The second half of 2011 featured the first half of the current figure skating season. Of course, the biggest international competitions in the first half are the Grand Prix events, which showcase the best skaters in the world debuting their new programs and getting a feel for their early-season legs. This Grand Prix season was a showcase of new talent, and for the first time in a number of years, new jumps, setting the stage for an exciting winter of championship skating. Here is a review of the figure skating shenanigans that was the second half of year, or this season.
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Related: Year in review (last season)
Midori Ito competes again.
Figure skating news is always sporadic during the off-season, but in June, there was some newsworthy items, the biggest of which was 1989 World champion Midori Ito’s entry into an ISU adult competition at the age of 41. She didn’t win the event, but she did show off a pretty kick-ass double axel.
More off-season drama.
There was even more off-season news going on. At the end of June, it was reported that former U.S. champion Rachael Flatt was reprimanded and fined for not disclosing her injury to U.S. Figure Skating prior to the World Championships, where she finished 12th after watering down her technical content as a result of a stress fracture. And then you have all the coaching changes and the pairs and ice dance splits in the summer – plenty of drama.
Brandon Mroz lands first quad lutz, twice.
Over the summer during a domestic event call the Colorado Springs Invitational, former U.S. silver medalist Brandon Mroz became the first person to successfully land a quad lutz in competition. And then a few weeks later at NHK Trophy, he became the first person to successfully land a quad lutz in international competition. It’s an incredible feat that eluded Michael Weiss during the late 90s and Evgeni Plushenko during the early 2000s. And while Mroz’s season has been fairly lackluster so far, he at least has his names in the record books.
Evan Lysacek butts heads with U.S. Figure Skating.
After announcing that he would be returning to competition during the new season, Olympic champion Evan Lysacek was unable to come to an agreement with U.S. Figure Skating on his athlete contract and withdrew from the Grand Prix and later the U.S. Nationals, effectively ending his season before it ever got started.
New exciting names in the Grand Prix.
Within a matter of a few days at Skate Canada, the names Elizaveta Tuktamisheva and Javier Fernandez became very familiar to skating enthusiasts. Tuktamisheva showed off her triple lutz-triple toe (twice) and won Skate Canada over the favorite, Akiko Suzuki, and Fernandez quad-ed and charmed his way to the silver and almost took out World champion Patrick Chan.
There was Yuzuru Hanyu, a name familiar to skating observers but likely not to the casual fan, who broke through and won his first Grand Prix title and will be going to Worlds following a bronze at Japanese Nationals. Perhaps less heralded but also impressive was the rise of Nan Song, China’s first viable men’s contender since Chengjiang Li over a decade ago. Song won two medals on the Grand Prix.
In addition to Mroz’s successful quad lutz, this season will be remembered as the season of the quad resurgence. With the combination of higher base values for quad jumps and the fact that Patrick Chan won Worlds with three clean quads and destroyed the rest of the field, the men got to working on the quads in the offi-season.
Skate Canada was the first competition in history in which four different quads (toe, salchow, flip, lutz) were attempted in the competition. Adam Rippon has also been attempting the lutz, while Daisuke Takahashi put the flip in his free skate (and landed a beautiful clean one in the warmup at NHK Trophy). Canada’s Kevin Reynolds attempted a quad loop a week later at Cup of China.
Michelle Kwan is a Hall-of-Famer.
The American legend herself, Michelle Kwan, further solidified her status in the history of figure skating by becoming inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in December.
First big showdown: Grand Prix Final.
The Grand Prix Final was the first time the best skaters in the world all vied for the same title. It was Patrick Chan who took the men’s title, holding off Daisuke Takahashi, who skated arguably the best free skate of the season so far. The ladies’ gold went to Carolina Kostner for the first time, and her conservative technical content continues to keep her on top over the inconsistent field. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy were flawless in the free skate to win pairs, and Meryl Davis and Charlie White defeated Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir for the dance gold.
Mao Asada skates through tragedy.
A day before the ladies’ short program was to begin at the Grand Prix Final, Japan’s Mao Asada withdrew to fly home to be with her mother, who was reported to be gravely ill. Asada, unfortunately, did not get back in time and her mother passed away before she landed in Japan. In a scenario similar to Joannie Rochette’s two years ago at the Olympics, Asada competed at Japanese Nationals just weeks later in her mother’s memory and won the competition for the fifth time.
A second comeback for Evgeni Plushenko.
His Vancouver rival, Evan Lysacek, may not be competing this season, but Evgeni Plushenko made his comeback a reality by winning Russian Nationals. It will be interesting to see how he fares against the men internationally – with Europeans next month, if he becomes eligible to compete there, and with Worlds in March.
What’s your most memorable moment?
Was there something you think I missed during 2011 in figure skating? Let me know in the comments below!
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