Oh good God. Couldn't you just have reread one of the 101 threads on this very same subject that were posted right before nats and the Olys?
Well, the thing about Caroline is that she always has her weakest performances at Nationals (well, comparatively speaking because she does have some problems in the Grand Prix)... And for Caroline, she always tends to peak at the competitions after Nationals...
But of course, what is this thread for? We already know what she has to work on. The basics, the speed, the mule kick, the flutz, her upper body strength, the telegraphing, etc...
However, I will give her credit for working on some of her issues. She has put in major effort to improve her speed, even at jump entry, and to increase jump height and rotation. Next season, I imagine she will begin working in more complicated transitions and footwork, two aspects of her skating that have seemed very underwhelming this season. If the improvements materialize, she could feel confident enough to actually perform her choreography and let her musicality shine through.
Now that I've got the positives list, it's time to turn back to the three hundred pound gorilla in the room. Caroline's jump technique is the one thing that is a tremendous challenge to fix, and she hasn't moved much on that front. This is one thing that will really sink her scores despite the other improvements she will make.
So, that's why I say that while I do see Zhang improving, I do not see her catching up to the top skaters. That's even if she does manage to seriously tackle her jump technique with an excellent coach. The process of relearning jumps contributes to inconsistency and is a score killer.
Anyhow, it will be interesting to see how she progresses. Her scores over the seasons have had quite a surprising range, with highs and lows far apart, and how she'll do at any given competition will depend on whether she puts it all together or lets it all go. Sluggishness, low jumps and small rotations, choreography leave-outs, and loss of levels on spins and spirals can all drag her down. She has yet to learn how to focus on her performance to execute all her elements to the fullest.
Well, she hasn't, but Mirai Nagasu has. I am actually overjoyed at Mirai's newfound ability to really immerse herself in her program and turn every detail to perfection. I don't know how Frank Carroll did it, but he has helped Mirai to relax enough to be a performer not just a jumper. She seems to have become the whole package. It may seem wrong to mention Mirai in a thread about Caroline, but I am happy that she has grown to be such a polished skater and that's the direction I'd like to see Zhang's skating take. Mind you, I don't mean she should catch up with Mirai, but rather look to Mirai as an ideal of a skater who combines technical competence and performance. I think Caroline wouldn't be offended by this, because she is friends with Mirai and probably admires her skating.
Well, to be honest- until this year Zhang WAS one of the top U.S. skaters. At that time (most) people considered the top skaters to be Flatt, Wagner, Zhang, Nagasu and Czisny. I suppose it's debatable whether that list still holds today, but we don't even know if Czisny plans to continue competing.
^ I think the full runthrough has really helped Mirai. If you have confidence in your program, you have confidence in your abilities to perform...
But anyway, Caroline and Mirai did really go to different directions. I mean while Mirai was struggling last year, Caroline ended up with the bronze at Nationals, and 4th at Four Continents. Now, Mirai has been to the Olympics, Caroline fell to 11th at Nationals. But at nationals, even with all of her struggles, I did see some improvement with Caroline in her skating.
I'll wait until after next season to judge Miss Zhang. She needs a new coach and time spent on basics. Plus 16 isn't what it used to be so she has the time if she puts in the effort. She has a star quality to her exhibitions that if she can find a way to bring that to competition it would really help as well. She has a long way to go and it will take a lot of heard work but she still has the potential to be a top tier national elite still.
Age is only so much- time is on her side, but it's also about when you peak physically. Some peak at 16, 17 but for others it may not be until 22, 23.
It's more about whether she is willing to put in the work necessary to improve...and it may even include an overhaul of her jump technique. The thing that hurts though is that that may not even be enough if enough talent emerges up the chain that she'd be toast even in her prime- so she's got to ask herself how badly she wants it, and whether it's worth a lot of work that may very well not pay off as much as she wants it to.
I agree with everyone saying that Caroline's technique needs tremendous repair. I think what she needs to change is overwhelming, so I wouldn't blame her if she continues without changing it, though she will need it to reach the higher ranks.
How about Rafael Artunian as her coach?
He is a good technical coach isn't he?
Since Caroline Z looks up to MK, it could be pretty cool for her to share same coach with her idol.
MK went to Artunian to beef up her jumps too, right?
It seems obvious to everyone here what Caroline's problems are but what I'd like to know is, why isn't it obvious to team Caroline? How long can one be in a deep state of denial?
Before this season started, I said it would be great for Caroline to go back to working on her skating from the ground up. Basics, relearning the jumps, the works. People bit my head off, saying that I want Caroline to kill her Oly dream. She is killing her own dream at this point which I find incredibly said given her natural talent and presence on the ice.
"Nature is a damp, inconvenient sort of place where birds and animals wander about uncooked."
from Speedy Death
Don't know how true that was back then, or if it is still true today, but that's some background for you.
Caroline couldn't really work on technique this season because she switched coaches and did a little damage to her knee and then switched back to her old coach. Plus Olympic year and a 2009 national podium finish. She needs to find a coach who she feels comfortable with and has the know how to handle skaters who have had potential for years and has the mentality of a high elite skater but hasn't really reached that spot yet. It's hard to know what to fix and what to hide. Getting more speed will really help her out. Perhaps she needs to be going the route that Sasha did. Sasha never really fixed her jumps but she did gain speed and improved her skating skills. Though I guess TAT really isn't an option.
That's a picture I took of Caroline at Nationals right before her triple flip in the short program. I've never seen a skater with worse toe-jump technique. There's no comparison between Zhang's technique and Flatt's technique, IMO.