This is rather belated, but better late than never, I guess!
First, some congratulations!
Mao, congrats on:
Winning your first GP event since 2008!
Winning your first CoR!
Winning both the SP and LP!
Qualifying for the GPF!
Getting Level 4s on BOTH the SP and LP step sequences!
--This brings back memories of this interview with Shizuka Arakawa (I think?), where she said that Machiko Yamada once told her (several years ago) that Mao is not the world’s best jumper or spinner (though she’s pretty good), but she could be the very best at the step sequences. Yep, I think our Mao-chan just proved that.
Congrats to Yuzuru for winning his first senior GP event too!
Now, on a more serious note…I love the improvements that Mao has made to all aspects of her skating, and I love that she has started to value speed and beauty, and not just the jumps. The new speed is impressive, but like many of you has said, she has maintained that lightness in her skating that only she seems to possess—that sense of floating on the ice.
Her spins also seem more secure and speedy—her donut spin used to peter out after awhile, but she seems to be able to maintain the revolutions better now.
It was smart for her to play it safe at CoR and avoid the 3A, and I’m really happy she won, but I am somewhat annoyed by how the media is writing about it.
Last season, after Mao went for the risky 3A at the 2010 Nationals and completed it, the media praised her for her gutsiness in the face of Coach Sato’s warnings—they even highlighted his soft spot for his hard-headed (but adorable!) skater. For years they have been depicting her as the risk-taking challenger.
Now that she played it safe at CoR, however, I feel like the media is saying things like “playing it safe is the way to win!” Even Mao herself seems to believe that now, though she has said that she is not giving up on the 3A and definitely wants to put it into her ideal program.
And while they may be correct--the current judging system does seem to value consistency and clean programs over difficulty--and while I am THRILLED to see Mao be CoP-smart and strategic and win, a part of me does miss our stubborn little daredevil. In the 2009-10 season, it frustrated me terribly as a fan when she focused so much on the 3A and took on these dark, un-Mao-like programs because I didn't think it would help her win. However, at the same time, I admired her determination to stick with her programs and perfect them. As Coach Sato said, she has guts!
Clearly, if you want to win, you have to “play by the rules,” but sometimes those rules are flawed.
Sometimes the judging system isn’t fair, and I think it takes a very brave person to say, "I don’t care how the judges score this, but I am going to skate what *I* think is a perfect program. Because I care more about shaping the future of figure skating and pushing the limits than I care about winning.
Yes, to me, Mao’s ultimate
goal has never been winning. Sure, she talks about the Olympic gold medal as her goal, but I think that her true
goal is to become her ideal skater. Once that happens, winning the Olympics should just be a natural consequence.
So I totally hope that Mao kicks major butt this season
, but I also hope she remembers her true dream, which is to be the best skater she can be--i.e., the best skater EVER!