Breathtaking Olympic performances highlighted figure skating season

Breathtaking Olympic performances highlighted figure skating season

Some random observations on the competitive figure skating season that ended last week at the World Championships in Milan:

1.  The enduring memory will be of the overall excellence at the 2018 Olympics – the best skating in all four disciplines at the 11 Winter Games I have covered.

The full flowering of the quad revolution led to boggling feats in the men’s event, where Japan’s peerless Yuzuru Hanyu won a second straight Olympic title with a balance between athleticism and art unmatched by any man during the 14-seasons the IJS has been used at global championships.

Russians Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva were flawlessly stunning in taking gold and silver, respectively, in the women’s event, and Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond won bronze with her huge jumps, expressiveness and sense of choreographic purpose erasing one relatively minor mistake.

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ShibSibs prove blood thicker than naysayers

ShibSibs prove blood thicker than naysayers

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - It began so simply in 2004: Alex Shibutani was tired of having his 12-year-old butt kicked by rivals in singles skating. His 9-year-old sister, Maia, was having more success, so Alex decided he would be better off trying to skate with her in ice dance.

"When we came up as a sibling team, it was just so natural, and we thought, 'OK, this is going to be a great journey we can be on together,'" Maia said.

She also quickly discovered it was more fun to be on the ice with Alex than to be out there by herself. And they were good together, good enough to start winning medals in national competitions the next year and keep winning medals as they moved up through skill levels, from juvenile to intermediate to novice to junior.

And then it got complicated.

"As you start to move forward and people start to take your skating more seriously, you stand out because you're different -- two Asian kids that are also brother and sister," Alex said. "People start to take notice of your ability and potential and they start asking, 'When the cuteness fades, what is the ceiling of their career?'"

The consensus was a pretty low ceiling. Theirs was a discipline in which love stories play a part in such a huge percentage of programs, in which no Asians or Asian-Americans -- and only one brother-sister team, Isabelle Duchesnay and Paul Duchesnay of France -- had ever won an Olympic medal until the Shibutanis took the bronze Tuesday.

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Two Russian skaters apparently barred from 2018 Olympics, with no reason yet announced

Two Russian skaters apparently barred from 2018 Olympics, with no reason yet announced

Russian pairs skater Ksenia Stolbova and ice dancer Ivan Bukin have apparently been barred from competing in the 2018 Olympic Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee.

"Apparently" must remain the operative word because the IOC will not release until Saturday a list of which Russian athletes have been cleared to compete next month in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The surprising news about Stolbova, a gold and silver medalist at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and Bukin came via a Tuesday statement from the Russian Figure Skating Federation, which in turn was citing information from the Russian Olympic Committee.

The figure skating federation's statement blasted the IOC.

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With investigation over, no one will know if judge's alleged impropriety cost Spanish ice dance team an Olympic spot

With investigation over, no one will know if judge's alleged impropriety cost Spanish ice dance team an Olympic spot

The International Skating Union said Monday it has dropped disciplinary proceedings against a Belarusian judge due to his resignation, which seems to have been conveniently timed.

That means it never will be known if a Spanish ice dance team lost a chance to go to the 2018 Olympics because of Alexandre Gorojdanov’s alleged violations of his duties as judge.

It also means the ISU’s inexplicable refusal to give an automatic lifetime ban to any judge or referee found to have violated the ethical rules of those duties allowed Gorojdanov the chance to potentially corrupt the results of another competition.  The Belarusian had served a 6 1/2-month suspension from Jan. 13 to June 30, 2017, after having been found in violation of the ISU code of ethics as a pairs referee at a 2016 event.

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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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