With time on her side, Alina Zagitova, a young woman vibrant in red, catches' judges fancy

With time on her side, Alina Zagitova, a young woman vibrant in red, catches' judges fancy

As the Olympic figure skating season moves into the national championship phase, a few more observations about the Grand Prix season and Grand Prix Final:

1.  All you Alina Zagitova detractors (that includes you, CBC) aren’t going to like this: the new Grand Prix Final winner, age 15, looks better every time I see her.

Part of it owes to the costuming and free skate program pattern that emphasize her strengths, which are jumps.

The vibrant red in the tutu-qua-dress and long gloves Zagitova wears grabs the eye, says she is portraying a ballerina and limns her movement so beautifully it is easy to forget she does no jumps in the first half of the four-minute free skate to the Russian ballet classic, “Don Quixote.”  And while I hope the rules are changed to eliminate such 100 percent back loading, who can fault her coaches for taking advantage of the point bonus that comes with those jumps?

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Men's figure skating has mess on its hands (and knees, and butts)

Men's figure skating has mess on its hands (and knees, and butts)

The Grand Prix and Challenger Series events ended last weekend, moving this Olympic figure skating season into the national championship phase (the first two of note are Russia, Dec. 19-24 in Saint Petersburg and Japan, Dec. 20-24 in Tokyo.)

There are big questions related to each.  Will injured reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva compete in the Russian Championships? Will injured reigning world and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu be ready for Japanese nationals?

A 2018 Olympic spot for each should be a foregone conclusion, notwithstanding the unanswered questions about eligibility for all Russian athletes.  Given that Medvedeva did not compete at the Sochi Olympics, the epicenter of current Russian doping issues, and given that she has had no doping positives, nothing but injury should keep her from competing in Pyeongchang.

The Grand Prix Series also has left other unanswered questions.  Here are a few involving men’s singles (I’ll get to women, pairs and dance later in the week):

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In Grand Prix Final, watch the competitions within the singles competition

In Grand Prix Final, watch the competitions within the singles competition

Who knows what to make of the singles competition in the Grand Prix Final?

The women’s event beginning Friday in Nagoya, Japan, is missing the two-time reigning world champion and overwhelming favorite, Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia, sidelined by a broken foot, as well as the 3-4 finishers at last year’s worlds, Gabrielle Daleman of Canada and Karen Chen of the United States.  Both Daleman and Chen wound up miles from Japan after finishing, 16th and 23rd, respectively, in the season standings, with only the top six earning places in the final.

The men’s event beginning Thursday does not have reigning world champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan (injury prevented him from a near certain qualification), Javier Fernandez of Spain (did not qualify) and Patrick Chan of Canada (skipped second Grand Prix event after a poor showing in his first.)

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Jackie Wong: the polymath who is a "life saver" for figure skating

Masthead of Jackie Wong's web site.

Masthead of Jackie Wong's web site.

On Wednesday night, Jackie Wong plans to go to bed in his Manhattan apartment at 9 p.m. Wong will set his alarm for 1 a.m. Thursday to be up and alert in time for his volunteer labor of love, as he covers the men's short program at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan.

Working at Skate America (Jay Adeff photo)

Working at Skate America (Jay Adeff photo)

He will work on that and other Grand Prix Final events until about 9 a.m. Thursday, then nap for an hour before moving on to the client services job for which he is paid. He will be back to skating, with the senior ladies short program at the Golden Spin of Zagreb, at about 4:30 p.m.

His Friday schedule will be a little less taxing, with the same bedtime but a 3 a.m. wakeup. Saturday will allow him to focus only on figure skating.

Wong's willingness to burn the candle at both ends -- and his technical and historical knowledge of the sport -- have helped make him the most unequivocally appreciated reporter in the world of figure skating.

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This business consultant and former architect is the walking, talking, typing, tweeting, blogging and figure skating definition of a polymath. That he uses all those skills, sometimes simultaneously, to share his wisdom freely and provide up-to-the-second information about skating competitions reflects an intellect, work ethic and generosity of spirit that inspires no small degree of awe in anyone who has worked alongside him at an event.

FOR THE WHOLE STORY, CLICK HERE:

At right: the Muqarnas Tower under construction in King Abdullah financial district in Riyadh, Saudi, Arabia. Wong was the building's design architect (Jackie Wong photo)

IOC dips an OAR in the water for symbolic 2018 Olympic punishment of Russian doping

IOC dips an OAR in the water for symbolic 2018 Olympic punishment of Russian doping

Let’s get this straight at the outset.

The International Olympic Committee’s unprecedented Tuesday decision on Russian participation at the 2018 Winter Olympics is, as yet, no big deal in any way eventual followers of the upcoming Games will find significant.

The IOC did not ban Russian athletes for the country’s involvement in systemic doping.  It banned a symbol, depriving Russia of the chance to show its flag or have its medalists honored with their national anthem or wear the country’s name on their uniforms.  Russian athletes undoubtedly will win medals of all colors, and, despite all the feel-good mantras about participating in the Olympics, results are what count.

Yes, it’s the first time such an action has been taken against an entire country because of doping.

But the IOC already has made its most important decisions regarding Russian Winter Olympic athletes by banning and taking medals from many involved in manipulation of tests at the Sochi Olympics.  If all these athletes lose their medals after appeals are exhausted, it will knock down Russia’s official medal count for the 2014 Olympics from 33 to 22.

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