The last Grand Prix before the Final is complete with the conclusion of Rostelecom Cup. My initial thoughts have to do with Jeremy Abbott, who has always been an incredible skater in the past, but has really chosen two programs that are setting him apart from the rest of the men in the world.
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How Abbott reminds me of Chen Lu.
As I was watching (and rewatching) Abbott’s free skate from Rostelecom Cup, I suddenly thought of 1995 World champion Chen Lu – in particular, her breathtaking long program from the 95-96 season to the second movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Yes, both programs have that quiet piano-ness to them (in fact, I recall reading somewhere a few years ago that Muse was influenced partly by Rachmaninoff for Exogenesis), but it was really their similarities in the seamless and, I’ll say it again, sublime artistry that makes me draw the comparisons.
WATCH: Abbott Rostelecom Cup free skate
WATCH: Chen Lu 1996 Worlds long program
In both programs, there’s a willingness to get lost in the music, and how they do that and do triple jumps at the same time is beyond me. And perhaps it’s a reason that Chen’s program was only skated cleanly once (at Worlds in 1996) and Abbott’s has yet to be clean. In both programs, the connection that the audience feels is not the result of direct eye contact – in fact, there is little to none. Rather, the connection is intangibly through the music and the understanding that both Abbott and Chen have about carving out space and creating form with their movements.
There’s also a moment in both programs where you experience the unexpected – Chen’s moment was the simple gesture of a one-foot forward glide in the middle of her program and Abbott’s happens in the middle of his final step sequence, where he does a half-loop, slaps the ice with his hand, and pauses for just the right amount of time. (Yes, the move where he smeared blood all over the Moscow ice.)
If Abbott ever goes clean with this program, for me at least, it will surely rank amongst the greatest free skates in recent memory. Maybe he will take a page out of Chen Lu’s book and skate it perfectly at Worlds this March, when it really counts.
The judges are taking notice … finally.
What’s great to see as well is that the international panel is really starting to reward Abbott with great, and well-deserved, program components marks. I would argue that they should be higher, but it will not happen until he skates his free skate at least near clean. For me, components-wise, he’s above Patrick Chan this season and equal to Daisuke Takahashi, though for vastly different styles.
WATCH: Abbott Rostelecom Cup short program
And take note of this – the judges actually scored his components higher in the free skate with all those mistakes than in the short program where he was clean. He has earned a good deal of respect from the international panels this season, let’s hope he can build on it at the Grand Prix Final.
Keep the quad in.
For those who are wondering if Abbott is taking unnecessary risk with the quad, which hasn’t looked ready yet all season, he is doing exactly the right thing. With the quad era in full swing this season, there is absolutely no way he is going to be able to medal at Worlds without it (and two triple axels in his free skate). It’s a jump he’s been successful with multiple times in the past and I’m glad that he and coach Yuka Sato are continuing to push the technical difficulty in his free skate.
But there is no doubt, his free skate is going to have to get a whole lot more consistent in order for him to continue building toward Nationals and Worlds. Even if his quad isn’t clean, a full array of eight triples is still super valuable.
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