Disco and Domo: NHK Trophy 2018

Highs

The Kiss & Cry Staging

The iridescence! The glitter! Domo! The Stealth Pooh Bear in the flower garland to remind you that even if Hanyu isn’t skating, nobody’s forgotten him, either! Japan knows how to put on a show, and you can tell they take their skating seriously when the K&C is bathed in the most flattering light known to humanity. 

Lilah Fear & Nicholas Gibon’s Disco Free Dance

Do yourself a favour: whenever you’re having a bad day, cue up Fear & Gibson’s free dance from this weekend. The British team’s medley of classic Donna Summers and Earth, Wind & Fire cuts was a dynamite reminder that ice dance isn’t all melodramatic piano concertos–sometimes you can just cut a proverbial rug and dance

Oh, and the choreographic slides into the closing pose are the best: 

The Ladies Competition

The depth of the ladies field at NHK guaranteed a spectacular competition, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for the quality of the fireworks display. Rika Kihira, Satoko Miyahara, and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva all set season’s best scores. Kihira and Tuktamysheva landed four triple axels between them. Miyahara broke my heart with two perfect programs. Even Mariah Bell had a beautiful free skate. 

The days when Zagitova or Medvedeva could show up at the rink and expect to win are gone. True, Russian dominance in ladies figure skating is far from over: a Russian skater has been on every ladies’ podium this Grand Prix series. Medvedeva, however, is adjusting to an entirely new training methodology. Zagitova is adjusting to a newly lengthened body laden with post-Olympic expectations. Meanwhile, there are at least half a dozen senior ladies with the skill to be the best in the world. The Grand Prix Final is going to be a showstopper.

Lows

Dmitri Aliev

Just like Mikhail Kolyada, it’s hard to defend Aliev’s potential in the face of wild inconsistency. NHK was a real opportunity for Aliev to stake his claim as Russia’s top male skater while keeping Sergei Voronov down in the standings–and out of the Final. Instead, he landed some gorgeous double toes in the free skate en route to a fifth place finish. 

Sigh. At least we have his beautiful lines and this perfectly louche retiré in his opening choreography:

Shoma Uno’s Exhibition Costume

I can forgive Shoma’s questionable flip technique and swingy landings. I can’t forgive questionable face paint and a mesh shirt made to look like full torso tattoos for a vaguely “tribal” program set to Dutch techno. 

Embed from Getty Images

Swap out the costume and Uno’s exhibition is a fascinating glimpse at his personality. This exhibition carries the same intensity as his competition programs, but in a throwback, 2000s industrial rave kind of way. I can totally imagine him playing MMOs in between training sessions while listening to trance. While the crowd was clearly into the performance, the kindest interpretation of that costume is to call it misguided and hope he takes off the face paint next time. 

Stray Thoughts

The Knierims’ bronze medal is a pyrrhic victory. It’s tempting to view a podium finish as a sign of improvement for a pair that has chronically underperformed and is going through one of the most dramatic coaching changes this season. Sure, laud their pair elements, but an inability to land consistent side-by-side jumps has been their weakness for years. NHK was more of the same: no clean jumping passes on the protocol sheets. The Knierims didn’t win a bronze medal so much as other teams lost it. 

Cleanliness is critical in the men’s event this season. Both Sergei Voronov and Michal Brezina are demonstrating that you don’t necessarily need to plan four quads in a free program to have a shot at the podium if you’re landing clean jumping passes. Case in point: Vincent Zhou, armed to the teeth with quads, is getting one under rotation call after another, decimating his TES and his placements. 

Next up: Rostelecom Cup, aka Cup of Russia. I wish the skaters clean programs and all the pork cutlet bowl-inspired pirozhki they care to eat. The time difference between Moscow and my corner of North American means another weekend with an overnight competition schedule. Canadians, check out CBC’s streaming schedule. See you next week!

Feature/header image ¬©International Skating Union (ISU)

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