Live Blog: Ladies’ Figure Skating Final – Sochi 2014

Well, it’s the big day for figure skating, and everybody’s ready. Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski are wearing matching gold headbands. Lipinski looks like she has serious plastic-surgery face – like that cat woman you see in gossip rags sometimes – but it’s just the result of some over-aggressive contouring makeup from the folks at NBC. She’s a pretty girl. They could let up on the bronzer.

I’m not watching the Hunger Games, but I feel like I’m watching the Hunger Games. Weir does an admirable Claudius Templesmith, but Lipinski’s Effie Trinket could use some more drama in the hair department. Let’s start this thing.

Park So Youn

Country: South Korea

Costume

Really feeling the midnight blue skating dress thing with ice blue sequins. Not so princessy. Kind of a “Frozen” thing?

Music

Classical music, but the dramatic kind, not the dreamy kind.

Skating

Is watching figure skating to see if someone falls the same as watching Nascar for the crashes or hockey for the fights? But I’ll admit: I hate watching people fail. Nothing would make me happier than a figure skating competition where every person is at the top of their game and the winners and losers are separated by fractions of a point.

The Good: Graceful, ballet influences? Pretty arms. The floaty non- jump parts. This one really gorgeous spin.

The bad: A few of those landings weren’t awesome; fell once.

Brooklee Han

Country: Australia (LOL no)

Screw this, Han was born and raised in the U.S.  Not Australian. I repeat: Not Australian. Our first carpetbagger of the night. I wonder if she can she compete for US after this in other Olympics, if she qualifies?

Costume

The red thing looks a little adult, like a weird abbreviated evening gown from 1994. It’s the v-shaped jeweled choker element. I know the French braid is a figure skating classic – reminds me of watching Nancy Kerrigan back in the day – but I like how clean it is.

Music

This music – it reminds me of the Anne of Green Gables soundtrack.

Weir: A lot of people chose “pretty princess” music.

Lipinski, paraphrased: People play songs on repeat if it gets them going for jumps, etc.

Weir: What was that song you used to play?

Lipinksi: Pulp Fiction.

LOL.

Skating

Fun fact: Brooklee is a violinist and an equestrienne, and now I feel inferior.  For lack of better way to put it, she’s a very emotional skater. You can tell she’s a musician because she really seems to get inside the music, though Weir feels like she’s just connecting jumps. Fall count: 1, I think?

Gabrielle Daleman

Country: Canada

Costume

The costume is very  Jasmine from Aladdin. I like it, even if it sort of reminds me of the middriff-baring prom dresses that people wore in the early 2000s. It’s a nice color. Sort of a peacock feather thing going on.I don’t know how I feel about this thing where the tights go over the skates so it looks like you’re barefoot but with enormous, deformed bladed feet. I sort of want them to bring back the classic white skates a la Sonja Henie. But I also know that if your feet and legs are the same color you get a longer line – that’s why so many short women are told to wear flesh-colored shoes – so I get it.

Music

Polynesian Dances

Skating

It’s her first international event as a senior skater. Yet, she has an older feel than a lot of the skaters out there. No, she doesn’t look old for her age, but she looks more athletic and less willow-y and gawky than some of the kiddos out there. Gabrielle does NOT look happy with that performance. Just noticed she had jewels at the corner of her eyes. Cute.

Should we count how many times they say “kiss and cry?”

Elisaveta Ukolova

Country: Czech Republic

…however, she was born in Russia. Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?

Costume

Lipinski: She’s starting with a very pretty dress.

And she is, really – floral beading. A nice change. But talk about old-school – I spy a scrunchie! Wow. I think scrunchies have survived in skating, dance and cheerleading long after they died in the real world. I’m not even opposed, but I don’t like the red scrunchie with the dark blue dress.

Music

It starts with a really fun swing number, but then it transitions to a slower classical thing. It was a weird transition and frankly I’m not feeling it. One or the other, you know? It was fun to start with something up-tempo and a little different, like Polina did in her short skate (which I loved). Then it transitions back into swing. Hmmm. I see why she did this for figure skating purposes but I’m not into it.

Skating

Elisaveta fell on the triple loop. “Most beautiful technique” as she bursts into the air on her jumps. But, “sort of tripping,” says Lipinski. She fell again, and had trouble getting going after it (to me anyway). Very “meh” says Weir, because with her music she should be more ebullient. I agree. “A rough skate,” says Lipinski.

Anne Line Gjersem

Country: Norway

Why are people from Scandinavian countries so good-looking? Is it the high standard of living and healthy food? Seriously this kid is so pretty. First skater from Norway in 50 years, which is surprising to me on account of all of their ice.

Costume

I love this! It’s sort of magenta and pink, and looks very youthful and modern, for a skate costume. It’s sequined all over, but doesn’t have so many patches of heavy sequinning. With West Side Story the obvious choice would have been a white dress like Maria wears in I Feel Pretty, but the bright young number is kind of evocative of the red/pink the character wears in a lot of productions.

Music

West Side Story “Everyone is expecting to see some West Side Story, and it’s just not happening.” – Lipinski. “She’s putting it to use, but there’s no connection between her face, her body, and this music playing over the loud speaker.” Personally, I’m just excited to hear a musical score that’s not Les Miserables.

Skating

I loved some of her quicker transitions between moves. She’s “really struggling on the flying camel spin,” according to someone who knows. “A little skirt ruffling, Johnny.” “A little cha-cha.” Felt like watching her work, instead of a performance, according to Weir.

Nicole Rajicova

Country: Slovakia (by way of USA)

Okay, but just so we’re clear, Nicole is from Long Island. So, I’m pretty sure that whoever wins, America really wins. However, my grandmother was Slovak and you really only hear about Slovakia during the Winter Olympics, so I like this girl. Nicole is totally trying to up her Slovak factor by changing her name from Rojik to Rojikova (in Eastern Europe surnames are gendered, but obviously once families immigrate to English-speaking countries, they drop this for logistical reasons).

Costume

Sort of a black and red Flamenco thing, complete with red flower in her hair. Dramatic, not what I’d have chosen with her coloring, but I like that she didn’t go with the classic “I’m an angelic ice princess” look.

Music

Sassy classical? A little bit of a tango thing going on maybe? It’s different but not SO different. I like it.

Skating

She fell early on (they all seem to fall on that first big element, if they’re going to fall), but otherwise she had a lot of really graceful and clean landings. I think there was another wobble in there. Lipinski and Weir thinks she’s too in her head about it, thinking about what she has to do next. I do NOT like this one move she does when she just sort of picks up one foot to waist level for a second, like “hey, look at my heel!” Lipinski and Weir were NOT into it.

Kaetlyn Osmond

Country: Canada

“Skating is so popular in Canada, it’s amazing there haven’t been more champions,” the commentators say. “Every girl figure skates, every boy plays hockey.” If we’re playing the Canadian Stereotypes game, after all of the ice sports they then all go to Tim Hortons, where Mayor Ford is mid-crack binge, pay with a few loonies and toonies, then drive their snowmobile home to catch a few episodes of Degrassi. And they do it all so politely.

Costume

She is “portraying Cleopatra, if it wasn’t apparent”, according to Weir. It wasn’t, so thanks. Still, it’s a nice maroon dress with a lot of gold happening on the back.

Music

The kind of heavily horn-sectioned classical that seems like it’s from an epic movie soundtrack.

Skating

She does a few Cleopatra-ish hand things, so that’s cool. There’s one fall, but also a lot of beautiful soaring elements. The choreography is more narrative and sassy than a lot of what we’ve seen so far.

Hey. What if we all just settled on one spelling of Caitlin and everyone had to use that from now on? Could we all just do that?

Elene Gedevanishvili

Country: Georgia

Underdog country! But, she’s lived in Russia, Canada, the US, etc to change coaches, although she was born in Georgia. Elene moved to Russia to skate but her mother was deported after Georgia-Russia tensions escalated.

Costume

It sort of looks like an ethnic Eastern European costume you’d see on a figure skating version of a Madame Alexander doll. Black brocade bodice, red skirt. Nice.

Music

Evidently Elene carefully selects her music. Unsurprisingly, it falls into the “dramatic classical” category.

Skating

I really like the quickness of this piece. Just, really strong balletic connections between elements. However, the commentators feel like she “checked out mentally” after her first fall. I do not like how she came out of her last spin. They don’t like her attitude.

Kim Haejin

Kim Haejin actually has a normal number of legs.

Country: South Korea

Costume

Black, silver sequins, not the most interesting but pretty. She was doing a “black swan” thing so it worked, but could have been more dramatic. Evidently since the movie, more skaters are skating as the black swan than the white swan. Cool.

Music

Swan Lake. “Her idol, Yuna Kim recommended it for her.” Guys, I want to talk about Yuna. She sounds like such a good supporter of the other South Korean skaters – really positive and encouraging, like a figure skating Amy Poehler. I like her. Like, Yuna doesn’t sound like that girl who would say “oh, that music would be GREAT for you” or, I don’t know, “your ass looks AWESOME in those jeans,” when it’s not true, just to sabotage you.

Skating

One really, really bummer fall where she hits the boards. She recovers well, and seems like a really athletic skater. Beautiful spins.

Kanako Murakami

Country: Japan

The Japanese skaters seem to have a really nice camaraderie. Kanako wore a blazer from teammate Mao Asada, an idol of hers, to her high school entrance ceremony. This is what I love about figure skating, Kerrigan-Harding stuff aside. Unlike in team sports, members of each country’s team are in essence competing against each other, so it’s heartening to see this level of support. You even see skaters from other countries commending each other’s performances on TV and twitter.

Costume

The one black mesh arm is fine, actually. Love the violet and black. Love the lightly sequined back. Do NOT love the odd crucifix/dagger/saber thing that’s sequined onto the waist. At all.

Music

Very typical string-heavy classical. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

Skating

She does a “smack and nod” on the boards before going out to skate. Cute. “Nicely done,” according to Lipinski, and I agree. It was a mostly clean skate, very graceful. The judges agree. One spin looked under-rotated, but closer examination revealed that it wasn’t.

Zhang Kexin

Country: China

Costume

I guess black and red are THE thing this year? A little gray in there too. No complaints. A lot of sequins, but I really like that during spins.

Music

It’s the floaty, stringy classical again.

Skating

WOW her jumps are beautiful. They look really high for someone who looks like a pretty short lady. She does a few slower spins, and I don’t know if those fare as well as the speedy ones in scoring, but it’s lovely. The commentators think she sort of “throws her arms around,” so I guess she’s more of an element skater and less of a dancer. You get bonus points (there’s a more technical word for it) for jumps in the second half of the program, and she gets them. They think she’s “too relaxed” and “marking her program, not performing it,” and I do see what they’re saying but I also really like her looseness and ease. In a classic Weir analogy, he says the performance is like “eating cavier every day” because you get accustomed to the amazing jumps. She seems a bit under-scored.

Mao Asada

Country: Japan

Costume

My personal favorite! A blue/violet/indigo/magenta feathery number.

Music

Piano-heavy classical.

Skating

Asada was supposed to be a contender, but is 16th place going into this skate. This may be her farewell performance. It’s a great one to go out on. “She has a quick snap about her today,” says Lipinski. Mao triple axels like a boss. It’s just so FUN to watch her skate. Everything she does looks easy, even though today I was struggling just to make it across an icy parking lot without falling so clearly it isn’t. THIS is what I was talking about when I said that I like watching people succeed. It’s just so satisfying to watch everything go right. She hits every jumping pass. Crowd goes wild. She looks heartbroken, because even this perfect skate can’t make up for yesterday’s. If you’ve missed it, Asada has the ultimate human interest story in the skating event. She lost her mother while she was out of the country and couldn’t make it back home in time.

Break

During the long resurfacing break between the second and third sets, I switched over to the Women’s Hockey final. Go USA! I almost started to tear up a bit when one of the hockey players talked about her disappointment when she realized that women didn’t play professional hockey, and her resolve to become an Olympic hockey player instead. Ughhh.

Apropos of nothing: when I was a little kid, I wanted to be the girl who skates around after a figure skating competitor, picking up the teddy bears and flowers that people throw onto the ice. I always did know how to dream mediocre.

Li Zijun

Country: China

Costume

You know, since this is the first cotton-candy girly pink skate dress we’ve seen, it looks really pleasantly surprising. She’s skating as Coppelia, so it’s fitting.

Music

Coppelia, of course.

Skating

Zijun is selling the theme routine, because before they announced what she was doing, I saw her stiff arm movements and thought “hey, she’s doing Coppelia!” She’s a good jumper and very sprightly and girlish on the ice. The commentators would like it to build a bit more through the program – a bit bigger and more exuberant. She is a touch restrained.

Mae Berenice Meite

Country: France

Why does the English name Bernice sound so blah, when the French Berenice is so pretty?

Costume

Oh my goodness! This whole time I’ve been wondering “what if somebody just showed up in pants?” And then Mae did it! Leave it to a French lady to show some sartorial restraint. Didn’t Surya Bonaly compete in pants one time too? It’s actually a bit risky because judges don’t love when skaters go off-book. Weir loves the shoulders and thinks the pants work on her. Sort of a “Lady Gaga/Beyonce” structure to the body suit, according to Lipinski. I think she has the first funky nails I’ve seen, too. I like this lady.

Music

The kind of smooth electric guitar that would play in the steamy scene of a tv movie from the early 90s. ZZ Top ends up in there. A potentially distracting number of music edits, say the commentators.

Skating

Mae falls on a triple loop. The music goes into a more rock-ish, clappy section, and the skating picks up a bit. Mae has some sassy choreo in there, and some high jumps as well. I’ve never seen a skater look so casual about landing such beautiful spins.

Akiko Suzuki

Country: Japan

Costume

Pastel, flowery, heavily sequined bodice. It’s gorgeous.

Music

Very music box sounding. Perfect with the costume. It picks up into a rapid violin/ orchestral movement, then that unmistakable Phantom Of The Opera riff and a flowy string rendition of ‘Think of Me.” Phantom is probably second only to Les Mis as the most-used musical score in figure skating.

Skating

Akiko is a delicate, graceful skater. Her jumping passes don’t go so well – she falls once. Akiko is very expressive and does an excellent job of coordinating her face, and the amount of force with which she skates, to the music. Some of these skaters seem more like artists and some seem more like athletes. Akiko is a dancer. Her closing spin is fantastic.

Valentina Marchei

Country: Italy

Costume

Diaphonous black number with a ruffly neck. The skirt is slightly longer and it’s more adult than a lot of what we’ve seen. You know how Italian ladies (as in from Italy, not Italian-American) look so great when they’re in their 40s and 50s? Like, it’s a good thing there to look like a grown adult instead of a girl? Valentina’s definitely Italian in her wardrobe choices here. There are barely-detectable sparkles in her tights, which is a nice touch.

Music

Nyah by Hans Zimmer

Skating

To go along with her costume, she starts with some moves that are … oddly sultry, for figure skating? I like that she sticks to the theme throughout the program. You see a lot of skaters open their program on some thematic choreography, only to drop it for a series of jumps later on. Marchei is definitely a performer. She’s more fun to watch than some of the flashier skaters.

Fun fact: at 27, this is Valentina’s first Olympics – how unusual is that in this sport? She has background as a speed skater and a gymnast, as well. The older I get, the more I root for the older figure skaters because it might be their last chance. Older is relative, of course — our oldest ladies are only  27 and 28.

Polina Edmunds

Country: USA
Costume

Flowy, asymettrical hemlined number in powdery-tealy-blue, with a nice jeweled neckline. It does a good job of making Polina look willowy and graceful – she has that look of a tall girl who only recently shot up and is still sort of gangly and gawky, but she can look pretty and lithe in the right clothes. She tends to go with more gussied-up hairstyles, but keeps it really sweet with pearls and jeweled flowers. I like it.

Music

I can’t identify the first piece, but it segues into Vivaldi’s Spring movement from the Four Seasons. It feels cliche but I can’t remember the last time I actually heard it. She’s so young and innocent looking that it really suits her.

Skating

She starts off with a triple lutz-triple toe and some other combination that I can’t remember, except that it was beautiful. I can’t imagine being 15 and getting on the ice and doing anything other than puking (and falling, of course) but I see no nerves from this girl – until she takes a little tumble. Otherwise, she looks great. Her stage mom trained her well.

Does she remind anyone else of Emma Nelson from the earlier seasons of Degrassi?

And do this many people usually fall? It used to seem like a disaster that happened once in a great while, but it doesn’t even seem serious now – almost everyone has.

Nathalie Weinzierl

Country: Germany

Costume

A vivid, indigo-blue dress. The color seriously suits her.

Music

Rhapsody in Blue? Yes! I like this! I get what she was doing with that costume. Some dude on the twitter feed calls it “the United airlines song” and I’ll take his word for it. I fly a lot of Southwest and Jet Blue, myself.

Skating

So, the jumps were a little glitchy, but the girl can spin. Weir thinks she has an “old-fashioned” jumping technique, and I’ll take his word for it. It was sort of just okay.

Yulia Lipnitskaya

Country: Russia

Costume

Red coat, because… well, you’ll see when we get to music.

Music

Schindler’s List. There we go.

Skating

After a disappointing short skate, Yulia has to bring it here. I think this girl really deserves the buzz. I obviously don’t know much about skating, but I know who is and isn’t fun to watch. She isn’t just technically talented, she’s graceful and expressive as well. The crowd erupts when she lands the jump she missed in the short program. Oh no… she takes a heck of a tumble toward the end of the program. As always, she’s the best spinner out there. This was good, but not like what we saw from her at the team competition. I feel guilty, in a sort of a Hunger Games-y way, for getting entertainment out of an event that’s so much pressure on such really young kids. Her face when it ends just kills me. I know the skaters are here because they WANT to be here, but still.

Not gonna lie, Lipinski sounds a touch relieved that her spot as the youngest gold medalist might be safe. Yulia is first after her skate, but there is some big-time competition coming up.

Carolina Kostner

Country: Italy

Costume

Like her Italian compatriot, Kostner wears a sleek black number that says “I am a 27-year-old grown-ass woman. Move over children.”

Music

Bolero. Whatever, I love it.

Skating

That was a hell of a skate to go out on! She keeps landing these jumps coming down on angles where I think she can’t possibly nail it, but she does every time. There’s a great joy and musicality to her program, especially after the jumping passes are out of the way. I don’t know what it is about this performance over the other ones, but I almost tear up a bit because you can see that she’s just out there pouring everything into this, and enjoying it. Damn, girl. Ya did good.

Fun fact: Carolina’s father was an Italian hockey player.

NOPE. As she leaves the ice her coach says “now do you believe in yourself?” and at this point the tears are real. She takes the lead and beats her personal best.

Adelina Sotnikova

Country: Russia

Costume

Dusty lavender with gold. A sort of Downton Abbey color combo. There’s some weird geometric stuff going on with the sequins.

Music

Slower violins, moving into a rondo.

Skating

As we move further into the competition, you can see why these top skaters – Costner, Gold, and yes, even Sotkonikova – are the ones we keep hearing about. There’s just such a distinct difference between these later sets and the earlier ones. Less falling, for one thing. But more than that, these higher-scored skaters are so skilled at combining rhythm, grace, expression, story AND fancy jumps. It’s not just a string of lutzes. Adelina falters a bit after one jump but overall it is one heck of a satisfying program to watch. Her rotations are so darn quick! It’s even more fun once the jumping passes end and she can showboat a little, even seeming to encourage the crowd to clap. Adelina, like Carolina, is having fun out there. You can see it. The hometown crowd loves her. Holy crap, Adelina is only 17.

The lead is hers now. MAN. I think in the last group of skaters we can just get used to a lot of turnarounds. Do I think she was THAT far ahead of Costner? I guess I don’t know enough to judge that. There could be a home-court advantage, though Adelina was certainly good.

Gracie Gold

Country: USA

Costume

The girl knows what works for her. The ice blue and silver sequins, with her blond hair, is the perfect figure skating Grace Kelly look.

Music

Sleeping Beauty

Skating

Gracie Gold – who, as every news outlet must note, has the best possible name for a figure skater – is graceful. Again, very easy to see the difference between this performance and the lower-scored competitors. But SHOOT. She falls. “Ouch,” says the commentator. “Ouch,” says the audience. “Whatever,” says Gracie, who continues to skate beautifully after it. But after the last two skaters, it’s clear that the fall is going to keep her out of the top spot.

Ashley Wagner

Country: USA

Could Ashley Wagner look any more like an Ashley? Man.

Costume

Wagner has said that she likes to skate as a character, and she’s going as Delilah. She explained that she went with yellow because it’s the most eye-catching color, and that it is. She’s a bit more “adult” than a lot of the kiddos out on the ice, so the skimpier costume works for her.

Music

Samson and Delilah

Skating

By this point you probably heard that, if the US Team had been selected based on the Nationals (as it usually is), Wagner wouldn’t be on the team. There was some talk that Wagner was chosen because she’s a crowd favorite with some pretty serious endorsements, but the official line is that she was chosen because, other than Nationals, she was the strongest skater in the US. I really really want them to be right, so I hope she does awesome out there.

It’s good. The jumps are good, the spins are good, the character is evident, and it seems like Ashley’s having a blast. It’s not quite as clean as some of the other performances we’ve seen, but very good. She’s in 6th. Not as good as I’d hoped, but I’ll never be 6th best in the world at anything. But I bet when you are the sixth best in the world at something, all you can think is how close it is to first, but also how far.

Yuna Kim

Country: South Korea

Costume

A two-tone maroon (oxblood? magenta?) and black number. It’s nice, but not distractingly so. I like the clean, high neckline.

Music

Piano-heavy jazzy classical. Some accordion (???) later on.

Skating

Beautiful. Even the Russian crowd is into it, and it’s seemed like they were trying to hold back their enthusiasm after Adelina skated so well. So clean and crisp! I have not seen anyone transition so quickly between jumps. The commentators say that it was “tight,” and once again I’ll take their word.

Okay — not enough for gold. The crowd is going insane. Our medalists are:

(1)Adelina Sonokava

(2) Yuna Kim

(3) Carolina Kostner

I cannot even be disappointed that the United States didn’t medal. All of the medalists were amazing. Adelina was a bit of an underdog after Yulia’s strong showing in the team competition. Yuna Kim proved why she is considered one of the best in the world. Carolina Kostner was possibly my favorite to watch – a really joyful skater.  The first ever Russian gold in ladies figure skating – in Russia. That was awesome.

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4 thoughts on “Live Blog: Ladies’ Figure Skating Final – Sochi 2014

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