Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Opposite day edging

In figure skating, one is supposed to use one's edges to glide across the ice. One is not supposed to (solely) use one's body weight, via poor alignment and pivoting your body to and fro in a rocking motion, to push edges into the ice for the sake of showing your edges are in. Skating is form follows function. DW do it the other way around, and it's exhausting. They have to apply energy on top of, and because of, their labored edge technique, instead of getting strength and power from it. They are in a state of perpetual compensation, working against the ice, the blades, and the whole point of skating.
Rolling shoulders forward, head forward, "digging in" as if their blades are a spade.
Look how wide a step they're taking. Instead of having long blade
run, they take big steps and push the edge in. It's driven by their
bodies but there's limited reciprocity with their blades carrying their

They do this all the time. Rocking up and down like a woodpecker doorknob to create the power
to push in the blade, instead of the blade giving their blade run power and speed.
Look at their heads/faces. Why are they face down to the ice?

The Woodpecker. And down and up and down
and up and down and up. Bodies. Not knee
flexion creating glide. They're a rocking
chair out there.

Alignment. No huge stomping
Big Footing to push in the edge.
Look at the alignment. Shoulders
settled, spine aligned, heads up.

This isn't about LINES. This is about skating skills. Are you actually showing skating skills out there, or is it some sort of other acquired skill employed to get around true skating skill?
How come Virtue Moir don't need to woodpecker? No need to use their ankles as some sort of axis, swinging their bodies to and fro to shove their skates in? Look how assed-up Davis and White's alignment is in the woodpecker; the blade lean is completely independent of everything else their impoverished ankles-up bodies are doing, and that's why their blade run depends on their bodies forcing the issue, and why the blade run is truncated, and why they have to use visual trickery like taking huge steps.

Needless to say, Meryl Davis is bow-legged. But so was Michelle Kwan. So was Kirsti Yamaguchi. So was Midori Ito. Off the ice, it can be a fashion value add (Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker). The reason it is so pronounced with Meryl is she doesn't use her whole body to move. She moves in isolation. Her abs may be working but they're working independently of her lifting her leg. When she lifts her leg - bam, that's it, it's just the leg/hip - it doesn't impact the rest of her body, so all you see is the gap. Nothing else is happening.

This season more than others I've been distracted by the bow-leggedness, but bow-leggedness is common, and often an asset, in skating (it's long been considered a possible asset for jumps). I think what distracts is that because of her build, when she moves her legs we notice that she's not using the rest of her when she does it, and that's why it looks odd/off.

Personally, Canadians anyway are pleasant to me more Americans. They somehow taking (basic) skating more seriously, but Americans can somewhere do careless work, somewhere they did not hold moves, they give themselves indulgence to skate like this, and you will never see such attitude in canadians.
You go, Ksenia Monko

Here's my thing. Skaters and coaches can see what DW aren't doing compared to VM, and have said so, yet the ISU/judges pretend they don't see it. Pretend is the word. If skaters and coaches busy with their own careers know this just routinely, then the judges know it. It serves their interests to score as if they don't see it.

Someone like Ksenia can see the careless easily. IMO, what Davis and White do isn't aimed at the judges, but at the public. The goal is to fool the public into thinking they're great, and that enables the judges to score them as if they are. They have to be plausible. The judges, though, aren't actually fooled themselves. They know what's not happening out there. They just need the wool pulled over our eyes.


  1. Perhaps someone better versed in physics than I am can expound upon what they're doing, but in the moments where D/W are angling their bodies (and heads) down to the ice, it seems like they're doing so in order to build momentum that continues with the elevation of their right legs and helps them lean onto their left blade edge. If they had better knee flexion there'd be no need for that kind of "wind-up," which is how I would define what it looks like they're doing out there. It's not that they aren't getting deep edges, because they are. But they're using their body weight to achieve them.

    Juxtapose that with the caps of V/M, whose edges are actually deeper on account of better knee action and ankle flexion. Plus, until they move into a set of side-by-side twizzles, their eyes remained locked on one another. Yet their edges remain deep, their heads are up and their alignment is excellent. They are knocking it out of the park technically and still managing to play within the music and flirt with one another (characterization-wise) during a freaking mid-line no touching step sequence. Their talent is off the charts.

  2. look who decided to copy tessa and scott http://www.today.com/sochi/look-olympian-get-legs-meryl-davis-charlie-white-8C11535655?ocid=twitter

    imo V/M's globe article was way more educated.

    1. Love how Charlie is the only one mentioning actual food. Poor Meryl...I guess just thinking about protein and carbs has to be enough for her.

    2. i love how their article obsesses with food and dieting - i dont know if its the journalist's fault or D/W. meanwhile V/M's article not only focuses on physical health but mental health.

      also i dont get what scott is saying here " Obviously as a skater you can’t afford to carry around weight. " is he talking about muscle weight? because previously he was saying having massive biceps doesnt make you a better athlete and then goes on talking about strength.

    3. He is saying skaters do not want any more muscle than they physically need to get through their routine. Excess muscle needs energy and is extra weight being carried around the ice. They usually start out the season looking more built up and lose some of the mass as the season progresses.
      This is common for athletes across sports that require multiple energy systems be used over the course of competition

    4. Anon at 7:49 pm - basically I think the message that Scott was trying to convey is that skaters like gymnasts generally need to be lean (and not necessarily bulky) in order to be able to efficiently spin, balance, jump etc. Bulking up actually may hinder the biomechanics of different elements of skating. In terms of the massive biceps quote - I believe he meant that yes there are athletes with impressive bodies in terms of mass - but that can be deceiving because it doesn't necessarily mean that these bigger athletes know how to efficiently use their strength (ie. technique is key). A good example would be weightlifters. It can be very deceiving at first glance - who you would think would win...it's not necessarily who is the biggest physically - technique plays an integral role. Scott may not be able to outbench a football player in terms of absolute numbers but his strength comes from being able to use proper technique in order to be the most efficient at what he needs to do. Take a look at some of these winter olympic athletes - not everyone looks like your typical football player...

    5. Maria Mountain actually talked about how they need to have Tessa at the point where she's strong and can execute but exactly there, no redundancy.

      I like when Scott and Tessa talk about training in more detail, because so many fans go on about lifts as if lifts are about strength. OMG, the lady has to be light and the man has to be strong. It's far more about weight distribution and control (how the woman carries herself) and the man's ability to be secure and stable on his blade while quiet in his body.

  3. Thanks so much to the person who pointed this out. I've noticed that D/W appear to have deep edges at times, and yet I knew something didn't look right.

    1. In the video of V/M's SD from Skate Canada, during the midline step sequence the camera pulls back and shoots them from a distant angle. In that moment, they actually do the same move that D/W are doing in the cap above (left leg edged into the ice, free leg sweeping up, then shifting onto the right outside edge of their right blade), except V/M don't lower their heads or lean themselves forward, but use their soft knees to exact blade run, maintain deep edges, and keep their bodies properly aligned and their heads upright.

    2. Yes, and this completely squashes the notion/myth that D/W are more powerful skaters. D/W are using the head/upper body to assist in carving an edge, while V/M's get their power from the knees down, the proper way it should be.

    3. 11:35 - yes, BIG thanks to that person as well. It was definitely not me, but, like you, I always felt something "off". You'd look at screen caps and see deep edges but I didn't see lots of ice coverage or powerful run of blade. The Eurosport guys were all - look at those edges!

      As I said in these posts, I very well remember how, at the end of one Davis White program, Tanith or Andrea noting that this is where, when everybody's tired, the skaters try to push and dig those edges in to get the levels. That struck me as an odd way to get levels. The whole point of edges is to create large, smooth traveling curves.

      How ass backwards is the scoring when the edges are an end in themselves and there's no mechanism to distinguish between an edge lean and actually using the freaking edge to create powerful skating and smooth glide/expansive ice coverage with the blade, not big steps and swinging bodies? Every other discipline roadblocks work arounds, but ice dance encourages them.

      Davis and White use the same visual sleight of hand in their stroking as they do with everything else - with stroking they take giant steps to cover the ice, instead of using a big glide, because they don't have a big glide.

    4. The Eurosport coverage of D/W's SD at Skate America was ridiclious (as was the FD). Nicky Slater, the former ice dancer of the bunch, was doing the commentary, and I had to keep from throwing something at the screen. He was going on about the "rise and fall" in their knees and ankles. WTF was he watching?

      Can't wait to see the commentary this weekend for NHK. More laying it on thick, I'm sure.

    5. Rise and fall - ridiculous. There is none. There's Meryl rocking up and down; she bends forward and up constantly. They style their arms to make it look as if it's choreography but it's not.

      I don't know if Meryl and Charlie know what they're talking about. Even talented ice skaters aren't always good at understanding what they're doing and not doing. Charlie and Meryl's article about their eating habits and having strong quads mentioned getting into their knees - they know mentioning knees is a good thing, but they're not using their knee action properly. It's like Tanith talking about "Deep soul connection" without pointing out where the hell that's evaluated in CoP. A good connection is about physical interdependance and seamless cueing off each other (physically, technically and rhythmically), it's not about projecting or having an emotional connection. Likewise when Tanith talks about "raising the standard" does she ever specify what the hell she means? Never.

    6. Hmmm it would be interesting to see if the rocking up and down has been more pronounced since Shpilband was no longer their coach. The rocking up and down also disguises the fact that they don't hold their positions. It's bad enough that they fight the ice but if you are toe-picking, rocking up and down, not skating close to each other and extension of lines is lacking - what do you have - hmmm a lot of white noise...these judges are really rewarding mediocrity or in this case - not slamming a team for their deficiences - especially in the GOE and PCS categories. Hell to think that Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy who obviously are a great pair team actually work with the ice, each other etc dance more than DW is disheartening.

    7. I don't think Igor has anything to do with it. It's about the rest of what you say - the rocking up and down disguises the fact that they don't hold their positions. Just about everything they do is there to disguise something that's not happening and tries to say it's intentional, or did happen (except it never happened the way you think it did) - it's all creating the illusion that DW are on par with Virtue and Moir. They create that illusion by NOT skating and by choreographing to their poor technique and mechanics. For example, Charlie and Meryl have choreographed arms to the downward facing forward rocking, making it look like a style choice or choreography.

      They have always done this. They're not competitive with Virtue and Moir on a skating basis. Therefore, how do they compete? And this is what evolved - a lot of white noise, as you put it, that fools the public, and as long as the public is fooled, the judges can score how they want.

      Meryl and Charlie can skate, but they can't skate so as to compete with Virtue and Moir. Enter the filler, the illusions, the eye trickery. It's all about looking effective, it's all about the appearance of something, rather than the thing itself.

      Again with the Igor - Virtue and Moir's power and stroking and control has only gotten stronger since he's left. That's not a knock on him or a shout out to Virtue and Moir's extraordinary talent. It simply acknowledges that there are many good technical specialists in figure skating, not as many fantastic coaches/choreographers.

    8. It just boggles the mind that a team like D/W, who have had the best coaches, off-ice dance specialists, aerialists, conditioning trainers, and just about anything that money can buy (and we know they're not hurtin' for money) have such crap skating. Surely it takes more effort to work around and disguise their non-technique and shortcomings than actually LEARNING the damn technique properly.

      It pisses me off to no end that their tricked-out "skating" is getting rewarded, all for the sake of this fake rivalry with V/M. And not only V/M, but all the other more worthy skaters - the P/Bs, the W/Ps, the C/Ls, the Shibs...D/W don't hold a candle to any of those teams, much less V/M.

      Fuck the judges that are rewarding this crap, fuck the ignorant commentators and media that are not questioning it, fuck the whole system that is going to coronate these two hucksters with gold in Sochi.

    9. Pani at FSU has translated some of ice dancer Ksenia Monko's remarks at the V/M thread:

      "She said because of competition in Nice she didnt watch SC, but watch SA and nobody impressed her too much. All teams skating, like they always do, nothing special. She saw DW and VM. She like VM more. They take everything very seriously, when americans could not hold positions to the end, relax, wich you never could see from VM."

      Americans could not hold positions to the end--she took the words right out of my mouth.

    10. The praise for VM's skating from other ice dancers, coaches, and the general skating community never seems to end. You never hear a team say they want to be like DW; they always want to skate and dance like VM.

      Oksana Domnina made her comment about how she didn't think teams would try to emulate VM because they wouldn't have the ability. While it may be true that other teams don't have VM's ability, a lot of them seem to want to reach as far in that direction as they can.

      If aliens landed and asked a big group of ice dancers, past and present, and their coaches to take them to their leader, they'd take them to VM, not DW.

    11. m_chenning's translation of Monko's interview--as opposed to pani's posted above:

      "Because of the performance in Nice I did not see SC, but I saw Skate America. I can't tell that someone strongly impressed me – everyone skates, works in usual manner, everything as usual. I saw the performance of the americans- Meryl Davis and Charlie White, canadians- Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Personally, Canadians anyway are pleasant to me more than Americans. They somehow take (basic) skating more seriously, but Americans can somewhere do careless work, somewhere they don't hold moves, they give themselves indulgence to skate like this, and you will never see such attitude in canadians. And Tessa-Scott's FD is very beautiful — it has a light, it has air. It was pleasure for me to watch"

      I can't remember right now if there are any teams that say they want to be like DW, but there are some skaters who do have them as idols. When you think about the many ice dancers, coaches, commentators who admire VM, though, DW certainly pales in comparison. And VM are frequently cited for the excellence in the things ice dance prizes. Well, at least *used to* prize.

      I think the powers-that-be don't want to acknowledge VM's superiority in ice *dance*, because that would mean admitting that they're well out of everyone's reach.

    12. I think that's what Domnina was saying when she expressed that she didn't think Virtue and Moir would be influential, because what they did was too difficult.

      When Tanith made her speech about "raising the standard" it was opposite day because what DW have done is lower the standard. They've shown how to win at ice dance while doing as little skating/dancing as possible. And even the elements are tricked out (like lifts), or everyone looks the other way so Davis White can get the scores (the two set twizzle pass with the now you see it, now you don't "dance" leap into it, and the second rotation that slows to a crawl both around their axis and across the ice).

      TPTB do seem to be acknowledging VM THIS year, based on Skate Canada, but the problem is they pretend DW are on par.

  4. OC, do you think that the ISU will now assign levels to "The Woodpecker?" Ha.
    And I think it's not just the fact that Meryl is bowlegged that distracts the viewer ...It's also her whole body proportion--- the short legs with the long torso, and very large head. Relative to one another, something is off. Of course, this is not her fault, but it is distracting.... When she and Charlie were first coming up on the senior circuit, I remember once googling "Meryl Davis" and one of suggested search terms accompanying it was "Meryl Davis -- Dwarf." (Alas, it no longer pops up this way) So I am not the first person to find the proportions of her body rather odd.

  5. I've finally finished a montage of the other team's twizzles that I mentioned several weeks ago! It's long so it's in two parts:

    You'll see the twizzles are cut quite short in some cases. I wanted to show that these teams change their actual twizzles, and so didn't want to confuse the issue with their character-y entrances and exits. I also wanted to show exactly how long teams held their exit edges (D/W get absolutely buried in that too). I plan to make one including entrances and exits at some point, to see these twizzles in their full glory.

    A couple things I noticed:
    C/L are the ones with the real magic twizzles. They have changed very little (although they HAVE changed), but they ALWAYS fit because of how they pay attention to the music when they skate them.


    Have the Russians got a memo that the hop is out next season? Because they seem to be completely ignoring that it can get them a level 4. Last season B/S added a hop while keeping their no change of foot. This year they've kept both, and added a third twizzle for good measure. Likewise, I/K had been doing a no change of foot set with an extra twizzle of two rotations (ie not enough for a level 4 on its own), and now in a practice video, it shows they have added a hop, kept their one foot twizzles, and increased their third twizzle to three rotations. R/T last season did the exact same hop as D/W but with a third twizzle. And S/B, well, they hop so much it really takes away from the twizzles IMO.

    1. Interesting about the twizzles. The DW twizzle set is the elephant in the room. Nobody addresses that it's only two. It seems to me it's one of the easiest elements to explain to the viewer, what makes a Level 4 twizzle. In DW's case they have to know the audience sees everybody else is doing three twizzles, and yet they never explain to the audience why DW's two set twizzle pass is rated so highly. Don't the commentators always point out when a pairs team only does a double twist instead of a triple? They don't pretend we can't see it. Here, it's obvious the audience will think - wait, how come they do only two and the booth is falling over itself when everybody else did three?

      Oh let's not talk about it!

      I agree about CL. I believe that observing the music with the rhythm of your twizzles is important, if you're not going to vary it otherwise. DW don't vary rhythm or style except in the most cursory way, and what they tend to do, if they're going to nod to their "dance" at all, is hit a pose after the element is done. It's especially obvious how incapable they are of adjusting rhythm in dances (or, in their case, music) like the waltz or the Finnstep or whatever they pretended Giselle was - upward, rise and fall, clear, defined rhythm, refined movement - or the illusion of refined movement. Here come the twizzles and BAM.

    2. Awesome videos, as always! One curious exclusion though...Gilles/Poirer. Is that because they look too similar to D/W? :-)

      Also, these clips re-affirm how awesome P/I are. Team of the future.

    3. 11:30 - what a tremendous amount of work I know the twizzle videos in particular took on your part, and I know it's appreciated not just by the blog but by fans. This is stuff the sport should be doing, but it doesn't. They should be running comparisons, but they don't.

    4. Haha, the exclusion of G/P was intentional, I assure you. I certainly wasn't going to give them more publicity. P/I headlining part 2 was also very intentional :D

      Another thing I wanted to note - it's interesting to see that the Shibs' twizzles have slowed down over the years, but it's so obviously intentional. It's growth on their part that they've started skating with the music. On the twizzles, that is, they've always been a musical team.

      Aww, thanks ;) This has been quite the undertaking, and it's nice for all the work to be appreciated.

    5. And now that they've slowed down, they're still as fast as D/W's haha.

  6. "Someone like Ksenia can see the careless easily. IMO, what Davis and White do isn't aimed at the judges, but at the public. The goal is to fool the public into thinking they're great, and that enables the judges to score them as if they are. They have to be plausible. The judges, though, aren't actually fooled themselves. They know what's not happening out there. They just need the wool pulled over our eyes."

    And why do you think that is happening, OC???

    I believe its as I said -- American money has paid for Sochi gold, and now the judges have to make it so.

    Re: comments like Ksenia's on how people in the skating community prefer V/M -- I believe this is in reaction to the knowledge that Sochi gold is already D/W's. Some people in the skating community must be ticked off. Can you believe what a guy like Zhulin must be thinking? The man never won Olympic Gold, and now he has to stand and watch a team of crap skaters like D/W win it. Disgusting. Too bad the ISU ain't nothing but a bunch of whores willing to bend over at the sign of cash.

    1. Maybe a man like Zhulin should spend less time worrying about V/M vs. D/W and more time giving B/S a FD that isn't lacking in difficult transitions.

    2. Could B/S handle an FD like that? I have my doubts.

    3. I imagine a guy like Zhulin is probably thinking "if I had a team like D/W that was winning all the time despite not showing great skating, I'd probably shut up and let it happen."

    4. Could B/S handle it? Maybe? I think their SD is superior to P/B's by virtue of the actual difficulty of the transitions/choreography (even though P/B are superior characterization-wise), but with the FD it's the other way around.

      I assume Zhulin and B/S decided they needed to put together a traditional "Russian-type" FD for the Olympics, which is super voidy and chock full of crossovers to build speed and power to move into the elements. Meanwhile, P/B's FD is far more choreographically complex.

    5. From what I've learned in the past months about how the judges are trained, I think there is a good possibility that a portion of them are as clueless as the public.

      Granted we need to see what happens at NHK and TEB, but I'm not so convinced anymore that gold for DW in Sochi is a done deal. The PR for DW as well as the sputtering from the USFSA is getting too heavy handed, which, IMO, shows insecurity. The biggie though is the fact that if VM had been clean at SC, their scores would have topped DW at SA.

      It seems like for fixes to work, the skaters have to meet the judges half way. DW are skating without their fig leaves and to add them back in, they would have to gut their programs. I don't think they'd do a major choreography overhaul because they don't want to look like they're sweating anything or not confident in what they're doing. I suppose they could, but I'm just inclined to think not. The comments after SLC and SA were that DW needed more speed. We all know they can't add more speed because they'd lose control. I wonder if they want to see a little skating out of DW and if that's the case, they'll be waiting for awhile.

      The ISU has also had a habit of up and changing things on a whim in the past. Skaters and teams are sometimes allowed to get away with things until the second they're not. Sometimes, this happens at a very inconvenient time for the skater or team that was allowed to get away with stuff in the past.

      I just don't think this is over yet.

    6. Maybe, though I wonder. If it were possible, do you think Federer or Nadal would be happy coaching a guy who won all the time in tennis, even though his tennis skills sucked? I think at some level, when you're a master, you have skills that you'd like to pass on and teach, and it would be frustrating to coach someone who couldn't absorb any of those skills. How long can you surround yourself with bullshit and be happy? Especially when anyone who knows can see the bullshit from a mile away????

    7. Tennis is a bad analogy. It's not a subjective sport. Federer or Nadal would never coach a guy with bad tennis skills but who still wins all the time because to win requires good technical skills and points are accumulated in a non-subjective fashion.

    8. "I don't think they'd do a major choreography overhaul because they don't want to look like they're sweating anything or not confident in what they're doing. I suppose they could, but I'm just inclined to think not."

      I think there's no way they'd do one because they don't work that way. They don't add or build choreographically as they go through a season. All they can do is simplify. Though in their defense, that's how most teams work. Just not V/M, who usually do it the opposite way. They build as they go along.