Maybe it was the pressure of being in the final four or because the teams have really begun to ramp up the difficulty of their programs but there were numerous stumbles, slips and outright falls on Sunday's episode of Battle of the Blades. It would be more of what you expect on the first few weeks but the programs have already been exceeding last season’s best.
Even the guest judges have been upgraded this season. This week we saw the return of Don Cherry as a guest judge but Grapes once again appeared to be a little uncomfortable critiquing figure skating. If only a fight had broken out.
Week 7 had its share of surprises. I was sure that this competition would come down to Shae-Lynn and Patrice vs. the Russians but the other two pairs really stepped it up. What made this week really challenging is that each hockey player had to do a 30 second solo program. They could no longer hide behind their partners razzle dazzle which has been Shae-Lynn’s strength.
Isabelle Brasseur and Todd Warriner
Todd and Izzy skated to ‘Dynamite’ by Taio Cruz and their program was loaded with interesting and tough elements such as a one-hand overhead lift, shoot the duck (ok not that tough since I’ve seen 5 years do it) and a spin in which Izzy hangs upside down with her legs around Todd’s neck. That spin made me cringe and just shows how fearless those skaters are. The judges were thoroughly impressed. Don Cherry said he was scared the whole time. The scores totaled 17.7 – their best to date.
Shae-Lynn Bourne and Patrice Brisebois
Shae-Lynn was as cute as a button with her roller-disco outfit as the team skated to KC and the Sunshine Band’s ‘Boogie Shoes’. Patrice landed what something that Sandra Bezic referred to as a stag jump (actually two of them). I actually thought they were flawed toe loops. However, the program lacked the flow and intensity that was there over the past two weeks. Perhaps they were due for a letdown. Maybe it was because Patrice’s solo was pretty wobbly and he stumbled though he did not fall. It’s pretty hard to match that zombie program from two weeks ago. Jeremy Roenick noted that Canada loved this pair and he was right. Despite the mistakes they made it to the final three.
Ekaterina Gordeeva and Valerie Bure
The shocker had to be the Russians this week. I’m pretty sure their flawed performance had more to do with Katia’s absence during the week. The team had less time to prepare and the very confident Valerie looked shaky. Katia’s is one of the all-time great figure skaters so less practice time is not going to impact on her very much. Val completely lost his footing in their routine to Queen's ‘My Best Friend’. He fell on one knee and recovered — but not completely. They actually had the lowest scores of the week (just 16.9) and the lowest they have received all season. Sure enough they finished in the bottom two and had to skate again on Monday. However, Monday was a different story. It was a clean skate and it appeared to me that Val threw in a single toe loop jump. The only judge not to vote for the pair was Don Cherry - but did you expect him to vote for Russians?
Kyoko Ina and Kelly Chase
Kelly was pissed this week because of all the criticism that he was too slow. He attacked this routine like a man on a mission. His solo was fast and aggressive although he will never look graceful. It worked and the pair never looked better. They skated to Charlie Winston’s ‘I Love Your Smile’ and I think they executed their best lifts in this competition. Cheery was more impressed by Kelly’s weight loss and wanted to know if he had to give up ‘suds’ to lose the 50 lbs. Despite the improve skating, Kelly and Kyoko had to skate again on Monday. Once again they skated cleanly but the difficulty of their program did not match that of Val and Katia. It was the end of the road for these two.