can't tell from home.  For one thing, Asada's performance gave me chills and had the element of Olympic greatness, which Kim's did not, for whatever that's worth in the scoring.  But for another, ice coverage and speed and jump size are extremely important factors and it is simply not possible to judge those things reliably from TV; I don't know whether Asada or Kim had the advantage there, although historically, Kim has been extraordinary with all of those qualities.  Asada looked more sure of herself and Kim looked more tentative and tired -- those may sound like subjective judgments, but those impressions, which may seem unquantifiable to casual viewers, are based on measurable observations in the areas of performance, execution, and movement.  Sureness can be seen in the cleanliness of a tracing; fatigue can be seen in the degree of knee bend or the form of a spin entry.

My best guess, based on the incomplete information of TV viewing, is that I would have ranked the freeskates:

Kim
Asada a close second, but too many quality errors on jumps
Kostner
Sotnikova

I am not going to review the freeskates of Gracie Gold, Lipnitskaia, or Wagner the same way, as I've had quite enough of figure skating ;-) and these reviews are my attempt to exorcise the Olympics from my mind.  But generally, there is little concern about improper judging in the freeskating portion of competitions except for the podium contenders.  For the short program, there is sometimes concern about propping up skaters to get them into the final warmup group, precisely to avoid Asada's problem of not being fresh on judges' minds when being compared to the final skaters.  The fix was in for Sotnikova in the SP when she got inflated program component scores to keep her even with Kim and Kostner; a surprised Johnny Weir's first description of those scores was "generous."  I wish the media would stop circulating the picture of the Russian judge, Alla Shekhovtseva, hugging Sotnikova after her win; there is nothing suspect in a human being's happiness for another human being's achievement, in front of billions of people, in an area where they've both invested their entire lives.  I do think it likely that Shekhovtseva is the judge responsible for the most outrageously high scores for Sotnikova and the inaccurately low scores for Kim, but that is a separate issue.  Her joyous hug for a teenage girl who had the skate of her life was nothing more or less than a beautiful moment and it fills me with happiness to see it.

So, after scrutinizing the top four programs, I do believe that Kim is the rightful winner of the Olympic gold medal and probably the winner of the freeskate, ahead of Asada (who was too far behind to win over Kim, in any case).  I do believe that Sotnikova was unfairly overmarked on the Program Component Scores to a ridiculous and indefensible degree, although her quality of Olympic magic and her general appeal make it painless to accept her as champion.  And Yuna Kim will be fine.  She told her daddy as much.  :-)  Koreans are upset now, but they really can't stay bitter for long; they have an Olympics to organize, and I have a sneaking suspicion that we may see a familiar person lighting the torch in four years.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
aigooism
Feb. 26th, 2014 01:31 am (UTC)
I love your analysis. I don't think Sotnikova was that good enough for a gold medal, and your analyses touches on reasons I couldn't state because I lack the knowledge of the sports to do so. I think Sotnikova could have been good for a bronze or even fourth place, but not the gold. And her FS and her score at the end makes no sense in that it's only about a point less than Yuna's world record score at Vancouver Olympics. I've no idea if Sotnikova's going to participate at the Worlds Championship next month, but if she does, I'll be interested in seeing how her scores add up there and compared to her Olympic one.

Yuna may have not won the gold, but she's still gold in many people's heart!
magnetic_pole
Feb. 26th, 2014 01:47 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for sharing these with us. Like most folks, I assume, I had a reaction to these performances but no way of understanding the technical aspects. You're such a fluid writer and so good at explaining--thank you. M.
sana889
Feb. 26th, 2014 03:08 am (UTC)
I felt Mao was the clear winner of the freeskate. Her program was more difficult. She had 8 triples including a 3A, and won in TES despite losing on GOEs to Kim. If she had been given the correct PCS, she would've won the FS. It's a travesty that Adelina and Julia got higher PCS than Mao. As for the overall champion, my pick would be Kostner. Her performances were just more magical than Yuna's and I believe a winning performance is more than just a great showcase of well-executed elements , which is what I felt from Kim's performances. I also feel Kostner has better skating skills. Kim uses more crossovers to gain speed and she doesn't maintain great carriage throughout the program (especially when she gets more tired toward the end), whereas Mao and Kostner appeared poised and confident throughout their LPs. For me, PCS should have been Carolina>Mao> Yuna> Adelina.



Edited at 2014-02-26 04:00 am (UTC)
shadowfireflame
Feb. 26th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
Oh, this was such a lovely analysis. I thought Yuna was by far the best skater, so beautiful on the ice. Queen indeed.
rachelindeed
Feb. 27th, 2014 03:40 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading all these! Thank you for letting us see the routines through expert eyes, very fascinating.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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