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Autumn Classic Recap

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                             Photo courtesy of Elena Vasileva

There was a lot of anticipation surrounding the Autumn Classic and for good reason. It is rare to see so many high-level competitors at one event outside of the Grand Prix, but that is just what happened at the Autumn Classic. It was our first look at the unveiling of long-awaited new programs and an exciting first face-off in the men’s event. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in.

Duhamel and Radford unable to regain momentum

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford had a rough season last year, but it looked like they were ready to come back and take their place again among the best pairs skaters in the world. Duhamel and Radford had a strong short program and they were in the lead heading into the free skate. They were looking so solid, but Meagan struggled in the free skate and fell on two side-by-side jumps and the throw quad salchow. She normally sticks those landings, but she was out of sorts during this performance.

To be fair, it is only September. They were competing in their home country, there is so much pressure with this being the Olympic season and they are coming off of some injuries as well. It wasn’t what they would’ve wanted, but this team is strong and resilient and you can never count them out. One bad free skate will not define their season. Regardless of their poor free skate, they still managed to hold onto the silver.

It’s been a long time coming

This win for Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès was significant as it is the first time that they have won a gold medal at an ISU event. They have been together since 2010, but it wasn’t until they started working with John Zimmerman last year that the pieces have all began to come together for this team. They have selected great music for both of their programs this season and they had a solid debut at this competition.

This team has a fresh vibe about them. I could easily see their free skate going viral on social media, especially if performed well at the Olympics. They just have that “it” factor this season. It seems like James and Ciprès’ unison and ability to connect with one another has improved. Having them skate to more contemporary pieces of music has seemed to help as well as they seem more relevant and relatable. They already have a throw quad salchow that is only getting better. This combination of things coming together can truly lead to good things for this team.

The saga between Yuzuru vs Javier continues

One of the most fascinating things about the sport of figure skating is how a figure skater can be so outstanding one day and the next day…come up short. This was certainly the case for Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu. It was reported beforehand that Hanyu was dealing with an “aching knee” and that he would not be performing his quad loop. Even without the quad loop, his short program was phenomenal. His jumps were impressive and looked so effortless. Yuzuru gave a brilliant performance and was given a world-record breaking score in one of the first events of the season, which is unheard of. He earned 112.72 points in the short program. Hanyu seemed unbeatable, until the free skate.

This had to be one of the worst free skates from Yuzuru Hanyu, but he does tend to struggle with putting together both a clean short and free skate. Often he can perform one program well and has errors in the other. This was one of those moments for him. In the free skate, he singled a lutz, fell on a triple axel, doubled some jumps and two-footed the landing on his quad toe. It was certainly not his day.

Javier’s potential strategy

Javier Fernandez, Yuzuru Hanyu’s training mate, was in second place after the short program.  Javier jumped ahead of Hanyu in the free skate, winning the event. Fernandez also had some errors in the short program and the free skate, but his mistakes were minimal in comparison to Hanyu’s free skate. Fernandez may not have broken a lot of world-record scores in his career, but he is more consistent with having both a decent short and free skate.

This is where Fernandez seems to have an upper-hand over Hanyu at times. Javier has not and is not planning on learning any other quads other than the quad toe and quad salchow. His strategy is an interesting one, because this could help him focus on doing what he does well so that there is consistency in his programs.

Javier is watching Yuzuru push himself, get injured, have some world-record breaking performances but he knows that because Hanyu is pushing himself he does not always have the consistency factor. This becomes the open door for Fernandez. This is obviously not a fool-proof strategy for him, but it paid off for Javier at the 2016 World Championships, but it did not work for him at the World Championships this year. It will be interesting if his strategy changes during this season.

Kaetlyn Osmond lands seven triples

Kaetlyn Osmond overcame Japan’s Mai Mihara to win this event. She won by over 18 points and finished with a total score of 217.55. Kaetlyn looked really strong in the short program. Her jumps have so much height and she was able to control them well in the short.

Osmond seemed a bit off during the free skate. It very well could have been nerves as she tripped and fell at one point and had a difficult time controlling the landing on some of her jumps. This was the first time that Kaetlyn has landed seven triples in one free skate. It was not her strongest performance, but it was significant for her to get these triples under her belt as she moves forward this season.

Virtue and Moir reveal their interpretation of Moulin Rouge

It was no surprise to see three Canadian teams standing on the podium at this event. Canada has some of the best ice dance teams in the world. It was an easy win for Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who finished with a total score of 195.76, 22 points in front of second place finishers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Virtue and Moir unveiled their short dance and free dance at this event. There are a lot of different opinions about their music selection this season as they chose a Dubreuil-produced mix of Rolling Stones, Eagles and a little (Carlos) Santana for their short dance and Moulin Rouge for their free dance. Though Moulin Rouge has been overused in the figure skating world, Virtue and Moir did a good job making it their own. They had some exciting lifts and innovative choreography that made this program work for them. It may not be everything I had hoped for their free dance in an Olympic year, but they are fantastic skaters who have the potential to create a magical moment at the Olympic Games, regardless of their music selection.

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