U.S. Pairs 2018-19 season - News & Updates, Part IX

aftershocks

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Chelsea and Ian were a couple off ice, so I wonder if something changed there that caused the split on ice.
^^ Possibly, but we can't know unless it's confirmed. It is true that it's mostly advisable for young pairs partners to not become emotionally involved off-the-ice. James/Cipres have mentioned in old interviews how they decided to stop dating each other off-ice in order to be able to focus without distraction on their on-ice partnership. Making that sacrifice was worth it for them.

Other teams, such as the Knierims can sometimes make an off-ice relationship work, but I don't think it's easy. Kayne/ O'Shea used to be a couple off-ice. They have reportedly moved on in that respect, but are still on-ice partners and friends. Smith/ Reiss dated and became a close-knit couple while they skated with other partners. Then they decided to team up and they are quite good together, but they experienced a lot of injuries and setbacks, which made it difficult for them to break through competitively. I hope they have a blast performing with Cirque on Ice.

I would say we are in the process of developing top level teams.
This is true, but it comes with the fact that as someone already mentioned, the U.S. pairs program does not have the same rep as some other countries. Hopefully, that will begin to change, and a sustained effort will be made to consistently produce highly competitive pairs teams from the U.S. At the moment, the talent and potential of U.S. pairs teams outweigh the opportunities to compete at major championships. The sport needs to address this conundrum, but no one really seems focused on doing so.

Therefore, having an offer made to work with and represent one of the top pairs programs in the world is not something to lightly turn down. Few skaters would even have the opportunity to be made such an offer. The same thing has been happening for some talented U.S. singles ladies of Chinese descent.


Fingers crossed that someone can at least help with Chelsea's throws!
I don't see why Chelsea can't be helped with throws. Superb throw jumps with jaw-dropping height, distance and stellar flow-out on landings appear to be completed like clockwork by most Chinese diva pair partners!

ETA:
I'm still very excited for the U.S. pairs program. If strides can be made during the next transitional few years, I don't see why the U.S. can't eventually look to being consistently high enough in the world standings to gain a third spot, which is going to be needed in order to give talented teams viable opportunities to compete at Worlds and Olympics. It's a bummer for good skaters having to stay home, while in some cases skaters from other countries with similar or lesser talent, consistently have the opportunity to compete at major championships.
 
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Dobre

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Zhong Xie is a Junior World bronze medalist. (I don't think there's any reason to overthink this). He's also a very musical skater as is Chelsea, and they have a similar level of international experience.
 

aftershocks

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(I don't think there's any reason to overthink this)
Who's overthinking what? It's not unusual to wonder what happened, how and why.

And as usual, I have a lot to say about any scraps of interesting fs news, especially about pairs. :D
 
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Sylvia

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Chelsea Liu last competed internationally for the USA with Ian Meyh at the Bavarian Open on February 9, 2019: http://www.deu-event.de/results/BO2019/CAT008RS.HTM
They won the gold in Junior Pairs (since they were assigned as first alternates for 2019 Junior Worlds they needed to get both minimums in order to be listed officially).
She and Brian Johnson competed together for 4 seasons internationally from 2014 through 2018 (3 Junior Worlds and 3 senior internationals): http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00054472.htm
 

aftershocks

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^^ Okay. :) Still, who's overthinking what?

Zhong Xie is a Junior World bronze medalist.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfrBI32kjkc Zhong Xie with Yumeng Gao in Gdansk 2017 fp

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLsZKo9m9rk Gao/Xie in Zagreb 2017 sp

Gao/Xie won bronze at the 2017 World championships. What happened since? Did Gao grow too tall?

Xie also previously skated juniors with Li Xiangning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRc-bBd8-aI

That partnership didn't go far either, so obviously a new partner was needed for Xie. Chelsea is a good jumper with both junior and senior pairs experience. Apparently, a tryout between Xie and Chelsea went well. Neither Gao nor Li were especially standouts as pairs partners. Being competent and being brilliant are different things, and it's a slow process trying to make it from the former reality to the latter in pairs figure skating.

Chelsea Liu last competed internationally for the USA with Ian Meyh at the Bavarian Open on February 9, 2019: http://www.deu-event.de/results/BO2019/CAT008RS.HTM
That was a good result for Liu/Meyh. So again, it's curious what exactly happened. It's not a slam dunk acclimating to a new partner and moving to a new country. But good luck to Chelsea. Hopefully, Ian will be able to find another good match.
 
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Sylvia

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Xie also previously skated juniors with Li Xiangning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRc-bBd8-aI
Xiangning Li was new to pairs last season (started with Zhong XIE right at the senior level) and Li/Xie even received 2 initial Senior Grand Prix assignments (Skate America & Helsinki) last year but they withdrew from both and did not compete at Chinese Nationals in December 2018 (she didn't compete in singles there either or at all internationally in 2018-19).
 
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Dobre

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Per the Chinese Team thread on Golden Skate, Xiangning Li was injured early on last season. A poster there also posted a while ago that Li is going back to skating only singles.
 
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Dobre

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Gao/Xie won bronze at the 2017 World championships. What happened since?
They went on to place 4th at the 2018 Junior World Championships and 5th at the JGPF that season.

I don't know why Xie was initially teamed up with Li rather than Gao. You might have to ask the Chinese Federation ;). Gao & Xie never really had a triple jump so it did seem plausible that the hope was that Li & Xie might ultimately be more competitive on that front; but that was only speculation at the time, early last season.

^^ Okay. :) Still, who's overthinking what?
Simply responding to the discussion in general about China vs. U.S. pairs by saying that often it's first about finding the right partner, and skaters often look for a partner that has a similar or superior level of experience. It's not the only factor, of course; but it's a good one and relevant in this case.
 
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VGThuy

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Xie also previously skated juniors with Li Xiangning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRc-bBd8-aI
I didn't realize how popular that Max Richter piece had become in figure skating. Do a lot of coaches/choreographers watch The Leftovers? I really love this piece of music. I was introduced to it when I saw the Shibs mixed it in with "Truman Sleeps" from The Truman Show for their Evolution FD. I looked it up and wished we could have heard more of it in their arrangement.
 

aftershocks

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Simply responding to the discussion in general about China vs. U.S. pairs by saying that often it's first about finding the right partner, and skaters often look for a partner that has a similar or superior level of experience. It's not the only factor, of course; but it's a good one and relevant in this case.
Okay. But I don't see that anyone was over-thinking. When a young team pair up to good success and then suddenly split like Liu/Meyh, of course there will be questions, particularly with Chelsea Liu joining up with a Chinese partner to represent China. I don't think that's a small thing or a usual set of circumstances. :)

It's not as if Chelsea was absent a partner for very long after she and Brian Johnson called it quits. Ian and Chelsea were looking very good together at U.S. Nationals in January, and then they won their most recent competition in February. Who knew Chelsea was actively looking for a new partner or for how long? Did she split with Ian in March or April, and then start looking? I haven't seen any indication of the chronology of events regarding the split and switch.
 
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Dobre

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When a young team pair up to good success and then suddenly split like Liu/Meyh
She lost her longterm partner. Then went from 7th at Senior Nationals (5th in the SP) with Johnson in 2018 to 11th at Senior Nationals last year. Also went from the top of the junior field to missing the Junior World Team. She was already starting over. That's a huge endeavor and a pretty tough adjustment. I am just glad she is continuing to skate because I always worry when athletes face that kind of adjustment, which happens quite a bit in the pairs field and right after juniors.
 

aftershocks

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She lost her longterm partner. Then went from 7th at Senior Nationals (5th in the SP) with Johnson in 2018 to 11th at Senior Nationals last year. Also went from the top of the junior field to missing the Junior World Team. She was already starting over. That's a huge endeavor and a pretty tough adjustment. I am just glad she is continuing to skate because I always worry when athletes face that kind of adjustment, which happens quite a bit in the pairs field and right after juniors.
Yeah, but my point is that we don't know what the precipitating factors are. Chelsea did okay with Brian Johnson, but I think Brian and Jessica Calalang are a better match together than either were with their former partners. So when Jessica's former partner, Zack Sidhu, had to retire probably largely due to back problems, it must have made sense for Brian and Jessica to tryout, since both teams were in the same training camp. I don't know if the break with Brian was hard for Chelsea, or whether it was a mutual decision. Paired with Ian, Chelsea had an opportunity to further develop her skills in the junior ranks, and I thought that was a good thing for her. Anyway, probably Chelsea's biggest challenges have been dealing with injuries.

Also, we don't know if Chelsea split with Ian first and then the opportunity with Xie came along. Or, whether she was contacted with the chance to tryout with Xie while she was still paired with Ian. That again is why the questioning reaction by fans is to be expected. I get what you are saying if Chelsea is going to be competing again in seniors with Xie, rather than 'starting over' as you say in juniors as she was doing with Ian. I always thought Chelsea looked a tad young and not as physically well-matched with Brian, whereas Chelsea and Ian looked much better matched physically and age-wise. So, we'll see what happens with her new pairing, and with representing China.

Figure skating is a crap shoot altogether, with pairs partnering and competing especially an up-and-down endeavor. Many teams can work extremely hard, without a lot of return on investment.

Gao & Xie never really had a triple jump so it did seem plausible that the hope was that Gao & Li might ultimately be more competitive on that front
Do you mean the hope was that Xie and Li might be more competitive with triple jumps?
 
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Yazmeen

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Chelsea Liu last competed internationally for the USA with Ian Meyh at the Bavarian Open on February 9, 2019: http://www.deu-event.de/results/BO2019/CAT008RS.HTM
They won the gold in Junior Pairs (since they were assigned as first alternates for 2019 Junior Worlds they needed to get both minimums in order to be listed officially).
She and Brian Johnson competed together for 4 seasons internationally from 2014 through 2018 (3 Junior Worlds and 3 senior internationals): http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00054472.htm
And she competed and did well in Novice with Devin Perini (@Sylvia, am I correct in remembering that he aged out while they were still in Juniors which led her to Johnson?).
 

Sylvia

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And she competed and did well in Novice with Devin Perini (@Sylvia, am I correct in remembering that he aged out while they were still in Juniors which led her to Johnson?).
Yes. Liu/Perini skated for 4 seasons together (2011 through 2014 Nationals, winning Novice silver, Novice gold, Junior pewter, Junior silver) and competed on the JGP twice in 2013 when she was 13 and he 20: http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00034377.htm
 

Dobre

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Do you mean the hope was that Xie and Li might be more competitive with triple jumps?
As I said, I never heard any explanation quoted from the skaters actually involved or the coaches.

I mean that some posters thought there may have been more hope that Li & Xie might both be able to rotate the triple jumps needed to be competitive at the senior level (obviously, Xiangning Li can). Gao & Xie were a beautiful, mature team relative to most junior partnerships; and therefore, able to bring in a strong second mark and compete for medals in the junior field--especially in the SP where there is no triple jump required. They were less competitive in the free because there the junior teams with triples can compete them. Obviously, the bar for the jumps is much higher in seniors where triples are expected in the SP and at least two are common in the LP.

It was just a hypothesis for why Xiangning Li might have been pulled in. The same hypothesis one often sees when singles skaters enter pairs. But, of course, then those skaters are expected to learn all the other pairs elements and put in a great deal of training time on those elements that they previously put into jumps. And, in this case, Li was apparently injured early on. Don't know whether she was injured training pairs or singles, but she lost her whole season: 4 GPs and what would most likely have been 4CCs & Worlds in at least the singles discipline. And Xie lost his season as well.
 

Jayar

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This could actually be pretty amazing for American pairs. If Chelsea competes for and trains in China, when she retires, she could bring all of that knowledge back to the US to help grow a program.
 

VGThuy

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This could actually be pretty amazing for American pairs. If Chelsea competes for and trains in China, when she retires, she could bring all of that knowledge back to the US to help grow a program.
From your mouth to the Skating Gods' ears.
 

aftershocks

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@Dobre, if you look back at my post #734, when I questioned your reference to Gao & Li, it was because you obviously intended to say Xie & Li. That's all I was pointing out. I see you edited your post to make the correction. :)

I mean that some posters thought there may have been more hope that Li & Xie might both be able to rotate the triple jumps...
Right, as noted above, I understood what you meant in terms of the context of the discussion. It was just that you initially said Gao & Li (as I quoted in my post #734). Obviously, Gao & Li were never partners. ;)
 
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aftershocks

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This could actually be pretty amazing for American pairs. If Chelsea competes for and trains in China, when she retires, she could bring all of that knowledge back to the US to help grow a program.
From your mouth to the Skating Gods' ears.
Okay, but let's please give more credit to U.S. pairs, especially historically. The pairs discipline in the U.S. has suffered somewhat in prestige for at least 15 years or so, but historically U.S. pairs have been very competitive on the international stage. I think more credit and attention should be paid to the competitiveness of U.S. pairs from the 1950s onward through the 1970s, 80s, 90s, up to the early 2000s. The U.S. does have an important legacy in pairs skating, and hopefully U.S. fed is more committed now to rebuilding the U.S. pairs discipline toward regaining more international competitiveness and respect.

Let's also remember that Chinese pairs teams were propelled to becoming a powerhouse by the enormous passion, focus and creativity of Bin Yao. After being embarrassed as a Chinese pairs competitor at the World championships in the early 1980s, Yao went home and became committed to almost singlehandedly growing a pairs program via learning as much as he could from studying Western techniques, first via photographs in books, and later by observing European and North American pairs teams at competitions. Videos were not accessible for learning initially, but they were surely helpful when the technology made them available over time. Eventually, the very talented Shen/Zhao came along and worked their way to the top with the help of their passionate mentor, and subsequently via the collaborative assistance of a number of Western choreographers, including Renee Roca, Gorsha Sur, Sandra Bezic, Tatiana Tarasova, and especially Lea Ann Miller and Lori Nichol:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yao_Bin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhao_Hongbo

I would imagine that Bin Yao also incorporated Chinese cultural dance and acrobatic techniques with his growing understanding of the best pairs skating techniques. The rise of Shen/Zhao is especially instructive in terms of how they started out dead last in the standings at Worlds and worked their way to the top. S/Z were 21st at 1994 Worlds, and within five years, they placed second at Worlds (1999). In 2002, they stepped on top of the Worlds podium for the first time, after winning bronze at the Olympics that year in SLC. I say this to point out what passion, dedication and federation support, but above all, the chance to regularly compete at Worlds and other major competitions every year, can do for teams dedicated to improving and to winning.

As far as Chelsea Liu learning the Chinese pairs coaching system and techniques and returning to the U.S. to coach pairs, we don't know that she would want to become a skating coach in the future. Plus, she may not necessarily come back to live and work in the U.S. For me, it's not about Chelsea learning Chinese pairs techniques to bring back to the U.S. It's just about the continued globalization and cross-fertilization that's been taking place in the sport for awhile, which I think is great. The U.S. pairs discipline surely does not need to wait for Liu's career to be over in order to become more competitive. We don't even truly know how her career will transpire. I look forward to finding out. :) And meanwhile, as fans of pairs skating, let's continue to support and advocate for the vibrant re-development of pairs in the U.S. :cheer2:

I also think we should try to put the pairs discipline and the entire sport's history and trajectory into perspective when we make modern-day assessments. :) The evolution of pairs skating (just like the evolution of the other disciplines) is quite fascinating and complex.
 
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Jayar

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@aftershocks What I said can be independent of how well the US has competed in pairs . However, in the current climate of American pairs on the world stage, teams are just not competitive. I have favorites and hope that there will be continued improvement, but we have not seen that yet. It has been nearly 20 years since an American team medaled at the World Championships, and of the some 25 medals the US has won at the WC, most were won in an era when doubles was the standard. American teams just have not kept pace. I believe that a huge part of that is the lack of quality coaching in the country, and any push to create a level playing field in terms of coaching is a welcomed push. There ARE coaches in the US with great strengths-- Dalilah has a crazy knack for putting great matches together and also teaching the split twist. Meno and Sand are great at the quality of skating. Peterson and Evora create consistent teams. None of them, however, have crafted a team that has it all, and that's what the Chinese are good at. Just my two cents.
 

Dobre

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None of them, however, have crafted a team that has it all, and that's what the Chinese are good at. Just my two cents.
The Chinese coaches have been good at recognizing that no one has it all. But everyone has something special, and that is worth cultivating.

My two cents ;).
 

aftershocks

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@aftershocks What I said can be independent of how well the US has competed in pairs . However, in the current climate of American pairs on the world stage, teams are just not competitive. I have favorites and hope that there will be continued improvement, but we have not seen that yet. It has been nearly 20 years since an American team medaled at the World Championships, and of the some 25 medals the US has won at the WC, most were won in an era when doubles was the standard. American teams just have not kept pace. I believe that a huge part of that is the lack of quality coaching in the country, and any push to create a level playing field in terms of coaching is a welcomed push...
Of course. I don't disagree with any of the above. I applaud this recent news regarding Chelsea Liu and Xie Zhong. I didn't say anything in my previous posts that contradicts what you have said above. And sure, if Chelsea eventually comes back to coach pairs in the U.S., that's a good thing. However, I don't think that has anything to do with why Chelsea Liu decided to pair with Xie Zhong.

Plus, Chelsea is a young skater. Therefore, my point is: the U.S. pairs discipline is not going to be waiting for Chelsea Liu to come back after retirement to coach pairs before attempting to make better competitive strides internationally. Frankly, the time is now for the U.S. pairs discipline to continue making the right moves to become more competitive on the international stage. And I believe there's a lot of reason for hope. Regardless of whether or not our pairs are currently as competitive as we'd like, I always enjoy watching U.S. pairs, and I fully support them all, top to bottom! :cheer2:

And once again, I don't sell short U.S. pairs' historical legacy, regardless of how most fans apparently view it as not being as stellar or worthy as that of some other countries. Obviously, U.S. pairs have not been competitive in the pairs discipline for a long time, and they need to improve the depth and quality of their coaching. I agree with that factor too -- so there's nothing to argue about in that respect either. The point is: The ongoing globalization of the sport with skaters partnering from different countries, and the cross-fertilization between ice dance and pairs, as well as the melding of different styles and techniques that we have been seeing happen in various ways for awhile, is a good thing for the growth of the sport as a whole. The biggest problem the sport faces though is the lack of competitive opportunities for a number of skaters, especially coupled with the increasing depth of talent across-the-board.

As well, the ISU's rules are often limiting and lacking in respect to the depth of talent that exists. Case in point: limiting the number of pairs who could proceed to the final in 2017 and 2018, seriously hurt a number of teams from lesser competitive countries, including the U.S. The other part about this is that it's rather demoralizing for skaters to go to Worlds and be cut. It doesn't help them to improve and become more competitive. The sport needs to rethink a lot of restrictive and unhelpful ways of doing things that actually stunts the sport's growth and forward momentum.
 
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aftershocks

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There ARE coaches in the US with great strengths-- Dalilah has a crazy knack for putting great matches together and also teaching the split twist. Meno and Sand are great at the quality of skating. Peterson and Evora create consistent teams. None of them, however, have crafted a team that has it all, and that's what the Chinese are good at. Just my two cents.
True, to a degree, but I think it's more complicated than you express. It's not necessarily true that the U.S. doesn't have teams who possess just as great talent and potential as other countries. Mostly, it's that the cultures and politics are different, and the level of support for sport is different in the U.S. vs in both China and Russia. In addition, Chinese fed would not be looking to U.S. skaters to shore up their strong pairs program (which is currently undergoing pipeline weaknesses) and to jump start their singles divisions, if we didn't have a lot of talent worth pulling from in the U.S.

What I pointed out earlier is that Chinese pairs skating was nonexistent until Yao Bin came along and with few resources, almost singlehandedly grew Chinese pairs to become a powerhouse. But it didn't happen overnight. I believe Yao not only drew from the techniques he could observe and learn from Western teams and coaches, he also incorporated Chinese cultural strengths from dance, acrobatics, and possibly gymnastics. I also think he determined what worked best from the different Western techniques he observed. And eventually Western choreographers were recruited by Chinese fed to assist with further overall development of programs and refinement of style and movement qualities.

The reason the U.S. fell off from competitiveness in pairs, especially after the early 2000s, is due to a number of factors, including global change, U.S. fed taking things for granted and not paying much attention to pairs development, the domination of Russian teams that began in the 1960s and continued unabated, plus the lack in the U.S. of great pairs coaching depth and new ideas. For example, U.S. ice dance improved to become a dominant force mainly as a result of better coaching. Still, it's not as if we never had talented, competitive teams in ice dance before coaches from Russia helped develop superior U.S. talent to keep up with global changes. The forward development of U.S. ice dance had suffered in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s as a result of Russians dominating in ice dance and also because, once again, U.S. fed has tended to not pay much attention to non-singles disciplines.

Also crucial are the cultural and political differences: U.S. skaters who are talented do not always have sufficient financial support and training time in all of the disciplines, but that lack is especially detrimental for pairs skaters.
 
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aftershocks

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The Chinese coaches have been good at recognizing that no one has it all. But everyone has something special, and that is worth cultivating. My two cents ;).
:D Everyone's two cents can be of some value. ;) I think TPTB in the sport and among U.S. fed, should be more open to listening, learning and improving, just like Bin Yao, eh!

I think the Chinese coaching system is dedicated and intent upon improving by leaving no stone unturned. Plus, Bin Yao developed a signature technique and a system that works to help foster consistency, whereas U.S. skaters are taught in a variety of techniques. Plus, Chinese pairs skaters need to be almost fanatically devoted which requires making enormous personal sacrifices. It's a completely different culture, which has a lot to do with their intensity and dedicated focus on winning.

Plus, Chinese skaters are able to spend their time training almost exclusively, whereas many U.S. skaters have to work in order to pay for training time, or else have rich parents, or find lucrative sponsors. But you generally have to be successful first in order to gain significant help from lucrative sponsors. And you have to place well at Nationals in order to receive envelope resources from U.S. fed.

Every talented skater does have something special which requires nurturing in order to grow. Perhaps the major drawback has been U.S. fed's tendency to focus more on singles disciplines over the years. But the cultural differences and lack of sufficient financial support for many skaters in the U.S., added to the limited pairs coaching depth have been the major drawback for U.S. pairs faltering in superior competitive strength since the early 2000s.

Of course, U.S. pairs (despite fielding some strong teams like Yamaguchi/Galindo, Meno/Sand, Ina/ Dungjen, Ina/ Zimmerman, et al) haven't truly contended for gold since Tai Babilonia & Randy Gardner, which is a mind-blowing reality. Yet, that still doesn't mean the U.S. doesn't have a worthwhile pairs legacy to draw inspiration from. And we should not discount that some strides are being made to help strengthen and improve the U.S. pairs discipline. Hopefully, more will continue to be done in the direction of nurturing and devotedly developing and supporting highly competitive pairs talent in the U.S.

ETA:
The lessons U.S. fed can learn from Bin Yao are about being observant, having passion and dedication for pairs, and an unyielding willingness to succeed at the highest level. Being laughed at when he first competed at Worlds with insufficient training and experience, surely also served as invaluable motivation for Bin Yao.

And then above all, Bin Yao used scant available resources to the best of his ability. He probably also won increasing government backing as he persevered in finding and developing talent. Yao apparently broke down what he deemed to be the best of all the Western training techniques and he likely incorporated what he learned with Chinese cultural aesthetics and acrobatics. He ultimately developed a signature training system that has fostered technical consistency. But let's not forget that Yao and the Chinese fed also recruited Western choreographers to help further refine and nurture their skaters.
 
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just tuned in

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IIRC it was a "thing" a few months ago that the Chinese fed was making offers to US skaters of Chinese ancestry. I guess the offer was attractive to Chelsea and her family. Not sure why this is an indictment of US pairs....
 

Sylvia

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aftershocks has continued the discussion about Chinese pairs and their development in the Pairs general discussion thread here: https://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/threads/pairs-discussion-thread-2019-20-“two-skating-as-one”.105581/page-2#post-5598654
ETA that I recently posted there (scroll up to post #51) that the new senior pair of Isabella Gamez and David-Alexandre Paradis (both previously competed with different partners at U.S. Nationals at the junior level) will represent the Philippines.

Out Loud and Proud: Timothy LeDuc Celebrates Pride Month Just as He Lives His Life by Nick McCarvel: https://usfigureskatingfanzone.com/news/2019/6/17/figure-skating-out-loud-and-proud-timothy-leduc-celebrates-pride-month-just-as-he-lives-his-life.aspx
 
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