I am a little late reporting on the free program for the ladies since I have been without internet for the last couple of days and was celebrating the Israeli holiday of Purim (I dressed up as a man from the 1770's). I watched the ladies free program on NBC and was frustrated that they did not show all of the ladies free programs. They only aired Tugba Karademir, Cheltzie Lee, Elene Gedevanishvili, and the final flight of ladies. Instead of all the talking and fluff pieces, I really wish they would just show more skating. What an incredible event it was!
I thought Tugba Karademir delivered a solid performance, and I was surprised by her low score. In general, however, the ladies scores were highly inflated. Tugba and I do not come from figure skating power houses. Figure skating is not popular in our countries, and we do not have much of a political pull within the judging panel. We often like to avoid the political side of figure skating, but it does exist and it should be acknowledged. The seeded skaters usually have an advantage within the judging panel and are held up. I felt that this was the case with Tugba. She should have placed higher, in my opinion.
I have to admit it was difficult for me to watch Cheltzie Lee's performance. I became the first ladies figure skater to qualify a spot for Israel in the Winter Olympics this past September. However, Israel has its own separate criteria, and they required me to place in the top fourteen at the European Championships. Unfortunately, I did not have the best skate in Tallinn and failed to meet Israeli criteria. Therefore, the Israeli Olympic Committee decided to relinquish my spot to Australia. It was a great opportunity for Cheltzie Lee and I thought she skated a very solid performance. I will admit, however, that I was upset while watching her skate. I've tried to put the beginning of 2010 behind me and focus on the World Championships. I've made quite a few changes prior to Worlds. It is all updated in my journal entry on my website, check that out here.
My heart went out to Elene. Although her short program was fantastic, her long program was not executed to her ability. She looked nervous and a bit uncomfortable. Immediately, when Elene took the ice for the free program, you could tell it was not the same Elene as the short program. While, in the short program she had fire in her eyes, here she lacked the motivation and confidence to perform under the pressure of the Olympics. Elene and I have been training together off and on for the last three years. We trained together in Wayne, NJ when Elene first came to the United States and then later in Hackensack, NJ. Elene and I used to arrive at competitions early and train in the competition rink the whole week before the event. We particularly enjoyed the opening and closing banquets. Unfortunately, now that the ISU has taken those away, we cannot get our usual sugar and candy rush at the beginning and end of the event. Maybe we'll just stick to riding up and down the elevator like we did at the European Championships in Poland.
The final flight of ladies was the most amazing event I have ever witnessed in ladies figure skating. All six ladies skated nearly clean performances. It was a pressure-cooker, but one after the other, the ladies ticked off jump after jump after jump. It all commenced with Rachael Flatt's performance. Rachael Flatt is the most trained athlete I have ever seen. She is extremely solid, not missing a beat, and hitting every single element in her free program. I do not agree with the judging panel's decision to downgrade her two triple flips. If they downgraded her triple flips, then they should have downgraded Yu-Na's triple Salchow and Miki's triple Lutz. The technical panel needs to be more consistent with their downgrades. Miki Ando was next to skate. Although she nailed all of her elements, her performance, like in the short, did not inspire me. She skated from one element to the next, ticking them off, but she looked detached from her performance. She appeared to be slightly unhappy and drastically relieved when she hit her final pose and took her final Olympic bow.
Next to skate were the two skaters that everyone was anticipating. First off, it was Yu-Na Kim and boy did she deliver. She skated a performance for the ages, nailing all of jumps, spins, footwork, and it doing it all with ease and finesse. My favorite part about her skating was her soft and delicate arms, her speed across the ice, and her ability to handle the pressure. She truly is skating's current superstar. After posting an incredible score of 150 points (way inflated, but I get it, it's the Olympics), Mao Asada had to take the ice knowing that she could not make a single mistake and even then it might not be good enough. She had to block all of that out and concentrate on nailing the hardest jump a lady has ever attempted on Olympic ice â€“ the triple axel...oh, and she needed to perform two of them. So she goes out, like the champion that she is, and nails the two opening triple axels. She continued on through the performance with ease until she reached the end and seemed to lose a little bit of steam, missing her triple flip and slipping on the take off of the triple toe. She made Olympic history by being the first lady to land three triple axels in the Olympics. Even without the mistakes, I still think that Mao would not have been able to overtake Yu-Na for the gold. Mao is a light and lyrical skater, and the music does not fit her airy quality. It is too heavy and dramatic for the light and delicate Mao.
Next up was Joannie Rochette. In a heart-wrenching and emotional performance, Joannie was again able to be just Joannie the athlete and not Joannie the person. She separated herself from her emotions and brought the Canadian crowd to its feet in a most moving performance. To me, no one comes close to Joannie's performance and execution ability. I think she should have won the program components mark. Even with the mistakes, her performance was breathtaking. I wish her and her family all the best as they recover from this difficult transitional period.
The final skater was Mirai Nagasu. Honestly, I was shocked by her ability to perform such a flawless routine. After such a night of incredible skating, after waiting for forty-five minutes to perform, Mirai, without much experience, went out and delivered a clean and inspiring performance to a playful Carmen. I was highly impressed by entire final flight of ladies. There must have been something in the air tonight because I have never seen all of the ladies perform such incredible performances in the Olympic Games. 2010 Vancouver will be a memorable ladies event. They really finished with a bang!
Thanks Tamar for sharing your impressions with us! For reading more about her, check out our interview here, or check out her website: www.tamarkatz.com