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Ice Wars XIII Review

Sears Centre - Hoffman Estates, IL - Nov. 2, 2006

Commentators: Verne Lundquist and Scott Hamilton
Judges: Kerry Leitch (referee), Yuri Ovchinikov, Mary Lynn Geldermann, Ron Luddington, Christine Sweeney, Paul Duschenay, Tai Babilonia, Josef Sabovcik

Shizuka Arakawa - lovely, lovely program to Ave Maria. Sounded to me kind of like Sarah Brightman's voice, but I could be wrong about that. Shizuka was amazing tonight - spot on perfect in everything, gorgeous jumps (She did a 3-3-2 combo!), beautiful choreography and skating, spins, that incredible ina bauer, etc. Kurt said that he had seen her compete live before but he was captivated tonight, that it really was something special. She was definitely the World Team's special weapon. After her program, Kurt was making hand motions in the kiss 'n cry to the judges, holding up 10 fingers, and then doing 10 followed by 1 =). But since she was first, I guess the judges didn't want to give her a perfect score:
9.9 9.9 9.9 9.9 10 9.9 9.9 - Total: 49.5

Rory Flack Burghart - Get Here by Oleta Adams. Rory's jumps were not working for her, unfortunately, at least not the triple toe (she kept doubling it in practice and I think actually messed it up altogether in the competition) but she was very entertaining to watch. She emotes to the rafters, skates her heart out, and she's so flexible - those hyperextended split jumps are just amazing. She also does jumps with a different approach - just doubles, but they look different in their takeoffs to fit the music, which is fun to see.
9.7 9.6 9.6 9.6 9.7 9.7 9.7 - Total: 48.3

Angela Nikodinov - To Love You More by Celine Dion. Angela also seemed to be suffering from a case of nerves in the first half of the competition, and unfortunately screwed up a few (IIRC) of her jumps. She skated beautifully, though, to a really pretty number that was really nice to watch.
9.8 9.7 9.7 9.7 9.8 9.6 9.7 - Total: 48.6

Oksana Baiul - ?? - This was a rather odd program that she said was about her life. It started off with her in a clown wig and clownish costume, skating to just the sound of applause, looking uncertain and eager to please. She moved through stuff like some of her familiar looking Swan Lake choreography, at various times, put on a tiara, a medal, and a gold hat. Then she suddenly shed all the clown stuff as the dramatic strains of Carmina Burana?? (I was told) came on, skating with great angst and drama, and then came back to the boxes on the ice with her clown gear, put that back on, as the applause resumed and her name was announced. I'm not entirely sure I understood her program but I have to say, if it's meant to depict her life, she has a *very* cynical view of her life. I didn't think much of the program as a skating program, or even as artistry, but it was different, I'll give her that.
9.8 9.5 9.6 9.6 9.7 9.7 9.8 - Total: 48.4

Total at this point: World: 97.9 vs USA 96.9

Alexei Yagudin - a comedic blues number. Alexei totally played up the comedy in this number. I have to say, watching both his programs tonight, I see a *strong* Kurt influence or similarity. I don't know if it's actually conscious or intentional on Alexei's part, but there is so much in both programs that I find strongly reminiscent of things Kurt has done in the past. In this number the way Alexei utilized comedic moments, the types of facial expressions, some of the moves (faux ballerina position?) etc, felt to me like influences of Raggy and other comedic programs Kurt has done. This is not to say that the number was a Kurt clone number. It was distinctly Alexei, and it was a nice use of the music and a fun number. I liked both of Alexei's programs better than his programs from last season. I felt they relied less on outright flirting and more on a showman's flair.
9.8 9.8 9.8 9.8 9.8 9.9 9.8 - Total 49.0

Kurt Browning - Easy by Barenaked Ladies. Kurt was relaxing on the couch with the World Team, being the good teammate as Alexei got his scores, and was a bit slow to get up to skate, making a move like "oh, my turn?" before getting up and running onto the ice =). The program was a bit altered from Gotta Skate (it had to be cut down, time-wise, and he had to change stuff around since in the show he went up and was just playing with the band for a while) but it's a good program on him. The song has this loose, relaxed flow to it, and Kurt totally goes with it. He said that whenever Ed Robertson sings the word "Easy" it makes him want to fly, but he has a limited repertoire of jumps, so he just did 2-axel after 2-axel. He did *SIX* double axels over the course of this program. Also did 3-toe, 3-sal, but then messed up his last 3-toe, which obviously pissed him off. At the very end of the program, he hit his final pose and then as soon as the music was over, he was like "agh! this close!" with the body language and the facial expressions, and then as he skated off the ice, he shook his finger at the part of the ice he had done the jump on. This is a great program on him - I'm not sure I noticed it as much (was distracted by BNL) at Gotta Skate, but I really enjoyed it here.
9.8 9.8 9.9 9.8 9.8 10 9.9 - Total 49.2

Michael Weiss - I Can Only Imagine (guessed from the lyrics - a "spiritual" song very much about Jesus and religion). It's odd, b/c I do respect other people's religions, but I have an instinctive antipathy to having it shoved in my face, and this program (or rather, the lyrics to the song) kind of triggered that response. The program was perfectly fine - well skated (though IIRC, not perfectly skated), nice, emotional, etc, etc. But I just couldn't get over my reaction to the song. Which is odd, b/c I even listen to some Christian rock sometimes. I can't really explain it. But unfortunately, my impression of this number was affected by that.
9.6 9.7 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.9 9.8 - Total 49.1

Brian Boitano - music from Pride & Prejudice. I have to say, it's a real, real shame that Brian had an off-night with his jumps, because this was a beautiful program. I could see that this program would have been gorgeous if it had been skated perfectly - great emotion, drama, flow, beautiful edges... Unfortunately, Brian had a hand down on his tano 3-lutz, and then a hand down again later. He also tried I think a 3-2-2 combo, but had a hand down after the first triple. He seemed to be skidding off his edges a bit on his landings. I've been told he was landing everything beautifully in practice, so it's unfortunate that the ice gremlins bit him for the competition. Lovely program, even so.
9.7 9.7 9.7 9.7 9.7 9.9 9.8 - Total 48.6

Total at this point: World 196.1 to USA 194.6

CBS likes to shoot "faces in the crowd" to fill into the live broadcast, so they did this at the beginning of each half - asked the crowd to cheer as they focused on different people in the crowd. In the process of all this scanning around the audience, it was revealed that Dick Button was in the house =).

Second half was skater vs skater, with scores announced after each pair. Scores from this part of the competition were doubled. Matchups were Shizuka vs Rory, Alexei vs Michael, Oksana vs Angela, Kurt vs Brian.

Shizuka Arawaka - You Raise Me Up. Unfortunately I can't say much of anything about this program b/c my camera decided to break during this program. I guess break is a bit strong b/c it eventually came back to life...after the program ended...but for the longest time it was refusing to let me take pictures, and I was panicking and trying to fix it, so I didn't end up getting almost any photos of Shizuka and didn't end up watching most of her program. It's a shame because what I saw of it was beautiful, and I heard raving reviews about it from more than one person afterwards. This is something I'm looking forward to seeing on TV b/c I want to see it, darn it! Stupid camera.

Rory Flack Burghart - Last Dance by Donna Summer. She started this program right next to me, sitting on the boards, which meant a camera man sat right behind me to catch her. He was a really nice man, chatting with us and making sure that it was ok with everyone that he'd be there. She was really cute, jumped up on the boards and smiled at me and was like "hello!" Then everyone was cheering for her, and she was laughing, and then she goes "no, stop, I have to be sad", trying to look serious, and then cracking up again. This was a tremendously fun, high energy program. Rory definitely knows how to show skate and sell a program to the audience, and boy did the audience buy in. She even got parts of the audience to stand at the end of the program. Great program, and so much fun to watch. But in a matchup vs Shizuka, I don't know how anyone ever thought Rory could stand a chance.

Shizuka: 9.9 9.9 9.9 10 10 10 9.9 - Total 99.4
Rory : 9.8 9.8 9.8 9.8 9.8 9.8 9.8 - Total: 98.0

Alexei Yagudin - Spanish (tango-ish) music. IMO, influences of Nyah here, plus programs where Kurt has worn a hat. I told you I was seeing Kurt all over Alexei's programs. At any rate, this was footwork-filled program, sold with Alexei's showman flair and topped off, IIRC, with some nice jumps. I thought this was a really good program and really enjoyed it.

Michael Weiss - Get Down Tonight/Boogie shoes/That's the Way I Like It. I think this is a number Michael's done before a lot. He wears a big afro and very disco-ish bright shiny costume, and just boogies down to the music. The program is high energy and a lot of fun. Not great art, but it's a definite audience pleaser and he seems to really enjoy performing it.

Alexei: 10 9.9 9.9 10 9.9 9.9 9.9 - Total: 99.2
Michael: 9.9 9.8 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.8 9.8 - Total: 98.4

Oksana Baiul - Black Horse and the Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall. I'm not sure how this song has anything to do with Oksana being blond, single, and Russian, but it sure was a fun song for her to skate to. It helps that I like the music, but I thought it suited Oksana really well. It was high energy, allowed her to flirt with the audience, and just had a nice driving rhythm all the way through. IMO, much better than the first number. She still was having problems with her jumps, though.

Angela Nikodinov - There You'll Be (tribute to her mother). This program was just a beautiful, heartfelt program. Listening to the lyrics, and knowing at least something about Angela's story, you could just see that the program meant a great deal to her. She's such a lovely skater, and this was such an emotional, beautiful skate.

Oksana: 9.7 9.7 9.7 9.7 9.7 9.7 9.7 - Total: 97.0
Angela: 9.9 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.8 9.8 9.9 - Total: 98.6

In the interview after the scores, Oksana was all teary and wouldn't even really talk about her own program, saying that she knows what it's like to lose a mother and that Angela's program made her cry, that she loved the program. Angela was in tears herself, saying that she didn't really expect the program to hit her so hard emotionally when she was actually performing it, but she had to fight back tears at times. Afterwards, Oksana and Angela hugged each other for a long time.

Kurt Browning - Expectation and the Blues by Corb Lund. Kurt said he met this artist the previous year while filming Alberta Bound, and that his music inspires him and he really wanted to skate to him. As you may have guessed, this is one of his numbers for Country on Ice next week (the other is Rebel Yell by Gretchen Wilson). I have one note written down for this program (I don't usually take notes), and that is AWESOME FOOTWORK. Kurt said he didn't have much time to train his jumps so he went all out on the footwork for this number. He was personally disappointed with his performance - said his thighs gave out on him from practicing too much and that he wasn't able to make it all the way through the way he wanted, and that his footwork was sloppy and not precise like he did it in practice, that he left out steps, etc. I have to be honest - I couldn't tell. The choreography is quite loosey-goosey, so the sloppiness seemed to me to be intentional and fit with the music and the feel quite well. I really enjoyed the program, mostly because, as I said...AWESOME FOOTWORK. I think he may have messed up a jump or two in there, though.

Brian Boitano - That's Life by Frank Sinatra. Brian said that his choreographer, Renee Roca, always wanted him to skate to "That's Life", so he was. This program suited Brian really well. It was far more light-hearted than the Pride & Prejudice piece, but it was light-hearted in a very Brian way. Dignified light hearted? =) Sinatra does suit Brian well, and this program was a great deal of fun. He also landed a beautiful tano 3-lutz with a great deal of determination (and earning a huge cheer from the crowd), and nailed the rest of his technical elements. Kurt and Brian always provide such a nice contrast to each other, and together, make for a great ending to a great night of skating.

Kurt: 9.9 9.9 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.8 9.9 - Total: 98.8
Brian: 9.9 9.9 9.9 9.9 9.8 9.9 9.9 - Total: 99.0
Brian just barely edged Kurt on this one...

The final score:
USA: 588.6
World: 590.5

And the World Team wins!