yuna3
Olympics, Sports

In which all is said and done..

There were shouts, and there were murmurs. Allegations and rumors of scandal. She was robbed, she skated clean! How dare they dethrone a Queen? Conspiracies of host nations and a questionable panel of judges. In the aftermath, there is silver.

Another Olympics, another figure skating judging controversy.

Upon stepping foot into the NYC office on Thursday, before I could set my bag down, I saw the flash of red and steely gray eyes which could only mean little girl from Schindler’s List aka Lipnitskaya. And so down went my backpack, out came my laptop, and heygoodtoseeyousorrytalklater!, as I proceeded to work and watch intently from the lunch table, transfixed. And holy smokes, did the ladies bring it.

Yulia. Carolina. Adelina. Gracie. Ashley. Simultaneously wishing them well, or rather, well enough (with perhaps, the door left ever so ajar for a Queen to step through). And then it was time.

So, let’s talk controversy. Everyone’s crying foul, and I understand why. Twitter is a flitter, Yuna is trending. Koreans are outraged. An email arrives from my mother to petition the ISU. Yuna smiles politely, perhaps resignedly. But mostly of relief.

So what happened? This is the best scoring breakdown I’ve seen to compare element by element (courtesy of the NY Times):

Where Sotnikova Scored Higher

Element Sotnikova’s Points Kim’s Points Difference
Double-triple combination
9.94
6.50
+3.44
Footwork
5.60
4.44
+1.16
Layback spin
3.77
3.04
+0.73
Three-jump combination
8.34
7.83
+0.51
Change-foot combination spin
4.71
4.21
+0.50
Triple salchow
5.82
5.52
+0.30
Triple flip
6.80
6.50
+0.30
Double axel
4.70
4.42
+0.28
Flying combination spin
4.56
4.43
+0.13

Where Kim Scored Higher

Element Sotnikova’s Points Kim’s Points Difference
Additional triple
6.70
7.60
+0.90
Triple lutz-triple toe
11.10
11.70
+0.60
Skating skill and artistry
74.41
74.50
+0.09

Adelina skated wonderfully – that’s a performance of a lifetime and good for her. To do that on home ice with the wall of sound that is your country behind you is an incredible thing. Sotnikova’s spins were better. The positioning, the extensions, the innovation. Her jumps were solid, incredibly athletic. Save for the two footed or stepping out of that third double loop in the jump combination (she was way too tilted to salvage that), that was a rock solid performance. She had energy and emotion and something to prove working in her favor. Also, let’s not forget she started 5 points higher than Yuna and Kostner on the scale of technical elements.

And then there was the Queen. Skating last to Adios Nonino, she floated through her program and skated regally – better than I’ve seen her in the post-Vancouver years. Ever artistic, always mesmerizing. She absolutely delivered. And yet.

Upon initial viewing, I actually thought Yuna had two-footed her triple lutz, so I was anxious, to say the least, going into the judges’ marks. The second primetime viewing revealed that she hadn’t – she skated clean. But some nagging feeling within me sensed a slight breeze – a window left slightly ajar.

Yuna’s jumps were gorgeous – a natural extension to every program she skates. Watching Sotnikova, it seemed like every other second was some jump combination. I wondered if Yuna’s technicality was enough. But then I realized why it felt that way. Adelina’s routine was athletic for sure, but it felt like element after landed element, whereas Yuna’s just flowed. The jumps were so seamless that it almost felt like they weren’t there. And in mentally running back through the jumps, she had just one fewer, but there’s such an incredible fluidity to her jumping, that they weren’t as blatant to me as her predecessor’s. She is, artistically, as Sandra Bezic states, “head and shoulders above everyone else.” But artistry and spark are two different things.

I see how points wise, Sotnikova could take the cake. Figure skating, despite talk of artistic merit, has long been a technical game. Case in point, flashback to Kwan vs. Lipinski in Nagano. But in the end, like Michelle in Nagano, she skated clean, a safer program, but she was better in seasons past. In SAT analogy terms, Yuna’s Piano Concerto in F : Adios Nonino :: Kwan’s Salome : Lyra Angelica. The choreography was just better in Vancouver, as were the delivery and heart. Those 2009-2010 vintage David Wilson programs were simply put, the best ever.

But when it came down to it, the magic had dissipated. Not like Vancouver. This program was wonderful, but a tad muted in comparison. That being said, would I have given her gold? Absolutely. But can I see how, sans scandal, she could have gotten silver? I can. Tara and Johnny are right in that it was Adelina’s Olympic moment. But that’s not to say I agree with everything that transpired.

A couple parting thoughts:

  • Yuna won on components, but just barely. Yuna’s artistry is unparalleled in that match up. A 0.09 differential is absurd. I thought she’d win gold on her vast components margin, but that was not the case.
  • That Adelina was within centimeters of Yuna’s Vancouver performance is concerning. That’s some serious overinflation right there. I can see how points wise, Sotnikova could take Sochi, but Yuna in Vancouver was light years beyond.
  • Mao Asada, with 8 triples including a triple axel, got a lower free skate score than Adelina. The 3x Axel may have been slightly under rotated, but even so. Mao’s free skate was among the best of the evening, both technically and lyrically.
  • I liked the old 6.0 scoring system. I miss the freedom it allowed. Now skaters have to skate smart, hack their way to points on a fully loaded program. The transparency into the countries assigning scores was part of the fun of it.

Almost 2 million people have signed the petition to contest the ladies’ free skate results, and as of now, I have not signed. I don’t currently plan to. She did what she came to do and left it all on the ice. And I am still enormously proud of her.

Three champions did their countries proud this week.

sochi fs medalists

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yuna kim send in the clowns
Olympics, Sports

In which I vicariously relive my childhood dreams..

Four years ago, I hosted an Olympics party. Now I barely even dress up for Halloween, but if there’s one theme party I will go all domestic goddess for, it’s the Winter Olympics. We’re talking handmade paper torches, meticulously drawn Olympic rings on cookie after Pillsbury cookie, and dusting off the old sequined skating sweaters, squeezing my feet into my 15 year old relics of skates. Straight out of Martha Stewart, thank you very much!

(Side note: do you know how hard it is to find food coloring gel the color of the 5 Olympic rings?)

This is what happens when you dream of becoming an Olympic figure skating champion.. and never even make it to triple jumps. You become an imaginary stage mom and mentally adopt other people’s children to obsess over instead.

Your gold is my gold.

Because, you know, I’ve been working so hard boring holes into the back of the TV with my bloodshot eyes and sending mental vibes to Sochi while sprawled out on the couch, clearly contributing to events that transpired 8 hours ago. It’s hard, stress-inducing work. Like I said, our gold.

It’s been four years since Vancouver – I’ve been waiting a long time for this. The ladies SP has come and gone, and not to spoil it for y’all but holy God-given talent!! But don’t just take my word for it, listen to a real champion:

Now, it’s a little too close for comfort. Carolina Kostner skated beautifully but not <1 point away from Yuna beautifully. What is that about? Yuna drew an early slot and has been mostly absent form the international circuit post-Vancouver. Because this is wonky figure skating judging we’re talking about, the ISU of course has to take such factors into consideration. I mean, Patrick Chan did set a world record with an imperfect performance a year or two ago, but he’s an ISU poster child and seems to play by all their rules. C’est la vie. But c’mon, even the casual viewer can tell you she’s a cut above. Not that I’m biased or anything.

Leading up to the short program, I thought it would be the Yuna-Mao-Yulia show.. until devastation! My heart breaks for Mao – such a tremendous competitor who with or without triple axel, has upped her artistry over the years. Not the way I wished her to go out – but hopefully this will take off the pressure to rock the free skate and deliver something incredible, medal or not. And triple flip.. the jump so many of these elite skaters can waltz through in their sleep. Michelle Kwan in Salt Lake. And now Yulia in Russia. What is it about that jump at home territory? Maybe it’s the pressure. I still remember the day, huddled up over my tiny box of a dorm room TV, tense in anticipation, tearing up at that fateful triple flip that would result in bronze.. but I digress. Yulia is a force to be reckoned with, and the judges have given her room to be a serious contender.

Which brings me to The Queen. The maturity, the fluidity, those skater’s arms! While the 2010 Bond medley will forever be my favorite program EVER, there’s a bittersweet whine of the strings – how can you not be affected by this rendition of Send in the Clowns?

I leave you with a few final thoughts:

  • Those Russians and those spins! Yulia’s flexibility and Adelina’s one handed Biellmann? Russian figure skating is back with a vengeance and how! The last time I was this excited about Russian skaters were circa the Gordeeva & Grinkov years. It’s good to see them pushing the envelope, both in singles and in dominating pairs.
  • I miss 90’s US figure skating. It hasn’t been the same since. The golden haired trio may be marketable and all (by traditional American standards), but it’s been a while since I’ve been truly excited by what’s been coming out of USFS. Meryl & Charlie exempted. They are exquisite.
  • Carmen (Adelina). Scheherezade (Davis & White). Romeo (Hanyu). The usual suspects.. at least music wise. It’s too bad the USFSA took this year’s Bond girl (Mirai) out of contention. It would’ve been fun to see that rendition.
  • The Asian programs have come a long way. What the heck is going on with Japanese skating? Yuzuru Hanyu – such a fan! I’m not super optimistic that Korea will produce another true international contender in time for Pyeongchang, but never say never..
  • Volosozhar & Trankov are my new Donna Moss & Josh Lyman of figure skating. Meaning, hurry up and fall in love and get married already! The former being Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, of course.
  • Charlie White is dating Tanith Belbin?!
  • The Queen is baaaaaaaack!

My heart leaps for tomorrow.

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freedom tower
NYC, Relationships

In which we evolve..

Amidst Uber-ing into the city today, I noticed the Freedom Tower for the first time in the New York skyline. The red, white, and blue to my left, Statue of Liberty to my right. It isn’t as though I haven’t seen it before. I’ve visited, certainly, a couple years back while it was being constructed. And it reminded me, this city evolves.

I want life to be freeze framed as I left it, so I can step back in and continue as if nothing had changed. New York never shows such mercy. But that’s the beauty of it and reveals my own narcissism at thinking such a thought. That this city wouldn’t change, would be the city I remembered. It’s not – it never will be.

The lights on Broadway have changed, illuminating shows I have yet to see. There are new principals at ABT and the City Ballet. And such welcome additions as Maison Kayser have opened its doors in Columbus Circle. Friends have slowly trickled out of UWS. But the Halal Cart remains.

Never one to plan, Foursquare revealed birthday festivities, and so I got to drop in and catch up with an old group of friends. Except there were new faces. And relationships that had crept up in the midst. We’re separated by almost two years now, but it’s comforting to step back into some semblance of familiarity. That those friendships would still be there, despite a two year gap. Catching up on desires and frustrations, new endeavors, amidst a general sense of weariness. The Olympic figure skating team competition flashes in the background, hearts are laid bare before throw triple loops, as we used to over coffee.

Distance, in some ways, brings us closer, offers perspective.

I used to watch Sleepless in Seattle over a pint of Haagen Daaz whenever I hit certain moods, and in more recent years, the Lite-Brite-esque intro of the Manhattan skyline took on a sadder meaning. Two towers have been replaced by one, and yet the city still glitters.

(Photo credit: Etsy shop theheartoftheeye)

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NYC

In which we break up..

Recently, I had the opportunity to move back to New York, and against all logic, I opted to stay. I’ve been mulling over this decision for over two months now, and the difficulty of turning down a city like New York is still palpable. The giddiness that coursed within me upon hearing of the opportunity. The city pulsates with a vibrancy unparalleled. The hopes and dreams, the grit, the tears that go into that city. The ambition and consumption. Oh the consumption. The culture and the microcosm of a world (and what a world!) within an x block radius of one’s apartment, regardless of which borough or neighborhood you live in.

Last week, I had the peace of making a gut decision. Against all rational thought – I was never a rational thinker to begin with. Trying not to be led by the shoulds and the oughts, but rather, where my heart lay. Unthinkably, it whispered not now. It’s not time. Not right now. And yet, I’m left with a decision hangover of massive proportions, not entirely sure I made the right decision. I’m trying really hard not to regret this. I may never go back.

What have I done?

I love New York with my heart and soul. It’s been so good to me. One and a half years after the fact, I still hold on to what could have been had I stayed. The excitement, the friendships, the endless distractions.

We were so good together. Those weekends spent in the park, perusing sundry items at Brooklyn Flea. Those night time strolls along Lincoln Center. Dinner dates in West Village. Restaurant after Michelin starred restaurant. Perhaps we could’ve made it work. But now, it’s time to move on.

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country music
Music

In which we explore obsessions with country music..

An acquaintance of mine recently introduced me to Austin. No, not the city of Friday Night Lights fame. Not a tallish, vaguely blonde, handsome looking fellow one would expect to bear such a moniker either. Having rhapsodized the storytelling narratives that comprise of country music, my other friend, this time to my left, chimed in to voice her skepticism at such taste. Of an entire car ride back from Tahoe listening, nay, enduring said musical afflictions. Except for that one song. She liked that one song with the answering machine.

“Yes! Blake Shelton! You know, that guy on The Voice.”

Sure I knew that guy. The blonde dude who was not the douchey dude hailing from a dubiously hued band which shall not be named.

Granted, my knowledge of country music extends to Nashville (and short skirts and t-shirts and cheer captains and bleachers). In my defense, Connie Britton is an American gem as far as I’m concerned. So if that’s not legit country music, it’s still okay. Mrs. Coach trumps all. Always. Forever. Texas forever. But I digress.

(Is it bad that I like the Country Strong soundtrack?)

And so an introduction was made, a seed planted. A video sent:

Holy 90s production values! It’s like a confluence of amazingly discordant things.. from the quasi mullet (is it a mullet or are they ringlets?) to hello Gillian Anderson meets Lisa Marie Presley! In Gloria Vanderbilt (or possibly Jordache) jeans, no less! (Sidenote: Is that what is meant by apple bottom jeans? It occurs to me that I never paused to think about what exactly I was singing/screaming along to those times on the dance floor.)

Is this what we’ve been missing out on? Has what we’ve been looking for been here the whole time?

So much.. so much. Before the conversation veered sharply right towards the lovely, the ever-avian Celine. And we proceeded to talk about that instead.

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