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This year ABC doesn't have the contract for the ISU figure skating events, so those of us without ESPN are experiencing a drought of decent figure skating on TV. Today was the once a year marathon of the US National Figure Skating championships, which have been darkened by the death of Angela Nikodinov's mother.
I wasn't very enthused about watching today, because it seemed to me that there hasn't been much movement in the U.S team. Turns out I was wrong. The men's field continues to improve -- Johnny Weir successfully defended his title, and I really enjoyed watching him, despite the languid music that he is using. I was also really impressed with Evan Lysacek's skating.
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto are turning me into an ice dancing fan. They are continuing to improve, and it seems like there's no end in sight. Their attitude towards their citizenship obstacles regarding the Olympics was refreshing. I also liked the very new team of Stiegler and Magerovskiy.
I wish I could say that I enjoyed the pairs competition, but when you compare our teams with the Russians and Chinese, you realize that we (still) have a long way to go. It seems odd to me that we are improving in dance but not in pairs, because I think that pairs plays more to our strengths as nation than dance.
The women's field has been relatively predictable: Michelle Kwan puts out a solid program, Sasha Cohen fails to put together a clean program, and everybody else takes turns getting third place. Which was pretty much what happened tonight. The established senior competitors were fairly predictable. What was unpredictable was the performance of a pack of teenagers who are still relatively new on the scene. Beatrisa Liang turned in a pair of very beautiful performances, which were a treat. The highlight of the day was 15 year old Kimmie Meissner who turned in a flawless performance topped off by a triple axel, which makes her the second US woman ever to do a 3X. I was shocked when I saw her do it in the warmup -- light, easy, and beautiful. My mouth just hung open for a few seconds after I saw it. I thought that she was doing it to psych her opponents, but I didn't expect to see it during the program. Usually the ABC commentators would have talked this up quite a bit more, so I was also surprised to see her uncork it during he program. It wasn't quite as clean - she didn't quite have control over the landing, but still it was good. Combine this with beautiful posture and line, and you have something truly wonderful to watch.
Meissner, Weir, and Belbin and Agosto were my picks for memorable performances.
One other comment. Figure skating is one of those sorts of semi-esoteric content that is screaming for the podcasting or tivocasting revolution. If it weren't for USFSA or ISU rules, it would be great to see some fans go into a competition with an HDTV camcorder, make some MPEG4 videos, and put them up for bittorrent. I'd even be willing to pay for this kind of narrowcast video.