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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Verner returns home

Actually, it's not quite home, but Tomáš Verner tells PJ Kwong that he is returning to Oberstdorf and coach Michael Huth for his final Olympic season.

Like training mate Carolina Kostner, Verner left Oberstdorf after some disappointing showings - Kostner moved to the USA in 2009, Verner to Canada in 2010 - but eventually elected to return to Huth. While the move to Canada initially paid off for him with some good results in 2010-11, the past two seasons have gone badly for him, culminating in a 21st place finish at 2013 Worlds, well beneath what he is capable of if he were to skate well.

Kostner has not finished off the podium at any competition since returning to Oberstdorf in the summer of 2010, adding two European championships and a world title to her résumé. While a similar level of success seems unlikely for Verner, hopefully this will prove to be the right choice for him. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Club: Little Girls in Pretty Boxes (and related thoughts)

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters
by Joan Ryan

Description: From starvation diets and debilitating injuries to the brutal tactics of tyrannical gymnastics guru Bela Karolyi, "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes" portrays the horrors endured by girls at the hands of their coaches and sometimes their own families. An acclaimed expose that has already helped reform Olympic sports -- now updated to reflect the latest developments in women's gymnastics and figure skating -- it continues to plead for sanity, safety, and an end to our national obsession: winning at any cost.

My thoughts: I read this book some time ago based on the recommendation of a skating friend with a competitive background (she'd done synchro at a fairly high level for several years). The label "skating books" is a bit misleading, because Little Girls in Pretty Boxes focuses primarily on gymnasts rather than skaters - though author Joan Ryan does try to draw some parallels between the two. This is probably my chief complaint about LGiPB: it tries to cover quite a lot, but the narrative and arguments suffer from trying to write a combined take on two different sports with different problems (personally, I see skating as more similar to rhythmic than artistic gymnastics), and extending conclusions based on things going on in artistic gymnastics to skating seemed a bit forced in places.

Monday, August 5, 2013

That's Entertainment: skate like a pirate

No, it's not the most original music choice. Yes, it's a Nikolai Morozov-choreographed program. And no, it's not exactly highbrow. But Javier Fernandez's Pirates of the Caribbean was great fun when he skated it in the 2009-10 season. Fernandez landed his first quads that year, achieved his first level 4 on steps (at Worlds) and finished in the top 10 at Euros for the first time in his career, along with a 12th place at Worlds that gave him two Grand Prix assignments the next season, also a career-first.

Javi the Pirate, 2010

Pirates of the Caribbean was a great vehicle for Fernandez at the time, allowing him to show greater technical skill along with his charm as an entertainer, both things that he would improve upon in later years. While it would have been better to retire the program after one season, it remains a good choice that likely helped Fernandez in his development as a skater. The later move to Canada and Brian Orser/David Wilson didn't hurt, either - but the potential was always there.

And really, who says everything in skating needs to be highbrow?

Note: I am aware that today is not actually International Talk (or skate) Like a Pirate Day.

The concept for the "that's entertainment" posts was explained in the first entry in the series. If you have ideas and further suggestions, please share!