Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Penultimate lift - the vertical split rotational

It's the famous rotational.

When Belbin Agosto did it, she glided into him and he made a sort of catch basket with his arms to transition her up onto his shoulder. He didn't hoist like she was a sandbag and the hurricane was coming.

I'm not understanding the hand still braced on his shoulder, nor his once again supporting her supposed free leg.

All right! Somebody's earned themselves some knee slidin, hoppin and two-footin!


Arm? What's the position called?

Maybe Meryl's doing a thumbs up? Charlie's arm has automatically kicked into raise the roof.

Tanith Belbin was one of the most inelegant, graceless movers ever to stand on the second platform of an Olympic ice dance podium, so she and Ben must have been so much worse with this.

Look at those last two stills. Ben's just put her down and they're already letting go of each other?

A few Tanith and Ben notes: Tanith doesn't need to have the butt cheek of her supporting leg practically sitting on Ben's shoulder. She can actually hold that vertical split with her point of contact approximately at her knee. And it IS a vertical split, verus Meryl who has her butt cheek damn near sitting on Charlie's shoulder, and whose leg is much shorter than Tanith's and yet she can't sustain the leg line for the move - Charlie has to hold it.

It's perfectly possible that Charlie is holding her free leg as a means of stablizing himself - he often shows just as much need for external stablization. Except that whenever Charlie isn't holding her free leg in a rotational her legs drop, her knees bend and the whole thing unravels.

Ben and Tanith also transition to a higher plane after the first rotations.

Meryl and Charlie actually have to cross through and PAST each other's working space to get into that lift. Charlie does one of those crippling looking squats and forward leans and literally gets under Meryl, Meryl is actually pushing down with her hands and humping herself over onto his shoulder while their weight is on the ice and he's in that horrific looking crouch.

Tanith and Ben face each other, don't use each other as a climbing boulder, and use their cores, an efficient hold from Ben, and the rotation to transition into the lift. And this was in 2006.


  1. their lifts are so ugly

  2. What? Tanith and Ben don't have to have their cores superglued together to get through a lift? So weird, you could drive a tank between Meryl and Charlie most of the time, but when lifts happen you need a magnifying glass to see which body is which.

    1. Meryl and Charlie's cores are superglued together. AND Charlie uses one arm to supplement that core support. AND her arm is under his arm and clutching his shoulder or the full length of her arm up to her shoulder is hooked around his neck. AND Charlie uses his other arm/hand to support her freaking "free" extremity, if the extremity is supposed to maintain a line.

      If they've decided a bent or swinging around in the breeze extremity is apropos, then Meryl can handle that one herself.

      You'd think a woman whose entire trunk is braced against her partner, who has her arm slung under his arm and her hand gripping his shoulder, or her arm locked across his neck, while he uses HIS arm to further support her core, would be able to keep her own leg straight in space while rotating, but apparently not.

    2. "What? Tanith and Ben don't have to have their cores superglued together to get through a lift?"

      I know. I just don't understand how they managed without superglued cores. And how was it possible for Tanith to support and control her own leg? Going back and watching the videos, they also skated into and out of their elements. How do you get into or out of an element if you don't hop?

      Seriously though, no kidding on D/W normally being yards apart, but tightly clinging to each other in every way imaginable during lifts.

  3. I remember one of the only informative and worthwhile parts of VM's book disaster was their explanation on how they improved their lifts. That Canton brought in circus specialists, and that they realized that lifts weren't supposed to be lift-and-hoist. How does a team in Canton, a training centre with in-house resources and value-adds up the ying yang, manage to avoid improving? I'm having a really hard time understanding how Marina manages with this. I am NOT one who thinks TS are being damaged by Marina coaching both teams. I'm talking about, she has this absolutely world-class centre that she runs, and yet her "top" team gets to opt out of the program?

    1. Gopd point anon at 3:06 pm. You really have to wonder what Johnny John's opinion is regarding the lifts. But you also have to wonder what Shpilband was thinking until last year. Hell Fedor/Jana had better lifts...

    2. Which is why my theory is that Meryl and Charlie can only compete when they "rush" and they can only rush when they cheat the technique. They're not strong or powerful enough to deliver this type of nonstop frenzy while using proper technique. When they ditch good technique for this type of cheated, crippling crap, when it's just grab on and haul ass and scramble into the position - that's when they can rush.

      The trade-off for the quickness they achieve is their technique goes down the toilet, but the upside is they're flailing around so much it allows the judges to pretend that they dont' notice the technique sucks. They never hold anything - all they're aiming for is for Charlie to rotate his ass off as much as he can and for Meryl to at some point punch into her position (which is usually a chest up only sort of situation) and the rest is a "blur". If it's a blur the audience can't tell and so the judges aren't obliged to notice. In fact, the judges can mark it as if it is done well.

      IOW, Meryl and Charlie can't compete with Tessa and Scott on the level. They can only faux compete, and it takes cheated technique to reach the attribute of their skating that helps them faux compete - the constant rushing through horrible technique done "cleanly". Of course when you're rushing and holding absolutely nothing, small details like a rocking or unsteady edge, an edge that is a little bit stuck for a second, or lack of unision don't matter, because you're only there in a flash. Who can see? So why does it matter.

      Likewise in Meryl's set-downs from these lifts, she's got her outside foot tilted towards an inside edge but at the angle she's in she can't skate on that edge - she'd fall over. Do the judges give her points for exiting on an edge she can't skate on? I betcha they do.

      At the same time, if you look at Charlie in some of these caps, if he weren't clutching onto Meryl he would fall on his face.

    3. Another point - the gymnast/skating blogger revealed a weird ignorance of lift mechanics - especially for someone who is fairly informed about gymnastics - when he snarked that Tessa was heavy for Scott to lift.

      Tessa is light as a feather in lifts compared to Meryl, because she's distributing and carrying her own weight, because she's stable and not leaning or clutching down on him, because she can move efficiently and lightly using core strength/stablity without pushing or heaving from Scott.

      Someone who knows how gymnasts rotate on a balance beam, bars or the floor should know all about this.

      Like nearly all ice dance females, Meryl has always been light but her weight is now extreme and unnatural. If you are pushing down on your partner and his pushing and hoisting technique sucks - look at Charlie's upper back, his neck, his butt, his spine, his lower back - every ounce of pressure you can remove from his body is going to help both of you.

      So the weight of both of them - Charlie, too, is lighter and thinner than he was in 2007 - suggests they know exactly what they're doing and why. They know this is cheated.

      Tessa, OTOH, was a stick in 2010. Subsequently, she can go to the gym and add muscle without worrying about - OMG, muscle weighs more than fat! - because she can carry herself, and manage her own body in space.

      I remember Scott elaborating on his attitude when, as a kid, in a group lesson (when he was already partnered with Tessa) they'd have to trade off. His attitude was always "Tessa come back". He said he was annoyed and impatient because they weren't as good as she was and couldn't carry themselves like she could.

    4. I'm 3:06, I think you're right on with this theory of why DW are using this strategy, but my point is, why is Canton letting them? If you get accepted into a prestigious university, and then you start failing, you don't get to stay there, even if you pay your fees. I know it's not that simple, and they are not exactly failing when you see their results, but still...I don't understand why a training centre so entirely set up for pure ice dance, why they'd want to send DW in competition out as one of the teams they train. Maybe the environment that gives VM the freedom to do Carmen, means DW have the freedom to pass on the technique part. But if Marina honestly loves both teams equally, DW must be the nicest most endearing people ever, or Marina gets a sort of perverse pleasure out of the challenge of choreographing them.

    5. I'd say it's more like star football players who get passing grades when they should be failing, because their results bring money and prestige to the university (=USFS).

    6. There's the reality of ambition. Suppose you can't win with legit technique. But you can with cheated technique.

      How much of the choice belongs to the coach, and how much of the choice belongs to the skaters' and their families who've invested uncounted dollars and a couple of decades plus?

  4. When looking at Tessa vs Meryl in an objective non snarky way, you can see the muscle diffrence between the two ladies. In the close-ups of Meryls legs there is no visible cuts of muscle which would be expected of someone with no body fat whatsoever. Tessa on the other hand is just ripped on the lower body - like and athlete/dancer.

    The entrance to the Carmen rotational is evidence enough of her strength. That initial no hands entrance is all Tessa. She is then guided by Scott to make sure she is on the right trajectory. I watch that lift in awe. She is literally a gymnast doing a back twist up onto a Scotts shoulders (except he is not a stationary piece of equipment) followed by the hardest crunch ever up into the showcase position on his shoulder.

    When I saw this live the first time at Skate Canada I was shocked by how amazing the lift was and was aware it had to be difficult, but it took the whole season to appreciate the individual positions she was able to hit. And not to shortchange Scotts abilities - he needs to be given props for stabilizing her as she stops the momentum from the entrance, while being stable enough to rotate with her on his shoulders. Each section of this lift is its own feature really. This lift I thought would have been spared from the criticism by that blogger based on its gymnastics like features. Instead it was deemed "inappropriate"

    While I am certain that Meryl and Charlie would not be able to perform this lift (not a chance in hell), I could imagine what the outcome would be if they tried even the rotational aspect with Meryl on Charlies shoulders. The whole #publiccunnilingus would be appropriate in this case because Meryl would be so unstable she would literally have to clamp Charlies head like a vice grip with her legs and hold onto his hair for dear life. At least they would finally be able to declare they had a "connection"

    1. It's an absolute fraud that Meryl and Charlie's lifts are given the same value as Scott and Tessa, that Scott and Tessa didn't get much much higher GOE for their lifts, and that Meryl and Charlie beat Scott and Tessa in the scores for the lifts.

      Look at those DW exits! Look at those entrances! How do they get Level 4?

      If there weren't so much else wrong, I'd say more than anything the lifts are where Meryl and Charlie are getting points for what they're not doing. They're doing the opposite.

      What does "difficulty" MEAN to the ISU, exactly?

    2. Oh and thanks, anon 9:16, for doing a bit of a breakdown of that lift. The Carmen lifts are stunning. I didn't see how the judges could respond with anything but the highest marks. These lifts are completely transparent. Anybody with even an elementary understanding of the mechanics of wonderful technique would know what these lifts deserve according to the ISU's own rulebook. The first time she commented on this program it was obvious Tracey Wilson understood and was excited everything they were doing in this program.

      I'm trying to find a specific quote from Dick Button that I have in mind. It's on what was going through his head when he landed his double axel in his first Olympic games, a jump he'd learned only days before. His quote says something about feeling it would be craven and cowardly not to do it.

      I imagine some of the same feeling informed his triple jump in his next Olympics, which he put into his program without needing it to win.

      Scott and Tessa put things into their programs because they can and because they're not respecting themselves if they do less than they can.

      What they CAN do is so beyond brilliant in the mechanics and execution, the timing and technique, that it leaves even experienced observers like Tracy Wilson almost speechless. She was so excited for the season and so excited for the sport when this program was unveiled.

      And then the judges decided to pretend Scott and Tessa weren't doing what they were doing, and suppress their scores, and to pretend Maryl and Charlie were doing things they weren't, and grossly inflate Meryl and Charlie's scores for another one of their absurdist programs, and it was one of the most shameful seasons in ice dance history. Because of Carmen. The crime wasn't just in punishing a superior couple and rewarding an inferior couple in order to manipulate the outcome of the season.

      It was how ice dance judges disrespected ice dance. For politics, for agenda, for manipulation, they refused to recognize Carmen for what it obviously was. That was so beyond dirty, beyond arrogant - and for what idiot, petty, shit eating agenda who knows. Except in Skate Canada's case, we do know - they pissed on Carmen to promote a cheap trick team like Gilles & Poirier.

    3. Lastly - while I was typing the above rant I think I hit on why this is so fucking offensive.

      It's because Carmen IS transparent. It's almost as if - okay, Meryl and Charlie are rushing, flinging, jumping, racing, lifting, rotating - there's a whole ton of stuff happening out there while wearing sharp skates so if you tell me that stuff is near-perfect figure skating - okay - I'll take your word for it.

      Carmen is transparent. We can see everything. There are no tricks. There are no "flourishes". There's no "style" but what's intentional in the choreography. Everything they are doing in that is right in our face. They can't hide. Even people who don't "get" figure skating can see that this isn't a cheated program, that it's an extraordinary program. The casual viewer who watches this program and doesn't understand technique will intuitively know this is pure technique, and if need be can go study up on both skating and movement and find that this program is a template. But it's so obviously so that we perceive it on a non-intellectual level.

      And the judges basically denied it. It was right in front of our face and they claimed we weren't seeing what was right there. The balls that took to do it to a program like this exposes ice dance as the corrupt enterprise it currently has decided to be like nothing else.

      Because to deny Carmen and suppress the scores for that program when its quality is as transparent as it is takes a determined commitment to political agenda and corruption. We can see it. We don't have to study it - we can see. The studying part only validates what we already see.

    4. "It was how ice dance judges disrespected ice dance. For politics, for agenda, for manipulation, they refused to recognize Carmen for what it obviously was. That was so beyond dirty, beyond arrogant - and for what idiot, petty, shit eating agenda who knows. Except in Skate Canada's case, we do know - they pissed on Carmen to promote a cheap trick team like Gilles & Poirier."


      If this people truly cared about the "sport" they're all participating in at some level, then they wouldn't have disrespect it like this. As I said to someone else recently, don't they [the judges, coaches, everyone else involved] respect what they're doing enough to do what's right? The answer is, obviously, no, they don't have any respect for the "sport" or what they're doing. Politics, agenda, and corruption all matter more. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

  5. Very good points. OC - thank you for pointing out that Charlie seems smaller than in previous years (I thought I was imagining this). If that's the case - that's troubling since Charlie and Scott should be peaking in terms of strength and muscle mass (at age 25-26). Hell even Alex Shibutani added muscle mass last year and Charlie doesn't? The only explanation is that D/W have the same lifts and hence there is no need for Charlie to add muscle mass.

    1. Or that like Meryl, Charlie needs to be that slight in order to rush as he does without the ice helping him.

      What they're doing is hard. It's not skating-related hard, but it has got to be hard to distort your alignment, squat and lean with an unstable, un-isolated core, jerk you neck out of line, twist your spine, and then apply frenzy. It's exhausting.

      Good technique helps you. Good technique is efficient. It uses only what's required to do something. You won't waste away doing something with good technique.

      The kind of energy it takes to sustain this frenzy which is supported only by bad technique can't really be achieved, IMO, with any kind of extra weight, such as muscle weight. Nobody's carrying their own weight with these guys. If you're flinging yourself and your partner, yanking, pulling, jerking, skipping - you are already wearing yourself out. Add seven pounds and that's just more weight you have to literally throw around and haul on the ice. That, IMO, is why they're so thin but not really muscular - because in order to execute bad technique "quickly" they can't have any 'extra' weight or they couldn't do it.

      The other guys have muscle mass, carry their own weight, use proper technique in lifts and on the ice, so do their partners, so they are not wasted by performing their own programs. Their parters manage their own weight and as the technique is good the guys don't have to carry all of their partners' weight in a supported element.

      Charlie and Meryl are basically using "brute strength" along with a ton of sloppy cheats out there. There's dead weight involved. If you're going to be moving around dead weight - your own or your partners' - you're going to want to be as light as possible if you're also expected to shift that dead weight around very very quickly.

      Not a problem with core stablity, blade run, core isolation, good alignment, proper technique, etc.

    2. BTW - when Tanith talked about her "disordered eating" to the NY Times a number of years ago, she actually discussed some of these distinctions. Her contention was that she had disordered eating (the distinction between that and "eating disorder" wasn't made clear but was obviously important to her)and didn't address her disordered eating until she was with Linichuk. When she was with Linichuk she gained ten pounds and had the muscle to control and support herself in space. Prior to that she says even though she was ten pounds lighter she wobbled and for Ben it was like carrying a sack of potatoes - nothing was secure.

      With Meryl and Charlie I think their lower body weights and their poor technique are tied together, but I think both are strategic and not the consequence of eating disorders. It's a consequence of not being competitive when they're at normal weight and using proper technique.

      The lower body weights makes it possible for them to rush through all of their movements without having heart failure on the ice, and the rushing disguises the poor technique, while simultaneously the rushing looks like an impressive skating feat. OMG - they're blinding out there!

      I think the rushing is also important for the ISU judges "not to notice" that the technique is horrible.

    3. Furthermore, there's an argument to be made for bad technique, I guess, if it gets you there. I'm not sure how this applies to ice dance, but there's a lot of time devoted to it in Gelsey Kirkland's book "Dancing on My Grave". She claims Balenchine didn't really care how something was done, just that it was. And that she and other dancers wreaked havoc with their bodies. Later she studied the Alexander technique and learned HOW to do something - she learned about alignment, etc. Plenty of skaters have messed up the mechanics in some way while still achieving the jump, the spin, the position, the edge. For DW they're achieving the bad mechanics. They're not achieving what is supposed to be the difficult exit and entrance from the lift. If somehow Meryl was using her glutes to transition into a lift more than her core, but she still transitioned without hanging on and clutching, and if she carried the wrong kind of tension in her body while transition out while still having control of her extremeties and achieving the difficult exit, then her bad technique would be her body's problem but she'd have done the element. Meryl and Charlie are actually cheating the elements.

    4. It is amazing to me that DW do not have more injuries than one would think, what with all their abundance of non-technique. It's almost a cruel joke that Tessa has and continues to have issues with her shins.

  6. Anon at 9:16 - great post. And really all the lifts in Carmen are amazing period. The positions that both Tessa and Scott hit and the shapes that they create are second to none. To even attempt these lifts a) you need confidence in yourself and b) you need to fully trust your partner 150%. The risk factor alone makes V/M lifts superior to D/W. Tessa is in a class of her own when it comes to the mechanics of lifts.

    1. I'm in total agreement that VM have a superior level of skill and difficulty in all their lifts.

      And yet, the judges have repeatedly said DW are better. Can anything at all be done about this very evident display of corruption in ice-dance?

    2. To add further to my earlier comment and what our wonderful blogger has been pointing out, what happened to the the reaction that accompanied the debut of Carmen? In the arena at skate Canada people literally gasped at the rotational and there was tons of chatter about everything we all witnessed. A friend of mine and I were sandwiched between the skaters and families during Carmen and even the skaters were amazed at the performance. To win the approval of your peers is always the highest honour.

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