2001 Wissahickon Summer Competition

Louis diCesari was doing such an excellent job of reporting on this competition (his reports are available here) that I didn't feel much motivation to try to write detailed reviews myself, or even to take notes during many of the events. But here are some general thoughts, primarily on the senior men.

I didn't see the junior men's short program, but their free skate was generally not a well-skated competition. I must put in a good word for Shaun Rogers's new long program set to "The Bolt", though. Last year I thought Shaun had the most elaborately choreographed program of any of the junior men, and this year he's done it again.

OTOH, the quality of the skating in the senior men's event was amazing, considering that this is only July! Weiss, Delmore, and Jahnke each have their first international coming up in just over a month, and they all seem to be getting the season off to a good start. It's incredible to be able to see this calibre of skating for free in the intimate setting of an ordinary rink where every seat is close to the ice.

I think that Michael Weiss's new "Malaguena" short program is about as good as a "Malaguena" program can be; he certainly interprets this style of music with intensity and conviction, at least. The long, though, needs help -- "Nessun Dorma" is such a cliche' by now, and his choreography doesn't rise above it. Even disregarding the silly shoot-the-duck movements, I thought the whole effect was rather contrived and cheesy. It was impressive to see Michael landing his quad toe so consistently in both warmup and competition, but it's obvious that he's still having big problems with his axel entry.

Derrick Delmore is looking amazingly improved since last year. We saw both clean triple axels and quad salchows from him in warmup although neither made it into the competition this time. The "Lawrence of Arabia" long program is by far the best one he's ever had, without the multiple jarring music cuts of his past programs. His spins in both programs had such beautiful positions that they drew gasps of appreciation from the audience.

I find it totally impossible to be objective about Ryan Jahnke's new tango long program, choreographed by Tom Dickson. It was so stunning on a first viewing, and there is so much in it that is new and unique, that I am going to have to see it on tape again and again in order to take in all its complexity. Perhaps Michael Weiss's program would not have seemed so lacking if it hadn't been going up against this one. Ryan's "Stairway to Heaven" short program is wonderful too, but in a completely different way -- it's all freedom and lightness, and shows off Ryan's edge quality and flow and ice coverage. (He skates with such incredible and effortless speed that it's a thrill just to watch him warming up in practices.) I know that I was not the only one in the audience making mental comparisons to John Curry after the long program, so this is a very effective partnership between skater and choreographer. Dickson also does Matt Savoie's programs, and I'm really curious to see what they've come up with for this year.

Ryan Bradley's new short program was something of an embarassment -- besides the problems with the jumps and bouncing off the boards in one of the footwork sequences, at points in the program he looked disoriented, like he had forgotten the choreography or what he was supposed to do next. He's doing the same "William Tell" long program as last year, and he skated that decently, at least. But there is still no sign that he is anywhere close to getting a triple axel, and he seems to be lacking the enthusiasm and spark that made him stand out in the past. Some of us were wondering if the injuries and pressure have just taken all the fun out of it for him.

Scott Smith surprised everyone by showing up at this competition with a fairly consistent triple axel as well as the quad salchow he has been landing on and off in practice for a year or more. Last season I never even saw Scott trying the axel in practices at competitions, much less in his programs. In spite of the progress on the jumps, though, Scott's basic skating is still holding him back. He needs to work on his speed and extension, so that he can improve his ice coverage and "skate bigger". Plus, his long program seemed to be choreographed with a lot of stops and posing, the music was kind of blah, etc.

I hadn't seen Eric Ritter from Canada before this. He is a decent skater, with very good speed and an impressive triple lutz/triple toe. No triple axel, though, and he had some problems with his spins as well. The other two skaters in the event were really not competitive at the senior level.

Senior ladies were a real snooze at this competition -- I didn't even stay to watch the long programs. The juniors and novices were quite good, though.

Anna Peng, who won both the short and long programs for novices with straight first-place ordinals, really established herself as a front-runner for winning novice nationals here. Very consistent, very polished. Various flavors of "bendy" spins seem to be all the rage among novice ladies this year -- extreme laybacks in all kinds of positions, Biellmann spins, Y spins, etc. One of the girls did a donut spin that flipped over into a brief catch-foot layback -- I think this was a back spin, and a back layback is rare enough by itself.

In junior ladies, we saw some excellent skating from Louann Donovan in the short. She has finally discarded that obnoxious "Chicago" program and is now doing a rip-off of Angela Nikodinov's "Sleeping Beauty" for her long instead. But Lindsey Berg blew everyone away in the long by landing both a triple lutz and a triple salchow/triple loop combination! It is too bad that her basic skating and presentation aren't in the same class as her jumping. I don't know whether the USFSA will send either of these skaters to a JGP event -- Berg is not even on the reserve team at this point.

If Emily Hughes can ever stop two-footing her jump landings, I think she is going to go places. Interesting to see that, unlike her sister, she doesn't flutz her lutz, but she struggles with the double axel instead. Stephanie Rosenthal made an instant hit with everyone because of her delightful robot program in the short. Her long was a very different Beethoven program, but just as well interpreted.

Amy Bobrick had a nasty accident in the final round of the long program after falling on a triple flip, dislocating her shoulder and lying on the ice crying pitifully for help for what seemed like an eternity before anybody could get out to her. She seems to be a weirdness magnet -- she was the skater who was on the ice at Easterns last fall when the fire alarm went off in the building. I was impressed by her power and the spectacular upside-down spiral she does in her short program, but her jumping technique is really weird and is clearly holding her back.

A few other random notes.... Junior man Brad Griffies may not be making so much progress on his jumps, but his costume business seems to be booming. It sounds like an unusual occupation for a young man, but he has a genuine talent for it -- his designs were tasteful and interesting, and the finished outfits looked well-constructed and like they fit well. In general, I saw remarkably few really awful costumes at this competition, but somebody ought to clue some of the skaters in that it's not necessary or flattering to wear so much make-up that you look like a clown.

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